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Sandal Ale for Oktoberfest

Visit EauMG's section to discover quirky and unusual scents for fall, handpicked by Victoria Jent, including Sandal Ale to celebrate Oktoberfest! 
"This such an unusual fragrance but it’s so nifty. It’s like an Indian Pale Ale with sandalwood. It’s really interesting."
Sandal Ale was previously reviewed on EauMG.  If you wish to purchase it, visit my new online boutique!

Sandal Ale Featured in

Visit EauMG's section to discover quirky and unusual scents for fall, handpicked by Victoria Jent, including Sandal Ale to celebrate Oktoberfest! 
"This such an unusual fragrance but it’s so nifty. It’s like an Indian Pale Ale with sandalwood. It’s really interesting."
Sandal Ale was previously reviewed on EauMG.  If you wish to purchase it, visit my new online boutique!

Humulus Lupulus (Hops)

Hops (Humulus lupulus) is a climbing perennial herb, with separate female and male plants. It is the female flowers that are valued for their aroma and flavour in the production of beer. Glandular hairs in the strobile-shaped female flowers store lupulin, a molecule that accounts for hops’ distinctive fresh-fruity aroma and bitter flavour. It also contains humulone, isohumulone and humulene which are bitter-tasting compounds. It also contains the natural phenols xanthohumol, isoxanthohumol and the most estrogenic phytoestrogen known, 8-prenylnaringenin. Hops’ natural oils help the yeast grow by eliminating other microbs and cultures and thus prevent spoilage.

It is native to Europe and North America, and is mostly cultivated in Germany, Yugoslavia, and in California and Washington states. Hops oil is produced in the UK, Germany and France. An Absolute and CO2 extraction is also possible, the latter becoming increasingly popular as it brings a more complete profile of the fresh plant.

In herbal medicine, hops is valued for its relaxing effects, and was used by herbalists to treat insomnia, nervous tension, neuralgia and sexual neurosis. It helps women’s oestrogens, and was used for heavy periods. Hops-stuffed pillows were used to induce sleep as it is a mild sedative, similar to valerian's but milder. The aromatics in the pillow get released by resting the head upon it and crushing the strobiles. Chinese medicine used hops for pumonary tuberculosis and cystitis. Hops is an aphrodisiac, antimicrobial, antiseptic, ansitpasmodic, astringent, bactericidal, carminative, diuretic, emollient, has oestrogenic properties, hypnotic, nervine, sedative, soporific. While hops are used in aromatherapy for dermatitis, rashes and rough skin - it’s important to note that in some individuals, skin rashes occur on their hands after picking the strobiles. Other uses are indigestion, menstrual cramps, reduces sexual overactivity and sexually related anxiety, headaches, insomnia, stress-related symptoms. (according to Julia Lawless, The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, p. 108).

In Germany, they also use a special technique where they distill the hops with sodium chloride in the distillation water, to better separate the oil from the water; and than run a benzene (or other solvent) extraction of the distillation water to bring out the water-soluble aroma components. The “Complete” hops essence resulting from this is more true to the fresh plant and brings a better flavour and aroma - but only for a short time, as it does not keep nearly as well. Considering that fact that hops oil is extremely sensitive to light and oxigen, and spoils pretty fast anyway - this probably means the German are using it right away for beer production.

Hops oil is a greensh-yellow to reddish-brown mobile liquid (when fresh and hasn't resinified). The principal constituents in hops oil are: dipentene, myrcene, linalool, humulene, free formic acid, heptylic acid, valeric acid, esterified formic acid, acetic acid, decyclic acid, nonylic acid, octylic acid, oenanthylic acid, butyric acid and probably iso-nonylic acids (W.A. Poucher, Perfumes, Cosmetics And Soaps Vol. I, 1959, p. 209).

Fresh hops oil (which is something I probably never smelled, because even when mine was fresh, it smelled more than a tad “funky”) should be “rich, spicy-aromatic, sweet and heavy, but overall pleasant” (Arctander, Perfume and Flavors Materials of Natural Origin, p. 298). Upon oxidation, it develops valeric, isovaleric and caprylic acids, which changes the aroma to a rather unpleasant valerian-like funkym stinky-sock/locker odour. In other words: not boring, but not really pleasant either. A tell-tale sign that your hops has oxidized is if it’s no longer mobile: oxidation tends to resinify this oil.

Using hops in beer brewing did not become popular until the Middle Ages. Until then, most “beers” were in fact ales (aka un-hopped brews, cloyingly sweet and malty), and in Britain they used a combination of herbs called “gruit” which included sweet gale, sage, yarrow, pine, wormwood and broom.

While most of the production of hops goes directly into the thriving beer industry, it does find some use in some spice blends and sauces (I’m still looking for recipes for you!), flavouring tobacco, and for flavouring liquors (usually in combination with oils of angelica root, cascarilla and the like - in short: musky, bitter, herbaceous oils). What little hops makes it to the perfume industry like ends up in colognes (where it will add an unusual fruity note to complement the citrus and herbs), fougeres, and perhaps some oriental bases, where its spiciness will shine if treated well.

Sandalwood Beer

beers by uberculture
beers, a photo by uberculture on Flickr.
The last push for the holiday season just ended last night, and I'm thrilled to have all of this chaos behind me.

Looking forward to tying some loose ends on the business front before the end of the year, re-organizing my studio space, and getting more creative again. 2013 was a bizarre year, and I seem to barely be able to catch my breath before something else unexpected shows up demanding my attention.

Three weeks ago I got intrigued by hops and decided to go back into a project I've began working on long ago (with very little reporting on it here). My previous work around the theme mostly relied on the guy's fondness of beer (not that there is anything original or unique about it). I noticed how many guys like posting pics of themselves with giant beer mugs in a sports bar (portraying, I presume, how much fun they are), rivaled only by similarly alluring depiction of the giant fish they caught. If it were possible to gulp beer from a giant mug while wrestling with a gigantic catfish - I'm sure they would have snapped pics of that too. Good luck with that!

Anyway, back to beer: it seemed to be a rather befitting theme for how much of a jerk that guy sounded like. So I began with something that smelled rather dirty and boozy - hops, cepes, cognac and African stone tincture - all in one breath! - paired with Egyptian jasmine, Seville lavender and cacao. All around a very peculiar combination. And after allowing it to mature way more than absolutely necessary, it's not what I would imagine to garner mass public appeal. It's edgy, but probably too dirty and naughty that I would feel comfortable describing on a PG rated blog.

 Fast forward to three weeks ago: I visit the barn. I see hops. I'm reminded of my long neglected project. Aside from hops, which are the foundation of any beer and what I've decided to be the key ingredient for this project, I'm thinking of sandalwood. Why? Because.

A few years ago, my sister in law gave me a sandalwood and beer soap. It was lovely. Strange combination, but lovely. There was very little beer to be smelled there, but the idea was filed away somewhere only to be pulled out at the appropriate time. Now.

I take some sandalwood from Australia (organic, by the way). I add generous amounts of cognac absolute, hops, marigold (also an ancient beer ingredient) and anything else that renders yeasty, effervescent and beer-like in my mind. And voila! A sandalwood beer cologne is born. Three weeks later - it has only gotten better: smooth, fruity, fresh, complex, piquant and intriguing. Just like an apircot craft beer.

Farm Friday: Hops

Hops by Ayala Moriel
Hops, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
Not much harvest at the farm in November, and today even the hops were one... But with beer on my mind (not on my breath, I reassure you!) I've pulled out this photo from a couple of weeks back, and am excited to learn a little more about this very weird raw material. Hops are mostly known for their long history (around 2500 years!) use in beer. My first encounter with them, however, was with the Flora Linden custom tea that Inner Alchemy Tea Co. made for my limited edition Tirzah tea way back when. An unusual herb to use for tea. Hops are the female blossoms of Humulus lupulus, an herb that originated in China and traveled to Europe, where it is was first cultivated in Germany, and is now grown around the world (mostly in the 48 parallel north), almost solely for beer.

Hops has medicinal properties, but it is mostly used for making beer: not only as a flavouring agent, but also aids in preserving it. Other herbs that used to preserve fermented barley were dandelion, marigold, heather and more. Hops tops them all in terms of preventing spoilage and has become the main ingredient, giving beer its distinctive bitter taste and tangy and sharp flavour.

I’ve spent this evening researching hops and while most of the online articles focus greatly on its beer-related history, digging in my aromatherapy, perfume and flavor reveals that there is a lot more to discover about this seemingly single-minded herb. Just to scrape the surface, did you know that:
1. The main ingredient in hops is stored in glands inside the strobiles (the “cones” shaped female flowers) and is called Lupulin. It is highly sensitive to oxidation.
2. Hops has the ability to soothes the nerves and relieve tension. Dream pillows stuffed with hops are a sure remedy for insomnia.
3. In herbal and folklore medicine, hops are used for sexual neurosis in both men and women. Hops is also considered an aphorodisiac. Now that gives beer a whole ‘nother dimension...!

Hops shall receive a more elaborate treatment on SmellyBlog over the next week or more, as I discover its unique characteristics both in my library and my lab.

Have a wonderful weekend!
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