Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Soaping with Natural Isolates ~ A Natural Perfumer's Dirty Little Secret

When I took Shelley Waddington's Natural Isolates course the thought that stood out most prominently in my mind was, "I get to make a real rose scented soap with natural extracted molecules that won't cost an arm and a leg and my first-born child!" And I have done just that. A new soap I call 'A Rose is a Rose' came to life with the help of very minimal amounts of diluted natural isolates phenyl ethyl alcohol, citronellol and citral.

Phenyl ethyl alcohol is derived from the fermentation of such oddities as apples, bananas and beer. Citronellol derives from citronella, and citral is derived from litsea cubeba. No bazillion year old dinosaur bones here.

The base for the soap was a basic 3 oil blend of organic extra virgin olive oil, organic coconut oil and organic mango butter. After it did it's thing, went into trace, that is, I added just a drizzling of coconut milk, then a scent blend of 1 ml rose de mai, 1 ml citronella, 1.5 mls rose geranium, 1 ml rose damask absolute, 1 ml 10% phenyl ethyl alcohol, 1 ml 10% citronellol, and 1 ml 10% citral. The resulting finished soap is a rose hit. Typically these rose blends using rose geranium tend to the geranium side, but this concoction does not. It is rose, straight away.

Now these are only three of four natural isolates I've used in compounding fragrance, though I've studied and written about the others (those in the kit from Shelley's course). A few that I see great potential in the future, if I get up the nerve to put them into something other than soap, that is, are:

Raspberry Ketone ~ I've had some past experience with this natural isolate. Last year a small candle company commissioned me to come up with a "berry" scented candle fragrance compound for them as part of their new product and business launch. The candle I compounded used a combination of natural isolates and a few (very few) synthetic aromachemicals. Though the final formulation was a hit with the two owners of the business, the business didn't survive the process of gathering capital and went tarts up, thus the formulation was forgotten. The experience of creating with raspberry ketone, however, was not. As Shelley instructs in her course, and which I did not know when using the raspberry k. a year ago, adding more to a formulation does not increase the strength of scent. It's a waste of materials. Raspberry ketone, strangely enough, is derived from aniseed oil. And here's a bit of baffling research I discovered while attempting to find alternate natural sources of raspberry ketone: Raspberry ketone methyl ether is also called anisyl acetone, methoxyphenal butanone, para anisyl acetone, and trademarked as Frambinon by Symrise. The only way to identify it as the same chemical is through the CAS #. The other Raspberry ketone, CAS # 5471-51-2, is chemically named 4-HydroxyPhenyl-2-Butanone, chemical formula C10 H12 O2, and it is a naturally sourced raspberry ketone. Apparently it's a different part of the fraction, thus the varying chemical names and CAS #'s. One is methoxy, the other is hydroxy. Are you following? I wrote it and I barely understand it!

I studied this one a little more than the rest because I thought that someday, besides the day I made a berry candle formulation with it, I might use it in a perfume. But while researching and falling down rabbit holes on the internet, my brain kept connecting "raspberry ketone" to "brittney spears". I was thinking Curious, and Fantasy (and its variation), and Believe. Then to my utter horror, Paris Hilton made an appearance!

Needless to say, it may be quite a while before I attempt to seriously formulate a perfume using raspberry ketone.

The evaluation went like this:

Raspberry ketone ~ almost solvent-like, has a backnote that smells a bit like nail polish remover; it quickly changes to extremely berry fruit, smells like cherry Kool-Aid powder!, diluted on skin it smells berryish and musky

Secondary notes ~ nail polish remover; glue

Associations ~ Kool-Aid, nail polish remover, citric acid powder (for making bath bombs)

Very linear fruity/berry note (the polish remover dissipates and disappears after a few minutes), very strong at 3 hours (on scent strip), smells a little soapy and fresher than at the beginning

*It's been a months since I conducted this evaluation (and this is only an excerpt of that experience) and still the scent strip maintains some scent -- soft, powdery, fruity/berry scent with high citric acid notes

A few other natural isolates that stand out in my mind are heliotropin, which smells of undetermined flowers, just a big bunch of them, so sweet and lush it almost smells like candy, sweet and oily and edible; ethyl decadienoate, which is fruity and green, like the skin of a mango, fleshy and sweet and tart; and acetaldehyde, which is the aldehyde slap in the face you get when smelling those old perfumes from the 20's and 30's -- it's the aldehyde kick of Chanel No5, the boozy aldehyde push of Tabu. On dry down it smells like a lowball of bourbon and water.

Thus far I've only managed to drum up the courage to use them in candles and soap. Someday.


Oh, and slightly related, but not really, I'm giving away a 5ml bottle of Bella Cimitero, an unfortunate victim of deceit, with notes of mushroom, Bourbon vetyver, dark patchouli, labdanum, sandalwood, caraway, black pepper, galbanum, davana, neroli, bergamot and "jasmine essence resin" ~ a mixed-media edp formulated to scare your pants off.

Just leave a comment. Say 'boo' or something scary. I'll draw the winner at the stroke of midnight October 20th (okay, who am I kidding, I'll be asleep at the stroke of midnight, so I'll draw the winner when I get up the next morning . . . )


  1. Anonymous2:08 PM

    rose, rose, rose - how can I *not* comment when you use the magic word? And I'm reading "The Secret of Scent" and appreciating the molecular manipulation and legerdemain involved in producing suitable molecules for use in perfumery, so I enjoyed the detailed explanations you supplied here.

    Why is "Bella Cimitero" an "unfortunate victim of deceit"? It certainly sounds Gothic. I do like the individual ingredients but I can't think how this would smell. Since I'm intrigued and I'd love to try it and find out for myself, please consider this "a comment". If I am eligible for the draw, surely the thought of postage to the UK qualifies as a really good scare?:-)


    Anna in Edinburgh

  2. Ha! Yes, I am truly scared now :) And you are definitely eligible.

    I find the concept and use of natural isolates more and more intriguing the more I learn about them. I do see them having an important place in NBP in the future.

    "Unfortunate victim of deceit" -- that's another post for when I'm feeling a bit more brave.

  3. RRAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrr..... oh sorry, did I wake you? *evil grin*

    What a grand post! I like the idea of isolates, just haven't quite got around to trying any! I'm really excited about their potential in candles and soap!! am looking forward to playing with them sometime soon!

    Thanks Justine

  4. Thanks for an informative post! And, in re: to your most recent post, no worries about the unlabeled bottles. I did figure out which is which, but I do agree that they need to be retired. The cork doesn't hold up. Happy perfuming and thanks for the giveaway. I hope I win. Third time's the charm?

  5. What a fun description. I'd love to try this one. Count me in.

  6. Ok, it's absolutely clear now - blogger hates me. It just ate my second comment in a row on your blog.
    I agree with Scentual Soundtracks about figuring out which bottle contains what (the paper with the notes is all one needs) and even though the mini bottles are just too cute, the corks are a bit frustrating. :)
    I'd like to enter for a chance to try Bella Cimitero.

  7. Ve~~~ry interesting.
    Please enter me in the drawing.



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