Françoise Rapp

Have you ever thought that natural fragrances are only made of essential oils? Think again! There are different ways to extract natural essences, and each offers distinct olfactory qualities, even if they come from the same plant.

Let’s take a closer look at the various types of extraction methods used to create a sophisticated natural fragrance:

1. Steam Distillation: Essential Oils

Steam distillation is the most common method of extracting essential oils. It involves isolating an essential oil by lowering its decomposition point. By lowering the degree at which the oil’s organic compounds boil, damage to the heat-sensitive components is minimized.

Extracting essential oils from plants is a difficult and delicate process that requires expertise and precision. The aim is to capture the most subtle and fragile byproducts of a plant without altering their quality. There are several methods for extracting essential oils, but the majority of oils are obtained through low pressure steam distillation.

Distillation is a delicate process that requires experience and constant supervision. To obtain high-quality essential oils, distillers must comply with rigorous specifications to extract the essence of the plant in its pure and unadulterated form.

The process of low pressure steam distillation involves passing steam through a vat filled with aromatic plants, flowers, seeds, wood, or other plant materials. The steam becomes pressurized and enriched with essential oil as it passes through the plant material. The steam then passes through a coil and condenses. An “essencier” or Florentine separator is used to collect the water and essential oil. The difference in density between the two liquids makes it easy to separate the essential oil.

Low Pressure Steam Distillation

Distillation is a delicate process that requires experience and constant supervision. To obtain high-quality essential oils, distillers must comply with rigorous specifications to extract the essence of the plant in its pure and unadulterated form.

The process of low pressure steam distillation involves passing steam through a vat filled with aromatic plants, flowers, seeds, wood, or other plant materials. The steam becomes pressurized and enriched with essential oil as it passes through the plant material. The steam then passes through a coil and condenses. An “essencier” or Florentine separator is used to collect the water and essential oil. The difference in density between the two liquids makes it easy to separate the essential oil.

Distillation Tips

Distillation is a delicate process that requires skilled craftsmanship. Here are some tips to ensure the highest-quality essential oil:

  • Alembic: The distillation apparatus must be made of stainless steel, as copper and iron can oxidize and affect the quality of the oil.
  • Low Pressure: Distillation must be done at low pressure (between 0.05 and 0.10 bars) to prevent overoxidation.
  • Distillation Duration: The distillation process must be extended to collect the most important aromatic molecules, known as the “head,” the “heart,” and the “tail.”
  • Water: Choose spring water with few or no minerals to avoid using a chemical descaler.
  • Storage and Conservation: Once the distillation is complete, the essential oil should be filtered and stored in an airtight container in a cool basement. Essential oils should only be stored in opaque brown or blue glass bottles to ensure they are protected from oxygen and light.

By following these tips and using the proper equipment, distillers can produce high-quality essential oils that capture the subtle and delicate essence of plants.

2. Enfleurage

If you’re a fragrance enthusiast, you may have heard about enfleurage, a traditional method of extracting plant essences. While it’s not as commonly used as other extraction methods, such as steam distillation or solvent extraction, enfleurage is still highly regarded for its ability to capture the delicate scent of certain flowers.

Enfleurage is usually reserved for flowers with extremely low concentrations of essences, such as jasmine, mimosa, and tuberose. The process involves soaking the flowers in absorbent fats, such as lard or tallow, which gradually become saturated with the essence. The fat is then scraped off and replaced with fresh flowers, continuing the process until the fat is fully saturated with fragrance.

Once the fragrance has been captured in the fat, the resulting pomades can be used as is or dissolved by alcohol to obtain aromatic plant extracts called “absolutes.” These absolutes are highly concentrated and are often used in high-end perfumes and skincare products.

One of the main benefits of enfleurage is that it can capture the scent of delicate flowers that may be damaged by other extraction methods. Enfleurage also allows for the extraction of a wider range of compounds, resulting in a more complex fragrance profile.

Enfleurage is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process, which is why it’s not as commonly used as other extraction methods. However, for those who appreciate the art of perfumery and want to create unique and complex fragrances, enfleurage can be a valuable tool.

  • Captures delicate scents
  • Allows for extraction of a wider range of compounds
  • Creates unique and complex fragrances

3. Cold-Pressed: Extracting Citrus Essences

The cold-pressed method involves crushing or grinding the plant parts, then pressing them to extract the essential oil. The pressure used in this method is enough to rupture the oil glands in the plant material, releasing the essential oils.

4. Green Solvent Extraction

The extraction of fragrant compounds is a process that has been used since the 19th century. This method involves immersing flowers or plants in an extractor, which is a large vat. The plants are placed on plates stacked on different levels and pierced with small holes to prevent crushing.

Once the plants are in the extractor, a solvent such as ethanol, hexane, benzene, or another highly volatile solvent is added to the vat. The solvent carries away the plant molecules, which are then extracted from the flowers or plants. To capture as many olfactory compounds as possible, three washes are typically necessary.

The temperature at which the solvent is used depends on the fragility of the raw material. For fresh raw materials such as flowers like orange blossom, rose, jasmine, and mimosa, hexane is preferred. Ethanol is typically used for dry raw materials, gums, resinoids, or beeswax.

If the raw material is fragile, the solvent can be used cold. However, if the raw material is not as fragile, the solvent can be heated to a higher temperature. Once the extraction process is complete, the compartments containing the flowers and plants are dewatered and removed from the extractor.

After the extraction process, the solvent is recovered and heated under a vacuum. This helps to remove any remaining solvent from the extracted compounds. The solvent is then recycled at the end of the process.

5. Biotechnology

Biotechnology utilizes sustainable sugar fermentation, bio-conversion techniques, and advanced distillation to create high-quality ingredients from renewable carbon. All of them are affordable, readily available, and sustainable.

Biotechnology is a field that has gained immense popularity in recent years. It involves using living organisms or enzymes to produce desirable ingredients that are beneficial to human life. The concept is simple – just like in nature, where living organisms work together to create a harmonious environment.

Understanding the Natural Processes in Biotechnology

Biotechnology relies on completely natural processes such as fermentation or biocatalysis, which enables us to recreate and build on nature’s extraordinary scents. The use of natural resources is done responsibly, ensuring that we are not disrupting the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

Living organisms such as bacteria and fungi are used in biotechnology to produce desirable ingredients that are used in a range of products. These products can be anything from food and beverages to skincare and cleaning products.

The Benefits of Biotechnology

Biotechnology has many benefits that make it a preferred choice for creating sustainable products. Here are a few:

  • Environmentally friendly production processes
  • Reduced use of natural resources
  • Elimination of hazardous substances from products and processes
  • Increased efficiency in production processes

Furthermore, biotechnology has the potential to revolutionize the way we live our lives. Its use in medicine has already resulted in the development of life-saving drugs and therapies. It can also be used to create new and innovative materials, such as biodegradable plastics, that can help reduce the burden on the environment.

The Role of Green Chemistry in Biotechnology

Alongside biotechnology, the latest green chemistry techniques are used to reduce or eliminate hazardous substances from products and processes. This ensures that the products created through biotechnology are safe for human use and do not harm the environment.

Green chemistry involves using chemical processes that are designed to minimize the use and generation of hazardous substances. It focuses on creating sustainable products that have a minimal impact on the environment.

6. Supercritical Extraction: CO2 Extract

Supercritical extraction involves converting natural and recycled carbon dioxide into a supercritical fluid to gently diffuse through natural materials. It delicately captures the olfactive compounds from treasure flower petals to tea leaves and from precious spices to groundnuts.

Supercritical CO2 extraction is a popular method of extracting essential oils, flavors, and fragrances from plant material. Although it takes longer to complete than some other methods, it is highly efficient and produces high-quality extracts. Here’s a closer look at the process:

Step 1: Preparation

Before the extraction can begin, the plant material must be ground and placed into an extraction vessel. The vessel is then sealed to prevent any gas from escaping during the process.

Step 2: Extraction

CO2 gas is heated and pressurized until it becomes a supercritical fluid. The fluid is then pumped into the extraction vessel, where it comes into contact with the plant material. The supercritical CO2 breaks open the trichomes, allowing it to dissolve part of the plant material. This process can take several hours, depending on the amount of material being extracted.

Step 3: Separation

Once the extraction is complete, a pressure release valve allows the material to flow into a separate vessel. This vessel contains an internal compressor and heater, which are used to adjust the pressure and temperature of the fluid. By changing these variables, certain molecules will bond to the CO2, allowing them to be separated from the plant material.

Step 4: Recycling

Many systems will reroute the CO2 back into the tank to be used during the next batch. This makes the process more environmentally friendly and cost-effective.

Step 5: Collection

Finally, the extract is moved to a collection jar, such as a beaker. The resulting extract is pure and highly concentrated, making it ideal for use in a variety of applications.

7. Headspace

Headspace involves analyzing the natural fragrance from ‘mute’ flowers or any other materials that only surrender their scents into the ‘headspace’ around them. Advanced technology is then used to recreate nature while not damaging it. is a technique developed in the 1980s to elucidate the odor compounds present in the air surrounding various objects. Usually the objects of interest are odoriferous objects such as plants, flowers and foods. Similar techniques are also used to analyze the interesting scents of locations and environments such as tea shops and saw mills. After the data is analyzed, the scents can then be recreated by a perfumer.

8. Infusions

Infusions involve a maceration of natural materials in alcohol at warm or cold temperatures to produce infusions or tinctures that add an authentic natural patina and provide a simple natural addition to any composition.

9. Molecular Distillation

Molecular distillation is a long-established way of refining the already refined, perhaps a precious essential oil or rare absolute, to create colorless ingredients with elegant, pure yet powerful profiles in precise and delicate concentrations.

10. FIRA Technology

Highly concentrated in odorant molecules, this type of extract exists mostly for rose now. The natural rose extract is made from a cold concentration of the water-soluble volatile fractions present in the Bulgarian rose water.

11. Pyrogenation

Pyrogenation involves heating oils and resinoids at high temperatures until ‘a perfectly monitored transformation’ occurs to produce smoky, leathery effects that raise the temperature of the perfume.

As you can see, there are many different methods used to extract natural essences, each offering unique and distinct olfactory qualities. By understanding these methods, perfumers can create complex and sophisticated fragrances that are truly one-of-a-kind.

12. Jungle EssenceTM

Extraction mode using supercritical fluids combining the advantages of a gas and a liquid. MANE has acquired unique expertise in this field over several years, which has enabled it to create new raw materials, thus enriching and renewing the perfumer’s creative palette. Ex: Ginger Pure Jungle EssenceTM.

13. Firgood Extracts

The process involves exposing fresh biomass to electromagnetic frequencies. Under the effect of these, the vibration of the O-H bonds causes friction which induces a rise in temperature. The constituent water begins to heat up until the cells burst and carry the odorous principles.

Three types of products, baptized Firgood, thus enrich the palette of perfumers and flavorists of the house. First of all, a mother solution, or hydrosol, contains all of the polar aromatic fraction (composed of the least lipophilic molecules) of the product in the water-soluble phase. From this solution, a second product is produced by physical methods of cold concentration of the aromatic fractions. The water is replaced there by another solvent, for example alcohol, for use in perfumery. Finally, it is also possible to obtain an essential oil, recovered by decantation from the stock solution, if the latter is rich enough in essence. This is the case, among others, for spices.

Learn more about French Natural Perfumery and learn how to create sophisticated natural fragrances. Enroll each first Monday of the month in our French Natural Perfumery Course. Multiple payments are available and all our courses are certified by International Perfume Foundation.

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