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  1. #1

    Default The unbelievable strangeness of essential oils

    Have been working with essential oils for a few months now, just about to be tested - at last! - by a consultant for allergies, and bowled over by how very strange some essential oils. Not at all like I'd have expected. My esteem for perfumers has sky-rocketed over the last six months. How do you produce such lovely results from such - well, sometimes downright peculiar oils?
    For example, to me, cardamom, the fresh scent of which I love when cooking with the pods and green shells, smells very odd and even somewhat unpleasant as an essential oil. There's a note I smell in there which is quite like cats' pee! How do you avoid this effect in a finished product?
    Likewise with sandalwood, also much-loved, which can smell so medicinal as an EO. And myrrh. And patchouli just wants to take over my house.
    I guess that's the perfumer's art. But why are the oils so different from their fresh or perfumed equivalents? Do I have inferior oils? Or maybe an inferior nose?

  2. #2

    Default Re: The unbelievable strangeness of essential oils

    I am guessing that you just need time to adjust to smelling these things in concentrations which are much higher than you are used to. Try diluting in alcohol to concentrations of say 10% / 20% and it is easier on your nose to learn the nuances of each oil or absolute that way.

  3. #3

    Default Re: The unbelievable strangeness of essential oils

    You are under the mistaken notion that essential oils are what you are smelling in most commercial perfumes. You are not.

    As most perfumer lovers eventually discover, most commercial perfumes have only a small percentage of actual real essential oils in them, for the most part. They are generally used only as enhancers, even though every merchandising descriptive uses them to symbolically promote their scents. It's one of the biggest misrepresentations in the cosmetic industry. Most perfumes are composed of synthetic materials and chemically isolated molecules, not that there is anything wrong with that. But the promotion of them under the guise of real botanical essenses is a fallacy, sorry to say.

  4. #4

    Default Re: The unbelievable strangeness of essential oils

    i think joe's is a good advice. dilute to 10% in ethanol. if it's still too intense, try 1%. don't smell them from the bottle, just put a drop on a paper smelling strip.

  5. #5

    Default Re: The unbelievable strangeness of essential oils

    Some good advice here already so Iíll just add that, with the honourable exception of Lavender, the great majority of essential oils and absolutes donít actually smell very much like the flower or other botanical from which they are extracted.

    CO2 extracts are often much closer - strikingly so in some cases - including with cardamom.

    But itís one good reason why you wonít find that much in many commercial fragrances, though in truth cost is the main driver of that.

    Also worth noting, in fairness to perfume marketers, that it wouldnít be much use listing cis-3-Hexenol in the notes of a fragrance as no-one would know what it meant. But if you say Ďfreshly cut grassí youíve conjured up just the right note in peopleís minds even though no grass, cut or otherwise, is involved in the fragrance.
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: The unbelievable strangeness of essential oils

    So my shipment of essential oils finally arrived, and I have to agree with Redrose, EOs really are strange. I'll say that, of the ones that I have smelled in their natural form, many are true to their natural scent, just far too strong, even when diluted, to be altogether pleasant. Lemon, Lime, and Thyme, for example, all smell quite right.
    Some of the heavier substances, like Patchouli, have proven to be quite sickening, though. I am guessing from a mix that I just made about 12 hours ago, that these strong scents mellow out somewhat after being mixed with lighter notes and diluted, and left to rest. Is this the case, or has my nose just gotten used to the horrible stink of patchouli already?

  7. #7

    Default Re: The unbelievable strangeness of essential oils

    Well, the patchouli that most of us know is either from the fine perfumes that we love or from various other types of oils, sold in hippie shops in our youths - at which point they were already sweetened and modified by all sorts of other notes. We've got a skewed view of patchouli. Also, if you happen to be familiar with natural patchouli matter, you've got to remember that the heat from the EO distillation process will affect the most volatile parts of what makes up the "headspace" smell, so distillation is in effect "sampling" (in a computer sense) the scent of the analogue plant form. You're not getting the whole story, just a representation.

    However, I'd say the majority of patchouli EO's "smell like patchouli", there are a number of oils that can vary considerably with the quality of the oil - but patchouli will always be at least recognisable!

    lastly, it is something that is used most often in heavy dilution. Its like the difference between picking up after your dog on a walk in the park which is survivable, compared to falling down into a septic tank and quite literally dieing of the smell. Not that either smells good in that case but I'm trying to illustrate the life and death effect of concentration on the same "smell".

  8. #8

    Default Re: The unbelievable strangeness of essential oils

    This is very true. I love to keep patchouli plants in my house because of their wonderful scent, but my patchouli oil has such a thick, earthy, sometimes biting quality that I can hardly recognize the relationship.

  9. #9

    Default Re: The unbelievable strangeness of essential oils

    To my nose, essential oils all on their own are rarely satisfactory - and the natural scents made from them, almost as rarely.

    The slew of synthetics out there really are quite wonderful.

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