In perfumery, there are certain perfume ingredients that have become common to the eye and nose! But where do these marvellous wonders come from? We’re here to enlighten your curious nose into the most common scents and how we’ve come to know and love them.
Bergamot from Italy
Bergamot essential oil is derived from the bergamot orange, a nobbily green citrus fruit of the Citrus Bergamia that can be found growing in Southern Italy. Its first appearance anywhere in the world, was in Calabria in the mid-17 th century, but can also be found in the South of France and southern Turkey. Harvested mostly by hand still, it can be picked from October to February. The juice itself is less sour than a lemon but more bitter than grapefruit, and most will know the smell of it from Earl Grey Tea, where it’s used to fragrance and flavour the tea leaves. It’s found in most perfumes, especially chypre and fougère scents, and smells citrusy, sharp and aromatic with spicy and woody undertones. It offsets richer, more opulent notes perfectly, adding a sparkle, which is why it solidly remains a firm favourite with perfumers.
Rose From Turkey
There are over 10,000 types of cultivated rose but contrary to popular belief, there are only two used in perfumery: the Rosa Damascena and the Rosa Centifolia. Whilst the Centifolia hails from France, the Damascena grows in Turkey, Bulgaria and Morocco. Harvested from May to July and picked at dawn to make sure the flower has the best yield, they must be transferred to extraction plants quickly, otherwise, they can start fermenting. The Turkish rose smells jammy, rich, honeyed and opulent, whilst the centifolia rose smells dewier, fresher, and more citrusy.
Vetiver from Haiti
Vetiver comes from the roots of perennial grass, rather than wood like one might imagine. Growing in marshland and riverbanks in locations with high rainfall; India, Brazil and the West Indies all produce it, but Haiti grows the largest amount, manufacturing half of the world’s supply. In fact, vetiver exports stopped completely for several months after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. Harvested from December to August, it has an overwhelming nine steps in the process, but producers are gradually moving to extract the plants from the earth with machines instead of by hand, to make the work less gruelling. It works wonderfully in fragrances because of its long-lasting quality and smells dry, woody, smoky, earthy, nutty and a little dirty all at the same time.
Orris from France
The Egyptians cherished it as a symbol of majestic power, the Ancient Greeks and Romans bottled it as an essential oil, but orris is still an incredibly well-loved ingredient today. The most sought-after Iris for extraction is called iris pallida and can be found in the south of France. It takes an entire tonne of rhizomes (root-like iris bulbs), aged for between two and five years (the older the rhizomes get the more pungent they become), to produce just two kilos of orris essential oil. The dried roots are ground up, distilled with the final product of extraction called iris concrete, or orris butter, for its yellow appearance. It has an incredibly high selling price due to its long distillation process.
A strange idea is that the harvest of the iris flowers happens in May only for them to be thrown away – the plants needs to concentrate on creating stronger roots rather than wasting energy on creating seeds. The rhizomes of the plant are then harvested in July, in the peak of the dry summer. They can smell buttery-soft, smooth and skin-like. It has a powdery femininity that’s
undeniable but can also be reminiscent of suede or even freshly-baked bread.
Orange Blossom from Tunisia
Orange Blossoms stem from the bitter orange tree. A tree that’s leaves, flowers and twigs are all used perfumery ingredients: orange blossom, orange flower water, neroli, bigarade and petitgrain all originate from that bountiful tree. Just six villages in the Nabeul region of Tunisia produce the majority of the world’s crop. Harvested by mostly women, they typically pick up to 10kg (approximately 20,000 flowers) of the tiny blossoms a day. A complex scent that can range from virginal to downright dirty. With two facets to one flower; it can smell citrusy bright, radiant and sparkling in neroli form, to more opulent honeyed, sweet, heady and indolic when as an orange blossom absolute.
Jasmine From Egypt
Jasmine Grandiflorum grows predominantly in Egypt and India, with both countries producing more than 90% of the global production. Growing in the Nile Delta, in Egypt, the fragrant bushes sit just an hour away from the pyramids. Harvesting of the flowers begins early June and ends in October with farmers starting to pick at sunrise, when the heat of the day has not yet taken hold. A precise job in picking them, the must be plucked one by one, without crushing the petals or break the green stem. Pickers will harvest up to 1 kilo of flowers in 2 hours – equivalent to 15,000 flowers. It takes kilos of the flowers to obtain just a small amount of oil, with around 8,000 blooms producing 1ml of the absolute – which earns it its status of one of the most expensive perfumery ingredients. Jasmine concrete is a rich orange colour, named by perfumers as ‘pure gold’, its scent is opulent, animalic, indolic, spicy and sweet. It gives an intensity to perfumes, with an undeniably sexy scent in the background.