Freesia, honeysuckle, jasmine — all are highly fragrant, creamy white spring flowers that contain a magic chemical compound known as ‘indol’.
The sweet, heady aroma of indolic flowers is utterly intoxicating, and a reminder of the universal passage of time. Birth, sex, death — it’s all there, even in the most common flowering ‘weeds’.
Attempts to capture and synthesise indol mostly fail. Indol on its own loses its magic when removed from its natural setting. But for those fascinated by botanicals and the extraction of aroma, there is always a way!
Here is a simple technique called ‘enfleurage’ that you can use at home to capture a little bit of the magic of indol with just two simple ingredients.
For a more detailed explanation of indol and the art of enfleurage, check out Alembics’ stories page
- Start with a clean, shallow glass baking dish. A classic Pyrex works very well, and can easily be found in supermarkets and opshops.
- Select a fat that stays solid at room temperature and has no aroma. Traditionally, enfleurage required a rendered animal fat, however, you may substitute this with shea butter.
- Cover the surface of your glass dish with fat, and then place in a moderate oven so the fat melts and spreads evenly in the dish.
- Remove as soon as the fat has melted, cover and allow to cool and become solid. You should have a 15mm layer of even fat to work with.
- Score the now solid fat in a criss-cross pattern with a fork.
- Pick your chosen flowers when they are releasing their aroma. Honeysuckle exudes more perfume in the dimming light, so picking them at twilight is best. Jasmine is best picked at night, while freesia has such a robust aroma it can be picked throughout the day and early evening.
- Make sure your flowers are fresh and dry, and not covered in dew. Place the flowers face down on the surface of the fat so they breathe into it. The tiny volatile aromatic molecules land on the fat and dissolve, impregnating it with perfume.
- Leave for 24 hours and then, using tweezers, carefully remove the old flowers and replace with freshly picked ones.
- Try not to have the flowers overlapping or touching as this can create places for mold to grow.
- Repeat this up to 20 times. The more you refresh the flowers, the more saturated with aroma the fat will become.
- When you’re happy with the intensity of aroma, place the fat in a double boiler and heat very gently until it melts.
- Pour the melted fat through a fine strainer, or jelly bag, into a clean glass jar and refrigerate. This is called a pomade. You can use this as a cream perfume or add to moisturizer and body lotions.
Happy enfleuraging from the team at Alembics!