Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, July 10, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

It's over 90F this morning in Miami, and my flowers are blooming wildly, with total abandon. The Jasmine auriculatum vine, which I posed with by my front door, is threatening to take over the entry area - and I'm not complaining! The Aglaia odorata - Chinese perfume tree - is on my front path, fragrancing the entire end of the street. What's blooming where you are? Are you being an alchemist and harvesting the fragrance and transforming it into a usable form for your perfume making, such as tincture or enfleurage?

In the past week, the Clereodendron lutea and Tahitian jasmine were blooming, so I captured their rare and gorgeous beauty in a tincture. Life is good.


  1. Hi Anya,

    I have been following your blog for a while and loving all the scoop on natural perfuming you have offered every sunday.Thanks for sharing your precious time with us.

    Currently my telosma cordata is blooming off its sweet honey fragrant head. I tried tinturing it before the ants gets to it. I have also tincture magnolia and find that it takes about 6 month before I can smell the true sweet top note of it.

    I wonder how long will tinture last.

    Best Regards,

  2. Oh Anya, you can have the humidity,
    still nice this am but it will be
    warming up here in So. Cal.

    Of the plants your mentioned, how do you decide which to tincture and or enfleurage?


  3. Hi Anya,

    Here in CT, the milkweeds are the most deliciously fragrant flower right now. I never noticed until this year how a few plants can scent a city block. I haven't been tincturing them because they aren't mine, and because the plants are important to butterflies. So tempting, though.

    Lately I've been loving shiso essential oil, and a friend has offered to give me some of the shiso which has taken over her garden. Do you think I might have some success tincturing it?

  4. Hi Denise:

    At first it was trial and error. Over time, I learned you can't tincture tuberose. Ones you can both tincture and enfleurage are roses, gardenias, jasmines. Aglaias can't be enfleuraged because they're too small and can't be removed from the fat. It took me years of harvesting them to get enough for a beautiful-smelling pint of tincture. I'm patient, and persistent!

    Don't forget you can tincture store-bought stuff, like dried tea leaves, aged orris root, freeze-dried fruits and more.

    Thanks for dropping by, and I hope your studies are going well.


  5. Hi Laura:

    Maybe if you ask the owners, they'll allow you to harvest them? Like any wildcrafter, don't take everything, maybe half. Sometimes when you pinch off flowers, it forces the plant to produce more flowers!

    I think you need the purple, and I'll bet if you dried the leaves, crumble a few to check for scent, you're good to go if they still have the scent.

    Good luck!


  6. When I post the weekly notice about this forum on Facebook, sometimes a chat starts up there. I want to bring it over here, too ;-)

    Jennifer Thomas Budai To me, this is what NP has always been about - the deep connection between the perfumer and the natural world. I feel that if one is only using EOs and ABS but not seeing, feeling and (dare I say) loving some of the plants that go in your products, one might be missing the point of NP.

    How's that for a nice debate to start the day? ;)


    JoAnne Bassett Yes I grow flowers for my natural perfumes..yes be an alchemist..glad that I am...

    My reply:

    Jennifer and JoAnne, you read my heart ;-) I feel as though everyone who calls themselves a natural perfumer MUST create some aromatic magic themselves. Just buying and pouring oils leaves your heart and soul out of the perfume. Even if you just buy tea leaves, or some fragrant flowers at the farmer's market (because maybe you don't have a garden) and tincture them, you're playing with alchemy, and transformation, and that's what we should be doing to glorify our art.

  7. Thanks, Anya! Like you, I have found a greater connection to nature through natural perfumery, especially now that I'm on the lookout for things to tincture. Later today I'm going to tincture some teeny, tiny, soft green cedar cones--maybe you'd call them buds at this stage? They're so wonderfully fresh smelling. In the past, I'd never have thought to crush one between my fingers and inhale it. I've also had great luck tincturng figs and dates.

  8. Wow, I began to reseach plants I
    would like to grow,your comment
    about the transformation and alchemy really made me sit up and pay attention. No more delay.

    I have not heard of shiso plant or
    eo before. And I did not know about milkweed as having a scent. I look forward to your reply about that tincture.

  9. Hey Anya, I had a disaster with a batch of creme perfumes that I was making...for some reason I did not get the proportions of the fragrance right. Have you ever re-cooked a batch? Or should I just toss the whole thing?? (expensive).

  10. Laura, I'm delighted to find your aromatic horizons are broadened by NP. I have several tinctures that friends have sent me from the North, including poplar bud, fir balsam and tsuga bud. I adore the conifers, and their baby buds are an incredible sniff!

    You know, since you make soap, you coudl also gently heat-infuse them in oil!


  11. Denise, shiso is a leaf that is often used in Japanese cooking and sushi. There is a green and a purple leaf. They yield very, very little oil to distillation, although the hydrosol would be lovely. I have some fabulous shiso oil that I got recently, and true to nature, you can't fight it, I'm just not in love with shiso. Smells to cinnamon-spicy for me. It's complex, and too much on the fusty, dark side for my tastes. However, there are those who love the scent, so if you find some leaves in an Asian market, and like the taste and scent, you may wish to experiment. Good shiso oil is hard to find, btw, so tincturing is probably the way to go if you like it.


  12. Hi Anya,
    My question is about how to take a perfume from 'test' size, to one or more full bottles. The reason I'm asking is that it seems to me I once read somewhere that there is some special way to do this, some advice to make it easier perhaps.
    As it stands, I just multiply the drops' numbers, and spend a lot of time counting out drops in the full size perfume.
    Any advice?

  13. Always Spring7/10/2011 4:41 PM

    Hi Anya,
    This may be a double post. My computer "burped" on me....
    Any way my question is what is the best way to capture the essence of the honeysuckle flower? They are blooming in full force here in
    So. Ca. What part of the flower is best to use? Thanks,
    Vicki M

  14. Wow, Anya, I wonder if the scent of the cedar buds infused in oil would come through in soap! What an intriguing idea! I'll have to try it and let you know.

    The shiso eo I got was the green variety. To me it smells cinnamony/clovey but also minty fresh. I just used it in a perfume as part of a green thread running through the different layers, and I mourn a little when that shiso top note evaporates.

    Aromatarii, if you are looking to order a sample, it's also known as perilla.


  15. Hi Francesca:

    You can do this by drops only if you're a beginner and don't need replicability. I have my beginner students create by drops, but more advanced students learn how to use specific gravity calculations. It's pretty easy once you're instructed in it, and I have an Excel program that will allow you to create perfume with the exact perfume whether it's 1/8th of an ounce, theoretically up to infinity.


  16. Hi Vicki:

    Another student heard from ;-)

    Honeysuckle is easy to either tincture or enfleurage - but here's where the problem comes in: it's only in bloom for a short season. You may need two years' worth of harvested blossoms, recharging the original menstrum, to get a scented product.

    Don't give up! Remember me harvesting the tiny, tiny, tiny aglaia flowers for three years ;-)


  17. Thanks Anya. When you say 'gravity calculations', do you mean the we must convert the perfume formula into weight, rather than volume? Also, is that Excel program available to the public?

  18. Hi Francesca:

    It's a bit more complicated than that. You need to know the SP of each aromatic first. Then I make typically a 10% dilution for my mods. After I decide on the mod I wish to turn into a perfume, I use the undiluted aromatic, by weight to create the compound, then I dilute with the appropriate strength with alcohol (sometimes a little water).

    I've been working with the Excel program for about two years, having hired a civil engineer to work with me creating it. There are a few more tweaks I need to make to it, and then I need to find a software engineer to create an online version where perfumers can buy a membership and log on to use it.


  19. I'm glad to see this topic discussed. On the NP group there was a question about pineapple sage so I started to experiment with tincturing that this year. Last year I tinctured orange mint but not enough of it unfortunately.

    My question is does it matter if herbs I tincture have started to flower? I thought I read somewhere that if I were to distill certain herbs it should be before they flower, but I can't recall where I read that or even if I read it correctly. I know some of them have a different scent once they start to flower. Did I answer my own question? :)

  20. My question is does it matter if herbs I tincture have started to flower? I thought I read somewhere that if I were to distill certain herbs it should be before they flower, but I can't recall where I read that or even if I read it correctly. I know some of them have a different scent once they start to flower. Did I answer my own question? :)

    Hi Lisa:

    Nice to see you here.

    Why don't you simply use the alcohol of the orange mint tincture, and add more orange mint to it? I recharge the menstrum often, if the herb/flower requires it. Don't forget, the French often made 36 changes of flowers per enfleurage tray! I'll bet that pineapple mint needs a lot of recharges, also, but it's worth it to have a unique, beautiful product that you have brought to life via alchemy!

    Your last question is so broad I can't answer it except to say: maybe sometimes yes, maybe sometimes no.

    You'll have to be the judge of whether or not an herb changes scent after it begins to flower. Many don't. Flowering does start up other processes in the plant, often signaling the end of its life, e.g., basil.



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