Category Archives: Anya McCoy

A Modern Perfume Organ

Sunday - 2 April 2017

I started collection essential oils and absolutes in 1966. At the time, I didn’t know my bottles of aromatics were supposed to be arranged on a tiered shelf called a perfume organ. Because I was a botanist, I categorized them by the part of the plant they were extracted from: florals, woods, leaves, etc., and kept them in plastic boxes for storage.

Later, I had a beautiful old wooden printer’s tray, which, when attached to a wall, provided a lovely display for the small bottles, but was impractical for working, and, of course, didn’t hold the larger bottles.

In 1990 or so, I stored my perfume organ in a beautiful Thai display case.

Anya McCoy with Thai display cabinet holding perfume organ oils

Anya McCoy with Thai display cabinet holding perfume organ oils

I finally located a man in Kentucky who made the wooden tiered racks for essential oils you’d see displayed in stores. I carefully measured what I perceived I’d need, and sent him the information. He constructed a lovely, modern-looking perfume organ out of pine, sweet and pale yellow and perfect for my needs – at the time.

What many perfume organs still look like, but this was only temporary. You can see the beginning of my dilutions on the bottom row. This photo is about 10 years old

What many artisans’ perfume organs still look like, but this was only temporary. You can see the beginning of my dilutions on the bottom row. This photo is about 10 years old

All my bottles, except the ones that needed refrigeration were on the organ, interspersed with the dilutions I used in everyday blending. The dilutions sat right next to the undiluted aromatics, and that was okay for a while.

The Modern Perfume Organ in Practice

Ah, visual serenity, aesthetic beauty, and so much more refined! This perfume organ should be the desired type for artisan perfumers. Modern, cost-effective, and so easy to use!

Ah, visual serenity, aesthetic beauty, and so much more refined! This perfume organ should be the desired type for artisan perfumers. Modern, cost-effective, and so easy to use!

Top notes are on the top level, middle notes, of which there are hundreds, are on middle levels, and base notes along the bottom. Why dilute your essences? It saves a lot of money, first of all. Imagine using undiluted pricey oils, like rose otto, for all of your mods. Secondly, now you get the scent of the rose “opened up” by the alcohol in the dilution, too. Two great bonuses!

Don’t ever struggle with trying to use labdanum or tobacco absolutes by the drop again! The diluted essences are very fluid.

Now only dilutions are on the perfume organ. Most are 10%, some higher, some lower. The undiluted raw materials are kept in a refrigerator, with their specific gravity noted on a blending database. You may be able to blend a perfume modification with a diluted essence, but you need the specific gravity to be able to blend any quantity. This is taught in my Intermediate Level Perfumery course. Enroll now in the Basic course, which will prepare you to further your studies at the Intermediate Level.

 

The Passion of Natural Perfumers

Thursday - 12 January 2017

The Beauty of Botanicals Made Liquid – The Passion of Natural Perfumers

This article originally appeared on Basenotes.net on Feb. 20, 2008

by Anya McCoy

20th February, 2008

This flower is at the limit of wilting or decomposition that I will allow into my tincture. On-the-spot decisions are necessary when processing botanicals, and hands-on natural perfumers become adept at the process.

This flower is at the limit of wilting or decomposition that I will allow into my tincture.  On-the-spot decisions are necessary when processing botanicals, and hands-on natural perfumers become adept at the process.

The 21st Century Revival and Redefinition of Natural Perfume by Natural Perfumers

Like everyone who has progressed with passion, training and persistence to become a perfumer, the new wave of natural perfumers started with an intense love of scents. Many can trace their formative moment – the zing of recognition – when a scent transformed their life, and put them on the path of creation. They probably smelled everything around them (as did I) from grass to dirt, flowers, other people, cement, perfume, cereal, ink, paper, plastic dolls, toys, food cooking, hair, furniture, the air before a storm, rotten wood, burning leaves – in other words, the full spectrum of fragrance in the environment. The natural environment, complex, challenging, and often sweetly rewarding enticed and enchanted us. We were hooked.

Many who love perfumes in general, whether they contain all-natural ingredients or not, cite the kiss goodnight from a mother swathed in evening clothes, diffusing an exotic perfume as she bent over them before setting out to a party as a defining moment, a moment when perfume’s magic of transformation of their mother into an otherworldly, fragrant unknown star in the sky touched them deeply. Perfume profoundly moves us, and natural essences move us the most – we are entranced with their beauty, complexity and “aliveness.”

When the synthetic chemical scents coumarin and vanillin were discovered in the 1880’s, they were quickly added to the corporate perfumer’s palette, and natural perfumery as it had existed up until then disappeared. Looking back in time perhaps four or five generations, it must be acknowledged everyone who loved perfume knew only perfume with synthetics blended in with the naturals.

Whether floral and discreet, or Oriental and animalic, loaded with civet, musk, castoreum and ambergris, the all-natural perfumes created in the pre-synthetics era disappeared.

The pre-1890 natural perfumer had a rather limited range of aromatics to choose from, as many of the Indian and Asian essences we now have easy access to were not used in western perfumery at that time. Today, champaca, lotus, ambrette, agarwood and many other exotics round out the number of botanicals available to the natural perfumer. That, along with the adoption of classic French techniques of blending using top, middle and base notes, helps differentiate the modern natural perfumer from the 19th Century one.

A look back to the 19th Century would be little more than an intellectual exercise for a perfumer without the eternal beauty and complexity of the fragrant botanical extracts to kindle the fire of passion in the modern natural perfumer.

Since aromatherapy had opened the doors of small-scale distribution of essential oils, all the natural perfumer had to do was nudge open a few more doors, and suppliers were providing them with concretes and absolutes, attars and other raw materials. The aromatic palette was complete, and the niche field of modern natural perfumery was launched.

Some of the beginner natural perfumers liked, and had, all sorts of perfumes in their possession, from the classics like Chanel No. 5 to modern niche Serge Lutens creations. Still others professed a dislike to the strong sillage and diffusion modern perfumes. There was no common ground on like or dislike of perfumes containing synthetic chemical – only a professed love of natural aromatics.

Yes, even though they had easy access to aromachemicals – synthetic versions of the naturals, and fantasy scents – they chose to work with only naturals.

Why have you decided to be a “naturals-only” perfumer is a question we often get. The person asking the question may list the negatives:

Your raw materials are very expensive.
Your perfumes don’t last as long as those with synthetics, and they don’t have great diffusivity or sillage.
The raw materials are difficult to work with.
You’re artisans, often working out of a spare room in their house, isolated.
You have to for the most part, train yourselves and fund your own business.
You have to search out distribution networks, or, more realistically, depend on the internet or local stores for sales.
You realize they’ll never get rich at this, or have a corporate safety net.

We answer – Because.

Because:

We’re in it for the art.
We regard the natural essences as providing the richest, most beautiful, complex, challenging liquid artform to work with.
The fragrances evolve on the skin in a way synthetics don’t, and captive us with their slow, seductive nuances.
We don’t like big-volume perfumes with a lot of sillage or diffusivity.
We like subtle, complex aromatics that stay close to the wearer’s body and evolve slowly on the skin.
We take delight and pleasure in experiencing a unique natural aromatic.
The discovery and unlocking of a complex accord within a natural is rewarding.
The ability to connect on a level that speaks to an eternal fragrance is wonderful e.g., the cypriol we use is the same cypriol that was used in ancient Egypt.
The excitement of being in on the ground floor of a new art as it develops, and realizing that if we’ve come this far in approximately five years, how far we can go with natural perfumery in the next fifty?

Natural Perfumers create perfumes from 100% natural aromatics

There is no competition with mainstream perfumery. We’re just two different artforms, like oil painting is different from digital art. There are completely different aesthetics, mediums and results, and so it is and will always continue to be. These parallel arts will always have things in common, such as the need to respond to market trends, sourcing, R&D, and the need to always keep learning, keep on top of the perfumery and keep current, and that is our common ground.

Natural perfumers will always create for those who appreciate hand-made items from natural sources, and they are fortunate to live in the time of the internet and global transport that delivers raw aromatics and customers orders to their studio, allowing them to develop their art and business outside of the closed world of corporate perfumery schools.

We have a pronounced advantage in our pioneering of tincturing and infusing rare botanicals for our own use. Natural perfumers are as apt to create their own jasmine bases and tuberose tinctures as buy it from the supplier, if they have a garden to grow the botanical in. Others are tincturing seeds and soil to recreate some of the more exotic scents out of India, such as ambrette and mitti, which is soil attar.

And the clincher? Our mothers, who first turned us on to the world of perfume love our scents, and we now give back to them and their generation our liquid treasures, botanicals made liquid – naturally.

You may wish to sample the creations of the Certified Natural Perfumers in the Natural Perfumers Guild. Their perfumes undergo a rigorous certification process and are also held to high standards of packaging and ingredient transparency. http://NaturalPerfumers.com

Natural Perfumers Guild logo

Natural Perfumers Guild logo

Distilling Cornutia grandifolia for perfume and health

Thursday - 29 October 2015

I’ve long been obsessed with a tropical member of the Mint family Labiatae and focused on obtaining some plants of it to grow in my fragrant garden. They were harder to find than I imagined, but I got two in small pots about a year and a half ago. You can read more about them here.

These plants are as aggressive in their growth habit as mints; instead of growing horizontally via runners, they grow vertically, leaping skyward at an astonishing rate. I don’t fertilize them, and they don’t have any pests or diseases. On a sunny Sunday in Miami, Angie and Julia showed up to harvest them and we worked together on the distillation of the big, soft, velvety, fragrant leaves. The leaves smell like a combination of balsam, tobacco, mint, and sweetness.

Angie and Julia harvesting the Cornutia grandifolia leaves

Angie and Julia harvesting the Cornutia grandifolia leaves

This photo gives you a sense of the size of the leaves: “grandifolia” for sure. Some are as big as your head, most will cover your hand, even with fingers outstretched.

Julia harvesting cornutia

Julia harvesting cornutia; a context shot to show the size of the leaves, and the height of the plant

Here’s a shot of a leaf covering my hand:

Cornutia leaf covering my hand - with Lulu looking on

Cornutia leaf covering my hand – with Lulu looking on

Once the branches were harvested, they were brought immediately inside, and the leaves were stripped off of them, and torn into pieces. From harvest to distillation pot, approximately a half hour. Cornutia is amazing: no insects, no diseases, very healthy foliage. We did find one ladybug who hitched a ride inside!

Angie and Julia starting to process the leaves for the distillation pot. It soon got serious and focused, with the three of us around the table. We then weighed the leaves, and got over four pounds for the hydro pot and the steam column.

Angie and Julia starting to process the leaves for the distillation pot. It soon got serious and focused, with the three of us around the table. We then weighed the leaves, and got over four pounds for the hydro pot and the steam column.

Angie kept meticulous records throughout, and she is still refining the record sheet to adjust it as we learn more of the process.

So the retort (hydrodistillation pot) and the steam column were packed, and we used Ann Barker Harmon’s book Harvest to Hydrosol as a guide, finding the ratios of water to plant material very helpful.

The beautiful 20L copper alembic is from The Essential Oil Company, and is adaptable for either hydrosol or essential oil production. It’s the minimum size required for essential oil, as the yields of that are typically very low, so you need a critical mass of plant material to get some. We were happy to get hydrosol, because distillate waters have a beauty and magic all their own, and we wanted to explore this rare plant’s hydrosol.

There is an overuse of the sealing tape, because we're beginners and were nervous about steam escaping, but we're pretty happy about the set up for the distillation itself, and have captioned it to help convey the logistics of the process.

There is an overuse of the sealing tape, because we’re beginners and were nervous about steam escaping, but we’re pretty happy about the set up for the distillation itself, and have captioned it to help convey the logistics of the process. One correction: the arrow for “warm water out” should be pointing in the opposite direction of the “cold water in” arrow. It flows from the top of the condenser back to the ice chest where it is cooled again.

We were so excited when the hydrosol started dripping into the jar, I had to remove the sound from the video! 🙂 Anyway, this may be the first-ever video of Cornutia grandifolia being distilled in the USA.

This is my first attempt to embed a youtube video into a blog post, I hope it works.

The first part of a hydrosol that appears is called the “head”, and it is typically very beautiful, sweet, perhaps full of esters. Not only did the Cornutia fill that description, it was the palest of silvery blue. I was wondering if it might contain chamazulene, the antiinflammatory agent in Roman Chamomile. The undersides of the leaves are silvery, and maybe the blue is present because of the blue flowers – which we did not distill, but might be present in other parts of the plant. After I posted about this on Jeanne Rose’s Hydrosols group on Facebook, she informed us that the flowers are mixed with lime(stone?) in France to make a blue ink.

Here is a photo of the “head” hydrosol:

The "head of the hydrsol captures the sweetest, prettiest notes. We got about 16 ounces.

The “head of the hydrsol captures the sweetest, prettiest notes.

We then switched to another sterile jar, and go the “body” of the hydrosol, and all the time, including while the “head” was processing, we were chatting about the scents we were observing coming from the still. Artichoke, ghee, floral, tobacco, mint were the first observations. Then in the “body” the artichoke receded a bit, and a balsam scent came through. I think we were a little perplexed, because we had never smelled anything like this before. We all agreed that the fragrance was strong, and an analogy could be made that it was a big and powerful looking as the plant and leaves.

I feel the hydrosol could be used in perfume, a tiny bit added to round out and give a complex, beautiful note.

When we detected that the scent coming out of the distillation was going flat, we knew we had reached the “tail” or end of the great-smelling distillate.The hydrosol was now finished, so we turned off the gas, capped the jar, and began the process of disassembling and cleaning the still – no easy task! Angie and Julia were so helpful, I can’t thank them enough.

Here is what the spent Cornutia leaves from the retort pot looked like when we took the column off:

The spent Cornutia leaves after the distillation is over. Looking down into the retort pot. We were surprised at the green leaves that survived the heat.

The spent Cornutia leaves after the distillation is over. Looking down into the retort pot. We were surprised at the green leaves that survived the heat.

Ann Harman’s book has instructions for evaluating the marc, how to examine the texture and look of the plant material, and despite the few odd green leaves, the marc fit the description of what it should look and feel like. You also have to examine the marc in the column, the part that was steam distilled. There were no dry spots, no areas where the steam did not pass through, so we felt pretty good about the project.

We now have almost two liters of “body” hydrosol distillate, and slightly less than one pint of “head”. We all took samples of the “body” to evaluate as it slightly aged. Over the course of this week, the artichoke has disappeared, and some sage notes, and then black tea notes (it even smells like sweetened iced tea!) have emerged along with floral, balsam, and others that are hard to define. No, no essential oil. Perhaps like the other Mint family plant that yields *very* little essential oil – Lemon Balm – this plant is to be prized for its hydrosol. What are the medicinal properties? Good question.

Angie Gonzales is an Ayurvedic practitioner and she will be delving into the large body of Spanish language written materials on this plant . It’s an ancient, powerful medicinal plant, and there have been a number of studies done on its medicinal properties in Central and South America. Since it was used by the Mayans, and Angie is from Mexico, she feels a special affinity for it. We will be reporting more on this wonderful plant in the future. Subscribe to this blog to be informed when we update it regarding Cornutia.

New Natural Perfumery Course Textbook Cover and a Giveaway

Thursday - 9 October 2014

Natural Perfumery Institute cover. Textbook written by Anya McCoy.

The cover for the perfumery course textbook at the Natural Perfumery Institute was due for a re-design. I love the new look, shown above, and I hope you do, too.  The cover now cheerfully and correctly illustrates some of the raw materials of perfumery, from roses and vanilla to frankincense, and will be bound into a high-quality paperback. There are some final tweaks being worked on for the back cover, and I have to update a few items inside the book before I have a draft published. The new textbook should be available in a month or less.

I left the image of the beachside bottle full of flowers, ferns, shells and a clock on the cover, a holdover from the past textbook covers. I love the way that image shows the diversity of elements we perfumers use, from onland flora, to oceanic offerings, such as seashells and seaweed, all brewing together with an important element – time.

Now I’d love for you to help me, and maybe win a lovely educational prize in return. I have a survey for potential students, or those who would like to weigh in on a subject regarding studies:

1. Would you prefer a definite start date for studies, such as I had originally for students, with modules starting and ending on a specific date?

2. Would you prefer the “opt-in anytime signup” for studies now in place, and study at your own pace?

Leave an answer by Oct 31, 2014, and be in the random drawing for one of two prizes:

1. A free copy of the new textbook and enrollment in the course with the Independent Study option.

or

2. If you’re currently a student, once your course is completed, you’ll receive a $200 discount off the tuition of the next level of study.

Remember, leave a comment to be in the drawing. You can read more about the Independent Study option at http://PerfumeClasses.com Thank you for your feedback!

Tip: Use the Subscribe link on the right to either subscribe to my blog, or, if you’re entered in this giveaway, subscribe to the comments so you’ll receive notification about the winner.

Jasmine and Gardenia flowers ready for making perfume!

Friday - 22 August 2014

Jasmines and gardenias smell so beautiful in a cool, early Miami morning. Heavy with dew, this is little early to harvest them for enfleurage or tincture, because the sun needs to work its magic and burn off the dew and warm up the flowers, so they’ll release their scent.

Jasminum grandiflorum on trellis. Hundreds of rare, beautiful smelling flowers.

Jasminum grandiflorum on trellis. Hundreds of rare, beautiful smelling flowers.

Tahitian gardenias, aka Tiare flowers, are very rare in the United States. A beautiful shrub of this fragrant beauty is on the path to my front door.

Tahitian gardenia flower aka Tiare flower, heavy with morning dew

Tahitian gardenia flower aka Tiare flower, heavy with morning dew

Jasminium azoricum is very, very rare. The flowers smell like jasmine with a hint of vanilla. The vine is very vigorous, and has covered a big hibiscus plant, where they live in harmony. So, I have a hibiscus-jasmine shrub at the end of my driveway, measuring 10′ tall and 15′ wide.

Jasmine azoricum vine covering huge hibiscus shrub. Look closely to see some red hibiscus flowers peeking out.

Jasmine azoricum vine covering huge hibiscus shrub. Look closely to see some red hibiscus flowers peeking out.

Closeup of the delicate jasmine azoricum flowers.

Jasmine azoricum flowers bloom year round! Sweet, gentle scent.

Jasmine azoricum flowers bloom year round! Sweet, gentle perfume scent.

I encourage you to grow flowers and other fragrant plants to make perfume from, it’s a delightful hobby, or, if you’re an artisan perfumer like me,

Anya’s Garden Perfumed Morning

Wednesday - 6 August 2014

I’m so thankful for the assistance of my apprentice Paula Diaz and Jimmy in renovating my front garden. Edged, mulched beds full of fragrant flowers and leaves look so beautiful, and the plants are so healthy now with proper care. I’ve had some really poor gardeners wreck part of my gardens in the past few years, but Paula and Jimmy have helped undo the poor pruning, weed control and other afflictions the poor gardeners imposed on my fragrant environment.

This is a photo of what I see when I look out my front door in the morning. It’s hard to get the flowers and plants all in focus, due to the light and dark shadows, and the depth of field setting. I fiddled with the settings until I got this long shot, and I’m happy with it, and I hope you enjoy it.

You’ll see a mulched area next to the frangipani. They had to clear out some damaged jasmine sambac “Maid of Orleans”, and it’s now awaiting roses and more gardenias. In the cooler winter months, I’ll have a lot more turf removed out front, and extend all the planting beds. I can’t wait!

Here are some photos for you to enjoy. I wish you could enjoy the scent of the huge jasmine grandiflorum vine by my front door. It has hundreds of blossoms each day! You can click on the images to enlarge.

Anya's front perfumed garden

A long shot of what I see from my front door.

The Tahitian Tiare Gardenia is still dewy.

The Tahitian Tiare Gardenia is still dewy.

Ylang flowers ripen at different rates, so harvesting is carried out in the morning and at night, for months on end. There are numerous clusters like this all over the tree, providing a huge harvest

Ylang flowers ripen at different rates, so harvesting is carried out in the morning and at night, for months on end. There are numerous clusters like this all over the tree, providing a huge harvest

The flowers typically grow in deep shade in the interior of the tree, nestled under huge branches with huge, sheltering leaves. This cluster is on the east/morning side of the tree, and is a little more sun-loving.

The flowers typically grow in deep shade in the interior of the tree, nestled under huge branches with huge, sheltering leaves. This cluster is on the east/morning side of the tree, and is a little more sun-loving.

Vietnamese gardenias are so architectural, I love them!

Vietnamese gardenias are so architectural, I love them!

And that’s what a hot, steamy morning in Anya’s Garden is like! I just wish you could smell it live, but rest assured, many of these flowers make it into my perfumes.

Please vote on the photo for the Perfume From Your Garden Book

Sunday - 3 August 2014

Can you vote on this? I found the first photo of me with a plant, a tiny tomato plant to my left, from when I was only one and half years old. I want to use the photo in the Perfume From Your Garden book, so I scanned the original 1950s-typical-blurry-Kodak-brownie-camera photo at 600 dpi and sent it to a ‘restore’ service online. Three revisions, I still don’t like the ‘restored’ one. I think they just cranked up the contrast and it looks fake. Should I use the original on the left, or the ‘restored’ on the right. I need some objective opinions on this. T

Anya McCoy - one and a half years old, first tomato plant on stake next to fence. Already a gardener!

Anya McCoy – one and a half years old, first tomato plant on stake next to fence. Already a gardener!

hanks in advance!

Winner of the Natural Perfume Materials book by Naves and Mayuzer is…

Wednesday - 2 July 2014

Helene, who posted on the 28th

Here's a golden gardenia for Helene! Photo from logees.com

Here’s a golden gardenia for Helene! Photo from logees.com

Helene’s name was drawn at random, and she has been notified by private email. I’m so happy for her! This book is a true treasure for perfumers, there is nothing like it out there. Thank you to everyone who entered here and on Facebook, your enthusiasm was wonderful, I can tell you were as excited by the re-discovery of powder enfleurage as I was, and I hope some are already using the technique.

For those who tried to click on the link to download the .pdf version of the book, or the link to view it online, I think all the traffic crashed the agricultural site in India! For whatever reason, with thousands of hits from my newsletter readers, Facebook followers, and others who found out about it via social media, the links no longer work.

I have my webmistress working on the solution. She’s uploading the .pdf to one of my websites, as part of an autoresponder. More later, hopefully later today.

UPDATE: You can now download the .pdf of the Natural Perfume Materials book directly from my website. It’s the only place we have set up for an autoresponder that will give you a confirmation link to the download page, via registering for my newsletter. You can unsub from the newsletter, if you like (but I think you’ll like it, give it a try for a few issues) at any time, of course. There are two other free documents available when you register. go to http://perfumeclasses.com/ Thanks for all your interest in my post about powder enfleurage, and thanks for all your lovely comments on this blog.

PS: I’d encourage y’all to subscribe to my blog, so you get updates, and get in on giveaways I’ll host in the future.

Surprise! A Natural Perfumery Treasure – Free Online

Tuesday - 1 July 2014

(Update — Thanks to the three readers who did find it downloadable on this site at http://krishikosh.egranth.ac.in/bitstream/1/2031806/1/27102.pdf ) I will be so excited tonight when I get to draw the name of the winner of the print copy of the iconic natural perfumery book Natural Perfume Materials by Naves and Mazayur (1947). It was at the bottom of p. 40 where I found a passage on powder enfleurage that inspired my experiments and the giveaway. Click here to read more, including specific instructions on how to accomplish powder and vapor essence enfleurage.

But it just gets better! I began to search around the Internet, hoping to find a .pdf version of the book for sale, because although I love to hold a book in my hands and flip pages, moving back and forth as I research, a .pdf version is great for searching specific terms, and quite speedy. I didn’t find a .pdf, but I did locate a free Adobe Flash version of the book, and it’s great. The pages can be enlarged, the contrast is crisp and clear, and it is searchable. Cllick here to read the book, bookmark this site for your online library, and enjoy this vintage book, full of incredible information and history. I love sharing information about perfumery, and although I realize you may not wish to study perfumery, you may enjoy delving into the processes by which these lovely botanicals are turned into gorgeous essences. You may also have someone in your life who is interested in studying perfumery, and this book will be a great aid to them. My best wishes for enjoyment with this book!

PS Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog (right column) and subscribe to the individual blog you are commenting in, to ensure you get follow up comments.

Illustrations and Table of Contents from Natural Perfume Materials by Naves and Mazuyer

Illustrations and Table of Contents from Natural Perfume Materials by Naves and Mazuyer. Click to enlarge.

Powder Enfleurage! An Ancient Fragrant Art And a Giveaway

Thursday - 26 June 2014

How to Make Enfleurage des Poudres – Powder Enfleurage

Fragrant Body Powders – An Ancient Art Rediscovered      

Update April 19, 2015: I do recommend using a bit of powdered orris root or powdered oakmoss as a fixative. The ylang ylang enfleurage was overpoweringly strong at first, but the scent faded over time. I’m going to mix orris root in with the powder and re-enfleurge the flowers.

(make sure you read to the end to discover how to win the fabulous giveaway prize!)

On June 15, I was working on the first re-edit of my upcoming book Perfume From Your Garden, checking references, when I stumbled across a few sentences in a vintage perfumer book that stopped me, and truly surprised me with some wonderful information.

The process of enfleurage des poudres aka powder enfleurage, the manufacture of powders perfumed by flowers, is very ancient. The process takes place by simple contact, in a closed receptacle, and the flowers are removed and replaced with carefully chosen and sorted ones. The authors state that this ancient process was the inspiration to the French for oil and pomade enfleurage that they began in the 17th century.

I immediately knew I had found some incredible, long-lost art form. So many artisans are now enfleuraging with oil and pomades, the use of powder is an easy adaptation. So, I decided to post an excerpt from the book, ahead of publication, so that readers could enjoy this new process with the lovely summer flowers in their gardens. I hope you enjoy this!

From the rough draft I’m inserting into the Perfume From Your Garden manuscript:

“Powders treated in this manner included the plant powders, orris, ambrette, oakmoss; amylaceous matter, starch and faecula;* and minerals, crayon and talc; the flowers used included jasmine, hyacinth, jonquil, orange flower, nutmeg. rose, mignonette, tuberose, and even wallflower and lily-of-the-valley. By an analogous process, hides and gloves have been perfumed with the same flowers, and also with violet and crimson carnation.

It is to these long-abandoned methods that we trace the modern experiments with enfleurage with pulverized solid adsorbents.”

From Natural Perfume Materials, Naves and Mazuyer, 1947

*amylaceous and starch are synonyms and faecula means a starch made from plants or seeds.

I felt like an archaeologist who had stumbled upon a long-forgotten (in authors Naves and Mazuyer’s words, “long-abandoned”) method that was the reason that other methods came into being, like the cold and hot enfleurage processes detailed in this book. What a revelation that garden perfumers can capture the scent of gardenias, magnolias, roses, lily-of-the-valley, heliotrope, linden, and dozens of other fragrant plants in a luxurious, true-to-scent, body powder. For historical purposes, I was also thrilled by the mention of the glove and leather scented processes mentioned, as they gave birth to the first perfumers guilds, as I am the head of the Natural Perfumers Guild. Further research showed that these powder enfleurages were the methods used, in the early perfume industry in France, to produce dusting or body powders, not mixing essential oils and absolutes with powder, which is a new method. “What’s old is new again”.

True, nowadays, many artisans, copying the methods of the larger cosmetics industry, make these aromatic powders by adding essential oils, dried powdered flowers, and absolutes to a base powder such as arrowroot, tapioca root, non-GMO corn, and some clays. But how many have true gardenia absolute? Or use pricey rose essential oils or absolute? Since many artisan perfumers around the world are reviving enfleurage, I am happy to present to everyone this most ancient enfleurage method. For the two decades I have been on perfumery forums and discussion groups, read ancient perfumery books, and followed blogs and spoken with perfumers, and I never found anybody writing about this method. I’m going to focus on a few rare flowers in my garden, like ylang ylang, golden champaca, various jasmines, and Vietnamese and Tahitian gardenias. Well, at least that’s my start! Imagine capturing the scent of your summer roses, lavender, or other delicious plant in powder, and using the results as gifts.

I immediately got some arrowroot powder and harvested some of my ylang ylang flowers and tested the process. Great success! With only one enfleurage, using eighteen ylang ylang flowers and about 2.5 pounds (approx. 1100g) of arrowroot, within one day I had a highly-scented powder. The next day I only had six ylangs to add, but the strong scent of the one day/eighteen flowers almost took my breath away! The next day, when my apprentice Paula came by, she harvested more, and we were almost overcome by the strong scent! She actually asked “is it possible to infuse too much scent?” I replied that if that’s the case, we can just “dilute” it with more powder. We both commented on how the ylang powder scent was so much richer, and intoxicating than the living flowers or the oils – it was overwhelmingly sensual!

anya mccoy's ylang flower powder enfleurage

Eighteen organic ylang flowers from my garden in arrowroot powder, about to be covered in more powder

anya mccoy's ylang flower powder enfleurage

Gently tapping the cover powder over the ylangs to ensure contact between the flower petals and powder. The tray cover was then put in place to cover and keep the scent in.

Powder enfleurage is the easiest and quickest way to draw the fragrance of botanicals into a usable product. Small children can easily make this with adult supervision. Powders are made by simply placing the flowers or leaves (I’m using scented geraniums and mints) in a layer, in a powder. I recommend arrowroot, tapioca root, rice, or non-gmo cornstarch. I would add powdered orris root, or powdered ambrette seed in small amounts to the finished powder as fixatives. You may have to purchase them, because they’re rarely grown in home gardens, but it’s well worth it to have a fixative to make your powder enfleurage last longer. The enfleurage is made in a closed container, and the flowers are sifted out and replaced by recharges. I love to use mint leaves, scented geranium leaves, any flower, and citrus peels with the white pith removed. You may wish to mix a lot of different botanicals together, and make a millefleurs poudre, or you may wish to stick to one scent. My first powder enfleurage was just ylang ylang flowers and arrowroot powder. Heavenly! You can always decide at a later date to mix your one-scent poudres to make a unique dusting powder. If you study perfumery, either by taking classes, or a course, or study on your own, you’ll love this addition to your scented products.

Equipment Needed

o   Choice #1: Scentless powder, such as arrowroot, tapioca non-gmo cornstarch, rice flour, or one that you may prefer. I recommend at least one pound, 454 grams, to start.

o   A closed container, that is shallow, a rectangular or square shape is best, such as a restaurant steamer tray, with a lid that fits snugly. They come in various sizes, so choose one that suits your current project.

o   Drying rack or flat surface if very moist botanicals needs to wilt slightly. Towels, cheesecloth or other porous material spread over an object like an oven rack or screen can work for this purpose.

o   Freshly-picked botanicals that are allowed to wilt slightly, if necessary, in a cool, dark place, placed on the drying rack described above.

o   A spatula, offset spatula, big spoon, or piece of stiff cardboard to move the top layer of powder for recharges.

o   Chopstick, fork, or other implement to check on the stage of dryness.

o   A pan sieve or stainless-steel strainer, or just your hands to remove the botanicals.

o   A chopstick or other instrument to gently tap powder off the botanical when you remove it for recharges.

o   Stainless steel sieve.

o   A decorative container, either with an attached lid with holes to shake the powder out, or a removable lid and a powder puff. Vintage ones are available on Etsy or other Internet sites.

How to Prepare and Process the Powder Enfleurage

  1. This extraction process should be conducted indoors, with no fans on.
  2. Harvest the botanical, and let it dry slightly if it’s extremely moist, (eg lush flowers, mint leaves).  Generally, they should be harvested when they are dry, not after a rain, or when morning dew is on them. Take care not to bruise the botanicals.
  3. Empty the powder of choice in the container, using half the powder for the base.
  4. Use an offset spatula to smooth the powder (optional).
  5. Place the botanical on the powder base, not overlapping, just having the edges touch.
  6. Put the remainder of the powder on the botanical.
  7. Press the powder down gently to ensure surface contact between the botanical and powder. I use a piece of cardboard, or a broad spatula.
  8. Cover the container.
  9. Place the container indoors in a warm, dry place, out of the sun.
  10. Check the botanical for dryness once a day. You want it to be very dry, with no moisture remaining. It typically will be dry in one day.
  11. When dry, take care not to greatly disturb the powder as you either carefully remove the botanical by hand.
  12. Gently tap the botanical with a chopstick to release clinging powder. There will always be some powder remaining on it, that’s unavoidable, but you want to get the excess off, back into the extraction container.
  13. Move about half the powder with a spatula to one end of the container, making a small mound.
  14. Leave a layer of powder on the bottom of the container, allowing this layer to be about 80-90% of the surface area of the bottom.
  15. Recharge the botanical as described in Step 3, and put the top layer of powder back in the container, repeat Steps 5 – 8.
  16. When the powder is scented to your liking, stop recharging with the botanical.
  17. Use a sieve or strainer to remove any last bits of the botanical from the powder, if necessary.
  18. Place the powder in the container of your choice, label with powder used, botanical used, number of recharges, and the date.

It’s summer in the northern hemisphere, and many of you have gardens bursting with beautiful flowers. My friend Andrine just harvested linden flowers and buds in Seattle and is using powder enfleurage to extract their scent.

How to Use Powder Enfleurages

The powder enfleurages can be packaged into nonporous containers to help them retain scent. You can choose screw-top plastic shaker bottles, like those sold in the store for baby powder, cardboard tube powder dispensers (may allow the scent to evaporate over time), metal shaker top canisters, or powder boxes that look pretty on a vanity or bureau. These can be modern or vintage, and a fluffy powder puff is delightful to use, as it brings a very feminine touch to getting dressed.

If you decide to make powder enfleurages to use as deodorants, you may want to choose a shaker top container, so you just have to shake a little into your fingers for application.

Vapor Essence Powder Enfleurage

Two days ago, as I was falling asleep, which is always a great time for ideas to slip into your consciousness, I realized that it would be possible to infuse scented vapors from resins, powdered woods, and incenses into the powder! A few years ago I blogged about the incense warmers sold by Katlyn Breene of Mermade Magickal arts and how they made it possible for me to use incense again. I had become allergic to smoke, but the warmers didn’t produce smoke, they warmed the botanical so that the aromatic vapors filled the room. See below to photos of how I rigged the Golden Lotus Incense Warmer in a restaurant steamer tray and infused the powder with myrrh. The result is gorgeous, and I’ll be infusing frankincense, powdered aloeswood, sandalwood and other botanicals into the powder soon. This way, you get soft, perfumed powder without any ground resins in it, which can get gummy on the skin.

anya mccoy leveling powder enfleurage base

Leveling the powder base for vapor essence enfleurage.

anya mccoy myrrhpowder enfleurage

The Golden Lotus Incense Warmer from Mermade Magickal Arts with Myrrh nestled in powder enfleurage tray.

Myrrh powder enfleurage trays covered with tape over cutout for power cord.

Myrrh powder enfleurage trays covered with tape over cutout for power cord.

Thanks for reading this far, and now the big giveaway: a copy of the Naves and Mazuyer book Natural Perfume Materials, 1947. This book is incredible! It’s typically costs about $200 if you can find it on reseller sites. The gods were smiling on my discovery because two days after I found the tiny passage in the book about the powder enfleurage, I noticed somebody had it on eBay and I won the bid, so I can share my second copy with a reader who does the following:

1. Leave a comment here.

2. Visit my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/AnyasGardenPerfumes and “like” the page. That will give you two entries!

3. Please share the post about this that’s on the Facebook page, and anywhere else on social media you like. I really want to get this out to artisans, who can begin working on this new art immediately.

Contest ends 11:59 PM Tuesday, July 1, 2014. Winner will be drawn randomly and announced on Thursday, July 3, 2014. Book will be mailed Priority, insured, with winner receiving tracking number. If book is lost or destroyed in transit, offer will be rescinded, and alternative prize awarded, but every effort will be made to replace book for thirty days. It’s a rare and pricey book, so let’s hope the mail system delivers it safely. 🙂