Perfumes use all sorts of weird and wonderful ingredients. Ambergis, for example, is a substance that has been regurgitated from the digestive tract of sperm whales. It is commonly used in perfumes. Jasmine is also commonly found in perfume. Well, the synthetic version is anyway. Up to 80% of perfumes use synthetic Jasmine or very diluted Jasmine. Real Jasmine is a very expensive ingredient and it is the epitome of a luxury perfume ingredient. So, what makes Jasmine so special?
There are many types of Jasmine. The genus that is commonly used in perfume is Jasmine Sambac (Jasminum Sambac), also known as Arabian Jasmine. It is not, however, native to Arabia. Jasmine Sambac originates from the Eastern Himalayas in Bhutan. Today it is found all over the world in many warm climates (including South Africa).
Turning Jasmine into a luxury perfume ingredient is quite the process.
The Jasmine flower is extremely fragrant. Most people will pause to admire the smell when walking past a Jasmine plant in the garden. This fragrant flower is also extremely delicate. Whether the flower is being harvested manually or by machine, the utmost care is required. Bruised petals produce an inferior quality final product.
Depending on the region, harvesting normally takes place between March and November, between dusk and 9:00am. Yes, they’re harvested at night! These night owls produce significantly enhanced fragrance when harvested at night. The key lies in the closed bud. Jasmine buds are closed at night and hold all their fragrance. Once harvested, the bud typically opens within 2 hours. The extraction process therefore takes place as immediately after harvest as possible.
Lots of labour, little yield.
Once harvested, the fresh petals are subjected to a process called solvent extraction, using the solvent Hexane. This process produces what is called Jasmine concrete – a solid, waxy substance consisting of a highly fragrant mix of oil, wax and fat. The Jasmine concrete is then warmed up and mixed with alcohol. Next it is distilled to remove the alcohol. What is left is Jasmine Absolute – the most concentrated form of Jasmine (and the most expensive!).
Jasmine Sambac has a yield of 0.14%-0.19%. Meaning that if 100kgs of Jasmine flowers are harvested and processed, you will get between 140g and 190g of Jasmine concrete. This truly is a luxury perfume ingredient.
To sum it up, millions (literally – it takes a lot of flowers to weight 100kgs) of delicate little white buds need to be carefully harvested in the early hours of the morning. These are then processed – pronto! No break after your early morning physical labour. All of this will reward you with less than a cup of Jasmine absolute.
Why it’s worth it.
The scent of Jasmine is truly luxurious. The rich floral note is difficult to capture, but when done correctly, it is remarkable. These decadent and desirable perfumes prove just how ‘worth it’ Jasmine Sambac is as a luxury perfume ingredient;
A scent similar to Alien.
If you love the smell of Jasmine but don’t want a scent that is overly floral all day, UFO opens with Jasmine but develops into a subtle and grounded woody scent with amber at the base.
A scent similar to Gucci Bloom.
Bouquet Blush is a decadent fragrance with a distinctly sweet femininity. Something very similar to that Jasmine plant in the garden that is known to make passers-by stop to smell the flowers.
A scent similar to Allure by Chanel.
This scent conjures up images of dew kissed Jasmine buds, early in the morning. Fresh, subtle and always welcome. If you fall in love with Jasmine (it’s hard not to) then Temptation is a great signature scent.