Petitgrain-Neroli Solid Perfume

Bitter orange

Bitter Orange by Kamil Porembiński

This all began because my daughter loves the word Neroli and asked me to make her a “Roli” solid perfume. I do not recommend you make this perfume, quite honestly – because the opening can only be described as “green compost monster!” Argh! But, I’m recording it because mistakes are the best way to learn. The rest of the perfume is fine if not spectacular, but oh my – the terrible top notes. Blech. I blame the orange blossom absolute that I have.

Louisiana - Slidell: Dr. Wagner's Honey Island Swamp Tours - El Guapo

My orange blossom absolute is actually a swamp thing.

Raw Materials*

  • 8 ml Jojoba oil
  • 1/2 heaping teaspoon grated beeswax
  • 10 drops Petitgrain essential oil
  • 16 drops Neroli essential oil
  • 8 drops Orange Blossom absolute <– Warning: Too much OB. Reduce next time and/or use diff OB material.
  • 4 drops Jasmine Grandiflorum absolute
  • 7 drops Tonka Bean Absolute 30%

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, add the essential oils. Begin with the base notes and work your way up to the lightest notes: Tonka, Jasmine, OB, Petitgrain, Neroli. Smell after each addition to experience how the blend is evolving. Use a separate dropper for each oil.
  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 prevents cross contamination.
  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. Finis!

How did it work? How does it smell?
This one isn’t perfect. I adapted the recipe from the Ambrosial Neroli recipe on White Lotus Aromatics. The formula may not be to blame – I tinkered with the ratios and put it into a solid. Perhaps the original formula is better? Certainly top notes like Petitgrain and Neroli would thrive much better in an alcohol base! Anyhow – here’s the issue with this perfume – I don’t like the Orange Blossom Absolute that I have. I have tried to like it, even thought I loved it at first – but it has a seriously dank, green top note that is a horror (at least to me) for the first minute or so of the blend. Yeck. Once it goes, this perfume isn’t too shabby! But the “green compost monster” phase really needs a tweak. Next, there is a nice moment of Petitgrain/Neroli brightness – but I know better than to put that into a solid! Solids eat top notes. The fact that these survive at all is frankly miraculous. The jasmine sweetens things up prettily. And the Tonka…the tonka is delicate, rich, gorgeous, and tenacious all at once. It has a hay-like bright & fresh quality. It ends up connecting to the jasmine, and so in the dry down this has a light jasmine-y vibe with a little tonka spice which reminds me of…aftershave? I think Tonka is used in a lot of traditionally masculine blends (Fougeres?), so I’ve got a funny masculine association with this. Tenacity could be better. Overall, it’s an odd little thing – and my 5 year old is NOT A FAN.

Oh well.

And the stinking orange blossom! That stuff is a monster. I need to figure out how to work with this material more successfully. Or just chuck it. It wasn’t cheap, though. It’s supposed to be very nice stuff so I’m confused by how much I hate it.

Notes on Notes

  • Petitgrain Bigarade, C. Aurantium var. amara, Paraguay, Organic, White Lotus Aromatics – Green, sharp, fresh cologne
  • Jasmine Grandiflorum Absolute, India, Eden Botanicals – Jasmine, white floral, SWEET, smooth, round, narcotic
  • Orange Blossom Absolute – Fine, Eden Botanicals – Floral, sweet/tart, green & astringent but also honeyed, Honeysuckle, UGH – there is a note to this that is sharp, edge-y, and dank – like vegetable rot
  • Neroli, France, Eden Botanicals – Floral, green, sharp, fresh, ephemeral, cologne, unisex, delicate, pretty
  • Tonka Bean Absolute 30%, Dipteryx Odorata, French extract, Organic, White Lotus Aromatics – Vanillic, new baby doll smell, honeyed, sweet, slightly boozy?, slightly spicy, happy, fresh, hay-like
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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

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.

Comparative Study: Jasmine

Confederate Jasmine

Confederate Jasmine

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

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.