Confessions of a Fragrance Fanatic
by: Lisa Maliga
My addiction to aromas has haunted me since childhood. I attended a flower festival at the age of four and my mother was unable to keep my nose away from all the fresh and fragrant blooms. I used my impressionable sense of smell as a guide to determine if I liked my mother’s cooking or not. The beef stew always got a quick unhappy sniff, while anything dessert like was allowed to linger, appreciated by my fussy sense of smell.
A few years ago, my quest for the simplest yet most compelling scent of all, vanilla, led me from the avenue of pure aromatherapy grade essential oils into the back alleys of synthetic fragrances. I had found a marvelous vanilla absolute from Madagascar but when my supplier vanished I was left minus the sensuous aroma that I knew and adored.
Yes readers, I did something desperate: I ordered my first vanilla fragrance oil [commonly referred to as an f.o.]. When it arrived a week later, I looked at the 1 ounce amber bottle and even before opening it I just knew it was a sham, an impersonation of the vanilla bean; a mockery of nature. Carefully opening the bottle, I took my first whiff. Surprised, I took another, longer sniff of the vanilla f.o. It smelled like vanilla, no question about that! The cost was kinder on my credit card, and the amount was larger too. But what happened when it was poured into a batch of soap? Would it hold up in my new concoction of oils that were blended into whipped shea butter? In my online research I’d read of scents smelling great out of the bottle [OOB] but turning into something quite different when added to bath & body products.
The world of aromatherapy is comprised of scents that originate directly from plants and their various parts: flowers, roots, fruit, bark, or leaves. If you buy a bottle of lavender essential oil from a reputable source you will find it has four attributes listed on the label: country of origin, Latin [botanical] name, part of plant used, and method of distillation. [Cold pressed, steam distilled, etc.]. Highly principled suppliers will even provide a fifth element, the principal constituents in classifying their essential oils. I was accustomed to this type of information readily provided for me. When I saw that plain brown glass container with just the words “Vanilla fragrance” and the supplier’s name and address, I knew I had indeed taken my first shaky steps down that shadowy alleyway.
Tuberose absolute, $200 per oz., was another favorite aroma that I wanted to add to my list of favorites. This white flower’s petals were so delicate that their sweet aromas were removed in a process that involved solvents classifying it as an absolute, rather than a pure essential oil. Still, an absolute was far superior to a mere fragrance. I decided to try a tuberose fragrance for far less money and when it arrived, along with some buddies doing impersonations of rose, jasmine and sandalwood, I was in a state of nasal bliss. The tuberose did resemble those fragrant white buds, and the other florals sung a sincere imitation of their live counterparts. Sandalwood from India or even Australia was beyond my means [back then] but the sandalwood f.o. was reputed to contain Indonesian sandalwood e.o. and so it was somewhat natural.
Blending became another passion that was easily indulged with less costly fragrances. I made my first sandalwood-rose combination and spent the next days coming up with more and more blending ideas, some even including the few citrus essential oils that I had bought before my vanilla indulgence. I the library and the net to find ideas and soon had pages of notes of what fragrances were able to be combined to create layers of scents. From fleeting top notes such as neroli [orange blossom] and lemon to middle notes that would involve longer lasting scents like lilac and sweet pea to the deeper and sultriest notes such as vanilla and patchouli. Perfumery was based on music and a perfumer was considered the conductor.
While I wasn’t a perfumer, I was able to obtain fragrance duplications, usually called dupes. Now dupes were added to my ever-expanding lists of must haves. I had soon amassed a supply of impressive designers to my kitchen cupboard: Chanel, Thierry Mugler, Guerlain, Bvlgari, Burberry, and Vera Wang. Also filling my shadowy [both essential oils and fragrances needed to be stored in a cool, dark place] storeroom were imitations of Bath & Body Works, and Victoria’s Secret scents. Soon my fixation on various fruits such as mango, coconut, pineapple, kiwi, and several berry scents were being stocked in a careful array of alphabetically ordered scents. The fruity phase morphed into desserts and there were several companies who provided various calorie-free chocolate, variations of vanilla, brown sugar, pumpkin pie, and cinnamon bun scents.
Last week as I searched for a coconut lime verbena, which really was a coconut lime as the verbena was undetectable, I took a stock of what had happened to that cupboard in the northwest corner of my kitchen. Inside sat a stockpile of synthetic scents. I went online and found a vanilla absolute that a reputable essential oil only supplier carried and purchased a small amount. It cost more than at least a dozen fragrances, but I felt a sense of relief that I was out of those twisting, dank dark alleyways and back onto the tree-lined roadway that smelled of true nature.
About The Author
Read and learn at http://www.lisamaliga.com. Discover the diverse writings ranging from soap and bath & body recipes to fiction, figure skating, aromatherapy, herbal hints, and helpful publishing advice. Boost your own site’s rankings by reading of web design and promotion. This is the literary home of Lisa Maliga, owner of http://www.EverythingShea.com.
This article was posted on February 20, 2005