The Study of Natural Essences-Exploring the World of Natural Aromatics

The in-depth study of individual natural essences(essential oils, absolutes, co2 extracts, attars, etc) is an enchanting and enriching experience. Those who engage in it with enthusiasm, patience and devotion will find the inner sense of wonder  awakening in their heart and mind as they progress in their research. The careful study of the multifaceted fragrant personalities of essences derived from resins, flowers, woods, spices etc does require a good deal of discipline because one needs to enter a world that primarily relies on non-visible and non-verbal impressions. It compels one  to participate in an the experience of creating an inner landscape with its own language, colors, textures, climates etc arising from ones exploration of the unique and delightful aromas emanating from the essences one is focusing their attention on.

The value of developing a one-on-one relationship with each essence forms a critical part of the aspiring perfumers training. As one becomes comfortable with the breadth and depth of each oils aromatic personality, they, in due course of time begin to sense how different essence might combine with each other. But the first stage of perfume creation is to gain knowledge of the numerous qualities of fragrance, intensity, longevity, radiance etc associated with each oil. In the swift moving pace of our times one has to make a conscious effort to slow down and pay attention to the changes that take place during the life span of the oils one is establishing a friendship with. In the world of natural essences it is all to common to sniff an oil for a few seconds and make a judgement to its qualities based on this brief encounter. But in truth, each oil is an aromatic universe in itself and it only yields its secrets to those who enter into its sphere with sympathy and appreciation. Some oils may have an aromatic life which is relatively brief(thirty minutes to an hour) such as many citrus and conifer oils, whereas other many have an life span that extends over days and even weeks as exemplified by vetiver, myrrh, patchouli and other base oils.

So now the question arises as to how to enter this world in a way that will allow one to gain the aromatic knowledge one seeks. The guideline presented here are practical simple ones that, I think, anyone can follow. They are meant to provide provide a solid basis for more advanced perfume work at a later date when one will, most likely, need to the one on one guidance of a practicing perfumer.

One will, first of all require a few basic pieces of equipment to commence their explorations.
1. Glass Bottles
There are numerous sources for quality glass bottles. Speciality Bottles is one excellent source
My recommendation is to procure:
10-1 ounce amber bottles with glass droppers
The bottles with the glass droppers will allow a person to transfer oils to other bottles once they enter into the realm of blending essences with each other.
If one prefers they could also use use a European Dropper Bottle with orifice reducer. The 30 ml size would be equivalent to a 1 ounce bottle.

2. Perfumers/Fragrance Testing Strips

3. Perfumers Alcohol or Carrier Oil(Jojoba or Fractionated Coconut Oil
190 proof to 200 proof ethanol/perfumers alcohol or a scentless or almost scentless stable carrier oils are essential oils for Olfactory Evaluation of natural essences.
It is important to dilute the pure essence before evaluation as these are highly concentrated liquids
and the nose can not easily tease out its nuances. Dilution decompresses the oil and puts it into a form where one can discern its intricate nature.
Ethanol has the advantage of being very light and volatile so the aromatic molecules contained in the essence are not muted as is sometimes the case when the essence is blended with an oil base but some folks do not like to use alcohol so a carrier oil like Jojoba or Fractionated Coconut Oil will definitely work.
One problem with ethanol is that it is difficult to procure an undenatured product. It often requires a special license. But a good 200 proof denatured alcohol is available from Save On Scents which should work find
Organic alcohol is available:
Fractionated Coconut Oil and Jojoba are available from many places.
I suggest getting 32 ounces of one or the other.

4. A notebook should be kept to keep notes of ones impressions of each oil as they study it.
The computer can also be effectively used for the same purpose but it might be wise to have a written record as well in the event one's computer crashes.

5. Of equal importance to all of the above is finding a place where one can do their evaluations in a peaceful, quiet and clean atmosphere. If one can manage to spend 15-30 minutes each day or at least several times a week in their studies it would excellent. Concentration is best achieved before any of the activities of the day have commenced. Once one enters the regular affairs of ones activities,
a whole series of impressions and experiences enters the mind which often breaks the natural  equilibrium and concentration one has when fresh and so one has to work harder to focus on ones creative work. Along with finding a good time to do ones aromatic investigations it is also helpful if one is in a happy, enthusiastic and receptive mood. All these things together provide an atmosphere where creative visions develops and information received at that time is more easily retained.

6. Once one has assembled these tools for their work-it is time to delve into the magical and mysterious world of natural aromatics. Here one may be confronted with a great dilemma in the sense that, in the times we live, so many wonderful essential oils, absolutes, co2 extracts are available. Yet choose one must and the best way to start is with essences one naturally feels an affinity for. I suggest starting with 10natural botanical essences that one feels attracted towards and fit in with a monthly budget set aside for their procurement. If one were to purchase10-1/4 ounce bottles from a company they enjoy working with
and upon receiving them-were to pour each into the 10-1 ounce bottles awaiting their arrival, then they would have a fine selection of materials to study in a 25% essence to 75% ethanol or carrier oil dilution. I suggest this particular balance as it represents a perfume strength dilution. One can easily increase the dilutions later on to reflect a particular use. Following is a simple chart based on traditional dilutions for fragrant products-
  • Parfum or extrait, in English known as perfume extract, pure perfume, or simply perfume: 15–40% (IFRA: typical ~20%) aromatic compounds
  • Esprit de Parfum (ESdP): 15–30% aromatic compounds, a seldom used strength concentration in between EdP and perfume
  • Eau de Parfum (EdP), Parfum de Toilette (PdT): 10–20% (typical ~15%) aromatic compounds, sometimes listed as "eau de perfume" or "mill├ęsime"; Parfum de Toilette is a less common term, most popular in the 1980s, that is generally analogous to Eau de Parfum
  • Eau de Toilette (EdT): 5–15% (typical ~10%) aromatic compounds
  • Eau de Cologne (EdC), often simply called cologne: 3–8% (typical ~5%) aromatic compounds; see below for more information on the confusing nature of the term "cologne"
  • In addition to these widely seen concentrations, companies have marketed a variety of perfumed products under the name of "splashes," "mists," "veils" and other imprecise terms. Generally these products contain 3% or less aromatic compounds.

7. Another point which one needs to bear in mind is that even in creating the dilution of one specific oil in an ethanol or a carrier oil-it still takes 3-6 months for that blend to mature. One can, and indeed should commence their investigations right away, but if as one develops their powers of olfactory observation,
they will notice subtle changes occurring in the blend as it matures over the weeks and months to come.
A one ounce bottle will contain from 400-600 drops of oil depending on the size of the orifice of the dropper and the viscosity of the oil so one is going to have plenty of material to work with both for regular study as well as for observing the changes that will take place as the blend matures. 

8. At this point I would recommend reading Steffen Arctanders comments on Odor Description. It is a very elegant description of how a perfumery student goes about their work of developing a vocabulary for their experience of the essences being studying while also evolving their aesthetic sense.
Equipped with a Perfume Smelling Strip and the oil to be explored one is ready to enter into a realm of endless enchantment.

Another helping factor would be to take a look at a possible  aromatic diary which I put together many years ago. One may find some useful ideas there for keeping their own unique records of their experiences.

9. Lastly-The entire experience of diving deep into the realm of experiencing the many dimensions of individual essences and gaining a rich and varied appreciation and respect of that world is something that unites one with people, plants and places that transcends time and space. Aside from the simple and direct study of each essential oil, absolute etc, one can greatly increase their sensitivity to this connection by studying the history of the individual plants,; the lore and legends associated with them; the places where they have grown; how they have been used in incense, cosmetics, perfumes, etc; the chemistry of the oils; their place in prose and poetry etc. Each and every aspect of the subject is worth investigation and as this knowledge is incorporated into ones understanding, it will assist in gaining a more intimate knowledge of the qualities of each oil.
In the months to come I will be posting individual study guides for different essences that may help in that direction.

Fragrance Diary for Study of Natural Essences

Fragrance Diary
What part of aromatic plant is the essence from?
Root__  Bark__  Leaf__  Flower__
Seed__  Wood__
What classification is the fragrance under?
Animalic__ Balsamic__ Campheraceous__Citrus__ Coniferous__
Earthy__ Floral__ Fruity__ Green/Leafy__ Herbaceous__ Medicinal__
Minty__ Resinous__ Spicy__ Woody__
Volatility and Tenacity
Top Note(very volatile, lacks tenacity)__
Heart note(intermediate volatility and tenacity)__
Base note(low volatility and high tenacity)__
What element is the fragrance associated with?
Earth__ Water__ Fire__
|Air__  Etheric__
To what gender does the fragrance belong?
Feminine/Yin__  Masculine/Yang___  Neutral__
Which vehicle of human consciousness does this fragrance relate. too?
Inspirational/Spiritual__  Intellect/Mental___
Emotional/Aesthetic__  Physical/Practical__
Mood evoked by this fragrance?
Vivacity__ Passion__ Mystery__ Euphoria__ Fantasy__ Serenity__ Clarity__
Qualities of the fragrance?
Stimulant__ Erogenic__ Sultry__ Narcotic__ Soothing__ Antierogenic__ Fresh__ Exhalting__
Season with which fragrance is associated?
Spring__ Summer__  Fall__ Winter__
Ayurvedic qualities of the fragrance?
Hot__ Cold__ Moist__ Dry__
Chakra with which this fragrance is associated?
Root__ Sexual__ Solar Plexus__ Heart__ Throat__ Third Eye__ Crown
Color evoked by the fragrance?
Images that come to mind while smelling this essence?

Allspice: The Flavor of Mexico

Allspice: The Flavor of Mexico(click here to read article)

Bergamot Study Guide

Presented in connection with the Blog on

The Study of Natural Essences-Exploring the World of Natural Aromatics

From Perfume and Flavor Material of Natural Origin by Steffen Arctander
Bergamot Oil is produced by cold expression
from the peel of the nearly ripe fruit. The tree
grows almost exclusively in a narrow coastal strip
in the southern part of Calabria, Italy. Cultivation
of bergamot trees in other areas have failed to
produce bergamot oils of comparable value to
that of the Calabrian oil. There is one exception,
however: experimental plantations in Guinea
(former French West Africa) since 1937, and more
recently in Morocco have now attained some
importance on the world Bergamot Oil market.
Bergamot trees are grafted on stubs of bitter
orange trees. The fruits are of the size of big
oranges and almost lemon-shaped. The annual
world production (over 90% of which is Calab-
rian) fluctuates between 150 and 250 tons.
Bergamot Oil is a green or olive green, mobile
liquid of extremely rich, sweet-fruity initial odor.
Although the characteristics of this topnote
remain perceptible in good oils, it is followed by
a still more characteristic oily-herbaceous and
somewhat balsamic body and dryout. The sweet-
ness yields to a more tobaccolike and rich note,
somewhat reminiscent of sage clary and neryl-
acetate. The freshness in the topnote is mainly due
to terpenes and small amounts of citral and
aliphatic aldehydes. Absence of the "oily" note
is one of the most revealing features in poor or
adulterated bergamot oils. The color of bergamot
oil fades on ageing, particularly when the oil is
exposed to daylight. The oil turns yellow or pale
olive-brown. The color is also dependent upon
the maturity of the fruit at the moment of expres-
sing. Like all other citrus oils, Bergamot Oil is
produced in the immediate vicinity of the plant-
The oil is used extensively in perfumery for its
sweet freshness, particularly in citrus colognes,
chypres, fougeres, modern fantasy bases, etc.
Part of the sweetness and rich bodynote is due to
the presence of large amounts of linalylacetate
combined with linalool and traces of methyl-
anthranilate. It is interesting to find the presence
of methylanthranilate together with aliphatic
aldehydes, citral etc. in several citrus oils. In
perfume creation, it is generally considered some-
what hazardous to include substantial amounts
of aldehydes when anthranilates are present. The
formation of "Scruff's bases" produce a very
intense color which may be visible in the perfumed
cosmetic product or in a soap. Other perfumers
will deliberately utilize this simple chemical phen-
omenon to produce an increased sweetness in
orange-flower or neroli types of fragrance, etc.
Unlike most other citrus oils, Bergamot Oil
has a certain fixative effect when used in fairly
high concentrations. The odor of the oil is well
balanced from nature through the presence of
certain coumarin derivatives, some of which are
odorless and non-volatile. The quantity and com-
position of the evaporation residue is another
important criterion in the analysis of bergamot oil.

Interesting Links regarding Bergamot

Bergamotto di Reggio Calabria

Earl Grey tea - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Odor Description by Steffen Arctander

It is part of a perfumer's training and appren-
ticeship to form in his own mind the "unspoken"
terms in which he thinks when he smells and
recognizes a perfume material. But, when com-
municating with fellow perfumers, he must seek
more general expressions in order to be well
understood. The drawbacks of a "basic terms"
system for odor descriptions are equally obvious:
No descriptions are unambiguous or even very
striking. But if we could describe every single of
our perfume materials in such a way that no two
descriptions were alike, and so that every one
fitted like a key to only one material, we could
lean back on a wreath of laurels. We would have
conceived the "impossible": we would have
invented the perfect and foolproof odor classifica-
tion system.
Part of the "romance" or "thrill" in perfumery
work lies in the fact that, not only are all the
materials different in odor but hardly ever will
two perfumers give identical descriptions of the
same material or the same perfume. This coinci-
dence will not occur even if the two perfumers
have been working or have perhaps been educated
in the same perfume laboratory for years. An
odor is not "woody" just because someone else
says so; it will always have a particular print in
your mind. Unfortunately, you are more or less
unable to translate this print verbally to fellow
perfumers, let alone to laymen.
This work does not pretend to be a "codex" for
the perfume industry. The rules and statements
in this book can hardly apply to the conventional
terms used in price lists, etc. For technical reasons,
for lack of space perhaps, the odor descriptions of
perfume materials in price lists are often abrupt
and yet exaggerated. But it certainly is the author's
hope that the present work may serve as an appeal
to the raw material suppliers in the perfume
industry to standardize their labelling and descrip-
tions of perfume and flavor materials. This would
minimize the confusion which has grown tremen-
dously among small and medium-size consumers,
and has even affected the very largest consumers
as well.
The odor descriptions in this work are based
upon studies of the materials during repeated
Blotter-tests. A perfume Blotter, also called a
"smelling-strip", is a piece of pure, odorless,
white, higly absorbent filter paper, about 6 mm.
wide and 12 to 14 cms. long. This strip is marked
clearly with the name or number of the sample of
the perfume material, and is then dipped in the
perfume sample to about 5 mm. or up to 2 cms. on
the opposite end.
The odor from the blotter is studied immediately,
then again after a few minutes, a half hour,
several hours, next morning, etc. until there is no
characteristic odor left. Notes are taken during
all stages of evaporation. Certain materials are
studied in dilution, e.g. oakmoss absolutes, flower
absolutes, civet, etc. The blotter is thoroughly
studied when the perfume oil has "dried" into
the paper. Particularly in oils of high terpene
content, there is a perceptible effect of chromato-
graphic separation of the individual components
of the oil. The "lighter" notes run quickly up the
blotter, while the larger molecules remain at the
end, where it was dipped.
The Topnote ("la note de depart") is studied
repeatedly since it may be of very short duration.
It is the very first perceptible note, the first
impression of odor. The topnote can be very
characteristic of an essential oil and it is also
very often a difficult one to reproduce in the work
on "artificial" essential oils, adulterations, cut-
tings, etc. The true Topnote of an essential oil
can be masked by so-called "still-odors" which
are unwanted notes. Still-notes are usually re-
moved by aeration or ageing of the oil (see also
The main and characteristic overall odor of the
oil in the perfume blotter is called the Body-Note.
It has a much longer life on the blotter than has
the topnote, but it is less characteristic of the
odor of the oil, and it is easier to reproduce in
the work on artificial essential oils, etc.
The Dry-Out note is equally as important as
the topnote for evaluation of the oil. The dry-out
will appear after one hour, several hours, or
perhaps not until the next day. It often reveals
adulteration of an essential oil, and it should be
studied repeatedly and carefully.
The Dry-Out notes show the fixative effect of
the components in the oil; it may reveal weakness,
diluents or other foreign additives. Certain oils
do not show a typical dry-out note within the
same day as they are "blottered", e.g. patchouli
oil, vetiver, civet, everlasting, longoza, etc. These
oils can not be justly evaluated within minutes or
hours. It requires at least 24 hours of study and
careful notes. The dry-out note will show the
bodynote, but not the topnote. In exceptional
cases, the topnote is carried along far into the
bodynote and may be perceptible in the dry-out,
e. g. angelica root oil.
The dry-out note tells us about the Tenacity
of the perfume material. The Tenacity, also called
the lasting effect, is a highly appreciated effect
in perfume materials, particularly if the bodynote
and the dry-out note are pleasant fragrances.
Lemon oil has a fresh and pleasant Topnote of
very short duration. It has only a faint and rather
uncharacteristic Bodynote, which may last one
or two hours on a perfume blotter. The Dry-Out
is very faint, uninteresting, yet characteristic, but
of little use to the perfumer. There is no Tenacity
in the odor of lemon oil.
Sage clary oil displays a fresh and delicate
Topnote, which slides gently into a very rich,
sweet-herbaceous Bodynote of long duration.
Its Dry-Out is balsamic-ambra-like, reminiscent
of tobacco and sweet hay, tea-leaves, and with
an unusual Tenacity.
In order to study the behavior of essential oils
on perfume blotters correctly, it is of great
importance that a constant room temperature
and relative humidity be maintained. The author
has personal preference for temperatures lower
than 20° C. in a perfume laboratory, although in
certain countries, a much higher temperature is
quite common (22 to 27°C.). Several ultra-modern
laboratories in Europe are provided with thermo-
stats and humidity regulators to maintain about
17°C. and 45 to 50% relative humidity. The
author has experienced an almost odor-free atmos-
phere in Mid-Sahara, where the temperature was
64° C. on the sand surface, and the relative
humidity was about 0.3%. The author was
unable to smell the peel of an orange which was
squeezed between the fingers under these circumstances
Excessively high humidity is equally unfavor-
able to smelling if the temperature is well above
20° C. It should be noted, however, that during
the study of a dry-out note, the perfumer will
often attempt to produce a "steam-distillation"
by exhaling breath from his nostrils upon the
dry blotter in order to enhance the evaporation
of a weak-smelling material.
The technique of smelling and evaluating per-
fume materials has been thoroughly described in
several works on perfumery practice during the
past decade.

Cardamom: Queen of Spices

Cardamom: Queen of Spices(click here to read article)

Botanical Musk Perfume Base

A Recipe for Botanical Musk Perfume

One of the most delightful exercises for a perfumer is try ing to create botanical versions of perfumes originally of animal origin. It is by no means an impossible task and in that realm of experimentation there is ample room for creative expression whether is be creating a musk base, a leather base, an ambergris base etc.

Such perfumes are heavy on base notes as they are meant to be the foundation of of exotic perfumes which bestow on them not only their own unique aromatic profile but also give the perfume to which the y are added longevity .

Here is a possible starting point for a musk type of perfume with an animalic, amber, spicy, precious woods, delicate, sweet-powdery bouquet. Such recipes are only meant as a starting point for ones own creative work and are meant to be tweaked according to ones own perception of what is beautiful. And it is very important to note that for such blends to mature into their full beauty it shall certainly take a minimum of 6 months. To study a perfu me creation through its maturation process is both educational and exciting.

Musk Base

1 ounce Choya Nakh
1/2 ounce Cinnamon Bark essential oil or absolute
1/2 ounce Nutmeg essential oil or absolute
1/2 ounce Cardamon eo or abs
2 1/2 ounces Ambrette Seed eo or absolute
5 ounces Patchouli eo or absolute
1/2 ounce Virginia Cedarwood eo
1/2 ounce Tonka Bean Absolute(30% absolute/70% ethanol)

If one has a access to the absolutes of nutmeg, cinnamon bark, and cardamon-it can add a unique depth an richness to the blend.
This is of course a very concentrated base and one has to determine the percentage to use in further perfume creations in which it is to be used. At 5-10% it would have a good fixative effect.
There are innumerable variations one may create by increasing or decreasing above quantities of the above to accent a spicy note(cardamon, cinnamon or nutmeg) a precious woods note(patchouli and virginia cedar wood) sweet powered coumarinic note(tonka bean), musky(ambrette) or by adding other essences that help create the "musk" effect.