Lovender Soap

Lovender Soap

Summer is preferably the time when I am busy in the lab planning the upcoming winter holiday season - and the most fun part of it is R&D for new products. One of those you've read about yesterday (Lovender deodorant).  Today I'm sharing with you the Lovender soap which I've created with Schuyler Corry of Open Source Soap. That is to say: I've created the scent, and he incorporated it into one of his wonderful, tried-and-true soap formulae.

With soaps, it's rarely possible to use the same formula as was created for the perfume, simply because of the costs. You need a whack load of raw materials to make a batch of soap, even if it is just at about 2% concentration. Lovender perfume included precious botanicals such as sandalwood oil (almost extinct at our day and age), vanilla absolute  (whose prices doubled this year due to low yield) and orris butter (one of the world's costliest raw materials, due to the fact that it takes 3 years to obtain the finished product from planting through meticulous processing and aging to extraction). To make up for their absence, I've used amyris oil (AKA West Indian sandalwood), a combination of other vanilla-smelling resins and balsams, and orris powder instead of the orris butter.

Lovender Soap

Using botanicals in soaps is always bound to produce surprises. For example: the bottom layer of the batch looked like it had two layers of colours. The lighter one at the bottom didn't have any of the orris powder in it at all. The orris gives it a gentle exfoliation, by the way. Also, despite the fact that it is with the same moisurizing formulae like we always had, this leaves my skin feeling cleaner but also a tad drier. Not so bad that I needed a moisturizer though. But it was noticeable.

I also wanted to create a somewhat tonka-bean like, foody effect by utilizing a brand new essence on my palette: bitter almond oil. This raw material is practically pure benzaldehyde. I had no idea how it would react to the saponification process, and I also didn't know how it will play out with the lavender essences. I smelled bitter almond in soaps before, and it was quite prominent, which was a hint to me that it would probably work. I was hoping it would also help to make up for the absence of vanilla absolute and also create an original combination. Turns out it worked quite lovely with the coumarin aspect of the lavender absolute. So it truly accentuates it. I may want to work more on this formulation for the next batch (we only make 14 soap bars in each batch, so that gives a bit of fiddle room and also makes mistakes not as grave as they could be). So I will likely fiddle with both the fragrance formula and also try it again with and without the orris root powder, just to see and smell what it would be like.

Almonds for TuBishvat

Today is Tu BiShvat - the new year of the trees. And what better essence to celebrate than that of almond? This year I have finally got my paws on bitter almond oil. It is a very simple essence, and can technically be considered an isolate, as it is nearly 100% benzaldehyde, the simplest aromatic aldehyde, comprised of a benzene ring and a formyl substituent.

Benzaldehyde smells almost cloyingly sweet - which is funny coming from what is generally called "bitter a almond". Benzaldehyde was first extracted in 1803 by the French pharmacist Martrés, and in 1832 synthesized by German chemists Friedrich Wöhler and Justus von Liebig.

It is extracted not just from the bitter, and largely inedible type of almonds (which have a dangerous proportion of prussic acid, AKA cyanide) - but also from the kernels found in apricots, cherries, peaches, plums, apricot which have a more delicate but still bitter taste and that unique aroma of benzaldehyde. Apple, quince and pear seeds also have small amounts of benzaldehyde, and it is also naturally occurring in oyster mushrooms, cinnamon root and bark, champaca, patchouli, cassia, orange blossom concrete and cassie concrete.

Bitter almond oil is mostly produced in the USA, Israel, Syria, Turkey, Morocco, Spain and France. To extract bitter almond oil, the press cakes from the bitter almonds (Prunus amygdalus var. amara), or kernels of apricots, plums, peaches or cherries (an easy raw material to come by, as a by-product of the fruit canning process, and after their fixed oil has been removed - mostly for the cosmetics industry) are soaked for 24 hours. This soaking allows for an enzymatic process to occur, that will break down the amygdalin in the kernels and initiate the formation of benzaldehyde and hydrocyanic acid (cyanide). Of course, the latter must be removed (by alkali washing and rectification), due to its lethal toxicity. As to be expected, non of the almond oil used for perfume or flavour contain any cyanide. Curiously, although cynadine and benzaldehyde share no commonality in their molecular structure, they both have a similar aroma. You may have come across the smell of almonds in numerous detective and crime novels.

Bitter almond smells like marzipan (or almond paste), is highly volatile and unstable, and is more popular in favouring than in perfume - though preferably, it should be fixed by adding alcohol, vanillin or anise alcohol, among others. Besides its extensive use in baked goods (i.e.: in almond filling for frangipane tarts and almond croissants, for example). Curiously, the taste of this oil is sweet, not bitter (the bitterness is from a non-volatile ingredients, and it disappears when exposed to the water during the distillation process). Bitter almond oil is therefore used as a sweetener when composing flavours such as apple, apricot, cherry, pistachio, raspberry, almond, and more.

As far as perfumery uses, bitter almond adds a sweet, gourmand note whenever one wants to have a marzipan-like quality. It also is a great additive to violet, mimosa, cassie and orange blossom. It pairs beautifully with anise, cacao absolute, cassie absolute and vanilla.
It's important to note that nowadays, mostly, synthetic benzaldehyde is used. A telling sign that a "Bitter Almond Oil" is in fact synthetic benzaldehyde is the notion of FFC on the label of "Bitter Almond Oil", which stands for "Free From Chlorine" - chlorine only turns up in the process of synthetic manufacturing of this component, and must be removed for flavour and food preparations. If the label says "FFPA" (which stands for "Free From Prussic Acid") that means that it's from a natural origin (i.e. the kernels mentioned above).

Without Words

Anna Zworkyina's Without Words leaves me speechless. But I'll attempt to describe its beauty without relying on other art forms.

Apple-like notes tease at first, but also bring the melancholy feel of fall: it's harvest time. Gather your apples, or you'll risk losing them to mother earth, to whom they will return in rot. The illusion of apples comes from the juxtaposition of bitter almonds, agrestic wormwood and hops - that green, skunky oil that's used to preserve beer and give it the distinctive bitter taste and citrusy-fresh aroma. Cardamom lends a medicinal, camphoreous note that brings to mind a white-washed, silk-wrapped geisha in a dim-lit wooden pagoda, and that dusky feel of Japanese body incense powder remains for a while, until it is quietly succeeded by the undertones of dark amber notes of vanilla and labdanum absolutes.

Top notes: Bitter Almond, Wormwood, Black Pepper, Green Pepper, Cardamom
Heart notes: Rose Attar, Ambrette Seed
Base notes: Vanilla, Patchouli, Vetiver, Labdanum
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