White Light, White Heat

Deceptively fragile and innocent looking, the white flowers are the secret nose bombs of the perfume world. The tuberose pictured here, from my garden, is capable of scenting the air for many meters, and the essence of the tuberose, in a perfume does the same. Diffusive, narcotic, wildly sensual, these Mexican natives hold sway over many a garden and many a lover. If you right click on view photo the larger version will allow you to see the thick waxy surface, oil cells and pollen of this lovely flower. UPDATE: I'm getting use to the blogweirdness. If you just double click the photo, it will enlarge.

The Grasse Jasmine officinale var. Grandiflorum looks like a tiny innocuous, almost boring flower, but it is the most esteemed in the perfume world. The indolic nature - has a bit of decaying funk to it - can turn some off, but its power to turn everyone else on is its secret.

The requirement that it must be hand-picked during an optimal time window each day, quickly transported to the processing plant for extraction, and has a low yield of fragrant essence per kilogram of flowers makes it an expensive, albeit crucial part of every perfumers' palette.

The Orange Jasmine isn't really a jasmine, nor an orange. It smells like jasmine, and the flowers look like orange flowers. Since I don't have a picture of orange flowers in my personal files, I'll discuss it here, blended, as I like to do in RL, with the essence of jasmine. Neroli, the distilled essential oil of sour orange flowers celebrates romantic love and purity, quite the opposite of the tuberose and jasmine already discussed. Fresh and clean smelling, neroli invokes smiles and a bit of giddiness, and is know to relax those agitated by stress or anxiety. There is also an absolute made from the flowers, and an absolute of the orange flower water. I like to combine all three in a blend for a rich, full accord.

Here is a rare photo of the legendary "night blooming jasmine". Again, another flower that smells like jasmine, but completely unrelated. This photo is from my garden, where I am often found at night, harvesting the tiny blossoms. Like the "orange jasmine" above, there are no commercial producers of the essence. I have tinctures of these two that I use in my perfumes, and they contribute a lovely, fresh, round finish to the jasmine accords.

Gardenias are up there with tuberoses with their ability to almost close off the oxygen from the air with their blanket of richly-scented molecules that can permeate the atmosphere. Gardenia absolute is practically non-existant, since synthetics have taken over the industry. Unlike jasmine and tuberose, gardenia scent is easy to synthesize. For that reason, no natural perfumers use this scent, although I am sure there are some out there to create doppelganger accords with other natural raw materials, or perhaps create their own enfleurage, infusion, or tincture.

Until a few years ago, most perfumers in the West, and this includes France and Italy, and all natural pefumers, did not use white lotus. The French and Italians perhaps (and I'm speculating here) because they were not keen on the heavily redolent Indian-sourced aromatics, the same reason Jasmine sambacs weren't seen in their perfumes. It was perhaps the natural perfumers who discovered this beauty via the internet suppliers from India who have popularized it in natural perfumery. There are still few, if any mainstream perfumes that contain this rich scent. To be in an enclosed courtyard with white lotus blooming, no breeze and the scent laying heavy, like a silken satin cloud is truly like being close to heaven.

The Michelia alba blooms are like a piercing whistle, if the tuberose and lotus are like a violin. The sweet, almost candy-like floral white champaka brings instant delight to all who approach it on my garden path. When you view he picture full size, perhaps it will remind you, as it does me, of a comet hurtling forth, a white heat white light energy flying at a fast speed -- right up your nose. It's very dynamic. In perfumery, it has to be diluted way down to take the sharp edge off, and then it reveals itself as a toned-down whistle, a soft pursing of lips, a come-hither whistle that is seductive and alluring.

Scientists have proven that most white flowers attract night-pollinating moths with their scent, and the color makes them stand out in the dark so the moths have it rather easy. The heady scent of these blooms also attract humans, bringing joy to their heart, and often a lusty response from their lower chakras. There is no denying the pull, the attraction they have, drawing others closer to you. I'll never forget an offhand remark from a neighbor, a native of Punjab, a Sikh scientist usually not given to reverie: "Everybody knows that wearing jasmine makes people come closer to you." That being true, tuberose enmeshes them in a hypnotic net, and orange blossom makes you unforgettable, a dear, sweet memory that is cherished and desired.

On a hot, sultry summer night the white light, the white heat is created, then, through the magic and alchemy of perfumery, captured and made real again, from Anchorage to Ankara, any day, any night, any season of the year.

This post wafts its fragrant path through the internet on the 80th birthday of Bob Marley's mother, Cedella, a lover of jasmine. Happy Birthday, Mother B, and may you continue to enjoy the scent of the night-blooming jasmine under your bedroom window for many more years. (I met her 10 years ago today, on her 70th birthday, and you can see a pic of that, and some subsequent b'days here: My Music Page )


  1. Powerful article to showcase the immeasurable value of white florlas. So innocent looking... So deadly captivating!
    The photos are gorgeous, and the tuberose does enlarge, by the way. I would never be able to leave such a garden behind me... I wish I could visit you when the flowers are in full bloom and lear the secrets of tincturing from the Queen of Tropical Flowers!

  2. Ah, you're right, Ayala. I have the incorrect instructions. If someone just double clicks the photo, without right clicking, it bursts into bloom!

    I didn't even bother to write all about the jasmine sambacs and auriculatum and azoricum I grow -- rather nichey niche, lol.

  3. Oh, Joy! I just discovered all the photos enlarge when you click them on.

  4. Magnificent post! Love the white theme for the heat of these past days...

  5. Yes, Luccia, and you're wearing a pretty white summer dress in your photo! Even here in the tropics, where the blooms in the autumn, winter and spring are magnificent, the white blooms of the jasmines, the champakas and the orange jasmine can almost suffocate you at night. Many remove night-blooming jasmine from near their windows and plant it in a far corner of their yard so they can get some sleep!

    Something to keep in mind when blending with the "whites" -- their olfactory "heat" is incredible. Either go overboard knowingly, or sweetly restrain them, so they merely whisper their narcotic power.

  6. Anya, I was thinking gardenias today, so I linked to your post...

  7. Oh, what a wonderful journey through the world of white flowers! There is just nothing like them. Personally I cannot get enough, but I understand how some people might find them to be too much. I quite enjoy the hypnotic effect they have on me. Lovely photos as well, thank you for sharing your garden with us.

  8. This was such a good, infornative post I have linked it to Perfume Isle forum. Brava! I enjoyed it so much.
    Hope you don't mind the linking.


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