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February Notes

February Notes

Now Aragorn knelt beside Faramir, and held a hand upon his brow. And those that watched felt that some great struggle was going on. For Aragorn's face grew grey with weariness, and every anon he called the name of Faramir, but each time more faintly to their hearing, as if Aragorn himself was removed from them, and walked afar in some dark vale, calling for one that was lost.
And at last Bergil caome running in, and he bore six leaves in a cloth. 'It is kingsfoil, Sir,' he said; 'but not fresh, I fear. It must have been culled two weeks ago at the least. I hope it will serve, Sir?' Then looking at Faramir, he burst into tears.
But Aragorn smilled. 'It will serve,' he said. 'The worst is now over. Stay and be comforted!' Then taking two leaves, he laid them on his hands and breathed on them, and then he crushed them, and straightaway a living freshness filled the room, as if the air itself awoke and tingled, sparkling with joy. And then he cast the leaves into the bowels of steaming water that were brought to him, and at once all heart were lightened. For the fragrance that came to each was like a memory of dewy mornings of unshadowed sun in some land of which the fair world in Spring is itself but a fleeting memory. But Aragorn stood up as one refreshed, and his eyes smiled as he held a bowel before Faramir's dreaming face."
Return of the King- JRR Tolkien

Dear Friends,

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.

On the subject of absolutes I would like to mention a few important things that have been part of my aromatic education. To say that I have full insight into the subject would be incorrect. I am also a student and am learning day by day. So the things which I am attempting to share here can only be part of a much larger picture which will definitely take many more years to learn.

Absolutes are unique products extracted from aromatic plants. They have their own characteristics. People who have mainly interacted with essential oils are sometimes puzzled as to their color, viscosity, aroma etc. Well there is a lot to be puzzled about and a lot to learn about working with these aromatic treasures.
It should be clearly understood that absolutes are not all classified as pourable oils. Some are thick pastes, others are like plastic, other are like slow moving molten lava and some are indeed pourable liquids. The learning curve for using absolutes effectively can be a bit steep but in the end will certainly be worthwhile if one has the experimental and creative spirit alive in their heart.

Let us look at a few important issues surrounding absolutes. First of all they are often(though not always) considerably more expensive than essential oils. It means that they are subject to adulteration to a considerable degree. Finding reputable extractors is a unique challange in itself but like all things in this world there are a number of companies that have remained dedicated to this art and craft.

There are three products offered as pure absolutes that are, in fact, not true absolutes at all.
1. Fragrance oils. These are very inexpensive replicas of natural frangrances that are very easy to produce. These are in most instances easy to detect for people actively involved in olfactory exploration of natural essences. But some folks do try to pass them off as authentic materials at very high cost. This is pretty rare but it can happen.
2. Bouqueted Absolutes. This is a word I choose to use but there may be a better one. These products are masterfully done replicas of the pure absolutes using natural and synthetic isolates, essential oils, and absolutes. They takegreat skill and expertise to create and the price for them is often quite high. They may even smell better than the pure absolute because those who are engaged in their creation have carefully studied the aromatic profile of the living plant via headspace analysis and using very good raw materials can reconstruct the absolute even down to trace components. I have had two reports from colleagues who did some in house experients with pure absolutes and their bouqueted counterparts. They drew upon the expertise of those who had some background in olfactory analysis and were lovers of natural materials and in most cases the bouqueted material was chosen over the natural material.
I have found that as a person purchasing directly from extractors that one has to be very clear as to what one is after because some of the old companies that have high expertise in the pure absolutes have also mastered the art of bouqueted absolutes so one has to define very carefully what one is after. As all my endeavors are oriented towards the pure naturals I have clearly specified what my needs are and that cost is not the question but purity of product is.
A very classic example is Hyacinth Absolute. I am often asked about this item. The truth is that the bouqueted material if it is well done is quite lovely(as well as costing well over a thousand dollars a kilo) But the amount of flowers required to make the true absolute would be incredible. It would require 1200-2200 kilos of flowers just to make the concrete and the yield of absolute from concrete is only 12 to 22%. I do not think it could be produced for less than $6000-$8000 per kilo and from what I have been told it may only be available if at all in terms of a few kilos per year.
Also as mentioned earlier the solvent itself may interact with the genuine botanical material in some way that alters the odor in the flower. Generally this happens only to a slight degree but in some cases as with Linden Blossom(in its pure form much like a paste) or Gardenia(very rare to find as a true absolute) the absolute bears little resemblance to the botancial from which it is extracted.
Indeed in this regard one should realize that whereas a solvent like purified hexane can work wonders in extracting the essence of a flower, herb, etc in the first stage of preparing the absolute in the form of a concrete, it is after all a solvent and some of the aromatic components in the natural living plant can be altered as with any other extraction or distillation process. It does have the advantage of preserving some of the heat sensitive components but to think that it will not change somewhat the nature of the essence as it exists in the living plant might be stretching things a bit. Indeed as we have all come to realize the living plant is in a world of its own and the radiant symphony of its redolent exhudations into the natural environment in which it lives are a true gift and blessing to be enjoyed only by those fortunate enough to come near them at that time.
3. Pure absolutes which have some sort of solvent added to them to make them pourable(hence usuable for the consumer) Diethyphthalate, diethylsebecate, isoprylpalmitate, benzylbenzoate, etc are some of the weak smelling solvents added for this purpose. Unfortunately the extractor may fail to mention that such solvents have been added to the pure absolute. It is very common with absoltues like elemi, galabanum, olibanum, myrrh, etc for these tend to be items that are very thick and difficult to work with(but superior aroma profile in their pure form ) In this regard one needs to do their best to study the literature on the subject like Steffen Arctanders, Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin; Nave and Mazuyet's, Natural Perfume Materials; etc. for in their descriptions they often give clear information about viscosity, color, odor profile, etc. The problem is that many of these excellent and incredible works are quite old and perhaps some new technology has evolved in the meantime to better extract a particular material that once was difficult to use in its pure form. I think change is always possible and we need to be open to new discoveries that have been made.
In the end I have found that the only real thing I can do is educate the extractors as to what I am interested in and trust that they will respond to the sincerity in my heart.
Generally speaking I find that this works very well.

Aromatic Absolutes-Their Role in Natural Perfumery

You will be hearing more about absolutes in the time to come so I think this is enough for now.

Now many of you are probably wondering when I am going to get to Mandy's aromatic profile for this newsletter. I have not forgotten it. There is just so much wonderful news to share it is hard to find which place to put what. Actually all wonderful things are after all wonderful so each is perfect in its place.

Ambrette Seed CO2
Ambrette Seed CO2 has a lovely, almost hazelnut, warm odor. The ambrette seed absolutes that I have worked with in the past have had outstanding tenacity and high odor intensity. This ambrette co2 has a delicate nut-like odor that has very little tenacity. It functions in a perfume as a top note, fleeting, wholly itself and lends a suave complicated odor to the top of a perfume. This is most useful for creating a much more complicated top note than would be available with the standard notes. You could use it with more delicate middle notes like the white rose absolute or linden blossom and enhance and support them without overwhelming them. Ambrette seed is known for its liquor-like abilities to make flower notes more floral and herbs more complicated.-Mandy Aftel
Mandy kindly reminded me to correctly give the name of her book
Essence and Alchemy
The Perfumer Artisian Discussion Group is evolving day by day and a correction is needed here also It is easiest to reach her by accessing her web site-
There is a button there called Events and you can press it to join the discussion group.

OK oft to the post office on this rainy California day.
Friendly regards-