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Frangipanni & Leather

Frangipani & Leather, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Today I have finally got around to try out an idea I had in the spring, when I was visiting Queen Elizabeth Park with my friend Junichi for a day.

It was one of those indecisive April days, alternating between being cloudy yet warm, or just pouring rain. For a while, we sought refuge inside the tropical bird & butterfly sanctuary. There, near the pink parrot that refused to have his pictures taken, I met my first-ever blooming frangipanni tree in Vancouver. You can imagine my happiness, frangipanni is one of my favourite flowers and I have many fond memories associated with that smell.

I took with me this single blooming flower that fell off the tree, and savoured it for hours afterwards, analyzing its aroma and writing little notes in my journal. I noticed with surprise that this flower was more spicy and warm than any other frangipani flower I smelled before. It smelled familiar and moments later I realized it was similar to Tomar seed (Zantoxylum). Warm and spicy-sweet and at the same time creamy and soft and floral, a vision formed in my mind about mingling the scent of frangipani with a subtle base of leather notes.

I thought this connection was particularly appropriate taking into consideration the history behind the flower, and the relationships between leather and perfume. Frangipanni was a name of a mid 19th century Italian marquis who invented the method to perfume gloves. The original formula or ingredients of the Frangipanni perfume are unknown, but most certainly had jasmine and orris as two dominant ingredients. Piesse (1879) says it was made of equal amounts of every spice known at the time, with powdered orris added in an equal weight to the entire formula, and 1% of both civet and musk. Frangipanni Gloves were very popular at the time and the scent was only later sold as a sachet and only two generations later as a liquid perfume (by
Frangipanni's grandson), who Piesse considered to be the longest lasting perfume of its time.

Piesse offers a formula for a Frangipanni Sachet in his book "The Art of Perfumery":

3lb Orris Root Power
1/4lb Vetiver Powder
1/4lb Sandalwood Powder
1 dram Neroli
1 dram Rose Otto
1 dram Sandalwood Oil
1oz Musk Grains, ground

And what does all this have to do with the flower? Apparently, the scent of the flower, when discovered, was so similar to the perfume that the French colonists of the West Indies have named the plant* after the perfume!

Poucher in his book "Perfumes, Cosmetics & Soaps" gives the following Frangipanni Formula no. 1113 that contains very little synthetics (just the rose compound and the coumarin and vanillin, which can be easily replaced by tonka absolute and vanilla CO2, for instance):

60 Bergamot Oil
200 Cassie
50 Civet Extract, 3%
80 Geranium Oil, French
50 Musk Extract, 3%
70 Neroli Oil
150 Orange Blossom
40 Rose Otto
200 Rose Compound
10 Sandalwood Oil
60 Coumarin
30 Vanillin

Coming back to the idea today was not only fun (and a challenge working from memory of a flower), it was also a reminder for that particular day at the park and sanctuary. What I had in my journal was quite open to interpretation - as it was just a list of notes I thought could be used in a frangipanni compound or soliflore perfume:

Frangipanni Absolute
Jasmine Grandiflorum
Leather accord
Mimosa Absolute

This could all make sense as a concept, but carrying this out is not going to be easy. Frangipanni absolute, to begin with, is a very unimpressive essence. It is faint, waxy, with none of the sweetness or headiness of the real blooming flower. It is more green than creamy and does not have a very strong presence (nothing in comparison to, say, jasmine or rose). To make it "work" one has to vamp it up with other notes, and blow life into it so to speak.

Another point of challenge is the "leather accord". I don't work with "accords" typically speaking. I have only done so in the past with my amber accords (I have formulated 7 different "amber" accords that I use in bases for different perfumes). Aside from that, I usually prefer to "cook from scratch" and use the raw materials, as undiluted as possible when I work. It's just a matter of style. In this case, my initial idea also inspired me to try out various compounds for leather that will be light enough to not overwhelm the frangipanni notes. And so this afternoon I have worked on 3 different "leather bases" - the first one minimalistic, light and floral (with osmanthus, Africa stone tincture and broom absolute) and the other two more animalistic (one with and one without Africa stone tincture).

The Frangipanni formula itself turned out very close to how I hoped it would, except for a very poor lasting power; so I have doubled the formula (which makes it smell different) and will have to see how this mellows later on. I won't disclose all the ingredients; all I'll say is that I have used Egyptian jasmine grandiflorum absolute, and I'm just smitten with the essence and the results it gives. It's very sweet and not as indolic as the Indian jasmine of the same species. I have used iris, of course, as well as some French neroli. I'm very curious to see how it will evolve; but for now it did bring me instant memories of that rainy day in the park, armed with frangipanni in my hand. And it felt good to have something in my lab remind me of something long gone.

*The Latin name of Frangipanni, Plumeria, is in honour of Charles Plumier, a Franciscan traveler in South America.

This perfume turned out to be Frangipanni Gloves, a limited edition perfume launched February 1st, 2010, to support the Bloedel Floral Conservatory and prevent its scheduled shut-down March 1st, 2010. For every bottle sold, $50 is donated to the cause.

It can be purchased on Etsy or via Ayala Moriel Parfums.

Other ways you can help the Bloedel Floral Conservatory:

Attend the Rumble in the Jungle Gala, January 30th, 2010

Sign this petition

Join Friends of Bloedel

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