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Aromatic Raw Materials

Essential Oils are mostly produced by steam distillation, which is by far the most widespread method used for extracting natural fragrances today. Some citrus oils, such as lemon, are produced by simple expression from the peel of the fruit. Essential oils can be extracted from a wide range of plant species and parts including their leaves, roots, seeds, wood and flowers. Due to the expense of buying some of the more precious essential oils in their pure form, we also offer some oils, such as blue chamomile diluted to 5% in light coconut oil. This light, clear and odourless coconut oil base provides the ideal carrier as it is very stable and does not deteriorate with age like many vegetable oils.

Flower Waters are a natural by-product of the steam distillation process. A flower water or ‘aromatic hydrosol’ is the actual water used in the distilling process, which retains the natural aroma of the plant processed. For example, rose flower water is produced in vast quantities as a by-process in the distillation of rose otto. At Aqua Oleum we also make our own unique flower waters by using a special aqua-emersion technique using natural spring water. Distilled water is not recommended for use on the skin for this type of production method as it tends to leach natural minerals and vitamins from the surface dermal layers.

Concretes are traditionally made when the heat from steam distillation will adversely affect the odour, as is the case with jasmine and other delicate florals. Instead, the plant material is macerated in a volatile solvent, which causes the absolute and much of the wax (stearoptene) to dissolve. After filtration, the solvent is removed by gentle warmth, which causes it to evaporate. The concrete left behind is a mixture of absolute and wax.

Absolutes are produced from the concrete by separating out the wax from the compound. Pure alcohol is used to turn a concrete into an absolute, as the wax does not dissolve in the alcohol. An absolute is closer to nature in scent than an essential oil but is generally more costly; it is also often more difficult to handle as many absolutes are viscous at room temperature. For this reason, Aqua Oleum supplies several absolutes in a 5% dilution in light coconut oil.

Gum-Resins are the starting point for the extraction of several well-known aromatics including myrrh & frankincense. Gum-resins are often used in their crude form as incense materials. Elemi (Canarium Luzonicum) occurs in nature as a gum-resin that exudes from a tree found in the Philippines: it is then steam distilled from the crude gum-resin to produce an essential oil. Our benzoin oil (from the crude resin-resin) is prepared as a 50% dilution in benzyl benzoate (an alcohol that occurs naturally in benzoin) as the pure resin is a sticky solid. In our experience, most other companies offer benzoin in DPG (di propylene glycol) or castor oil in a 10-20% dilution.

Balsams are oily or gummy oleoresins, usually containing benzoic acid or cinnamic acid, obtained from the exudates of various trees and shrubs and used as a base for the production of certain essential oils. Examples of botanical balsams include: Balsam fir (Abies balsamea) & Peruvian balsam (Myroxylon pereirae). Crude balsam of Peru is a dark brown, thick liquid, which is traditionally soaked up by rags wrapped around the tree, which then are boiled in water.

For more in depth information about raw materials used in Perfumery & Aromatherapy see: ‘Artisan Perfumery: Being Led by the Nose’ by Alec Lawless.