Friday, March 23, 2012

The Perfumer's Obsession - Harvesting rare plants for extraction

I believe I was the first perfumer in American to grow and harvest the Aglaia tree, aka the Chinese Perfume Tree, and I've been extracting the scent from the tiny flowers for about four years now.

I've shown the flowers in other photos previously on this blog, but I don't believe I ever showed them with another object that would put them in scale.  Notice how tiny the panicle of flowers are, and how tiny each flower is.  The latest harvest is the first one where I've ever been able to clip a group of panicles, rather than just grab the individual panicles at the base and strip off the flowers.  This is because the tree has started to produce clumps of panicles, and I just snip off the clump, along with some leaves, as you can see.  

The 3/4-full quart jar of aglaia flower tincture has been added to about three dozen times, the typical number for a traditional French enfleurage, even though, of course, this is not enfleurage.  It's just that many were needed to give a beautiful scent to the alcohol. 

So, from that dishpan full of Aglaia clippings, and after about a half hour of carefully stripping the flowers, this is the tiny harvest.  The fragile green stems shown on the left will require some more harvesting time.  Sigh.  Being an obsessed natural perfumer has its rewards, but also requires a lot of devotion, patience and what's the other word I'm looking for?  Persistence!

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