there is nothing, not in poetry/art/culture, that adequately captures the deeply personal experience of a fresh damask rose encounter. the profound sensory rapture that ensues after a deep, satisfying sniff of this sophisticated fragrance, which is so complex yet so hauntingly familiar, has catapulted more than a few enthusiasts into the pursuit of capturing this scent. in reality, the perfume business is perhaps one of the last remaining vocations that employs methods of extraction that have been repeated generation to generation since classical times. the traditions honoured by these highly-attuned craftspeople have resulted in primitive processes to capture the physiology of fresh damask rose harvest after harvest, year after year, with laughably little connection to today's automated world. this year i diversified our extractions portfolio: with a bumper crop of our province-famous damask roses and a 1948 organic chemistry book, i learned (and perfected) the ancient technique of enfleurage.
to begin the process of creating a damask rose enfleurage, one must have access to significant quantities of fresh-off-the-bush damask roses. using fresh damask roses is key as we want to capture the "total natural flower oil present in the living flowers" and the physiological activity of a damask rose stops immediately upon being picked. the other requirement for a highly desirable damask rose enfleurage is a high-quality fat - a fat that is odourless and plant based. one of my favourite fats to use because of its amazing lineage and history in its use for topical preparations is shea butter from ghana. shea butter provides a great natural barrier to skin that is light/breathable/sustainable and is a worthy medium for this insanely tedious process. the fat also must be of reasonable cost as the process reduces the weight of the fat significantly from start to finish.
pomade des rose no.7 is born
if you ever read about the history of perfume, you will undoubtably hear about france and you will definitely hear about grasse, france: "generations ago grasse, an ancient hill town located on the southern slopes of the alpes-maritimes and facing the mediterranean, became the center of extensive flower plantations and, subsequently, of the french perfume industry". in the aforementioned organic chemistry book, we see photographs which depict live-action enfleurage scenes from grasse, the last remaining area in the world to employ this old-fashioned method of extraction commercially. these pictures show the cold fat (tallow and lard - ugh!!) method of enfleurage which is employed with flowers like tuberose, jasmine and other flowers whose fragrance continues to develop after harvest. with the rapid deterioration of the physiological activity in damask roses immediately upon harvest however the hot fat (using the sublime, plant-based shea butter) method of extraction is employed so that it quickly "penetrates the plant tissues and dissolves all flower oil present in the oil glands" before it deteriorates.
using a deep, pyrex dish, i packed it with freshly-harvested damask roses. seperately, the shea butter is heated to just a little past melt-point (shea butter is dense and solid at room-temperature) and then poured over the fresh damask roses. the damask rose/shea butter mixture is then covered with cheesecloth then plastic film and left to cool. the next day, with another new batch of freshly-harvested damask roses on hand, the now solidified damask rose/shea butter mixture is heated to just a little past melt-point and poured through a fine sieve into a airtight container. in the newly vacated pyrex dish, the fresh damask roses are once again packed into it and the still hot shea butter, which was strained into the airtight container, is once-again poured over the new batch of freshly harvested damask roses. "the flowers are extracted by immersion in hot fat. in other words, the same batch of hot fat is systematically treated with several batches of fresh flowers until the fat becomes quite saturated with flower perfume". we repeated this process seven times (!!) and the resulting damask rose enfleurage, which is really quite amazing, will be featured in our new pomade des rose no 7.