By Andrej Babicky, Certified Natural Perfumer and
Raw Material Extraction Methods Expert
Unveiling the Ancient Art of Enfleurage: Capturing the Essence of Flowers
Natural perfumery it's not just about creating amazing fragrances, but also about growing flowers and extracting essences. One technique that holds a special place in this aromatic world is enfleurage. It's all about capturing the magical essence of a flower to make one-of-a-kind scents. So, let's dive into the enchanting process of enfleurage and get tangled up in the mesmerizing world of scents!
It is to the Greeks that we owe the addition of oils scented with flowers to spices, gums and balms.
The flowers and plants used for export must be transformed to be preserved. Olive oil, one of the main wealth of Greece, was used as an ointment and as an excipient in the manufacture of perfumed oils. The Greeks practiced enfleurage and very early developed the art of making perfumes.
During the mid-1700s. Grasse became a thriving center for industrial production and essence extraction, thanks to the refinement of this technique. However, in today's modern perfume industry, enfleurage is considered more of a historical extraction method. Solvent extractions and the utilization of aromatic molecules have taken precedence. Nonetheless, with the recent resurgence of interest in natural perfumery, some perfumers have embraced enfleurage once again, making slight modifications to the classical procedure and achieving remarkable results.
Enfleurage is primarily employed for flowers that contain small quantities of essence or delicate blossoms that could be compromised by other extraction methods.
The technique capitalizes on the principle of fat absorption, where the most volatile aromatic molecules are captured by a fat medium upon contact. Various fats, such as lard, ox fat, lamb fat, vegetable oils, mineral oils, and even Vaseline, were traditionally used. Often, a combination of fats was employed, and the specific formula was carefully guarded as an industrial secret, tailored to different flowers and extraction seasons.
The unique property of fats to adsorb odorous substances is harnessed when other extraction methods fail to capture the desired scent from flowers or plants. In enfleurage, the flowers are placed in direct contact with the fat, be it in liquid or solid form, until the fat becomes saturated with the perfume. Enfleurage can be performed using either the hot or cold method, depending on the flower and desired outcome. Nowadays, enfleurage is predominantly practiced for illustrative and educational purposes, as it is a labor-intensive and costly process.
During cold enfleurage, flowers were placed daily on frames coated with a thick layer of fat.
It took approximately 60 days for the fats to absorb the fragrance fully. For instance, 25 kilograms of jasmine flowers were required to perfume one kilogram of fat, while a mere two kilograms of tuberose flowers achieved the same result. This exemplifies the delicate nature of enfleurage and its ability to capture the essence of a flower in minute quantities.
Enfleurage holds a special allure for many, as it manages to capture the ethereal essence and aromatic breath of a flower, entwining them in a magical alchemical process. While it may be a time-consuming and demanding technique, it offers a more intimate and personal relationship with the raw materials. For those fortunate enough to have a garden, a balcony, or even just a window, enfleurage can be an enchanting experiment worth undertaking. Through cultivation and extraction, one can discover unexpected and delightful results, forming a deeper connection with nature's fragrant gifts.
Enfleurage stands as a testament to the artistry and craftsmanship of perfumery.
It allows us to delve into the essence of flowers, their fleeting beauty and transforming it into olfactory masterpieces. While modern techniques have largely replaced enfleurage in commercial perfume production, its revival among natural perfumers showcases its enduring charm and the endless possibilities it holds.
So, why not embark on your own scented adventure and uncover the captivating world of enfleurage following our course of Natural extraction techniques?
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