Newsletters

2019

  • India Travel Journals, 1995-1998

    India is a country with vast botanical resources that have been used since ancient times to enhance the lives of her people in multifarious ways. Aromatic plants, in particular have revered place in the hearts of India’s people as the sublime beaty of the fragrances contained in them symbolize the mystery of life that cannot be seen with the eye yet pervades the entire creation. In 1995 I began traveling to India three times a year to explore these various aromatic traditions so that I might be able to share my discoveries with people in other parts of the world.

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  • Visit to Kerala and Tamil Nadu 1—            Spice Oil Facility

    India is a unique country with a rich tradition in the appreciation of fragrance. Since ancient times aromatic plants and products made from them have played a central role in the social, religious, economic and political lives of the people. Fragrant plants have found their way into the foods, medicines, cosmetics, and perfumes of the people. The culinary tradition of India is filled with the use of exotic spices such as pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cumin, and clove. The traditional medicinal practices such as Aryuveda utilize aromatic plants extensively for curing a wide range of diseases. Indeed, fragrance is woven into the very fabric of the lives of the Indian people….

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  • Visit to Kerala and Tamil Nadu 2—Floral Extraction Facility

    Early Monday morning I was picked up by one of the company drivers for the inland journey. We journeyed through the rich farmlands of the coastal region characterized by rice fields, coconut groves, banana and rubber plantations and numerous other warm climate crops woven together in a beautiful tapestry. This is the part of India I know so well and love. Even though India has so many problems, yet the life of the rural communities possesses a real charm to those people from the West that have had the opportunity to live close to the land and her people. There is something about the ancientness of India and the culture that has come out of it that has an unmistakable value that I hope can blend with the need for material advancement. Some of the technology of the West could greatly improve the lives of the common people but I do hope it will not mean the sacrifice the parts of the culture that are so rich and profound. It is a delicate balance to strike.

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  • Visit to Kerala and Tamil Nadu 3—Jasmine and Tuberose Harvest

    At 5:30 A.M. on Wednesday we took off for a nearby area to document the harvesting of tuberose. We picked up the flower purchasing agent in a nearby village and once again headed down obscure country lanes to farms which he knew. As the sun rose we were on location to see the members of one farming family plucking individual buds of tuberose at the proper stage for extraction. Tuberose is harvested throughout the year but its main season is October-November. A one acre parcel will yield about 25 lbs. of buds daily during the height of the growing season and less than half of that at other times of the year.

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  • Visit to Kerala and Tamil Nadu 4—Turmeric and Sandalwood Areas

    Upon returning to the factory we made preparations to leave for Erode some 200 kilometers from here in the very heart of Tamil Nadu where we were going to photograph the turmeric fields for which that area is famous. At about 10:30 we were on our way and our route to us through a part of Coimbatore where the main flower market was located. Here I had a chance to go from stall to stall photographing the exquisite floral creations made for temple worship, weddings, special occasions, and self adornment. India’s flower markets are remarkable places where small shop owners sit fashioning floral mandalas, garlands, and other special creations for the above mentioned purposes. It is, save for the big cities, a market which thrives on the sale of fresh flowers which must, for the most part be used that very day. These are centers of intense activity as the Indian people have a deep and innate love for flowers and they are seen as one of the most appropriate offerings in their religious practices.

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  • Visit to Kannauj 1—Meetings in New Delhi

    The major focus of this second trip was to study the traditional perfume industry in Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh. The first person I met with was Dr. Maheshwari. In a couple of short hours he shared with me a tremendous amount of information. His manner of presentation was so quiet and unassuming but I was well aware that here was one of India’s treasure houses of knowledge on the subject. Our meeting ended with an invitation to attend the meeting of the northern sector of the Essential Oil Association of India(EOAI) several nights hence.

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  • Visit to Kannauj 2—Trip to Kannauj

    In the early morning hours we reached Kanpur a major industrial center of Uttar Pradesh. Kannauj is about two hours north of this busy city and to reach their we engaged a taxi. As the sun rose we passed into the rural districts of that area. India is still an agriculturally based country with over country with over 70% of the population engaged in farm work of one type or another. These small farms and the local villages that support them are the backbone of Indian culture where the spirit and life of the country has been preserved for century upon century.

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  • Visit to Kannauj 3 —Traditional Perfumeries of Kannauj

    Our first destination in Kannauj was the Fragrance and Flavor Development Center a recently developed institution dedicated in part to studying and developing better aromatic plant crops appropriate to the region; teaching entrepreneurs and scientists how to use various types of equipment for distillation and extraction of essential oils, concretes, and absolutes; providing test facilities related to quality, stability and evaluation of fragrances both natural and synthetic; offering courses in fragrance creation, application, and evaluation; etc. The facility contains a Compounding Laboratory, Application Laboratory and Sensory Evaluation Laboratory that have been designed on international standards. Another Laboratory was under construction while I was there that was to house a steam distillation unit, a solvent extraction unit, and molecular distillation unit

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  • Visit to Kannauj 4—Production of Traditional Attars

    The first place we visited was a high-roofed room in which perhaps twenty traditional stills were kept and which were at the time being used for the distillation of a perfume called Hina which is the combination of numerous herbs, roots, spices, and fragrant woods. Each still consists of three parts, a copper cauldron or “Deg” that holds the water and fragrant material to be distilled, a copper receiver with a long narrow neck called a “Bhapka.”(In Hindi, “bhap” means “steam” so a “bhapka” is a vessel that captures the aroma laden steam from the “Deg”) The “Deg” and the “Bhapka” are connected with a hallow bamboo pipe called a “Chonga”. It is wrapped with twine processed from local grasses. The twine serves as an insulator.

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  • Visit to Kannauj 5—Trip to the Ganges and Further Explorations of Kannauj

    Mr. Pampi Jain once again sent his driver to take us on an early morning expedition to the Ganges river. On that fresh, cool spring morning in the ancient land of India, we traveled through the countryside to the holy river held sacred by the Hindu people for thousands of years. One of the reasons a place like Kannauj could come to prominence in ancient times was the fact that it was located in a great river where domestic and international trade could easily be transacted. During the era of Harsha Vardan a great ruler of India whose kingdom existed in the area of Kannauj during the early part of the 6th century the perfume industry is known to have been thriving. There is no doubt that perfumes and fragrances in different forms had been appreciated and used hundreds of years prior to his reign but it is during his era that more complete records have come to light.

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  • Visit to Kannauj 6—Deeper into Kannauj

    After viewing the courtyard in which the vetivert was kept, we were shown the steam distillation unit for sandalwood and vetivert. As this was a family of devote Hindu’s the boiler was seen to have auspicious symbolic inscriptions upon it which were invocations for prosperity and success. The boiler is considered the heart of the operation and as such must be properly cared for and appreciated and so each year a special ceremony was performed to bless it. Other parts of the factory also displayed these symbolic invocations and it was evident that these good people were very respectful of all their equipment and facilities. Sandalwood distillation was in full swing while we were there and the owners explained to us that a typical distillation would go on for 7-9 days. The oil obtained from each days distillation was kept apart until the very end when all fractions would be mixed together to produce the “complete” oil.

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  • Visit to Kannauj 7—Visit to a Sandalwood Distillery

    The last visit of the day was to the home of Mr. Dubey who lived in the old style mansion of his forefathers. We passed from the street into a lovely courtyard with full grown trees, beautiful iron work, carved doors, etc. There we were met by Mr. Dubey who escorted to an open air lounge were we could continue our eating tour and talk about the rich history of his company. His grandfather was responsible for setting up the first steam distillation unit in Kannauj during World War I.Prior to the war sandalwood oil had been produced from the traditional hydro-distillation units like I have described and his grandfather was doing it on a scale large enough that it was being exported to England and America. After war broke out, England could not afford to pay for the oil in cash so they set up a deal where they would provide the most sophisticated steam distillation unit of the time to compensate for the cost of the oil. The equipment was duly sent to Kannauj and set up to begin production. This single English made unit provided a model upon which Indians of the area could make their own units and in this way steam distillation came to North India.

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  • Visit to Kannauj 8—Farewell to Kannauj

    Before leaving we were shown the room in which one more special product is made using fragrant flowers. It was the Indian version of the French enfleurage process. The Indian method uses cleaned and husked sesame seeds in place of the fat. Fresh jasmine, keora, rose and other flowers are spread in alternate layers on the floor of a cemented pit. Exhausted flowers are replaced by fresh ones every 10-12 hours until the seeds are saturated with the perfume. The fragrance laden seeds are then placed in old fashioned stone grinding mill run by a bullock moving in circles and the oil is expressed at very low temperatures. Approximately 1300 lbs of flowers will be used to saturated 500 lbs of seeds. The oil produced from these fragrance saturated seeds will be designated as Sira(high grade) oil. Two lower grades are also produced called Baju(middle grade) and Raji(low grade). They are products obtained by using the spent flowers of Sira Oil . This oils are primarily used for the production of hair oils and cosmetics.

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  • Visit to Rajasthan 1 - Trip from Delhi to Jaipur

    On July 17th I landed in New Delhi to begin the fifth phase of exploring India’s aromatic traditions. Each trip to this point has been filled with numerous interesting discoveries and I knew in my heart that this would be no exception. After clearing customs I emerged into the furnace blast heat of the pre-monsoon season of North India. Rains had been moving across most of the country but had not yet fallen in New Delhi and into Rajasthan so it was a bit on the hot side but I was so pleased to be beginning another aromatic expedition that I did not pay much heed to the weather. After a few minutes Ramakant appeared with the car that had been hired to take us on our journey and we immediately proceeded to Jaipur, a six hour ride from the airport. Within a very short time we left the city limits and passed into the countryside. The road to Jaipur was incredibly smooth, a nice change from some of the previous roads we had traveled on in rural India. Jaipur, Agra, and Delhi are part of the Golden Triangle which forms one of the most popular tourist destinations to India, so apparently government officials have seen the wisdom of keeping the roads in good repair.

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  • Visit to Rajasthan 2—Trip from Jaipur to Jodhpur

    Following our delicious repast we went for a short walk to sit in an open courtyard just outside the village temple dedicated to Krishna. We were enveloped in the darkness as we sat absorbing the vibrations of a land that is filled with a rich history thousands of years old. In the distance we could see rocky mountains jutting out of the desert floor and the outline of temples and fortresses upon them. The lowing of cattle in a nearby dairy provided a gentle background to our reveries. Navneet took us into the temple compound so we could receive the blessings of that atmosphere. In such humble surroundings one is able to sense the deep unassuming devotion that is characteristic of so many millions of Indian people and it is in such places that rich spiritual and cultural traditions are maintained from generation to generation. We returned to our hotel room contented and happy after a full day of travel, adventure and fine companionship.

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  • Visit to Rajasthan 3—Trip from Jodhpur to Nathdwara

    Our road then took us to Haldigatti, the site of one of the most famous battles in Indian history. It was in this valley that the mighty forces of Emperor Akbar met the valiant forces of Rana Pratap Singh in June 1576. Akbar was victorious in the battle in which 14,000 Rajput warriors died but the intrepid Rana Pratap Singh survived and continued to wage guerilla warfare on the Mughal army eventually weakening its hold on the area. Today this valley has become a miniature version of the Valley of Roses in Bulgaria as it grows the finest Damascena roses in India. We took the opportunity to visit some of the small farms each which had dedicated a portion of their land for growing roses and the plants were truly healthy and robust. Fine rose water, gulkand and rose attar is produced here and I think that some of our future work will be done here.

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  • Visit to Rajasthan 4—Return to Delhi via Jaipur and Mandava

    Early the next morning we began our return journey to Jaipur. Along the way beautiful ancient scenes enchanted my eyes. At one place I saw a mother resting with her child beneath a wide-spreading tree. She allowed me to approach and take a few pictures as she rocked her baby in a simple home-made cradle as she talked to him in the sweetest most endearing way. Nearby her husband and other villagers cultivated their fields using tools made at their homes or from local forges. Bullocks quietly moved back and forth at the deep well drawing forth water to irrigate the crops. In these and countless other scenes I find a joy and comfort that comes from knowing that there are still places in the world where people can live and work in their own environments, tending the soil, caring for each other, and leading lives dedicated to religious principles.

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  • Visit to Mysore and Bangalore 1, Pink and White Lotus Ponds

    When the word “lotus” is spoken, it creates in the mind an image of perfect beauty for those who have beheld this wonderous flower. With its roots anchored in the mud of the pond or lake in which it lives, it rises up through the water to bloom on a stately stalk. Whether its color be blue, pink or white, the same elegant form presents itself. In the early morning before the dawn rays cause its petal to unfold, it stands erect and serene in the pose of the folded hands as when people greet each other in India and other Eastern countries. The graceful enfolding of the radiant inner core of the flower by the outer petals in the cool pre-dawn hours reminds one of the patience and calmness one must have while dealing with the many visitudes of life. If somehow one can maintain a serene equipoise so sublimely embodied in the lotus blossom prior to unfolding then when the mind is touched by the spirit of truth it can blossom in an unassuming manner, revealing the golden radiance which always exists in the heart. Then just as the unfolding petals of the lotus release their fragrance into the morning air; fresh, innocent, and pure, so can a person release the natural fragrance of true contentment, kindness, forgiveness and love into the environment in which they live.

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  • Visit to Mysore and Bangalore 2, The Sacred Grove

    Today I am going to take up a different but related subject to the great aromatic traditions of India. As you already know the past 6 or 7 newsletters have concerned themselves with individual aromatic plants like Pandanus odoratissimus, Lawsonia inermis, Vetiveria zizaniodes, Jasminum sambac etc. This newsletter is going to present how these plants and many others were combined in ancient times to create sacred gardens where a very special type of healing took place. By very good fortune there is still at least one person in India who is creating such sacred places. His name is Mr. Yellapa Reddy. He is the retired Chief Forest Officer for the state of Karnatika in South India. It is the visit to the garden that this account describes. Meeting with he and his dear wife was also a tender and precious experience that illuminated the subject in a personal way. They were people of the highest quality with a special connection to the plant world that allowed their hearts to become sublime ambassdors for the gentle messages sent by the lovely botanical creations.

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  • Visit to Coimbatore 1—Spirit of the Land

    Having completed our work in Mysore we continued on to the next important destination, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu state which, in recent years, has gained fame for its jasmine absolutes. Through his numerous contacts in the essential oil industry Ramakant had come to know that a small company headed by Mr. Sivaramakrishna and his son-in-law, Mr. Sethuraman were producing Jasmin grandiflorum and J.sambac absolutes of the finest quality. They graciously offered to host our visit so we could gain a first-hand exposure to the current workings of the industry.

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  • Visit to Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu 2—Visit to the Jasmine Extracting Unit

    In the early part of the afternoon we reached Coimbatore and checked into the hotel that had been arranged for us by Mr. Sethuraman, the person from whom I had started procuring fine jasmine and tuberose absolutes in January. He, along with his father and mother-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Sivaramakarishna, had a well-established extraction facility north of the city and had been engaged in floral absolute production since the later part of the 1970’s. Our purpose in visiting with them was to gain first-hand knowledge of this aromatic industry and to understand how they how built their business during the past twenty years. As soon as we had settled in we contacted Mr. Sethuraman and he immediately came to meet us and take us out for lunch where we could discuss how his family built there business to the place where it was today.

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  • Visit to Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu 3—Organic Jasmine Flower Gardens

    The early morning journey from Coimbatore into the surrounding countryside was a delight. The hours just before and after sunrise are charged ones in India. It is called the Amrit Vela or the Time of the Nectar as the quiet hours of early morning are considered the most auspicious for prayer and meditation. For thousands of years, the countries people have been rising during this time to pay homage to the Hidden Power which supports all life and the atmosphere is alive with the concentrated energy of this collective devotion. John Hayland, an Englishman who loved India wrote in his book, The Life of Christ:

    “There is an hour of the Indian night, a little before the glimmer of the dawn, when the stars arer unbelievably clear and closer, shining with the radiance beyond our beliefm in this foggy land. The trees stand silent wround one with a friendly presence. As yet there is no sound from the awakening birds, but the whole world seems to be intent, alive, listening, eager. At such a moment the veil between the things that are seen and the things that are unseen becomes so thin as to interpose scarcely any barrier at all beteen the eternal beauty and truth and the soul which would comprehend them.”

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  • Visit to Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu 4—Jasmine in Sacred Tradition

    Ramakant told me that at the time of great religious festivals in Mumbai, especially in honor of Vishnu and Krishna, entire rooms are decorated with Jasmin sambac flowers producing an ethereal vision of beauty and fragrance that greatly uplifts the minds of those absorbed in that experience. He attended the Satsang of one respected spiritual personality and the place where he sat was richly adorned with several fragrant flowers. Above his head a delicate canopy was fabricated of intricately laced J. sambac flowers that perfumed the entire area. In the Indian tradition it is felt that a person’s mind becomes introverted and concentrated by smelling the odor of jasmine and other fragrant flowers thus allowing them to become a more fit mouthpiece for expressing hidden truths. In like manner, the same aromas make the minds of the listeners to spiritual discources more calm and relaxed so that they attend more carefully to what is being said at such times.

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  • Champa 1, From the Travel Journal

    Several years ago, while studying about the exotic flowers of the East I came across a reference to one called golden champa. The name itself had a strong appeal for me and I became interested in uncovering whatever information I could on the plant. Further research revealed that the delicate flower possessed a rich, ethereal odor that was much prized by the people of India. The tree upon which it grew had glossy green leaves and towered to height of 100 feet in a pyramidical shape. When the tree was in bloom, covered with thousands of golden fragrant blossoms, it was said to be a sight of rare and exquisite beauty. The people of India held the tree in such high esteem that it was often planted near temples and ashrams where its color, form and fragrance could be enjoyed by people coming into those refined environments. Women loved to place the closed buds in their lusterous black hair and in the course of the day, the flowers would open releasing their divine fragrance both for the individual to enjoy as well as those in the immediate environment. A perfume was also made from the delicate blossoms that was said to have notes of orange-flower, ylang-ylang, and tea rose. Each new piece of information intrigued me more, and I became determined to see the tree for myself and to inhale its divine odor.

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  • Champa 2, Champa in Literature

    Bright glow the champaka and pomegranate flowers,
    Like stars that have fallen to Earth with a blush!
    And the wild bulbul’s strains are prolonged thro’ these hours,
    Till the zephyr streams by one rich musical gush!
    Oh! how this deep beautiful music of night
    Is stirring up echoes like spirits around—-
    Till the stars—-those great, glorious Creations of Light—-
    Are listening like lovers to love’s tenderest sound.
        Lady Emmeline Stuart-Wortley, 1806-1855 [from Hours at Naples, and Other Poems (1837)]

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  • Parijata 1, From the Travel Journal

    This January (1998) we (Ramakant Harlalka and I) were on our morning walk in the Matunga section of Mumbai. Along a busy thoroughfare we spotted a beautiful parijat tree (Nycanthes arbortrisis) growing near an apartment complex. As it was the sunrise hour, the delicate flowers were gently falling to the ground and covering the pavement with elegant beauty. We carefully collected a few of them and placing them in my palm I inhaled a lovely bouquet that reminded one of the essense of orange flowers and jasmine. It had a slightly sharper penetrating note but the overall effect was soft and sweet. We decided to collect a small basket of them so we could photograph them in the small studio we had set-up in the flat I was staying. As we picked up one ethereal flower after another, I felt as if I was joining hands with generation after generations of Indians who have collected them for offering at home alters or in the numerous temples that are to be found in countryside, town and city. In ancient Hindu literature the parijatak tree appears as one of the first gifts to humankind hence its sacred status. It was a simple, pleasurable activity that did not harm the tree and gave us a lot of joy because we could come close to the plant and appreciate a little more what a special role it played in the lives of the Indian people.

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  • Parijata 2, General Information

    I hope you are well and enjoying fine weather wherever you may be in the world. Today’s newsletter will begin a series on exotic flowers with reference to their use in traditional attars, medicine, history, lore and legends, etc. Parijata/Nyctanthes arbortristis, Sona Champa/Michelia champaca, Gulhina/Lawsonia inermis, and several others will be taken up in the months to come. The information is a compositite of personal interactions with the plants, the areas where they grow, etc as well as assembled data from different resources.

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  • Mitti, from the Travel Journal

    In the Bhagavad Gita, when Lord Krishna reveals his true idenity to Arjuna, he uses the lovely phrase, “the fragrance of the earth”, to describe his essential nature. This fragrance is very dear to the Indian people as it is associated with the coming of the monsoon rains which is the life-giver. In many places there is no other water source for irrigating the crops than that which comes from the sky. When the monsoon season approaches the farmers throughout the country search the horizon for signs of the moisture-laden clouds with fervent prayers that this years rains will be sufficient to grow the crops which will feed their families, communities and country. The feelings that get awakened at that time are very intense and one must realize that the entire livelihood of millions of people is tied up with the amount of rain that falls in any given year. When the first drops of rain fall upon the parched earth, it gives off an intoxicating aroma that is inhaled by the country folk in deep satisfying draughts. It is a cause for singing, dancing, and tears of joy because if all goes well in a few short months the fields will be full of nourishing crops.

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  • Bakul

    The lovely evergreen Bakula tree of the Indian subcontinent, with its small shiny , thick, narrow, pointed leaves, straight trunk and spreading branches is a prized ornamental specimen because it provides a dense shade and during the months from March to July fills the night air with the delicious heady aroma of its tiny cream colored flowers. In the morning the ethereal flowers which so graciously scented their surroundings with their deep, rich, honey notes during the evening hours, fall to the ground. People living in their proximity love to collect them as they retain their odor for many days after they fall. They are offered in temples and shrines throughout the country. Because of their ability to hold their fragrance for many days the flower has a special symbolic meaning when offered to the gods and goddesses. An offering of Bakula flowers signifies the unwavering devotion of the aspirant for the object of their devotion just as the bakul flower maintains its wonderful perfume long after it has fallen from the tree. The flowers have also inspired a popular saying, “true friendship lasts like the scent of maulsari(bakul)” They are equally prized for making into tiny garlands which can be woven into the hair emitting a perfume that is a delight to the wearer and to those who come in their company.

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  • Hina

    There is an aura of mystery surrounding the Indian perfume known as Hina or Shamama. It is a rich, deep and intensely oriental fragrance much prized in India and the Middle East but relatively little known in the West. It should not be confused with Henna, the term is also used in connection with the red paste produced from the leaves of the plant, Lawsonia inermis, popularly used to decorate the hands and feet of women for special functions and as a hair colorant.  The perfume Hina or Shamama is an entirely different product and this newsletter sheds some light on as to how it is made and the processes involved in its manufacture.

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  • Ruh Khus (Wild Vetiver)

    In February of 1995 I had the opportunity to travel with my fragrance mentor, Ramakant Harlalka and his good friend Dr. Maheshwari to the north Indian town of Kannauj in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The purpose of our visit was to explore the traditional perfume industry which still thrives in that region. One of the main plants distilled at that time of year was the wild vetiver root and during the course of the few days I spent in their company, I was to gain a better understanding of the importance of this root and the vital role it has played in the lives of the Indian people throughout the countries long history.

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  • Gulhina / Henna Flower

    Mandore was the site of the former capitol of the area and was established in a fertile gorge surrounded by rocky hills. The Parihar Rajputs ruled here from the sixth to thirteenth century and built a charming palace complex surrounded by beautiful gardens. We entered this ancient site through a park of towering trees, shrubs, flowers and waterways. Temple like structures called chhatis were prominent features of the landscape. They marked the spot where past rulers had been cremated. Other magnificent buildings graced the landscape and we enjoyed the fine mood created by the gentle post-sundown light. Luscious smells of henna and jasmine flowers wafted on the night air.

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  • Ylang Ylang 1

    The oil of today is Ylang Ylang with special reference to what is known as Ylang Ylang Superior Extra. As you are most likely aware Ylang Ylang is generally offered in what is known as fractions: Extra, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Another oil is offered which is known as a complete. Generally companies involved in preparing the different fractions of Ylang Ylang add the fractions together in specific proportions to form the Complete. There is one more grade that is rarely offered which is called the Ylang Ylang Superior Extra Grade. It is considered by many to represent the most lovely notes of Ylang Ylang. The Superior Extra Grade cannot be prepared in all locations where the tree grows. One of the most superior climates for growing Ylang Ylang is on the island of Mayotte off the coast of Madagascar and it is here that a truly divine Extra Superior Grade of Ylang Ylang is prepared from organcially grown flowers(ECO CERT certified)

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  • Ylang Ylang 2

    The subject of Ylang Ylang is a fascinating one and in this one small article it can only be briefly touched on. It remains on of the finest affordable natural perfume materials for people involved in natural perfumery and cosmetics etc. Personal involvement began when I read through the accounts of its distillation by Ernest Guenther and Stephen Arctander. As all of you know Ylang is one of the only essential oils that is fractionated meaning that during the distillation process, according to the knowledge of the distiller, Superior Extra, Extra, 1st, 2nd and 3rd fractions are taken off. From an olfactory standpoint the odor of the Superior and Extra fractions are considered to be the finest.

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  • Geranium

    I hope all of you are doing your olfactory exercises because there are many new oils coming in to enjoy. Today the lovely, rich, complex, Bourbon Geranium(Reunion Islands) Essential Oil arrived. In most instances the leaves of geranium are steam distilled but in this special instance they are hydro-distilled. Last year, just about this time Ramakant, his family and I took a group of 22 people to India to share with them the aromatic botanical wealth of South India.

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  • Neroli

    Today I am taking up the story of Neroli. It is an essence that is filled with the most remarkable, uplifting aromatic molecules. It is an essence which almost everyone loves. The main center of production is currently Tunisia with Morocco, Spain, France(southern part, Guinea, Algeria, Egypt and a few other counties contributing their own special distillations of this oil. It is important to remember that even though the very same genus and species of a plant may be used for distilling an oil, the oil itself may display marked differences. Much depends upon the soil, the climate of that particular year, the water, distilling technique, etc.

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  • Frangipani

    When I visited Philip in South India, he took me into the surrounding countryside to visit the areas where champaca flowers and frangipani flowers were growing in their wild state for production of the concrete. Deep in the rural countryside we saw many stately trees bedecked with flowers(the first flush of flowers emerge before the leaves) Many of the trees were planted near temples and holy shrines, hence its name, Temple Tree. Later in a number of other localities in India, I saw giant frangipani trees growing in temple compounds, even in the heart of Rajasthan where the climate is much hotter and drier than the Bangalore area. The idea of planting the trees near temples and shrines seemed excellent as the aroma pervaded the entire area creating a contemplative atmosphere as well as providing delicate flowers for offering in the inner sanctuary. Indians have for countless generations found aromatic flowers one of the fittest offerings for worship. The flower is seen as the symbol of the fragile human life out of which should come the fragrance of devotion that allows the soul to merge with the mysterious Essence of all life. In the spiritual symbolism of India the flower has a special significance. The 5 petals are said to be represent five qualities necessary for Psychological Perfection: sincerity, faith, aspiration, devotion and surrender.

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  • Lavender

    Today we shall explore a plant that is dear to many of us as an immediate reality. There are many exotic flowers, herbs, spices, roots and woods which grow in distant lands which are difficult for many us to experience in a direct way but lavender is a plant which grows in many North American and European climates. This quiet and humble herb exudes a scintillating, fresh and pure aroma which seldom fails to touch the heart. It reminds one of simpler times when such elegant gifts of nature were used to enhance the lives of the common people by placing these aromatic stems in drawers and chests, to scent sheets and garments. It was a common ingredient in potpourris, lending color and aroma to house and home. Today we are also realizing the incredible value of this plant and its precious oil and the use of lavender for a wide of variety of aesthetic purposes is well known.

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  • Petigrain

    This time we will explore the different dimensions of Petitgrain as there are several major oils distilled from the leaves and twigs of the Citrus genus. The explorations that I am engaged in are purely from an olfactory standpoint. The interplay of major, minor and trace constituents in a single essential oil is a work of great beauty which changes from season to season, country to country and year to year and how those oils come into being through the environments they grow in, the people who tend the aromatic harvest, and the folks who distill their oils is the major focus of the work that I am engaged in.

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  • Gulab/Rose

    The subject of the rose and her sublime fragrance is one that has no end. Volumes have been written on this subject and what is more, a person who has had the opportunity to explore this precious essence as it radiates from the living flower or in the carefully captured rose otto, absolute or attar has written the celestial memory of this odor on their heart. The thoughts and emotions evoked by the divine aroma of this flower cannot be confined to words. Its radiant fragrance has the capacity to remind one of the most precious aspirations of the heart and soul.

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  • Patchouli

    Before embarking upon another plant monograph, in this case Patchouli/Pogostemon cablin, I would like to mention once again a very important point. The information being shared is, at best, an attempt to open up to greater view a world that may be little known or understood. It is based partly on personal experience and partly on the experience of others who have a great deal more knowledge than I from the level of understanding essential oil production. I would like to gently encourage all reading this to bear in mind that I am also a very beginning student in understanding this subject. In short this is not meant to be an authoritative commentary on Patchouli but just one door into a very interesting world.

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  • Lotus 2

    Each one of us is on a unique and special quest during which we hope to gain appreciation of new and beautiful dimensions of life. Many of us have found a special connection to the world of aromatic plants and the wonderful essences extracted or distilled from them. Gradually we are learning that such precious gems of the botanical kingdom are the result of an intricate web of relationships between environments, plants, climates, farmers or gatherers, and extractors/distillers. The creative use of these radiant treasures is in the domain of practicing natural perfumery. Each and every part of this world is significant and each person engaged in it has a chance to offer some special gift which is a manifestation of their own inner beauty and goodness. As the appreciation for all the parts grows one has the opportunity to gradually increase the sense of wonder, mystery and awe that bestows on our lives that special glow which leads to fulfillment and contentment.

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  • Frankincense

    The word frankincense has a wealth of sublime olfactory associations connected with it depending on the country and religious heritage one has grown up in. Yet in almost all cases is it linked up with feelings of devotion, prayer, contemplation and inspiration. The aroma of “mystery and wonder” created when the golden resin is placed upon smoldering embers seldom fails to pacify the heart and mind and turn it towards contemplation upon something which defies description. Even those who may not have any specific religious/cultural association with this magnificent odor are touched by its rare ethereal beauty.

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  • Spikenard

    The Spikenard of India, Nardostachys jatamansi, produces a beautiful green or chocolate colored oil, which eloquently speaks of the high mountain environs from which it comes. The rich, mysterious, earthy constituents mingle with a soft warm spicyness which is balm to the heart and soul. It captures in itself something of the spirit of those places which have been sacred places of devotion for countless centuries. The Himalayan ranges of Nepal, India and Burma provide the natural habitat for this botancial gem which has been revered both in east and west for many centuries. My personal contact with the plant has been limited to holding the aromatic roots in hand while standing in the Kullu Valley of the Himalayas. Mr. Nandlal, a true botanical lover of the Himalayas presented us with roots used for distillation gathered from the surrounding towering peaks and one could only marvel at how this modest root could be gathered from the higher reaches of the mountains by the folk living in their simple homes located on the sheer slopes. And what a sweet treasure it was to crush the roots and smell the elixir gathered in the roots from the soil of the ancient Himalayas. Following is information extracted from various web sites which may give a fuller appreciation of the plant and its special virtues. You can link to the various web sites to investigate the subject in greater depth.

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  • Aromatic Resins

    Like all of you, I have a keen interest in aromatic explorations of all sorts. Finding sources for unique essences has occupied most of my attention for the past several years and that will continue to be a main focus of attention for years to come.It truly is an inspiring time to be involved with essential oils, absolutes, CO2 extracts, attars, etc from a small entrepreneurs viewpoint. More and more direct access to distillers/extractors is opening up and it gives people like us a chance to become involved with projects which may be dear to our hearts.

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  • Earth Aroma

    The mystery of the earth itself cannot be fathomed by the human mind. As we stroll across any small piece of land, we are liable to forget that it is teeming with an unseen life. Molds, fungi, micro-organisms, minerals, earthworms, water, and so many other things are active there producing the environment in which the seeds and roots of plants are nourished and brought into expression in an incredible array of color, form, odor, and texture which the greatest artists of the world have endeavored to capture glimpses of in their paintings, sculptures, poems, etc. When we look at any piece of land and smell the variety of odors emitted by the plants growing there, it makes one realize how profound the subject of the earth is. The plants living, in basically the same environment are selecting from the soil very special components which are going to give the flowers, herbs, roots etc their distinctive odor. It is truly a wonder of wonders.

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  • Organic Essential Oils

    Two years ago Suzanne and I began refining the focus of our modest essential oil enterprise. Since that time quite a few new folks have become customers so I thought it might be helpful to have a short update on what that focus is and how our enterprise continues to evolve. First of all we felt, at that time, that after 5 years of business we had a better sense of what we enjoyed offering to all of you through White Lotus Aromatics i.e. quality organic and wild harvested essential oils and CO2 extracts as well as traditional Indian attars and a select line of absolutes. We also felt it was important for us personally to always be seeking out a few new items each month so that our knowledge and enjoyment of the world of natural aromatics would remain fresh and zestful as well as providing you, our customers, a wider selection of materials for your aromatic creations.

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  • Silver Fir

    In the coming months I will be featuring a series of simple monographs containing botanical descriptions,links to images, olfactory descriptions, basic gc analysis, etc of a selection of oils. These are not going to be as in depth as some of the other newsletters that I have done but should provide some useful information to you. I will continue to work on some more in depth newsletters(distillation newsletter approaching completion) but will now add these less complex monographs. Also please note that I have recently updated the wholesale section of my web site which includes many new oils from Ethiopia and South Africa.

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  • Grand Fir

    I think it is important to realize though that each oil is a synergy of many components all interacting in some unique fine balance created by nature. And it is equally important to realize that only the essential oils major components are listed above. This is always valuable to bear in mind because the minor and trace components play an important part in the olfactory nature of any essential oil. This is a vast and deep subject, truly beyond my comprehension. I have limited myself to enjoying the benefits of the oil through appreciating the form, color, and beauty of the plant as it appears in nature, the environments in which they grow, the traditional uses to which the plant has been put, the lore and legends that have grown up around them, etc.

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  • Cypress

    Cypress olfactory description: fresh, green, resinous topnote. Round soft, sweet balsamic-woody bouquet gently exerts its influence as the topnote fades. There is a distinct note of rich resinous sun warmed pine cones that appears deep in the dryout. The olfactory receptors are cooled and soothed by the odor. A nice aromatic nasal air-conditioner

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  • Rosemary

    This is a subject which one can never tire of. It is full of many unique surprises. Oftentimes we tend to base our evaluation of an oil on its topnote but to really get to know an oil one has to go deeper and become friends with them. A well distilled oil will reveal many intricate complexities that surprise one at every stage. It is often hard to say where a topnote ends, a middle note begins, a middle note ends and a base note begins. I have often seen that notes appear and disappear throughout the process of evaporation. There seems to me to be a total emanation of an oil which is much more than its individual parts and when doing any analysis one is trying to put into words something which is forever changing in its olfactory landscape. Indeed from second to second subtle nuances appear and disappear(or so it seems to me) In short, concentrated attention on any one oil can lead to intriguing olfactory discoveries within the course of an hour or longer Right now I am sitting smelling the so-called base notes of three different rosemary’s and each while having a distinct personality continues to reveal very complex attributes even after over an hour of study. Indeed, I would suggest that many oils are beautiful perfumes in themselves if one is willing to go deep into their personalities.

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  • Carrot Seed

    The original wild-type carrots were thin, wiry, and varied in color from white to purple, but not the common orange that we see today. Wild-type carrots are also known as Queen Anne’s Lace. The origin of the name is based upon an English legend. Supposedly, when the future Queen Anne arrived from Denmark to became the queen of King James I of England, wild carrot was still a novelty in the royal gardens. The legend states that Queen Anne challenged the ladies of the court to a contest to see who could produce a pattern of lace as lovely as the flower of the carrot. The ladies knew that no one could rival the queen’s handiwork so it became a triumph for Anne (Haughton, 1978). Other common names for wild carrot are bird’s-nest and devil’s-plague.

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  • Bergamot

    The exploration and enjoyment of olfactory sensations is one which will forever enchant ones heart. When one enters this domain, one may wish to do so with the understanding that ones perception of aromatic oils will be forever undergoing a process of transformation. It is not that we smell a precious and delectable oil only once and then we have mastered that essence. Indeed the sense of smell is a cultivated and developed over many years. There are many olfactory perceptors that have become dormant due to lack of use and need to be reawakened again through the disciplined concentration on each individual essence. In due course of time one begins to discover many sublime dimensions of each oil, dimensions that may not have been at all detectable in the early phases of this delightful study.

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  • Douglas Fir

    Although the enthnobotanical section does not shed direct light on the uses of the essential oil, it does give us an insight into the cultural uses of the plant in various parts of the world. It is important to remember that the people who actually used the plants in different dimensions of their lives, often had an inner appreciation and respect for them (the plants) which is difficult to capture in words. Plants were often seen as living entities endowed with s special type of consciousness that humans needed to attune themselves too in order to understand the many aesthetic and practical virtues concealed within them. Indeed the whole world in which the plants lived was seen as a vibrant energy field that needed to be understood so that a true balance in give and take could be maintained.

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  • Oregano

    Olfactory description of oregano: Extremely powerful, penetrating punguent dry green herbaceous-medicinal odor top and heart notes. This is an oil that not only impacts ones nasal passages with a strong tingling sensation but seems to pass into the throat zone with similar effect. This is not an oil for the timid. It seems to clear out anything in its path leaving only its own powerful resonating vibration. Tenacious dryout preserving many of the characteristics of the top and heart notes with somewhat reduced intensity

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  • Holy Basil

    The Holy Basil plant from which the oil is distilled has been revered in India for thousands of years. It has a special place in the courtyard of Hindu families. The daily routine of many families is centered around this plants worship. When one begins to investigate its use in indigenous systems of medicine, then it is easy to see why the plant is considered so special. The sages and seers of ancient times were keen to instill in people’s hearts appreciation for the virtues to be derived from plants. Holy Basil could easily be cultivated in a wide range of climates and filled the surrounding atmosphere with a type of charged aroma which was in itself an elixir of the finest quality. This coupled with the rich inner world that often is part of the Eastern heart and mind, brought this plant into a world of symbolic imagery which is a delight to read about.

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  • Tamanu Seed

    Up till quite recently my entire focus has been on offering essential oils, absolutes, traditional attars and CO2 extracts. In the coming months I will be offering a range of fixed/carrier oils for those of you who use them in compounding your delectable products for personal use or for your customers. Just last week I procured a first consignment of Calophyllum inophyllum oil from Africa which you may enjoy exploring. Kindly note that the information provided is selected for your education and enjoyment.

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  • Osmanthus

    I hope that many of you have had the opportunity to enhale the heady aroma of fresh osmanthus flowers, one of the true delights of the earth plane. The tiny inconspicous flowers of this delightful plant bloom in the fall months and fill the air with a rare perfume that surrounds one and penetrates deep into the heart. On the Filoli Estate where I worked for almost a decade we had a golden flowered osmanthus growing in a large bed of Chinese Tree Peonies which never failed to delight one with its intoxicating aroma on a crisp autumn day. I hope that you will enjoy this article which is written in honor of this wonderful tree and the ethereal concrete and absolute prepared from its flowers.

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  • Incense

    Several new and interesting projects continue to evolve which should, in the months to come, prove delightful from an aromatic standpoint . As mentioned in a recent newsletter I have come in contact with an agricultural operation in Assam that is growing Agarwood trees/Aquilaria agallocha under cultivation. They have successfully inoculated the trees with the fungus that causes the formation of the agar resin and are now able to produce the precious aromatic resin as a renewable resource. As mentioned before the wild harvested species, while still in existence have been put under a lot of stress do to intensive harvesting so this may also provide the naturally occurring trees with some relief as it is less costly to produce the cultivated agarwood.

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  • Jasmin Grandiflorum

    It use to be that Grasse, France was the world leader in production of Jasmine absolutes and pommades. Today the centers of production have changed to countries like Egypt, India, Morocco and South Africa. Still some small amount is produced in Grasse of very high quality(and cost) All the above mentioned countries also produce beautiful Jasmin grandiflorum concretes and in some cases absolutes. Several old companies in and around Grasse still practice the high art and craft of absolute production and do their work by procuring concretes from India, Egypt, etc to which they have close links having, in many cases, supporting overseas production of these precious products. As with each one of these newsletters, there are volumes more that can be said but I think the real idea is to inspire each one of your to go deeper into the subject from your own particular angle of interest and expertise

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  • Costus Root

    A high altitude plant with a unique and beautiful physical form is Saussurea lappa commonly known as Costus Root. It grows on the moist slopes of the Himalayas at altitudes of 8000-12000 feet in Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Lahul-Spiti, etc. It both grows wild and is cultivated. The roots have a long history of medicinal and aesthetic use in Tibet, India and other mountain regions. It was a prized item of commerce from the earliest times as the roots were reputed not only to have great curative properties but also wonderful aromatic qualities much prized in perfume creations of the ancient world. It not only was appreciated as an oil but as a prime ingredient in incense.

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  • Nigella Sativa

    The world of essential oils, CO2 extracts, absolutes, attars and other essences is strongly supported by a variety of important fixed or carrier oils which not only act as natural diluents for the highly concentrated aromatics but have their own unique cosmetic and/or therapeutic value. Gradually I have been adding a few of these for people who wish to use them in for their fragrant creations. A few weeks back the first monograph on fixed/carrier oils was posted. It concerned Callophyllum inophyllum, a lovely thick green spicy carrier oil. Today we will take up Nigella sativa or Black Cumin a superb cold pressed oil from India. There is some confusion about the Nigella sativa/fixed or carrier oil and the Nigella sativa essential oil and I hope this monograph may clear some of this confusion up. Sometimes the fixed/carrier oil is being sold as an essential oil but there is a great difference in the olfactory properties and the cost of the two. The Nigella sativa fixed oil has the faint peppery/spicy odor of the seed whereas the essential oil is extremely intense and very expensive(and very rarely offered in its pure form) The percentage fixed oil in the seeds is in the range of 35-40% and that of the volatile oil from .5-1.5%. From this alone one can see that the fixed oil will be many times less expensive than the essential oil. The main focus of this article is on the fixed oil but the essential oil is available from one reputable distiller in India and I can procure it if there is sufficient interest.

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  • Peppermint

    Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit one of the large mint growing belts of Uttar Pradesh, in the region around Badaun. Traveling from the Himalayas we entered the plains and journeyed on roads that were rough and dubiously maintained but the sites, sounds and smells of rural India delighted the eye, ear and nose . Though the body was jostled about the heart was filled with happiness in becoming absorbed in the visions of rural life styles that remain intact into the modern times. Toward evening we reached the outskirts of Badaun. A fresh coolness was on the air reviving one after the dust and heat of the the days journey. Along the road we were traveling one could see bullock cart after bullock cart ladened with freshly cut mint headed for one of the many local distilleries situated throughout the region. The delightful fresh sharp and penetrating aroma of peppermint filled the nostrils adding greatly to the beauty of this wonderful scene.

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  • Distillation

    When considering the beauty and mystery of the world of aromatic plants and their precious essences which are distilled and extracted by various methods, one comes to realize that in the short space of a lifetime one may only scratch the surface in understanding the subject. As all of you know the process of growing any crop requires a lot of skill and knowledge on the part of those engaged in such work. Working with nature over a period of many years engrains in one a respect for the wonders around one and develops a sincere humility as learns to adjust to the environmental changes that influence the growth of a plant from seed to maturity. When plants have reached the moment of perfect aromatic maturity, they then go into the hands of those engaged in distilling or extracting their precious essence. It is one more vital part in the entire process. It is a subject that has its own aura of mystery. Actually little has been written about the intricasies of the subject and certainly one must be directly engaged in this process to really understand it. The creative imagination will have to serve for those of us who have not yet been afforded this opporutnity.

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  • Juniper Berry

    Different species of juniper abound in the USA. Juniperus virginina/Virginia cedarwood, Juniperus occidentalis/Western juniper and Juniperus ashei/Texas Cedarwood yield essential oils which are still produced in substantial quantities. But there are other species of juniper that exist here and the plant has held a revered place in the lives of the Native American people since times beyond memory. The tree and shrub had a special place in the lives of the people.

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  • White Rose

    The White Rose Project in Bulgarian was a natural progession from the projects that went before. In August of 2000 I began interacting with Vassil Loutchev who represented a respected distillery in Bulgaria and as our conversations evolved the thought came in my mind regarding doing a project with the much less known white rose, Rosa alba. Over the years I had encountered descriptions of the white rose of Bulgaria, its use as a hedging material for the pink rose, Rosa damascena, its hardy nature, its delicate sweet, rosacous honey odor, etc. Ernest Guenther also mentioned it in passing in his noble 6 volume work on essential oils. Through Vassil and his distilling associates I came to know that the white rose while nce widely grown in Bulgaria, was now considerably rarer and only one region of the Valley of the Roses had significant amounts of this rose of sublime beauty. One of the reasons it had lost favor was that compared to the pink rose the yield of essential oil and absolute was roughly half. This had earned it the name of the “dry” rose. And of course this made it a much more expensive material to produce and sell. This only peaked my interest further. I had already been through the experience of sponsoring projects with the lotus which were also very expensive from the production side of things as well as having to create a market for them once extracted so I did not feel daunted by the prospect of supporting a project concerning the white rose

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  • Direct Sourcing

    I hope that all of you are enjoying this wonderful contemplative time of year which in many cases has special significance according to each person’s unique approach to life. Today I am going to endeavor to share a little bit more about how one may go about the direct sourcing adventure and still maintain one’s sanity.(Well maintaining one’s sanity may not be possible but at least you can enjoy the many experiences that will unfold).  But for those of you who have a passion for relating to plants and people of different cultures, perhaps sponsoring a distillation of a particular aromatic plant, etc the information that follows may help you begin your own special project.

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  • Ambrette Seed

    Description of Ambrette Seed: This evergreen shrub is about 4 feet in height, having alternate, palmate leaves and large, sulphur yellow, solitary flowers with a purple base. The capsules are in the form of a five-cornered pyramid, filled with large seeds with a strong odour of musk. The capsules are used in soup and for pickles, and the greyish-brown, kidney-shaped seeds, the size of a lentil, with a strong aromatic flavour, are used by the Arabians to mix with coffee. They are used in perfumery for fats and
    oils, and for the adulteration of musk.

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  • Sweet Marjoram

    For those of you have an interest in Natural Perfumery there is a wonderful book out which really captures the spirit of this ancient art and craft. The name of the book is Alchemy and Essence. It is written by Mandy Aftel who by good fortune lives near us. Suzanne is taking an intensive series of classes on creating natural perfumes along with 7 other lovely people and it is a total joy and happiness for everyone. Actually 3 of the students were over today in the afternoon doing olfactory explorations of the 200 plus attars, absolutes, essential oils, CO2 extracts, etc in stock. Such times are very precious in this life because everyone’s heart is filled with the simple and pure joy of appreciating the wonders of the natural world and then figuring out how they might be combined to bring a ray of sunshine into the lives of others. The oils themselves when sniffed with concentration and appreciation naturally open up doors of creativity dwelling in the heart and then laughter bubbles forth in a natural expression of gladness for being alive and surrounded with so much beauty.

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  • C02 Extracts: Part 1

    Many of you are either familiar or becoming familiar with the CO2 total and select extracts of various botanicals, aromatic and otherwise. The terms total and select as applied to Supercritical CO2 extracts need a simple explanation so that the two different materials are not confused(as the prices on the specified extracts also vary considerably). First the Supercritical process extraction technique uses slightly warmed(31 degrees Centigrade) Carbon dixoide to extract the aromatic constitutents of a plant(for Select Extracts) and the aromatic constituents plus the lipophylic consituents(for total extracts) In both cases the properly ground or pulverized material is placed in a pressurized chamber into which the Carbon dioxide is pumped. The Carbon dioxide in this presurrized condition remains in its gaseous state but displays the quality of a liquid and effectively dissolves the targeted constitutents of the plant. Lower pressure conditions remove the volatile oils(Select extracts) and higher pressures(Total extract) remove the fatty oils, waxes, pigments, etc that naturally exist in the plant.

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  • C02 Extracts: Part 2

    Yesterday I had the chance to meet with colleagues in India who have a nifty CO2 extraction facility in Maharastra State, India. These dedicated and kind people have done an incredible work in producing total and select extracts, some of which I have never encountered before. Select extracts of Patchouli, Spikenard and Spike Ginger produced superb olfactory experiences. The rounded and complete bouquet of the carefully extracted botanicals was wonderful to experience and this was greatly enhanced by meeting people who have worked wholeheartidly to refine the art and craft of CO2 extraction. As I talked with them I was once again reminded of the importance that the raw materials play in any distillation or extraction process. These gentleman realized very early in their work that there was no sense in using any but the finest raw materials for their work. A huge investment in research and development went into doing experimental extractions so they could see for the themselves which raw materials would produce the finest total and select extracts.

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  • February Notes

    A bit of a general newsletter is being sent out today. First a reminder that today is the last day for CO2 extract preordering. It is an equal delight for me to put an order together as I have the chance to see friends and customers ordering things which I myself do not stock. Now I am working on a list of absolutes for preordering. It is equally exciting. I think that between the different extractors I have the good fortune to work with over 75 absolutes will be available. I myself have never experienced a number of them so it will be exciting to see what all of you order. It is quite interesting an intriguing to know that all of these precious essences have some special use that brings join, zest and beauty to life.

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  • Gulab/Rose 2

    India is a land redolent with a aromatic plants. In each nook and corner of the country one finds various herbs, spices, woods, flowers, roots and grasses being grown for aromatic or medicinal purposes. Some are of fairly recent introduction like geranium, lavender, and Jasmin grandiflorum whereas others have been grown for countless generations like sandalwood, agarwood, and Jasmin sambac. Many of the plants that have a longer history in India also factor strongly into the cultural and religious lives of the country people. It is certain that this deep inner connection with the plants plays an important role in the emotional and spiritual well-being of the people. One of the flowers that has a relatively long history in the countries rich aromatic traditions is the Rose. Several species are widely cultivated in India; Rosa damascena, Rosa centifolia and Rosa bourbonia. Each has its own unique aromatic profile and uses and we will look at the Rose both in the broad sense and also from the uses of the specific species.

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  • Ruh Khus 2

    As all of you know the descriptive terminology for fragrance, aroma, perfume is allusive at the best. The odors preceived through the sense of smell and the impressions and experiences they give rise to are unique and special for individual and indeed the same essence can be preceived in very different ways by every individual coming in its contact. Even a person smelling an oil at different times of the day, week, month of year may record greatly varied experiences of the oil.
    Olfactory perception is something which a person can develop with concentration and attention giving ingress to ever widening domains of mystery, awe and wonder. Yet one need not bypass the world of words totally when one enters this world. There is a certain creative joy in describing indescribable impressions. It is a way of giving shape to an invisible world. Whereas the words can never give a perfect description of the experience of fragrance they can certainly capture the “spirit” of the experience and create a rainbow bridge of understanding into the hearts of others. It is not so much that we need be exact in the verbal description but that the words might convey some of the joy and sweetness the world of the invisible aromas creates n our hearts.

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  • Saffron

    The times which we live are filled with many beautiful things and one can hardly catch their breath before some new aromatic treasure has appeared on the horizon. Sometimes I think the plant world is sending us many special radiant and redolent benign treasures to remind us that always there are things to be grateful and thankful for each and every step of the way. In my own aromatic quest I feel like I am living in a constant state of amazement. Their are numbers of really wonderful distillers and extractors doing superb work. They may not have all the sophisticated equipment for analysis etc but what they are doing in their respective parts of the world is not less than a marvel and a real blessing for humankind. One has to stop and remember that each and every precious oils that comes into our hands is created by an intricate process of growing and nurturing plants, gathering them, distilling or extracting them correctly, etc. The more we can bring this into our awareness the more our appreciation will grow for the precious vials of exquisite essences that grace our lives. Today we will explore the world of saffron. I hope you will enjoy the tidbits of information offered herein.

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  • Lemon-Scented Tea Tree

    The aroma of the lemon-scented tea tree is very fine, delicate and sweet lemon-roseaceous topnote. Fresh and clean wholesome aroma. As the topnote melds into the heart note a more penetrationg, slightly punguent herbaceous, lemon-lime like odor appears. A combined lemon verbena/citronella/lemongrass type of aroma which is to say grassy, leafy and citrus peel like. The sweet delicate topnote impression remains present well into the heartnote. It is a sparkling effervescent oil. This is definitely an oil of unexpected delights. The distillation is excellent(we should not forget that the distiller plays a critical part in the beauty of any oil.

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  • Olfactory Perception

    Working on the newsletters is both relaxing and educational for me and I hope for you. I learn as much from the questions all of you ask as I do from any other type of research because a lot of them have to do with very practical issues. As often mentioned my main knowledge and expertise lies in the in production side of things because in a very direct way I have both worked as a horticulturist all of my adult life(including farming in India from 1971-1976) as well as seen many of the processes of distillation and extraction taking place before my eyes. The lives of the farmers in India, the environments they work in and the plants they grow are also quie familiar to me. That has helped me immeaurably to understand how CO2 extracts, absolutes, essential oils, attars, incense, etc are created. I hope that each of you may one day have the opportunity to experience some of these things because it is a real eye opener. Of equal importance is to come in contact with the farmers, plants and environments in which they grow. Once this happens ones appreciation and gratitude go on increasing day to day. These types of feelings can never decrease but grow as ones ability to digest them increases.

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  • December 2002

    Dear Friends,
    Today we will progress further with our exploration of olfactory perception. Adjectives beginning with B related to Olfactory Perception: bad, beautiful, best, better, bitter, bittersweet, black, bland, blithe, blue, bold, bright,botanical, brilliant, briny, broad, brown, buoyant, buttery. Verbs: bake, bite, blend, boil, bracing, breathe, brew, broil, bruise, bubbling, budding, burning.

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  • Aromatic Traditions of India

    As I have sometimes mentioned in past newsletters, in the earlier years of my life, between the age of 21 and 26 I had a chance to live in India on a small farm south of the city of Bangalore. In this lovely subtropical rural setting I had the chance to learn live simply during these important years of the life. The daily routine was very much in the ancient agricultural tradition. Rising early for meditation and then working throughout the day on all the activities by which a small farm exists. The days were often long but very evenly paced. It was a self contained existence with the work of the hands producing wonderful results in the food they we ate. Wheat, corn, ragi(a special grain of South India) peanuts, bananas, mangoes, coconuts, assorted vegetables formed the major portion of the crops grown where I lived. It was a wonderful experience to be involved with every part of this process from planting to harvest.Along with this came the knowledge of an ancient land which was absorbed through intimate contact with the land. A good deal of the time one needed to work only in shorts and a tee shirt without the need for shoes or other clothing. It was a benign environment as that region of India is blessed with a very balanced climate that suited outdoor living the year round.

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  • Visit to Assam, Agarwood 1

    This account is the result of a just completed expedition to the center of agarwood production in the state of Assam. For many years the longing to explore the world of agarwood had been in my heart but the proper contacts to do so had not manifested. As is well known to anyone interested in the subject there is a lot of misinformation and confusion surrounding the topic and rarely has any Westerner been allowed into the centers of actual production. After researching the subject in terms of written literature, talking with colleagues who had some knowledge of the raw materials , and procuring samples of “so-called” agarwood oil, I became convinced that unless I had the chance to see things first hand, I would never understand the topic properly. It is one of the most expensive essences in existence and although many people had requested me to carry it I did not feel comfortable offering an item for which I did not have actual knowledge of the sources from which it came.

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  • Visit to Assam, Agarwood 2

    The walk about town in the early morning provided us with some more ideas of what might evolve in their area and perhaps other places in Assam. Our stroll took us through some fine residental districts where charming bungalows had graceful gardens in which we could identify a number of plants possessing rare aromatic virtues. These included Parijata(Nyctanthes arbortristis), Champa(Michelia champaca), Bakul(Mimusops elengi)and Frangipani(Plumeria alba). The flowers of these trees could all be used to produce simple infused oils, hydrosols and distillates. With a little organizing on a local level, people serving as domestic help could earn extra cash by collecting the flowers earlier in the morning for an hour or so. A person could be appointed to collect and deliver them to a central location where proper processing could be done. Such things are entirely possible in India and in fact have been implanted in places like Mumbai, where Urmilla, Ramakant’s wife manages a similar project. By using aromatic resources already pleasant one can create finely perfumed natural products without having to invest in expensive land, planting new trees and shrubs, etc.

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  • Visit to Assam, Agarwood 3

    Early the next morning-October 18th, Tajul once more joined us for an early morning walk about the town. We went in the opposite direction of the previous morning and on the way we visited the homes of two of his family members, Mr. Shamsul and Mr. Nazim. There we discussed in a very simple way how the lives of the poorer people in the community could be improved by collecting the flowers of parijata and bakul for distillation and infusion. There is an abundance of aromatic materials in the city to produce many wonderful products without the need for developing special plantations and this can also enhance the incomes of the local people while doing a very pleasant activity, collecting the flowers. The wonderful thing also is that the flowers of bakul and parijata naturally fall to the ground each morning and so all one needs to do is collect them. Gentle shaking of the tree or shrub can also be done but it does not require climbing in the tree and plucking by hand from the branches.

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  • Visit to Maharashtra, Blue Lotus 1

    I hope that all of you safely received the multipart article on Agarwood Explorations. If not kindly send me a message and I will send it separately to you. A few people reported having parts of the story cut off from their e-mail so that is why I mention it. I still have a 3 part article on Blue Lotus Explorations to send but frankly I have not had the time to write it all down. It was an equally remarkable experience. My dear fragrance mentor, Ramakant Harlalka, has done a remarkable work with this exquisitely beautiful aromatic plant. He has become finely tuned to its inner feelings and the story which it has to tell and so I think you will enjoy the updated report on our adventures with this lovely fragrant treasure of the botanical world. Maybe next week I will have a chance to start writing about it.

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  • Visit to Maharashtra, Blue Lotus 2

    The journey into the land of the lotus ponds inspired me to move deeper into the project. The basic commitment was already present but seeing the great beauty of this amazing plant close up, as well as witnessing the dedication of Philip and his staff to the project, gave me the final inspirational push.In the months to come Philip was able to extract many pink lotus blossoms as ponds containing them were easier to access than the ones we had visited containing white lotus. By the end of 1998 I had a sufficient quantity on hand to begin offering this precious essence to my customers. It was to our knowledge the first authentic lotus absolute to be offered in the West.

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  • Visit to Maharashtra, Blue Lotus 3

    After returning from the deep and special trip to Assam, Ramakant had kindly arranged for my being able to observe each and every phase of the work he had been doing with the blue lotus blossom for the past several years. After a day’s rest in Bombay, we traveled to his extracting and distillation units north of the city. It had been some time since I had made the journey and it was amazing to see the difference a couple of years had made in travel conditions in India.

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  • Eucalyptus

    Winter is to me one of the really precioius times of life. Several memorable events have happened during that time which have left an indelible impression on my heart.
    When I was about 19 years old I passed(as many people do) through a particularly hard time and felt as if my life was a barren waste land with no direction and meaning. It was a time of deep despair and sorrow. I came back to my home town, Davis, California after a short stay at a Zen Center on the island of Maui in Hawaii. Just before that I had dropped out of Reed College in Portland, Oregon. It was to say the least a tumultous time. One day I was out for a long walk. It was a crisp cool winter’s day. The trees were naked and bare and one could see the telephone wires stretching from pole to pole. My attention was drawn upward towards the wires for on them were perched many small birds singing gloriously in the still air. In that moment I knew that my life had changed and all would be well. Those small birds and their sweet song-those innocent small winged creatures who did not have a home or even regular food to eat were yet filled with a pure song that made my own heart realize that life is rich for the person who has the eyes to see it even if they do not have much in the way of outer possessions.

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  • Aromatics Explorations

    I hope that all of you are enjoying the winter season as it is a fine time to collect ones thoughts and develop a plan for the coming year. Each and every time of year has some special quality about it that can help us develop into the people we would like to be. The winter has that lovely quality of contemplation where we can diget what has happened before and use the wisdom gained for making one’s own life and the life of those around them peaceful and happy. Soon I will begin another series of newsletters with the first one focusing on Eucalyptus. April Shalon has done a wonderful job of editing it and making it more presentable. I hope that in the coming year I may be able to send out a newsletter every two to three weeks as happened in 2002. People sometimes say to me, “It must be a lot of work to collect all the information,” and on one level that is true, but for me it also a form of creative relaxation which keeps the whole world of aromatics alive and vibrant for myself and hopefully for all of you.

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  • Cedarwood

    I hope that each day is bringing you many new avenues of discovery and awakening. It is a fine time of year as the earth comes to life and shares her many facted botanical gems with us. Myriads of colors, textures and scents invite one to explore her treasured realm. If one becomes very small, one can slip into that sublime place where one sees things from inside out instead of outside in. If even for a moment we see the world from that perspective it can brighten up our hearts considerably.
    Today I will endeavor to share a few thoughts about some of the grand evergreen beauties of the USA in Canada. If all goes well a few newsletters will be dedicated to Thuja, Spruce, and Fir. We will start with Thuja which is also called as Arbor Vitae or the Tree of Life. Thuja plicata is referred to as Western Red Cedar and Thuja orientalis is know as White Cedar. These are the two main species of Thuja which are extracted for absolutes and distilled for essential oils. They have played a major role in the life of the Native American peoples and hopefully we can enter their world and see things from the vantage point of folks who lived in close association with nature for thousands of years and deeply appreciated and respected the world around them. The beautiful absolutes and essential oils of the Cedar, Spruce and Fir when inhaled can act as an open sesame into the world inhabited by these ancient people in a way that few other things can. The invisible influence of the charged molecules can activate our creative imagination.

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  • Fir Balsam

    The explorations we are endeavoring to make are a small attempt at bringing into the field of the attention a way of living that has been a natural part of the bodies, hearts, minds and spirit of cultures that have lived in close proximity to natured as a result integrated into every cell of their being a way of experiencing the universe that was in many ways balanced and respectful. It is a bit difficult to capture the “spirit” of such people and how they really felt about the plants, animals, insects, rivers, oceans, etc that were part of their world. Indeed one has to live like they lived to really understand it. But at least we can in our own various ways allow our hearts to connect with theirs as best we can.

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  • Hyssop

    Hyssop officinalis is a plant that I cannot recollect being near to very often in my life although a very close relative Anise Hyssop is known to me in a more intimate way so in that way there is a link to this plant and its oil. When my mother and I started a small organic fresh and dried flower operation in the Sierras in 1978, Anise Hyssop became an important plant for us as it is one of the most renowned bee plants yielding an amazing amount of nectar in small space. So on our homestead we decided to plant this wonderful plant in order to supply the bee hives my mom kept with an immediate supply of delicious food during the later part of the summer months. So in this way I became aware of the virtues of this plant.

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  • Himalayan Explorations

    As most of you know that have been reading the newseletters for some time, I have had the good fortune to work closely with one of India’s finest researchers in natural essential oils since 1996. His name is Ramakant Harlalka. He continues to be an inspiration to me as his enthusiasm for the subject seems to have no end. In the natural course of his work he travels throughout India extensively helping set up projects concerning aromatic plants and their proper distillation. He works extensively with government sponsored organizations like CIMAP (Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants) which is based in Lucknow as well as many people in the private sector.

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  • Rajasthan Reflections

    The region of Rajasthan we were in is so remote as to be quite unimaginable unless one has been in those types of regions themselves. Yet in a few simple words I will try to share a little of what it was like. The Thar Desert is one of the hottest regions of the world. Yet due to extensive irrigation canal systems that are supplied by water from rivers coming out of the Himalayas, areas of that desert have become farmable. The people who live in the region where we visited were mainly Hindu land owners with smaller percentage of Sikhs scattered throughout the region. The distinctive apparel of the women in the form of colorful dresses has been often depicted in documentaries of Rajasthan.

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  • Kewda, From the Travel Journal

    India possesses a great wealth of aromatic plants which, until recent times, have been little known outside the country. Even at this time very little authentic information about plants such as Kadam (Anthocephalus cadamba), Parijat (Nycanthes arbortris-tis), Bakul (Mimopsus elengi), Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera, Water Lily (Nymphae nouchalii), Golden Champa (Michelia champaca) and Kewda (Pandaus odoratissimus) has been available. These exotic scents have played a very important role in Indian culture and have been used in perfumes, and cosmetics since ancient times. With the rise of artisan perfumery and other fragrance crafts a new interest in the ways ancient cultures have used their natural aromatic resources has awakened. Today we are entering a phase where countries like India can provide a whole new palette of exotic aromatics which offer us aesthetic windows in the heart and soul of a people, in a non-verbal intuitive way.

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  • Jasmin Sambac 1

    Often we read that in India, jasmine is called the “Moonlight of the Grove.” Naturally we associate this beautiful name with the delicate flowers of Jasmin grandiflorum which is the plant that was cultivated in Europe for its ethereal floral notes that have won their way into the hearts of those who cherish fine perfumes.  But to the Indian heart and mind, this name refers to an entirely different species of the plant, Jasmin sambac. It is only in recent years that this absolute has found its way into palette of Western perfumers. Its use is still far less wide spread than the more widely known Jasminum grandiflorum. Even though the two plants belong to the same genus they each possess distinct aromatic characteristics. I will attempt, in this article, to bring to life the feeling and emotion which this exquisite flower conveys to the Indian heart, the importance of the plant to the agricultural community, traditional uses of the plant and its oils, conventional and traditional distilling techniques, and how its aroma differs from that of Jasmin grandiflorum.

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  • Jasmin Sambac 2

    As the sun begins to rise in this ancient land, we approached one of the small, immaculate farms that grace this rural district. A small farm house nestled amidst well-tended fields of sugar cane, bananas, coconuts, and jasmine. The cool air was filled with the ethereal aroma of newly opened jasmine buds and the farmer’s family was moving through the new days crop with deftness and precision collecting the delicate blossoms before the heat dissipated their(the flowers) concentrated fragrance. Men, women and children all joined together to work in the fields, to collect a crop that would bring them added income to preserve their rural lifestyles. The simple beauty of their faces, the clear sparkle in their eyes, and the grace and balance of their movements as they gather this fragile crop, all appeal to my inner sensibilities. There are no disturbing, jarring elements here, only the profound beauty of the land and her people working together to produce crops which satisfy both body and soul. In fact, one might argue that the farming community are the only ones who really get the real essence of the jasmine because the odor emitted by the living flower can never be fully captured in the absolute or essential oil. There are certain extremely volatile molecules that disappear once the flower is plucked. The absolute does approach that fragrance but it can only capture the memory of what occurs when one is totally surrounded by the timeless beauty of rural India with gentle, cool breezes blowing and birds singing their own unique praises to that pure Power which sustains all life in the creation.

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  • Jasmin Sambac 3

    Ramakant Harlalka, my fragrance mentor, travels extensively in India on essential oil related works. He and one of his dear colleagues, Dr. Mohan Maheshwari have recently been instrumental in designing appropriate distillation equipment for Geranium and Lavender which are now being grown in Himachal Pradesh on a commercial level. That equipment has been constructed and installed for this years harvest. Ramakant has been attending a series of conferences on the essential oil industry in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarkhand(a newly created state that use to be part of Uttar Pradesh). There is a growing interest in organic horticultural and even people in the highest level of government are supporting the implementation of organic gardening practices. Ramakant is working very hard to help design appropriate and affordable distilling equipment and encouraging people working at every level of the industry ot implement organic gardening practices. It is a long road ahead but it is very exciting to see this type of interest growing in India.

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  • Sandalwood

    The word, “sandalwood” in English, or “chandan” in Hindi, evokes a world of ancient mystery, sanctity, and devotion. Ever since going to live in India in 1971, this precious wood and its oil have been of great interest to me. The quest to understand this wonderful gift of nature on every level has taken many interesting twists and turns. My first encounter with the tree came on the small farm where I was living in Karnatika State. A local person one day pointed out the saplings growing in a forest area. It was hard to conceive of this plain looking tree being the source of a fragrant wood that has been treasured for thousands of years. In the nearby city of Bangalore, one could purchase the pure oil distilled in the Mysore Government Sandalwood factories, and I use to bring bottles of this exquisite scent home for my mother and friends. The first whiff of sandalwood oil is enough to produce a life long affection for the scent. It truly conjures up deep, wonderful, unexplainable feelings about India and her sacred heritage. Curiosity about the world surrounding this divine scent led to the exploration of sandalwood groves deep in the heart of Kerala State, intimate contact with traditional perfume makers in Uttar Pradesh using sandalwood as a base in their attars, and finally a visit to an incredible sandalwood oil distillery in Tamil Nadu. As many people have asked for information about this oil, an attempt is made here to share what little I know.

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  • Sandalwood 2

    This information concerns Sandalwood. Basically when I started importing oils from India the first requests I got were for sandalwood. At that time there was an official government ban on the sale of sandalwood.

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  • Incense in Literature

    The graceful and quiet season of the year is treasured by us along with all the other seasons. It is a time of celebration as well: celebrating the simplicity and sweetness that reveals itself when outer forms are reduced to their essential form as happens when the trees lose their leaves and their elegant forms stand out in their pristine beauty. We enjoy as well the winter storms, followed by crystal clear days, and the occasional snow that wraps Port Angeles. The shortened days and the long nights also have their charm. The natural flow of the day encourages one to slow down and reflect upon the precious life that has been given and this in turn encourages to use our remaining years in a more considerate way.

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  • Copaiba Balsam

    Copaiba balsam is an oleoresin obtained from certain Amazonian species of Copaifera. Although distillation of the oleoresin provides an essential oil, the term “copaiba oil” is sometimes also applied to the oleoresin itself, since the crude material occurs naturally in a very liquid form. Crude copaiba balsam is a clear, pale yellow oil which darkens and becomes less fluid on prolonged storage or exposure to air. It is employed by the fragrance industry as a fixative in perfumes and in other products such as soaps.

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