Stop And Smell The Roses

Self Definition, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.


did the rose
ever open its heart
and give to this world all of its beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light against its being,
otherwise we all remain too
- Hafiz

The perfume of rose not only opens the heart of the person smelling it; it also opens the heart of the perfume, making it complete.

The beauty of rose unfurls its spiral-shaped blossom, unfolding each petal as it progresses. There always seems to be more depth to the perfume of rose. Which is why when we stop to smell the roses, we tend to take long, deep breaths... There always seems more to it in the next inhale, and the next one... Just a short whiff won't cut it!

It is impossible to imagine what perfumery would be like without roses. The beauty of rose essences - both the attar (rose otto) and absolutes add an irreplaceable quality to a perfume, making it round and harmonious.

Part of the appeal of roses is their complexity. Rose is one of the most complex botanical essences, of which 540 elements were identified; yet it is still inimitable by means of synthetics. But it is also rose’s complexity that makes it one of the most challenging natural raw materials to work with in perfumery.

As discussed in the previous article, the roses most used in perfumery are the Rosa damascena and Rosa centifolia. Rosa damascena is mostly steam distilled to produce Rose Otto – the best of which comes from Iran (but is hardly ever imported anywhere out of the Arab world). Persian rosweater is used during the prayers in the Hadj in Mecca to cleanse the Kaaba.

Like many natural raw materials, rose essences olfactory profile varies greatly depending on their geographical. On the whole, some generic observations can be made: rose has a typical “rosy” scent, which characterizes this unique flower essence, and is mostly derived from the high percentage of citronellol and geraniol, as well as phenyl ethyl alcohol (in the absolute), which gives the fresh-petal note. In addition, there is citrusy aspect (from citral), and a slightly spicy aspect, from eugenol (which is also present in cloves and allspice, for example). It also contains many trace elements, which vary from species to species (i.e.: ionone, which is much stronger in Tea roses). On a scent strip, rose begins as a fruity, rosy, full-bodied, even wine-like or honey-like, and softens as it dries down, sometimes showing some green aspects (I suspect this is because the flowers’ sepals and base are also extracted in the solvent). It dries down into a woody and even slightly animalic note. Rose is a heart note, but very long lasting, and depending on the context of how it is blended, it may even act as a base note.

Rosas bravas de Arronches, originally uploaded by moitas61.

Bulgaria’s Valley of Roses produces the finest Rosa damascena attar and rosewataer. White rose bushes (Rosa alba) grow at the edges of these fields. After Bulgarian rose otto, the next best quality is of Anatolian rose otto (from Turkey). The Bulgarian otto tends to be more light, and to me smells more true to the fresh flower. Turkish rose otto is heavier, more full bodied and with a certain wine-like and even slightly earthy qualities. Other locals of rosa damascena of lesser qualities come from Russia, India, Pakistan and Uzbekistan. The Indian roses have a peculiar off note that makes them completely different than anywhere else in the world. It’s as if they take with them some of the earthy qualities of the Indian soil. This kind of rose has, of course, its own beauty, but is less desirable for Western perfumery purposes. It lends itself beautifully to more exotic blends, with an Asian or Indian theme.

It’s important to note, that producing the steam distilled essential oil does not capture the entire scent of the rose. The important molecule phenylethyl alcohol, for example, remains in the distillate water, and is mostly responsible for the fine aroma of rosewater.

Rosa centifolia, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Rose absolute, from solvent extraction, is primarily extracted from Rosa centifolia, (Grasse in France and Morocco are the major growers), and only to a lesser extent from Damascus roses in Bulgaria and Turkey. The absolute captures a fuller spectrum of the living rose. It must be noted, that the rose absolute is so extremely concentrated, it is best to dilute it down to as low as 10% to unfold and release the aroma of fresh rose petals, and fully understand this raw material.

Similarly, too high a proportion of rose in a formula can pose challenges. It can make the perfume too dense and rich. This is particularly true for purely natural perfumes, which are always in danger of becoming cluttered or too dense. Rose is used in all fragrance categories:
In classic colognes, it is used in a very low proportion along with citrus and herbs for a refreshing and light citrus fragrance.
In Orientals, rose has a central role in harmonizing and rounding off the composition, bridging between the rich resinous base notes and the light citrus or exotic spice notes at the top. Rose will have a similar role of bridging and rounding in Chypres. In both cases, rose lends itself readily to being the star of the show, in a rose-dominated Oriental (i.e.: Parfum Sacre) or Chypre (Nuit de Noel). And of course – it is essential in floral bouquets and is the most popular soliflore of the all.

According to Shiseido’s research, fragrant roses can be classified to 6 different categories – all of which seem to be difficult to describe without reference to other roses:

Damask Classic

Combination of the “strong and sweet Rosa centifolia with the exuberant scent of Rosa gallica”

Damask Modern
Similar to the above, but with “more passionate sophisticated scent”.

Scent of Tea
As mentioned earlier, the violet and tea-like qualities of China roses added to the damask or centifolia roses, added a more delicate, graceful, and somewhat reminiscent of tea aroma to hybrid tea roses.

Damask Classic or Tea Rose with the added nuances of fruit, such as peach, apricot, apple, raspberry, etc.

Blue Scent
Charcterisics of both damask and tea roses.

Spicy Scent
Damask Classic, with accentuated cloves scent (from eugenol).

rosa_rugosa_3_coin_de_jardin, originally uploaded by JD-roud.
Similarly, just as there are many rose breeds, with various colours, shapes, sizes and odours, even rose-dominated perfumes have a lot of variety within them. Let’s explore some of the main ones:

Fresh Rose
These rose perfumes have a very light, almost realistic rosiness, and are as close as could be to the fresh living flower.
i.e.: Tea Rose, Evelyn Rose, Stella, Rosebud

Green Rose
Often a nearly Chypre type, these green florals excude the briskness of crushed leaves, grass and rose petals.
i.e.: Ivoire, Kelly Caleche, l'Ombre dans l'Eau, No. 19, Grin

Fruity Rose

Fruity, full-bodied, sometimes wine-like, and at times with added fruity notes such as peach, apricot, apple, etc.
i.e.: Grand Amour, Spring Flower

Powdery-Sweet Rose

Roses paired with violet or orris. Soft, powdery and often sweet with a somewhat old-fashioned air to them. Vanilla is also not a rare thing to find in this rosy category.
i.e.: Paris, Bvlgari, Lipstick Rose, N'Aimez Que Mois, Cabaret

Big Abstract Rose
Modern interpretations of the rose have painted it with large strokes and less components than in old fashioned rose formulas, making them less realistic, but not any less romantic, despite their boldness
i.e.: Nahema, Tresor

Animalic Rose
Rose with an intentional animalic base makes it… well, a little naughty. Civet and musk are particularly effective to that extent.
i.e.: Joy, Agent Provocateur, Megumi

Earthy Rose
When paired with earthy notes, such as patchouli, rose grows bigger and stronger; as if on a fertile soil that allows her to fully develop luscious petals. Notes such as patchouli are the most important to that effect and this genre has become quite popular now (especially with the new restrictions on oakmoss). Of particular interest is Alexander McQueen's Kingdom, in which the cumin note adds a sensual earthiness.
i.e.: Kindgom, Midnight Poison, Philtre d'Amour, Taurus

Musky Rose
Rose with a light, musky base. These can often be also quite powdery.
i.e.: Tocade,
Poussiere de Rose

Dark Rose

Often from the Chypre family, dark roses are haunting, mysterious and full of depth.
Dark rose impression is often achieved by pairing it with mosses, spices and animalic notes.
i.e.: Nuit de Noel, Black Rose, Song of Songs

Spicy Rose
Roses have always been paired with spices, both medicinally and for culinary purposes. It is not surprising, than, to find that roses go well with spice in perfumes as well. Spicy roses don’t necessarily need to smell like potpourri. Some are the most luxurious rose perfumes that I’ve ever came by.
i.e.: Parfum Sacré, Ta'if, Fête d'Hiver, Roses et Chocolat

Unfolding the Hundred Petals of Rose

English Roses, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

The nightingale, and none beside, knows the full worth of the rose for many a one reads the leaf and understands not the meaning thereof
– Hafiz

There is so much to be said about roses. And there is no better time to say it than now: winter is coming to its end, and celebrations of life and love in the form of fertility festivals and chaotic carnivals where everything is possible have now been replaced by Hallmark holidays of subdued emotions, appropriately framed with heart-shaped molds and rose-red hues. Finding ways to express emotions have never been more trying. And saying it with roses, as cliche as this may seem, might be the only way to remain genuine and leave something to the imagination.

Rose is a perennial flowering shrub from the Rosacea family. The leaves are serrated and most of the rose bushes have thorns on their branches. There are over 100 species of rose. With the exception of some Southeast Asian rose species, roses are deciduous, and lose their leaves in the winter. The fruit of the roses is a berry called rosehip. Roses with many closed petals may not produce fruit at all, as the insects cannot access the pollen. Roses vary in sizes of the plant as well as the flower. There are some climbing varieties, some plain bushes. Rosehips are especially rich in vitamin c (especially those from the dog rose – Rosa canina – native to Lebanon and Israel; and Rosa rugosa, aka Japanese rose).

Cultivars, Hybrids etc.
Cultivated roses are hybrids of various types have more petals (which are, in fact, mutated stamen). The most important modern roses are the hybrid tea roses, which come hybrid of the above species with China roses. The China roses (Rosa chinensis) were less hardy, but produced successive blooms from summer through fall; and also contributed to the shape of modern roses (including the classic “bouquet” roses that we see at the florists); as well as more colour possibilities in hues of coral, orange and yellow.

20th century rose breeders focused so much on the size and colour of the roses, that most of the newer breeds of roses are not nearly as fragrant as the antique garden roses. And roses that are found at the florists usually have no scent at all.

Origins & History

Tidal Rose, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Most rose species are native to Asia, with only a few native to Europe, America and Northwest Africa. The following species are the ones used mostly in Western perfumery:

Rosa centifolia, originating in Persia, where it is called “Gul”. From there it spread to India (its Hindi name is Gulab-ka-phool); Rosa damascena, originally from Damascus (Syria);
Rosa gallica, the French or the apothecary rose, native to central and southern Europe; Rosa alba – a hardier type, white in colour.

Rosa chinensis mutabilis, originally uploaded by Luigi FDV.

China rose (Rosa chinensis) from the mutabilis variety is most important in breeding the Hybrid Tea roses of both old garden roses and modern ones. They are called that way because they change colours throughout their bloom: vermillion orange buds open to coppery pink flower and later on a deep crimson.

The biochemical makeup of the Western roses is quite different than that of the China roses (Rosa chinensis), as is their colour. Western roses are white, red or pink; while the China roses are yellow or orange. The biochemical implications, simply put, are that Western roses are dominated by geraniol, citronellol and damascones; while the China roses posses various carotenoid biochemicals, such as beta ionone. The result is an aroma that is quite different – sweeter, fruitier and reminiscent of violets and tea.

and Nomenclature
The name for rose comes from the Latin “Rosa” (red), which originates in the Greek “rhodion” and ancient Farsi “wurdi” (flower). The name “rose” also means pink or red in a number of Romance languages, as well as in Greek and in Polish.

According to Greek mythology, rose origins were in the body of a young nymph found by Flora. Venus (Aphrodite) has transformed it into the rose plant, which was than blessed by Apolo’s sunrays, given a sweet nectar by Bacchus (the wine god) and with fruit by Pomona, and blessed with the most beautiful flowers by Flora and the Celestials (Poucher’s Perfumes, Cosmetics and Soaps, Vol. 2, 1959, p. 205). Rose was originally white, but after the thorns have wounded Aphrodite’s feet, her blood has turned roses red.

War of the Roses
The War of the Roses is a chapter in English history (around the time between 1455-1485), where civil wars between two dynasties (Lancaster and York) competing for the throne, and their supporters took place. Each of the dynasties had a rose symbol -
Red Lancashire rose/ Red Rose of Lancaster
and the White Rose of York. When the Tudors took the throne, the War of the Roses ended, and a new symbol was created, called the Tudor Rose, combining the red and the white, to symbolize union between the two.

Some say there is a reference to that in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, where the cards are painting the white rosebush red, although this is a very shallow interpretation of Lewis Carrol's work.

Religious and Spiritual Rose Symbolism
In the state of union the single beings of other world are one,
All the petals of the rose are together one.

- Muhammad Iqbal

The beauty of rose and her perfume and the complexity of her petals made it a subject of symbolism since ancient times. The only other flower that is known for having an equal breadth and depth of spiritual symbolism is the lotus flower.

Wild roses, like most of the Rosales order (which also includes cherry and almond) have 5 petals, symbolic of the pentagram, or mankind (the 5-pointed star is attributed to the head and the 4 limbs). Symbols of 5-petaled rose are recurring in European art and symbolism (i.e.: the Rosicrucian order’s symbol), who only later on in history were exposed to the cultivated, multi-petal rose. And nowadays, rose is the national flower of many countries, not to mention political parties. White rose was the symbol of a peace movement in Germany during World War II.

The multi-petals of cultivated roses grow give the flower the quality of mystery: it hides the stamens and holds its secrets… These petals also grow clockwise, in a spiral movement. This shape alludes to growth, expansion and is a metaphor to the universe. Spiral movement is eternal to both direction – the microcosm and the macrocosm.

Rose was sacred to the Egyptian goddess Isis.

In Hinduism, rose is considered Lord Krishna’s favourite. Hindus wash their alters with rosewater. According to the chakra system, the heart chakra is green, but when we are in love it turns to a rose colour. Likewise, rose flower grows out of a green thorny plant and represents the most elated state of the species (according to Ivan M. Granger).

In Judaism, rose was mentioned in the Song of Solomon as a thing of beauty found amongst the thorns, and is one of the seven perfumes mentioned in the book. It’s important to note, that there is also a fair amount of confusion between the names “shoshana” (the name for lily in modern days), or “vered” (the modern Hebrew word for rose).

In Kabala, the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are said to form The mystical rose of creation, with the three mother letters forming a triangle in the middle (relating to the three elements – fire, water and air), surrounded by the 7 double letters which are symbolic of the 7 ancient planets, and finally by the 12 single letters, corresponding to the 12 Zodiac signs and the 12 tribes of Israel.

The beauty of rose in Ancient Greece and Rome were attributed to the goddess of love, Venus or Aphrodite. Wild rose was placed on the door of rooms where secret meetings were held. Alchemists considered rose to be associated with the element of earth, with the solar plexus or the heart, and with either the Sun or the planet of Venus.

In Christianity, red roses symbolize the blood of Christ, sacrifice and are associated with the heart. The colour of roses and their sweet, fruity, wine-like scent made them connected to wine, the refined symbol of Christ’s blood.
White roses symbolize the purity and virtue of the Virgin Mary.
Prayer necklaces called Rosaries were made from fragrant rose beads (see recipe here).

The Muslims loved rose above all other flowers. Mohammed’s sweat said to have the scent of attar of rose, and he is known for his love for women, children and perfumes above all things on this earth.

The Sufis practiced meditation in rose gardens, which are the most important theme in Persian art – Persian miniatures as well as carpet designs depict such rose gardens. A recurring theme in Sufi poetry is that of the rose and the nightingale. The nightingale is the lover, longing for the love of the rose, which he expresses in sad love songs through the night. These are of course metaphors to the Sufi in search for closeness to God.

Different Colours, Different Meanings
In the Victorian Language of Flowers, roses of different colours signify different emotions, meanings and messages for their recipient. Some of these meanings remain valid till modern day.

White roses: Purity, innocence, eternal Love, silence, wistfulness, virtue, purity, secrecy, reverence and humility. The white rose in the hand of The Fool tarot card signify that pure innocence and a "tabula rasa" awaiting learning. White roses are often used in bridal bouquets.

Pink roses: New love, happiness, romance, admiration, sweetness. Dark pink roses express gratitude; while pale pink mean joy of life, youth, energy and passion. Light pink roses are of the most popular after red ones.

Red roses: True love, passion, desire. These roses are most used among lovers.
Red roses also appear in The Empress card in the tarot's major arcana.

Yellow roses: Friendship, platonic love, jealousy, infidelity, dying love.

Orange roses were introduced to Europe only later on, and signify a combination of the emotions that both red and yellow coloured roses represent.
Coral hued roses were especially rare, and meant desire, passion and enthusiasm.
Orange roses also mean desire and enthusiasm, but also could mean pride.

Lavender roses: Love at first sight.

Blue roses:
Mystery, attaining the impossible

Black roses (which are really just a very dark red): death, farewell, separation, hatred - or rebirth and rejuvenation (which are really the other side of the coin of endings and death).

Medicinal and Therapeutic Applications

The most therapeutic type of rose is the Rosa centifolia (rose of hundred petals). Interestingly, it’s Sanskrit name, shatapattri, has the same meaning. Rose is used in aromatherapy for its soothing properties. It is a heart tonic and also helps to ease women in labour and helps to balance the hormones.

Ibn Sina (Avicenna) employed attar of rose and rosewater for treating ailments of the digestive tract.

The scent of rose gives one a sense of well being. It is an oil that has the greatest effect on the emotions, helping to cope with loss, grief and promote self-esteem and confidence (especially in women). The latter quality makes it act as an aphrodisiac: when a woman feels confident in her sexuality, she feels more at ease to seduce and engage in romantic relationships.
Gulab Lassi is an Ayurvedic rose aphrodisiac.

In Ayurveda, rose is used to balance the heart. It “balances Sadhaka Pitta, the subdosha of Pitta that governs the emotions and their effect on the heart” (reference here). Rose soothes the heart and the emotions. It also balances the mind, connecting the Sadhaka Pitta to the Prana Vata (the subdosha of Vata dosha that governs the brain, head, chest, respiration, sensory perception, and the mind). Rose is unique in that it balances all three doshas.

Ayurvedic doctors use rose to treat hormonal imbalances that result in amenorrhea; as well as treat migraines and headaches, loss of vision, sore throat, inflamed tonsils; and emotionally – to cope with nervousness, grief. Rosewater can be sprayed onto eyes suffering from inflammation or infection.
Gulkand (a rose petal jam) or Gulkand sharbat (rose syrup) can be eaten on its own, or added to milk or yoghurt, to achieve a cooling effect on the body.
(sources: Kamlesh Ayurvedea, and Medicinal Use of Flowers at Home).

Rosehips are used to treat colds and influenza (because of their high vitamin C content). Rosehips have anti-inflammatory properties, and were used to treats osteoarthritis. They also aid in treating urinary tract problems, and assist in preventing cancer and cardiovascular disorders, because of their high level of phytochemicals such as carotenoid pigments, plant sterols, tocotrienols... (source).

Flavour & Culinary Uses
Roses as a flavour are especially popular in India and the Middle East as an addition to desserts and beverages; and to a lesser extent in Europe, particularly France.

In the Middle East, Persia and India - rosewater is added to sherbets, ice creams and pastries (i.e.: harissa, basboosa, baklawa and rasgulla) as well as to flavour fruit salads. Rosewater confections are also popular in Turkey, Greece and the Balkan (Turkish Delight, for example). In the Ukraine, rose petal jam is paired with vanilla ice cream. Rose petal jam was adopted as an aromatic additive to pastries, pancakes and waffles and pastries such as scones or croissants, and fresh rose petals can be added to crepes.

Rose petals are also used to flavour tea: Chinese Rose Congou tea is made by perfuming black China tea with layers of fresh rose petals. Some of the petals remain in the tea. Royal tea is an Assam black tea blend with dried rose petals and vanilla, often served with milk. I particularly enjoy adding rose petal to a milky Earl Gray tea with vanilla. It turns it into a heavenly affair, a soothing and luxurious elixir.

The rosehips are made into a jam or jelly, as they are rich a relatively high in pectin. They are also very popular as a tisane, on their own or as a base for fruit-flavoured tisanes, particularly berry-flavours, because of their sour flavour.

Rose otto and rosewater have rejuvenating, moisturizing and anti-aging properties and is an excellent additive to skin-care products and skin-care regime for dry or mature skin. Rosewater tones the skin and gives it a healthy glow, and also is used for cooling the skin in Ayurvedic cosmetics – on the principle that it helps to balance the Bhrajaka Pitta (the subdosha of Pitta that governs the biochemical aspects of the skin).

In Ancient Greece, dried rose petals were ground into a powder and applied to the skin as deodorant (Poucher’s “Perfumes, Cosmetics and Soaps, 1959, vol. 2, p. 206).

Rosewater blended with glycerin is an easy, simple and pure homemade lotion, and can be prepared at home (which will result in a purer product - without the red colouring and any other possible additives or artificial scents used in rosewater & glycerin that is bough off the pharmacy shelves).

Rosehip seed oil is also a wonderful oil to be used in skin care, massage oil and cosmetics. Its high content of oleic, linoleic and linolenic acids, carotenoids and beta-carotene, it has antioxidant and healing properties to the skin, making valuable for cosmetics to prevent dryness and aging, age-spots, wrinkles, as well as for use for various skin conditions such as acne, dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis and more (reference).

Rose oil added to facial elixirs will leave your complexion with a youthful glow.

Stop to Smell the Roses - Rose in Perfumery

Dark Angel

hvönn og sólarlag, originally uploaded by saraella.

Angelica root absolute, on the other hand, is a completely different story. The specimen I will be talking about was not only grown in a different soil, it is also a different species: Angelica sinensis. It was grown in China, where Angelica has been used for thousands of years for its medicinal properties and is almost as important as ginseng. The Chinese doctors use as many as 10 different kinds of angelica, mostly to treat women’s fertility issues but also to strengthen the spirit (Julia Lawless, Encyclopedia of Essential Oils).

This particular angelica absolute is dark in colur and semi-viscous in texture. It has an incredibly musky and smoky fragrance and I can see it working beautifully in spicy and warm orientals and leathers. Another use for angelica is in chypre and fougere compositions, but I feel that the root oils might be more fitting for these uses. Strangely, it shares some similarities to immortelle – living on the borderline between herbaceous and bizarrely sweet.

I’ve used it recently in two of my mods for a perfume called Gaucho which I’ve been working on for the past 7 years. Although it seemed to have provided an interesting counter points to the other elements in that perfume (dry-green and coumarin-bittersweet) it did not provide a breakthrough. Plus I made the mistake of also using the angelica root oil with the celery dryout (which is definitely not what I was looking for!). The angelica absolute on its own might just be the answer for an animalic musky note sans the lactones sensitization issues that costus poses. It’s by no menas a substitute for costus, but it may provide the aspects of costus I am wishing for in this composition. After all, being named after a Gaucho just asks for some animalic elements!

So what's the next step? Perhaps pairing some angelica root absolute with my first mod for a champaca soliflore. Or as a base for a peppery-leathery composition. When the fear of a note is lifted many doors are opened…

Bright Angel

Angelica, originally uploaded by *Sakura*.

The species Angelica archangelica is originated in Europe and Siberia, where it is used for various medicinal and folkloric uses. Since antiquity, it was considered to strengthen the heart, stimulate circulation and the immune system and was used in centuries for treating various bronchial conditions such as colds and coughs as well as indigestion and promoting the appetite, relieves rheumatic inflammation and can be used as a urinary antiseptic (Julia Lawless, Encyclopedia of Essential Oils). Candies made of angelica stalks are also popular in France and Spain (in the US they may be found bearing the name “French Rhubarb”). If you are curious about how to make them, there are a few links to recipes below. I even found an illustrated recipe for Angelica Pie!

Candied Angelica Stems Recipe 1
Candied Angelica Stems Recipe 2
Candied Angelica Stems Recipe 3

One of the earliest Aqua Mirabillis recipes, called Carmelite Water (it was originally formulated by the nuns in the Carmelite abbey in France circa 1611). Recipes for Carmelite Water vary, but they all containt angelica and lemon balm leaves and lemon peel and orange flower water, and in addition to that various spices, usually coriander, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon. It was taken internally as a liquor and also applied on the skin for its refreshing fragrance.

Angelica as I first knew it was peppery green and very intense. Somehwere between over eccentric parsley, horseradish and raw green pepper.This was a steam distillation from the roots, and was grown in France. I’ve used it three times only, which is as I said, very unusual for any note in my collection to be so rarely used.
1) In one of my earliest formulas for Sagittarius perfume (according to certain magical traditions, Angelica is considered a Jupiterian and fiery plant)
2) In an attempt to make a more “perfumey” Carmelite Water, using essential oils rather than tinture the above-mentioned herbs and spices
3) In one accord, in a brave moment where I wanted to just use Angelica and not be scared of it. I blended it with a few notes including cloves, oakmoss, patchouli, vetiver, champaca, rose and clary sage. It turned out smelling like fedjoia – that peculiar tropical fruit that resembles a green passion fruit from the outside and an under ripe guava from the inside. I was left amused and just left it at that.

Few years later, I received a sample of Angelica Root Oil from the same species, only grown in India and distilled from the roots. Needless to say, this is a completely different story: while still being very green, it has far less of the harshness and tenacity that the seed oil I mentioned earlier possesses. It is by no means a “soft” note. It is still sharp. But it’s definitely not the same angelica I met before. This Angelica archangelica root oil is musky, animalic, earthy. It even resembles costus root ever so slightly. I have a feeling that I won’t only be running out of the sample fast enough to justify ordering it any time soon. it has a very appealing, mysterious yet familiar almost paper-like quality that reminds me of a Chinese apothecary, in a good way; I may even use it in a perfume mod or two in the near future.

Angelica seed oil is also produced, but is much harder to come across. It is lighter, fresher and spicier, not as earthy and musky as the root oils are.

Making Peace with the Angels

Þoka og hvönn - Fog and angelica, originally uploaded by Harpa J.

It is no co-incidence that as of yet, angelica is nowhere to be found in a single perfume in my collection. For the longest time, I had the toughest time tolerating being in the vicinity of this particular note.

To the perfumer, each note has its own unique characteristics and can play an important role in a perfume. No building block should be neglected, and a good perfumer should really know better than to impose his own personal preferences on his compositions. I have always followed this principle, creating perfumes from fragrance families that I don’t care for my own personal use, or employ notes that I am not particularly fond of. But when it came to angelica – I have garnered very little success in my attempts to overcome my personal prejudices. It rarely happened to me before with any of the precious botanical essences that I’ve met on my path of perfumery. But angelica has simply made me ill if I got near it. The same feeling I would get just before fainting or “seeing black”; the same near-nausea I got when I was harvesting fava beans, green or dry, and the combination of sun-stroke and blood-drained brain after bending for too long, along with smelling the poisonous fumes emanating from the abovementioned fava beans and other weeds, them too, over exposed to the heat of the sun.

It has been my goal for quite some time now to get over this angelicaphobia of mine. And recently, the opportunity has arose in the form of two new samples of angelica oil and angelica absolute from China, as well as the advanced stages of a fougere type fragrance that I have been working on for nearly 7 years now. I have also noticed some shifts in my own relationships with green notes (which formerly caused me a similar, though not as intense reaction as angelica) – one of the significant changes in me olfactory wise in the past year was the acceptance of No. 19 as one of my favourite perfumes to wear (a perfume which before now caused me deep grief every time I’ve worn it). There is no apparent reason or cause from my own life that I can connect to this shift of change. But I am sure the explanation will surface and I will become aware of it when it’s the right time…

So, the following posts will be dedicated to angelica, as my relationship with this difficult note shifts and transforms. I will discuss some of its characteristics, medicinal and folkloric uses, and the history of using angelica in perfume. Finally, I will share with you bits and pieces from my journey with angelica in my recent creations and experiments.

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