Ruh Khus 2
Ruh Khus 2
"The day when, in the chain of events from the flower to the perfume, the flower is no longer picked, perfume will have lost its power. Capturing the flower, taking possession of its soul in order to transform it, is a way of uniting ourselves with the earth and of giving perfume its place in a mysterious and unique process... when perfume is worn by men and women, they take an essential role in the process."
Jacques Pogel/Chanel perfume creator
Vocabulary for Fragrance
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 rainblow 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 convery some of the joy and sweetness the world of the invisible aromas creates n our hearts.
Towards this end I decided to start a section of the newsletter devoted to words that are in some way related to the world of fragrance, aroma, perfume and odor. It is not meant to be the end all and be all-just a starting point. In the succedding newsletters I will be taking up one letter at a time hence we begin with A.
abhorrent, absorbent, acceptable, accessible, accordant, acerb, acetic, acid, acidic, acrid, adherent, adorable, adulterate, aerial, aesthetic, affective, aged, aggregate, aggressive, agreeable, airborne, air-cooled, airy, alien, alpine, alluvial, ambrosial, amorphous, analytic, ancient, angelic, animal, animate, aquatic, aromatic, artificial, aspirate, astral, astringent, atingle, atmospheric, attractive, aureole, austere, authentic, autumn, awesome
ablution, absinthe, absolute, absorbtion, acacia, accent, acerbity, admixture, adulterant, aerosol, affection, affinity, agriculture, agronomy, air, airiness, alchemy, alcohol, aldehyde, allspice, almond, amber, ambergris, amateur, ambrosia, amrita, analysis, analogy, angelica, animal, anise, apple, apricot, aqua, aroma, artemisia, ascent, ash, aspriation, atelier, atmosphere, attar, attraction. aura
absorb, accord, acerbate, admix, adore, adorn, adsorb, aerate, affect, agitate, agree, allure, allusive, anoint, appeal, apply, appreciate, array, asphyxiate, aspire, assail, astonish
The shape of a perfume derives from an aesthetic combination chosen and desired by the perfumer. The fragrance formulation results from an assembly of constituents which gives rise to an overall phenomenon which is anything but simple addition. Roudnitska
History of Titanic Perfumes
The History of Perfumes, Classic Perfumes and Perfumers
perfumery history from ancient to modern times
PERFUMES FOR THE PERIOD SCENT
Queen of Hungary Water
Aromatic Herbs Used In Perfumery of Ancient India
bibliography of perfumery books old and new
citrus in history of perfume
history of perfumes
Edmond Roudnitska : A Legacy
For the perfumer with a well-trained consciousness the sense of a smell is above all a sense of knowledge, of verification, of entry into a special universe infinitely rich in signs which the composer turns to his aesthetic ends.-Roudnitska
Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes has once again shared her beautiful insights on three lesser known absolutes.(Currently I only have the White Ginger Lily in stock but can special order Celery Seed. I have not found a reliable source of Karo Karounde to date but am working on it)
Karo Karounde: A intense middle note with a complicated floral quality that is almost chocolate. Rich, deep and sexy it speaks of the earth and flowers at the same time. Would create a balance with heady white flowers and lighter florals like magnolia and geranium.
White Ginger: Like kewda, white ginger is floral middle note with some bite. Sweet and sharp simultaneously with a slightly fecal undertone. many many layers about in this essence before it settles into its core of sweetness. This essence possesses mystery and would reward the adventurous perfumer 's wild experimentation.
Celery Absolute: This essence is almost indescribable. You can smell the celery scent folded into this absolute but around it is such depth and color. I can imagine this essence enlivening and subtlely changing any essence it mixes with. It is not quite herbal, not quite vegetable. It smells familiar and foreign at the same time. Functionally, it seems to
have some of the qualities of both benzoin and sandalwood in that it expresses very little top note but lives in its combined body and dryout note.
Later in the afternoon a young woman comes from the town.
She is foreign to these parts and her sad face
is drawn and pale from the heat.
In a low voice she teaches the poetry of a foreign poet.
In a room where a tattered blue screen obscures the light
and the damp odour of vetiver fills the air,
enters the pain of a human heart from beyond the seas.
Tagore, Rabindranath, 1861-1941 / Dyson, Ketaki Kushari, 1940-:Memory [from I Won't Let You Go: Selected Poems [trans.] (1991), Bloodaxe Books]The wonderous and multiuse grass known as Khus or Vetiver has been a boon to humankind for many centuries and is proving equally useful today as it was in the past. There are several organizations devoted to promoting, propagating and planting this precious gift of nature in many parts of the world, first and foremost as an excellent means of erosion control but for many other reasons as well.
On sites like the one below you can find huge amounts of information on vetiver and its uses throughout the world
I had the good fortune to travel in the company of Dr. Mohan Mashewari, one of the foremost researchers in the aromatic components, several years ago in the state of Uttar Pradesh. As we traveled along a small country road, he instructed the driver to pull off to the side where wild vetiver was growing in great abundance near a railroad track. There he proceeded to pull out of the ground a small clump of wild vetiver grass with roots intact as it grows in North India. It was my first introduction with the living plant. Looking at this humble denizen of the plant world one could hardly conceive that in its roots was to be found an aromatic elixir that is the very essence of mystery and depth. Hundreds of tiny fibrous rootlets radiate off the main stalk and thread their way through the soil in which it lives. These tiny rootlets someone absorb from the soil in which they dwell components which they then convert into the molecules producing the volatile oil which is dearly loved by people in India and many other parts of the world. Because of the intimate contact between the earth and these fibrous rootlets one will find that at every place this plant grows oils distilled from them will be unique and special. It takes on the fragrance of the earth in which it grows. It is such a complex material that those who have devoted their lives to quality control analysis are sometimes baffled as to what to say about it. The list of components that have been identified exceed 200 and there are many trace ones that have yet to be discovered.
And of greatest importance is the emotional and psychological effect the essence has upon the heart and mind. It is so complex in its profile that one cannot properly explore it in a session of 1 hour. The attention needs to be brought into the sphere of its redolent radiation again and again for the full effect to penetrate into ones being. This oil contains within itself the mysteries of the earth and while drawing ones attention to that zone, also has a unique exhilaring effect that points one towards the stars. Perhaps this unique effect is due to its "cooling effect" for which it is renowned. Special shades and mats are woven to put over windows in the hot interior zones of India. They are sprinkled with water throughout the day so that when the slightest breeze blows the house is cooled with the refreshing aroma of vetiver roots. Elixirs are also made with the oil. A few drops of the essence are dropped upon baked clay and then immersed in boiling water to which has been added a bit of raw sugar. When cooled it is imbibed to cool the body in the hotest part of the day.
It is no wonder that the oil has been given the name of the Oil of Tranquility."Description:
Vetiver grass is a tropical plant which grows naturally. In Thailand,vetiver grass can be found growing in a wide range of area from highlands to lowlands in various soil conditions. The species which is most common in Thailand is referred to in scientific term as Vetiveria zizanioides. This species appears in a dense clump and grows fast through tillering. The clump diameter is about 30 cm. and the height is 50-150 cm. The leaves are erect and rather stiff with 75 cm. of length and 8 mm. of width.
It is a densely tufted grass. The culms are arising from an aromatic rhizome. The grass is stout, up to and over 2 m. tall, in dense tufts, with stout spongy aromatic roots. The leaves are narrow, erect, keeled, glabrous and its margins are scabrid. The inflorescence is a panicle ofnumerous slender racemes in whorls on a central axis. The spikelets are grey-green or purplish in colour and in pairs. One is sessile and the other is pedicelled. Those of each pair are more or less alike in shape and size, different in sex and 2-flowered. The lower floret is reduced to a lemma. Upper is bisexual in the sessile. Male is in the pedicelled spikelet, glumes armed with short, tubercle-based spines,lemmas awn-less, palea minute.
Vetiver: Webster's: n. Fr. vetiver < Tamil vettiveru, lit., root that is dug up (ver, root). 1 an East Indian grass (Vetiveria zizanioides) whose roots yield a fragrant oil used in perfumes, cosmetics, etc. 2 its fibrous roots, also used for making screens,mats, etc.
Vetiverim's: n. a common name of the grass of the genus Vetiveria having profuse and deep root system and strong culm used in soil and water conservation in many countries in the tropics and sub-tropics. Vetiveria zizanioides has fragrant roots used in making perfumes, cosmetics, and other traditional preparations.
Explanation: 1 vetiver is originally a French word, derived from a Tamil word, vettiveru (vetti = to dig up, ver = root), also vattiveru, vetivern. 2 vetiver originally means the fragrant roots of Vetiveria zizanioides, a species used in perfumes, cosmetics, etc., and no mention has been made on other species and other uses, especially for soil and water conservation. 3 vetiver also means 'hatch up' - an exact description of how the spongy roots so valued for their aroma, are collected. 4 the two species of vetiver currently used in soil and water conservation, i.e. Vetiveria zizanioides and V. nemoralis have wide distribution throughout Asia, and not localized in East India as was originally believed to be. 5 the term is usually followed by the collective word, 'grass', a common practice in naming a plant under a group to which it belongs, like napier grass, ruzi grass, Bermuda grass, etc. As the term is becoming more popular, it is suggested to drop the word 'grass' to save time and space, and, to change the tune of misconception in some countries where the word 'grass' has a notorious meaning of being useless.
Vetiver has been known in India from the ancient times. It has been considered a high-class perfume. Copper plate inscriptions listing the perfume as one of the articles used by royalty have been discovered. In Ayurvedic literature it is called 'Suganti-mulaka' (means Sweet smelling) and 'Sita-mulaka' (having coo roots). All over India, the roots are made into scented mats, fans,ornamental baskets and many other small articles. Also burnt as a fumigatory.
trapping crop residues and silts eroded by runoff
as raw material for making paper
making ropes, mats, hats, baskets etc.
as animal fodder for sheep, cattle etc.
mulching, covering the ground of animal stables
as planting material for mushroom culture and for
absorbing water and maintaining soil moisture
absorbing minerals and nutrients/decomposing
as organic matters, thus making the soilfriable
absorbing toxic substances in chemical
fertilizers and pesticides improving the physical elements of the soil
making screens, blinds, fans, handbags
extracting volatile oils for making perfume
and aromatic ingredients in soaps as insect repellents
Vetiver Blind: Vetiverim's: n. natural material made from the root mass of the vetiver plant used as a blind to cool down the heat of the summer, a common practice in northern India. Explanation: The blind is woven from the wiry, fibrous root of vetiver. The vetiver blind is continually doused with water throughout the day, turning the very wind that can dehydrate a person walking in the sun, into a scented cooling breeze, which passes through the soaked vetiver blind, releasing a bittersweet aroma. An Indian poet, Bihari (1595-1664), in The Satasai, described the vetiver blinds as "Lend to burning summer noon the scented chill of winter nights". This evidence indicated that vetiver is an ancient crop but its use in those days has been limited only to its fragrance.
Wild Vetiver Harvest
As I am sitting here at my desk writing this article I have in my hand a bottle of this exquisite essence. This particular sample is prepared by a close friend of ours, Mr. Manoj Avasthi who has lived in Kannauj all his life and is a professional perfumer himself. We have engaged him to personally supervise the preparation of the finest ruh khus that can be made. His work begins during the month of October when the harvest of the roots begins in earnest. This can only be done when the monsoon season is over as the roots need to dry in the ground before they are harvested. In order to understand the
whole process from start to finish we requested him to actually visit one of the places where the work of digging the roots was going on. He journeyed deep into the heart of Uttar Pradesh and far off the main road to photograph this interesting part of the story. It is hard for many Westerners to imagine that there is much of India which is still uncultivated, but it is so. In such open lands wild vetiver can be found growing in vast areas many acres in extent. The people who do the harvest are what Indians called the Advasi or tribal people, the original inhabitants of India.
They come to these areas and basically camp out for several months while the harvest is going on. They build small huts out of readily available materials, including the overground of the vetiver grass which they use as thatch. In the ground they dig out small fire places where they place their vessels for cooking their simple meals. When the day begins they get out their hand made tools for prying the vetiver out from the ground. Before root removal takes place the above ground portion is removed so that only 15-20 centimeters remains. The stalks of the aerial portions are also collected and
used for a variety of purposes including the building of elabortate structures for religious ceremonies. The main implement for this is a stout long-handled pry bar which they plunge into the ground and then lift to bring the roots to the surface. Sometimes a heavy steel pronged fork is also employed for root removal. When removing the clumps only about 60% of the roots come loose and many times the harvesters will redig the area to recover as many loose rootlets as possilbe. The soil is then knocked away from the roots against heavy stones or wooden locks. Women sit and remove the remaining aerial parts of the grasswith a machete leaving just enough so that the ball of roots will remain intact. They then neatly tie each section of roots into a neat bundle. It is a real work of art to see how deftly they do this and how beautiful each bundle looks. Smaller bundles are then collected into larger bundles and affixed to both ends of a carrying pole, which men then transport to a central collection area.
After several weeks of digging and bundling by which time a significant stock of vetiver bundles has been collected, buyers for the roots come to the remote location where the Advasi's are working and purchase the roots. They are carefully counted, weighed and loaded into bullock carts which then transport them to the nearest paved road where transport trucks await their arrival. From here the roots are transported to Kannauj where they are brought to the various distilleries which prepare either Ruh Khus by traditional means or by the modern steam distillation technique. The buying of roots is a very important part of the years calendar for the distillers of Kannauj. Some of the distillers who use the "deg" are very particular about the roots they purchase as there units are small enough to use one type of root from a particular area. It is known to the cities perfumers which districts have roots with specific aromatic characteristics. Those who are true conniseurs of vetiver can also select roots which have been harvested at the proper time. Ones that are 18-24 months old are considered the finest from the quality of oil they contain. The finer nuances of the art of selection are well known to
those who produce oils for select buyers. Often oil is produced on contract for a specific high-end market and when this is the case, the "deg" method is almost always perferred. If a more generic oil is acceptable, the steam distillation technique can produce a nice oil. In this case from 500 lbs to 1000 lbs of material are charged into each still which means that they often have to mix roots from different areas as well as ones in different states of maturity. Perhaps the lines of difference are very fine between the "deg" khus oil, produced in small batches, and that produced by larger steam distillation units,
but there is little doubt that there is a real old-world charm that comes from the former technique. I do not know how much that adds to the quality of the oil in terms of its scientific analysis but I think that one can "sense" the difference in that it is a labor intensive art and craft which I hope we can preserve.
2.1 Production of Vetiver Oil
Spongy root mass of certain cultivars of Vetiveria zizanioides contains trace amount of essential or volatile oil, known as vetiver oil or ‘khus oil’, which can be extracted by steam distillation. The dried roots, after washing and drying, can be distilled immediately, or are stored for 12-24 months so enzymatic process can increase oil yield (Dowthwaite and Rajani 2000). The process of distillation consists of soaking the root mass prior to packing in the distillation unit, and steam is
allowed to pass through for a period of six hours or more. The steam distillation produces around 0.3-1.0% of oil although higher percentages can also be obtained. A resinoid is also produced by solvent extraction for perfumery work. Commerce vetiver oil is mainly produced in China, India, Indonesia, Haiti and Reunion. The principal constituents include vetiverol, vetivone, khusimone, khusitone, ter penes ( e.g. vetivenes) , and sesquiterpenoids. Its chemical compounds were reviewed by Fuehrer (1970) and more extensively by Virmani and Datta (1975).
Indonesia, particularly Jave, is the leading producers of vetiver oil in spite of the fact tht people are convinced that vetiver actually causes soil erosion, if planted on the slope (Prayogo 1998). This is because harvesters often dig out the roots, leaving behind trenches that triggers severe soil losses. Such a problem results in the prohibition of vetiver cultivation in many parts of Java (National Research Council 1993). It is largely grown in the loose rich volcanic soils near Garut in West Java. Distillation is long and involves high pressure using water and steam distillation method. In Indonesia, oil from stainless steel vessels has a lighter color than oil from carbon steel tanks. In terms of volume, vetiver is the leading essential oil exported from Indonesia, with over 1,000 tons being exported in 1992, and is said to be competitive with the one produced in Haiti. However, the typical Indonesian product is sometimes discounted in the international market due to its having a‘smoky burnt’ character (www/benzalco.com/vetiver/vetiver_page.html>). The best type of vetiver oil is believed to come from Reunion Islands. Planting vetiver grass and followed with a rigorous harvest of the roots could substantially affect soil erosion. Therefore, vetiver planting has been banned in some countries such as Indonesia. This has reduced the supply of vetiver oil such that its price has increased many folds during the past decade
2.2 Properties of Vetiver Oil
Vetiver oil is a light to dark brown, olive, or amber viscous oil having a deep smoky, earthy-woody odor with a sweet persistent undertone. The color and scent can vary according to the source. For example, Angola produces very pale oil with a dry-woody odor. Poorer grades with darker color and have smoky backnotes are also produced in China and Java by subsistent farmers with primitive equipment (Dowthwaite and Rajani 2000). Vetiver oil has a rather powerful smell but is very pleasant when diluted (Curtis 1996). It blends well with oils of sandalwood, rose, violet, jasmine, opopanax, patchouli, oakmos s, lavender, clary sage, mimosa, cassia, and ylang ylang (Law les s 1995) . It is a high-priced oil as it is used extensively in fine perfumery and cosmetic products. In dilute state, it smells like sandalwood oil (Georgi 1924). It is used exclusively in the preparation of compound perfumes, in which the oil, on account of its low volatility, is normally used as a base to fix other high-value volatile oils like rose oil, lavender oil, and jasmine oil. Vetiver roots do not yield their oils easily because the essential oils are located inside hard-to-reach root tissues. To be extracted, these oils must diffuse (which is a relatively slow physical process) from inside fibrous rot tissues outward to the surface. Furthermore, vetiver oil consists of a high percentage of sesquiterpenes (which have high molecule weights with low vapor pressures), which also contribute to the long extraction times needed. The most valuable fractions of vetiver oil have the highest boiling points and constitute the high specific gravity oil portion, and characteristically pass through the condenser in greatest volume late in the distillation. These fractions are rich in vetivones and vetiverol
Vetiver oil has been utilized as raw material for various fragrant products such as perfumes, deodorants, lotions, soaps, etc. In “Wilkes P riceles s Recipes - a valuable collection of tried formulas and simple methods for people in every department of human endeavor:, under the heading “toilet articles”, there is the recipe for vetiver essence as follows : “Two pounds of the root of vetiver (cut small), mois ten w ith a little water , macerate for 24 hours , then beat in a marble mortar , macerate in sufficient alcohol to cover for 8 or 10
days, and strain w ith pressure; f ilter through paper and in a f ortnight r epeat the filtr ation.” (Pease 2001). Upon further separation, vetiverol, its main alcohol, can be acetylated to produce vetiveryl acetate having slightly stronger silky fruity-green-woody nuances. It is irreplaceable in the bottom notes of‘Haute Coutur ier’ fragr ances . Vetiver oil and its various derivatives are used in the following perfume brands : Guerlain’s ‘Vetiver’ , Channel s ‘ Coco’ , Christian Dior’ s ‘Miss Dior’, Yves St. Laurent’s ‘Opium’, Givenchy’s ‘Ysatis’, among others (Dowthwaite and Rajani 2000). In addition to being used as a fixative in fine perfumery, vetiver oil is also used as a fragrance ingredient in soaps, cosmetics and perfumes, especially oriental types. In food, it is used to flavor sherbet and as food preservatives, especially for asparagus (National Research Council 1993).
Olfactory Characteristics of the Oil
Now as to the olfactory evalution of the oil which is in my hand. It is dark, thick and brown almost of a syrupy consistency. A well distilled oil gets thicker with the passage of time and its aroma ever more deep and intense as it matures. The immediate impression is one of a powerful earthy diffusiveness. It is a heavy oil which if not to be used as a fragrance in its own right, needs to be properly diluted so that it does not totally dominate any other fragrance with which it is blended. Images of earth, roots, damp forest floors all come readily to mind when evaluating this oil. It also contains within its multidimensional profile, a quiet sweetness which somehow perfectly interweaves amongst its more earthy tones. As one goes deeper and deeper into its complex character one discovers what may be termed as the precious woods notes which one also finds in oils like sandalwood and agarwood.
The tenacity of the oil is renowned. It is a fixative par excellence as it can unite every part of a composition from the ethereal top notes to the deep base ones. In the hands of a skilled perfumer it can produce outstanding effects in fougere, chypre and oriental type compositions. When using this oil in creative perfumery one must definitely consider that it would like to be a front seat driver. It is quite different than sandalwood which can quietly move to the background and only modestly appear as an actual contributor to a fragrance. It is, in effect, a rather dominant note and should be used with great care if one wishes for other notes to appear clear and not muddled. Some of the oils with which it blends nicely are patchouly, cinnamon bark, linaloe berry, sandalwood, oakmoss, opopanax and mimosa. This oil offers ample creative opportunities for people who wish to adventure into the world of blending their own perfume and essences.
The rich, mysterious vetiver fragrance, known as the "aroma of tranquility" in the East is a wonderful gift to mankind from the botanical kingdom. Its aesthetic value has been appreciated for thousands of years and hopefully will continue to provide enjoyment and healing virtues for future generations. Its story is intimately interwoven with the lives of many people; collectors, distillers, and users. When we contemplate the exquisite beauty of any such oil, we can greatly deepen our level of appreciation if we endeavor to connect ourselves with all the hard work that went into producing each precious drop. When our thoughts dwell on how the plant has been brought into being by a long evolutionary process in nature's laboratory, we can further refine our awareness of the oils unique qualities. When such sensitive thoughts appear in our heart and mind we will undoubtedly contact those wonderful feelings of joy, and purity which the world of fragrance produces in the heart and mind.