Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ask the Perfumer Sunday September 23, 2012

Good morning everyone, as we move into Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, Spring in the Southern.  Here in Miami, I can both plant and harvest at this time of year, so maybe we're in the Middle Hemisphere?

The Ask the Perfumer forum is open, so please ask any questions you have about perfumery, the emphasis on the natural aspect of our art.

Here's a photo of some of the unmolded fragrant wax melts from my new line of ambient scents, Room Candy. I'll be blogging about them later this week.  If you're a blogger and would like a sample to review, write me via my website


  1. Hi Anya,

    I would appreciate it if you could let me know or point me to the appropriate sources, what type of stabilizer I should use (if any) in a blend of essential oils -mainly citrus- for an EDT product?

    Kind regards,


  2. Hi Nilam:

    Here is a compilation of answers I've posted on preventing oxidation in raw materials, such as citrus and linalool-rich oils in past years on the Ask the Perfumer forum. It actually doesn't matter what the strength of the perfume you're making. I use the term oxidation-prevention, and I'm not sure if that's the same as the term stabilizer you're using. I hope this information will help you preserve your oils so that they last longer. Of course, once blended into a perfume, the anti-oxidant properties will carry over.

    There are two ways to look at "preserving" your aromatics and perfumes.

    Add up to 0.1% gamma tocopheral form of Vitamin E to essential oils, especially those containing linalool and other chems that may oxidize. The addition of the gamma tocopheral will also help slow oxidation in citrus oils. Don't add too much, it'll speed oxidation!

    Many suppliers are already adding it without telling you. Don't worry, it's natural and does not adversely affect the oil.

    Then there's the addition of 190 proof alcohol to many absolutes and essential oils to prevent rancidity. Ambrette seed can go "bad" because of the fatty acids in it, so adding alcohol really helps prevent this. Add up to 5%.

    I will now answer your question directly, as you see I concentrated on giving you pre-perfume oxidation/rancidity preventative measures.

    Since you have added the alcohol to your compound, the perfume is now preserved to a great degree. Just keep it out of sunlight, away from heat, and tightly capped, and you should be fine.


    I did some further research since the first tocopheral post. I found an email from a respected UK aromatherapist in the archives of the NP group. She spoke of the need for high amounts of gamma t and she warned about overdosing with it, as it can have the reverse effect, i.e., causing oxidation rather than helping slow it.

    Then I googled T-50, which is the stuff I've been using and found some great, more detailed info on a supplier/formulators site:
    I got my T-50 years ago from another supplier who gives much less info on the website, but imagine how happy I was to see the 60% gamma.

    Vit. E has been the standard quoted for many years. I am rather uneducated when it comes to the different types of Vit. E, and so when I found the gamma reference I added that. Research always provides new answers, nuances and such.

    About the alcohol amount: there is no figure set in stone, and I wonder at the variance in percentages given by Arctander for the EO created by the crushed seeds: "The oil should be stored in a 50% or 10%
    alcoholic solution at reduced temperature in order to prevent the appearance of rancid notes due to a possible decomposition of traces of fatty
    oils and acids in the essential oil (or in the absolute)." Many beginners read this, and other forums, and that variance in percentages could really muddy the waters.

    I prefer to err on the light side of things.

    It's the crushing of the seeds that releases the fatty oils and acids. I typically give a 10% topper of alcohol to my ambrette oil. I lowered it in my recommendation initially because I find that often folks get too generous with measurements.

    I do believe that 5% would be as good as 10%. I also believe that people producing their own tinctures of ambrette seeds, both with crushed and uncrushed seeds, it a wonderful way to go. Either way, the product will be rather immune to rancidity. I have luscious ambrette tinctures that are six years old, and some newer than that, and they're all glorious.

    To sum it up: use gamma t, preferably T-50, 0.1%. That is a safe zone. With ambrette seed EO, 5 to 10%, no more, especially if you, like me, dilutes your aromatic down to 10% in alcohol for creating mods.<

    *Update - I now have concerns that GMO-containing fixed oils may be used in the production of T50, and sometimes synth tocopherals. I have to research further.


  3. HI Anya,
    I'm experimenting with tinctures and wondering how long to leave basmati rice sitting in the tincture and how often to change it? It seems to scent the alcohol very quickly. I love the creamy smell, what family of perfumes would this be good in?

    Also, will keeping the top off a new tincture help evaporate any excess water still present in petals or leaves or will it degrade the alcohol ?

    You just mentioned making ambrette tinctures and I noticed that the hibiscus flowers are going to seed. Do you use the seeds from the perennial form or the bush/tree form of the plant? Can the seeds be in a green state or should they be pick and dried?

    Also wondering if you recommend any books just on the subject of tincturing

    Thank you so much!

  4. Hi Suzinn:

    Thanks for stopping by, always nice to chat with you. I've never tinctured anything as starchy as a rice, and I would caution you to check the pH. The scent of basmati is nice, and it would fit in an agrestic or a gourmand perfume. Have you done a drydown test on it? Does the scent qualify as a top/middle or base note?

    A funny story about the scent of basmati rice and tiger urine. I can't find the original citation, but it was reported that Indian zoo keepers employed in a certain European zoo kept remarking that tiger urine smells just like cooked basmati rice. In the 80s, a scientist did find the common chemical component. Here's a link to a story that references the rice/urine scent The world is wild, isn't it?

    I recently received a beautiful chunk of white copal resin from a perfumer/incense maker. I opened the bag and immediately my Scent Memory took me back to my childhood and Friday fried flounder fish. The cooking oil, breading, tender, succulent fish scent - all there. So I gave the bag to another perfumer who came by to visit. She was just starting to sniff when I blurted out my fish take on it. She said she never would have arrived at that conclusion on her own, but she saw it when I pointed it out. Copal is beautiful, peppery, a bit of citrus, and heck, with my fish association, I get hungry ;-)

    Never leave the top off - alcohol is hygroscopic and will draw in water from the atmosphere. That will ruin your tincture. Instead, slightly wilt the petals before putting them into the alcohol.

    There is a specific hibiscus that yields ambrette seed, it isn't the garden hibiscus. It's Abelmoschus moschatus and it's a perennial, planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. It grows in warm climates like India, Florida, S. Texas.

    I don't know of any books on tincturing. There is a FAQ on the subject I wrote for the Yahoo NP group that needs updating, you might download it from there and ask further questions.

    PS yes, I certainly went far afield answering you!


    1. Hi Anya,

      Could you elaborate a bit more on the concerns with tincturing basmati rice? How would the starch become a problem, and why would the pH be a problem, what issues would it cause? You have my curiosity peaked!

      Thank you so much!

  5. Dear Anya,
    I really appreciate your time and experience!

    Providence Perfume makes & sells a Basmati rice tincture and since I had some rice in my pantry I decided to try it.
    The drydown is very faint after 2 weeks (but very strong in the jar) so that's why I wondered how long to soak and how often to change the rice. I just started so I think I'll do a few more.

    Bellyflowers Blog has some interesting posts about tincturing too. I think the subject would make a great little book.
    I'm having fun experimenting with basil, bay, lime, tarragon and shiso leaves from my herb garden!

    Funny about the tiger urine (maybe they were using rice as a filler in their food (like some cat foods do).

    One of my favorite scent memories is the smell of restoration (of old buildings) in Florence, Italy (chalky, musty) but I don't think that would make a great scent.

    I have been wilting the leaves and keeping the lids on tight save for when I have to change out the material.

    Thanks for the heads up about the hibiscus, I won't be "collecting" from clients gardens.

    Thanks again for your generous advice.
    XO Suzinn

    PS: Your wax melts look good enough to eat!

  6. One of the members of the NP group I host on Yahoo couldn't figure out how to post here (it can be problematic!), so here's her question and my answer from that forum:

    > Dear Anya,
    > I'm sorry I can't figure out how to work the mechanics of asking a question,
    > but I do have one!
    > I have recently learned that some EO's get better as they age and some
    > deteriorate and need replacement frequently. How can I find out which ones
    > fall in each category.
    > Thank you for your patience at my ineptness with the technology and for your
    > response if you decide to give one.
    > Christine Houde

    Hi christine:

    An excellent question, and one that has been answered here many times, and I realize we need a File on it so we can have all the info in one place. Here's a start, from my textbook:

    Do not refrigerate sandalwood, rose otto, anise seed, vetiver, patchouli, or spikenard because all of these aromatics age well, and even improve, when they’re kept at room temperature. However, even these sturdy oils still must be protected from direct light and excessive heat.
    Aromatics that should be kept refrigerated include: Citrus oils, needle (conifer) oils, lavenders, myrrh, ambrette seed, juniper berry, blue oils (such as chamomile(s) and yarrow), as well as expensive concretes and absolutes. This list includes the essential oil, concrete and absolute versions of the aromatics that are mentioned.

    About refrigeration: when you remove an oil, either quickly, and I mean with one or two minutes, open, remove the amount you need, recap the bottle and put it right back in, *or* let it come to room temperature, use it, then put it back in the refrigerator. Otherwise, condensation may form inside the bottle, and the water will be a growth medium for harmful microbes.


  7. Hi again,
    Just did a new drydown test on my basmati tincture and it is distinct after an hour with a prominent salty note.

    I have no idea what I will do with this... yet.


  8. happy to pique your curiosity, Michael. A perfume chemist has been advising me as I work on advanced studies for my students. There are ways to adjust the pH of tinctures to prevent them from degrading. That's all I'll say for now - a teaser, I suppose, as a prelude to the big reveal.

    Also, I forgot to ask suzinn about cloudiness or lack thereof with the rice tincture. I suppose, with settling over time, any cloudiness could bee avoided by careful decanting.


    1. Very interesting, I look forward to the big reveal in the future!

      You are spot on as to the cloudiness. Upon shaking, you get some cloudiness in the tincture, but it settles down upon resting. Decanting gently or using the filtration flask with lab paper does remove it. At least with the tincture I made.

      Thank you!

  9. Hi again Suzinn:

    No, the tigers weren't fed the rice. Subsequent studies indicate thesmell of the tiger pee in the wild has the scent.


  10. Yes, it is cloudy especially at first but it settles to the bottom. I haven't added new rice yet and I didn't want to filter until I was completely done. This ph problem is yet another thing I have no idea about. I know I need more education but I can't do it the traditional way due to my dyslexia. I need to learn by doing not reading technical info. Now if you wrote it in the form of a story I might have a chance ;) For now I'm just enjoying my little fragrant experiments.
    Sweet dreams xoox


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.