A B O U T • W I L D • V E I L • E N F L E U R A G E
Enfleurage is a beautiful process whereby odorless fats that are solid at room temperature are used to capture the fragrant compounds exuded by plants. Enfleurage is by far one of the oldest methods of fragrance extraction, and it is nearly extinct. Only a handful of artisans still practice it today as it is no longer used in the manufacture of perfumes on a mass scale. A voluptuous art, enfleurage is quite the labor of love, consuming time, labor, and expense. Historically enfleurage was done by women, or maidens, in the fields of Grasse, France. Although far rarer to find enfleurage products in the market today, is still "largely" practiced by women.
There are two types of enfleurage: "cold" and "hot." Wild Veil exclusively uses cold enfleurage:
In cold enfleurage, a large framed plate of glass, called a chassis, is smeared with a layer of fat, traditionally unscented animal fat rendered from lard or tallow, and allowed to set. Wild Veil does not use any animal fat whatsoever! My enfleurage products are organic and botanical; I purvey fats from a variety of nut and plant butters such as shea, jojoba, avocado, fair trade palm, and mango. Botanical matter, usually petals or whole flowers, is then placed on the fat and its scent is allowed to diffuse into the fat over the course of 1-3 days. The process is then repeated (up to 36 times depending on the fat and the botanical matter) by replacing the spent botanicals with fresh ones until the fat has reached a desired degree of fragrance saturation. The cold fat process was developed in southern France in the 18th century for the production of high-grade concentrates.
In hot enfleurage, solid fats are heated and botanical matter is stirred into the fat. Spent botanicals are repeatedly strained from the fat and replaced with fresh material until the fat is saturated with fragrance. This method is considered the oldest known procedure for preserving plant fragrance substances. So far Wild Veil only incorporates cold enfleurage into products.
In both instances, once the fat is saturated with fragrance, it is then called the "enfleurage pommade." This is a highly perfumed solid fat, not to be confused with pomade used for styling hair. Historically, this enfleurage pommade was either sold as it was,* or it could be further washed or soaked in ethyl alcohol to draw the fragrant molecules into the alcohol. When the alcohol was separated from the fat and allowed to evaporate, it would leave behind the absolute of the botanical matter. The spent fat would typically be used to make soaps since it is still fairly fragrant. *This listing is for an organic pommade.
The advent of modern perfumery ushered in the ease and relative inexpense of commercial solvent-based extraction of natural materials along with mass production of synthetic compounds, making the art of enfleurage seem highly inefficient and costly in comparison. The method is now superseded by more efficient techniques such as solvent extraction or supercritical fluid extraction using liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) or similar compressed gases. Enfleurage had been the sole method of extracting the fragrant compounds (containing thousands of aromachemicals) from delicate floral botanical such as jasmine and tuberose, which are be destroyed or denatured by the high temperatures required by cheaper methods of fragrance extraction such as steam distillation. It is still believed by some perfumers that enfleurage remains the only way to capture and preserve the full range of complexity of certain scents, particularly of flowers.
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Wild Veil natural perfumes are composed by me, Abby, using homemade, wildcrafted and organic aromatics in Vermont. These include my handmade enfleurage, tinctures, enfleurage extraits, absolutes, resinoids and concretes, and floral waxes. I spend as much time growing plants and foraging as I do composing perfumes.
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The best way to experience a natural perfume is to apply it to well-moisturized skin, without rubbing in (absorption only shortens the wear time of fragrance) and without scrubbing off. Natural perfumes are dynamic and take a minimum of 2 hours to reach their final stage, or dry down. Enjoy the alchemical changes as they unfold from the initial intensity of top notes, to the warmth of the heart, to the depth of lower base notes.
☽•☾ Wild Veil ☽•☾ alchemy between earth and ether ☽•☾
☽•☾ All aesthetic material copyright Abby Hinsman 2022 ☽•☾
Parma Violets ☽•☾ a sweet violets perfume with Viola alba enfleurage.
The most fragrant of the Viola species, the Parma violet descends from two lines of Viola alba (white violet). It dates back at least to Italy in the 1500s and is less cold hardy than Viola odorata, the more commonly seen high fragrance violet. Parma violets bear cyclic whorled "double" flowers that resemble partially formed but conjoined moon snails; multiple flutes pinwheel out from a central corolla. Like curved fins, the tufts vary in color from white to pastel pink and lavender, often with gradient tones displayed within each petal. They prefer the shade. You might miss their blossoming if you don't look for their ruffled heads blooming beneath the thick cover of their leaves, close to the ground. Parma violets have a warmer scent than Viola odorata, their cooler cousin. It is less inky but heavy with powder and frosting. These violets are a gourmand flower but their strong ambergris low note makes them unique among violets. Like others in their genus, Parma violets have practically no top notes. Their confectionary heart and base notes of fondant, pastry cream, ambergris pudding, and valentine's ink, take you out of the shady woodlands and inside a European bakery. Outside the frosted windows, whaling ships dock in the harbors, loaded with the horrors of treasure. My Parma Violets perfume features organic Viola alba enfleurage from the Wild Veil Perfume gardens amplified by the supporting notes described above.
Parma violet enfleurage is a solid perfume made by the simple but labor intensive process of cold enfleurage. The only ingredients are freshly picked Viola alba flowers from my Vermont garden, avocado butter, and very raw beeswax. It is organic, handmade, with a scent that is subtle but true to the iconic enchantment of Parma violets.
Whether called sweet violets or fragrant violets, enfleurage is the only natural process that can capture this woodland flower's aroma. This "pommade" (highly scented solid perfume-- not to be confused with pomade for hair!) consists of hundreds of individual organic Viola alba flowers that I gathered from my perfume gardens, laid onto an emulsion of organic avocado butter and raw beeswax. I repeat this process daily to reach over 100 charges and a degree of fragrance saturation. In my enfleurage, the violet flower scent is powdery, black-inky, with a pastille candy back note. To fully enjoy the perfume you will need to apply it rather than smell it from the vessel. Apply to well hydrated skin without rubbing in. It is very much the opposite of the shrill, overpowering version of the synthetic floral you find at the fragrance counter. Only you and those closest to you will be able to smell it.
WARNING: alpha and beta ionones are responsible for the enchanting scent of Viola alba flowers. The wide variety of odor receptor variation that exists among individuals results in more or less sensitivity to these ionones, and thus to the relative ability or inability to smell Parma violets. Because enfleurage is made with real violet flowers, this natural variation in perception of the flower will be reflected in perception of the enfleurage. Please be advised that an inability to smell the enfleurage does not indicate a problem with the product, but rather the natural range of olfactory sensitivity.
To read my blog entry on the scent of Viola alba, click here.
PLEASE READ: **Although the floral perfume produced by enfleurage is osmically balanced (meaning it contains sufficiently complex interplay of top through base notes to be considered a perfume in itself), it is a subtle creation. It must be given time to breathe on the skin. When cold, it may not smell much at all. Allow it to breathe and warm on a pulse point before inhaling deeply. Most noses love the aroma of my enfleurage but, a small percent of my clients are anosmic to enfleurage and therefore cannot smell the floral fragrance. This has to do with natural differences in nasal receptors and is not due to an issue with the product. I always recommend ordering a sample before committing to a larger size for this reason.**