Enfleurage: how to extract perfume from plants

July 24, 2011
Author: Tom

Lisa Cronin, one of our Pollinators, has been explaining the method of enfleurage to visitors to Eden. This simple process captures the fragrance of a flower.

The tradition of creating perfume dates back thousands of years, and typically uses distillation to extract scents from flowers. The process of enfleurage (meaning ‘to saturate flowers’) was invented in the early 19th century in the area of Grasse in the south of France, and uses vegetable fat to absorb the smell of the most delicate flowers.

Lisa says: ‘Originally the process was used to extract the scent from the delicate flower of jasmine, which would take around 65 changes of flowers every 24 hours: hence the often high expense of a quality jasmine-scented oil.’

Today for this demonstration, Lisa uses the wonderfully scented Burmese honeysuckle, grown in the Mediterranean Biome at the Eden Project:

Step 1. Construct an enfleurage chassis – this construction consists of two wooden frames both filled with glass that fit tight together. (Glass or china both work as plastic absorbs smells too much) Lisa tells us how you can create a chassis easily at home, ‘ by using a china bowl and plate as a lid’. In 19th-century France, silicone would not have been available, but to keep the chassis fairly airtight it is a good idea to use it!

Step 2. Find a good-quality vegetable fat and spread a layer over one pane of glass to about half a centimetre thick.

Step 3. Take the scented flower you have chosen to use (in this case Burmese honeysuckle is used but pretty much any honeysuckle would have a similar effect) and lay the flowers over the layer of fat. Be careful not to press the flower into the fat as the best scent comes from the lighter fragrance found in the air. With the Burmese honeysuckle used in this example the darker, more intense coloured flowers have the stronger smell.

Step 4. Lay the other part of the enfleurage chassis over the one containing the flowers and seal tight. Leave for about two days out of the sun at room temperature.

Step 5. After two days open the chassis and remove the flowers and repeat the process with freshly picked flowers. To get a good, strong-scented layer of fat, the process of renewing the flowers has to be done around four times.

Step 6. The fat should now have absorbed a good strong scent of the honeysuckle and can now be used to create a perfume. Now remove the flowers and scrape the fat into a bowl.

Step 7. In order to make a liquid form of the scent, ie a perfume, the fat needs to be mixed with alcohol. Ideally the stronger the alcohol the better, but vodka will work as it is without a scent of its own. Mix the fat with the vodka (or alcohol) to create a pomade with a smooth syrup-like texture.

Step 8. In order to remove the fat from the alcohol, it can be put into a container and frozen until the fat stays hard and the alcohol remains in liquid formation. The liquid removed can be bottled and used as perfume.

Tip: Alternatively you can create a solid perfume by simply removing the fat once it has been through the enfleurage process and sealed in a container to maintain the floral smell.

Skincare products in the Eden Shop

The new handmade skincare products in our online shop are made in Cornwall. Created using some of the most popular plants and flowers grown at Eden this organic range includes:

Blog by Rebecca Mitchell
Photos by Rosie Symonds

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10 responses to Enfleurage: how to extract perfume from plants

  1. akanbi david says:

    How can I make perfume from a herbicous & moraya flower?

  2. Hannah says:

    David, we imagine it would be very much the same process as described in our blog for herbaceous plants and moraya flowers.

  3. shabbir Ahmed says:

    thanks for the details
    you are requested to send me the videos for same if possible
    i will be thankful to you

  4. Eden Project says:

    Hi Shabbir, Sorry, we don’t have a video of this process but we will now consider making one!

  5. adeola says:

    good afternoon,pls am working on ruminants feeding on range.pls i need to extract scents from plants.pls what process will i use to extract scents from plants?
    thanks

  6. Christy says:

    Hello! I’m just getting started with perfumery and I’m curious if you guys might have some suggestions for the right type of veggie fat that is stable enough for this type of extracting? I’ve considered using coconut oil because I like the smell of virgin, expeller-pressed but it liquefies at room temp. Do you know if the fat absolutely has to be solid? I’m experimenting with roses from the garden that have almost a sweet, citrus smell, if that helps.

  7. Hannah says:

    Christy, our team has always used solid fat. We have, however, heard of different methods where people use grapeseed, sweet almond or jojoba oil. There’s some information at: http://www.wikihow.com/Perform-Home-Enfleurage
    Good luck!

  8. Tammy says:

    I’m looking to construct my own chassis, but just curious–if plastic absorbs the scent, does not the wood as well? Thanks!

  9. Hannah says:

    You’ll see in the photo next to step 3 that the fat doesn’t touch the chassis, so it won’t absorb the scent. The plastic only does this because it would be covered in the fat. Good luck with the project!

  10. jabran sattar says:

    Hi how are you I want to extract from plants I see your side and found very important information in perfumery kindly
    you are requested to send me the videos for same if possible
    i will be thankful to you

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