The Raw Materials of Natural Perfumery come from things that are found in nature and possess a unique aromatic quality. the leaves, twigs, bark, fruit, seeds, roots and flowers of plants. They also come from seaweed, mushroom, fungi, and at times from animal source (here at Ayala Moriel Parfums we only use cruelty-free animal ingredients, such as beeswax, Africa stone and ambergris), and at times even mineral materials such as distilled baked earth.
The aromatic materials used for making perfumes are for the most part extracted from plant matter to include only the fragrant molecules. However, there are some unrefined materials that come directly from the plant and can be used in that raw form for perfume making. For instance: balsams, as well as aromatic tinctures from local (i.e.: Varthemia, Elecampane) or exotic plants (i.e.: Vanilla beans) that are prepared especially at our lab.
Balsams are resinous secretions that are exuded from a living plant or tree that has been injured. They are often resinous and semi-solid, or could be viscous liquids. They are non-soluble in water, but can dissolve (partially or completely) in alcohol. For example: Peru Balsam, Tolu Balsam and Copaiba Balsam. Benzoin is considered Balsamic Resin, because it has resinified more and therefore even less soluble in alcohol.
There are many ways to distill or isolate the aromas of plants. We’ll start from the most basic or “primitive” methods, and move on to the more advanced technologies.
The earliest extractions of plant matter were infusion and maceration into fats: either liquid vegetable fat (such as olive oil) or solid animal fats (such as butter, lard, etc.).
Oil Infusion is a process in which plant matter is placed in liquid fat, and the aromas from absorbed into it. Oil infusion does not often involve heating of the oil, although some would place the materials in a warm place or near the sun to achieve a faster process.
Maceration was usually done with solid fats, usually from animal origin. These were slowly heated as to encourage the plant essences to lend themselves to the fat.
Tinctures are alcohol extractions in which the essences remain in the alcohol (i.e. the solvent), which is than used as a diluent .We are all familiar with one type of tincture – pure vanilla bean extract. Vanilla beans were tinctured in edible alcohol, and the vanilla essence is used along with the alcohol as a flavouring.
Essential Oils are the volatile oils that are found in plants and are the ones responsible for each plant’s unique aroma. Most essential oils (except for the citrus oils) are obtained by some kind or another of distillation.
There are a few types of distillation:
Hydrodistillation (or Water Distillation) – where the plant matter is covered in water
Steam Distillation – where the plant matter is exposed to steam coming from a boiler that is separated form the still.
Combination (Water and Steam) Distillation – The plants are in direct contact with the boiling water and there is also steam directed at the plant matter at the same time.
Dry Distillation – where the plant matter is heated without any addition of steam or water. Only very few oils are produced that way (i.e.: copaiba balsam).
Destructive Distillation – in which the plant matter is burnt in the process, creating new aromas that did no occur naturally in the plant beforehand. The burnt note is intentional and can offer an unusual effect in perfumes. But often times, these oils will be further rectified (usually – redistilled) to refine them and get rid of some of the off-notes that the destructive distillation may cause.
Expression – this method is used only with citrus peels. The essential oils are simple expressed and squeezed out of the peel, using no heat in the process.
Absolutes are a very concentrated form of plant odorous essences. However, they are not technically identical to essential oils as they also contain non-volatile components. Absolutes can be obtained in a few different and quite tedious techniques, including enfleurage, solvent extraction and chassis.
One of the earliest methods to obtain the scent of flowers that do not yield themselves to steam distillation, such as jasmine, tuberose and jonquille. This method is only utilized for very select flowers in Grass (in the south of France) as it is very laborious and therefore costly. In enfleurage, freshly picked flowers are arranged on trays on which semi-solid fat was spread. This fat has to be odourless and as insoluble in alcohol as possible. Flowers are left on these trays to lend their fragrance to the fat (usually for about 24 hours), and than they are replaced by a new batch of flowers. It typically takes 36 batches of flowers until the desired result is achieved and the pomade (the fat absorbed in flower scent) is ready for extraction. It is than washed by alcohol to produce an extrait, from which an absolute from pomade is the finale result (used very much like other absolutes).
The exhausted flowers from the enfleurage are called “chassis” (which is the name of the trays in which the flowers and fat are arranged). These are furthere processed in hydrocarbon solvent to produce concrete from chassis, after they recover from the solvent. Jasmine Chassis is the most famous example of such product that can still be obtained to this day.
In solvent extraction, absolute is obtained by using a solvent (such as hexane, butane, and others).
Hydrosols (Distillation Waters, AKA Floral Waters)
A by-product of the distillation process. Some of the plant matter is soluble in water, and therefore remains in the water or the steam after the distillation. Rosewater and Orange Flower Water are two of the most common hydrosols, which are very popular in both cosmetic and perfume preparations and in food and flavour.
Floral Water Absolute
The aroma that remains in the floral waters or hydrosols can be further extracted with solvents to produce an absolute form distillation water. For example: orange flower water absolute.
The result of a solvent extraction is a concrete – which includes both the essential oils and the waxes in the plant matter. It is often waxy and solid or semi-solid.
After the concrete was washed by alcohol, some of the aroma of the plant remains behind within the waxy matter. This is known as floral wax, and is usually a solid or a powder. It can be used in cosmetic preparations (such as creams and body butters) as well as in solid perfumes.
Let's explore some of the intriguing and unusual building blocks that make up most of Ayala Moriel Parfums:
African stone is the old droppings of the Rock Hyrax – an African mammal from the elephant family (it does, however, look more like a giant hamster or a cross between a Teddy-bear and a rabbit, rather than an elephant!) residing in large groups in the hollows between rocks and small caves in Africa. This territorial animal has very strongly scented droppings, most likely for the purpose of communication and marking the territories. These are collected without harming the hyrax’s life or their habitat. African Stone Tincture provides a cruelty-free substitute to both castoreum and civet, as it has both an indolic and leathery fragrance.
One of the most precious woody aromas, and known for its use in Japanese ceremonies such as Kodo. Agarwood has a fresh woody aroma, reminiscent of sandalwood with slightly musty yet very pleasant undertones. It is used in precious woody and floral perfumes.
Agarwood (Oud) CO2
Distilled with CO2, this agarwood is intensely animalistic, with hints of overripe raspberries.
Indian oud distilled into sandalwood oil to create an attar (Indian perfume).
Pimento Berry (Allspice)
Pimento is a key ingredient of the Bay Rum aftershave/scent, and is also very often used in pumpkin pie spice mixes. It smells like a combination of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, and is sweet and dry all at once. The essential oil is a heart note, while the absolute is deeper than the oil. Allspice is used in oriental spicy perfumes, and also to spice up other composition such as Chypre.
Amber used to be used as a short name for ambergris. However, because of the cost and rarity of ambergris, perfumers have constructed many different compounds to assimilate ambergris or to create a warm, sensual, ambery impression by using other aromatics. Natural amber compounds usually contain a combination of Labdanum, Styrax Levant, Benzoin and vanilla. This creates a soft, sensual, warm, comforting and sweet aroma that lingers for many hours and also acts as a fixative for other notes.
The fossil Baltic amber comes from an ancient pine called Pinus Succinifera. Amber dust is a by product of the fossil amber industry, and can be distilled to form a smoky-sweet-resinous and somewhat reminiscent of pine gum. This oil is occasionally used in perfumery as a base note.
Ambergris is a cured secretion that comes from sperm whales to heal its stomach from the scratches of the cuttlefish they swallow. It floats on the ocean, and by exposure to the sun and the salty water it changes its originally foul smell into one of the most delicate and sought after fragrances: Ambergris. Ambergris is sweet, soft and slightly powdery. We use ambergris only occasionally – when we can find ethically harvested ambergris that was beach harvested. It is than tinctured and used as a base note in oriental and floral compositions.
Known as the best musk substitute from the plant world, Ambrette seed comes from the seeds of a hibiscus species. It has a very soft, delicately sweet, somewhat woody and very much reminiscent of human skin. It is available as an oil, absolute and co2 extraction. The oil is a lot stronger, harsh and animalic while the co2 is soft and slightly powdery and woodier. The absolute is the sweetest of all and has a very subtle aroma that is oily and slightly vinegar-like, but once matured becomes sweet and floral. Ambrette seed is used extensively as a light musk base for delicate floras, as well as an accessory note in oriental perfumes, where is adds a musky odor to the base.
Amyris (Amyris balsamifera) is native to Haiti. Also known as West Indian Sandalwood, this is not a true sandalwood oil, but has a very subtle and warm woody aroma that could be confused with sandalwood, and is often used to adulterate true sandalwood oils. Amyris is far less rich and has a more linear, flat character and not nearly as much depth and complexity as sandalwood. Amyris has a sweet woody scent, reminiscent of driftwood, balsamic aroma, dry, clean, slightly powdery undertones.
Angelica is a very strong scent which is somewhat musky and earthy, but most of all green and sharp. It is a bit similar to parsley but bitter and much stronger. Angelica is most commonly used as a base note in green floral and chypre-green compositions.
Angelica Root Absolute (Don Quai)
Chinese Angelica Root Absolute (Angelica Sinensis) has a smoky, musky, rooty and earthy aroma with a green and root-like dry-out note..
Anise Hyssop (Licorice Mint)
Grassy and herbal note that has a licorice like sweetness. It is greener than other licorice scents, and slightly musty with an oily undertone.
Sweet, warm, spicy and enigmatic, with a woody caraway-like undertone. Aniseeed is an unusual accessory note that is not used often in perfumes. Anise has a licorice like aroma, and is used to add a licorice scent to a composition or as a supporting licorice note in body and bath products. Anise can also create an interesting twist in floral and oriental perfumes (as in both Après l’Ondee and l’Heure Bleue by Guerlain).
A fruity, velvety essence from the apricot fruit. This is made by tincturing the fruit in alcohol.
Star Anise is the star-shaped dried fruit of a Southeast Asian evergreen tree. It is sweeter and with a more prominent licorice note than aniseed. It has a more uniform scent. Star Anise is a key ingredient in the Chinese 5 spice blend which is sweet and unusual. Star anise belongs to the family and magnolia and champaca.
Overwhelmingly bitter, Artemisia is used to flavour the forbidden Absinthe (due to its toxicity and hallucinogenic effect, it is illegal in most countries). In very minute quantities, it can have a surprising effect in perfumes, especially when paired with very sweet florals and sweet balsamic bases.
Floral woody note, reminiscent of rose, leather, mimosa and guiacwood. A little spicy and exotic like xantoxylum (long pepper).
Bakul (Mimusops elengi ) flowers are made into fragrant garlands and distilled into sandalwood oil in the traditional East Indian distillation. The flowers are said to have a heady aroma of orange blossom, tuberose and stephanotis; but these notes quickly evaporate leaving behind a long lasting aroma of Indian Sandalwood.
Copaiba Balsam is a delicate balsam with a subtle vanilla-like aroma that comes from a tropical South American tree. Its aroma is more transparent, light and woody than most of the other balsams.
The leaves of balsam fir are sweet coniferous with slightly citrus (tangerine like) notes, very much like the Christmas trees.
A thick, dark balsam from a South American tree. It is sweet and caramel like, very similar to vanilla. The balsam is a pathological secretion of the tree that occurs when the bark is damaged.
A thick and dark balsam from a South American tree, very similar to the Peru Balsam. It is a pathological secretion that drips out of the tree when the bark is damaged. It has spicy cinnamon and clove like notes, slightly ambery, and is reminiscent of sticky cinnamon buns.
Balsam Poplar Buds
Each spring, the Pacific Northwest air is filled with a sweet, resinous, honeyed aroma redolent of dried dates and apricots, pomelo & citron pith, and with a fluffy texture of fresh cotton balls. Balsam poplar buds absolute has the texture of melted butter, and captures this scent and creates a unique floral heart note that is lingering, soft and non overpowering with subtle gourmand connotations.
Black Cottonwood Buds Tincture
The buds of black cottonwood (Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa) are closely related to Balsam Poplar (Populus balsamifera ssp. balsamifera), but have an even sweeter, more intensely balsamic odour. Reminiscent of labdanum, honey and a hint of foliage, this foraged, handcrafted tincture has an unmistakable natural quality, like walking under a budding cottonwood tree in the springtime.
Sweet and fresh, this magnificent herb is as valued in perfumery for its refreshing, light green, spicy-sweet notes as it is for culinary uses. It is gorgeous in citrus and fresh chypre and Fougere compositions as well as in green florals.
Bayberry (Bay Rum)
One of the key components of Bay Rum, bayberry is somewhat similar to bay leaf as well as allspice, but is sweeter and softer - slightly sweet, green and spicy-warm all at once.
Bay Leaf (Laurel)
An essential oil from the leaves of a Mediterranean evergreen shrub with a sharp, spicy medicinal aroma. In ancient Greece the leaves used to crown war heroes. It’s use in perfumery is mostly for aftershaves, perhaps because of its anti-bacterial properties.
Beeswax Absolute (Honey Absolute / Miel)
The unbleached, raw beeswax smells like the honey comb and is used in all of our solid perfumes, giving them a rich, sweet undertone.
Bleached beeswax comes in little white pellets and does not have the same consistency of unbleached beeswax. It is not recommended for use as a base for solid perfumes.
Benzoin is a sweet balsam from a tropical Asian tree with fixative qualities. It is reminiscent of vanilla but does not overwhelm delicate floral and citrusy notes. The Benzoin from Siam (grown in China, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam) is a bit dried and powdery.
Benzoin is a sweet balsam from a tropical Asian tree with fixative qualities. It is reminiscent of vanilla but does not overwhelm delicate floral and citrusy notes. The Benzoin from Sumatra is sweeter and richer, almost caramel-like, and comes from Sumatra, Java and Malaysia.
This little non-edible bitter orange has an unusual citrus scent – floral, green and fresh. It’s an invaluable top note as it blends well with almost any other note. It’s a crucial ingredient in Chypre – compositions that are based on the contrast between fresh bergamot and earthy oakmoss.
The oil from the bark of sweet birch has an intense, sweet woody scent reminiscent of wintergreen. Used mostly in flavouring.
Used for curing leather, birch tar is reminiscent of sweet birch and wintergreen, only darker, sweeter, and far more intense and with slightly smoky undertones.
Smoky and more camphoreous and "in your face" than green cardamom.
Black Currant Buds Absolute
The note of cassis is one of the very few fruity aromas in natural perfumery. Although it smells almost of ammonia when undiluted, when diluted properly and blended with complementing scents, cassis has a lovely, luscious berry aroma, fruity and slightly tart.
Black pepper is as important in perfumery as it is on your table: it adds dimension and depth and balances the sweetness of florals. Black pepper is very pungent and heady, and smells sharp and almost smoky.
Black Tea Absolute
Black tea absolute is not as bitter and dry as the beverage. It has certain sweetness to it and is not unlike green tea with slight apricot-citrus overtones.
Boronia comes from the shores of Tasmania, and is one of the most precious absolutes. It contains a lot of ionone – a key component in violet and orris. It has undertones reminiscent of sandalwood and hay, a yellow freesia and violet like body and a slightly fruity, almost like cassis and apricot top notes. More than anything else – it is reminiscent of fresh yellow freesias - fruity, green and spicy all at once.
Heavy, musky and reminiscent of bees’ propolis, these yellow blossoms from the broom bushes are intoxicating and unique, with a sweetness reminiscent of sweet peas, but more intense and animalic,with hints of tobacco and leather.
Australian tree (Eremophila mitchelli ) that is extracted into a dark essential oil with a fine, dry, woody aroma of driftwood and a hint of smoke.
The molecular distillation of cow's butter produces this unique butter CO2, with a delicious aroma of home-baked butter cookies, ghee or just buttered girdle firing off warm pancakes. Just liked scorched butterfat, it is a guilty pleasure to smell it but with none of the calories. It adds a fatty, edible, oily depth to perfumes from the gourmand family.
Cabreuva are extremely hard woods from Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. Cabreuva has a very unusual watery, delicate floral note reminiscent of cassie, lily of the valley and mimosa.
Absolute from the cocoa beans smells like a beautiful, seductive dark chocolate. It lends a sexy, aphrodisiac base note to gourmand and oriental perfumes.
From a juniper shrub, cade is extremely smoky oil, also known as juniper tar. It is used in the process of curing leather and perfume when a leathery, tar-like, smoky note is needed – in leathery and tobacco perfumes and in chypre and Fougere compositions to impart a forest like odour.
Mostly known for its medicinal uses in Chinese medicine and in cough drops, syrup and other pharmaceutical preparations, camphor is rarely used in perfumery. However, it can be used to add a fresh, medicinal herbaceous scent to contrast a sweet base (i.e. vanilla or amber) or a floral hears (i.e. jasmine or ylang ylang); camphor is also used in clean scents such as lavender, pine and rosemary colognes of fragrances.
With its warm, slightly sweet and woody earthy aroma and greenish over-tones, caraway imparts a bread-like scent (because of its famous use in Eastern European and Norwegian rye breads). In perfumes it is a surprising accessory note and is very rarely used. It adds mystique and enigma to floral, oriental and woody compositions.
Cardamom is related to ginger, and is also called “Grains of Paradise” and for a very good reason – it has a sweet, fresh uplifting aroma that can banish worries in one whiff. It is used in India as a breath sweetener, and in Arabia it is added to dark roasted coffee and to sweets such as Baklava. In perfumery, cardamom oil and CO2 are used as top to middle notes, and the absolute is used as a base note, mostly in exotic Orientals.
Also known as Cloves Pink, these beautiful pink flowers have a scent that is at once a freshly-cut flower in the flower shop, as well as warm and spicy. It is very similar to clove buds, as they both have in common significantly high eugenol content.
Woody, slightly medicinal essential oil with woody, fatty and earthy undertones. It is better known for its anti-aging skin properties and is more frequently used in facial creams than in perfumes. In perfumes it is used in woody and floral composition to lend a delicate spicy woody note.
Cinnamon leaf oil is less sweet, and more sensitizing than the Ceylon Cinnamon, therefore used in very limited quantities if at all in perfumery and scented body products. It is has a somewhat harsh and sharp and slightly bitter spicy and dry aroma, with a hint of sweetness almost like a piercing-cinnamon scent. It has a very unique effect in oriental scents and amber accords.
A relative of the mimosa, cassie has a more pronounced floral-powdery scent, and is very delicate floral base note. It is warm, powdery and slightly spicy and herbaceous.
A mossy note that is drier than the ambery-sweet oakmoss.
The warmest and sweetest of all cedarwood oils, Atlas cedarwood from the Moroccan Atlas Mountains is velvety-soft, slightly sweet, a delicate woody base note with a somewhat powdery dry down.
Himalayan cedarwood is grown in high altitudes on the Himalaya mountains, and is reminiscent of the Atlas cedarwood, but has a clean, almost soapy-clean aroma, somewhat reminiscent of the “white musk” synthetic note.
Virginian Cedarwood is not really cedar, but a type of juniper. It has the familiar back-to-school pencil scent, and is a somewhat smoky and slightly green.
Cèpes are wild mushrooms, that have a dark, intense scent, slightly bitter (not unlike marmite) but also reminiscent of dark chocolate. It has an underlining earthy mushroom scent that is slightly animalic.
Slightly floral, fruity and powdery, Blue Chamomile is much more medicinal and herbal than the Roman Chamomile, and has a high content of azulene, which makes it blue. It is more valuable for aromatherapy and skin care products than to perfumery. It is a base note.
Fruity, sunny and slightly apple-like, Roman Chamomile is highly valued for its soft, round and sweet fruity aroma. It is the most apple-y scent in natural perfumery.
Fruity but not as sweet as Roman Chamomile, and with a slightly herbaceous note.
A large tropical flower from India, and is related to magnolia; Champaca is reminiscent of tea, slightly minty and fruity floral note, an excellent base to heart note, heady and full bodied.
Cilantro (Coriander Leaf)
Cilantro is the leaf of the coriander plant, which is very popular in Southeast Asian, Mexican as well as Middle Eastern and North African cuisines. It tends to garner either devoted followers or avid avoiders. Cilantro has a green, sharp, fresh, and a little sweet-balsamic after-note. It is a little similar to parsley, celery and galbanum but with its own distinct aroma. Rarely used in perfumery, but when it does it imparts a delicately fresh green top notes.
The sweetest cinnamon comes from the bark of trees grown in Ceylon – it is warm, spicy and sweet. Unlike most spice oils, cinnamon is a heart note (and not a top note) – it has a long lasting power.
Cistus oil is the essential oil that comes from the rockrose – the same plant that produces the labdanum gum/oleoresin. It is less sweet, and with more pine like notes, and slightly musty like spikenard.
Citron (Etrog) Tincture
Citron (Citrus medica) has long been a sacred botanical symbol in Jewish holiday of Sukkot, and is a rare fruit to find - and even more so to find the essential oil of. The perfumer has tinctured the zest of fruit collected at her home village and donated by the local rabbi. Citron has a delicate unusual aroma for a citrus: it is reminiscent of pineapple and flowers, and barely bares any citrus characteristics. The white pith is also particularly fragrant and deliciously sweet (unlike most citrus, which are very bitter), and is used to make decadent candies and marmalades.
Lemon like herb that is used often in bath preparation as well as an insect repellent. It is not as fine a fragrance as other lemony notes (i.e.: verbena, litsea cubeba and lemongrass) and is used more often and soaps and furniture polish.
Rounded and slightly powdery herbal note, very different from the common sage – Clary Sage has a slightly fruity, wine like aroma, and also shares some properties with ambergris – and therefore is used at times in amber compounds. It is known as a grounding and hormone-balancing scent for women and is valued in aromatherapy more than in perfumery. Clary Sage oil is a heart note; Clary Sage absolute is a base note and is used often in green chypre compositions.
One of the sweetest citrusy notes, cheerful and playful. It is almost candy-like and lends a luscious, cheerful fruity aroma to citrus, floral, oriental and chypre compositions.
Rich in eugenol, clove buds are an important spice in perfumery just as much as they are in the kitchen. Clove buds are often used along with other florals in carnation compounds (a flower that has high eugenol content as well). Clove bud oil is a heart note. Clove bud absolute is sweeter and much softer than clove bud oil. It is not as sharp and medicinal as the oil, and is similar to the rich odour of fresh clove flowers in full bloom. and is used as a base note in oriental, gourmand and chypre compositions – to lend a sweet spicy aroma.
Coconut absolute is fatty, slightly sweet, with a delicate toasted coconut aroma. It is a very subtle base note.
Like a dark roasted coffee, coffee absolute is a warm and energizing scent that does wonders in oriental and gourmand perfumes.
Absolute from the flower of the famous bean has a surprisingly heady, warm-spicy floral aroma reminiscent of champaca, orange blossom and narcissus.
With a strangely appealing scent of a full-bodied booze breath, cognac can be quite overwhelming until it is blended with the right notes – when it can be a beautiful, fruity, wine-like base note to fruity, citrusy and gourmand compositions.
One of my favourite spice oils, coriander has an almost citrusy freshness along with spicy sweetness. It is a beautiful, sparkling addition to floral, woody and oriental composition and also has a hint of green and slightly powdery note that works well in green perfumes.
Besides Ambrette seed, costus root is another extremely important vegetal-musk. It is darker than Ambrette, with a fatty skin like undertones, reminiscent of goats, wet puppies or human’s head. When aged properly, it has a sweeter aroma with rosy undertones. It is one of my most favourite notes ever; however, we don’t use costus in our ready to wear line because it is a known sensitizer.
An unusual and valuable note in perfumery, cumin is a dark musky spice oil that lends a sensual warmth and a surprisingly fruity roundedness to oriental, woody and chypre compositions. When doused carefully, its sweat-reminiscent odour lends an appealing erotic aspect to perfumes.
Sharp and clean coniferous note. Similar to pine and other coniferous notes, with a hint of sweetness and woody undertones.
Blue cypress is a soft woody note with a blue hue, reminiscent of cedarwood, sandalwood and blue chamomile. It comes from an Australian bush and is used as a base note.
You would never guess this is an herb – it is so sweet and fruity like no other note in natural perfumery. It is used for an additional strawberry-jam-like sweetness in floral, fruity and citrus compositions.
Deer’s Tongue (Liatrix)
The leaves of this wild plant have nothing significant about them when fresh. However, when dried, they emanate the most intensely sweet scent, due to their high coumarin content. Dry deer's tongue is warm, powdery, sweet and slightly bitter. The dry leaves can be either tinctured or solvent-extracted into an absolute.
Elderflower (Sambucus nigra) is an unusual floral-fruity note that has both the fruity richness and funk of blackcurrant buds (Cassis), and a honeyed-floral, slightly green, and with hints of ripe cantaloupe - just on the edge of fermentation.
This fresh, balsamic woody resin is reminiscent of frankincense, lemon and coriander blended together. It’s a delightful top note – refreshing and uplifting and slightly peppery.
Grain alcohol that is used as a medium to dilute essences and as a base for perfumes.
The leaves of an Australian tree, used frequently in aromatherapy as an antibacterial and also for colds. It is camphoreous and medicinal, and like camphor, its use in perfumery is very limited (primarily in soaps and also to mask other odours – for instance: rubbing alcohol).
Spicy, slightly honeyed licorice scented note from the fennel seed. It has some earthy nuances and slightly peppery and spicy overtones but dries into a clean and sweet aroma that is valuable in Fougere compositions, licorice compounds, linden blossom and soap perfumes.
One of the most handsome natural building blocks – fir absolute is a combination of culinary sweetness, coniferous and woody notes. It smells like Christmas tree, only much sweeter, and adds candy-like sweetness along with a masculine woody undertones of coniferous forest.
Rare wood from Australia with a light, ethereal, almost floral scent reminiscent of lilac and tea.
This woody note is very similar to Himalayan cedarwood, but is more flat and soap like. It lacks the cedarwood warmth and sweetness, but instead is more clean and floral.
The white or pink plumeria flowers with a yellow centre of a tropical bush have a sweet and creamy floral scent, reminiscent of jasmine and gardenia. The absolute, however, is waxy and slightly green and powdery. It is a very delicate and subtle top note, frequently used in white floral bouquets and tropical inspired perfumes. Interestingly, Frangipani was first a name of an Italian perfumed powder to scent gloves; When the tropical flower was discovered, it was named after the glove powder, because it had a surprisingly similar scent.
One of the most ancient perfume ingredients of all times, Frankincense is known for its calming effect – and is burned as incense to create a meditative state of mind. Unlike the incense, frankincense oil is a lot fresher. It is one of the lighter base notes, and although it is used primarily in incense-y Oriental perfumes, it is also valued as a base for light citrus scents.
Another one of the precious perfumes of antiquity, galbanum is native to Iran and has an intense green, leafy, balsamic note with slightly woody background. It is invaluable in green florals and chypre compositions.
Gardenia absolute is extremely hard to find because it is very expensive to produce and the yield is small (5,000 kg of flowers are needed to produce 1kg of absolute). In our perfumes, we use a gardenia accord that contains primarily different species of jasmine, frangipani and other white florals along with a woody incense-y base of sandalwood.
Rare form of rose geranium is this absolute extraction. It has all the rosy loveliness of rose geranium, but with even deeper, wine-like, full-bodied character and less of the minty-green qualities of fresh geranium leaf or rose geranium oil.
Geranium Bourbon from the Reunion Islands is fruity, sweet and honey-like, and not as citrus smelling as other geraniums are. It has a minty top note and a rosy dry down. It does not have the herbal characteristics of other geraniums.
Egyptian geranium is rosy, but a bit drier, greener and flatter than Rose Geranium.
The most floral geranium note. It is very similar to rose, and in fact frequently used to adulterate rose oils. It is more herbal and with a more pronounced lemony note than rose.
Alpinia or a Japanese variety of galangal. Spicy, diffusive and floral.
A sharp spice note from the fresh or dried rhizomes of the ginger plant. It is somewhat green and grassy. Ginger oil is a top note, while ginger absolute is a heart note. Its warm and sweet culinary association is due to its extensive use in pumpkin spice blends and gingerbread. It is used in gardenia compounds to add a the green slightly spicy gardenia top note; in spicy and woody Orientals; and in foresty, coniferous and citrus compositions.
From the rhyzomes of Hedychium spicatum, this is a diffusive spicy-fresh note, reminiscent of galangal, ginger and a hint of cinnamon.
Although fresh grapefruit are bitter tasting, the grapefruit oil has a surprisingly sweet scent, one of the most versatile and popular of all citrus oils.
Pink grapefruit is usually sweeter than the “white” grapefruit, and with a more pronounced sulfur odour, but also is just as versatile.
The fresh peppercorns before drying into black and white peppercorns have a green colour. Green pepper indeed smells greener – more herbaceous and fresh. It is also more fleeting than the other pepper oils.
Green Tea Absolute
Green tea absolute lends an Asian gourmand note to perfumes. It is fresh and subtle, slightly citrusy and with apricot overtones.
From the wild jungle tree of Argentina and Paraguay. The oil is waxy, fatty, almost skin-like, slightly smoky and with a unique tea rose scent.
Roasted hazelnut, gourmand note that is subtle and adds a nutty nuance.
The scent of newly mown grass and the sweetness of dried stacks of hay is rich, animalic, musky and earthy and sweet coumarinic, with a sweet back note reminiscent of dried prunes and figs. It is used as a base note in colognes, leather and Fougere compositions. It brings pleasant memories of the countryside – of fields, farms and meadows.
Extracted by solvent from the henna (Lawsonia inermi) leaf, henna has a dark, earthy-muddy, tea-like scent, very much like the paste for Mehendi.
Hinoki is a Japanese cypress, highly resilient to mold and therefore used for building temples and the classical Japanese wooden bath tubs. Hinoki possesses a fine woody perfume unlike any other but similar in its suave, clean, serene nature to that of Himalayan cedarwood.
The essential oil from the red everlasting flower is quite different from the absolute (listed under “Immortelle”). It is reminiscent of honey, marigold, chamomile, tea and is a bit herbal. Its most valuable use is in aromatherapy for its skin-healing and pain relief properties, yet it is at times used in perfumery in fruity florals, and to lend a fruity note to many synthetic floral compounds.
Linalol being the dominant molecule in this wood oil from China, both Ho Wood and Ho Leaf resemble Rosewood (Bois de Rose). Light, clean, woody, floral-rosy and a little warm, and very diffusive. Ho Leaf is a top note much valued in floral and floriental compositions as well as Fougere.
Honey Absolute (Miel)
The sweet honey scent of a honeycomb, extracted from unbleached beeswax. It’s a delightful gourmand note, which is highly valued in gourmand scents and other oriental compositions as well as in tobacco flavouring and tobacco perfumes.
Key ingredient in beer brewing, hops gives more than its characteristic boozy association. While on its own it the funky odour brings to mind a dark bar scene at best, if not a witch’s cauldron full of valerian root and musty resins; when dosed carefully and in the right context - hops can add a fruity, bitter-green element of interest.
Hyacinth absolute retains none of the sharpness and headiness of the fresh flower, but rather is sweet floral with slightly green and herbaceous undertones that make it especially beautiful in both green and fruity floral compositions.
Fresh, green and herbaceous, reminiscent of sage and thyme, and brings to mind hilltops of the Mediterranean. Used in Fougere compositions.
The absolute from this red everlasting flower is reminiscent of honey, fenugreek, maple syrup and dried hay. It is used in fruity Florientals, tobacco and new mown hay scents, Fougere compositions and to lend a fruity note to many synthetic floral compounds.
Jasmine Grandiflorum Absolute
Creamy, tenacious and luscious, Jasmine Grandiflorum Absolute is one of the most important heart notes of perfumery. There is not perfume without jasmine!
Jasmine Grandiflorum Concrete
Jasmine Concrete from the Grandiflorum species is more similar to the fresh flowers than the creamy absolute.
Egyptian Jasmine grandiflorum is a little lighter and less indolic than the Indian jasmine of the same species.
Jasmine Sambac Attar
Attar is a traditional East Indian distillation of oils into a receptacle of sandalwood oil. Jasmine Sambac Attar (Attar Motia) is jasmine distilled into sandalwood oil. It retains the fruitiness of Sambac Jasmine, but is not as fresh smelling as the absolute.
Jasmine Sambac Absolute
A fruity, tropical smelling jasmine sambac. While sweet and narcotic, it is also fresh, and is reminiscent of gardenia.
Jasmine Auriculatum Absolute
An unusually green jasmine note – which smells grassier than floral.
Jojoba oil is produced from the seeds of a desert plant. It is in fact a liquid wax, which makes it extremely durable as it almost never become rancid. And with its chemical makeup which is very close to the human skin’s sebum, it makes an ideal base for body products and perfume oils. It also helps to retain the scent longer, particularly if you have a dry skin. If fragrances tend to disappear fast from your skin, try layering them over an application of jojoba oil, or use a jojoba oil based scent, such as the crème parfums or parfum oils.
A very scarce and costly perfume ingredient, the absolute from this most fragrance narcissus species is a heavily sweet floral, honey like with slightly green powdery background. It has a bitter and tenacious dry out, and is reminiscent to tuberose and hyacinth.
The refreshing aroma of gin comes from juniper berries – the purple berries of the evergreen coniferous tree. Juniper oil is a sublime and unique top note, particularly in men’s colognes. It is fresh and reminiscent of pine needles, yet warm, sweet balsamic and woody.
Kaffir Lime Leaf
Leaves of the Kaffir (Thai) Lime have a distinct aroma that is sweet, odd and green and only vaguley citrusy. You may be familir with this note from Thai food, where it is used to flavour curries and soups.
Kewda (Pandanus) Attar
Heady, pungent and very tenacious, pandanus is an extremely volatile oil extracted from a giant East Indian tropical flower. It is most frequently distilled into sandalwood oil as an attar, which helps to fix it. Kewda has a very particular scent, which is exotic, alluring and strange – it is very sharp and somewhat peppery and vinegar-like in its pungent top note, yet quickly develops into a sweet honeyed floral note reminiscent of hyacinth and honeysuckle.
Japanese black willow wood with a sweet, diffusive, slightly spicy aroma.
One of my most favourite scents – the gum resinoid from the rockrose is as close as plants can get to ambergris. The ambery, sweet, honeyed aroma of labdanum plays a key role in many chypre and oriental compositions and is an important ingredient in amber compounds, along with Styrax and Benzoin. Labdanum absolutes vary in quality – some are lighter, some are sweeter than others, and some are more leathery and animalic.
One of the most versatile oils in perfumery as well as aromatherapy – lavender is floral, herbaceous, powdery and sweet all at once. The essential oil is used as a top note.
Lavender absolute is rounder and softer and slightly more herbaceous than the oil. It is velvety smooth, especially after blended with other oils. Perhaps one of the most alluring things about lavender absolute though, is its vibrant turquoise colour!
Lavender concrete is an even softer rendition of the plant, and is reminiscent of the crushed leaves. It is greener and has a hint of musky base. It is used as a base note.
Leather notes do not actually come from leather. Although castoreum (a by product of the leather industry, from Canadian beaver) is the most traditional perfume ingredient, we do not use it. Instead, we use other smoky notes, including those used in the process of curing leather and eliminating unpleasant smells and give leather its characteristic odour - cade, myrtle and birch tar. We also use other notes that have a smoky dry and leathery notes (though not used to cure leather), such as choya nakh (toasted seashells) and tobacco absolute.
Despite its many common culinary uses, lemon never ceases to amaze – it such a refreshing, sunny aroma and can brighten the gloomiest of days. It is ethereal, vivid and tart in a delicate manner – unlike the many cleaning agents that claim to be lemon scented. Lemon is an important ingredient in many old fashioned Eaux de Cologne and also is a top note in many other compositions.
From the peel of the green, unripe lemon. This essential oil is greener and more floral than lemon, but softer and sweeter, less pungent and spicy than lime.
Meyer lemon (Citrus x meyeri) is much sweeter than lemon, and in fact more reminiscent of mandarin, including its white floral aspect (from the methyl-anthranilate).
Distilled from the leaves and branches of the lemon tree, this lemon petitgrain is soft, fresh and citrusy-green.
One of my favourite childhood notes is Lemon Verbena – a little shrub, native of Chile and Argentina, with remarkably soothing and refreshing scented leaves that can be used to make teas and tisanes. It has an intensely fresh lemon like top note with honey like, fruity and leafy green undertones. Because of its low yield, this oil is extremely expensive and often adulterated. Lemon Verbena is a heart note, unlike all the “real” citrus notes that are top notes.
A tropical grass from Ceylon and India. Just like its name – lemongrass is lemony and grassy all at once with tea like notes.
A tart, fresh and green citrus note with a hint of spiciness. It’s a top note.
Sweeter than lime, and with less spiciness. A top note.
From tea and honey scented blossoms of the Tillia tree, delicate and slightly green. A heart note that evokes spring.
A gorgeous lemon hear note from the berries of the May Chang tree. This is a good substitute for lemon verbena as it is less expensive, and also – unlike citrus oils – it doesn’t spoil very fast. It has an intensely sweet lemon like odour, and lacks the slightly harsh grassy notes of lemongrass. It has a full bodied, uniform fruity lemony scent and is a very long lasting heart note.
Water lily scent from the sacred Indian Lotus. It has a slightly fruity and spicy aroma. A heart note.
From the shell of the nutmeg, a different spice is made – with a brighter orange colour and a different aroma that is intense and interesting.
From the flowers of Magnolia fargesii - this smells more medicinal, spicy and dry-woody rather than floral.
Magnolia oil from the white magnolia flowers has a light yet full-bodied aroma that is fruity and floral all at once – slightly rosy and peachy. It’s a middle to top note, and is used in both floral, fruity floral and Oriental compositions.
A delicate orangey aroma that is equally tart and sweet, and with slightly floral, neroli-like notes in the background.
(Citrus reticulata blanco) Large and flat mandarin with thick peel. The zest has an intensely fruity and sweet scent.
From the flowers of a bush from New Zealand with a marigold-like aroma – honeyed yet herbal.
A golden floral note with fruity, honeyed and herbaceous undertones. A heart note.
From the bark of the Massoia tree from New Guinea. It has an exceptional milky note of coconut and caramel. It is a dark coconut base note, intensely sweet and unusual.
A resin that is used as flavouring in Middle Eastern and Greek ice creams and pastries, mastic has an unusual aroma that is fresh and resinous. A top note.
Melissa (Lemon Balm)
Leafy-green and delicate with lemony aroma. Melissa is also a calming scent that helps coping with insomnia.
Delicate and powdery, from the abundant yellow blossoms of the mimosa bush has a fragile top note that is somewhat soapy, reminiscent of cassie and slightly honeyed.
Baked Indian earth distilled into sandalwood oil.
We use only vegetal musks - musks that are from botanical origin rather than from the endangered Musk Deer. Ambrette seed can be a substitute on its own for delicate, light and subtle musks; other darker oils and absolutes are used for a more intense animalic musk accord - costus, opoponax, vetiver, patchouli, labdanum, tobacco, sandalwood and more.
Myrrh has a bitter, slightly woody and medicinal aroma that is very similar to the smell of balloons. Myrrh is used as a base note in Oriental compositions. It sweetens as it dries down and has a soft scent with a mild diffusiveness. Myrrh, along with frankincense, is one of the most ancient perfume ingredients in the world. It was used as a religious incense, an aphrodisiac unguent and also to fill mummies in Ancient Egypt. It is extracted as an oil from the resin tears of the myrrh bush – a dessert tree native to African and Arabia.
Myrtle, Green (Green Myrtle)
Herbaceous and campohreous, with a slightly sweet floral notes. Myrtle is native to the Mediterranean, and is sometimes used as a top note in herbal or citrus compositions. It is also used in the curing process of leather.
Myrtle, Lemon (Lemon Myrtle)
Lemon Myrtle is a luscious note from an Australian tree, and has a sweet, full-bodies fruity lemony aroma that is even sweeter than Litsea Cubeba. It is a heart note.
Nagramotha is used to lend a sheer incense note to a perfume. It is woody and slightly herbaceous. Used as a base note.
Narcissus absolute is more powdery than the fresh flower. In fact, it is green, sweet and soft, slightly reminiscent of tuberose absolute. It is one of the most costly absolutes, and is only used in high class perfumes.
Neroli is the name of steam distilled orange flower from the bergamot tree. Neroli is equally citrus and floral. It is a bright, sparkling fresh floral with delicate fleeting aroma. The highest quality Neroli is the sweetest. Poor quality Neroli smells very much like petitgrain. The best Neroli comes from Tunisia.
French Neroli is much lighter, more of a top note than a heart note – and smells clean and bright, slightly green and extremely ethereal.
Warm, dry and slightly woody and peppery spice note with a distinct aroma. Nutmeg oil is used as a top note, in both floral and Oriental compositions. Nutmeg absolute is sweeter and is used as a heart note, especially in Oriental and woody compositions.
One of the most important building blocks of perfumery, without oakmoss there would be no Chypre or Fougere compositions! Oakmoss is an earthy moss with slightly musky and ambery notes. It is a key ingredient in both Chypre (along with Bergamot) and Fougere (along with Lavender) compositions. It is also used in many oriental and floral bases, as well as citrus colognes. Oakmoss is a base note.
Oleander (Nerium oleander) is native to the the Mediterranean region, where it grows in dry steams. The flower is extracted to a concrete and absolute, and has a powdery, oily, slightly powdery scent slightly reminiscent of green olives.
Olibanum (see Frankincense)
Also known as Sweet Myrrh, Opoponax is a relative of myrrh only sweeter and softer. It is sweet, balsamic, spicy, warm, musky. It is invaluable in oriental bases, and lends a musky and powdery base.
Bitter orange is tart and floral all at once, with some notes of crushed citrus leaves. It is one of the most important orange oils in perfumery because of its delicate aroma and versatility. It’s a top note.
Blood orange is sweeter than bitter orange, but not as sweet as sweet orange. A good blood orange should have raspberry like overtones. It’s a top note.
Orange Blossom Absolute
Floral and citrusy all at once, but richer, sweeter and warmer than Neroli. Orange blossom absolute shares some qualities with jasmine absolute, and is round, soft and slightly tart and is very true to the fresh orange blossoms, with some herbaceous undertones. It is used in Oriental and floral compositions and is also a wonderful floral for masculine scents.
Orange Flower Water Absolute
After the hydrodistillation of orange blossoms to distill Neroli (orange blossom essential oil), the water left over (orange flower water) is extremely fragrant and rich in aromatic materials. To obtain these, a solvent extraction of the water is performed, and the result is orange flower water absolute. Orange Flower Water Absolute is darker and richer than the light Neroli, and a tad sweeter, yet with a more fresh and slightly watery quality to it in comparison to the orange blossom absolute.
Orange Juice Essence
Distilled from orange juice, this unusual essence has the aroma of freshly squeezed orange juice: fruity, sweet and refreshing.
The sweetest and most Gourmand of all citruses, sweet orange comes from the peels of the common juicing oranges. The sweet aroma is fruity and rounded. A top note.
Wild oregano from Turkey is one of the finest in the world. It is fresh and aromatic, and brings to mind a luxurious pasta dish or a dried herb mixture blended with olive oil called Za’atar. It brings to mind Mediterranean hilltops covered with bushes and herbs. It’s a top note. The Turkish oregano is less phenolic and smoky than other oils.
Orris root essential oil (AKA Orris Butter) is one of the most precious perfume materials. The roots need to be peeled and aged for a long time before extraction and distillation. It is invaluable in perfumery, for its powdery and delicate aroma and its role in floral compositions (especially violet-like). Orris root is reminiscent of a baby’s head or soft skin. Orris is also used to soften woody, floriental and oriental compositions.
A beautiful scent from the tiny white flowers from a Chinese tree from the olive and lilac family. Osmanthus has a rich and complex scent, combining green tea, leather and apricot notes – sweet, fresh and leathery all at once. The yield of Osmanthus is pretty low – 3,000 kilos of flowers yield one kilo of absolute, and it is therefore one of the more expensive materials in perfumery.
Grassy, herbaceous and earthy top note with a hint of rose notes, from the oil of an Indian wild grass. Used occasionally in herbal and chypre compositions and used in the past to adulterate Turkish rose Otto.
One of the most long lasting and valuable natural building blocks. Patchouli is an important base note in oriental, woody, chypre and floral compositions. It is earthy, sweet, wine like and slightly musky. The longer a patchouli oil is aged, the softer and sweeter it becomes as the sharper top notes (which can be at times minty, spicy-peppery-cinnamon-leaf-like, cade-like, or cedarwood like) will disappear and the oil becomes round and soft and sweet. Patchouli is from the mint family, and the leaves are dried and aged for about a year before distillation. The leaves originally were used as moth repellent, and were discovered in the west when East Indian shawls that were impregnated with the smell became sought after for the scent more than for their appearance.
Patchouli oil that has been aged several years, resulting in the finest patchouli aroma. It has the scent of precious wood and is exotic and mysterious.
Cool and spicy at once, peppermint is refreshing and aromatic. It has a grassy top note with a deep rich sweet undertones and a clean sweet dry out. It is used in very minute quantities in perfumery, but is very popular in body care products, candles etc. It can add a cool freshness to citrus and floral compositions and is occasionally used in low concentrations in lavender, Fougere and geranium scents.
Petitgrain is the steam distillation of leaves and twigs of a citrus tree. Petitgrain Bigarade is from the bergamot tree – and has a scent reminiscent of neroli, but greener, less floral and less refined, with slightly woody notes.
Petitgrain is the steam distillation of leaves and twigs from a citrus tree. Petitgrain Cedrat is from the citron tree, and has a delicate, fresh green aroma. It’s not easy to find and is especially beautiful in Eaux de Cologne.
Petitgrain is the steam distillation of leaves and twigs of a citrus tree.
Petitgrain Combrava is from the leaves and twigs of the Kaffir Lime tree and has the same distinct aroma – clear, watery-fresh and slightly fruity. A very unusual citrus note.
Kaffir lime leaves are used extensively in Thai dishes and lend a full bodied, fresh aroma to curries and soups.
There are many different species of pine – Scotch pine is the most common of all, and has a pleasant sweet balsamic background for the coniferous turpentine like top notes. If you can get over the “cleaning agent” association, you will enjoy its clean forest-breeze scent. It adds beautiful notes to men’s colognes.
Pinewood (Bois des Landes)
From the heartwood of pine tree, Bois des Lands is reminiscent of wet, damp woods, mushrooms after the rain, yet also warm and a tad smoky.
Pine Moss is reminiscent of oakmoss, but with a hint of seaweed note.
Pink Pepper (Schinus Molle) Absolute
Peppery yet sweet and fresh and slightly fruity, this is a very unusual spicy note.
Pomelo Peel Tincture
The peel of the largest citrus fruit bears a beautiful, robust and floral aroma reminiscent of pineapple and Etrog (Jewish citron). The perfumer has tinctured her own zest, since the essential oil rarely turns up in the market.
Western redcedar (Thuja plicata) is called "Tree of Life" by the Coast Salish first nations. Most anything required for their survival was made of these trees, from large constructions such as long houses, totem poles and canoes, to various tools, nets, ropes, hats and waterproof clothing. The scent is an unmistakable, potent, insect and fungus repelling compound that is phenolic and sharp, smoky, and a little like cherry. It's a realtively new raw material and I'm very excited to include it in my newer creations Blackbeard Oil and Komorebi.
Surprisingly floral, rhododendron leaves and twigs have a honey-sweet, green and slightly powdery scent that is quite a delight.
Rooibos (Red Tea)
Rooibos (Aspalathis linearis), AKA Red Bush or South African Red Tea, is a bush from the legume family which is very similar to broom in appearance. It is native to the Sough African Cedarberg Mountains. The leaves and twigs are used - and are other oxidized to produce the red coloured "tea" or unoxidisez, to produce a green coloured version of rooibos. It is considered a good substituted for black tea as it contains no caffeine and very low tannin levels. Like black tea, it is often served sweetened and with milk.
The scent of rooibos is sweet, earthy, mildly herbaceous and subtly rich. Rooibos absolute can be solvent extracted from the plant, and acts as a base to middle note. However, it is not in high demand and is rarely found on the market. And alternative to that is an alcohol tincture, which can add a subtle, sweet tea-like and earthy nuance.
Rose Otto (Bulgaria)
Rose Otto, or Attar of Rose, is steam distillation of rose essential oil. I find Bulgarian rose otto to be the most reminiscent of fresh red roses. It also reminds me of Rosewater – the rose hydrosol that remains after the steam distillation of the petals.
Rose Otto (Turkey)
Turkish Rose Otto is considered to be the finest rose otto in the world. It is full bodied and almost candy-sweet. When in the company other notes in the perfume, it opens up with thousands of petals. It’s a multilayered rose.
Rose Maroc is an absolute of Rosa Centifolia. It is honeyed and luscious, though it may seem timid at first, it is sensual and velvety soft, and reminiscent of roses in full bloom or a tea from the dried rosebuds.
Rose de Mai
A lighter rose essence, Rose de Mai is at times considered a top note. It is more fruity and reminiscent of peach. Rose de Mai is grown in Grasse, France, and is harvested in May (hence the name). It is becoming one of the most difficult essences to find because of land development in the area and the high demand for this fine rose absolute.
Rose Absolute (Turkey)
Rose Absolute (Bulgaria)
Indian Summer Rose Attar
Indian Summer Rose Attar is a steam distillation of summer harvested rose distilled into Indian sandalwood oil.
Traditional steam distillation of Indian rose.
Japanese roses (aka Rosa rugosa, or hedge rose) are a little similar to tea roses, in that they have a violety scent to them.
Chinese tea roses are significantly different from the Western roses in that they have an orange tinge because of the presence of beta carotenes. As a result, they have ionones in them, which accounts for hints of violet and tea-like notes.
Herbaceous and slightly medicinal, rosemary adds beautiful fresh notes to citrus colognes such as the classic Hungary Water.
Sweeter and richer than the essential oil, Rosemary absolute is an interesting herbaceous heart note that offers and natural sweetness like the long-steeped rosemary tea that is used for hair-rinsing.
Rosewood (Bois de Rose)
A by product of the rosewood furniture industry (steam distilled from rosewood dust). Rosewood contains a lot of linalool – an important component in lilac and lily of the valley compounds. Rosewood is a light and floral top note, especially valued in floral compositions and also an important component in Fougere compositions as a supporting note to lavender. Ho wood and ho leaf are very similar to rosewood and are used in a similar manner.
While all the other vetiver oils I mentioned earlier are in different shades of amber, Ruh Khus is a dark blue-green. The reason is simple: this oil is distilled in the traditional Indian way, in copper vessels. The copper lends its unique colour of oxidation (turquoise) to the oil, as well as a tinge of metallic aroma. Copper vessels are relatively light and the Indian perfumers have the custom to travel with them to the place of harvest, to gather the plants and distill them on the spot. This flexibility is highly important for the traditional Indian perfumers, because this way they can easily travel from place to place and distill rare essences in remote places – as opposed to importing the raw harvest to a remote atelier, by which time the essences will be either gone or spoiled.
The three stylus in the middle of this wild autumn crocus is one of the most precious spices in the world. When dried, the stylus releases its unusual aroma. Saffron has an unusual aldehydic, dry, slightly floral, medicinal-herbaceous scent and an irresistible colour. It was prized since antiquity for its colour and scent and is mentioned in Canticles as one of the precious seductive scents.
A Mediterranean and European wild herb of many medicinal purposes. Herbal and slightly medicinal, bitter and pungent – yet sage adds warmth and depth to chypre compositions, in fact it makes Chypre sweeter and softer.
A native of East India, Ceylon and Indonesia, sandalwood is becoming rare and endangered. It have been in use for many years as a ceremonial incense, as well as a base for the traditional East Indian perfumes – the Attars – perfumes that are distilled into a base of sandalwood oil. Sandalwood is highly prized for its soft, sweet woody aroma that remains unchanged for most of its duration. We are currently phasing out any Indian sandalwood, and replacing it with sandalwood from Vanuatu – which is different and with a more pronounced woody note.
Vanuatu sandalwood is an eco-friendly alternative to the now-extinct Mysore Sandalwood. It is extracted from a different species than Indian Sandalwood (Santalum austrocaledonicum) that grows in Vanuatu (a group of islands in the Coral Sea located in the midst among Papua New Guniea, Fidji, Wallis, New Caledonia). Vanuatu sandalwood is the finest sandalwood I've smelled since the supplies of Mysore sandalwood have diminished. It is completely different than Mysore sandalwood, but has a very smooth and suave precious wood aroma, great lasting power and fixative qualities and does not have the off-notes that so many of the other sandalwoods I've smelled leave on my skin upon dryout.
Sandalwood Australia Organic
(Santalum spicatum) A good sustainable alternative to that endangered species. Organically grown and with a more animalic and intense note than the Australian sandalwood absolute.
Sandalwood Australia Absolute
(Santalum spicatum) Delicate and not as animalic as Indian sandalwood. A good sustainable alternative to that endangered species. Absolute is the solvent extraction and is even more delicate than the oil.
Unusual spicy note, more green, citrus and floral than spicy. Reminiscent of tomato leaf, yuzu, bergamot and fresh ginger.
Salty and sultry, sea weed absolute smells like the ocean breeze. It is a wonderful base for natural oceanic type scents.
A Japanese herb which is similar in appearance to parsley. It has a slightly green-herbal note with powdery and spicy notes reminiscent of cumin, cinnamon and cloves.
Spearmint is a sweeter, more delicate mint than peppermint. It is cheerful and sweet, yet almost candy-like, with a hint of leafy green overtones. It is very authentic to the original scent of the freshly crushed leaves.
Spikenard was used since biblical times and was mentioned as one of the perfumes used by King Solomon in Canticles. It is a musty, woody, earthy base note, reminiscent of wet earth after the rain.
Fresh coniferous top note.
Blue Spruce Absolute
Sweet, slightly citrusy and far more balsamic and less camphoreous/coniferous than the spruce essential oil. Similar to fir absolute, but with a more citrusy opening, and a dry-woody dryout.
One of the essential components of amber compounds, Styrax Levant has top notes reminiscent of epoxy glue, yet it is sweet and pleasant, and has a smoothing ambery effect. It is sweet, floral and balsamic.
Tagettes (see Marigold)
Tangerine smells like a combination of sweet orange and bitter orange blended together; Reminiscent of Clementine, but a tad more bitter and tart.
The leaves of this culinary plant produce oil that is green and fresh with an herbal note with a subtle sweet licorice like aroma. The name “estragon” means “little dragon”.
A syrupy sweet version of tarragon, with a much more pronounced licorice note. Provides an excellent licorice scented base notes.
Tobacco Absolute (Tabac Blond)
The scent of tobacco is dry and earthy and creates a base for smoky, tobacco leathery scents.
Tolu Balsam (Balsam, Tolu)
Tonka bean has a coumarin and caramel-like scent, yet has a hint of bitter almond and powderiness. Used to flavour cigar tobacco, as well as tobacco leathery perfumes, oriental and floriental compositions.
A relative of the narcissus and native to central America, Tuberose is now cultivated primarily in France and India. Tuberose releases its scent only at nighttime, and has a luscious, creamy, heady scent that is slightly powdery and at times slightly green, with fatty background.
A relative of the narcissus and native to central America, Tuberose is now cultivated primarily in India and to a lesser extent in Grasse (France). Tuberose releases its scent only at nighttime, and has a luscious, creamy, heady scent that is slightly powdery and at times slightly green, with fatty background. This rare attar of tuberose is distilled into sandalwood oil and creates a very heady, a little sharp rendition of this tropical, luscious white flower.
Tuberose Extract (Organic)
A relative of the narcissus and native to central America, Tuberose is now cultivated primarily in France and India. Tuberose releases its scent only at nighttime, and has a luscious, creamy, heady scent that is slightly powdery and at times slightly green, with fatty background. This unique tuberose was organically grown and processed without any solvent and is extremely rare. It is the closest to the living flower.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) has yellow-orange roots that are used as a spice and for dying foods and clothes. The essential oil has the characteristic dry, warm, spicy and mineral - bringing to mind dusty desert dirt.
Vanilla is one of the most comforting and seductive base notes. It is extracted from the dried and sun cured vanilla pods of the vanilla orchid – which is native to tropical climates. Vanilla absolute is dark and thick, with a caramel-like sweetness, while vanilla CO2 is colourless and has a more delicate scent.
Vanilla (Sugarcane Alcohol Extraction)
Vanilla is one of the most comforting and seductive base notes. It is extracted from the dried and sun cured vanilla pods of the vanilla orchid – which is native to tropical climates. This very special vanilla absolute is extracted using pure food grade sugarcane alcohol and is especially sweet, full bodied and flavourful.
Vanilla is one of the most comforting and seductive base notes. It is extracted from the dried and sun cured vanilla pods of the vanilla orchid – which is native to tropical climates. We make our own vanilla extract with pure grain alcohol and ripe, moist vanilla beans from Ghana that we split and seed by hand, to get all their goodness into the fragrance later on.
The roots of the vetiver grass have an earthy and may smell like marmite at first sniff, but in the right proportion vetiver is sweet, fresh and woody, with a moist earth aroma and a precious woody base.
Vetiver Madagascar (Bourbon)
I haven't worked much with this variety, but I do have a sample of an organic oil from Madagascar. It is closest to the Haitian vetiver, only woodier and with a certain floralcy to it. It's not as smooth and woody as the Sri Lankan vetiver, but it has the typical underlining clean/earthy/sweet that makes vetivers so charming.
This vetiver is so different I almost didn’t believe it was vetiver. Now, talking about woody… This one has almost no trace of earth. It smells like wood – driftwood to be precise – and you’ll almost think it is some kind of a fake sandalwood. I use this variety when I am looking for a woody note, without the need for a recognizable vetiver note. It is particularly marvelous with florals, lending a rich, deep woody fixative but still letting the florals stay at the centre of the stage.
This was the first vetiver I’ve encountered and I am reluctant to say I was quite repulsed by it in the first place. It reminded me of the dark, yeasty Marmite spread. I quickly learned that it was a very valuable note, even from this less-than-perfect distillation, although it still to this day creates a strange sensation in me when I smell it within a composition, as if it is stuck in my throat (perhaps a Marmite reminder – a spread I have never quite got accustomed to despite the recurrent efforts of my parents, who spent the best years of their youth eating it while studying in the UK). This vetiver could be described as earthy and perhaps a tad smoky and woody and quite musky. It goes very well within herbal as well as floral compositions, but one needs to be cautious as to how much is used, as this is quite a tenacioius variety. I recently acquired an Indonesian vetiver that is finer, but from a different manufacturer, and it still had almost the same characteristics, yet a tad mellower. I like using the Indonesian vetiver where its harsh qualities will be most useful: in leather and chypre compositions. There, paired by equally tenacious aromas it will add to the mix rather than overwhelm with its presence.
This is the vetiver that made me fall in love with vetiver as a building block. Up until than, I thought it was only chemicals that made commercial vetivers smell so fresh and lemony. I presume that this vetiver is the variety most suitable for fresh, clean, almost “green” vetiver colognes. It is ethereal and sublime, light and almost airy - and smells almost citrusy on its own, but not quite. The variety I have is of wild vetiver from Haiti. If I had to pick only one vetiver to use, this would be it. I also tried another variety (not the wild one), which is similar only with a top note reminiscent of Jerusalem Artichokes - very rooty and earth-invoking, yet somewhat heady and sweet; and with a body note that is quite woody and reminiscent of Amyris (aka West Inidian Sandalwood).
Although violet flowers can be distilled into an absolute, the process is labour intense and non-cost-effective. When I use violet flower note in my perfumes, it is a compound made if various oils that are rich in ionone - such as orris root, violet leaf absolute, boronia along with other floral oils or absolutes to round off the accord and give it a soft flowery impression.
Violet Leaf Absolute
This dark green liquid from the violet leaves smells cool and green, just like cucumber. When diluted, it exposes its powdery characteristics.
When black peppercorns ripen, they turn white. The ripe white pepper is softer, sweeter and more floral than the other peppers.
Wintergreen, an herb from the mint family, has a sweet, unmistakable aroma as that of pink bubble gum and certain toothpastes. It has very limited use in perfumery, but can be an interesting surprise!
Wormwood (see Artemisia)
Xantoxylum (Tomar Seed)
One of the most interesting oils, xantoxylum is a scent that is very difficult to describe or compare. It is sweet, warm, but not quite spicy. It is intensely fruity and with a strong diffusive power. It is beautiful in oriental compositions and with exotic floral and fruity notes.
From the Achillea herb, the oil is reminiscent of blue chamomile and valerian root. It has a medicinal, bitter odour.
Yellow mandarin is not a typical citrus note: although fruity, it has an unusually floral scent, which is almost reminiscent of tuberose, being both heady and creamy.
A medicinal South American herb from the holly family, that is traditionally steeped in hot water to prepare a stimulating beverage drank from a gourd with a metal straw in several South American countries (Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Ecuador).The drink is called Maté and is extremely bitter. Using hot water rather than boiling water helps to reduce the bitterness. It has several beneficial properties besides its stimulating effects yet without some of the negative side effects that some other caffeine-beverages create (because of the presence of other chemicals in its makeup). The leaves and branches of Yerba Maté are usually dried on open fire, lending it a somewhat smoky aroma, although green Yerba Maté (air dried) are also available. Yerba Maté can be either tinctured or solvent extracted for use in perfumery. Its aroma is deep, subtle, bittersweet and similar to both hay and green tea.
Ylang Ylang Concrete
One of the most luxurious forms of Ylang Ylang – it is creamy, soft and sweet like no other Ylang Ylang, a honeyed, delicious version of the heady white tropical floral.
From the first distillation of Ylang Ylang flowers – this oil is sweet and slightly creamy, and not too heady, with a typical white floral note.
Solvent extraction from the concrete, this is again very rich and a little more “juicy” than the concrete. Soft, rich and round.
One of the most stunning citrus notes – yuzu is a Japanese citron (which is used in Japanese condiments), and has an extremely sweet scent reminiscent of grapefruit, tangerine and clementine – yet better than all of those put together. It has a sparkling, refreshing sweet citrus note that is luscious and quite long lasting. It is a top to middle note.