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Amrit Newsletter

Perfumes of India Project -- Amrit Perfume

About 8 months ago I started working on a project that is very special to me in terms of expressing in aromatic form the experiences I had in India over the years. The seeds of this project were planted in 1971 when I first went to live and farm in South India. The experiences of simple rural life in the subtropics played a key role in gaining appreciation for the sublime world of aromatic botanicals as the place where I lived was surrounded by Night Queen, Jasmin sambac, Frangipani, and many other fine plants. As increased exposure to India and Indian culture arose over repeated trips to that ancient land in subsequent years, I became aware just how deep the role of fragrance played in the lives of the Indian people and their impact on me also was profound.

Eventually my travels took me throughout the length and breadth of India specifically for exploring ancient and modern aromatic traditions.  In the course of those journeys certain experiences arose in particular places or under particular circumstances that concerned specific herbs, spices, resins, flowers that were found to be found in those localities in the form of the living plants or in the form of incense, attars, essential oils, etc. These aromas inspired me to create a series of essences that commemorate the impact they had on my life.

As our home business evolved and contacts with distillers and extractors was established both in India and in other countries the palette of co2 extracts, essential oils, traditional attars, absolutes etc gradually expanded. Many of the spices, herbs, flowers, resins, etc that I came in contact with in their natural form also came  into my hands as liquid essences. Day in and day out Suzanne have poured the individual oils into small and large bottles to be mailed to you, our customers both here and abroad so that you could in turn create lovely natural perfumes, cosmetics, etc in which the essences played a part.

As we continued to work with the individual oils, various ideas came into the heart and mind as to how different ones worked with each other in special ways to create something yet more beautiful. At one point it seemed appropriate to begin creating perfumes that might express something about the experiences that took place in India over the years and to date about 6 perfumes have been created. we are not selling these perfumes, but each month we will be sending out complimentary samples of these perfumes with customers' orders. If I have recorded the recipe for the perfume (many perfumes I just created without noting proportions) then we will post the recipe on the website.

The first 6 recipes have had a chance to mature for 6 months so now we are getting some sense of how the different essences meld  together. It is truly important to let a perfume mature for some time before evaluating its merits. The changes that have taken place have been noticeable and worth exploring on a regular basis.

It is important to realize that I am by no means a professional perfumer. Just someone who loves the subject and has enjoyed the experience of intermixing the essences in order to capture something of the beauty of the experiences of India that I know and love. Flower Seller with coconutsThe individual perfumes in their pure form are very concentrated and enjoy being diluted. I considered diluting them in pure sandalwood oil but in the end decided that they would work very well as solid perfumes. Toward that end I opted to warm 1 part of beeswax with 3-4 parts of organic Marula oil from South Africa(a really lovely carrier oil with great longetivity and reportedly very good for the skin.) After that I added .5-1 part of the concentrated perfume essence and wisked it until the aromatic elixir began to solidy. One can definitely decrease the amount of pure essence used according to ones aromatic taste.

That concentratation has proved has proved excellent for strength and power of the final product. The beeswax and marula oil acting together have given the final product tremendous tenacity, slowly releasing the aromatic constituents over a long period of time. The same concentrated essences could be used in much greater dilution for a variety of purposes.

Please note that all of the recipes are perfume recipes, not a blends to be taken internally.

The first recipe is for a perfume I call Amrit (Nectar). In the area where I lived in South India the air in the evening was charged with delicious aromas emerging invisibly out of the tropical night air. Mysterious, sweet, soft and exotic-a true celestial aromatic food.
1/4 ounce Frangipani/Plumeria alba Absolute
1/4 ounce Vanilla CO2 total
1/2 ounce of Coconut Absolute
1/2 ounce Golden Champa Attar
1/2 ounce of Ylang Complete
1/16 ounce Ambrette Absolute
1/4 ounce Jasmin auriculatum Absolute
1/8 ounce Ginger CO2 select

Frangipani was selected for its rich exotic waxy floral odor which contains within it hints of orange blossom, honey and ginger lily. It is very suave and velvety. It is not overpowering in its absolute form as the aroma is greatly softened by the floral waxes but once once melts it and combines it with other essences it exerts a wonderful tropical effect. The frangipani tree grows extensively in the Bangalore area where I lived and thousands of wild growing specimens are found growing naturally in the countryside. It is often found in temple precincts and is often called the Temple tree.

Vanilla CO2 was selected for its elegant, sweet, woody-spicy, balsamic aroma. It not only contributes these fine notes to the overall bouquet of a tropical blend but acts as a superb mellowing and harmonizing agent for all the other essences included in the blend. It is one of the finest materials for such a purpose and can be used to great effect in many types of compositions. At the time I lived in South India, vanilla had not yet become a major aromatic crop but in recent years it has been cultivated successfully on a large scale.

Coconut Absolute possesses fine war soft buttery-nutty, fatty waxy bouquet. It does not exert a tremendous individual olfactory influence on a tropical composition but acts in harmony with the vanilla to soften, harm and warm it. There are some aromatic essences that are destined to play a quiet supporting role in a perfume and one may mistakenly think that they might be excluded but it is important to consider that a perfume is much more than distinct olfactory impressions. There are elements of tenacity, warm, radiance, softness etc that support the beauty of the final product.

Ambrette Seed Absolute is a great treasure for the aspiring perfumer. It must be used with great discretion as it can easily dominate a composition. It's common name in India is Musk Dana or Musk Seed as the odor bears some similarity to animal musk. Its overall profile is sweet, rich, floral musk with a distinct wine or brandy like odor. Its tenacity is legendary. Even a small amount can have an exalting effect in a composition, while giving it a unique smoothness, richness, life and rare aromatic texture.

The attar of Sona Champa/Michelia champaca is distilled from the lovely golden flowers of a tree that is rightly called the Tree of Paradise. This stately tree decked with thousands of magnolia like blossoms is found as both a cultivated and wild growing specimen throughout Karnatika State in South India. The aroma of the attar is soft, sweet and radiant . The sweetness is extremely delicate, refined and ethereal. In the domain of more familiar essences it has some of the characteristics of ylang absolute and carnation absolute with just a touch of gardenia in its bouquet yet it is in a world of its own. Its aroma profile melds perfectly with Frangipani, helping boost the effect of the exotic tropical bouquet.

"Standing beneath these sacred Champaka trees in the midst of a part of India that has remained little changed for thousands of years, I understood why it was so important for me to have actually made the journey to that place. The entire atmosphere conveyed something which just was not possible to get from any book. A small farm housestood nearby, where the simple rural folk went about the activities of their daily lives. Bullocks were tethered near the trees where we stood and they quietly munched on their pile of hay. A gentle breeze blew through the trees as we enjoyedthe simple sites, sounds and smells around us. We had stepped out of the 20th century into a place where nature and humans still interacted in an intimate way.

Permeating that simple place was the spirit of a land whose people that have worshipped, in a multitude of ways, the grand mystery of life for thousands of years. An intregal part of their worship has been the perfect gifts with which the plant world has provided them in the form of exotic flowers, aromatic spices, earthy roots, fresh herbs, and precious woods. For some reason the land of India has possessed and continues to possess an astonishing range of such aromatic botanicals and in each part of the country the people have used them to symbolically express their love and devotion for that Hidden Power that is the source of their life."

Although Ylang Ylang is not commerically cultivated in India it can be found as specimen trees in many places. It is a perfect compliment of Frangipani and Golden Champa which along with Jasmin auriculatum form the exotic tropical core of Amrit Perfume. As Ylang Complete represents the complete distillation of the flowers(as compared to the fractional distillation) it has the complete range of aromatic molecules from the very high ethereal floral notes down to sweet balsamic woody ones. It acts as a perfect "go-between" from the exhalted champa, frangipani, jasmin complex to the quiet pomegranite, coconut, vanilla one.

Jasmin auriculatum of Juhi as it is called in India is comparatively little known in the world of natural aromatics. It is only in the last few years that the delicate white blossoms have come under cultivation. It has an amazing aroma-possessing both the fine light ethereal sweet floral notes of Jasmin grandiflorum along with the deep sultry oriental ones found in Jasmin sambac. It is considered an indigenous jasmin of India and has found use in traditional cosmetic and medicinal systems for hundreds of years. I found this interesting article which gives some insight into its venerated role in Indian culture. (Information is provided for cultural interest, not as a recommendation for treatment of disease)

Juhi Phool Ke Upyog means the use of Juhi flowers. Jasminum auriculatum is locally known as Juhi. It is bushy or climbing shrub cultivated throughout India. It is planted in home gardens for its fragrant flowers. Its flowers yield an essential oil, which is used in preparation of perfumed oils and attars.