Let's face it, essential oils and absolutes are expensive. Whether you are buying a pound of lemongrass E.O. for scenting soap or an ounce of lemon petitgrain for perfumery you want to make sure you are getting what you pay for. Adulteration of oils runs rampant. Quality varies wildly. While I'm not a professional nose per se, nor do I have access to a spectometer gizmo which measures the components of essential oils and can detect adulterants, I'm pretty sure I've been ripped off by a few companies. I've received oils that smell like . . . nothing. That's right--NOTHING. I've received oils that smell glorious, only to find out at a later date they're not real (more on this later.) Because I'm a cost conscious perfumer (a misnomer if I've ever heard one), I decided to compile this list of the best and worst botanicals I've purchased recently. I want to help you avoid the pitfalls I've succumbed to and help you discover the hidden gems available while saving you money. Please note I have no affiliation with any of these suppliers. I'm just writing my own opinions on what I found good and what I spent way too much money on.
|The Good Guys|
Let's begin with the positives. Moving from left to right in the photo. The following seven botanicals rank high on my list for quality, aroma and price.
- Eden Botanicals Organic Vetiver-Sri Lanka: A fantastic high quality vetiver, resinous, smooth, green and grassy with a hint of smoke. Great tenacity and blends well with most botanicals. The organic costs a little more bit it's worth it. This is my favorite vetiver Eden Botanicals offers.
- Eden Botanicals Jasmine Sambac Absolute-India: My favorite Jasmine Sambac. This is saying a lot as I'm a "jasminaholic" and have tried every Jasmine I can get my hands on. This one's plump, fruity, musky, green and indolic. LOVE!
- Essential Oil University Rosewood-Brazil: (EOU claims this is the lowest priced Rosewood available on the internet AND it's good!) Before getting this rosewood, I believed rosewood smelled like pledge furniture polish. The rosewood's I had used previously smelled astringent, lemony with a hint of oily wood in the background. I marveled when people described rosewood as "floral" and "rosy." Now I understand. EOU's Rosewood is a clean, sweet rose-lemon. You can really smell the rose! I love this rosewood and am happy I finally got to smell a good quality oil, especially as my guilt at rosewood's over harvesting may prevent me from ordering more. FYI--EOU claims the rosewood is from a "renewable source" but call me a wee bit skeptical . . .
- Liberty Natural Products Carnation Absolute-Egypt: One of the smoothest carnations I've tried. It's much less spicy and clove-like than most carnations and very floral and sweet, reminiscent of champaca. I've noticed as it ages the spicy notes seem to be decreasing, and floral tones increasing. This could be a plus or a minus depending on how you like your carnation. I like it very much and it's priced much lower than other carnations on the market.
- Liberty Natural Products Lavender Absolute-Bulgaria: Sweet blueberry vanilla lavender with creamy notes of green tea. Beautiful emerald green, delicious aroma, and blends with a wider variety of botanicals than most lavenders do. Very economical, one ounce costs less than $14.00!
- Liberty Natural Products Bitter Orange Absolute-Egypt: I'm a little nervous to write about this one. It's always been my little secret. Every perfume I make with this absolute garners rave reviews. It seems to have mass customer appeal. I LOVE it madly, and worry once I write this I'll discover my readers (all 13 of you-smile) have gone and bought all the remaining stock available from Liberty, which you should do immediately because it's that good! I refer to this paranoia as "coffee flower syndrome." Ahh, my beloved coffee flower absolute. I discovered you on a whim when placing an order from Liberty. Proceeded to make the most amazing, special, beautiful perfume with you and then, alas you were gone. Never to return back into stock. R.I.P. my darling coffee flower absolute. Wherever you may be . . . Getting back to the Bitter Orange Absolute. It doesn't smell much like traditional Orange Blossom Absolute. It's less sharp and citrusy. No indolic notes or sharp neroli aromas. It's a very smooth, almost lactic orange blossom with tea notes and a vanillic undertone. It's sensational. It blooms in alcohol, expanding and radiating it's smooth white blossoms. It's my favorite hidden gem. p.s. If you decide to buy some make sure you order Bitter Orange Absolute-Egypt as Liberty has strangely named it. The other Orange Blossom's offered are not similar.
- Eden Botanicals Vanilla Bourbon Total CO2: My favorite vanilla. It boasts 26% vanillin and it's very strong. I like that I can use less and still get lots of vanilla aroma. It blends seamlessly in alcohol and is easy to use after warming in a hot water bath. I find vanilla absolute hard to work with, vanilla bean tincture is wonderful but significantly colors perfumes, vanilla Co2 is perfect, and Eden's is the best I've found.
p.s. Additionally I really like Liberty's Tuberose absolute (buttery, waxy, rich white floral) and Jasmine Grandiflorum-Egypt (sweet, creamy and powerful) as good as many higher priced jasmine grands. Also their Osmanthus Absolute smells just as good as many higher priced options.
|The Bad Guys|
Now let's talk about the duds. I would avoid these botanicals at all costs literally.
- Liberty Natural Products Palmarosa-India: This is definitely a case of you get what you pay for, and I umm paid very little. This palmarosa is terrible! It starts off sharp and acrid and only gets worse. There's a persistent strong back note of burnt rubber and chemicals. I get faint whiffs of peppery lemon. Spend a little more and get something better than this, I'm sure almost any Palmarosa you can find will smell better.
- Liberty Natural Products Kaffir Lime Leaf-Thailand: I love Kaffir Lime (Combava Petitgrain) and have ordered samples from at least four different companies. This is the worst. There's no sparkling bright limey green notes. It's faded and sweet. Why is it sweet? It has no spunk or clarity and is a muddled sweet mess. Stay away. Try White Lotus or Anatolian Treasures instead.
- New Directions Frankincense-Eithiopia: This was the first frankincense I bought when I started making perfume. I didn't understand what all the fuss was about with Frankincense. Mandy Aftel was raving about it. People were blogging about "magical frankincense" and I just didn't get it. Turns out I had the worst frankincense ever bottled. This smells like eucalyptus mixed with turpentine. As it ages it grows more camphorous and terrible. I've since smelled better versions and realize I was ignoring frankincense as my initial impression was a bad one. If anyone has recommendations for a great frank. send it my way!
- EOU Yuzu-Japan: I am a huge yuzu fan. I adore it's fresh zippy scent. I've sampled a few and have always been happy, until now. This yuzu is not good. I actually do not believe it's real yuzu. It smells like white grapefruit mixed with something. Maybe another citrus oil. I'm pretty sure it's bunk. A big letdown as I now have one whole ounce of bad yuzu. I thought about contacting EOU and asking them about the yuzu, but I haven't had good experiences with their customer service. I assume I will have to chalk this up to a bad choice, money lost and move on. Don't buy yuzu from here.
- Eden Botanicals Tuberose Absolute: I'm not a fan of the tuberose here. It's floral and fussy and reminds me of old lady cologne or Fracas before I even begin blending. I prefer my tuberose big, creamy and buttery. I find this tuberose thin. It's not waxy. It's just lackluster, and it's expensive.
- Eden Botanicals Carnation Absolute: Again I find this absolute lackluster. The fragrance is faint, with a weird undertone of decomposition. I do not like it.
So, in summary there are hits and misses with most suppliers. It's hard to write off a supplier for one bad botanical when they offer others that are good. There's lots of opinions regarding which suppliers are the best, which have the best or worst quality. I think it's all a roll of the dice. A company may offer a great rose otto, but their citrus oils are awful. Some offer beautiful but pricey absolutes but the selection is limited. That's what's so tough about finding good ingredients. Unfortunately, we often find out through trial and error and it can be easy to make pricey mistakes.
I usually order my botanicals from Eden Botanicals, Liberty Naturals, White Lotus, and Aftelier. I have experience with products from many other suppliers. I have listed my personal impressions below.
LIBERTY NATURALS: Great citrus oils. Some great absolutes. Website is not user friendly or informative. Shipping takes a very long time. The best prices. I have had bad luck with some lower priced essential oils like palmarosa, juniper berry, nutmeg. Avoid their Sco2's. They don't blend in alcohol and their scent profile is faint.
WHITE LOTUS: Amazing high quality oils, great customer service, and informative newsletter. Website is awkward to navigate and you must email your orders. Prices are very high. I wish I could shop here more often.
EDEN BOTANICALS: One of my favorites. Great website, and generous free samples. Try before you buy. Middle of the road prices.
AFTELIER: Rare botanicals in small sizes. Very nice website. You can often find botanicals here that you can't find anywhere else. Remember the botanicals are rare and you may not be able to get them again.
NEW DIRECTIONS: I have had bad experiences with this company ranging from them double charging my credit card, to receiving adulterated rose absolute. Prices are low, but trust me. It's not worth it.
ESSENTIAL OIL UNIVERSITY: All oils are available in 1 ounce size and up. NO samples. I was not impressed with the absolutes I have ordered, however some oils such as patchouli and rosewood were good and very reasonably priced. After the yuzu I received I don't think I will place another order with them. However, for soapers or those who need larger quantities of essential oils (not absolutes) they are a good option and very economical. Also, great prices on bulk disposable droppers here.
I'm hoping this will spur those who read this to leave comments regarding their own hits and misses. I love trading tips and sources and maybe next time you can save me from wasting money on bad yuzu.