Comparative Study: Neroli and Orange Blossom

Oranges In Hiding

Oranges in Hiding by Tim Samoff

The Bitter Orange Tree, Citrus aurantium var. amara, gives us so many fragrant gifts: Neroli, Petitgrain, Bitter Orange essential oil, and Orange Blossom Absolute. To my mind, it’s a tree of wonders.

I needed to select a Neroli oil for a recent project, and so bought the Neroli & Orange Blossom Sampler Pack from Eden Botanicals. Convenient! Here are my notes.

  • Neroli, Egypt – A very earthy Neroli. It still has the fresh, green, crisp, sharp character of the scent – there’s no mistaking it – but there is a heaviness here. Not the lush heaviness of the indolic flower, but rootier with a little smoke – more like Vetiver. Also a powdery quality, almost like Orris. How unusual for Neroli! As it drys down, something about this makes my head go, “wet dog.” Ha! Wonder why? On closer sniff, it’s a note of intense green-orange bitterness. Foliage. But I still can’t shake the “wet dog” association.
  • Neroli, Egypt, Organic – At first, almost indistinguishable from the first one. Same rooty/earthy quality, more complex but far less intense.
  • Neroli, Morocco, Organic – Sharp, green, fresh, with a bitter top note – straight-up, classic Neroli. Reminiscent of Petitgrain, but lighter and more floral. Overall strong, bold character for a Neroli with excellent tenacity for this material. Nicely unisex. A touch of lime. All-around winner!
  • Neroli Extra, Tunisia – Another classic Neroli. Prettier, more floral than the Moroccan. Soft, delicate, by comparison. As it warms on the skin it becomes much sweeter. Pretty with a sprinkle of sultry. Another winner!
  • Neroli, France – Ah, this one makes me sigh and flutter my eyelids! Most delicate creature of all, ethereal and fairy-like, but still with that classic Neroli sharp/green/dry/bitter profile. It’s sweeter than most, but not as sweet as the Tunisian. It might be fun to blend the two for the perfect femme Neroli note? Drawback: Extremely fleeting. But so pretty and innocent!

Now for the orange blossom…

  • Orange Blossom Absolute, Egypt – Dark green viscous liquid. Yea gods – NO, I do not like this. Dark green, and at first smells green, dank, musky and of vegetable rot to me. As it dries out, it lightens a bit and smells heavy and spicy. Others have waxed poetic about its sensual quality. It is likely that I need to smell this very diluted – then perhaps I’d have a better appreciation for its character. Sniffed straight up, however, it makes me want to run for the hills! My body vibrates with, “NO!” I keep sniffing anyway, trying to understand it, but this one is tough for me to love. That said, I think this might blend beautifully with Sandalwood or other woody/spicy notes. Okay, as this warms up, it’s growing on me. Strikes me as a masculine, powerful, spicy, and sensual floral. Not my style, but an intriguing and powerful note. Okay fine, I’m fascinated. What IS this stuff?! So complex. There’s another weird, almost herbal-leathery facet happening here. Never once have I thought “floral.” This might smell amazing on a man. Spice, spice, and more spice. And sweet leather. Wow! DARK SEXY ORANGE BLOSSOM.
  • Orange Blossom Absolute – Fine, Morocco – Eek! Double the price of the first one, but this is the one I bought blind, unsniffed, before getting the sampler pack. Lesson learned. Dark amber-orange viscous liquid. Again with a nasty green rotten vegetable top note, though not as instantaneously off-putting as the Egyptian. I have experimented with this one in a couple of perfume blends, and I find that the green note lingers, and goes “tobacco-y” in compositions, at least to my nose. This is one reason it works so well in the Orange Blossom-Tobacco solid perfume. As it dries down, it becomes a very rich green-white floral note. The rotten compost nasties linger too long for my taste. Again, this stuff is so powerful I probably should be smelling it diluted. Maybe I just don’t know how to work with it properly, and it can only be used in trace amounts. Or maybe next time I should buy the Egyptian? I try and try to like this but am disappointed. Tenacious stuff though, I’ll grant it that.
  • Orange Blossom Organic Extract – Spicy food. What on earth? This has a pungent, earthy, spicy aroma that makes me think of some Asian dish that I can’t quite put my finger on. Very warm and deep. Cooked / stewed citrus vibe. Smoky? The material itself is viscous dark brown liquid. No harsh green notes! The organic extraction method (no hexane) means it’s safe for therapeutic uses and even food. The tenacity on this is pretty incredible, and several hours later it’s morphed into something animalic, rich and musky. Weird. Wonderful.
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Orange-Jasmine-Lavender Solid Perfume

Jasmine flower

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:

Raw Materials*

  • 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.

Equipment

  • 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

Steps

  1. Cover your work surface with paper towels.
  2. Add the Jojoba oil to the graduated beaker.
  3. 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.
  4. Then add both kinds of jasmine, and finally the blood orange. Smell after each addition to experience how the blend is evolving.
  5. 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.
  6. Measure out the grated beeswax into the lab casserole. Hold the lab casserole over the burner until the wax melts.
  7. 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.
  8. 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

In Search of the Perfect Bubble Bath

Bubble Bath

Bubble Bath by Quan Ha

I love all things that smell divine, and that includes a good bubble bath. With two small children, we take a LOT of bubble baths at my house, so I thought it’d be fun to make a deliciously scented one that was good-for-us, too. How hard could it be?

No Effort: Buy It
The effortless way is just to buy the stuff. Some good brands that use eco-friendly and baby-safe ingredients are:

Custom Scent Bubble Bath (Easy-Mode DIY)
But what if you want a custom scent? Well, there’s an easy DIY way to make your own aromatherapy bath:

  1. Use an unscented gentle, eco-friendly kids’ bubble bath (we use California Baby)
  2. For babies and children, mix 6 drops of your favorite essential oils* per 1 oz of bubble bath (for adults, you can safely use 25 drops a.k.a. 1/4 tsp per 1 oz of bubble bath)
  3. Add 1/2 to 1 tsp** bubble bath to running water as tub fills – and voila! – a scented bath with no harsh chemicals and delightful foam!

*Some of the best and safest essential oils for children are lavender, tangerine, mandarin, neroli, frankincense, petitgrain, and Roman chamomile. Source: Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art.
**You can add more bubble bath for more foam, just be aware that with babies and kids – 1/2 to 1 tsp is the recommended amount to keep the essential oil exposure low. Same source as above.

True DIY Bubble Bath
But what if you really want to make your own eco/kid-friendly bubble bath from scratch? The above brands cost a fortune, and you just don’t get the same “I made it myself!” satisfaction from using a pre-made bottle. I bounced around Google and Pinterest and the usual natural/crafty blog suspects, and every bubble bath recipe seemed to be a variation on the Castile soap + vegetable glycerin formula. Some with water, some without. Some with sugar or salt, some without. Some with more or less vegetable glycerin. Hunh.

Crunchy Betty offers two well-thought out bubble bath recipes, so I thought I’d give them a whirl this weekend.

The Castile Soap + Vegetable Glycerin Recipe
This one promised the most bubbles, so I thought I’d try it first. I’ll save you the suspense: in our hard water, the bubbles fizzled out almost immediately. BOO! Bubble disappointment! But, to be fair, Betty totally warned us. That said, the vegetable glycerin (harmless stuff, btw) left our skin feeling soft and silky smooth, and the bath smelled yummy too!

Here’s what you need to make ~5 ounces of not-very-bubbly bath:

Ingredients

Steps

  1. Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Transfer to a jar with a lid.
  3. Let sit 24 hours before using.
  4. Pour ~1/4 cup (2 oz) into running bath water.

This recipe makes enough for ~2-3 baths. Stores up to 3 mos (supposedly, I have not tested this) in a cool, dark cabinet.

Okay, so what about the second option? By this point, I’d dropped all expectation of bubbles. This was another easy recipe that came together in a snap. It smells yummy and makes your skin feel delicious – but, no bubbles.

Creamy Honey Bath (also from Crunchy Betty)
This makes ~7-8 ounces of bath mixture, enough for ~1-2 baths. Store in a cool, dark cabinet and (supposedly) it will keep for 3 mos.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup sweet almond oil
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup Castile soap
  • 3 teaspoons pure Vanilla extract (get the kind with no added sugar or artificial flavors)
  • 5 drops essential oils (you can use Vanilla or something else)

Steps

  1. Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Transfer to a jar with a lid.
  3. Pour 1/2 to entire amount into running bath water.

So…now what? I still have not fulfilled my quest to find the perfect DIY bubble bath recipe. Now, some might say that the problem is surfactants – the chemicals that create a nice lather – and that these harsh things are just not what a person with common sense would want in the tub.

And I’d agree, except…a little sleuthing of ingredients revealed that California Baby, Honest Company, and 100% Pure all use gentle/plant-based surfactants that seem like the sorts of stuff I’d want to use!

So now I just need to find a recipe with a combo of those ingredients and figure out where to source them. With the exception of saponified coconut oil, I suspect they are not as easy to get. So, the search continues! Do you have an all-natural bubble bath recipe that actually makes bubbles? If so, I’d love to know!

Alchemy Perfume

Alchemy

I’ve been taking a small break from the Fragrant blending experiments to mix up “Alchemy,” the alcohol-based perfume from Mandy Aftel’s earlier book, Essence & Alchemy. Last week I mixed up the required amber accord and then the base accord. Then yesterday I added the heart and top notes. Even though I haven’t let it mature AT ALL, this is a fun, easy-to-love perfume modeled on the classical amber base-floral heart-citrus top notes model. Here’s what you need to do the job:

Raw Materials*

  • Base accord in perfumer’s alcohol (vanilla, benzoin, and a few drops of the amber accord)
  • Rose absolute
  • Jasmine absolute
  • Ylang Ylang Extra essential oil
  • Bergamot essential oil
  • Bitter orange essential oil
  • Black pepper essential oil

*Out of courtesy to the author, I’m leaving off the amounts of each raw material. You can find them in her book.

Equipment

  • Glass eyedroppers (1 per essence)
  • Small glass of rubbing alcohol for cleaning eye droppers (place them in it upright after use)
  • 1 oz dark glass bottle (already containing the base accord – you will add the heart and top notes to it)
  • Paper towels

Steps

  1. Cover your work surface with paper towels.
  2. Add the essences to the bottle that already contains the base. Use a separate eye dropper for each essence.
  3. When you are done with an eye dropper, place it in the glass of rubbing alcohol, and pump it a few times to clean it, and leave it sitting full of alcohol.
  4. Cap the bottle tightly and shake it to be sure all the ingredients are well mixed. Label it, and store it in a cool, dark place.
  5. Let the blend mature from a week to a month to let the essences marry and create a smooth blend. Finis!

How did it work? How does it smell?
Sweet amber-jasmine deliciousness! The bergamot and bitter orange give it a zippy, fruity bounce – but what really shines through is the beautiful jasmine, supported by the ylang ylang and rose. The vanilla-benzoin-amber base gives it sweet base that is dense and practically lickable. Yum! This reminds me of something….What is it? I’ve smelled other classical perfumes like this before, but for the moment they are escaping me.  This smells a little retro – fleetingly like a Chanel… No. 5 or one of its family members? – but without any of the aldehydes and angular modern art business. It’s probably the rose-jasmine heart that is common to so many of the greats. This smells simultaneously fresher and denser (if that’s possible) than the more synthetic classics.

I wonder how it will smell when it’s aged a month?

Notes on Notes

  • Rosa damascena absolute, Turkey, White Lotus Aromatics – Rose, honeyed, sweet, soft, med/low intensity, pretty, more vegetable than jasmine, more rooty
  • Jasmine absolute, grandiflorum, India, Eden Botanicals – jasmine, SWEET, narcotic, rich, seductive, round, white floral
  • Ylang Ylang Extra EO, Organic, Comoros, White Lotus Aromatics – harsher than jasmine, sweet white floral, much lower intensity than jasmine with sharp, almost woody top, thinner than jasmine
  • Bergamot EO, Organic, Italy, White Lotus Aromatics – citrus, green, sharp, peppery, light
  • Bitter Orange EO, Dominican, Liberty Naturals – citrus, orange, tart – like this
  • Black Pepper EO, Sri Lanka, Organic, White Lotus Aromatics – pepper, phenolic?, eye watering, hot, thin, edge, woody

The top notes link one to the next nicely. Sharpness of the Ylang leads in to the green citrus? My skin seems to exaggerate the sour, sharp aspects of the rose – at least it did at first, while blending, but did not later – even after the blend only matured a day.

Orange Blossom-Tobacco Alcohol-Based Perfume

This is the alcohol-based version of the perfume Chameleon from Mandy Aftel’s book, Fragrant. I’ve been doing a bit of a “Julie & Julia” thing, blending along with Mandy’s recipes as a beginner’s way to leap into the world of artisanal perfume.

It’s been a fun and funny ride so far. Just pushing forward has already made me bark my shins against problems like: figuring out where to source quality oils, how to measure incredibly sticky impossible-to-work-with absolutes, how to clean glass eyedroppers, and what to do when you accidentally touch your nose with cinnamon bark EO (ow!).

Mandy’s style is nonchalant and does not advertise challenges, so I tend to just stumble upon them and faceplant. Best way to learn! So here I am at Chameleon.

When sourcing the raw materials for the perfume, I overlooked this key paragraph, which is the entire point of Chameleon, and how it earns its name with a nod to transformation:

If you have the materials, you can also explore the effects of a couple of animal essences. After you have completed the perfume, divide it equally among four tiny bottles. Add a drop of ambergris to one bottle, half a drop of costus (dip a toothpick) to the second bottle, and a drop of hyraceum to the third bottle; leave the fourth bottle as is. Smell the four bottles and note the differences between them. Repeat after an hour, four hours, a day, and a week. – Mandy Aftel, Fragrant

Whoops! I should have sourced: costus, hyraceum, and ambergris. Not an easy task. Animalics can be a challenge to find. And more than that: To use ambergris, I actually have to purchase it (expensive!), grind it up, and create a tincture at 10% that takes ~6 mos to mature. (Hear that? That is the sound of me very quietly beating my head against my desk.)

But you know what Mandy? I accept the challenge. I’ll just need a little time. Meanwhile, here’s how to make the Orange Blossom-Tobacco perfume that becomes Chameleon.

Orange-Blossom Tobacco Perfume Supplies

Supplies for creating Orange Blossom-Tobacco perfume.

Raw Materials*

  • Perfumer’s alcohol
  • Tobacco absolute
  • Vanilla absolute
  • Patchouli essential oil
  • Linalool – a natural isolate from Basil
  • Rose absolute
  • Orange flower absolute
  • Virginia cedarwood essential oil
  • Pink grapefruit essential oil
  • Bitter orange essential oil

*Out of courtesy to the author, I’m leaving off the amounts of each raw material. You can find them in her book.

Equipment

  • 10-25 ml graduated beaker or cylinder
  • Glass eyedroppers (1 per essence)
  • Small glass of rubbing alcohol for cleaning eye droppers (place them in it upright after use)
  • Curette (for scooping vanilla absolute out)
  • Stirring rod
  • ½ oz dark glass bottle (for storing perfume)
  • Tiny funnel
  • Paper towels

Steps

  1. Cover your work surface with paper towels.
  2. Add the perfumer’s alcohol to the graduated beaker.
  3. Add the essences one at a time. Start from the base notes (tobacco, vanilla, patchouli) and work your way up to the top notes (cedarwood, grapefruit, bitter orange).
  4. Stir after each addition, and sniff to experience the blend.
  5. When you are done with an eye dropper, place it in the glass of rubbing alcohol, and pump it a few times to clean it, and leave it sitting full of alcohol.
  6. Using the tiny funnel, pour the finished blend into a small dark glass bottle.
  7. Cap the bottle tightly and shake it to be sure all the ingredients are well mixed. Label it, and store it in a cool, dark place.
  8. Let the blend mature from a week to a month to let the essences marry and create a smooth blend. Finis!

How did it work? How does it smell?
Now that I’ve (mostly) gotten the hang of working with the gooey essences with a curette (I’m looking at you, vanilla), this perfume was relatively straightforward to mix up. But how does it smell? This one is a little more challenging to describe. Unlike some of the other solid/alcohol perfumes – this one smells noticeably different from the Orange Blossom Tobacco Solid Perfume. So far, I’ve let it age only 1 week.

The most obvious difference is the tobacco. The solid perfume is extremely tobacco-forward. This perfume, with its tobacco-vanilla-patchouli base, is more complex and the tobacco is less apparent. The perfume is still very much ABOUT tobacco, but my brain simply doesn’t scream, “Oh hey, that’s tobacco!” Overall, the character of the perfume is intense, woody-earthy, rich and lightly sweet. The orange blossom makes it floral – but it’s a heavy-yet-elegant masculine floral. The green edge to the orange blossom wanders in and out. Sometimes I catch it, sometimes I don’t. The linalool enhances it nicely? (I’m guessing.) Still, this is a perfume that’s about the base notes. The base notes bend the middle floral notes to their will. I get a mental image of a sumptuous men’s club, the old-world kind with deep leather sofas and humidors and a posh dress code. The top notes – cedarwood, grapefruit, and bitter orange – lend the opening a little fruity pizazz, but it’s a very light touch.

Notes on Notes

  • Blond Tobacco Absolute, Nicotinia Tobacum, France, Nicotene-Free, Liberty Naturals – Viscous amber-brown. Clean pipe tobacco. Earthy, dry, only lightly sweet, RICH, thick/powerful.
  • Vanilla Absolute, Eden Botanicals – Vanilla! SWEET. Rich, bitter, dense, boozy. A tar-like chocolate brown.
  • Aged Patchouli, Aftelier -Minty, camphorous, woody, earthy, rooty
  • Linalool Isolate, Ocium basilicum, India, ex. Basil, Liberty Naturals – Pleasant, green, spicy?, peppery, vegetal, clear
  • Rose Absolute, Bulgaria, Rosa damascena, Eden Botanicals – deep red orange liquid, a tomato-soup red. Sweet, floral, rosy, honey, edible, toothsome. Rose has a “rootier” and more vegetal vibe than orange flower or jasmine.
  • Orange Blossom Absolute – Fine, Eden Botanicals – Love! Honeysuckle, green-white floral, a little sharp, intense, refined, sharp green leading edge
  • Virginia Cedarwood EO, Juniperus Virginiana, USA, Liberty Naturals – Faint, hard to distinguish from paper at first. Then, very woody, peppery, and dry.
  • Pink Grapefruit EO, Citrus Paradisi, USA, Eden Botanicals – happy citrus, sunny, sweet, acid, tart
  • Bitter Orange EO, Citrus Aurantium, Dominican, Liberty Naturals – Citrus, orange with the white pulpy bits. Really straight up ORANGE, but with those bitter bits. The whole orange. Not as tart and green as the grapefruit, but still tart. Really like this orange. It’s interesting.

Orange Blossom-Tobacco Solid Perfume

In Mandy Aftel’s book, Fragrant, she calls this perfume “Chameleon,” I think because with the alcohol version we are invited to experiment with it by adding touches of various animalic ingredients. In the solid version, this is a a fairly straight-forward orange blossom-tobacco composition, with pink grapefruit top notes.

Here’s what you need to create Orange Blossom-Tobacco solid perfume:

Supplies for creating orange blossom tobacco solid perfume.

Supplies for creating orange blossom tobacco solid perfume.

Raw Materials*

  • Jojoba oil
  • Grated beeswax
  • Tobacco absolute
  • Orange flower absolute
  • Pink grapefruit essential oil

*Out of courtesy to the author, I’m leaving off the amounts of each raw material. You can find them in her book.

Equipment

  • 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)
  • ½ oz tin (for storing perfume)
  • Paper towels

Steps

  1. Cover your work surface with paper towels.
  2. Add the Jojoba oil to the graduated beaker.
  3. Next, measure out each of the essences into the beaker of oil. Tobacco, orange blossom, then grapefruit. Sniff after each addition.
  4. 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.
  5. Measure out the grated beeswax into the lab casserole. Hold the lab casserole over the burner until the wax melts.
  6. 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.
  7. Finally, pour the molten perfume into the ½ oz tin, cap it, and leave it alone for 15 minutes to solidify. Don’t touch it or you’ll burn yourself and/or mess up the nice smooth surface. Finis!

How did it work? How does it smell?
Wow – I’ve got a yes/no response to this one. I looooooove orange blossom so very much, and the absolute is gorgeous. The tobacco provides an interesting, dense and pungent base – but I’m not sure I’m in love with it. Like the Clary Sage in the Mint Vetiver blend, I find the tobacco overpowering. I want to love this, but the tobacco at this intensity pushes me away. Perhaps I’d like it better at a lower concentration. The pink grapefruit is an easy-going and friendly top note, always welcome.

Notes on Notes

  • Blond Tobacco Absolute, Nicotinia Tobacum, France, Nicotene-Free, Liberty Naturals – Viscous amber-brown. Clean pipe tobacco. Earthy, dry, only lightly sweet, RICH, thick/powerful.
  • Orange Blossom Absolute – Fine, Eden Botanicals – Love! Honeysuckle, green-white floral, a little sharp, intense, refined, sharp green leading edge
  • Pink Grapefruit EO, Citrus Paradisi, USA, Eden Botanicals – happy citrus, sunny, sweet, acid, tart

Creating the Base Accord for Alchemy Perfume

Alchemy

I’m taking a small diversion from the Fragrant blend along to make up “Alchemy,” the alcohol-based perfume from Mandy Aftel’s earlier book, Essence & Alchemy.

The base accord for the perfume is made up of:

  • Perfumer’s alcohol
  • Vanilla
  • Benzoin
  • Amber accord ( ratio: 20 benzoin / 5 labdanum / 1 vanilla)

Mixing it up and bottling it is extremely straightforward. You just need a small glass beaker for mixing, a stirring rod, a bottle to store it in, and a funnel to transfer it.

I’ve aged it about a week, and it smells a bit like cream soda from all that vanilla and benzoin. The trace amounts of labdanum add depth and pique the interest, without giving off an overtly leathery note. I look forward to adding the heart and top notes to see how it evolves.

Zesty Ylang Ylang Solid Perfume

Sexy Curls..

Ylang ylang flower in bloom. “Sexy Curls” by Zaqqy on Flickr.

This morning my daughter begged me, between Saturday morning cartoons, to make her another perfume. So we did. We picked out a few things we thought would smell good – and mixed it up. And it DOES smell good! Like citrus-ylang-ylang-candy, in fact. I made some boo-boos along the way – there were some silly technical errors – but overall, it’s delicious.

So! In the name of science and trying to figure out how to make better blends – and hopefully reproduce this one day minus the technical mistakes – I’ll record what we did.

Raw Materials

  • 8 ml jojoba oil
  • ½ tsp grated beeswax
  • 3 drops vanilla absolute
  • 6 drops benzoin absolute – 50% in alcohol
  • 8 drops rose absolute – I used Bulgarian Rose Damascena
  • 7 drops ylang ylang extra
  • 6 drops pink grapefruit essential oil
  • 3 drops sweet orange essential oil

Equipment

  • 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)
  • Curette (for scooping viscous vanilla absolute out of container)
  • Stirring rod
  • Hot plate (can also use stovetop)
  • ½ oz tin (for storing perfume)
  • Paper towels

Steps

  1. Cover your work surface with paper towels.
  2. Add the 8 ml jojoba oil to the graduated beaker.
  3. Next, measure out each of the essences into the beaker of oil. Start with the vanilla absolute. Use the curette to scoop out drop-sized blobs of it, and then stir it into the oil. Uh oh, it won’t dissolve! (I thought it would melt with the wax over heat, but it didn’t!) Then use eye droppers to add the rest of the essences (a separate one for each essence).
  4. 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 will prevent cross-contamination and also dissolve any EOs left on the dropper to make clean up easier.
  5. Once you have your oil blended, switch to working with the beeswax. Measure out ½ tsp of the grated beeswax into the lab casserole.
  6. Hold the lab casserole full of grated wax over the burner until the wax melts. You don’t want to burn it, so keep the temperature at “medium” or lower.
  7. When all the wax has melted, quickly pour the essential oil blend into the liquid wax. Stir the blend into the wax for about 10 seconds until it’s a smooth mixture. (Or, in this case, until everything blends except the vanilla and benzoin.)
  8. Finally, pour the molten perfume into the ½ oz tin, cap it, and leave it alone for 15 minutes to solidify. Finis!

Mistakes were made… But how does it smell?
So how does it smell? Well, like ylang-ylang, except much better 🙂  My daughter loves it. This is a candy-sweet ylang-ylang with a sunny citrus top note and an ever-so-slightly rosy middle. Great tenacity for a solid perfume, too.

For comparison, I made a “just ylang-ylang” solid perfume with 30 drops ylang-ylang extra and the same amounts of jojoba oil and beeswax. It’s nowhere near so nice! Ylang ylang by itself smells sweet but a little thin with a sharp edge in the beginning – even a very high quality ylang ylang extra EO. It mellows as it dries down, but the first opening notes can be off-putting when it’s by itself. Adding the rose gave it a nice round body and feeling of “plumpness” in the middle, and the sweet orange and pink grapefruit give it a sunny, smiling disposition and mask that sharpness.

This is one happy perfume! From an aromatherapy perspective, ylang-ylang and rose are excellent for chasing the blues away, and sweet orange and grapefruit are cheerful and uplifting.

But what about the base notes – the vanilla and benzoin – are they up to anything? I’m not sure I can tell. I wanted to add them for their sweet, grounding, and calming aspect. The perfume is sweet and the tenacity is good, so I think at least SOME made it in. More experimentation needed – and my usage was inexact due to the solubility problems – the vanilla absolute + the benzoin did not dissolve into the jojoba oil. The vanilla should have dissolved (though the mix would have been cloudy) – but I think it got tangled up with the benzoin, which was diluted in oil-insoluable alcohol, and well…neither really got all the way into the blend (I think? Or did they?). There was a lot of vanilla/benzoin residue (dark brown beads of oil) left behind on the beaker and the lab casserole.  So…phooey. That was just foolish. I know better than to try to dissolve alcohol in oil. Doesn’t happen. Maybe next time I can try a vanilla CO2. Not sure what to do about the benzoin. I’ll think of something.

So! Whether this is a perfect blend or not, this turned out to be a sweet, happy, yummy, tenacious citrus-ylang-ylang-rose candy bouquet. PERFECT for my 5 year old client, lol. Perhaps not the most sophisticated thing I’ve ever smelled, but happy and fun. I still want to tinker. Maybe next time I should rough it up a little with lavender or vetiver + patchouli, or somethin’, somethin’…? And I definitely want to work on the solubility issue with the base notes.

Frankincense Alcohol-based Perfume

Now let’s do the alcohol version of the Frankincense perfume (an earlier post shows how to make Frankincense solid perfume). Whew! We’re on experiment No. 6 in blending along with Mandy Aftel’s book, Fragrant. I adored the solid version of this delicious walk-in-the-forest perfume, and I like the alcohol version even more.

Here’s what you need to create Frankincense alcohol-based perfume:

Frankincense Alchol Perfume Supplies

Supplies for creating Frankincense alcohol-based perfume.

Raw Materials*

  • Perfumer’s Alcohol
  • Balsam fir absolute
  • Frankincense essential oil
  • Phenyl ethyl alcohol – natural isolate
  • Styrax essential oil
  • Lavender absolute
  • Tarragon essential oil
  • Wild sweet orange essential oil
  • Frankincense CO2

*Out of courtesy to the author, I’m leaving off the amounts of each raw material. You can find them in her book.

Equipment

  • 10 ml graduated beaker or cylinder
  • Glass eyedroppers (1 per essence)
  • Small glass of rubbing alcohol for cleaning eye droppers (place them in it upright after use)
  • Curette (for scooping fir absolute out of jar)
  • Stirring rod
  • ½ oz dark glass bottle (for storing perfume)
  • Tiny funnel
  • Paper towels

Steps

  1. Cover your work surface with paper towels.
  2. Add the perfumer’s alcohol to the graduated beaker.
  3. Add the essences one at a time. Start from the base notes and work your way up to the top notes. Start with the fir absolute. You’ll need to scoop it out of the jar with the curette, and swirl it into the alcohol to dissolve it. Once it has dissolved (there may still be some particles), add the other essences using a separate eye dropper for each one.
  4. Stir after each addition, and sniff to experience the blend.
  5. When you are done with an eye dropper, place it in the glass of rubbing alcohol, and pump it a few times to clean it, and leave it sitting full of alcohol. This will prevent cross-contamination and also dissolve any EOs left on the dropper to make clean up easier.
  6. Using the tiny funnel, pour the finished blend into a small dark glass bottle.
  7. Cap the bottle tightly and shake it to be sure all the ingredients are well mixed. Label it, and store it in a cool, dark place.
  8. Let the blend mature from a week to a month to let the essences marry and create a smooth blend. Finis!

How did it work? How does it smell?
The fir absolute is a bit tricky to work with, but it dissolves relatively easily into the perfumer’s alcohol with a little stirring. The other essences are easy enough to add. The final blend is mossy green from the fir absolute and a bit cloudy, so it could probably stand some filtering (after it matures, I think?) but I haven’t attempted that yet with mine. So how does it smell? After a week of maturing (it could probably stand to go longer, but is already nice), the opening is sharply green, very “green pine needle sap” and a tad grapefruity – an impression largely created by the wild orange essential oil merging with the frankincense CO2. The sharp green pine/citrus opening serves as reminder that citrus oils contain the same limonenes and pinenes as conifers, and so the two blend well together. I don’t detect the tarragon, but it’s probably adding a green sweetness to everything. This all transitions beautifully to the delicious balsam fir absolute at the heart/base of the perfume – hooray for the edible pine forest! The lavender is only slightly noticeable, and is supporting the fir balsam, making it even softer and richer. I have no idea what the phenyl ethyl alcohol and the styrax are doing! Everything about this scent, similar to smelling frankincense resin, makes you want to inhale deeply and fill your lungs with fresh, clean air. It’s peaceful but joyful in the same way as a walk in the woods. The drydown is gentle, softly balsamic and lightly sweet. Very nice.

Notes on Notes
I have notes on frankincence eo, balsam fir absolute, lavender absolute, and frankincense co2 in the frankincense solid perfume post. Here are my notes on the other essential oils in the alcohol blend.

  • Phenyl Ethyl Alcohol Natural Isolate, Organic, France, Aftelier – This is a natural isolate extracted from Cassia. To my nose it smells simple, sweetish, and fruity/rosy. As an isolate, it does not have the same complexity as an essential oil, so my nose finds it hard to place. The Aftelier web site describes it as follows, “This transparent and warm middle note features notes of honey and rose.”
  • Styrax, Asian, Essential Oil (Liquidamber orientalis), Turkey, Wild Harvest, White Lotus Aromatics – I like this! Sweet, spicy, slightly floral, and musky in a balsamic way. Slightly dirty. Ambery? Interesting. Reminds me of a little of a fresh horse stable, but in a good way, lol! Not the manure, but the hay and the horses themselves.
  • Tarragon Essential Oil, USA, White Lotus Aromatics – Sweet, bright, minty, anise, friendly, happy, cheerful, GREEN. Smells like the fresh herb itself. Very pleasant.
  • Wild Orange Essential Oil, Dominica Republic, Wildcrafted, Eden Botanicals – Citrus. Sharp. Bright. Happy. TART. Dry. Bordering on grapefruit. Like an orange-grapefruit blend. Or orange with bits of the bitter white inner rind left in.