Harnessing the Soul of Jasmine with Roxana Villa
Posted on August 19, 2015 0
Harnessing the Soul of Jasmine
By Roxana Villa
As I sit here and write this article the jasmine sambac (Jasminum sambac) plants outside my studio window have just started their bloom cycle, slightly earlier than last year. For me this means that each evening or early morning until sometime in November I will be harvesting these little scented wonders and placing them into a mason jar filled with 190 proof, organic grape alcohol or a bed of fat. These are ancient processes, known as tincturing and a modern type of enfleurage. Tincturing is most often done to extract medicinal components. As a botanical perfumer, I do this for the purpose of scent and to harness some of the Venusian aspects that jasmine is revered for.
Although very feminine, jasmine is considered the King of aromatics in perfume with rose as the Queen. These two flowers, along with tuberose, were the first to be cultivated for perfumery in France. The jasmine genus contains over 200 species including vines and shrubs.
"Ah, these jasmines, these white jasmines!..."
~ Excerpt from: The First Jasmines by Rabindranath Tagore
Although the common name for the sambac species is Arabian jasmine this gem, with her small, white, waxy petals, is native to the tropical regions of Southeast Asia, not the arid climes of the Middle East. Despite this fact, the plant grows quite well for me here in southern California during the warmer months. Since I am located on the hillside where clay soil and gophers abound, I put the Jasmine sambacs in pots; so far I have fifteen and counting. A girl can never have too many jasmine plants!
The uses of the small flowers extend to flavoring green, pouchong and jasmine tea; in Hawaii it is called Pikake and used in fragrant leis, while in India the flowers are used for devotional garlands of hope. There is an old saying by the great masters of French perfumery stating, "Never a perfume without Jasmine." This is so true, as this fragrance pairs beautifully with other florals like rose (Rosa damascena) and ylang ylang (Cananga odorata) while marrying well with so many other fragrance families to produce feminine, masculine and/or unisex fragrances. The pairing of two or more ingredients in perfumery is called an accord or chord, a term stemming from music, meaning "a harmonious combination of two or more notes."1 In the palette of the natural, botanical perfumer we tend to work with three types of Jasmine:
Jasmin grandiflorum, Jasmin auriculatum and Jasmin sambac (also see listing below for Jasmin sambac). These heavenly aromatics all have an opulent, intoxicating, heady, exotic, complex, sweet and floral fragrance with varying subtleties. In perfume they are considered mid to base notes with strong aromatic strength.
- Jasmin grandiforum: termed "Poet's jasmine," this is the most elegant and traditional jasmine of all three types. The fragrance is refined opulence with fresh, floral notes. The main chemical constituent is the "monoterpene farnesene with benzyl acetate, benzyl benzoate, methyl jasmonate, methyl linoleate, phytol acetate, linalol, benzyalol, nerolidol, eugenol and jasmone."2
- Jasmin auriculatum: A heavy, gardenia-like scent paired with strong animalic, indole notes.
- Jasmin sambac: Strong fresh, green, fruity and herbaceous notes compared to the others with an air of mystery. The essence contains some animalic and indole notes not present in the fresh flowers.
In aromatherapy we view jasmine as an aphrodisiac, used in wedding and sensual blends. The essence is also used extensively for the reproductive system. The attributes of jasmine are: calming, restorative and uplifting with its elemental being water.
Since my plants are so plentiful, I often make both a tincture and a pomade, or a cold enfleurage which can be added to body butters. Each morning or late evening, as a daily meditation, I gather the small flowers from the plants and place them in alcohol or a prepared base of beeswax and jojoba oil. For the tincture, I leave the little flowers until they appear lifeless; for the pomade, I remove the spent flowers within twenty-four hours. I repeat this process until the base matter has absorbed enough of the aroma.
Usually around mid-July the jasmine harvest is in full swing. At that point I begin harvesting them in the evening when the heat is not as intense but the blossoms are freshly opened with their intoxicating fresh floral perfume. The word intoxicating is defined as "causing great happiness." I can't think of a better descriptor for jasmine sambac flowers!
How to Make a Tincture or a Pomade
Begin with freshly opened, dry flowers. If you are making a tincture, use a clean glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Fill the jar with a high proof alcohol and add your fresh, DRY flowers each day. Discard the spent flowers every few days or so. Over time the alcohol will turn a deep golden yellow color and contain a “thick” quality. Depending on the alcohol you are using, the scent of the jasmine will be perceived best once the alcohol evaporates on the skin. I find that the tincture is also wonderful to add to beverages.
To make the pomade the ritual is the same, except for the day old flowers will need to be removed every twenty-four hours.
I suggest storing both the tincture and the pomade in a dry, cool place during the process.
Interested in learning more about Botanical Perfumery?
Be sure to visit Roxana Villa's site and sign up for her e-newsletter here. Online Botanical Perfumery course is currently in production and the newsletter will keep you posted for its launch!
1 Williams, David G. Perfumes of Yesterday, Michelle Press Williams, 2004.
2 Shutes, Jade. Blending Manual, Jade Shutes/The Institute of Dynamic Aromatherapy, 1996.
Article Photos: © Roxana Villa
About Roxana Villa:
Like the facets of a gem, Roxana’s pure botanical perfumes reflect a myriad of synergistic disciplines. Professional training in aromatherapy cultivated her nose with a firm knowledge of the healing attributes found in the plant kingdom. As an award-winning artist, she brings gifts of storytelling, conceptual thinking, and a strong visual aesthetic to her work in fragrance. These two disciplines weave seamlessly, together with her natural instincts, into authentic expressions of olfactory art.
To learn more about Roxana, please visit her website at: www.illuminatedperfume.com
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