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Jasmine Flowers

You may have noticed that some of the most exquisite (and costly) flower absolutes – particularly neroli and jasmine – have a slightly disturbing undertone that can only be described as… poopy.

The reason is that these flowers contain natural chemicals called indoles, which have a distinct sewage aroma. In nature these chemicals act as insect repellants, particularly against aphids. (And we thought citronella smelled awful!)

If you find them offputting, we have some very fine alternatives. Our neroli bigarade, for example, is delicately floral but fresh and citrussy. We also have a wonderful jasmine absolute created by the traditional enfleurage method. At first smell, this beautiful oil is barely recognisable as jasmine, but it warms up into a glorious, heady bouquet of white flowers – again with no discernible redolence of blocked drains.

Another alternative is to blend your absolute with fresh, citrussy essential oils, such as petitgrain, bergamot and lemon, which will balance the floral notes while minimising the miasma of a Parisian street in August.

On the subject of startling off-notes, some types of sandalwood, particularly Vanuatu, are poorly tolerated by some noses and have been described, perhaps uncharitably, of smelling of pee, especially of the feline variety (or in one case, “a tramp’s trousers”). We have been unable to discover exactly why this is (do email us if you know), but sandalwood is reported to smell very similar to a male hormone called androsterone, which is released in men’s sweat. Interestingly, it has also been used traditionally to treat urinary tract infections, possibly following the questionable logic that “if it smells like pee, it must be good for treating pee-related problems”.

Alternatives that we stock include a lovely Santalum album sourced from Indonesia (instead of India, where white, or Mysore, sandalwood is endangered). We have also created a very popular and exceptionally good value sandalwood type blend, containing Jamaican sandalwood (Amyris balsamifera), rosewood (Aniba roseodora) and Virginian cedar (Juniperus virginiana).

We would never, of course, pass judgement on our customers’ personal tastes. One remarked that Vanuatu sandalwood, jasmine and neroli would be “rather sexy… if you were into that sort of thing”. And if you are “into that sort of thing”, we are always happy to help!