Jasmin Sambac 3
Jasmin Sambac 3
Today we will be exploring further the wonderful Jasminum sambac plant, flower, its essence etc. I have written a lot about it in the past and you can refer to the newsletter and article on the internet to enjoy further information.
It is variously known as Motia(Pearl), Mogra, and Moonlight of the Grove in India and in its beautiful form and fragrance one can uncover many treasures regarding Indian culture.
"There is something about jasmine that captures with special intensity the incandescence and luminosity, the simplicity and innocence of childhood. Is it its starlike whiteness? Is it the trembling delicacy of its blossom hovering over its stem and leaves almost like a dream? Is it its ephemeral beauty, its long-lasting sweet fragrance, its generous yielding of flowers every single day of summer? Whatever it is, thereÕs something about the jasmine that takes me to places where I have to leave words behind, to the places where I have left my childhood, places that continue to invade my dreams ‹ in the setting of my earliest memories. In my past. There, there is jasmine; plenty of it; in abundance; in profusion. I grew up with it. The hot summer sun. Dust in the air. And suddenly, the jasmine. Likefresh snow; like a mind untainted by questions. Like certainty."
--Õ Farzaneh Milani, Iranian author
Inspiration for Jasmin perfumes comes from the constituents identified in natural Jasmin; Benzyl Acetate, Benzyl Alcohol and cis-Jasmone give the fruity aromatic jasmin qualities, Linalool and Farnesol give the flowery character and Methyl Anthranilate and Indole give the narcotic animalic backgound. Whilst the above few materials will pass as a jasmin they do little justice to the natural absolute with its 300 plus other components.
A visit to a South Indian Flower Market
(In September of 1999 we made a visit to South Indian Flower Market in the City of Madurai, Tamil Nadu State. Our hosts there were the main purveryors of Jasmin sambac in that fascinating capitol of this special flower. . I hope this journal extract will give the reader some sense of the experience0
After enjoying a wonderful time by the pond we returned to the hotel for breakfast. Finishing our delectable morning buffet, we next proceeded to the Madurai flower market. We had to enter this market through narrow alley ways
where vegetable vendors plied there wares. Hundreds of thousands of people in India earn their daily wages by sitting along the road selling vegetables, fruits and flowers. There earnings are small compared to Western standards, but they are each engaged in a meaningful activity which gives their lives dignity and purpose. It is quite a thrilling experience to be surrounded by such a hum of activity. One is engulfed in a sea of humanity in such bazaars.
Entering the flower market our kind hosts made some space in the back of their booths where we could see how fresh flowers were bought and sold. The air was filled with the sweet aroma of marigolds, marjoram, davana, jasmin
sambac, roses, and several other flowers. Hundreds of farmers were pouring into the various booths to sell their several kilos of flowers. Accountants sat cross legged on the ground noting down the name of the person, the amount of flowers delivered, and the sum to be paid. Everything was transacted on the spot. On the other side, customers were eagerly scooping up the fresh flowers as they came in. Many were being purchased for making garlands and hair ornaments as well as for wedding celebrations. A good amount was being purchased for use in the temples. Jammed together as we all were we also felt the vibrant life force present there. Our hosts circulated bunches of aromatic herbs and flowers for us to smell. The outer scene was exactly opposite to the serene beauty of the lotus ponds but at its core was a similar exhilaration.
There was so much life, power and beauty there all focused around the theme of fragrant flowers. It got a little crazy from my perspective as the natural desire to explore the market overtook our group. People started wandering off in all directions to photograph and video this vibrant scene. How could one resist? We hardly ever encounter such scenes in the Western world and one wishes to drink in such unique experiences with every particle of their attention.
Visit to a Floral Extraction Unit
After a good afternoon rest we boarded the bus to travel to the extraction facility of our Madurai hosts. As well as being very active in the fresh flower market both locally and in many parts of Tamil Nadu, they had developed a state of the art extraction facility for producing floral concretes. The flower market contains many yearly ups and downs according to the festivals and auspicious times for marriage in the Hindu calender year. When marriages and festivals are at their peak, the prices of flowers skyrocket and are entirely consumed in their fresh form. But their are several days during the bloom seaason when flowers are not in much demand and at such times the prices radically drop. It is on such days that the flowers are brought to the factory and made into concrete. That way there is waste of this precious commodity.
Fresh Flower Production
The quantam of flowers delt in on a normal day for fresh flower consumption or for extraction is a staggering amount for this family. They normally see from 4 to 14 metric tons per day of freshly plucked Jasmin sambac flowers. Over 2000 farmers regularly sell them their flowers. It is an inconceivable amount of hand plucked blossoms. So even if there are relatively few days when no festival or marriage is taking place, there is still a huge amount of flowers to be processed during the year. Another interesting thing to note is that the Jasmin sambac of the Madurai region is considered the finest in the world. The conditions for growing the flower are perfect and so the fragrance that develops within them is of the finest quality. The flower is grown in many other regions of India, but it cannot compare with the Madurai Jasmin. This has been born out by careful analysis of the oil wherein high concentrations of the aromatic molecules which give the absolute its exquisite bouquet are found only in the Madurai Jasmin sambac.
Harvesting the Buds and Time of Odor
On the way to the factory, we stopped at the farm of one of the members of their extended family and enjoyed the experience of walking about fields of plants with the delicate white buds beginning to swell for picking on the following day. As the days harvest had already been done there were only a few flowers of picking size. At any rate Jasmin sambac has to be plucked up only when the buds have reached the point when they are just about to pop open. On that day they are gathered and brought to the factory where they begin to open after 7:00 PM and continue to give off their finest odor till 3:00 AM. After that they are still quite fragrant but the subtle head space molecules have evaporated and only the sweet base notes remain.
During our visit to the family farm a lively interaction began to develop between the people working there and our traveling companions. It was a delightful and spontaneous connection which provided much happiness to everyone. I had secretly hoped that such a thing would occur but there is no way to artifically force this to happen. It requires a unpretentious openess of heart for people of different cultures to intermingle in this way. The Indian people, especially in rural areas have this childlike innocense with them through every stage of their life and their eyes light up when they receive any sort of acknowledgement from people like us. As we had been several day on the road gradually replacing the impressions of our everyday lives with the soft and gentle impressions of an ancient land, the lotus of the heart had begun to open within each one of us and I think it was quite natural that this connection should occur. Nonetheless it was a true miracle to see how this universal flow of energy was so quickly established. It is an unspoken heart to heart feeling of unity which far transcends any outer appearances. As if nature was approving this coming together of East and West, a shimmering sunset graced the evening sky with ethereal colors illuminating the landscape. In another section of the factory we found spread on the floor thousands of Jasmin sambac blossoms that were just beginning to open, thus filling the air with their angelic essence. It was altogether a heady experience that transported one into a happy reverie where one could hardly focus on the world as we know it.
Comparative olfactory analysis of Jasminum sambac and Jasminum grandiflorum absolute
"As this world began to unfold for me, I did begin to take notice that Indian people were lovers in fragrance in many different forms. Food was cooked with aromatic spices, balsamic incense was constantly being burned to create a nice atmosphere, garlands strung with highly aromatic flowers were woven to celebrate religious and social occasions, along with many other fragrant traditions which lent a simple elegance to everyday and special occasion life. Perhaps the most widely used of all the exotic flowers was Jasmin sambac and without realizing it, I began to imbibe a wonderful dimension of Indian culture simply by inhaling the aroma of this simple yet elegant flower whose floral bouquet consists of many "themes" all distinct yet interconnected. In giving an account of this essence I know my words will fall short but some attempt must be made which can be supplemented at a later time by people more adept at this type of description. The opening notes of Jasmin sambac impress me as being heavy and sweet with a richness and depth that immediately draw one into the realm of profound mystery. The first impression of Jasmin grandiflorum is by my estimation, much more soft and sweet, in a sense more ethereal and light. As the essence of Jasmin sambac unfolds it reveals a sultry exotic warmth as if it was a vessel in which the rays of the tropical full moon were condensed and these rays were in turn transmuted into invisible fragrant exudations. The buds, in fact, open around 11 PM and the fullness of the odor permeates the atmosphere in darkest hours of the night. The warmth and sweetness of Jasmin grandiflorum on the other hand, is the gentle warmth of a fresh morning with buds softly opening to greet the beauty of the new day. They seem to be a crucible opening their elegant petals from which soft gentle aromatic light rays flow. The time of their unfolding is just before dawn and their ethereal perfume is at its peak just as the sun rises. As the aromatic theme of Jasmin sambac develops, one can detect very pronounced fruity notes intermingling with ones shared with the orange flower complex. It is truly the "Queen of the Night". As Jasmin grandiflorum resides into her base notes, one can pick up refined herbaceous, fruity notes which sometimes remind one of aromatic tea. I would call Jasmin grandiflorum, "Queen of the Dawn". Fragrance can act as a superb means of cultural transmission if that particular flower is a part of the inner heritage of the country where it is found growing. In this regard, I do think that the essences of flowers coming from different localities in the world can produce a "connection" with other times and places if we allow them to "act" upon us without to much interference from our rational mind.(Easier said than done!!!)
Olfactory properties of Jasmin sambac/Motia Attar
The traditional attar produced by hydrodistillation of the flowers of Jasmin sambac into sandalwood over a period of 15 days is a unique essence in itself.. One first of all has to consider that after that 15 days process there is a concentration of 3-5 of the pure hydrodistilled oil in sandalwood. This is a different process than the solvent extraction of the flowers by conventional methods to produce the absolute. In the traditional distillation the Jasmin sambac flowers are distilled at night under gentle pressure for 8 hours until the early morning. As sandalwood is the base the aromatic molecules get adsorbed into an oil that has its own soft rich, precious notes and as the period of distillation is long(8 hours) the flower has a chance to release all its essence in a slow manner. The resulting product presents a soft, sweet and radiant dimension of the Jasmin sambac complex. The somewhat intense indolic notes that one often finds in a good Jasmin sambac absolute are not at all present in the Jasmin sambac/Motia Attar. Definitely one can enjoy the wonderful sultry, exotic and complex jasmin-sweet-fruity dimensions of the flower but because of the base it is in there is a wonderful roundness, richness and delicacy also present. The attars are in the true sense, a ready to wear essence that require no futher dilution as one should certainly consider doing with the absolute. But I think it is very important to realize that one would not get the same type of essence by mixing the 5% of the absolute with the sandalwood. Definitely one would get a lovely essence but there is something unique to the process of the traditional 15 day distillation which captures wonderful notes that can only be appreciated by careful study.
In India the ZAMBAK, or ARABIAN JASMINE (J. Sambac), is an evergreen white-flowered climber, 6 or 8 feet high, introduced into Britain in the latter part of the seventeenth century. Two varieties introduced somewhat later are respectively three-leaved and double-flowered, and these, as well as that with normal flowers, bloom throughout the greater part of the year. The Hindus string the flowers together as neck garlands for honoured guests. The flowers of one of the double varieties are heldsacred to Vishnu and are used as votive offerings in Hindu religious ceremonies.
At Ghazipur, a town on the Ganges, Jasmine, there called Chameli, is used mainly for making perfumed hair oils by a process of enfleurage. The odour is absorbed in sesame seeds. The seeds are prepared by washing and rubbing, and when decorticated are dried. The prepared seeds and flowers are placed in alternate layers and allowed to remain for twelve to fourteen hours. The seeds are then separated from the flowers and repeatedly treated in the same way with fresh flowers. The spent flowers are used over and over again with fresh till seeds, these latter giving oil of an inferior quality. The oil obtained from seeds treated with fresh flowers only is the best. The perfumed seeds are pressed in an ordinary wooden country press borne by bullocks..... Some Otto of Jasmine is also made at Ghazipur.
In Borneo it is the custom among the women to roll up Jasmine blossoms in their well-oiled hair at night.
History of Jasmin sambac
It arrived in the Philippines in pre-recorded times, most likely as an item of barter or gift on board trade boats plying the South China Sea. It was said that a Chinese emperor of the Sung dynasty had sampaguita in his palace grounds so he could enjoy its fragrance. In the 1400s, jasmine was planted for kings of Afghanistan, Nepal and Persia. Since ancient times, jasmine of the olive family oleaceae, was cultivated for its essential oils. Varieties of jasmine, like J. grandiflorum, especially used in perfume, found their way to places across the seas -- beginningfrom areas along the Arabian Sea, such as Persia and India then crossing the Red Sea into Egypt. They reached into the territory around the Aegean Sea into Turkey and Greece. And, they spread to areas along the Mediterranean Sea from Africa through Egypt, Algeria and Morocco -- reaching Western Europe through Spain in 1600, and France and Italy. Sampaguita was used as far back as five centuries for hair ornamentation in India and China -- and later, in the Philippines as well. In China, sampaguita, paired with another variety, flavors jasmine tea.
Local Names: Malli (Oriya) Uses of Jasmin sambac in rural India Description of the Plant: Herb. Flower colour white. Flowers in May / June. Frequently occurs in planes.