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Cassie Absolute and Mimosa Absolute

"Were not summer's distillations left
A liquid prisoner, pent in walls of glass,
Beauty's effect with beauty were bereft,
Nor it, nor no remembrance what it was;
But flowers distilled, though they with winter meet,
Leese but their show, their substance still lives sweet."

In the realm of perfumery one encounters two different aromatic essences which are extracted from the flowers of Acacia. The golden blossoms of Acacia farnesiana produces the Cassie concrete/absolute. This is generally extracted in France and Egypt. Acacia dealbata, A. baileyana, Acacia decurrens and several other species provide the flowers for Mimosa absolute which is mainly extracted in India particularly in the Palani Hills and the Nilgiri Hills of South India.

During my first aromatic exploration of India I was taken into the Nilgiri Hills to see the harvest of mimosa blossoms:

"As we went higher and higher the vistas before us became increasingly beautiful. The air was deliciously cool and refreshing. Eventually we came to the area where the great tea plantations were located, a sight quite different than the untamed beauty of the ascent but charming in its own right for these large estates bear the signature of order and cultivation.

In a small village outside of Conoor we halted while the agent spoke with some of the villagers. In a few minutes he had gathered together four of them who knew where a few prime specimens of the mimosa we were seeking yet remained in bloom. They guided us to a dirt road that was but the width of the jeep we were in and then we began our ascent to the top of the mountain.

The air was redolent with a refined and exquisite odor which turned out to be coming from the flowers of this very mimosa tree. Eventually we came to the end of the road and the site of the Conoor Municipal Dam. It was a totally unpopulated area with a large artificial lake, towering eucalyptus and pine trees with an undergrowth of various plants including mimosa. We crossed the foot path over the dam to the area containing a few of our trees in full bloom.

Our cheerful and able village harvesters went to work swiftly and efficiently. One man scampered up into the upper story of the tree to gather flowers not accessible lower down. Another fashioned a long pole with a hook out of readily available materials so that the willowy branches could be bent down and gathered from the ground. Two others busied themselves in gathering.

I happily snapped away with my camera at this lovely scene and the villagers were delighted to have me taking pictures of their work. Within a half hour we had two containers filled with the delicately fragrant flowers and were on our way back across the dam to the jeep. It was an unforgettable experience as it was my first chance to witness the harvesting the flowers of the East.

To document this is a vital part of my project because it helps one to understand and appreciate how much work and effort goes into producing those subtle fragrances that enrich our lives. In India, this industry is a labor intensive one involving a huge labor force and these people that work so hard to cultivate and harvest the plants deserve recognition for their essential role in the process. I consider it a true honor whenever I have the chance to be in their presence because there is some real humility and sweetness that permeates their lives.

With our mission fulfilled we merrily bounced down the road to our the village of the harvesters and there we parted ways to begin our descent to the plains. It was a fine and exciting ride home as I had the two containers of mimosa delighting my nose with their fragrance and the varied beauty of the landscape to charm my eyes."

Several years ago while helping Ramakant and his family host a tour of South India of friends and colleagues from the West, we had a chance to visit a huge forest preserve in the Palani Hills of South India. We had been granted special permission from the forest department to visit this area of serene beauty where one, standing on the high peaks of 6000 feet plus could get a grand view over thousands of acres of flowering naturalized acacia and eucalyptus trees growing amidst the natural vegetation of the area. The view extended over the mountains and down into the plains of deep South India. The golden flowered acacia trees were in full bloom and the air was permeated with their celestial aroma. An elegant intensely sweet floral, spicy-powdery aroma perfumed the atmosphere and this coupled with the distant views across an ancient landscape made one feel as if they were touching upon that timeless where only peace and beauty exist.

Cassie Absolute
Acacia farnesiana

Thorny bush or small tree, 8 m tall; bark light brown, rough; branches glabrous or nearly, purplish to gray, with very small glands; stipules spinescent, usually short, up to 1.8 cm long, rarely longer, never inflated; leaves twice pinnate, with a small gland on petiole and sometimes one on the rachis near top of pinnae; pinnae 2–8 pairs, leaflets 10–12 pairs, minute, 2–7 mm long, 0.75–1.75 mm wide, glabrous, leathery; flowers in auxiliary pedunculate heads, calyx and corolla glabrous, scented; pod indehiscent, straight or curved, 4–7.5 cm long, about 1.5 cm wide, subterete and turgid, dark brown to blackish, glabrous, finely longitudinally striate, pointed at both ends; seeds chestnut-brown, in 2 rows, embedded in a dry spongy tissue, 7–8 mm long, ca 5.5 mm broad, smooth, elliptic, thick, only slightly compressed; areole 6.5–7 mm long, 4 mm wide.



Cassie has been reported to contain anisaldehyde, benzoic acid, benzyl alcohol, butyric acid, coumarin, cresol, cuminaidehyde, decyl aldehyde, eicosane, eugenol, farnesol, geraniol, hydroxyacetophenone, methyleugenol, methyl salicylate, nerolidol, palmitic acid, salicylic acid, and terpineol. (Duke 1983)

Olfactory characteristics

Cassie absolute from concrete is a dark yellow of pale brown, viscous liquid, clear at room temperature but separating waxy crystals at reduced temperatures.Its odor is extremely warm, powdery-spicy, at the same time herbaceous and floral with a deep and very tenacious cinnamic-balsamic undertone.

Perfumery uses

The absolute is used in high-cost perfumes where it lends a unique warm and wood-floral note. It is appreciated for its contributions to amber and oriental bases

Blends well with bergamot, costus, mimosa, orris products, oblibanum, ylang absolute. It can also be used in blends to great advantage that contain Henna Flower Attar, Agleia flower absolute, Boronia absolute, Elderflower absolute, Champaca Absolute and Attar, Saffron Attar, Palmarosa eo, Carnation absolute, Jasmin grandiflorum absolute, and Orange Flower Blossom Absolute.

General Uses
Cassie perfume is distilled from the flowers. Cassie absolute is employed in preparation of violet bouquets, extensively used in European perfumery. Cassie pomades are manufactured In Uttar Pradesh and the Punjab. Pods contain 23 percent tannin, a glucoside of ellagic acid, and are used for tanning leather. Bark also used for tanning and dying leather in combination with iron ores and salts. In Bengal and West Indies, pods are used for a black leather dye. Gummy substance obtained from pods used in Java as cement for broken crockery. Gum exuding from trunk considered superior to gum arabic in arts. Trees used as ingredient in Ivory Coast for arrow poison; elsewhere they are used as fences and to check erosion. Wood is hard and durable underground, used for wooden plows and for pegs. Trees often planted as an ornamental. Morton (1981) says that the seeds, containing an unnamed alkaloid, are used to kill rabid dogs in Brazil. (Duke 1983)

Other Uses
Adhesive; Dye; Essential; Gum; Ink; Tannin; Teeth; Wood.An essential oil called Cassie is distilled from the flowers. Cassie absolute is employed in preparation of violet bouquets and is extensively used in European perfumery. Cassie pomades are manufactured in Uttar Pradesh and the Punjab. A deliciously scented essential oil, it has a fragrance of violets. A mature plant 10 years old can yield 9 kg of flowers each year. In a suitable climate, the trees begin to flower from their third year. The perfume is extracted from the flowers in form of concrete or pomade. Macerated flowers are placed in melted purified natural fat and allowed to stand for several hours. They are then replaced by fresh flowers and the process repeated until the fat is saturated with perfume. The fat is then melted, strained and cooled. This constitutes the pomade. Odor is that of violets but more intense. Absolute is prepared by mixing pomade with alcohol (2 - 3 kg to about 4 liters) and allowed to stand for 3 - 4 weeks at about -5°C. The alcohol is then separated and distilled over. The extract obtained is an olive-green liquid with strong odors of cassie flowers. Mature trees can yield about 1 kilo of flowers per year. The bark and the fruit are a source of tannin and used in making dyes and inks. The seedpods contain about 23% tannin. The bark, in combination with iron ores and salts, is used as a black dyestuff. A gummy substance obtained from the young pods is used to mend pottery. A mucilage can be manufactured from the gummy sap. A gum exuding from trunk is considered to be superior to gum arabic in arts. The woody branches are used in India as tooth brushes. In suitable climates the plant is grown as a hedge. The trees have also been used for erosion control in sandy soils. Wood - heavy, hard, durable in the soil, close-grained. Used for fencing posts, agricultural implements, pegs, woodenware etc. (Plants for a Future 2004)

Mimosa Absolute
Mimosa Absolute is mainly produced in India from various species of Acacia including A. decurrens, A. dealbata , A. baileyana. It is a golden to amber hard, waxy aromatic substance. Its odor is very rich, floral-woody, slightly green and somewhat resembles cassie absolutes. It has a sweet and more natural odor profile but less spicy complex then cassie.

Perfumery uses

It is used in numerous lilac bases, muguet, new mown hay, colognes, ambers etc It is considered of special value in rounding off rough notes created by synthetic aroma chemicals often used in contemporary perfume compositions. It gives a lift to natural materials in the same. The radiance of mimosa absolute is one of its finest attributes.

Blends well with all the same materials as cassie absolute.