PRINCIPAL PERFUME AND OILS PLANTS

Balsam A resinous exudation from certain trees and shrubs, also called balm. In modern perfumery the principal ones used are balsam of Peru, of tolu, of Copaiba, and also storax.They all have a vanilla-like odor.

Bergamot An orange-scented oil expressed from the fruit peel of the bergamot orange tree. Used in about 33 percent of women’s perfumes.

Bitter orange The oil of this name is obtained by expression from the fruit peel, the tree also being called Bigarade orange. The tree produces neroli, orange-flower oil, and petitgrain oil.

Frankincense (also Olibanum) A gum resin from small trees growing in South Arabia and Somalia. Very important since ancient times as an incense, for which it is still used. The Romans imported vast quantities of it. It is used as a main ingredient in about 13 percent of modern perfumes.

Galbanum A gum resin from a giant fennel found in Iran. It has a spicy-green, leaflike, musky odor.

Jasmine After rose this is the most important plant used in perfumery, appearing as a main ingredient in more than 80 percent of modern perfumes. Of several species, the Spanish or royal jasmine has been the most used in Europe since the sixteenth century. An acre of jasmine yields about 500 pounds of jasmine blossom, but the yield of absolute from that (at about 0.1 percent) is tiny, making jasmine one of the most expensive perfume materials available.

Labdanum (also called Ledanon). A sweet-scented oleo resin obtained in droplets from under the leaves of Cistus plants in the Middle East. Of great importance in perfumery, its fragrance resembles ambergris (it is often called amber) and it is a valuable fixative. Appears in about 33 percent of modern perfumes.

Lavender A major perfume material since Greek and Roman times. At one time France grew nearly 5,000 tons of flowers a year. In England production is now confined to Norfolk in the east. One acre produces about 15 pounds of oil.

Lemon Lemon oil, vital in flavorings as well as in perfumes, yields about a pound of oil to 1,000 lemons. The oil is expressed from the rinds and is used in many quality perfumes, giving top notes a fresh sparkle.

Lily of the Valley In early days this scent could be obtained only by infusing the flowers in sweet oils. Nowadays it is extracted as a concrete or absolute and no essential oil is distilled. A synthetic is then added and this produces the most exquisite lily fragrance known, called muguet (this name is also used as an alternative to lily of the valley). It is found in about 14 percent of all modern quality perfumes.

Myrrh A gum resin from myrrh trees, found in Arabia, Somalia, and Ethiopia. Its use has been of great importance since earliest times in medicine and embalming as well as in perfumery, where it provides a balsamic note and is an excellent fixative. It is found among the main ingredients of about 7 percent of modern fine fragrances.

Neroli Steam-distilled from the flowers of the bitter orange tree (brought to Europe by the Arabs in the twelfth century), this is named after a sixteenth-century Italian prince whose wife scented her bath and gloves with it.The odor combines spiciness with sweet and flowery notes. A main ingredient in about 12 percent of all modern perfumes.

Oak moss A lichen taken from oak, spruce, and other trees in mountain areas of Europe and North Africa. The fragrance develops when it is stored and is earthy, woody, and musky. Blending well and a good fixative, it appears in a third of present-day fine fragrances.

Orris A butter-colored oil with a violet-like fragrance extracted from the rhizomes of certain species of iris after they have been stored for two years. It has the unusual property of strengthening other fragrances.Appears in many top perfumes.

Patchouli Most powerful of all plant materials. A Far-Eastern mintlike herb with leaves which are dried and fermented before being distilled. The unique odor of spice and cedar in this oil, which can be used only in minute quantities because of its strength, actually improves with age. It
is one of the finest fixatives known. It first came to European notice in the nineteenth century, when Indian traders exported shawls scented with it, which became highly fashionable. Appears in a third of all top perfumes.

Rose The most important plant in perfumery since the earliest days of history. The Greek poet Sappho called it “the queen of the flowers.,’ The cabbage rose, or painter’s rose, known also as May rose, was the rose grown for perfume in France, but now many others are cultivated, while the Kazanlak district of Bulgaria produces huge quantities of the damask rose, and there is much cultivation in Egypt, Morocco, and elsewhere. Some
17 different rose a scents have been identified. Nearly 1,000 pounds of roses are needed to distill just one pound of rose oil (attar or otto), and the yield of absolute from this is only around 0.03 percent. At least 75 percent of all quality perfumes contain rose oil.

Sandalwood This oil is distilled from the sawdust and chippings of the sandalwood tree of India and Indonesia, the very best coming from Mysore.
The tree is parasitic, attaching suckers to other trees. One of the most valuable and expensive raw materials used in perfumery, very long-lasting and used in the base notes of about half of all quality perfumes.

Tonka Comes from angostura and para beans, produced by two species of a South American tree. These are cured in rum, when they become covered in
crystals of coumarin, which smells of new-mown hay. The absolute extracted from this is used in about 10 percent of all fine fragrances.

Tree moss In the USA tree moss and oak moss are the same. In European perfumery “tree moss” designates a lichen found on certain spruce and fir trees from which a resin with a powerfully tarlike odor is extracted. It is used especially in fougere and chypre perfumes and is a good fixative.

Tuberose With a fragrance described as that of a well-stocked flower garden in the evening, this oil, taken from the flower, appears in about 20 percent of quality perfumes. The yield of absolute is so small, however (about seven ounces for every 2,600 pounds or so of flowers) that it costs more than its weight in gold.

Vanilla Vanilla forms in crystals on the fruit pods of the vanilla orchid vine, native to Mexico and tropical America, which are picked and fermented. With a sweet spicy aroma, it became highly popular in perfumery after Coty introduced it in L’Aimant and now appears in a quarter of
all fine perfumes.

Vetiver An oil distilled from the rhizomes of a tropical Asian grass called khus-khus. Has an earthy odor with underlying violet and orris-like sweetness. Long-lasting and a very good fixative. Appears in the base notes of 36 percent of quality perfumes.

Violet In perfumery two varieties of this plant are used, the Victoria, which has the better perfume, and the Parma, which is more easily grown. Oil is produced from the flowers and from the leaves of this plant, but it is so costly that most violet perfumes produced are now made synthetically.

Ylang-ylang This fragrance is used in some 40 percent of all quality perfumes. This oil is distilled from the leaves of the ylang-ylang tree of South East Asia. The powerful jasmine-like fragrance does not appear in the flowers until two weeks after they have opened, when they must be picked and distilled at once, so distillation is usually on site. One tree provides about 22 pounds of flowers a year and almost 900 pounds are needed for just two pounds of oil.

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