Words: Sarah Bradbury
Have you ever wondered how a flower is turned into an ingredient perfect for a perfume? Well, one of the methods is called maceration. Discover everything you need to know about this extraction method, and some of the other more common processes.
What Is Maceration?
Maceration is the most used commonly used method for removing the essential oils found in certain types of flowers which are then used in perfumes and fragrances. This process happens by soaking flowers in warm fats and removing the oil. Once removed, it is then dissolved in alcohol so the extract of the floral oil can be used.
Delicate flowers like jasmine, hyacinth and tuberose have their precious oils extracted in this way, as other method such as steam distillation can damage the flower.
Just like wine, perfumes that endure the maceration process need to age in large containers to fulfil their full potential. This is especially true if a perfume uses quite a few natural ingredients or rich base notes. Every fragrance needs to be macerated for a period between four to eight weeks.
Other Forms of Extraction
Maceration is just one of several extraction methods used to formulate your favourite perfume. Here are just a few common methods…
This method is mainly used when extracting citrus notes - orange, lemon, grapefruit, mandarin and lime, as their fresh scent wouldn’t survive any treatment that has heat involved. The process is done by making holes on the surface of the peels from citrus fruits and mechanically pressing to extract fragrance oil.
There are a few different types of distillation process that are used when extracting the ingredient or scent from plants, roses and fruit blossoms.
Steam distillation is the process where ingredients are heated in a water solvent and the steam extracts the essential oils. This is commonly used for the extraction of flowers, leaves and stems.
Dry distillation is a similar process to steam distillation, but the plant is heated directly but without the use of water.
Fractionation is where different components of raw material are selected through distillation. The perfumer can control this process to a degree and select certain characteristics. This method comes at a price but is widely used among perfumers because unpleasant notes can be removed.
This is the oldest technique used in perfume production and is the process involved with animal fat. This method is used for the extraction of the fragrance needed from delicate, raw materials like orange blossom, jasmine and tuberose. This process is rarely used as it’s not economically effective due to time it takes to retrieve the final product.
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