On February 22, 2021, I embarked on an enfleurage journey. I am ever curious about the process of perfume making and decided to try my hand with the jasmine bush we’ve been nurturing for a few years. The flowers came early, as did spring and in all honestly, I simply started working intuitively rather than methodically. I am a printmaker at heart, a virgo through and through, so this natural unfolding felt foreign, but I went with it. And I could not have imagined how the journey would unfold.
The process of enfleurage is undoubtedly an ancient one, spanning centuries, continents and cultures. The process was brought to popularity in the 19th century by French perfumers and has been wildly practiced ever since. The term for the process, “enfleurage” means “enflowering” in French and they surely perfected a technique for extracting natural scents from delicate flowers using unscented animal fats. This aromatic composition is sometimes called pomade or a solid perfume.
Enfleurage is a process of extracting aromatic compounds from delicate flowers using animal or vegetable fats. Tahitians use coconut oil, spread out over a large surface. Each day, the old flowers are removed and new flowers are delicately placed in the coconut oil. This happens every day over a period of weeks to capture the sensual and intoxicating scent of the flower. Enfleurage is still the most cost effective way to extract essential oils from the more delicate flowers such as jasmine, gardenia, lily, plumeria, tuberose and others. The gardenia flower is still used to make Monoi Tiare Tahiti - a powerful perfume oil made by this old world process. This enfleurage extraction process requires time and attention and is still traditionally practiced by many on the islands of Tahiti and elsewhere.
My process begins with a large sheet of glass. Unrefined coconut oil is worked into a soft, buttery texture and spread out across the glass. Freshly harvested jasmine flowers are delicately pressed into the coconut oil. The fats absorb the delicate and fleeting compounds for 12-24 hours. I repeat the process each day with fresh jasmine flowers. A daily meditation with the most aromatic teachers.
I started the process on a Virgo full moon, and concluded the following full moon in Libra. The process took me deep into my own psyche with the scent of jasmine. I met her on a very intimate level and what I learned, is that intimacy is where jasmine lives. The scent is heart opening, revealing, vulnerable and true. When you can explore the depths of intimacy in yourself, the rewards are tremendous. The quiet comfort I found in the moments of harvesting was truly beautiful. It seemed as if I was sharing these moments with the flower, and then I finally realized, I was sharing these moments with myself. I was met in the present moment with my ego. We became one in the intimacy of the moment. Raw and real, accepting rather than competing, grateful rather than lustful. Words cannot do it justice, even the experience took me by surprise. Each day, I had 2-3 hours in the process, 2-3 hours to sit with the self, the spirit, whatever name you want to give it. I was present with myself. This is truly the greatest gift. The simple understanding that a quiet mind makes space for the light, for presence and understanding. When we have these moments within ourselves, then we can truly hold space for those moments with others. As the world reemerges from a deep and dark winter, a winter unlike any other, this was a valuable lesson for me. To learn first how to hold space inside oneself.
This gift I do hope to share with you, minimally in words, ideally in real life. I have bottled every last drop of our jasmine enfleurage and am so excited to offer them to you. Over the years, I’ve been collecting vintage perfume compacts. This limited collection is curated by yours truly, with a lot of time and love. Originally, I had planned to fill each one with jasmine enfleurage — but alas the coconut is too delicate to be contained in a compact that doesn’t seal. So each one comes with a 4ml bottle for filling at home. These little gems are one of a kind and have been lightly loved. If you are looking for a perfect vintage piece, these items may not be for you. All of them are in good condition with a little added character.
I do hope you love the jasmine enfleurage. May you meet her as I did, vulnerable and true.