Jasmine and rose are the two ‘foundation stones’ of perfumery.  There’s barely a scent out there which doesn’t feature a type of jasmine somewhere in its construction – but all jasmines aren’t created equal, and (dare we say it) there’s a lot of snobbery about jasmine, with fragrance houses falling over themselves to boast of the priceless quality of their jasmine…

There are actually over 200 species of jasmine – but two members of the beautiful white-flowered jasmine family are most ‘prized’.  The first is Jasminun grandiflorum, which translates as ‘big-flowered jasmine’;  Chanel have their own fields of this in Grasse, and you can read about the harvest and maceration process here – and this is sometimes just referred to, then, as ‘Grasse jasmine’, because it grows so well there.  The other precious member of the family is Sambac Jasmine – sometimes known as Tuscan jasmine, or Arabian jasmine, depending on who you’re speaking to…  Nowadays, jasmine is grown for the fragrance industry everywhere from India to France, Morocco, Algeria, Spain and Morocco.  (It actually originated in India and China, and – who knew? – is a member of the olive family.)

Jasmine gives a richness and intensity to fragrances:  a sweet floral note, but with a dead-sexy muskiness to it.  If you smell different concentrated ‘absolutes’ (the oily liquids created through macerating the jasmine flowers), they have their own characters:  some smell medicinal, some sweet, some musky, some green.  It’s extraordinary that a single plant can smell so different, depending on where it’s grown.  The genius of perfumers is knowing just what they have to do, to blend those into perfectly constructed scents for us to wear.

Once upon a time, jasmine’s scent was extracted through a process called enfleurage:  the flowers were pressed into layers of fat, and gradually the scent migrated to the fat, from which it could be extracted.  Nowadays, it’s usually a somewhat less romantic solvent process.  Whatever:  it takes kilo upon kilo of flowers to produce the oil – around 8,000 hand-picked blooms to produce one millilitre (1 ml) of the ‘absolute’ – which is why it’s so extraordinarily expensive.  (Jasmine’s one of the priciest ingredients in perfumery.)  It can also be created synthetically – and often is, why may explain why the brands which use ‘real’ jasmine are so keen to share its story…

No wonder it’s known simply as ‘La Fleur’, in the perfume world – or ‘The Flower’…  Because there’s probably no note (other than the aforementioned rose) which is so important, to ‘noses’…

Smell jasmine in:

Acqua di Parma Gelsomino Nobile
Goutal Paris Le Masmin
Bulgari Mon Jasmin Noir
Chanel No. 5
Creed Jasmal

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