Floral Wax and Enfleurage
They may not look like much, but the little yellowish lumps you see above are quite multifunctional and the deliciously fragrant star of today's post.
Rose floral wax (as those lumps above are otherwise known) came to my attention via Tina, maker of fabulous handcrafted soaps.
Floral WaxFloral wax has everything to do with flowers, but not as much to do with wax as the name might suggest. Before we start getting serious about using this lovely ingredient in a product - let's look at how a floral wax comes to be.
Fats Are The KeyHave you ever stored onions too close to the butter and ended up with oniony-tasting butter? Fats – be they oils or butters – are excellent at absorbing scents (and tastes).
Apart from readily absorbing scents, fats do an equally excellent job of 'keeping hold' of the scents they absorb. This isn't much fun if you discover oniony butter due to a storage-glitch, but great if you want to make a perfume.
EnfleurageBy placing aromatic material (such as rose petals or other fragrant flowers) into a fat for a period of time, the fragrance is absorbed into the fat. This process is called enfleurage and is one of the oldest fragrance-extraction methods. It is ideal for plant materials that are not suited for steam distillation.
Enfleurage can be either cold or hot.
With cold extraction, the plant material is left in the fat for 1-3 days, then replaced with fresh material until the fat has the desired fragrance potency.
With hot extraction, the fat is heated and the spent plant material is repeatedly replaced until the fat is saturated with fragrance.
As soon as the fat is saturated (sometimes this took up to 2 months), it is referred to as 'enfleurage pomade'. In days of yore, the pomade could either be sold as is or left to soak in ethyl alcohol for 'further development'.
If left in alcohol, it would remain in a sealed container for a period of time. When the alcohol had absorbed the fragrance, it was allowed to evaporate, leaving behind a concentrated waxy lump of fragrant material known as a concrete.
This was used for, among other things, perfumery.
TodayToday (dare I say 'of course'?), we use different processes. One process is known as supercritical fluid extraction, another is called solvent (or liquid-liquid) extraction. Both require more instruments, equipment and chemicals than are readily available to me (and my pocketbook).
It would be interesting to experience a comparison test of old-fashioned enfleurage to a supercritical fluid extraction (touted by some as the optimal fragrance-extraction method). I can't help wondering if one of the end products would be noticeably superior to the other.
Enfleurage has it's roots in the early 19th century, and even though no one seems to be using this method today, it is indeed possible to do your own if you have access to suitable fragrant material and a bit of patience.
During my research on enfleurage, I happened across a blogger featuring a how-to. Check the links below to find Hollie Pocsai's lilac enfleurage in Pure Green Magazine.
I may just have to add this one to my to-do list.
Up NextRose floral wax incorporated into a lotion bar.
More About EnfleurageEnfleurage (Wikipedia)
History of enfleurage (Caflurebon)
DIY enfleurage by Pure Green Magazine
Supercritical fluid extraction (wikipedia)