Saturday, July 19, 2008


Most natural perfumers go through this phase ~ or revisit it often. The phase of recreating bouquets, perfume formulations that imitate rare or exotic essences such as violet, jonquil, narcissus, lilac, lily of the valley, ivy, among others.

Experimenting with formulations that imitate these essences has been something I've always loved doing. With all the new absolutes and essential oils on the market, it's a bit easier to work out the chemistry and come up with a compound that more closely resembles the 'real deal', or, at the very least, something really lush and gorgeous that we think smells like the real deal.

I've been working on two of these bouquets for ages. A jonquil and a violet. With a bit of research I've managed to find some missing links which round out these formulations.

Jonquil, or narcissus jonquilla, is a very rare essence. According to Arctander, the scent is a "heavy, honey-like, deep-sweet floral" that has "a strong green undertone and a somewhat bitter, very tenacious dry out". Arctander also compares its scent to that of tuberose and longoza, with a little resemblance to the scent of hyacinth. He states that because of its rarity it is often adulterated with ylang-ylang, Siam benzoin, helichrysum, vanilla, longoza and narcissus, as well as several synthetic molecules. So. It stands to reason that if one were to imitate this scent, they would use what is/was used to adulterate it. Right? And combine it with those elements which were used in the 'old days', before perfumers were chemists, to imitate it. Typically, from the old books, jonquil bouquets require sandalwood, jasmine, orange blossom, tuberose and vanilla.

Tuberose has always been a bug in my bonnet. I just don't think it smells pretty, or even floral, most of the time. Ok. All of the time. Let's just say I haven't met a tuberose I like.

Violet is a dream. I have a small bottle of violet tincture which has a faint sweet, fresh, floral scent. Very hard to describe. Soft, powdery, woody-floral? There is some element of the leaf in the scent of this tincture, but not much. A mock-up of violet might include violet leaf, bitter almond, cassie, orris, tuberose (ew), tonka. I fiddled with it a bit and added a drop of boronia and a few other essences which I though resembled the tincture. It's still a work in progress (I think I'm on the 120th mod for violet since this obsession began some five years ago).

Basically, building bouquets, though hard work, is also educational and a whole lot of fun.

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