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The Essence of Essential Oils

The Essence of Essential Oils

Close your eyes. Imagine you are in a garden of roses. Hundreds of roses. Let the beautiful floral scent spin your head. At this moment, nothing but these roses exist and you wish this garden lasts forever.

Good news: fragrances bring you back to any flower garden, anytime. Wearing your favorite scent allows your senses to forget about the present and to travel time and space. A fragrance can also remind you of a significant person in your life. Remember your first love's English Leather cologne by Dana? When you smell this fragrance again, you probably think about that special person. 

Ever wondered how perfumers put over 300 roses into a single bottle of fragrance? The secret lies in precious drops of nectar, called essential oils. 

In nature, all plants have a scent. Essential oil is the concentrated liquid that holds the fragrance and all the properties of the plant. It is basically a liquified version of a rose, iris, lemon, aniseed and mint leaf.

The art of perfumery is all about essential oils and their properties. They are staples of the cosmetic, aromatherapy and naturopathy industries.



Extraction methods

Distillation, maceration, enfleurage and cold-press extraction are the official and most well-known extraction methods. Tools have evolved, but processes and results are still the same. Here is what they are all about:

Distillation is the most common method since it suits most plants. Hot steam is injected into the plant material to release the essence as vapor, which then condensates into liquid. Boiling water is an alternative to steam for delicate flowers; it protects their essential oil from overheating after extraction.

Maceration captures plant properties through the oil itself. The raw material sits for one week in solvents to liberate essential oils. 

Enfleurage is the oldest extraction method where we lay the raw material on a layer of fat to absorb all essences and properties of the plant.

Cold-press extraction, or mechanical extraction, presses plants until all juice is squeezed out. The oils are then separated from the other juice composites.

Essential oils are the key to incredible fragrances. Scents like bergamot, rose and vanilla blend well in most formulas. On the other hand, patchouli, lavender and jasmine are strong essences that steal the show. In all cases, alcohol, water and fixative are added to the essential oils mixture. Perfume is born after several months of aging, when scents have fully settled. Your bold aunt's Black Opium  by Yves Saint Laurent just would not be that vibrant, complex, seductive scent without aging. 

Next time you spray your body with your Jean Patou Joy elixir, close your eyes, and drift away to the garden where 330 roses and 10 000 jasmine flowers once danced in noon heat.