Gourmet Scents for the Gourmet Perfumer
Synopsis: for someone with refined tastes who enjoys fine scent, food and drink. Discussed are Bitter Almond, Cacao, Coffee, Cognac, Ginger root, Vanilla and even Tobacco.
Photo by Jeanne Rose
When I first thought about writing about the edible and umami stimulating essential oils and scents, I was confused about the true meaning of the words gourmand and gourmet. Since I do own the 22-volume set of The Oxford English Dictionary, it felt correct to first give a definition of what I would discuss.
According to the Oxford, A Gourmet is someone who is a “connoisseur in the delicacies of the table” and in our scent-world one who is a connoisseur of scent; while a Gourmand is a “glutton, greedy, fond of eating and eats to excess” and for scent collectors one who uses excessively, the natural scents of the plant world.
Sometimes one sees the words gourmet and gourmand used interchangeably, though more properly gourmand carries a connotation of gluttony and gourmet is knowledgeable enjoyment.
It is with pleasure that I acknowledge Eden Botanicals, asking me to think about writing about these particular scents that have an edible connotation and also sending me their wonderful selections to work with. I had already in my library of scents, old and older samples that I could also look at and smell. Hopefully, you will support my blog posts by also supporting their product.
These are the ones I am discussing in this article: Bitter Almond ~ extracted for the benzaldehyde that is used extensively in seasonings, bitter Almond extract used in cookies; Butter ~ for a lovely, oily and fatty scent that goes well with florals; Cacao ~ Chocolate, who doesn’t love it?; Coffee ~ stimulating drink, wonderful component of many desserts; Cognac ~ from the lees of cognac making, a fixative in perfumery with a sweet to sour scent and tenacity in the perfume; Ginger root ~ whether steam-distilled or CO2 extracted is a spicy addition to any blend; Tobacco absolute from leaves ~ smoky and warm and the scent (without the smoke) goes well in a warm, darkened environment while you savor sweet pastry and that vanilla-oaky scented bourbon and it acts as a tenacious back note and a fixative; and Vanilla ~ the ultimate dessert flavor and perfume component.
The Gourmet Scents – Part 1
See Part 2 for Gourmet Perfumery
Bitter Almond ~ Prunus dulcis var. amara fruits/kernels of the family Rosaceae are always bitter, as are the kernels from other species of genus Prunus, such as apricot, peach and cherry (although to a lesser extent). All Almonds are in bloom right about the end of February and here in California the Almond orchards are alive with the soft scent and pale pink color of the blossoms.
“The Bitter Almond is rather broader and shorter than the sweet Almond, and contains about 50% of the fixed oil, which also occurs in sweet Almonds. It also contains a ferment emulsion which, in the presence of water, acts on a soluble glucoside, amygdalin, glucose, cyanide and the essential oil of bitter almonds or benzaldehyde. Bitter almonds may yield from 6 to 8% of prussic acid (also known as hydrogen cyanide). Extract of Bitter Almond was once used medicinally “but even in small doses it has severe consequences and in larger doses can be deadly; the prussic acid must be removed before consumption”. —Wikipedia
Eden Botanicals Bitter Almond is steam distilled from the crushed and pressed kernels of the Apricot fruit, then rectified to remove the toxic prussic acid. The scent is nutty, very intense and is used in small amounts in perfumery, especially with Butter CO2, Cocoa, Coffee, Tobacco and florals. It is very intense and tenacious in a scent and should be pre-diluted with high-proof perfumers alcohol (95% neutral grape spirits) at least by half before use. Add a drop at a time, and age before deciding to add more.
DO NOT INGEST IN ANY WAY
Butter CO2 ~ Sometimes called Butyrum (butter), it is extracted from milk fat, and has had all water content removed. A small amount of Rosemary antioxidant is added for shelf life stability. This is an oily/fatty smelling product that is buttery and creamy, and Eden Botanicals say that “… it can trigger olfactory memories of buttered popcorn and movie theatres”. In perfumery, it can be used in the base note or the fixative note of your blend. When used, the dry-down in a perfume will leave a fatty note that is desirable in floral odors. This is one of my favorite additions to floral perfumes especially to those flowers with thick petals like Jasmine, Tuberose or Osmanthus. I also have made a delicious smelling accord that I call Breakfast with the CO2 of Chocolate, Coffee, Vanilla and Butter — it is just fantastic.
Cacao or Cocoa Absolute (Theobroma cacao) ~ from the seeds of the cacao or cocoa plant, solvent-extracted in France. This is a pale-yellow, pure edible vegetable fat extracted from the cacao bean. It is used to make chocolate, pharmaceuticals, ointments, and toiletries. Cocoa butter has a mild chocolate flavor and rich aroma. It is used to thicken oily products or in perfumery as a fixative for floral odors. In my experience, if you are a younger person, especially female, as men are attracted to this odor and to the persons who use these gourmet scents, when they smell like a delicious food stuff.
Chocolate contains methyl xanthine and not specifically caffeine; the xanthine in Chocolate is called theobromine which is NOT the same as caffeine. Both caffeine and theobromine are diuretics; however, theobromine mainly acts as a smooth muscle relaxant and slight cardiac stimulant. While these two compounds of caffeine and theobromine have similar effects, the key difference is that caffeine has an effect on the central nervous system and theobromine most significantly affects smooth muscle.
In Eden Botanicals Cocoa/Cacao Absolute the content of methyl xanthine is reported as follows: “Our regulatory department is saying there’s both caffeine and theobromine in the product you purchase. The lab checked the COAs for the past several lots and caffeine falls in between 2.3-2.6% consistently. Theobromine content is 0 – 0.640%.”
Cocoa absolute is soluble in alcohol and only partially soluble in fixed, that is, vegetable oils. It is just wonderful in perfumery, with the other edible scented oils and the florals.
Coffee taxonomy ~ Coffee is a member of the Rubiaceae or Madder family. Coffee is by far the most economically important species, but a number of ornamentals derive from the family. Of the 25-100 species in the genus Coffea (the number is still debated), two main species are used in production: C. arabica L., generally called “arabica” coffee, and C. canephora Pierre ex Froehner, also called “robusta” coffee. About 70% of the world’s coffee is derived from C. arabica, considered to have higher quality than robusta.
There is an excellent discussion of the Coffee odor and fragrance, read it and other oils at http://www.bojensen.net/EssentialOilsEng/EssentialOils09/EssentialOils09.htm
Coffee Bean Butter ~ Hydrogenating the cold pressed oil from roasted coffee beans (Coffea arabica) with other vegetable oils produces the coffee butter. It has good oxidative stability and feels silky smooth. One Internet site says this, “Coffee bean Butter has a pleasant appearance and the mild, fragrant aroma of fresh roasted coffee. … Coffee Butter offers high oxidative stability (a lower linoleic content) and has an exceptionally smooth and elegant skin feel and spreads well making it ideal as a body butter or balm. May be used in cosmetics, toiletries, soaps, massage oils & balms, hair care and sun care preparations.” —UCLA paper on a Mighty Methyl group.
In my personal experience I do not have much desire to use the butter and smell like a cup of coffee all day.
Coffee bean CO2 ~ Coffea arabica from India is available by CO2 extraction from the bean and appears non-toxic. It has the strong aroma of freshly brewed coffee and is used in perfumery, often to add to ‘leather’ notes. A very interesting addition to your perfume armentarium.
Coffee Synthetic ~ With the availability of natural Coffee odor why would you want a synthetic? Synthetic aromas have become so ubiquitous that people consider them environmental odor hazards.
Cognac ~ Oil of Cognac is distilled from the wine lees of the cognac barrel from Vitis vinifera grapes. (From The Volatile Oils by Gildemeister and Hoffman, 1900 – an excellent reference book). In this book, it is the oil captured from the lees in the barrel that was used to age cognac.
Origins and Preparation. The specific aroma, peculiar to wine and cognac is produced by fusel oil. [Fusel is a from a German word meaning bad liquor.] It is also called oil of Cognac and is a product of the fermentation action of wine yeast and is principally found in the yeast deposited from the wine on the bottom of the barrel after completion of the fermentation process. The wine itself contains only tiny amounts of it in solution, namely 1 part of oil in 40,000 parts of wine. The yeast cakes that remain after the liquid is pressed out are used for the preparation of this product, oil of Cognac.
The oil collected in the receiver floats on top of the alcohol containing water, from which further amounts of oil can be obtained by cohobation. Oil of Cognac I have found possesses a strong, unpleasant ‘repugnant’ odor, which is offensive in the undiluted state. The odor of the Green Cognac however is quite pleasant. Every year, the wine quality and taste subtly change depending on climate, origin, and soil, its terroir, and the green Cognac oil which is produced in Romania is considered drier in scent and in my nose sweeter like a Tokay. White Cognac essential oil has a fruity character, often somewhat buttery and oily.
Cognac Oil can be used in very small amounts to add a bright lift and a fresh odor to many types of perfume.
My distillation mentor was Hubert Germain-Robin, a many-generations cognac family, and the brandy he made in California was authentic and complex. The brandy was made from California grapes with a still that Hubert found in an abandoned distillery in Cognac, France. And his style of a Cognac, was a ripe, brandy with scent of with dark fruits, fudge and toffee, and a very spicy complexity. I loved it.
[Cognac = wine that is made by the fermentation process, then distilled to make clear or white cognac, then diluted with water to a certain percentage, and then aged in oak = voila! Cognac.]
Ginger Root SD or Ginger root CO2 Extract (Total) ~ (Zingiber officinale). The root/rhizome of the Ginger plant is used in herbalism and the scent in aromatherapy and perfumery. This plant of the Zingiberaceae family also includes the Cardamom (pods), Galangal (root), Ginger Lily (root and flower) and Turmeric (root) plants. All live in tropical and subtropical areas.
Ginger root is an herbaceous perennial, about 3 feet tall and reed-like, whose rhizomes (often just called root but are really underground stems) are used; gathered when the reed-like top withers, this enlarged rhizome is scalded or washed and scraped to prevent it from sprouting. These ‘roots’ produce a potent and fragrant spice that is used in the kitchen, in Asian cooking and is used in herbal medicine as a sialagogue (makes your mouth water) and with Chile pods to make you perspire. Its flavor is lemon and balsamic and its taste is medium hot. Slices are decocted (boiled) and with honey added, it makes a hot spicy tea or is candied to make a condiment. These are often used to treat a cold.
Ginger science (on the rhizome not the EO) concludes that the health-promoting perspectives of ginger are well known. “It can treat a wide range of diseases via immuno-nutrition and anti-inflammatory responses. As a result of anti-inflammatory effect of ginger, it can reduce muscle pain after intense physical activity. Likewise, the anticancer potential of ginger is well documented and its functional ingredients like gingerols, shogaol, and paradols are the valuable ingredients which can prevent various cancers, angiogenesis and metastasis, induction of apoptosis, and inhibition of cell-cycle progression. Besides these, it improves cardiovascular disorders, diabetes mellitus, and gastrointestinal health.” — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665023/
The CO2 and the total extract are dark and potent and more like the root in nature including the ‘bite’ when ingested. The extract is true to the warmth and spice of fresh Ginger root. The scent of both is warm with a spicy, green and herbaceous odor and very good in all sorts of perfume combinations. A wonderful perfumery item to learn to use. The essential oil of Ginger does not have the dark color nor irritating bite as does the herb or extract and can be taken — 1-2 drops in Ginger ale for nausea. It is a pleasant addition to a drink. The Ginger extract and EO should be used in moderation in a perfume as it is a strong spicy addition to the scent and has the ability to ‘take over’ the entire scent.
Tobacco leaf abs ~ Solvent-extracted or alcohol-extracted from Tobacco leaves in France or Bulgaria (Nicotiana sp.), Tobacco ABSolute goes well with many things. There is no nicotine in the absolute and it is both alcohol and slightly oil-soluble. It has a spicy, fruity, green, floral and rich smoky scent. You can make it smokier with Birch tar or Labdanum or Africa Stone and these will give you a leather accord or scent. You can sweeten up its smoky scent with resins such as Labdanum and Benzoin, Styrax works well also and you can make it spicy with Allspice berry, Cloves, Mace, Nutmeg and others. You can dry out its smoky sweetness with the wood of Juniperus virginiana, make it more floral and fruity with the Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica) and give it an earthy odor with Vetivert (Chrysopogon zizanioides). Turn it into a smoky fashionable model with a tart citrus like Bergamot, Grapefruit or Petitgrain. This is a scent that can be really sexy with a floral fix like Jasmin and all-in-all it is a fun substance to create perfume. Try making a ‘1950 Cocktail Lounge’ Accord with it.
Tobacco leaf courtesy of www.persephenie.com
Vanilla pod or Vanilla Bourbon pod CO2 or Vanilla Bourbon organic ~ Vanilla planifolia of the family Orchidaceae. Vanilla is the only species of Orchid that is extracted, distilled or used in aromatherapy or foodstuff. The plant is indigenous to Mexico and tropical America and is now grown in many places including Madagascar and the island of Réunion.
The CO2 is a creamy substance extracted with carbon dioxide with the true floral, woody, fruity, lovely Vanilla odor, it is pale yellow to tan, has a shelf life of about 3 years. This can be used as a flavoring agent as well as in solid perfumes. It is just lovely especially in a foodie perfume with Coffee and Cacao CO2 and Raspberry, Ginger, Cardamom and Butter CO2’s.
The Vanilla ABS has the best and strongest scent and this dark brown viscous product makes an excellent addition to many perfumes. It is alcohol-soluble, but portions of the absolute will settle out of the perfume and the perfume will have to be aged and then filtered or decanted.
For more information on Vanilla please read the blog post on CO2 and the one on Vanilla. The link is in the reference section that follows.
The Oxford English Dictionary
Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols. Frog, Ltd. 1999
Rose, Jeanne. Natural Botanical Perfumery. 2015 edition
Patch Test: If applying a new essential oil to your skin always perform a patch test to the inner arm (after you have diluted the EO in a vegetable carrier oil). —Wash an area of your forearm about the size of a quarter and dry carefully. Apply a diluted drop (1 drop EO + 1 drop carrier) to the area. Then apply a loose Band-Aid and wait 24 hours. If there is no reaction, then go ahead and use the oil in your formulas. —The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations, p. 64
DO NOT INGEST ESSENTIAL OILS OR ABSOLUTES OR THE CO2. Although some essential oils are important flavoring oils in the flavor industry and thus ingested in very small minute amounts in many foods, especially meats and sausages, it is not a good idea to use them yourself either in capsules or honey to take internally.
PLEASE NOTE: A true hydrosol should be specifically distilled for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or even a by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components most are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil, or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers specifically distill for a product by using plant material that is fresh.
Safety Precautions: Do not apply the essential oil neat, especially to the underarms or delicate parts of the body. Most oils are probably not to be used on babies, children or pregnant women. Many aromatherapist suggest that there are some oils not be used at all. However, as with many plants, essential oil chemistry is subject to change depending on species and terroir.
DISCLAIMER: This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your health care provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor. The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose©
Comments: I want to thank Eden Botanicals for their ongoing assistance to provide the new essential oils for these essential oil blog posts as well as their support to provide better information for the entire aromatherapy community.
Ryan Drum having a bite of Chocolate
Moderation in All Things.
Be moderate in your use of essential oils as they are just not sustainable for the environment.
Be selective and more moderate in your usage.
Use the herb first as tea or the infusion. —JeanneRose 2014