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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fruity essential oils and absolutes

“Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.”

Henry David Thoreau

Last week I blogged about my love of fruity scents and the challenge of creating fruity notes in natural perfumery. I discussed my experiments creating fruit tinctures.  Today, I'm elaborating further on botanical ingredients that lend themselves to creating fruit aromas.

In general, I find most "fruity" essential oils and absolutes accessory notes.  Too much roman chamomile in a blend and you've tipped from a floral apple note to a stomachache inducing aroma.  Trust me, I know from whence I speak.  Accordingly, blending these botanicals can be tricky.  Most are successfully fruity in minute quantities.  Below is my TOP 10 list of fruity botanicals in no particular order:
  • black currant bud absolute
  • fir absolute
  • roman chamomile (apple)
  • boronia (berries)
  • rooibos absolute (plum, prune, raisin)
  • cognac 
  • ylang ylang extra (banana)
  • lavender absolute (blueberry, blackberry)
  • rose de mai, rosa centifolia
  • mimosa absolute (watermelon, cucumber)
Please note I did not include citrus oils in the list as I thought these oils self explanatory.  However, I'd like to give an honorable mention to an Orange Essence essential oil I purchased from Eden Botanicals.  According to the website it's distilled from orange juice, and indeed it's incredibly fresh, fruity and juicy smelling, and different from sweet orange essential oil.

One thing the natural perfumer may notice is a lack of base notes included on this list. Ah, the elusive fruited base!  True, cognac and maybe fir are base notes, but one cannot create a base with cognac alone.  Again, just trust me--enough said :) 

When creating a perfume and wanting the fruit heart and top notes to sing, I tend to opt for a light yet tenacious base note as to not overpower the jammy heart.  My favorite base notes in this case include: ambrette, vanilla, copaiba balsam, sandalwood, benzoin, labdanum, tonka bean, and hay absolute.  My absolute favorite base note for these blends is hay absolute.  The honeyed warm hay, grassy aroma is the perfect drydown after a peachy or berry heart.  

Wild Raspberries

Unfortunately, I have not been able to work with boronia.  I've only been able to experience it's delicious aroma in perfumes, but have never gotten my hands on the raw material.  When I first smelled Aftelier's Boronia I wanted to drink it, bathe in it, roll in it, rub it all over my body!  It's so stunning, I was at a loss for words.  If the color gold had a scent it would be boronia.  This description seems overly poetic but it's all I can muster when inhaling.  I couldn't get enough.  I became a Boronia addict.  The initial scent was so stunning and so fleeting I wanted to constantly reapply the scent so I could inhale it's aroma again and again.  I recently found boronia absolute listed for sale at nearly $200.00 for 5 ml.!!!  That's 1/6th of an ounce people.  Apparently my comparison of boronia to gold isn't far off.  At this price, I'll sadly have to keep my addiction to boronia at bay.

Boronia Flowers

Another challenge I have experienced in creating "fruity" natural perfumes, is the definition of fruity.  This issue has it's roots in traditional synthetic perfumery.  What I might find fruity another finds grassy, or earthy or  . . . not fruity enough.  The public have been bashed over the head with potent chemical laden fruity scents in everything from deodorant (I kid you not, I saw a cranberry orange scented antiperspirant/deodorant at my local drugstore last week) to hairspray, never mind perfume.  Recently a co-worker requested that I bring in some perfumes from my line for her to sample.  I did and word spread quickly.  Before I knew it I was making a presentation to a group about natural perfumes, and my fragrance line.  I described one of my perfumes, Osmanthus Oolong as being a fruity floral with tea notes.  From experience, this is a scent that tends to be more popular with those unfamiliar with natural perfumes.  I consider it my crossover scent :)

begin scene, ACT 1

crowd gathers in giddy anticipation of smelling perfumes and escapism from monotonous office work

BLONDE FROM LEGAL DEP'T AKA "COUGAR" (sniffing perfume bottle) : "This is certainly . . .  different smelling isn't it?" 

group eyes each other warily

CO-WORKER IN POLYESTER PANTSUIT WITH A PENCHANT FOR BURNT MICROWAVE POP-CORN : "Hmm, this doesn't smell anything like my Bath & Body Works Juicy Raspberry body spray."  

the final coupe de grace posed innocently as a question . . . 

GUM POPPING GAL WHO HAS NEVER SPOKEN TO ME: "I wear Britney Spears Curious.  Whaddya have that smells like that?"

ME (horrified and pink cheeked):  "NOTHING!  I have nothing in my line that smells like that!"  

scene over, curtain closes, C'EST FIN

In conclusion, there are many methods and ingredients available for the natural perfumer to create fruit notes.  Experiment, tincture, blend, inhale.  Enjoy the triumphs and tribulations and the fruits of your labor!  

Tune in next week when I talk to Mandy Aftel, umm over the phone. Highlights include nervous blathering, mispronunciations of botanical ingredients, and escalating credit card bills.  I'll be sharing my reflections on a recent order of rare and exciting botanicals from Aftelier.  Included are: aged beeswax abs., insanely expensive Rum CO2, honeysuckle abs., agarwood, mint abs., and phenyl ethyl acetate (natural isolate)


UrbanEden said...

Thanks so much for sharing your knowlede! You've gotten me thinking about fruity soap possibilities...I just put together a blend of bitter orange, tangerine, blood orange, jasmine, cardamom, guaiacwood, a little palma rosa, some balsamic resins, a smidge of black pepper. Who knows how it will smell after saponification, but so far, very fruity.

Charna said...

Your blend sounds amazing. Don't you love cardamom? It's one of my favorites. You have a much harder task at hand with scenting soap. All those processes to go through. I don't think people have any clue how hard it is to scent soap and have it smell the way you want!

UrbanEden said...

Thanks, Charna. But you know, sometimes my customers ask for a soap scent in perfume form, and then I tell them how much more complicated it is to make perfume. Soaps only have to smell good initially, whereas natural perfumes, of course, have to smell good through all the stages of their evolution.

Mermaid Lane Perfumes said...

I so enjoy your blog - the insights, the humor! Off to try my hand at solid perfumes in the coming months. Have the beeswax, my Aftel guide, just waiting for my casserole to come. After reading your post on the hazards of solids, I'm afraid. I wondered if you had any insights in how to use fir absolute in oil - the stuff just does NOT dissipate, it is a gross mess. I really wanted to try it with the solid perfumes but fear it may be hopeless. Anyway, merci beaucoup for all your interesting posts.