Perfume Secrets: Interview with Dabney Rose about The Art of Enfleurage
Enfleurage or How the scent of flowers and scented leaves is captured in fat and transferred to alcohol
In my last article I wrote about my own experience with enfleurage doing an online Facebook course with Dabney Rose. I asked Dabney if she was willing to answer some questions and explain more about The Secret Art of Enfleurage.
Dabney Rose promotes real fragrance from real flowers and makes her life growing a perfume garden, employing gentle methods of extraction and teaching about this to others.
Dabney, could you tell us what enfleurage is ? From what I have read it is the process of absorbing the scent of fresh flowers, leaves or herbs into purified fat over a period of time, to produce a pommade. But could you tell us more ?
I would say this is correct although there will be other interpretations out there, depending on what fat is available and also temperatures, around the planet. My first view into the world of enfleurage was a magazine article about 20 years ago, showing a picture of tuberoses in a low glass tray of liquid oil (probably a vegetable oil.)
The ancient Egyptians used animal fats as well as olive and sesame oils they pressed. (Talk about a lot of work!) For the French perfume industry, refined beef or pork fat was used.
Today, I have heard of people experimenting with all kinds of fats and oils, including shea, ghee, mango butters and fractionated coconut oil, which is quite stable.
Most importantly what makes it so special ?
The pommades and their extraits* from enfleurage are exactly identical to the flower’s own fragrance, unlike essential oils, absolutes and concretes. Nothing can match the clarity and brilliancy of the enfleurage method. (Own clarification: pommade is the fat from the flowers and the extrait is the scented alcohol)
How can you use a pommade or extrait from enfleurage ?
You can use it directly on your skin but how do you use an extrait to make a perfume ?
Extraits are incorporated into perfumes like essential oils and absolutes in dilution. They are alcohol based and therefore cannot be used in oil based perfumes.
Can you buy pommades and extraits ? And why are they so expensive ?
Pommades and extraits are becoming more well known and available; the reason they are expensive is because of the amount of time plus mindfulness they take in producing. Flowers are not ‘dumped’ into a still, they are carefully applied and removed every 12 to 24 hour period. Care must be taken during the whole month that mold does not grow on the fat.
What kinds do you offer yourself ?
In 2015 all my pommades went into extraits, as they have become populair with natural perfumers. In Octobre 2015 I offered a hybrid of Ginger Lily & Benzoin smoke enfleurage pommade. In the spring we probably start the year all over with Lilac and Violet.
Dabney Rose will offer a course at the beginning of February, if you want more information go to the page Lilac Corner on Facebook and read more or follow Dabney Rose via Twitter.
Thank you, Dabney Rose for explaining us more about Enfleurage.
Read more about enfleurage on: African Aromatics, another somewhat older interview with Dabney Rose and my own experience with enfleurage.
Photograph: Box with Roses by Lisa Woodward, Dabney Rose is her own, other photograph is mine.