I was just inspired to write about aged oils as they seem to be a topic natural perfumers can be quite excited about. For example, hundreds of vintage and antique oils have been sold on Ebay over the past 15 years with natural perfumers in the forefront as buyers. Aged sandalwood, aged vetiver, aged patchouli, aged rose -- all of these are highly sought after by the natural perfumer who seeks to bolster his or her library with these oils which hearken back to a day when everything was better -- right? Maybe not. Well, I don't know for sure, I wasn't there, but the oils may have been, so let's let them do the talking.
A few years ago I was 'gifted' a full 1 oz bottle of vintage sandalwood oil when I bought a lot of vintage oils from Ebay. Why the seller thought giving away such a valuable commodity was a good idea, I will never know, but I am forever grateful. It was good stuff and I couldn't help myself but to use it, all of it, in a matter of a couple years. All trace of this rare gem are long gone as I sold off most of my vintage bottle collection three years ago to pay an old debt, and that empty sandalwood bottle went too. I still have a few bottles of oldies but goodies, but I have to admit, a few aren't so good anymore, which lays to rest the idea that these old oils never go bad. All oils will go bad -- eventually. If kept cool, in the dark, and as air-free as possible, most oils will survive a little while after their sell-by date. That one-ounce bottle of sandalwood must have been buried deep, and the fact that it had never been opened proved it had very little contact with oxygen. Which is why it was so flippin' good.
I still have in my collection a bottle of vintage sandalwood oil that is gooey and resinous and stinks like sandalwood dancing in a jar of dill pickles. This would be an example of how not to store essential oils. And its existence proves that ALL vintage oils do not improve with age. There's a 50-year-old bottle of patchouli oil in my collection, a one-ounce bottle about 3/4ths full, that is nothing to sing about. It's okay, but not like a smooth, creamy Sri Lankan patchouli, or a honied copper distilled patchouli out of India. I bought this vintage oil with the hopes of sharing it in 1 ml bottles with whoever would like to smell the late 1960's, but it just wasn't up to snuff. Or sniff. It's not adulterated and doesn't smell like the hippie patchouli, it's just pale scented and doesn't have the depth that I'm used to.
So what did those vintage oils tell you?