Soliflores, otherwise known as a single flower aroma, may at first glance, seem well, one note. You extract the oil from the flower, dilute it in alcohol or oil, and bottle it up. Right? Well, not so much.
Technically, you could extract an oil, via old-world technique of enfleurage where petals of flowers and fat are pushed between 2 plates of glass to release their oils. A long, labor-intensive, process with a very low yield that was eventually replaced with more modern distillation methods such as steam distillation.
You could use CO2 or solvent extraction to get absolutes, or use fractional distillation of a singular compound in the flower through the use of headspace, perhaps the most modern extraction technique in perfumery.
But with all of these methods, you are just getting that aromatic extraction from that one flower. Isn’t that what a soliflore is? Not exactly.
A soliflore is a single floral aroma, but the key to understanding it in perfumery is that it is the expression of the perfumer behind it. It is their interpretation of that flower.
Let’s dive into the interpretation of jasmine. It could be the first blossom of the flower in early spring, where it’s aromas are just beginning to show their true beauty. Or perhaps it’s the interpretation of the night-blooming jasmine shrub (yep, it’s considered a shrub) and is also known as Jasminum sambac, the flower that only releases its intoxicating aroma just before dawn. This jasmine has higher amounts of indole, upwards of 2.5%, and therefore gives us a darker, greener, more animalic aroma. Jasminum grandiflorum however is more common in perfumery, as it is more pleasant to the nose for most. Its lower concentration of indole gets us to the sweeter, richer, creamier side of this floral note. Here’s an easy way to remember the difference.
Jasmine Sambac = dirty, green, animalic. Sambac is the sinister.
Jasmine Grandiflorum = soft, sexy, creamy, rich. Grandiflorum is grand, opulent, with a grander appeal.
Indole is a naturally-occurring molecule found in many gorgeous white flowers, most particularly, jasmine, gardenia and tuberose, and slightly in orange blossom, and neroli. It gives you a heady, dense, dirty, dark, animalic, not sure what it is but I amdrawn to it, kind of smell. Some noses smell moth balls, others smell sweat, cat urine or feces. However the secret to perfuming with indole, either in it’s pure, synthesized form, or as a compound in an extracted floral, is what is can do to the other aromas surrounding it. Its ability to lift, push, vibrate or align flowers and citruses is the magic wand of indolic formulas.
The interpretation of indole, or florals in general, runs the gamut. As we saw in jasmine example above, indole it can be lush or soft, deep or sweet. It can have fruity nuances or a citrus flair. It will push animalic aromas, check out Sex & Jasmine by Libertine Fragrance or our ‘ I Know What you Did Last Night Sample Pack‘ if you’re feeling naughty, or it can take you to a creamy, milky, musky side of comfort and warmth.
Now take it one step further. Go beyond the nose to the brain where olfactive conditioning of aroma and emotion lies. Our odor associations leave some of us closing our eyes and inhaling the opulent aroma of lilies with utter delight, while others smell these petals and connect them to a funeral home, bringing on a sense a sadness.
So how again are soliflores so special?
Their secret lies in the interpretation of the creator. Think of how it would parallel to that of a photographer. If you put 10 photographers in the middle of a brownstone street in Park Slope and ask them to take a bunch of photos and then present their best one. One may capture the entire street with brownstones on each side, capturing the entirety of the photoscape. Another may focus on the cars that line one side of the street or zoom in tightly on a mini flower bed adorning the classic brownstone stoop. Yet another may look up and capture the clear blue sky among the tops of the townhomes.
See where I am going here? One place. 10 photographers. 10 vastly different images. It’s the same with soliflores. One flower, ten perfumers, 10 vastly different interpretations.
Ready to explore some more?
Jeffrey Dame of Dame Perfumery has created an entire line of solilfores. We’ve packages 6 of our favorites and put them in a sample pack (at a discount) for you to explore. You’ll get your nose on the beauty found in Lily of the Valley, Freesia, Orange Flower, Rose de Mai, Osmanthus, and Mimosa.
Want to explore even more?Get 9 soliflores for under $50 in our Deluxe Sample Pack. Try them singularly, try them layered. While florals in general will tilt feminine, but gents, don’t be afraid, Soliflore Orange Flower is one of Dame’s best sellers for men.
Happy Soliflore sniffing!
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