In 2003, a member of the Natural Perfumery group I host on Yahoo got in touch with the folks at Allured Publishing (Now Allured Business Media) and asked them if they could make the Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin (PFMNO) book available aside from the three-volume set written by Steffen Arctander. The other two volumes held little interest to natural perfumers, since they were on the subject of synthetics.
It was very difficult to find the PFMNO on eBay or other places for less than a small fortune, often around $700. I had snagged a book for $117 on UK eBay from a retired perfume chemist, but that was a rare score. Allured responded positively, and began selling the volume for about $350, if I recall correctly. That was great, and many snapped it up. I developed a relationship with Allured, and they gave 20-30% off with a coupon code I could publicize. What a great resource for us natural perfumers.
In the past few years, Allured has offered fewer books that before, and they are I suppose going through a business model re-do. The main publication I look forward to every month is Perfumery and Flavorist magazine, it’s relevant and educational.
So what is the PFMNO book about? Most regard it as the best reference for plant and animal essences used in perfume and flavors. I turn to it often, to clarify a point, dig deeper into research, or sometimes just for fun, to muse about these delightful fragrances we have for our art.
Imagine my surprise when I visited Abe Books, a supplier of used books I love for their great prices, and found that they’re now printing PFMNO on demand through Create Space, the branch of Amazon that prints on-demand books. This is where I get my textbook printed (unabashed plug: my perfume course is professional and comprehensive, and comes with a 350-page textbook).
Just visit this page on Abe Books and order PFMNO and you won’t be sorry you did. In fact, you should rejoice in this new age of fabulous opportunity to own such a classic book.
A perfume of color changeable tinctures from an organic garden in Miami, Florida. Read about a giveaway of this perfume, below.
Sustainable, cold-process extraction process of plant fragrance debuts
Launched May 31, 2017
Anya McCoy, perfumer, botanist, and founder of Anya’s Garden Perfumes in Miami has released Strange Magic, the first perfume composed of about 95% organic fragrant tinctures. Strange Magic is made with tinctures that reveal hidden colors in the flowers, leaves, and roots when they were placed in the alcohol. Anya has tinctured for herbal purposes for forty years, and for perfume purposes for twenty years. It wasn’t until she dropped snow white Michelia alba flowers into the alcohol and saw the alcohol turn pink, then red, then dark red that she realize there was some hidden secrets in some flowers – Strange Magic.
The magic appeared a few years ago when she dropped a handful of white Michelia alba flowers into 190 proof alcohol. She wanted to make a fragrant tincture of this delicious smelling flower to add to her array of natural raw materials for her perfumes. As soon as the flowers started to sink into the alcohol, the alcohol took on a pink tinge. It was quite startling, and by the second day, the alcohol was a light shade of crimson. The more flowers added to recharge the alcohol with scent, the deeper red the menstruum got, eventually becoming burgundy/opaque. Some said it was the dyes or waxes in the flowers revealing themselves, but she said it was Strange Magic.
Plant dyes have been known for thousands of years, but the colors extracted are somewhat related to the original plant material’s color. Onion skins make a golden dye, blueberries a bluish dye, and so on.
This was different.
She’s tinctured herbs, woods, roots, leaves, and flowers for many years, beginning with simplers herbal tinctures. What an epiphany the white champaca flowers were. Numerous tinctures that had changed color now flooded her consciousness. The yellow ylang ylang flowers turned the alcohol olive green, and eventually opaque, like the Michelia.
White jasmines such as the sambac Grand Duke of Tuscany turned deep gold. White gardenias and tuberoses again – deep gold. She had been using the orangy/brown jasmine absolutes and concretes from the 70s, but never put the color change together until the white champaca. She’d never seen any talk of the color change on any of the aromatherapy or perfume forums she’d been on for decades, other than the color change mentioned was the blue azulene color that developed when chamomiles were distilled, everyone seemed entranced by that. The azulene is not present in the fresh flowers, but develops in the distillation process.But white jasmines turning orangy/brown? No. No discussion.
Ylang Ylang essential oil is pale yellow. The absolute of the same flower? Green. Her tincture? Dark Green. It’s the alcohol wash of the concrete that reveals the green color, and the alcohol menstruum I used.
Well, it’s time to honor the Strange Magic of color change that happens, don’t you think?
Here are a few color-changing plants in Strange Magic, but not all are listed – after all, magic needs a bit of secrecy:
|Aglaia: yellow flowers||Dark amber tincture|
|Orris: pale white rhizome||Bright coral, orange tincture|
|Chamomiles: white flowers||Blue oils when distilled|
|Gardenias: white flowers||Dark amber tincture|
|Jasmines: white flowers||Deep amber tincture (some, not all)|
|White Champaca: white flowers||Crimson red to dark red tincture|
|Ylang ylang: yellow flowers||Olive green to dark green tincture|
|Cashmere Bouquet Clerodendrum: white flowers||Deep red tincture|
|Vintage white ambergris from Vanuatu||Orange tincture|
Artisan perfumers can work with sustainable fragrance materials with a “grow your own” plan to harvest and tincture the fragrant plants. If they can garden, and have suitable space in the garden, it’s possible to lessen the carbon footprint associated with purchasing essential oils and absolutes. All that’s needed is 190 proof alcohol, and harvesting and recharging the alcohol to make the tincture strong with fragrance.
It is not a fast or rushed process: Anya and her assistants spent many hours over the years hand-harvesting the flowers, placing them in alcohol, straining them out, recharging them over and over. If you know the heat and humidity of Miami, you know the dedication this took. Some tinctures have been recharged dozens of times to reach the scent strength desired. Still, it is worth it because the cold process, with no heat destroying some of the more delicate floral notes, and the sustainability of producing some of the raw product on-site are dual bonuses of the eco-conscious perfumer.
Anya is currently in discussions with publishers about a book she has written Perfume From Your Garden. It’s the first of its kind, detailing extraction methods for the perfumer, soaper, gardener, hobbyist, or DIYer who wishes to capture the fragrant plants from their garden at the height of their beauty.
Samples and 15ml spray bottles of Strange Magic are available at http://anyasgarden.com/store.htm
Until June 20, 2017, there is a chance for you to win Strange Magic by registering and commenting on the Cafleurebon review of the perfume.
Founder and Instructor at Natural Perfumery Institute http://perfumeclasses.com
Owner and CEO at Natural Perfumers Guild http://naturalperfumers.com
Owner/Perfumer at Anya’s Garden Perfumes http://anyasgarden.com
Former Writer at Organic Gardening (magazine)
Former District Manager at USDA Soil and Water Conservation District (elected position State of Florida)
Former Adjunct Professor of Urban Planning and Design at Florida Atlantic University
Former Landscape Architect at Collier County, Florida
Studied Landscape architecture at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry Masters Degree
Studied Economic Botany at University of California, Riverside Bachelors
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.
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.
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.
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.
When you make perfume from flowers, there are several ways to extract the scent. I love to enfleurage rare flowers. Enfleurage is placing flowers on a bed of semi-hard fat, such as shortening, or rendered leaf lard and suet. The next step in the process is to “wash” the fat in alcohol. This post isn’t about enfleurage, except to point out why I don’t enfleurage a flower that seems ripe for the process.
Some flowers, even though they emit a lovely fragrance, shouldn’t be enfleuraged. There are several reason for this. Orange blossoms are fragile, and would fall apart in the enfleurage tray, requiring laborious defleuraging process – picking the petals out, one by one, with tweezers. Tweezers are routinely used to remove flowers from enfleurage fat, but not these, it would be a greasy fiasco, with much fat clinging to the petals, enveloping them.
My golden champaca tree is in full bloom, and I have never enfleuraged these flowers. Why? The edges of the flowers tend to start to ‘brown’ or slightly decay shortly after harvest. They would be a watery, moldy mess in enfleurage fat. I also don’t macerate them, which is place them in heated oil. The French, and before them, ancient cultures, such as the Egyptians, routinely placed flowers in warm fat or oil to extract the scent, but I find champaca so delicately scented, so ethereal, I use alcohol to tincture them.
I have been making my golden champaca tincture for several years now, and probably have about 20 charges of replenished flowers in the menstruum. The tincture is divine!!
This is why solvents are used to extract champacas. It’s quick, and saves the flowers from decomposition. Alcohol is a great solvent, and does the job. I have a glorious extract to work with, a statement every artisan perfumer can relate to. To make perfume with raw materials is fun, and you often get rare plants into the mix that you might not otherwise have access to.
Do you enfleurage? What observations have you made as to the limits of the materials you choose to work with?
PS. White champaca, Michelia alba – same decomposition problem, but to a lesser degree. An added problem with them is their tendency to shatter, thus the same problem as orange blossoms.
Making perfume takes time, and lots of thinking and introspection.
As I work through adapting my textbook for my new website, I am finding many passages that are very helpful for anyone who wants to make perfume, or is already making perfume, whether you stick to 100% natural ingredients like I do, or if you use aroma chemicals. I’ve decided to excerpt some passages on a regular basis, because I believe they can inspire and help others on this path. My first excerpt deals with the fear and indecision that every perfumer faces. If you don’t face it, I challenge you to challenge yourself, you’re too complacent.
Excerpt: Conclusion of Module 5 – Some Closing Thoughts
Although I am an experienced, professional perfumer, I sometimes face creating modifications with a bit of trepidation. For someone like me, a generally positive, self-assured person, that tinge of fear is a good thing. It keeps me balanced, so that I don’t become overly confident that everything I create is a masterpiece, because if I feel that way, I know I’m fooling myself.
Why do I instruct you to re-visit your vertical accords, although you just performed that exercise in the last Module? You might think it’s registered in your head, but I guarantee that, with your new concept or brief, you will be humbled when you evaluate your accords again. Subtle nuances, bits and pieces of it that didn’t seem prominent before, will become obvious now. Why? Because you now realize that you have to build upon the structure of that one simple accord, and you have to engage your scent memory and your artistic passions simultaneously in order to meet the final challenge in the next module – building a perfume.
A perfumer cannot become too comfortable, and the perfumer also cannot be afraid. Mods can humble you more quickly than any other exercise in this course. An accessory note, which is so beloved, so necessary to give a mod or a perfume panache, can begin screaming out its aggressiveness, overwhelming the blend, or just poking out in the drydown in a negative way.
My course is online, a resource in distance learning for those who cannot travel to attend a perfumery course. The 350 page textbook is the first American perfumery textbook, and it is written at the university level. For thinkers. And doers.
If you’re a perfumer, or thinking of becoming one, subscribe to this blog so you receive updates on this series, which I hope will inspire and instruct. There is a place to subscribe in the right column. Your email is private, and will be treated as such.