Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Bay Watch

Solar Incense
There is a significant number of similarities between Bay Leaf (AKA Bay Laurel), West Indian Bay, Bayberry, Bay Rum, California Bay, and aromatically related there is also Allspice which naturally fits into this mix quite nicely. Let's explore these plants and raw materials, and clear this confusion once and for all. 

These plants have a few things in common, one that they are evergreen and either a tall bush. But they come from three distinguished families: The Myricaceae family, the Laureaceae (Laurel) family and the Myrtaceae (Myrtle) family. Besides myrtle, you probably know more members of this family than you may realize: eucalyptus, cloves, tea tree and guava are other highly fragrant members of this family.

But the botanical families are not the only common element. They also share a similar chemical makeup which causes greater confusion and the similar common names they've received doesn't help in the matter either.

Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) This evergreen tree from the Laureaceae family is native to the Mediterranean region, where it inhabits moist habitats such as creekside and the canyons of dry creeks. The essential oil from the very same bay leaf we are familiar with in cooking, has a sharp, spicy medicinal aroma. In ancient Greece and Rome the leaves used to crown war heroes. The root of this custom is the legend of Daphne and Apollo: Apollo fell in love with the river nymph. She was chased by him, and truly feared to lose her virginity - which was very important to her because she took the Vow of Artemis. So she asker her father, the river god Ladon, to save her. He turned her into the beautiful laurel tree. Apollo promised to keep her leaves green forever, and wear them on his head and decorate his lute with. In Ancient Greece and up till this day in modern day magick and Pagan rituals, bay leaf is associated with sun and can be burnt as incense, either alone or with frankincense - the most important solar incense. 

Solar Incense

Here is a simple and beautiful loose incense recipe incorporating Bay Leaf: 12 parts frankincense resin, ground coarsely in a mortar and pestle 1 part bay leaf, folded several times by hand and cut into small pieces 4 parts cinnamon bark, broken into small bits (use hands to crumble if using thin bark, or a mortar and pestle) Break, grind and cut all pieces to a similar size, mix well and sprinkle on hot charcoal in the morning to bring the solar energy into your home. Bay Leaf essential oil is used in perfumery is mostly for aftershaves, perhaps because of its anti-bacterial properties, due to the presence of phenolic compounds. It is a little underrated in my opinion - and can be used very much like allspice, except it has more pronounced leafy-green character. Can be used in Chypre, Fougere, and Woody or Spicy Orientals to impart these spicy-green warm yet clean qualities.

California Bay (Umbellularia californica)
This handsome tree also goes by other names, such as Oregon myrtle, spicebush, pepper wood, cinnamon bush and more. This is also a member of the Lauraceae family, so the closest relation in this post to the Bay Laurel that grows naturally where I live now. I will never forget my first encounter with it, while hiking in Northern California with Hall Newbegin of Juniper Ridge. He was too late to warn me of its potency when I brought it to my nose. This pungent aroma was already piercing my nostrils with this hyper-manifestation of sharp spicy medicinal notes. It is that particular effect that makes it both peculiar and unbearable to the unsuspecting smeller as I was. 

The First Nation people in the area where this plant grows (CahuillaChumashPomoMiwokYukiCoos, and Salinan) used the fruits and their pits for food (the fruit can be eaten raw in a specific stage,  can be dried and partly consumed later on, while the pit needs to be processed first, usually roasted). The leaves were used medicinally. It is used in many forms, such as poultices to treat rheumatism, nerve pain. Infusions that were applied topically primarily for its disinfectant properties. And drank as tisane for the treatment of colds, stomach aches, sore throat and for its expectorant qualities. 

Curiously, the tree is also called "headache tree", because of the experience I described earlier which can often cause headache. This is due to the chemical umbellulone. And even more curious is that the Uki and Pomo tribes used this leaf to cure headache - a true case of "Like Cures Like" which is the key principle of homeopathy. 

Because these leaves are so strong-headed, their modern use is limited, though some use them in food (but in far smaller quantities than other fragrant leaves). The wood itself proves to be an excellent raw material for 

Bayberry (Myrica genus)
This fragrant plant genus belongs to the Myricaceae family, and also goes by the name of bayberry, bay-rum tree, candleberry, sweet gale and wax-myrtle, among others. The name Myrica comes from the Greek myrike (μυρικη), meaning "fragrance". Their fruit has a waxy coating that is indigestible by most animals. From it was produced a material called bayberry wax, which was used for making candles (hence the name "candleberry"). Myrica gale in particular is native to Europe and North America, and its leaves are excellent insect repellent. It was used in wedding bouquets for its fragrance, and as spice for condiments and pickling. Since the Middle Ages and until the 16th century, myrica was an important ingredients in the production of Belgian beer, as the flavouring and preserving agent, until the usage of hops has become wide-spread. Another species, Myrica faya, is native to the Canary Islands and Madeira, and has become an invasive species in Hawaii.

Allspice AKA Pimento Berry (Pimenta diciosa)
Pimento (from the myrtle family) is a key ingredient of the Bay Rum aftershave/scent, and is also very often used in pumpkin pie spice mixes. It smells like a combination of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, and is sweet and dry all at once. The essential oil is a heart note, while the absolute is deeper than the oil. Allspice is used in oriental spicy perfumes, and also to spice up other composition such as Chypre.

Berries of an evergreen tropical tree in Jamaica, Cuba and the West Indies. Other names for it are Jamaica Pimenta and Myrtle Pepper.
In its native Jamaica, the pimento wood is used to smoke jerk, or the berries are used as a substitute. The phenols (such as eugenol) are beneficial for preserving meats, so it is not surprising that allspice is used throughout the world in sausage making and other methods of preserving or marinating meats.

Allspice smells like a combination of spices (hence the name "allspice"). In Arabic cuisine it is simply called "Baher", and the spice mixture "Baharat" which is characteristics to Arab cuisine simply means "Spices", and typically has allspice as a dominant ingredient alongside cardamom, black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, ginger, etc.
Allspice (Pimenta dioica)
Allspice is also key ingredient in Pumpkin Spice (alongside cinnamon, ginger and cloves); used for pickling, marinades, sauces and stews, much like bay leaf is. Also popular in desserts, especially the traditional winter holiday cakes and cookies (i.e.: honey cake and cookies, spice cake, gingerbread, pfeffernusse and the like), for poaching fruit (pear, quince, etc.).
Principle Constituents: Eugenol (60-80%), Methyl eugenol, Phellandrene, Caryophyllene
West Indian Bay (Pimenta racemosa)
Another tropical plant, this time from the Caribbean is what's used for making Bay Rum eau de cologne or aftershave lotion (more on that later). It has many uses, both culinary and cosmetic as you can see in this video.
Similarly to the bay laurel leaves, these also can be used in cooking.
P. racemosa is often mistakenly labelled as Bayberry or Bay Rum when sold as an essential oil, and like allspice, it also belongs to the Myrteaceae (myrtle) family. As far as the scent goes it is very similar to bay leaf, with the charming green leaf and spicy elements all strewn in together.

Bay Rum
Although related to all of the above, is not a particular plant, but a rum-based cosmetic, which is the Caribbean answer to the European Aqua Mirabillis of yore. Bay Rum is a fragrant, alcohol-based preparation that was first made by sailors in the 16th and 17th Centuries as a way to improve their overall hygiene (which sounds a bit hard to believe for a population that was predominantly male, even if in confined quarters of ships). From what I could gather, shaving didn't become widely spread in this culture till the 19th Century. So let's perhaps they used it instead of bathing and for its disinfectant properties.

The history of Bay Rum is a bit hazy, but it is clear that it originates among sweaty, stinky sailors in the Caribbean, using readily available spirits and spices to counter balance the stench that the tropical climate triggered in their closed quarters. 

The most primitive Bay Rum preparations Pimenta racemosa leaves were steeped in rum and this simple tincture was applied for multiple uses by the above mentioned sailors: as a deodorant, disinfectant and perhaps also as an aftershave (though I have little information about the grooming habits of sailors and whether or not they actually bothered shaving while at sea). In the 19th Century, it has become a fully-fledged commercial product manufactured primarily in the Virgin Islands. Other ingredients added to it were citrus oil (especially that of lime), pimento berry (from Pimenta diciosa), and cinnamon. Another bit of history is found in the book "Perfumes of Yesterday" by David G. Williams, pages 142-143. Here we learn that the Bay Rum preparation was actually a hair-growth product, with the stimulating property of the bay leaf from P. racemosa of increasing blood flow (and therefore nutrients, via the blood stream) to the area it is applied (in this case scalp). From this ensued a variety of "Hair Tonics" and the barbershop connection becomes even clearer than the aftershave usage. A historical formula is provided, using surgical spirit, because in wartime (I'm assuming WWI or WWII), because other types of alcohol were either unavailable or prohibited (for example: industrial methylated alcohol). The surgical alcohol was a solution of castor oil and methyl salicylate and ethyl phthalate, diluted in industrial spirit. For this reason, talcum powder was added to the formulate, as it absorbed the fatty oil from the preparation, and result in a clear liquid. Although the talc will also absorb some of the components of the essential oils (particularly that of the lemon), it was mostly the terpenes, which was considered advantageous in the formula. Another curious addition was a solution of burt sugar as a colouring agent, giving the finished product a dark rum-like colour. The formula provided in that book contains oil of bay, clove, lemon, menthol, tincture of capsicum (what gives chilli peppers their hotness!), acetic acid (the active ingredient in vendors), surgical spirit, water and talc. So we see this is a functional fragrance, with ingredient that are acting as a stimulants for the skin.

Dozens of Bay Rum formulations ensued throughout the years, and it is in fact a concoction that can be very easily prepared at home using minimal equipment and readily available raw materials. Although not labeled as Bay Rum, the popular and iconic scent Old Spice is very much based on this historic preparation.

Many recipes for Bay Rum call for infusing the whole spices in rum and then adding other alcohols (such as vodka or grain alcohol), as well as other ingredients that may be beneficial to the skin, such as witch hazel and glycerin. This method is fine as long as no essential oils are added to the recipe. Often times the bay leaf (or leaves) would be kept as decoration within the finished product, which will also continue to release scent well after the bottling stage. 

Keep in mind, that if your alcohol base is only one of those beverages, their alcohol content is not high enough to dissolve essential oils, and they will be floating on the surface of the product instead, and burn the skin. I wouldn't put such a product on my wrists, let alone a face that has just been clean-shaven! So before choosing a recipe, use your common sense please... While most recipes online (which linked above) were very specific about using P. racemosa, it is a bit hazy from the recipes that I have found in literature which bay leaf is actually used. Having no access to this particular bay, I am unable to prepare an authentic formula for you to try. But I am curious to improvised with local ingredients I have on hand. And once I am satisfied with a result I promise I will post here an original recipe of my own.

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Wednesday, May 08, 2019


Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is one of the most important perfume materials, being a key component in almost all fragrance categories. Bergamot is more floral than any other raw material that comes from a citrus rind, and goes with anything and everything: You’ll find it in Citrus and Colognes (naturally) Florals, Florientals, Orientals, Fougère including Marine/Oceanic, and of course Chypre, where it is a key component including even the Chypre Leathery/Tobacco fragrances. Bergamot is diffusive, elegant, balanced and quite complex - a trait that is rarely found in the fleeting top notes. 

Please note that the “t” is pronounced at the end - bergamot is not French, but an Italian word, not French. And even the French, who like to eliminate the last sounds of letters with an invisible linguistic guillotine pronounce this name as “ber-ga-mott”. 

In the 18th Century, little papier-maché boxes called “Bergamotes” were made in Grasse. They were scented with pieces of bergamot peel, a custom that lasted only till about 1830. In Spain, bergamot peels are still used to make tabachieres (snuff boxes). In the process of making them, the peels are flipped inside out, so that the tobacco kept inside the box becomes flavoured with the cured bergamot’s aroma. 
Begramot essential oil is also important in flavour - especially to make Earl Grey tea, one of the most popular aromatized black tea blends (typically orange pekoe), sometimes with the addition of lavender, and even vanilla (in Cream Earl Grey). I wonder if this custom is related to keeping tea leaves inside similar orange boxes. In any case, such an experiment would be worth trying, and this practice is not foreign to the world of tea: There is a special type of Chinese white tea that is kept inside tiny dried mandarin orange “boxes” that were hollowed out of their pulp. 

Bergamot is not your usual citrus note. It is more floral, complex and warm than most citrus, not quite as tangy or fruity, and can be described as spicy-warm in comparison other typical citrus notes. Bergamot has a dry, floral, peppery, a little woody, more floral/lavender like than the rest of the citrus oils. There is also a green aspect to it, which is soft rather than sharp, and with hints of herbal and balsamic undertones, and tea-like qualities, which are not unlike Clary sage.

Around 300 molecules have been identified in this complex citrus oil! 30-60% Linalyl aceatate (30-60%), linalool (11-22%), Citral, alcohols, sesqueterpenes, alkanes, furanocoumarin (bergapten at 0.30-0.39%) the latter being the constituent that gives it its most distinct characteristic, and also creates the phototoxic risk. 

Bergamot is most frequently associated with tea, not just because it is used to flavour Earl Grey tea (an aromatized black tea infused with bergamot essential oil, and sometimes also lavender) — but also because of the high linalyl acetate content, which has a clear, elegant, floral-green tea-like quality (this molecule is also found in large amounts in lavender, petitgrain bigarade and clary sage oils). 

While bergamot shares some similarities with lemon, the latter is more acidic and fresh; and also even though both are top notes — bergamot is longer lasting than lemon, which evaporates rapidly. Bergamot develops into a bitter orange scent after an hour or so. The citrus aroma of lemon-orange (from limonene) does not reveal itself until the dry down (about 30 minutes or more after dipping the scent strip). Bergamot is softer, closer to neroli and petitgrain, and with an elegant, dry floralcy that is reminiscent of grapefruit as well (yet without the sulphurous qualities). 
Bergamot is one of the most sought-after citrus oil. It’s versatility and sparkle is invaluable. It is used in citrus eaux as well as a top note for floral, woody and oriental compositions. But perhaps its most intriguing role is in the original formulas of Chypre – where it was used to contrast the mossy, earthy-sweet notes of oakmoss and labdanum to create the many seamless compositions that this fragrance family includes. It is also a key component in the ambreine accord, where it is juxtaposed against vanilla, vanillin or ethyl vanillin. 

Bergamot blends well with almost all oils. Its citrusy and floral aroma makes it a very versatile note. It blends particularly well with: Black Pepper, Rose, Jasmine, Neroli, Orange Blossom Absolute, Orange Flower Water Absolute, Vanilla, Benzoin, Lavender, Juniper, Oakmoss, Labdanum. 

Caution: Please note that bergamot is highly phototoxic! If you are using this oil for skincare or body care (leave-on products such as body oil, massage oil, creams, lotions, etc.) please opt for bergapten free oils, labeled as “FCF” (which stands for “furano-coumarin-free”). However, the FCF oil loses a lot of the character, and is best avoided for fine perfumery. It really does not do bergamot any justice… Because bergamot is so common in so many fragrance categories, it would be best advised to never wear perfume of any kind on areas that will be exposed to the sun or tanning lights. Perfume should be worn on pulse-points that don't typically see the day of lights - behind the ears, on the wrists. Think twice if you apply perfume to any other area (i.e.: bend of the elbows and knees, on the chest, etc.) and hit the beach or the pool. You may get a burn if you do so. So either cover up those areas or avoid wearing fragrance before getting out sunbathing.

Examples for perfumes with dominant bergamot note: Shalimar, Chypre, MitsoukoCharismaEspionage, Moon Breath, ArbitRary, Fetish and more. 

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Saturday, May 04, 2019

My (Imaginary) Orchid Collection

Wild Ride
A couple of weeks ago we went to hunt for wild peonies, and found many new orchids along the trail. I also spotted a few tall orchids that weren't in bloom yet, so today I went back to spot them. And I present to you the whole series. Perhaps this is not the place for this post, as non of them is fragrant. Amon gate Israeli orchids, only the Holy Orchid (Orchis sancta) that is extremely rare (and I didn't meet yet) and the Scented Orchid (which smells like dung) have smell. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

I'll start with the first orchid I met on the trail (note the many Anatolian Orchids behind it):
Cephalanthera longifolia סחלבן החורש
Cephalanthera longifolia סחלבן החורש

Orchis punctulata סחלב נקוד
Orchis galilaea סחלב הגליל
סחלב  שלוש-השיניים Orchis tridentata
Orchis tridentata סחלב  שלוש-השיניים 
Orchis anatolica סחלב אנטולי
Orchis anatolica סחלב אנטולי
This small yet impressively coloured orchid rules the slopes of Mt. Meron but still manages to look special and impressive. 
Orchis papilionacea ? סחלב פרפרני
Orchis papilionacea  סחלב פרפרני
Orchis sancta ?
Orchis papilionacea  סחלב פרפרני
This is the same as above but perhaps older and therefore less vibrant in colour.
Limodorum abortivum (Violet Limodore) שנק החורש
Limodorum abortivum (Violet Limodore) שנק החורש
This is the one I spotted about to bloom a couple of weeks ago, and came back to see today. It was already starting to dry out, but still - you can get the picture. It's a very tall orchid. Note how it compares to the rockrose (cistus) and blood helichrysum next to it:
Limodorum abortivum (Violet Limodore) שנק החורש

Ophrys umblicata דבורנית דינסמור
Ophrys umblicata דבורנית דינסמור
This last photo was not photographed on Mt. Hillel but I found another one and didn't bother to take a photo (was saving camera space for the peonies!). There are several other kinds of bee orchids in Israel, here is another one just for fun:

Early Spider Orchid (Ophrys transhyrcana) דבורנית הקטיפה
Early Spider Orchid (Ophrys transhyrcana) דבורנית הקטיפה
Ophrys holosericea (Great Bee Orchid) דבורנית גדולה
Ophrys holosericea (Great Bee Orchid) דבורנית גדולה

The following are also not found on the same site, but are part of my imaginary orchid collection nevertheless.
Anacamptis pyramidalis ?? בן-סחלב צריפי
Anacamptis pyramidalis בן-סחלב צריפי
This one is relatively common in our area (lower altitude). I think this its rhizomes are the original ingredient of the Sahleb pudding.
Mystery Orchid
This lovely one I could not for the life of me identified. Spotted in Kziv Creek reserve, along the same trail that has the Wild Lilies. I would love to learn which one it is!

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Thursday, May 02, 2019

Jupiter Incense Pastilles

Jupiter Incense Pastilles
Today being Thursday is a perfect day to finally complete my Jupiter planetary incense pastilles!
This special incense does not have the exact same formula like I had created originally (due to some limits on import of certain botanicals outside of North America). But it has lots of great new ingredients that keep it in the same spirit. The main components are piñon pine resin, juniper berries, spruce pitch, fir needles from Canada and other forest treasures. It is very forest-like in line with the character of Jupiter and it being so closely aligned with plant medicine and teaching, hunting and forests.
Jupiter Incense Pastilles
After pounding and compounding all the materials, which was a process that was stretched out over a month or even more - it was time to finally put them all together. They smelled much better after marring for a while!
Jupiter Incense Pastilles
I decided to add some colour to these pastilles, even though I like to usually keep my incense very natural and real looking. It's been a while since I've made coloured incense and I finally got some colourful minerals on my hand. This shimmering blue is just the perfect colour for this planet.
Jupiter Incense Pastilles
Here is a shimmering filet of incense, all ready to get cut into pieces...
Jupiter Incense Pastilles
Except it is still very sticky incense "dough". So I had to wait 24hrs between cutting the two sets of lines (note my attempt at the very bottom left corner).
Jupiter Incense Pastilles
Here it is finally cut up into its final pieces, and waiting to be dried completely before being packaged. It is meant to be burnt on hot charcoal, or warmed gently in an aromatherapy diffuser (I recommend placing a tiny piece of aluminum foil because it will otherwise stick to your vessel and create a mess).

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Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Planetary Prescription Incense

Incense As Medicine
Today is an especially magical day, being the midway point between the Vernal Equinox and the Summer Solstice. So that's a great timing to work on new incense and share with you what I've been brewing these past nine months (there has been plenty of incensing happening lately!).

It's been my life-long mission to create incense for the seven ancient planets. I am finally coming close to completing this series to my satisfaction. So far, I only liked the Jupiter incense I've created many years ago, in the very beginning of my incense path. I made a few other incense pastilles but I have taken a break from this technique for many years.

This year I've been catching up and refining my incense-making skills big time. Partly because the space allows it, and partly because I find the actual making of incense very calming, centring, sensual and magical all around. Incense to me is the purest form of perfume. Its most natural state. The manipulation of the raw materials is minimal. The ingredients may be exotic or simple. Lastly there is the actual use of incense, which is healing and transformative on so many planes - physical, psychological and spiritual.

The planetary incense is mostly botanical (except the lunar one, which has a tiny bit of ambergris in it). They are resin-based incense with added herbs, spices and essential oils, and are formed into small candy-like resin crystals. The Saturn ones are Nerikoh - a Japanese style soft-candy incense that is mostly wood and spice based, and glued together with honey or dried plums. Nerikoh were originally compounded as edible medicine - the honey there to preserve as well as ease the consumption of these remedies' rather bitter, acrid and hot flavours.

Solar Incense Pastilles:
Heart opening, sweet, warm and healing.
Includes: Frankincense, Gold Copal, Chamomile, Saffron

Moon Drops Incense Pastilles:
Mysterious, watery, dark womb, new beginnings.
Black copal, Sandalwood, Ambergris, Jasmine, Artemisia

Mercury Incense Pastilles:
Swift, uplifting, communication, ideas, mental clarity, intellectual connection. 
Mastic, Elemi, Mimosa, Yuzu, Sandarac, Sandalwood

Noga (Venus) Incense Pastilles:
Inspires love, beauty and harmony. 
Includes: Galbanum, Benzoin, Roses, Labdanum, Myrtle, Tonka Bean

Mars Incense Pastilles:
Protective, powerful, transformative, healing that comes from destruction and breaking down of old and unnecessary things/thoughts/desires. 
Dragon's Blood, Ponderosa Pine, Tobacco, Palo Santo 

Jupiter Incense Pastilles:  
The teacher, especially plant teachings, healing, cleansing, brings luck and abundance. 
Pinon Pine, Star Anise, Juniper, Sage 

Saturn Nerikoh (Soft Incense Pastilles):
Discipline, analogue to the world and the physical world's lessons, Gives form and manifestation to ideas, Wisdom. 
Myrrh, Patchouli, Cypress, Spices, Vetiver, Agarwood

As if closing a circle, I'm now running very low on the Jupiter incense, so will have to make some more (it's been in the planning for about a month, with all the ingredients measured and set up, just waiting to be pounded, compounded and formed into a very special kind of incense candy!). More on that in the next post! 

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Monday, April 29, 2019

Autumn Leaves Nerikoh

Autumn Leaves Nerikoh
Incense is occupying my mind a lot these days, as well as most of my creative endeavours. I'm working on different techniques, and also adaptations of some of my perfumes into incense form. The Japanese art of incense is poetic and technically versatile in a way that sparks my imagination.

Today I've tried my hand at crafting Nerikoh (kneaded incense) using dried fruit instead of honey. I notice apricot used in several of the Nerikoh offerings from Shoyeido, so I decided to give it a try. It seemed especially befitting for an adaptation of Autumn perfume that I wanted to make. It's akin to translating an idea from perfume into incense format.
Autumn Leaves Nerikoh
Autumn was a perfect candidate, as Nerikoh is traditionally used in tea ceremonies in the fall season.  Additionally, it being a Chypre Fruity with spicy notes and labdanum gave it an extra advantage over most of my other perfumes. Labdanum is one of the classic notes in Japanese Neirkoh, and along with the sticky dried apricot fruit, that would have been a great way to bring both worlds together. Other traditional incense materials are sandalwood, cinnamon and cloves, which are also in the perfume. Of course it has some oakmoss too! An early burn over a tea light smells promising already. Sweet yet earthy, complex yet brings on a feeling of serenity of fallen leaves. I even went as far as molding some into maple leaf shapes. And now I regret not doing it with the rest. The experiment seems to have gone well, so there will be more shaped incense pellets to come.  I just have to be sure they don't get suck inside the mold or break once they dried, before meticulously shaping an entire batch. And then there is also the question of packaging...

The Autumn Leaves Nerikoh won't be ready till fall, as they need at least six months to cure or age - and this is a shortcut: traditionally they will be buried in the ground in a clay vessel for 3-4 years! That means they will be ready around Halloween. I can't wait to smell them then, when the temperatures here will finally become cooler again after a long summer.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Neroli Tincture

Bitter Orange Flower Tincture
Often I'm asked if it is possible to make orange blossoms tincture. My snarky response is that you can tincture anything. Can't guarantee the results though... Fresh flowers, generally speaking, don't let themselves well to alcoholic tincturing. That is why enfleurage and solvent extraction techniques were invented in the first place. Otherwise why bother with such sophisticated process if it is possible to make such an easy homemade extraction with alcohol?

There are a few problems at play. One is the water content in the flowers. Once the flowers sit in the alcohol, it dries them up completely, which means it sucks all the moisture out of them. That's what alcohol does. It readily bonds with the water. This dilutes the alcohol's solvent powers. 

The other problem is that the alcohol dissolves also less desirable aspects of the plant matter, resulting in a very vegetal smelling tincture. It may be fine for medicinal purposes (which is the the main objective of most fresh plant matter tinctures). For fine perfumery - not so much. 

Bitter Orange Flower Tincture

Either way, one needs to watch out for over-steeping when preparing tinctures. Less is often more. Meaning, it is better to recharge the alcohol several times with the flowers until the desired odour strength is achieved. This is akin to steeping tea: Steeping the same amount of tea over a longer period of time will definitely give you a stronger tea, but not as fragrant and delicious as one that you've paid attention to preparing according to the appropriate steeping time and amount of tea leaf. When wishing you prepare a stronger tea, there is no way around using more tea. This is not the time or place to be thrifty with your raw materials. Remember the time and effort taken to grow, harvest, clean and infuse your plants. Remember how much you paid for that 96% alcohol. Don't waste these resources. 

So, with all that being said, the neroli tincture (bitter orange blossoms steeped in alcohol) smelled nice enough. I was smart enough to strain it before turning vegetable. It wears ok on the skin. But needs another recharge or two. In my opinion, aside from the cache of using something from my own orchard in my perfume, it does not offer anything more than what my high quality neroli oil and orange blossom absolutes have to offer. But we shall see once I use it within a composition. I will include some in my upcoming batch of Zohar (my orange blossom soliflore). Maybe it will transform into something more WOW inducing then. Either way, the process was fun. But I a more inclined to stick to traditional raw materials with these flowers and get a still ASAP to make my own orchard hydrosoles and perhaps even oils some day soon. 

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