Ask the Perfumer 3/31/2013 The Truth About Honeysuckle Absolute

Sunday - 31 March 2013

There is a lot of synth-boosted, professionally-compounded “honeysuckle” absolute on the market now.  A perfume chemist recently performed a GC/MS on a sample of a perfume from a natural perfumer and it contained muguet alcohol.  What is muguet alcohol? It’s a synthetic product from Symrise, 2,2-dimethyl-3-phenylpropan-1-ol. Arctander states that there hasn’t been any honeysuckle absolute on the market since the 1930s.  Many mainstream perfumers have no problem using the compounded absolute, as they no standards to adhere to naturals, as we do.

Honeysuckle flower.  Some artisan perfumers are currently enfleuraging the beauties.  No absolute is being produced for the industry, despite claims from India and Italy.

Honeysuckle flower. Some artisan perfumers are currently enfleuraging the beauties. No absolute is being produced for the industry, despite claims from India and Italy.

My intellectual and ethical curiosity and commitment cause me to be very, very cautious in sourcing new materials on the market.  Yes, there are many boutique distillers and extractors at work nowadays producing rare and elusive aromatics.  The new world of artisan perfumery has given rise to this, and it is welcome.  Many, myself included, are making enfleurages of rare flowers, including honeysuckle.  There are no reports, however, from India, or Italy, or a reputable source making some of the products that are being touted as rare, ‘from the vault of a retired industry insider’, etc.  That is simply marketing smoke blown up the nose of naïve buyers, I’m sorry to say.

Isolates – another group of aromatics flooded with tricked up product.  If you are truly devoted to natural perfumery, please be cautious, don’t fall for a sales pitch, and ask on forums, such as this one, on Facebook, on Yahoo groups, if something appears to be too good, too new and shiny.  Chances are, it’s a blend of isolates, absolutes and some synths, made to mimic the scent of something rare, and it both makes money for the con selling it, and pollutes true natural perfumes.

I’m working on a deadline today, so there will be some delay in answering your questions (perhaps, maybe not) and I’d like to ask this question of you:  how do you confirm a new product is truly 100% natural?  Do you demand a GC/MS?  Are you cautious, or are you dazzled by the new, shiny toy?  Do you have a healthy sense of skepticism? I’ll be here until 10PM ET USA.  I’d love to hear your feedback on this important subject!

20 thoughts on “Ask the Perfumer 3/31/2013 The Truth About Honeysuckle Absolute

  1. Priya

    Anya, I’m curious, can your highly trained nose smell that these so-called honeysuckle absolutes are laden with synths? Thus far my strategy for avoiding this stuff is to buy from Eden, White Lotus, and other excellent natural suppliers, but I have on occasion bought small samples of oils from suppliers I use for packaging and other nonfragrant materials, and sometimes the oils just smell tweaked with synths (I remember a Michelia Alba leaf oil in particular…).

    I find it interesting that honeysuckle is often adulterated or fake in perfumery, as it’s a controversial ingredient in other contexts as well. Some companies making all-natural bodycare and skincare use Japanese honeysuckle extract in their products as a preservative – apparently it’s a natural source of parabens! So the ingredient name sounds good and natural, but the parabens are probably not what a consumer buying natural products wants.

    I’d love to try enfleuraging honeysuckle sometime. Out of curiosity, does honeysuckle tincture well?

    Reply
    1. Anya Post author

      Dear Priya:

      I have detected may synths over the years. Several applicants to the Guild unknowingly used hydroxycitronellal (a synth) when they bought “lily of the valley” (muguet!) oil from a “trusted” aromatherapy supplier. One tried to lie, saying she soaked the flowers in water (!) to extract the scent. Oy.

      The lily of the valley extract you mention may actually be real. It’s a water extract, and there are water extracts of cucumber and other things not found in perfumery that do exist for the skin care industry. I’m not familiar with natural v. unnatural parabens – maybe the natural ones are not as toxic as the synth ones? You’ll have to do that research yourself.

      By the time I got to tincturing the honeysuckle, my two little plants had died. I had forgotten to water them in a far corner of my garden. I am going to get some more and try again – and keep them watered this time!

      xoxo,
      Anya

      Reply
      1. Priya

        Thanks for your reply, Anya! From what I know the Japanese honeysuckle extract is real, but the body processes these naturally occurring parabens just the same as synth parabens.

        I’m really looking forward to tincturing when spring finally hits in earnest!

        Reply
  2. ShA'y

    thanks for sharing this important info – I find it extremely challenging especially since there does not seem to be a standard even for those claiming to play the rule of hard core natural perfumer.
    Yes, I do for sure have a healthy sense of skepticism but in this case I particularly surprised since I see it with perfumers I totally respect.
    Much Love,
    ShA’y

    Reply
    1. Anya Post author

      Dear ShA’y

      Thank you for your comment – and skepticism! There are some very high-profile folks out there who stun me with their trusting nature. One told me a few years ago that her supplier in France assured her the oils were “pure and natural”. There is no such designation in the industry, or for “therapeutic” oils for that matter. She then went on to buy blue lotus abs from India and her customer had it GC’d and it showed it was cut with DPG. The price was a giveaway first of all, and her lack of skepticism was second. What a problem for natural perfumery!

      I will stick to my assertion that there is NO one supplying 100% natural honeysuckle absolute until proven otherwise. If someone has a perfume with the stuff in it, they’re wrong, their perfumes are not 100% natural. I’d treat them gently, as they are victims of a scam, but also tell them to be more vigilant. Do you remember my “be the captain of your own fragrant ship” post?

      xoxo,
      Anya

      Reply
      1. Denise

        It was my understanding that honeysuckle absolute is being produced, but only in the orient. It never is exported under any circumstances because they use all of it themselves. I absolutely adore the scent of honeysuckle and I would love to find a way to get it, but it is starting to look impossible.

        Reply
        1. Anya Post author

          Incorrect information. China extracts dried honeysuckle flowers for medicine, not scent, the dried flowers don’t have any. There is no commercial production of honeysuckle essential oil, absolute, or CO2. It may change in the future.

          Reply
  3. Suzy

    Having studied Aromatherapy, we learned that to make sure an essential oil is natural we should put a drop of it on paper and if it disappears it truly is natural. Does this also work for absolutes? Could this be a reliable test I could always use? Would it also work for isolates? Thanks Anya. This is a great subject and the more natural perfumers are aware of it the better. Ask questions always. Sincerely, Suzy

    Reply
    1. Anya Post author

      Hi Suzy

      I never fully accepted that “drop on paper” test. I know many do, but I don’t. It certainly wouldn’t work for absolutes or isolates. For isolates, find a big, reputable dealer, like Payan Bertrand and make sure the description says ex. cymbopogon, ex rosa, ex litsea, etc.

      hth,
      Anya

      Reply
    2. Sue

      “Having studied Aromatherapy, we learned that to make sure an essential oil is natural we should put a drop of it on paper and if it disappears it truly is natural. ”

      That *rule* is a dead give-away that whereever you studied aromatherapy, the teacher was not well educated in aromatherapy or essential oils! Be as skeptical of the so-called aromatherapy experts and teachers as you are ingredient suppliers!

      Reply
  4. paula tite

    thanks for that Anya,whats your experience of traditional attars,i have a honeysuckle attar,and a few others from brokenearthnaturals and they smell very pure but now i can see i can be easily decieved.thanks Paula

    Reply
  5. Suzinn

    Hi Anya, Thanks for this post. I’m staying away from anything that sounds too good to be true and sticking with trusted sources. I also want to make my scents affordable so am using basic wildcrafted or sustainably harvested plants for essential oils, Abs & CO2’s.
    Here in the Northwest Honeysuckle abounds and last summer I made a tiny tincture (as I was pilfering from a neighbor’s vine). I just opened it up and it seems faint but honeyed though the alcohol still seems too strong a note. I changed out the flowers every 24 hours and made about 6 changes (what is the term for that?) before I my supply ran out. This summer I plan to try do more (the vine is a lot larger now).
    Suzinn

    Reply
    1. Anya Post author

      Hi Suzinn:

      See my previous reply re trusted suppliers – never drop the vigilant stance, even good folks can make mistakes.

      About your tincture: did you know the old enfleurage process called for 36 recharges of flowers!

      xoxo
      Anya

      Reply
  6. Tiziana Boccaletti

    Dear Anya,
    Your post comes at the perfect time! I just returned a shipment of attars that to my nose were completely adulterated! The supplier couldn’t supply analysis but the product had failed even the very first step of my own qualitative testing…nose, look and feel, testing strip, overall first impression…
    I think it pays to just stay with well known and trusted sources…and if the price sounds too good to be true…then it is!
    What really upsets me is how such sources insist that their product is completely natural…I usually don’t argue and just ask for a full refund!
    If you have been working with essential oils for a while and have aromatherapy experience and training trust your nose!
    Thank you for the post!
    Tiziana

    Reply
    1. Anya Post author

      Hi Tiziana:

      Even trusted suppliers can make mistakes. If they get in a new product, one that is rare or previously unknown on the contemporary market (e.g, honeysuckle), ask a LOT of questions, and if you don’t get satisfactory answers, pass. For instance, the new meyer lemon on the market. I checked it out thoroughly, and the *big* supplier, with decades of good rep behind them, and the fact that it’s an easy-to-grow and process citrus, and that I knew market demand had driven the producers to bring it to market, made sense.

      Keep on vetting!
      Anya

      Reply
  7. Susan

    Hi Everyone,
    I am always very grateful to Anya for her posts and everyone else for their feedback.
    There is so much chicanery afield, filled with fragrant land mines. I can be such Pollyana about many thing and would like to avoid being deceived. Entering into this new area of focus is a bit overwhelming. Perhaps it is because I have been reading C.B.’s book about Luca Turin, “The Emperor of Scent” which is off topic but perfectly reflects the obsessive nature of olfactory compulsion…

    Reply
  8. Fun Chiat

    I never thought of it that way, these honeysuckle oil, or flower x, y, z oils are … products in the market. But it does make sense, now that Anya offers this point of view.

    Reply
  9. Cal

    Hi I hope it’s not too late to ask questions on this 2013 post..
    I’m currently looking for honeysuckle absolute, and I found quite a few:
    Mandy Aftel — very well-respected natural perfumer; supposedly has a supplier from Italy ($75 / 5ml)
    Best Natures Cosmetic — supposedly harvested in India, then supposedly manufactured by this company in Canada, with extraction method “cold pressed”?? (Last time I checked it says CO2)

    Also, is there such thing as hyacinth absolute? These following one’s not only have honeysuckle, but also hyacinth!
    Earth Angel — really really expensive for both
    Lala’s Group — claims to use petroleum ether (enflurage?), but the honeysuckle is only $25 for 5ml and hyacinth $17 for 5ml!

    Some also sells gardenia absolute…
    Abbey Essentials (England) — sells honeysuckle & hyacinth at a more reasonable price, but they offer gardenia absolute for £12!??
    Botanical Planet (Canada) — it offers “amber absolute oil” without specifing the resin, makes me think they don’t know what they’re selling… Same story with Only Natural Essential Oil

    Reply
    1. Anya Post author

      Hi Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been busy and not tending to my blog. I do hope to be more active, so subscribe to see my upcoming posts. In my opinion, there are no true honeysuckle extracts out there. Ditto to hyacinth. I used to be able to get some, but they closed down their business.

      Reply

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