This post was last updated on March 28th, 2015 at 09:12 am
Spring is coming and we’ll have little windows of time to grab some of our favorite fragrances and capture them for the year. We are ending our narcissus season right now but I look forward to lilacs, jasmine, rose, gardenias, and more.
Here’s the vision: On a good day this spring, find a fragrance you love and make a little springtime project out of preserving it for every day, even your bad days. You can put it in a little perfume roller bottle and pull it out on those bad days for just a little reminder of one of your favorite flowers. You could buy a perfume but I find that the little homemade projects put a bigger smile on my face. I bet it would be the same for you. (Some of you know my framework here from the “Good Days Strategies” emails I send out on occasion.)
You can capture these fragrances in water using the stove top method of making a flower water (a hydrosol I wrote about here). I’ve used this method on a number of delicate flowers and it works but it’s a little harsh on the petals and the scent isn’t quite as exquisite as you might hope.
A second approach is to draw out the scent using alcohol. You simply place your fragrant petals into a high-proof alcohol, let them sit for a few hours (or days), strain the petals, and retain the alcohol. Then take a shot… Wait, that’s another post (and it would be a bad idea if your flower was not edible to start with.
You end up with a floral perfume. Do you know those alcohol-based perfumes? Yes, that is what you are making.
Here are some principals to keep in mind for your project:
- Use a flower (or plant) with a fragrance you love. There is not much cause in this project if the fragrance doesn’t really grab you.
- Use a high proof alcohol. I actually use a 190-proof-light-your-tongue-on-fire grain alcohol that I carted over the California border from Nevada. (You really can buy anything there.) A high proof alcohol is the best choice especially if you plan multiple infusions, which I recommend (see next bullet). Each infusion will draw water out of the plant, diluting your alcohol a bit each time. Start with a strong moonshine for best results. Bonus points if it was brewed by a guy named “Hezacar” in the Ozark mountains.
- Consider multiple infusions. Your first infusion is when you put your petals in and then strain them out. Retain the alcohol and add a new set of fresh petals. Let them sit and then strain them to complete your second infusion. For the gardenia perfume in the picture here, I infused the alcohol about five times. (I wrote about multiple infusions of mint in more detail on this post about mint extract.)
- Particularly if you infuse multiple times, “wring” out your petals before discarding them. Some petals are quite absorbent and will hold onto your alcohol. You’ll end up losing a quarter of it to discarded petals if you infuse your alcohol multiple times.
Homemade Floral Perfume Ingredients
- 1/2 cup high-proof grain alcohol
- One small handful of fresh, fragrant flower petals
Homemade Floral Perfume Steps
- Remove the petals from the flower, retaining only the fragrant petal portion.
- Rough-chop the petals, particularly if it is a larger petal like a rose or gardenia. (Lilac petals are so small that I do not chop them.)
- Place the petals into a jar and cover with the alcohol. Close the jar using a tight-fitting lid. Give the jar a gentle swish. Place it in a cool spot.
- Strain the petals out in a few hours or the next day. Leaving them in longer doesn’t tend to garner more fragrance in my experience, though it might draw out additional properties of the petal if you happen to have a different strategy going in your own project.
- Retain the alcohol portion. Add more petals until your alcohol reaches your desired level of fragrance.
If you are used to a perfume, you might find that your own homemade version doesn’t stick with you very long as a fragrance. Depending on the flower, it may disappear as soon as the alcohol evaporates from your skin. The gardenia in the picture is one such flower. You could tool up on perfumery and add some “base notes” — scents that will last longer. That is a fun hobby in itself.
For my purposes, I just keep the simple little fragrance in a roller bottle and pull it out when I want a little sniff. I rub it on my wrist and it disappears but it served its purpose. 🙂
I have no gotten addicted to collecting fragrant plants. Here is the loot from a recent trip to the central coast of California:
We got a great collection of plants this week on the Central Coast, all of which should have been planted in the fall. I repotted all of them — they were root bound — and put them in a greenhouse. One sage plant reproduces by rhizomes and I actually potted 25 seedlings from the plant itself. I could probably repot 25 more but just ran out of energy. #sage #herbs #gardening