Orange Flower Water

Orange Flower Water in a vintage bottle.
Orange Flower comes from the blossoms of the bitter orange tree, Citrus sinensis.  The bitter orange plant actually gives us four fragrant oils.  The steam distillation of the blossoms is the coveted neroli.  When an absolute is made of the same flowers it is referred to as orange blossom absolute.  The pressed rinds delivers bitter orange essential oil and the unripe green fruit, stems and twigs give us petitgrain oil.

Bitter orange is a peculiar kind of citrus.  It is fresh yet dry and elegant with a lasting sweet undertone.  It's blossoms have a light, dry nature. They produce one of my absolute favorite scents in all of creation, the coveted orange blossom.  I should really live near orange groves.

Orange flower water is the water left over after the blossoms have been distilled to make essential oil. The blossoms are put into a vessel and steam is forced through it. The steam collects in another vessel with the essential oil floating on top. The oil is syphoned off, the water remaining is the hydrosol.

The scent is sublime.  It is floral, fruity with a hint of green, refreshing and very complex. When inhaled orange blossom is antidepressant and a mild sedative, so useful at night to ease insomnia.  It has a joyous, uplifting quality. It stops caffeine jitters and is a great choice for fretful babies. It is known for its supportive qualities during the detoxification process or when quitting an addictive habit.

Neroli is a wonderful treatment for delicate, sensitive and oily skin (due to its astringency).  Use it as a toner and in face masks with clay and honey.  It can also be used as a perfume!

Both rosewater and orange flower water have been used in cooking and baking for centuries.  Indian and Middle Eastern desserts are often delicately flavored with them.  It is what's used to flavor madeleines and prompted Marcel Proust to remember the past.  It's also often used to flavor marshmallows.  Add it to champagne as an aphrodisiac, or if you're not inclined to drink alcohol add it to plain seltzer. One tablespoon in a liter of seltzer would befit a toast at any occasion.  It's one of my favorite summer refreshers.

I've bottled some up in vintage bottles I found on the beach, all one of a kind. You can see them, and other hydrosols, in my Etsy store.

The Art of Collaboration: Rachelle Garniez and Her Signature Scent

A few years ago I decided that working collaboratively was going to be far more interesting than anything I could come up with on my own.  After years of insisting on working solo and rejecting any input I suddenly came around to the notion of how creative it could be to work with others.  I've always loved an assignment, someone suggesting a project that has to be worked within guidelines.  A blank white page can be thrilling but often intimidating and overwhelming.  Collaborating is more like working within the guidelines, testing how creative you can be within certain boundaries.  I also enjoy the chance to step outside of working in isolation and having another to share ideas with.

Rachelle Garniez
I met Rachelle Garniez a few years ago at a local music venue.  She was listed on the events calendar as "an accordionist and chanteuse extraordinaire" and I was intrigued.  I loved the show and kept coming back until we finally talked and became friends.  She expressed a love of perfume and as I warmed up to the idea of a collaboration I approached her with the idea of turning one of her songs into a fragrance.  She loved the idea and suggested "Tourmaline", off of her cd, Melusine Years.

After spending some time listening to the song we finally got together to start blending, not sure exactly how to put musical notes to fragrance but we knew we wanted the scent to be uplifting and spirited, like the song.  We loved the tobacco absolute and how it pared with peru balsam.  A touch of ambrette and guaicwood rounded out our bottom chord.  Linden and orange flower absolute became the basis of the heart note with honey absolute, neroli and carnation giving it a bit more edge.  Rosewood and bitter orange top out the fragrance.

I made a limited edition of the perfume for a pair of shows that Rachelle was doing at the locally famous Joe's Pub in Manhattan.  It was a joy for me to dab perfume on the many outstretched wrists after the show.  I mingled with the crowd afterward and got a chance to really smell how the perfume interacted with each woman's particular chemical make-up.

I recently sold the last bottle of Tourmaline.  After seeing Rachelle perform again last night I've decided to make another batch.  Working with those particular oils again transports me back to that long afternoon spent blending while a lost butterfly fluttered around my studio.  Trish at Scent Hive has written a lovely revue of Tourmaline which you can read here.

Rachelle is releasing her new cd, Sad-Dead-Alive-Happy, at Dixon Place in Manhattan on Friday, November 11th at 8:30.  I'll be there dabbing wrists after the show.