Thursday, February 05, 2009

So what if your perfume might stain? So does coffee, tea, red wine, etc.

Saffron stigmas

Saffron absolute, made from the stigmas of the Crocus sativa flower are prized in cookery because of the slightly bitter, aromatic flavor they impart to food. The thread-like stigmas also impart a shade of yellow to the food, ranging from pale to moderately orange-yellow. The color comes from the catetonoid content of the stigmas, the same coloring agent found in tomatoes. Like tomatoes, saffron can stain clothes if you drop some of that yummy risotto you've made with the stigmas onto your white shirt. Like tomato, the saffron stain is pretty stubborn to remove.

So, you are careful when you twirl the spaghetti on a fork, laden with marinara sauce, and you are careful when you lift the fork of saffron risotto to your lips.

You pretty much take the same care when drinking coffee, tea or wine - same staining power, different dye chemical. Still, the same idea. Just be careful so you can enjoy your meal or drink.

Over the years I've spoken with perfumers and even a distiller who bemoaned the fact that they can't figure out how to get around the saffron staining factor. I do recall someone saying at one time there might be a new process to eliminate the stain, but darned if I can remember who, or what the process was.

Boronia flowers

Thing is, caretinoids are responsible for a lot of the scent in saffron, and also in boronia, Boronia megastigma, a glorious golden floral absolute from Tasmania that will stain your clothes with as beautiful a ochre-colored spot as saffron. I adore the rare Boronia, with its yellow freesia-like topnotes and glorious wide-open airy spicy balsamic fragrance. (The golden bornonia is not to be confused with the more herbaceous green boronia.)

When I create custom perfumes for Anya's Garden Perfumes, most clients exclaim with delight when they smell bornonia during the evaluation process. I warn them about the staining factor, and they usually draw back, or crinkle their nose, like they smelled something nasty. This - just a moment after exclaiming it's so beautiful. I've always managed to get around the prejudice against staining by reminding them they're careful with coffee, tea, red wine, marinara sauce, curry sauce and similar stain-producing drink and foodstuffs. That is usually enough to win them over, the nose uncrinkles, they see the logic of my pro-boronia stance.

I was recently able to obtain a nice quantity of the Fall, 2008 boronia absolute from the AU producer. The boronia was made available only to Natural Perfumers Guild members when I rebottled it. Now, I am kind of surprised that the few dozen perfumers in the Guild who received the boronia haven't brought up the staining issue in our private Yahoo group. Oh, one did - he sent me a sample of his first mod, and it's glorious. He wrote that it's "not commercial" because of the staining.

Well, I think all that's needed is a little education. State on the website, label, and by other means that there is no reason to deny using a perfume containing this beautiful floral. Just treat it as if it's coffee, tea - well, you know the drill by now. Apply to the neck, wrists, hair, back of knees - just be careful.

I found that I love to spray or drop some on the collar or decolletage area of a dark-colored piece of clothing I'm wearing because the boronia is persistent, often lasting up to 24 hours. This is with straight boronia absolute, just diluted in alcohol. Any natural perfume will last a long time on cloth, or hair, and I've spritzed the boronia on my light blond hair without staining.

So just educate your customers and private clients, and well, why not do it over a nice glass of red wine or cup of coffee, if you can? The point will be very quickly and easily made.


  1. funny, this never occurred to me... although I did leave a not so pleasant sticky streak of labdanum on myself last week ;P

  2. goodness me... and to think some folk prefer to 'stain' their skins with fake tan scented with really unpleasant synthetic fragrance
    ... it's all about how we value 'truth' and 'beauty' I suppose.


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