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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)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hello, my name is Charna and I like fruity perfumes (judge me if you must)

PART 1: Fruit Tinctures

I've been thinking about fruity, frothy perfumes recently.  Spring has finally arrived in New England and the apple and cherry trees are blooming.  Recently, one sunny breezy morning, I found myself engulfed in a cloud of tiny circular apple blossom petals that swirled around me.  Delicate white petals fell softly on my eyelashes, temporarily blinding me and I was reminded of a spring "snowstorm" of petals.  The smells of the blossoms combined with new plants and flowers sprouting everywhere is subtly sweet, a fruity delicate scent with green overtones.  It is intoxicating.

Let me begin by saying I think fruity perfumes get a bad rap, and those who like these fruity scents are relegated to tweens, teenagers, thong-wearing "girls gone wild" types, and a few older women who drink white zinfandel because it's pink and sweet and wear too much eyeshadow.  (The stereotyping of the fruity perfume wearer comes from years of extensive research working as a bartender, and department store perfume salesperson.)

I will now admit the obvious: I too like fruity scents, or perhaps more to the point, fragrances with some fruity notes; hints of lemon, honey, or berries.  I am not a tween, teenager, girl gone wild, or middle-aged white zinfandel drinker (at least not yet . . . )  Perfume connoisseurs frown on these frothy concoctions, and indeed some are truly horrible.  Be Delicious by DKNYcomes to mind, as well as some Paris Hilton monstrosity I smelled in a magazine at the gym.  I promptly gagged and lost my footing on the treadmill causing an embarrassing lurch towards the treadmill next to me, which was --of course-- occupied by a fit male runner who gave me the evil eye for disrupting his perfect jogging rhythm.  I wanted to yell loud enough so he could hear me over his ipod, "IT WASN'T MY FAULT.  IT WAS THIS DISGUSTING MAGAZINE SCENT-STRIP!"  Luckily, I restrained myself and went back to my leisurely walking pace and informative Us Weekly magazine perusal.

Creating fruity notes for natural perfumes can be a bit more difficult.  After all, there's no such thing as strawberry essential oil.  Natural perfumers must work a bit harder to create these notes and this challenge is the very thing I love about natural perfumery. One of my favorite methods of creating a fruit note for natural perfumes is through tincturing freeze dried fruit in perfumers alcohol.  One can use high proof grain alcohol such as everclear or organic grape alcohol which is a bit fruity to begin with but unfortunately expensive.  Add some freeze dried fruit from a company such as Just Tomatoes to the alcohol, cover and allow to tincture for a few weeks or months even.  It takes a good amount of fruit to create these tinctures.  Depending on the volume you wish to make, I recommend obtaining the freeze dried fruit from where it can be purchased in larger size tubs economically.  I make mine in large mason canning jars.  Shake periodically.  Remove the fruit, and add more repeating the process until the tincture is fruity enough.

I've tried tincturing: apricots, peaches, raspberries, strawberries, mangos and asian pears.  In my opinion, mangos, apricots and strawberries work the best.  These fruits tincture easily and smell true to the fruit.  The asian pear tincture was a bust and smells oddly of raw potatoes.  It has a starchy, brown paper bag like scent.  The raspberry tincture is bright fuchsia colored, and tart.  Currently the raspberry tincture smells more like black currant bud than ripe raspberries. Perhaps it will take on a raspberry aroma after many more raspberries have been added and the strength of the tincture is increased.  The peach tincture is lovely, however the apricot tincture smelled peachier.

Using these tinctures as a component of a natural perfume creates a marked difference.  The fruit seems to appear as a top note and base note which is unusual.  These tinctures can be used to varying degrees in perfume blends and don't necessarily make the final scent fruity.  They can enhance florals, smooth rough or sharp edges in blends and generally round out a perfume.  Try rose absolute in strawberry tincture, it's amazing, sweet and rose colored!  Osmanthus in apricot tincture go hand in hand.  When I was perfecting my Ginger Lily perfume I made many, many variations.  Once I added mango tincture to the blend it was magic.  It had such a marked effect on the perfume I carried around vials with two versions of the perfume in my purse.  They were identical, except one used mango tincture.  I was constantly having friends and family smell both versions while I hissed wild eyed, "Isn't it amazing?  Can you smell the difference? Smell it?"  I got a lot of positive feedback from the mango enhanced version of Ginger Lily, but it could be they were a bit frightened.

Pictured above are peach and apricot tinctures

apple blossoms

I will be posting the second part of the fruity perfume series within the next few days focusing on natural botanicals with sweet fruity notes.  Look for PART 2: Creating fruity notes with essential oils and absolutes.