Blossoms: Extracting Fragrance?

Discussion in 'Conversations' started by SvenLittkowski, Jan 28, 2010.

  1. SvenLittkowski

    SvenLittkowski Active Member

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    Jamaica, deep in the night...
    I walked through the nightly tropical forest, and I couldn't see ahead for more than a few meters, barely recognizing even the stems of the trees. But when i walked through the nightly forest, I suddenly recognized something, and followed to that direction where I believed that came from...

    I finally reached. I knew I had reached, there was no way to be wrong. It was so intensive, every of my senses told me here I am, I just had to find the source of it. I looked around, but couldn't find it easily. It was just too dark. Then i started to look upwards, and suddenly the moon light broke through the midnight clouds, and I could see what I was sensing so intensively!

    I made some photos of it.

    I saw the night-active blossoms of a tree, which had now, deep in the night, all blossoms open and emitting such a beautiful, sweet, wonderful scent that i wasn't able for another ten minutes to leave! That scent was so intensive, I was just trying to find out, how I could bring that scent to my home and keep it. I cut one of those "blossom balls" from that tree, and that single little thing (in fact, it was consisting of many dozens small blossoms), placed in my bedroom, continued to give me its wonderful fragrance throughout the night. Since the next morning, no new blossom or scent again.

    I want to find out, if there are ways to extract the fragrance-related essences from such a blossom, and to get them into some creme, soap, aftershave, or shower gel. is here anyone who knows and can give suggestions?
     

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  2. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor

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    Looks like Dracaena fragrans. It's called "Queen of the Night" here in Ecuador (although that name is also applied to Tuberoses, several night-blooming orchids, and a couple of other fragrant night bloomers) which I certainly find quite appropriate. Some people find the scent to be overpowering, but I personally quite like it.

    Extracting the scent is pretty easy, actually. The simplest way is to make an alcohol extraction. Make up a jar of vodka or other flavourless white spirit (I use aguardiente) and take it into the jungle with you when the plants are in bloom. Clip the blossoms and immediately immerse them in the alcohol. In the case of night bloomers, store this in a cool, dark place for about a week. You'll end up with the fragrance embedded in the spirits; this can then be used on its own as a perfume or mixed with other scents.

    The more involved ways are Enfleurage (difficult, time consuming, and a little bit gross), Oil Extraction (not reccomended for night bloomers), and Distillation (expensive.)

    If you're trying to use the essence in soaps, however, the best method is actually Enfleurage, which is extraction of the essence into fat or glycerine. If you're interested in knowing how to do that, let me know.
     
  3. SvenLittkowski

    SvenLittkowski Active Member

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    Yes, I would be interested in ALL ways of extraction, the HOWs and the tools and chemicals required. Can I use, instead of drinkable alcohols, also rubbing alcohol of high percentage? I want to create shower gels, soaps, after shaves, and whatever can hold this fragrance. Who knows - maybe I can even use it to put a wow-fragrance on some food preparations, who knows..?
    Do you know?

    And, how long is the scent lasting in those products? Is there a way to "stabilize" the scent, to make it lasting long and not to evaporate too soon? I had once a cream of lemongrass, and once it was on the skin, the scent lasted just ten minutes or so.
     
  4. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor

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    This is why you'd want to learn Enfleurage - the essences derived in this manner are extremely stable and depending on the type of fat you use as your extraction medium (and of course the flowers themselves; Frangipani for example is excellent for enfleurage techniques, but toxic to humans), can also be edible. It is the oldest known method of preserving fragrances.

    Cold Enfleruage is the easier of the two types and guarantees that the fragrance of delicate blossoms is not lost. I use this for anything called "Queen of the Night" (jasmines, camellia, tuberose, lily of the valley, orchids, and dracaena), gardenia, magnolia, tea roses, and fragrant tropicals.

    You need:

    1. Abundant quantities of a fat that is solid at room temperature. Traditionally, this would be tallow (beef fat) or lard, but you can also use cocoa butter or shea butter quite successfully. I like cocoa butter, because it goes so well in soaps and has very little character of its own.
    2. A framed piece of glass or lexan, fairly large.
    3. Enough flowers to cover that piece of glass.

    Spread a layer of fat over the glass, then press the flowers into it. Allow them 2-3 days in the fat in a cool, dark place, then gently pull them out and put in others. Gradually, the fat will take on the strong aroma of the flowers; even now, the very best Jasmine and Tuberose extracts are made via cold enfleurage. If you're going to use the fragrance in body-care products, you can stop here. The product you've produced is called Enfleurage Pomade.

    If you're going to make the absolute of the essence, which is used in perfumery, you now need to soak your fat in ethyl alcohol (ethanol, ie pure wood spirits or grain spirits) for a couple of days more, then remove the fat (don't discard it, it's still fragrant enough to use in soaps) and allow the alcohol to evaporate. What's left is the absolute. If you get very good at the technique, you can produce all the soap and body care stuff you like using just the "spent" fat, and sell your absolutes to local perfumeries. Absolute of flowers like Rose, Lavender, and other non-toxic flowers can be used in cooking as well.

    Hot Enfleurage is slightly more dangerous (due to hot fat) and is unsuitable for delicate or very volatile fragrances like Jasmine, Tuberose, and other night bloomers. It's excellent, however, for roses and culinary essences. I use this to extract rose, lavender, oregano, patchouli, neroli, and other "base" notes from robustly fragrant plants.

    You need:

    1. A large enameled or stainless steel vessel in which to heat your fat
    2. Enough fat to fill your vessel about 2/3 of the way. You can use oils that are liquid at room temperature in hot enfleurage, or the solid fats mentioned for the cold process. I prefer to use a fat that solidifies, because it makes the extraction of the absolute much easier.
    3. A heat source of some sort
    4. A very large quantity of the plants from which you are extracting fragrance
    5. A wooden spoon for stirring and scooping out spent plant material
    6. Fine cheesecloth or a fine-gauge strainer
    7. Somewhere for the fat to cool off. (The glass trays used in Cold Enfleurage are excellent for this if you're using a solid fat)

    Heat your fat until it's a liquid, then add as much plant material as you can and still have it covered by the fat. Once this has wilted and changed colour, remove it and add more. Your nose is your guide as to when the fat is saturated with fragrance. Once you've reached your desired saturation, strain this hot fat through a fine cloth or a fine-mesh strainer (to get any bits of botanical material you've missed out of it) then allow it to cool, and extract the absolute as detailed above.
     
  5. SvenLittkowski

    SvenLittkowski Active Member

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    Instead of glass, can I use a tupper ware box? Those transparent plastics you use for food storage. And would it make sense, too, to chop the blossoms and mix them throughout with the tallum? Or do they have to be on the surface for easy removal? Or can they stay inside the tallum as "feelable details"?
     
  6. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor

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    Well, if you're just using the fat in soapmaking, you can mix and leave the blossoms in. The reason that they're normally left on the surface of the fat is to make their removal and replacement easier, since it normally takes 3-4 changes of blossoms to get a good strength of aroma. Of course, this is a moot point in the hot process, but since you're after the Queen of the Night, you'll be using the cold anyway.

    I have no idea about supperwares - I've only ever used the glass/lexan trays since I'm more after the Absolute than the Pomade, and that demands a high fragrance saturation which logically comes from exposing more flowers to the fat. Soapmaking is an afterthought for me. I suspect it would work, although you'd have to keep track of which boxes were used for which essences, as they tend to penetrate plastic and leave behind a bit of themselves, which could go on to contaminate subsequent batches of different flowers. That's the basic idea behind using glass or another relatively non-porous material, as well as the weight of tradition.

    I'd also be quite careful about which flowers I left in the final soap as "feelable details" - research the plants you're using to be 1000% certain that they are a) not even slightly toxic and b) not common allergens.
     
  7. SvenLittkowski

    SvenLittkowski Active Member

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    Alright, I tried to get tallum or shortening, but the supermarket here simply is out of it. So I bought some replacement - bulk margarine. Not really what I wanted, but can it work, too?
     
  8. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor

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    Sure can. Sniff it first, though - some margarine has an artificial "butter" smell added to it, and this will interfere with your floral scents.

    Also - check your local chemical supply houses. Sometimes they sell bricks of cocoa and shea butter for use in cosmetics.
     
  9. SvenLittkowski

    SvenLittkowski Active Member

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    We are here in Jamaica. Don't expect much infrastructure here...
    Ha ha ha!

    hard to find any place for bulk cocoa butter, unfortunately. Might have to produce it by myself, too...
     
  10. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor

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    I'm in Ecuador (so we have similar infrastructures), and I can buy cocoa butter at my local chemical supply house. I wouldn't have suggested it otherwise; extracting it starting from cacao is a truly complex process and not for the faint of heart. I don't even do the full extraction, and I make chocolate.
     
  11. SvenLittkowski

    SvenLittkowski Active Member

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    I tried to make eating chocolate, too! So we have one more subject to talk about, in the future!

    For now, the next chemical, plant producing cocoa butter is deep in the countryside, a drive of 5 hours away...

    I have started to get the bulk margarine (which, at least, brings with it a beautiful gold color) into the plastic box, and will add the blossoms shortly. I will keep you up to date!
     

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