Seed To Perfume: Metamorphosis~ Enfleurage
Updated: Mar 8, 2021
How do you capture the scent of flowers?
There are several ways, but my favorite method is enfleurage.
Enfleurage extracts the volatile perfume of a flower. It is ideal for flowers that diffuse their fragrance, like little perfume factories, maintaining a headspace after they are harvested, continuing to exhale perfume long after being picked. If you are looking to extract the true fragrance you smell when you bury your nose between a flowers petals, you're in luck! Enfleurage is the best choice, as it truly captures the real life fragrance of the flower.
There is historical evidence of ancient perfumers using the technique of enfleurage in some form or another, around the world, from the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Mesopotamians, to the Ancient Africans, Chinese, Japanese, and Babylonians. Humans have been capturing the fragrance of flowers for thousands of years!
A detailed enfleurage process was recorded by Ancient Egyptians for both hot and cold enfleurage techniques. They maintained precise records on their enfleurage process, which have been translated, and indicated a process of cold enfleurage was used in which alabaster trays were spread with ox or duck fats and beeswax, and the flowers were laid upon the pomade, removed daily, and replaced with fresh flowers repeatedly until the pomade was saturated with scent. They also immersed lily and lotus flowers into hot myrrh, frankincense, and resin infused olive oil, using a lengthy process to evaporate the water content afterwards. Both types of enfleurage extractions were used to create unguents, ointments, perfumes, and fragrant cones of fat and beeswax, which were worn upon the heads of the wealthy and royal.
The type of enfleurage practiced in Ancient Africa was very different from that of the Ancient Egyptians. Ancient African Tribes used the process of smoke enfleurage. Animal fats and/or buttermilk, or unguents infused with fragrant botanicals, were pressed into vessels made of tortoiseshell and ox horn, which would be suspended over burning incense created from botanicals, woods, resins, and spices. The fats would absorb the scented smoke, creating a smoke enfleurage. This form of enfleurage is still practiced today by indigenous tribes, most notably, the Himba Tribe of Namibia, Africa.
The Ancients of Mesopotamia, from Sumer to Babylon, are also thought to have practiced the art of enfleurage. There is written record of two types enfleurage that were deployed to extract the scent of flowers. The first was described as a "cold" extraction. A mixture of fragrant woods and botanicals such as; myrtle, cypress, juniper wood and berries, and calamus reed were mixed with fragrant gums and resins such as; frankincense, myrrh, pine, galbanum, and labdanum, creating an incense, which according to ancient records, was then laid onto tables. Flowers would then be laid onto the incense, and once dry, they would be removed, and replaced with fresh flowers, and the process repeated until the botanicals, berries, woods, gums, and resins were saturated with the fragrance of the flowers. The incense pomade would then be used as incense, or used to infuse oils and fats to create ointments and perfume oils.
The second method was translated as a "hot" extraction. Large, wide but shallow "oil pans" were placed on tables, and filled with hot oils. Flowers and fragrant plants were then placed on top of the hot oil in a thin layer, only partially submerged, and their fragrance allowed to permeate the oil. The flowers and plants were then removed, and the resulting oil was used as perfume, or as the base for a perfume formulation.
In Ancient China, we know of a type of enfleurage that was practiced to perfume the homes of the wealthy. Ancient Chinese Perfumers would scent animal fats, which would be used to fuel lamps. The scent of the burning fat was not pleasant, and so the Ancient Chinese would perfume the animal fats with flowers, until it reached a high level of fragrance. The most commonly used flowers for this process were osmanthus, lotus, peony, paperwhites, and plum blossom. The fat would sometimes first be infused with botanicals, woods, and resins, so when the process was complete, the fat was permeated with perfume.
There is also evidence of a form of enfleurage taking place to scent body powders in Ancient Japan. A type of perfumed body powder called Zu-koh, was created by powdering fragrant botanicals, woods, and resins, and mixing them with rice powder. The powder would be laid onto trays, and fresh flowers would be laid onto the powder repeatedly until the powder was saturated with fragrance. This perfumed powder would then be used to perfume the body, bedding, and clothes.
The Ancient Greeks and the Romans both had similar techniques when it came to the art of enfleurage. Perfumers utilized hot oil enfleurage, and cold enfleurage with solid fats, much like the Ancient Egyptians, with flowers such as; lily, jonquil, violets, and jasmine. They were also known to enfleurage flowers onto body powders, and incenses created from powdered botanicals, woods, and resins.
In 1750 French perfumer Piver introduced the technique of enfleurage, and demonstrated how fats could absorb fragrance. At the end of the 18th century and throughout the 19th century, enfleurage became a widely used method of extraction, especially by french perfume houses, using purified beef and pork animal tallow as the pomade, and sometimes beeswax was added to the pomade as well. They used two types of enfleurage; hot enfleurage, and cold enfleurage.
Hot enfleurage entailed warming and liquifying the solid, purified animal tallow in copper vats, and once liquid, keeping it at a temperature of 100-105f degrees. Perfumers would then immerse and infuse fresh flowers into the warm liquid tallow, straining them out, adding new flowers, and repeating until the tallow was saturated with scent. The tallow would be allowed to cool and harden, and once solid again, would be extracted by a solvent (ethanol, hexane, or benzene), removed from the solvent, and the solvent would be evaporated to obtain a pure absolute.
The second method perfumers used traditionally was cold enfleurage. First, the solid tallow was liquified, sometimes with beeswax, and this pomade was poured into glass trays framed in wood. It would be allowed to cool and harden, then the tray would be flipped over, and a coating of pomade added to the other side. The trays would be laid with fresh flowers on the top side, and stacked upon each other, resulting in the underside of the trays also collecting vapors rising from the flowers.
The flowers would be allowed to exhale their fragrance onto the pomade for one day, spent flowers were removed, and charges of fresh flowers were laid upon the pomade, until the pomade was saturated in scent. Records indicate 35-40 times was the average amount of flower changes. Some perfume houses were known for using the exact number of 36 charges of flowers per enfleurage. When the enfleurages were finished, the pomade would be extracted via a solvent, and the solvent evaporated, resulting in the pure essence of the flower, the absolute.
When I create enfleurages I use the technique of cold enfleurage. From this point on, I'm referring to cold enfleurage.
To create an enfleurage, there are several options for vessels. You can purchase or make traditional enfleurage trays, which are glass panes framed in wood, but I myself use large glass dishes. They are easy to clean and sterilize, because there is no wood to absorb fragrances or clean, and much less of an expense. For larger enfleurages I use vintage stainless steel trays with a large lip around the edges. They are a lot easier to find than you'd assume, and are quite inexpensive.
When using traditional enfleurage trays, the enfleurages are covered by the next stacked tray. An enfleurage should be covered to prevent dust, hair, and microbes that can contaminate the pomade, from getting onto the surface. So if you are using glass casseroles, you will need to cover your enfleurages. The covering needs to be breathable, and allow airflow. Plastic wrap/saran wrap is less than ideal, as it's not breathable, and will cause condensation. I use compostable cheesecloth, it's breathable, and easy to remove and re-cover the enfleurages. You can use paper towels, but you may find they are not as durable, nor do they fully cover a 13x9 dish.
I use an assortment of ingredients for my enfleurage pomades. My choice fat is a plant butter with jojoba oil, which I stiffen with organic raw beeswax. I use a variety of plant butters; Shea Nilotica, Avocado butter, Jojoba butter, Cupuacu butter, Kokum butter, Cocoa butter, etc. I have also used bayberry wax, and other waxes, as an alternative to beeswax in my enfleurage pomades, with excellent results. My choice of butter is based on it's scent, the consistency I'm looking for, and what I plan to do with the end result. If I plan to further extract the enfleurage pomade, to obtain an extrait, and finally an absolute, I will use firmer, less expensive butters, but if I plan to seperate the nectar and water content from the enfleurage via centrifuge, and keep the enfleurage as is, I will use higher quality butters that are softer, thus easier to spin down in the centrifuge. A centrifuge is by no means necessary, but can definitely be a helpful piece of equipment if you plan to create many enfleurages, and use the pomade directly in formulations.
I personally like to choose butters and oils that have a long shelf life. I encourage you to explore different combinations, and experiment with different bases. Each of the ingredients in the list below have different textures, melting points, and consistencies. What works well for me in my climate, may be too soft, or too hard in your environment. If you live in a hot climate, you'll want to use butters that have higher melting points, which will remain firmer in hotter climates. If you live in a cold climate, or are working in a part of the world with cold winter temperatures, you may be able to use less beeswax, or softer butters that do not have as high a melting point when temperatures are cooler. Either way, it is not ideal for your pomade to be too soft, or oily. This can cause the flowers to get greasy, shortening their life on the enfleurage. We want a pomade that will easily support the weight of the flowers. If the flowers sink into the enfleurage this can constrict airflow, which can lead to contamination.
I never press flowers into the enfleurage, but rather delicately lay them upon the pomade. The pomade collects the vapors of the flowers, and if they are pressed into the pomade, or sink into a pomade that is too soft, this hinders the ability of the flower to produce the fragrant vapors. Also keep in mind that natural, unrefined plant, nut, and seed butters tend to have a nutty, warm scent. I prefer to use unrefined organic butters, and work with the scent, but you can choose to use refined butters if you'd prefer a neutral scent. Beeswax and bayberry wax also have a scent that is very much like honey. To avoid the honeyed fragrance, you can choose to use unscented, refined beeswax or berry wax pellets. I prefer organic raw beeswax from our honey bee hives for a couple of reasons; I love the honeyed scent, and beeswax really traps, and holds onto the scent molecules of the flowers vapors, working as a fixative. If you are looking for a vegan option, bayberry wax has similar properties to beeswax, and smells like honey too! I've listed other vegan wax options below, as well as many options for butters, oils, and fats.
Shea Nilotica Butter
Beeswax, Raw or Refined
Bayberry Wax/Myrica Wax
Rice Bran Wax
Fractionated Coconut Oil
Purified Animal Fats:
For accuracy and purposes of duplication, I always use a scale to weigh my materials. I use the double boiler method to melt the butters and wax, and warm the oils, stirring as the butters and wax melts. Once fully melted and incorporated, I pour my mixture into the enfleurage dish, creating a thin layer, about a 1/4-1/2 inch thick. I allow it to cool and stiffen, and once the enfleurage butter is hardened, it's time to lay the flowers onto the pomade base.
Flowers need to picked at their most optimal time, when their scent is most fragrant. Day blooming flowers are best picked right after they've opened, and they've had a few hours sunshine, around noon. Night blooming flowers open at dusk, and tend to be most fragrant once night has fallen. You want to avoid picking wet, rain soaked, or dew covered flowers.
To figure out what time of day is best to pick a specific flower, first research if your flower is a day blooming or night blooming flower. I recommend that you smell the flower every few hours after it's opened. Take note in your journal of when it's scent is strongest. Flowers exhale scent to attract pollinators, so another indication of scent would be observing what time of day pollinators are most present. And remember, never pick flowers that are wet with rain or dew, or just watered!
When choosing which flower you'll enfleurage, you'll want to first positively identify the plant and it's botanical name. Next, research it's toxicity and it's main chemical constituents. I like to also research what scent molecules give that particular flower its fragrance. And I often get stuck down rabbit holes reading all about the flowers history with mankind, and it's use in perfumery. Keep diligent notes with your findings and research, and bookmark trusted sites so you may refer back to them.
Once you've learned all about the perfume flower you will be extracting, and have pinned down what time is best to harvest your flowers, begin picking them at that time daily. Choose flowers that have recently fully opened. I always harvest flowers into a basket, or tray, and then transfer them to my enfleurages, that way it gives tiny pollinators a chance to escape.
When I lay my flowers onto the enfleurage, I do it as gently as possible. I do not press them into the enfleurage, and I do not pluck their petals off. Flowers must be left whole so they can continue to exalt their fragrance onto the enfleurage pomade.
Flowers must be removed from the enfleurage when they are no longer exalting fragrance, or BEFORE you see signs of decomposition, for example; limp and wilted, brown edges, moisture, or condensation. If you leave them on the enfleurage for too long, you risk the enfleurage absorbing off smelling notes, and condensation and/or moisture on your enfleurage surface, which can lead to contamination. In the photo below, it is time to remove the flowers, and I am doing so with a pair of tweezers. I'm quite partial to the Cricut brand tweezers because their long handles let me remove the flowers without having to put my hands and arms over the enfleurage.
If you find droplets of moisture or condensation, you'll immediately want to use a lint-free paper towel to absorb it. Don't wipe, dab. And you will need to allow 24 hours of time before placing more flowers on the enfleurage. This gives time for any moisture that the paper towel missed to evaporate from the surface of the enfleurage.
In most cases, flowers are not left on the enfleurage for more than 48 hours, with most needing to be removed within 24 hours. After I remove spent flowers, I use tweezers to remove any stamens or petals that may have fallen onto the surface of the enfleurage. If left, they can contaminate the enfleurage, harboring bacteria and mold. In the photo below I'm using sterilized/sanitized tweezers to remove a few pieces of stamen that fell from the hyacinth flower. If you look closely, you can see the little black specks.
I have never had any circumstances in which pollen has molded. You can expect to see pollen staining on the surface of the enfleurage from some flowers, especially high pollen flowers. In the photo below, you can see yellow pollen stains from paperwhite flowers.
I've compiled a list of my favorite flowers to extract via enfleurage, and flowers that are known to have very heady, diffusive fragrances. Just keep in mind, you will need many flowers, and you want to choose flowers that diffuse their scent into the air, and continue to do so after being picked. Enfleurage is the art of capturing the vapors of the flower, and lightly or softly scented flowers are not ideal. I usually charge my enfleurages with fresh flowers between 20-40 times. You can also choose to create a multi-flower enfleurage too.
Perfume Flowers for Enfleurage:
The way in which you place your flowers onto the enfleurage will depend on the flower you are extracting. Most flowers are placed face down, but more delicate flowers are placed on their sides, if they cannot support their weight face down.
I personally find it quite beneficial to move the flowers around the enfleurage after the first 8-12 hours. This keeps them from sticking to the enfleurage. I also avoid having the flowers touch each other in the enfleurage. It's best to leave adequate space between each flower, which allows for air flow. For more delicate flowers, or flowers like lilacs, in which there are many small flowers, you can use screens to suspend your flowers above the enfleurage pomade (pictured below, paperwhites suspended on screens over oil in a glass bowl).
I have used this method with paperwhites, lilacs, linden flowers, and mock orange flowers, with varying success. The lilacs and paperwhites did well with this method, but linden and mock orange flowers, simply do not diffuse their fragrance enough to saturate the pomade. So for this method, you'll need to choose a flower whose scent is highly diffusive, like paperwhites and tuberose.
When working with your enfleurage pomade, each time you replace the "spent" flowers with fresh flowers, it is called a "charge". The amount of charges needed to obtain an enfleurage that is saturated with fragrance, depends on the flower you are extracting. Typically, and traditionally, 20-40 charges are needed. I keep a detailed log of my enfleurage charges for each and every enfleurage. This way, I can look back on how many charges were needed to obtain a good result.
Once your enfleurage is saturated with the scent of the flowers you are extracting, you now have to decide if you will use your enfleurage as is, or if you will further extract it to obtain an extrait. An extrait can further be extracted to obtain the pure essence of the flower, an absolute.
If I do not further extract my enfleurage pomade, I do take precautions to avoid my precious enfleurages from spoiling. They are as follows; I transfer the whole enfleurages to sterilized/sanitized airtight glass containers, and I store them in my perfumery refrigerators. I do not recommend you keep them in your regular refrigerator along with food, as they can absorb fragrance. If you have no choice, I recommend you keep it in an airtight, glass container, and that container be placed into a ziploc gallon bag.
Another method I utilize for enfleurages that contain an excessive amount of nectar, is spinning them in my centrifuge, which separates the nectar, particulate, and unwanted molecules from the fat. This is not necessary, but definitely extends the shelf life of the enfleurage, and prevents contamination. If you choose to keep your enfleurage as is, you can use it as a perfume, as part of a perfume formulation, a component in soap, in body butters, in face and body creams, etc. Do keep in mind that the shelf life of the enfleurage, is the same as the ingredient with the shortest shelf life of the ingredients you've add to your pomade.
The second option, and the traditional method, is to further extract the enfleurage pomade via solvent extraction, and then evaporation of the solvent to obtain a pure concentrated flower absolute.
For the solvent, I prefer to use 95% ethanol, which is 190 proof organic sugar or grain alcohol. The organic alcohol I use is rectified, which means it was distilled 5 times consecutively, after it's initial distillation. This refines it, and makes it virtually scentless. In my opinion it is the cleanest, and most organic of all solvents used to extract botanicals. 200 proof perfumers alcohol can be used, but it is often "denatured" with chemicals to render it undrinkable. I personally do not recommend this type of alcohol, but it can be used if it is all you have access to. It is best not to use vodka or other lower proof alcohols due to the higher percentage of water content.
You absolutely do not want to use isopropyl alcohol, aka rubbing alcohol, under any circumstances, to extract your enfleurage. However, isopropyl alcohol is great used as a disinfectant to sanitize equipment. You can use 190 proof Everclear or Graves grain/corn alcohol, but it does have a much sharper alcohol scent compared to the higher quality, more refined high proof, rectified organic alcohols.
I recommend reserving a notebook or journal specifically for recording notes about your enfleurages. You'll want to keep a log of your flower charges, dates, scent observations, and materials used for the pomade. I like to take note of when the flowers began blooming, stopped blooming, whether they bloomed in succession, or all at once. It's really nice to have my notes to reference when planning enfleurages, and next years garden, especially for succession planting, which can help keep a steady flow of fresh blossoms, for flowers that bloom all at once, and do not naturally bloom in succession. I'll also note what time of day, or night, they're most fragrant. Some flowers will have a slightly different scent too, depending on the time of day, and whether or not they have just opened, or have been open for some time. I highly recommend diligence in keeping notes to refer back to!
Step by Step Tutorial:
Step 1: I wash my hands, and put on clean, rubber kitchen gloves, and sanitize my work area with disinfectant. Next step is to wash your enfleurage dish/dishes with hot, clean, soapy water, ideally with a bleach based dish soap, or bleach, then rinse, and dry with lint-free paper towels. Immediately after drying, spray the entire surface of the vessel with isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). Allow it to air dry until the rubbing alcohol has evaporated completely. Your vessel is now ready for use, and should be used immediately after it's dried. I use the exact same process described here, for the 8 cup glass measuring cup I use to melt my butters, beeswax, and to warm the oils, the screened sieve I pour the blend through (more on that ahead), my silicone spatula, and the stainless steel pan I use for the bain marie. After I'm finished preparing my work area and tools, I remove my kitchen gloves, and replace them with one time use vinyl gloves.
Step 2: Next you will warm, melt, and combine the butters, oils, and waxes you will be using for your pomade. I use the bain marie method, with an 8 cup glass pyrex measuring cup, and a stainless steel sauce pan. The saucepan is filled halfway with water, and the glass measuring cup is set inside the saucepan. The butters, oils, and waxes are placed in the glass measuring cup, with the heat kept on low, mixing until all butters and waxes have melted completely, and are incorporated into the warm oils.
In most cases, a ratio of 70% butters, 20% wax, and 10% oils, is firm enough to support the weight of the flowers, with a texture that feels creamy, and luxurious on your skin, and also soft enough to work with once the pomade is ready for the next step of extraction. You can also choose to use only butters and wax, leaving out the oil(s). In this case, a ratio of 85-90% butters, and 10-15% waxes, will produce the firm, yet creamy pomade we desire.
The ratio of ingredients you use will vary based on the butters, waxes, and oils you use, but to give you an example, 6 ounces of shea nilotica butter, 3 ounces of beeswax, and 1 ounce of jojoba oil, melted, will cover 2 -13x9 glass casseroles with a 1/2 inch thick layer of firm pomade. Now, shea nilotica butter is soft, and creamy, where as shea butter is firmer. They also have different scents, shea nilotica has very little scent, where as shea butter has a pretty intense nutty fragrance. This is a good example, of how different butters can produce different consistencies, scents, and textures. I encourage you to choose fair trade, sustainable unrefined plant and seed butters, and oils that naturally have little to no scent scent. You can also choose refined and deodorized butters and oils.
Please be sure to use a scale to weigh your materials, and keep notes along the way. I recommend that you pour your melted pomade through a sieve to remove tiny particles that may be present, like grains in unrefined butters, or pieces of propolis in beeswax. For this I use a screened sieve lined with cheesecloth. I pour the melted pomade through the lined sieve into the enfleurage dish.
Allow your pomade to cool until firm. We have soapstone countertops in our work area, which have a very cool temperature, and in the winter I set them upon it to help cool the pomade quickly and evenly. I suggest choosing a cool spot, or if in a very hot climate, the refrigerator, as slow, uneven cooling can cause graininess with natural butters (using a cheesecloth lined sieve helps prevent some graininess but uneven, slow cooling can cause graininess). If you choose to cool your pomade in the fridge, do not cover it, as this will lead to condensation, and when it comes to enfleurage, you want to avoid all moisture. You also will want to use caution, and remove it promptly upon cooling if you are using the same refrigerator you use for food, as it can absorb fragrances, and create contamination. In the summer, I use my perfumery refrigerators to cool my enfleurage pomades. I have two half size refrigerators with no freezers in my studio, and they both fit under one of my work tables. They are a good investment if you plan to create enfleurages throughout the seasons, or for perfumery in general.
Now that your pomade has cooled and hardened, you can choose to leave it smooth, or score it with a sanitized tool or butter knife. I do NOT score my enfleurage pomades, because I find it makes crevices for flower stamens or petals to hide in, which can mold if missed.
Step 3: This step is of course where the fun begins, laying the perfume flowers onto the enfleurage pomade. As I described in the above article, you'll want to pick the flowers when they are most fragrant, and have just finished opening. This is usually around noon for day blooming flowers, after they've opened completely and have had half a day of sun. Their oils, nectar, and fragrance are highest at this time, and all of the morning dew has precipitated. For afternoon, evening and night blooming flowers, dusk and after night fall, is when they open, and are most fragrant. I never pick flowers for enfleurage just after watering, if it's rained, or if they still have morning dew upon their petals. It is best to pick your flowers, and place them into a basket or tray, and allow them to rest for 20-30 minutes. This allows the tiny pollinators and bugs to escape, and for the flowers to come to room temperature; because freshly picked, sun warmed flowers, can cause condensation on the surface of a cool enfleurage pomade. And we want to avoid any moisture on the surface of our pomade. Once the flowers have rested, you can lay them onto the enfleurage. When you place your flowers down, do so gently, making sure not to bruise their petals. I place them onto the enfleurage one by one, and give each flower a shake before doing so, which gets rid of any particles of dirt, loose flower stamens, and excess pollen. It is best for the flowers to be evenly dispersed, and their petals not touching or overlapping. This helps with airflow, and helps the flowers last longer on the enfleurage pomade. Most flowers should be laid face down onto the pomade, with the exception of very delicate flowers, which can be laid on their sides. After evenly dispersing the flowers across the pomade, you can now cover your enfleurage with a cheesecloth to keep dust and debris off the surface.
It is best to store enfleurages charged with flowers, or waiting for more flowers, in a cool, dry place, away from light and sunlight. I use bakers cooling racks to hold my enfleurages, in the darkest corner of my studio. I have a dehumidifier and fan in the room to keep it dry, and to keep the air circulating.
Step 4: Most flowers will need to be removed within 24 hours of placing them onto the pomade. To check if the flowers are spent and ready to be removed, you'll want to first have a look and a sniff! If the flowers are no longer fragrant, remove them. If they are still producing fragrance, you can look for signs of decomposition; browning edges, transparent areas on the petals, or wilted and limp.
If you see any signs of the flowers deteriorating, remove them. You never want to let the flowers get to a point where they are transparent or depositing moisture. If this happens, petals will begin to stick to the enfleurage, and if not removed promptly, or missed, they'll mold. I haven't had any flowers that I've left on an enfleurage for more than 48 hours, and on average, 24 hours. When you remove the spent flowers from the enfleurage, you'll need to look over the surface of the enfleurage, checking for loose flower stamens, fallen petals, and debris. I use a pair of sanitized tweezers to remove any particles that may have fallen onto the surface. I have never had pollen on the surface of an enfleurage mold or become an issue. It is expected and normal to see pollen stains on the pomade after removing spent flowers. However, flower stamens, petals, debris like dirt, and particles, need to be removed to prevent mold and bacteria. It's also very important to check the surface of the pomade for moisture and condensation. If there is visible droplets, you'll need to immediately use a lint-free paper towel to dab it off, and then allow any residual moisture to evaporate from the surface before adding fresh flowers, and then keeping a very close eye on the surface for signs of contaminations.
After removing the spent flowers and combing over the surface for debris, it's time to charge the enfleurage with more fresh picked flowers. I will usually allow the surface to "air out" for at least a few hours, to a full day, before laying down new blossoms. This allows any residual moisture or flower nectar to evaporate before placing fresh flowers onto the pomade.
When it comes to how many charges of fresh flowers will be needed, it all depends on the flowers you are extracting. I have found that enfleurage pomades usually require 20-40 charges of fresh flowers before they are saturated with enough fragrance to create an absolute. Enfleurages that do not reach full saturation, can still be used and enjoyed as is, or further extracted with a solvent to obtain an extrait. Instead of evaporating the solvent to obtain an absolute from the extrait, you can use the enfleurage pomade, or its extrait, as is, or as a component in your perfume formulation
Step 4: You now have a beautifully fragrant enfleurage, what's the next step? If you feel the enfleurage has reached saturation, which means it is heavily, and heavenly scented, you can now further extract it to obtain a more concentrated extraction. You'll know the pomade is quite saturated if the fragrance smells concentrated, and when you apply a small dab to your wrist, the scent lasts for hours rather than minutes. The next step of the process is typically and traditionally called "washing the pomade", and because I use food grade ethanol as my solvent, I consider this step to be very much the same thing as creating a tincture. The end result is called the "extrait", which is obtained after filtering out the enfleurage pomade. To further extract your enfleurage you'll need a sterilized/sanitized jar, lid, and spatula/tool. Use your spatula to scrape your enfleurage butter from your enfleurage tray. Place your enfleurage butter into your jar. You do not want to pack it in, and you do not want to fill your jar to the top. There needs to be at least an inch or two of open space at the top of the jar, because you will be agitating the extraction daily. Once you have your enfleurage butter in the jar, you can fill your jar with your solvent, (which for me is 95% ethanol/190 proof organic food grade alcohol), covering the enfleurage with a half inch to an inch of solvent, leaving a half inch to an inch of open space in the jar. Cover your jar and shake vigorously. You will need to agitate your extraction daily by shaking it vigorously, and weekly I recommend you use a sterilized/sanitized spatula, or utensil, to stir the enfleurage in the solvent, which will allow more surface area of the pomade to come into contact with your solvent.
After 1-3 months, the solvent becomes saturated, the scent transfers from the enfleurage pomade over to the solvent, and the solvent is now ready to be filtered from the extraction. The total time in the solvent depends on how saturated your enfleurage pomade is, and when/if the solvent becomes saturated. You will know the alcohol is saturated when it no longer is increasing in fragrance and pigment. I like to observe, and record in my journal, how the scent, color, and longevity has changed each time I stir the enfleurage pomade and solvent (the extrait/tincture). I wipe the utensil I used to stir the tincture on a scent strip, that way I don't have to stick the strip into the tincture, which can introduce contaminants. Once you've established that most of the scent has transferred into the solvent/alcohol, the next step is filtering the enfleurage pomade from the tincture. First you'll want to "chill" your tincture in your perfumery refrigerator for a few days. This helps the wax and fat particulate of the pomade to collect, solidify, and sink. Particles that are floating, like pollen and flower waxes, will sink to the bottom as well. It is not necessary, but certainly helpful in obtaining a clear extrait that is free of particles, wax, and fats. For filtering enfleurage extraits/tinctures, I prefer to use a buchner funnel lined with a filter, and a vaccum filtration flask. The wide mouth of the porcelain buchner funnel makes it much easier to deal with the enfleurage pomade, and filters finer particles compared to a glass triangular funnel and a coffee filter. The vaccum helps pull all of the solvent from the enfleurage. To pull the vacuum in the filtration flask, I have used an electric pump in the past, but I much prefer my hand held vacuum pump. It only takes a few pumps/squeezes to change the pressure in the flask, and pull a vacuum by hand. I find it works well for small scale filtering, and complete kits which contain the porcelain buchner funnel, glass filtration flask, hand vacuum pump, and filters, are very easy to find online through scientific and lab equipment manufacturers, like Stonylab and United Scientific, and even on Amazon. When the process is complete you will have a beautiful extrait of enfleurage. You can use it as is in alcohol perfumes, or evaporate the alcohol to create an absolute. My next post in this series will explain the process of obtaining an absolute from tinctures, including an enfleurage extrait. Enfleurage is my favorite way to extract flowers. I feel it truly extracts the whole essense of the flower. To smell a freshly created enfleurage is to smell the scent of the living flower. All it's facets, all of it's notes and accords, it's scent song!
I have been creating enfleurages for many years, and I began to get bored with plain old enfleurage pomades, hehe! If you've been following my work over the years, you know I like to invent new concepts and imaginative ideas. After realizing how our organic, raw beeswax added a lovely, honeyed scent to the enfleurage, while also lending fixative properties, which means it helps anchor the scent into the pomade, I thought, why not add natural fixatives to the pomade?
I create other extractions of botanicals besides enfleurage, and have a wide palette of materials; from absolutes, concretes and resinoids, to waxes and artisan essential oils. The first fixative I tried in enfleurage pomade, was a resinoid extraction I created from tincture, from my favorite botanical, Sweet Incense Tree (Sarcocaulon mossemedense), immersed into the pomade of a Tuberose flower Enfleurage. Mmmmm! Mesmerizing!
Instead of adding the resinoid directly to the pomade, which would result in any undissolved materials speckling the enfleurage, I first dissolved and infused the resinoid into warm oil, filtered out the particles, resins, and waxes, and used the oil in the enfleurage pomade blend.
Something magical happened. A marrying of scents upon the enfleurage pomade, a dance between the the Tuberose flowers narcotic scent, and the other worldly, ancient fragrance of the Sweet Incense Tree. The fixative nature of the resinoid, clutching onto the vapors, oils, and scent molecules of the Tuberoses indolic, sweet musk.
I became addicted to trying different fixatives and combinations, but usually I choose base notes. Most of the flowers I extract via enfleurage are middle notes with delicate top notes, and by choosing base notes, this allows the scent of the flowers to shine without being overpowered. Below I've listed a few of my favorite choices, from my palette of natural extractions, for fixing the enfleurage pomade.
Ambergris Infused Oil
Poplar Bud Resinoid
Sweet Incense Tree Resinoid
Frankincense Essential Oil/Resinoid
Peru Balsam Resinoid
Green and Black Tea Wax/Resinoid
Bayberry Wax Absolute
Tonka Bean Absolute
This is just a short list, but there are many more fixatives that work beautifully in the enfleurage pomade. You can also use small amounts of infused oils. You can of course use absolutes, resinoids, essential oils, waxes, or whatever extract you feel a connection to. Dilute it to proper strength into the oil you're using in your enfleurage pomade blend, and allow it to infuse for a few days to a week, and then filter the oil. For thicker, vicious materials, like labanum absolute, beeswax absolute, etc., warming the bottle of absolute bain marie style, in a pan or bowl of warm/hot water, and warming the oil, will make it easier to work with and help dissolve it into solution. Filter after it's settled a few days. When adding your filtered oil to your pomade, incorporate the oil into the melted pomade at the end of the melting process, just before pouring your enfleurage pomade, but before removing it from the low heat. Pouring cold oil into warmed enfleurage pomade will create chunks of solidified pomade within the melted pomade, requiring you to warm it for longer to remelt the chunks, so just a minute or two longer on the heat is required if this happens.
I hope you have fun with this, and follow your hearts desire to gain your hearts content! I will be wicked thrilled if you are inspired by, utilize, and have fun with my "Perfumers Secret"!
I hope this tutorial answered most of your questions about the enfleurage process, and/or offered enough information to get you started on your own journey of capturing the essence and fragrance of flowers. If you have friends that love perfume, or garden, and enjoy fragrant flowers, please share my blog!
If you have any questions regarding enfleurage, please feel free to message me on Patreon, or drop it in the comments below. If you'd like to support me, you can do so via my Patreon page, www.patreon.com/jadeforestco_seedtoperfume.
Our Patreon proceeds will go towards the purchase of video equipment so we can begin creating video tutorials for our Seed To Perfume Youtube channel, and towards our non-profit Seed To Table Project.
If you'd like to experience perfumes created with enfleurage extractions, check out my collection of organic perfumes on my shop website: JadeForestCo.com
If you'd like to learn more about how I create other types of botanical extractions and perfume materials, subscribe at the bottom of the page to be notified of future posts! The next tutorial in this Seed To Perfume: Metamorphosis series will go into detail on ethanol extractions, including how to create an absolute from enfleurage extraits, and perfumery tinctures. Thank you for reading and supporting me! Visit my Instagram profiles: www.instagram.com/jadeforestco._ and www.instagram.com/seedtoperfume for lots of behind the scenes photos of my organic perfumery processes, and of our gardens and forest!
XoXo Jade Violet
Sources of inspiration, other Natural Perfumer's practicing enfleurage:
Sophia Suzette Shuttleworth of African Aromatics:
Justine Crane of The Scented Djinn and Oh True Apothecary!:
Charle Pan of Cherry Valley Lilacs:
Trygve Harris of Enfleurage:
Elise Pearlstine of Tambela and Bois de Jasmin:
Ayala Moriel of Smelly Blog: