Jasmine flower by Martin Snopek. Rabyne, Central Bohemian Region, Czech Republic
In Mandy Aftel’s book, Fragrant, she calls this perfume simply “Jasmine,” but it’s more of a lovely dance between Jasmine and Lavender Concrete, while the Blood Orange also adds a delicious and plush fruity top note.
Here’s what you need to create Orange-Jasmine-Lavender solid perfume:
- Jojoba oil
- Grated beeswax
- Jasmine Grandiflorum absolute
- Jasmine Sambac absolute
- Blood Orange essential oil
- Lavender concrete
*Out of courtesy to the author, I’m leaving off the amounts of each raw material. You can find them in her book.
- Box grater (for grating beeswax)
- Measuring spoons (for beeswax)
- 80 ml lab casserole (for melting beeswax)
- 10 ml graduated beaker or cylinder
- Glass eyedroppers (1 per essence)
- Small glass of alcohol for cleaning eye droppers (place them in it upright after use)
- Stirring rod
- Hot plate (can also use stovetop burner)
- ½ oz tin (for storing perfume)
- Paper towels
- Cover your work surface with paper towels.
- Add the Jojoba oil to the graduated beaker.
- Next, measure out the lavender concrete into the beaker of oil. Aftel’s recipe calls for the lavender concrete in grams, because it is typically a paste. The version I have is liquid, so I added drops until they equaled the required weight. I found that 6 drops matched the gram weight she specified.
- Then add both kinds of jasmine, and finally the blood orange. Smell after each addition to experience how the blend is evolving.
- When you are done with an eye dropper, place it in the glass of alcohol, and pump it a few times to clean it, and leave it sitting full of alcohol. This prevents cross contamination.
- Measure out the grated beeswax into the lab casserole. Hold the lab casserole over the burner until the wax melts.
- Quickly pour the essential oil blend into the liquid wax. Working over the heat, stir the blend into the wax for about 10 seconds until it’s a smooth mixture.
- Finally, pour the molten perfume into the ½ oz tin, cap it, and leave it alone for 15 minutes to solidify. Finis!
How did it work? How does it smell?
The blood orange top note is gorgeous! This is a full-bodied, voluptuous orange – and it pairs well with jasmine. I can see why Mandy picked it rather than a thinner or more bitter citrus note (wild orange, bitter orange, etc.). It enhances the rich, fruity, and sweet qualities of the jasmine and this is my favorite phase of the perfume. The two types of jasmine produce a more complex effect, capitalizing on both the lush, rounded sweetness of the Grandiflorum and the greener, fresher, spicier quality of the Sambac. The Lavender concrete provides a soft, herbaceous and green base for everything and is fore-grounded more in the dry down; it’s slightly “soapy” in Mandy’s words, and I have to agree. The Lavender concrete is perfectly fine, but I don’t looooove it the way I love Lavender absolute, which is more floral, so I can’t help but wonder what this would smell like with the absolute instead of the concrete. Better? Or less interesting because less contrast?
I also have to wonder how different my own blend might smell simply due to different natural materials. I contacted Mandy about the Lavender Concrete issue (mine is liquid, her recipe calls for a solid) – and she said her own was a paste which is why she used the weight-based measurements, so she was unsure how mine would compare. I managed to source two concretes – one from Liberty Naturals and one from Samara Botane – but BOTH were liquid. So who knows, maybe it’s just how this year’s harvest behaved? Both companies noted that the consistency of this material could vary. I would love to smell Mandy’s composition and this one side-by-side to discover the difference.
Notes on Notes
- Jasmine Grandiflorum Absolute, India, Eden Botanicals – Jasmine, white floral, SWEET, smooth, round, narcotic
- Jasmine Sambac Absolute, India, Eden Botanicals – GREEN, spicy. Smells surprisingly different from the Grandiflorum. Harder to find the flower. Sweet in its own right, but it’s harder to smell the sweetness after being beaten senseless by the Grandiflorum.
- Blood Orange EO, Italy, Eden Botanicals – Tart/Sour Citrus; “more” than Bergamot. More body. More heft. Less ephemeral. Tart like a grapefruit, but still sweet with a juicier, orangier character.
- Lavender Concrete, Lavandula Officinalis, France, Liberty Naturals – herbaceous, green, soft
For a formula I’m trying out, I need a single drop of jasmine. Just one! But which jasmine?
My favorite jasmine is the one that grows wildly over my back courtyard wall – Confederate Jasmine (also called “Star Jasmine” or “Chinese Jasmine”) – which loves hot climates and flourishes all over the Southern US. It has an aroma that’s honey sweet, fresh, and narcotic. At the height of blooming season (late April-early May) just walking out into the garden is like walking into a humid blanket of scent. The intoxicating fragrance brings an immediate smile to my face, and a quickening of the senses – while at the same time making me feel lulled and drowsy. Meanwhile, my ears fill with the thrumming buzz of the honeybees. The combined effect is nearly hypnotic, and I often find myself drifting over to smell the blossoms like a sleep-walker.
Still, this is a fresh jasmine, and the scent of a living flower is impossible to capture perfectly in the natural raw material. When we smell a flower, we are actually smelling the volatile molecules in the air around it. The air around the flower has a different chemical makeup than the essential oil, concrete, or absolute once it’s extracted from the plant – so the flower extracts can never smell the same as the living flower on the stem. Perfumers are forever using their noses and intuition or more recently, fancy headspace technology and gas chromatography to analyze the “living scent” of a flower and try to reproduce it. The late, hilarious Alec Lawless of Essentially Me UK created some videos explaining how gas chromatography can be used to fake an extremely expensive rose otto. The whole thing spoofs the clandestine nature of the perfume industry through an “interview” with a masked man whom I suspect is Lawless himself. Anyhow, it’s informative and funny, and worth watching if you’re curious about gas chromatography.
ANYWAY. Back to the matter at hand: Choosing a jasmine.
Eden Botanicals conveniently offers a jasmine sampler pack – so I purchased that and began sniffing my way through it to compare the scents and pick one for my blend.
Eden Botanicals Jasmine Sampler Pack
- Jasmine Absolute, Grandiflorum, India – Grandiflorum is the classic jasmine. This one is beautiful, white floral, narcotic, extremely sweet with great longevity. There is no plastic-y note that I sometimes detect in jasmine. This one is rounded, rich, and voluptuous. It’s so sweet there is almost a boozy-quality to it. The liquid itself is dark yellow-orange.
- Jasmine Absolute, Sambac, India – Sambac is typically a spicier jasmine than Grandiflorum, and this one is true to character. A gorgeous jasmine that is spicier, greener, and less sweet (though still very honey sweet!) – fresher even? – than the Indian Grandiflorum. Reminds me instantly of honeysuckle and sparks a flood of childhood memories. Lots of character. Intense. Perhaps my favorite of this set. Liquid is dark amber color.
- Jasmine Absolute, Grandiflorum, Egypt – This Grandiflorum is very similar in character to the one from India, but to my nose of lesser quality. Less sweet? Less fresh? Still very pretty and nice though! It just doesn’t elicit the silent “wow” of the other. Drydown is very soft and pretty, and less intense/strong than the one from India.
- Jasmine Grandiflorum Organic Extract, Egypt – This jasmine was altogether unique – very different from what I am used to. It’s extracted using benign solvents, so it’s certifiably organic and very safe for aromatherapy. Neat! It is a green color, with some particles. The scent itself is soft, very slightly medicinal?, cooling, sweet, a bit spicy/tangy – almost with a hint of Anise? It’s very hard for me to describe, and doesn’t read as classically jasmine, but is a beautiful, tranquil, and very calming and pretty scent.
- Jasmine Grandiflorum CO2, India – This would be hard to work with for the beginner (moi!) it’s a waxy yellow concrete paste. Might be good for solid perfume? At first, I did not like the scent of this one very much. But I noticed that it lasted a long time on the scent strip, and lingered pleasantly.
Ultimately for my blend I chose the Jasmine Grandiflorum from India. It’s voluptuous, rounded quality might work well to bring together the spicy notes I will be working with. Still…the Sambac and the Organic Extract both piqued my curiosity – and I’d love to work with them in the future.
Perfume Organ, Fragonard Perfume Museum, Paris by Nico Paix
Raw Materials – Naturals
- Aftelier* – Quirky selection of unusual perfumers botanicals. Fast shipping. No minimum.
- Aqua Oleum – Excellent UK source for essential oils from Julia Lawless.
- Aromatics International – Expensive oils connected with the Aromahead Institute. Site has excellent information.
- Eden Botanicals* – EOs, CO2s, Absolutes. Excellent quality, wide selection, no minimum purchase.
- Enfleurage – Aromatics from the natural world. Specialize in Frankincense. Also offer hydrosols and more.
- Liberty Natural Products* – Amazing selection. Includes isolates and more. $50 minimum.
- Mountain Rose Herbs – Wide selection. Somewhat expensive shipping. (Mentioned more often by home aromatherapists than perfumers. Never tried.)
- Nature’s Gift – Just tried them for the first time for more aromatherapy-type oils. Also have wide selection of hydrosols, carrier oils, waxes and butters. Well researched and reasonable prices.
- White Lotus Aromatics* – Gorgeous, superior quality naturals personally sourced from around the world. $100 minimum.
*Companies with an astrix * are the ones I order from most frequently. Eden Botanicals is my “go to” supplier.
Also helpful: Providence Perfume offers a useful review of some of the best/worst essential oils she’s ever purchased.
Raw Materials – Synthetics
Carrier oils are for making oil-based perfumes, solid perfumes, or other body products. Do not add them to alcohol-based perfumes (they will separate and make a mess). Some carrier oils will go rancid fairly quickly. Fractionated coconut oil and Jojoba oil are two of the longest-lasting.
For alcohol-based perfume, use perfumer’s alcohol a.k.a specially denatured (SD) alcohol, which is 95% ethanol that has been denatured with an additive. The denaturing is done for regulatory reasons to prevent consumption. When purchasing perfumer’s alcohol in the United States, use 40b, which is denatured with t-butyl alcohol & Bitrex. Do not use 39c, because it contains diethyl phthalate (DEP), a.k.a. phthalates for which there are serious health concerns. For natural perfumers, there are also organic alcohols that have been denatured with natural materials. If you are not planning to sell your perfume, you can also use Everclear / Pure Grain Alcohol instead of Perfumer’s Alcohol. It should be 190 proof (95% alcohol) ethanol. In the USA, PGA is available for purchase in some states but not all. Some natural perfumers will also use Vodka for perfume, but it’s not as desirable as Everclear/PGA due to the lower alcohol content. For cleaning, you can use Isopropyl alcohol, Vodka, or PGA.
Dipropylene Glycol (DPG)
DPG is an odorless, colorless synthetic carrier oil that is perfect for diluting fragrances to 10% or 1% to be used for sniff tests / educating your nose. It is oil-based, but water and alcohol soluble.
Bottles and Packaging
“Instead of using hot water which will also take the label off of your material, simply heat rice in a microwave, and sit the bottle of resin in the warmed rice. Voila, liquid pourable resin, and label intact.” – Julian, Quintescential Perfume