Saturday, June 05, 2010

Ask The Perfumer - Sunday, June 6, 2010

Well, due to family emergencies, I totally forgot to have an "Ask the Perfumer" last Sunday! I think I remembered on Tuesday or Wednesday. Yes, it's been that hectic.

So, I'm actually posting this on Saturday, the 5th, and I'll open the blog for questions now.


  1. Is it possible to extract aroma from cherry blossoms?

  2. Jessica, I've never done that because I don't live where cherry trees bloom. I believe it would be possible, but you have to be dedicated and patient. The process would probably involve:

    1. Obtain 190 proof alcohol and put it in a wide-mouth jar, like a canning jar with a tight-fitting lid.

    2. Harvest enough flowers every day to fill the jar, loosely packed.

    3. Strain the blossoms out every day, replace them with new blossoms.

    4. Continue this until the trees stop blooming.

    5. Strain out the final harvest, and put the jar in the refrigerator until the next season, repeat steps 1 - 4.

    6. A lot of work, yes. But remember that in France when enfleurage was the main way to extract scent, they typically made 36 replacement batches to get an optimum scent. You may get it with less replacements, but be prepared to really work at it.

    Hope this helped.

    I have probably made about 30 replacement changes with my aglaia flowers, and some of my jasmines, and it's worth it. The tinctures are gorgeous.

  3. I love Ask the Perfumer!!

    Quick question about blending and dilution.
    Do you recommend blending with diluted materials or with them at full strength?

  4. Anya,

    I'm still pretty new to natural perfumery. I got hooked after reading Mandy Aftel's book and took her suggestions on which oils to start with. However, I was wondering about your opinion: what oils should a new perfumer start with? Or, what oils do you tend to use most frequently?



  5. Hi Lasca:

    I blend with diluted materials for two major reasons:

    1. The alcohol has already "opened up" the EO, absolute or concrete, and you have a better idea of the true scent of the aromatic, since undiluted materials can be overwhelming and hid a lot of their nuances.

    2. It's economical. I sometimes create dozens of mods for a perfume, and if I was using undiluted boronia or blue lotus, well, the cost would be enormous.

  6. Hi Matt:

    You have a great start with the oils Mandy recommends.

    I always caution newbie perfumers against using too many strong aromatics. They tend to fall in love with them, and as a consequence, their blends become overwhelmed by the strong one, like lemon myrtle, vetiver, patchouli and galbanum.

    Try to get every citrus you can. You'll love them for top notes, which are difficult to create. Expand your heart notes in your perfume organ. Avoid coniferous notes for now, you'll use them in the future, but they can wreck a blend quickly, and there's no need for disaster!

    Once you get to know the aromatics, look for a good balance of heavy and light aromatics, because that's how perfumers are composed, it's always a balance, playing one essence off another.

  7. Good Sunday!
    Have you heard or have any experience with someone perhaps
    tincturing a scent from a horse?


  8. Denise, I do recall some chat in the Yahoo NP group about "washing" a horse down with a cloth soaked in 190-proof alcohol to obtain some of the scent. They talked about blending it with leather and hay accords to achieve the perfect 'horsey' scent.

  9. me again.
    can i have two questions?

    thanks for answering the my questions about blending - really useful.
    What % dilutions do you recommend using? Do you dilute all materials by the same % or does it differ?

  10. Yes, Lesca, aromatics can be diluted to various strengths. For the beginner, I recommend 10%. Some very weak aromatics, like amyris, can be diluted to 50%, very strong ones like vetiver or galbanum, down to 3%.

    The trick is when you need to replicate a lovely blend for a perfume, or just scaling it up, you need to know the specific gravity of the original aromatic, and then mathematically find the correct amount.

    I have a blending database in beta testing now that solves that problem easily for the perfumer. I needed it because I am math-challenged ;-)

    If you are good at math, and can research the SG of your aromatics, you can then create any amount of perfume you need, using the formula with varying percentage dilutions.

    It is really good to use SG because thick and waxy absolutes and concretes (and even thick EOs like guiacwood) need to be standardized for creating perfumes.

  11. Thank you so much for providing such a direct link to an amazing mind in the field of natural perfumery, and of many other areas as well!

    I was wondering how you handle substances that do not really seem to blend well with alcohol? For example, I have a Butter CO2 extract from Eden that I mixed 1 part butter to 3 parts 190 proof alcohol, and only about half of the butter seemed to go into solution with the alcohol. The rest sits at the bottom of the vial. Tangerine EO did the same. Costus CO2 seemed to create a bunch of sediment in the alcohol. And Mushroom Absolute just created an icky film all over everything.

    Do you find that those substances are just better not to work with at all, or is there a nifty trick for working around that sort of thing?

    Thanks so much!
    Michael in Colorado

  12. Hi Michael:

    CO2s were developed for the flavoring industry, not the fragrance industry (although some are now responding to the frag industry and making them) so they weren't made to dissolve in alcohol. Still, by shaking and/or stirring the CO2, you can extract a lot of the scent. I treat them like concretes, knowing there's a lot of waxy materials in there, and filtering out the gunk after most of the scent has gone into the alcohol.

    1:3 is much too high for the butter. I'd try 1:10 or less. It's very potent, and can ruin a blend.

    About your other problematic aromatics: that's just the way some are. You'll always filter your final blend, so you should be able to get the bits and films out. HTH.


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