White flowers are some of the most beautiful of all! With their heady, exotic, spicy and sweet scent, their smell will fill up a room in no time. But how are they used in fragrances? We’ve selected three of the most famous and commonly used white flowers in perfumery.
From the Persian word ‘Yasmine’ meaning ‘fragrance’. Jasmine is the collective name for a group of flowers that contain several species. The most popular kind used in perfumery are jasmine Sambac (native to China and India but now mainly grown in India) and jasmine Grandiflorum (native to Afghanistan and Iran but now commonly grown in France).
Jasmine in Perfumery
Jasmine has long been known as the king of flowers (with rose being the queen). There is so much to be said about jasmine Absolute which could take up an entire blog post in itself. It’s one of the most expensive extracts used in perfumery with a scent that is heady, spicy, slightly sweet and fruity and of course beautifully animalic (one of the reasons that makes white flowers so addictive for some and revolting for others).
You need around 750 kg of flowers to obtain only 1 kg of absolute extract! Jasmine absolute is a viscous brown / yellow liquid but the scent of jasmine is often recreated synthetically due to its hefty price and limitation in cosmetic compositions.
Hedione is present in natural jasmine extracts and is frequently used to recreate transparent jasmine notes in fragrances. Other molecules are essential to recreate the smell of jasmine including benzyl acetate, linalool, cis-jasmone and indole.
Read about Hedione in our previous blog post ‘not so synthetic molecules’ here.
Watch Firmenich’s video about the jasmine harvest.
A wonderful flower sharing the common characteristic of white flowers: heady and spicy with a fruity exotic sweet facet. Ylang is also referred as the “Jasmine of the poor”. It originated from South East Asia but is now found across tropical Asia (such as Indonesia and Philippines), Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas. Ylang Ylang can grow on a tree or as a vine with both developing large, long yellow/green flowers. They’re picked as soon as they smell the strongest and develop a small redish tint.
Ylang Ylang in Perfumery
Ylang oils are found in many forms: the ‘extra’ and ‘first’ extracts are the most noble, the ‘second / II’ and ‘third / III” extracts are less refined. Only 400kg (!) of flowers are needed to produce one kilo of oil.
The true nature of Ylang ylang is hard to re-create synthetically even from the best extracts and molecules! Similar ingredients used to recreate the smell of jasmine will be used in Ylang accords, but salicylates (benzyl, hexyl and methyl) are types of molecules that will bring the unique “solar” exotic note of Ylang. Thanks to their soft and mild balsamic scent salicylates add a creamy effect to any fragrance.
Image credit from Scent Corner
Tuberose has one of the most powerful scents of all the white flowers. The smell is reminiscent of gardenia, but with stronger earthy facets and much more carnal. A nose that is well trained can even detect hints of metal and butter. But beware, this flower doesn’t always smell so lovely! When the petals begin to brown the scent of rot emerges, so if you’re looking to keep some in the home, make sure it’s in bloom.
Tuberose in Perfumery
Tuberose Absolute is one of the most costly raw materials due to the large volume of flowers needed to extract the tiniest amount of extract. It has a heady white flower, spicy, creamy and exotic scent. Tuberose natural extract will only be used (if any!) in tiny quantities and you’ll most likely encounter it when recreated synthetically.