Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, August 12, 2012 until 10 PM EST

August in Miami is a pleasure to a perfumer's nose. Some of the blooming treasures in my front garden this morning are jasmine grandiflorums climbing by my front door, Vietnamese gardenias, ylang ylangs, jasmine sambac longipetalum, angel's trumpets and four o'clocks. Everything but the angel's trumpets and four o'clocks are fragrant now. The angel's trumpets will start pumping out their sweet, spicy perfume around dusk, and the four o'clocks will start smelling of grape soda around, well, four o'clock in the afternoon. Such inspiration! Do you have any perfumery questions, or scented plant questions? I'll be here to answer them unti 10 PM EST.

Grape-soda scented four o'clock.  I know the natural chemical constituent that makes it smell like the commercial grape soda, but I prefer the common, less technical common name for the flower.

Angel trumpets touching the sky, heralding down their fragrance from above.

A solo jasmine grandiflorum putting itself right by my nose!

The richness of two dozen jasmine grandiflorum flowers blooming by my front door can't be ignored.  Beautiful!

A rare jasmine sambac, the 'long-petaled' variety longipetalum.

Dramatic and big, the Vietnamese gardenia is a glorious flower.

The ylang ylangs unfold over the course of a week or so, each successive wave of ripeness glorious in its on manner.


  1. Hi Anya

    possibly stupid question here but as a newbie to the amazing world of natural perfumery I'll ask anyway. How do you know when an aromatic tincture is ready(ie you've extracted as much scent as possible from your aromatic material)?
    Do you leave your tinctures to sit for a while before you use them?

    Thanks Anya



  2. Lovely photos, I can almost smell those flowers in Portland!

  3. Dear Beth:

    Thanks for dropping by and all newbies are welcome!

    For your tinctures, you always have to strain out the plant material and "recharge" the alcohol with new material to increase the scent extraction. How many times depends on first - what your nose tells you is the optimum extraction threshold, or - second, buy a meter that measures particulate matter and if, let's say, after the seventh recharge, the amount of particuate matter doesn't increase, then your alcohol is saturated.

    It isn't necessary to let the tinctures sit and age, except for orris root. I can't think of any other material that needs aging. And, of course the orris root needs to be at least three years old before the tincturing begins. You may wish to check the archives of the natural perfumery group I host on Yahoo beause there is a LOT of information there on this subject, plus a tincturing short paper I wrote some years ago (which needs updating).

    Stop by whenever you have a question about natural perfumery!

    Best wishes

  4. Hi Suzinn:

    Send some rose vibes this way! Portland is the city of roses and Miami is the city of almost no roses, so we make do with our other fragrant beauties, but I so love and miss roses.


  5. Then you should visit us in June, the roses look amazing then! I only allow fragrant varieties in my garden.

    Speaking of Orris root, we had a great spring for bearded Iris flowers (not to wet when they were blooming). So I decided to tincture the fragrant deep purple blooms and after just a few recharges the fragrance was warm & sweet and the color was rose-iris. I only have a few ounces but next year I'm going to become an iris bandit! I have some clients with an over abundance of iris and when they get crowded they don't bloom well, so this fall I will be thinning their clumps and start some jars of tincture. Three years is a long time but I'm patient. Is there a certain ratio you suggest?

  6. Anya, thank you very much, appreciate the feedback. I'm tincturing material from my Butterfy Bush. I love the scent of this plant, it;s so sweet and quite intoxicating.

    Kind Regards


  7. Dear Suzinn:

    "Fragrant-only zone"! Yes, as it should be :-)

    It's the root that needs to be dug and dried for three years, not the flower. Congratulations on the flower tincture! If I were you, I would keep it refrigerated until the next year's extraction. I've never tinctured the flower of iris, so I can only give you the advice I gave Beth, and that is to recharge the alcohol as many times as possible during the harvest season. Leave the flowers in for one day, strain, replace them, over and over.

    Now, if you buy the dried, aged root, the typical ratio is 25% root to alcohol. Buy samples of the dried, powdered root before you invest in a large amount, to see who has the most fragrant stuff.

    Good Luck!

  8. Oh, Beth, Buddlea is such a delight, isn't it? Keep recharging the alcohol and I bet you'll have a beautiful, fragrant product.


    1. Sorry for the late reply, I got caught up with work.

      Yes, the buddlea is just divine, I love it. I keep pruning and encouraging new flowers to grow, whilst still keeping enough for the butterflies and bees to feast upon.

      I really need to invest in some more fragrant plants.

      Thanks for the help Anya, greatly appreciated.

      Beth xx

  9. Thanks for all your help Anya! I know I'm supposed to do the root, using the fragrant flower was just a lark and it seems to have softened the harsh alcohol which is kind of what I'm trying to do with my tinctures. Do you think it will go bad? I strained the flowers out long ago.

    Sweet dreams,


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