I wanted to list some products I especially used, or even discovered in 2014. I picked up the rarest, most strange/exotic, or simply very useful raw materials, synthetics or naturals.

Cassie absolute (Acacia farnesiana): the key ingredient in a true-to-nature leather accord. Extremely powerful. Smells green, foliage (with hints of cabbage on topnotes), then it dries down on a powdery, dry, acidic, fatty hearth. Reminiscent of tanned leather. It is quite difficult to dose as the material has tendency to give off unpleasant topnotes (my personal opinion), difficult to mask in a simple composition.

Musk Z4 (IFF): the same molecule as Exaltenone (Firmenich), but slightly more animalic, less sandalwoody, more close to Exaltone, with its metallic, extremely fine powdery facets. Quite powerful, more than Exaltone. Interesting to note that Musk Z4 solidifies at room temp (20° C), while Exaltenone is in the liquid state.

Styrax resinoid: solvent, toluene, styrene-like topnotes, sweet and sharp. Slightly leathery (oldfashioned “cuir”), mineral, cinnamic, rubbery heartnotes. Sweeter, incensey upon drying. Interesting with floral notes (rose, orange flower).

Cypriol essence: a nice replacer for agarwood (aquillaria spp. extracts), with bitter, green terpenic topnotes, rhubarb, vetiver-like, leathery. Quite powerful and longlasting, powdery, incense, sandalwood-like in the dryout. You can smell this orange, amber-coloured product in certain oud blends.

Mate absolute: a beautiful green, tea topnote. Bitter, dark, dense, smokey, very close to cured tobacco leaves upon drying. In the dryout it nicely resembles oakmoss absolute, with salicylate tones.

Fatty acids esters: oily odour, at times slightly rancid, very interesting in leather accords and floral reconstitutions (mimosa, for instance). They are: Methyl/Ethyl linolenate, Ethyl laurate, Ethyl ricinoleate.

Muskrat glands: in the 60s Arctander explained how this material was suggested as a musk deer replacer during WW II in the USA, but lacked the power of the original product. I wanted to try out this one and ordered some from a Russian supplier. Well, it doesn’t resemble musk deer in any way that could encourage its use as a replacer. It lacks the civet-like, animalic, skatolic notes found in the more prized material. It lacks its fine, well rounded, rich, powdery body. It smells less dirty, more fleshy, quite unpleasantly fatty and dry. It is more sebum-like. I am planning another order and I would like to suggest a different drying method.
Muskrat glands are said to contain Exaltone (a molecule very close to muscone). I am not so sure to smell it in my product, but I can guess it is there.

Cultivar: mainly Femminello
Geographical origin: Sicily (Syracuse, Acireale and Palermo)

Lemon Oil Sfumatrice (Raw):

Pale yellow mobile oil.

Zesty, green, true-to-nature, light sparkling topnote of extraordinary beauty and subtlety. This fleeting note rapidly vanishes giving way to an intense pleasant sweet citral-like body very characteristic of this oil. Basenotes are pleasant, green, slightly aldehydic, soapy, and quite longlasting.

The term ‘Sfumatrice’ refers to the machinery used for cold-extracting the essential oil from the fruit. If you are interested in knowing more about these machines I suggest you to take a look to these manufacturers:

Due to its furocoumarines content this product is limited to 2% in the finished product (leave-on products) by IFRA standards. You can download here the standard specific to this oil.

Furocoumarine-free – decolorized Lemon Oil:

Colourless mobile oil.

This quality closely resembles the cold pressed oil, especially in the middle notes, to a degree that is very difficult to differentiate between the two.

Light, green, subtle and natural refreshing topnote, a tad less sparkling than the ‘Sfumatrice’. Middle notes are typical sweet citral-like. Basenotes are less interesting and less longlasting than the raw oil, more citrusy, heavier and greener, but still refreshing and lemony in the overall aspect.

Free from any colour and phototoxic effect concerns.

To sum up: the two qualities are very close and almost equivalent. The ‘sfumatrice’ oil is more interesting (topnotes and dry-down in particular), however there may be phototoxic issues at high %. The FCF-decolorized oil is more versatile.

You might be interested in the supplier’s website (Simone Gatto), where you can find interesting information about citrus oils, varieties and extraction methods.

See the footnote on Bergamot Oil about old and oxidized oils.

I should add that, unlike oxidized bergamot oils, old oxidized lemon oils are much worse, smelling thicker, woody, almost caramelized. The light, fresh, joyful topnotes have disappeared completely. Basenotes smell turpentine-like.


Still life - photo:

Still life – photo:

Cultivar: Femminello, Castagnaro and Fantastico
Geographical origin: Calabria

Raw Bergamot Oil (cold pressed):

Green-yellow mobile oil.

At first it strikes you with a fresh zesty (lemony), green, aromatic topnote. It then evolves in a soft, sweet, velvety odour.

There is some sort of elegant coherence in the evolution that surprises me: a sparkling agrestic ouverture, which soon gives way to a soft, bright, fruity body. Then, it slowly settles down into a perfectly balanced leafy, fruity, powdery, almost silky-leathery base. A beautiful contrast of lights and shadows. A sulfury, sweet-harsh, radish-like, veiled animalic accent perfectly counterpoints the fresh sweetness of the body. An interesting note that is extremely natural and very characteristic of this oil.

Due to its furocoumarines content this product is limited to 0,4% in the finished product (leave-on products) by IFRA standards. You can download here the standard specific to this oil.

Furocoumarine-free – decolorized Bergamot Oil:

Colourless mobile oil.

Very similar to the raw quality. Less green-aromatic, less interesting and subdued topnotes. More vertical and fruitier (linalyl acetate-like) and rounder, but some linalool-rosewood-like notes tend to stand out. Some soapy, floral, octanol-like details… Less citrusy (less D-limonene-like). The body is very nice and almost as good as the raw oil. It may lack some sparkle and the rounded sweet-leafy cushion in the base is more delicate.

I would say that this one is the standard quality for bergamot oil used in perfumery. The one I have smelled more often.

Still a good choice (in particular when a colourless product is wanted) and without phototoxic issues.

To sum up: the main differences between the raw quality and the FCF-decolorized one are the zesty topnote, the citrusy-green body, and some soft, animal, sulfury basenote in the former; the neat, pleasant fruity, linalyl acetate-like note that brightens up and rounds the body in the latter.

bergamot oil colour comparison - blotter test

You might be interested in the supplier’s website (Simone Gatto), where you can find interesting information about citrus oils, varieties and extraction methods.

A note about old and oxidized oils.

Citrus oils are very fragile and exposure to oxygen and heat can damage their olfactory properties.
It is suggested to store them in the cold (5-10° C) and prevent oxidation by limiting exposure to air as much as possible.

Once you have smelled fresh expressed oils, you will understand how delicate the fine details of these products are and can suffer from poor storage.

On comparing some old oils (>24 months and improperly stored) with a fresh one, you can still be able to smell the citrusy character. However, the aromatic, fresh-lemony topnotes are almost vanished and the sparkling greeness is now replaced by some sort of sweet, lime-like, piney, varnish-like effect in the drydown. Still quite pleasant (if you were expecting to smell awful rotting notes, you’ll be reassured). But definitely the beautiful ephemeral topnotes are gone, replaced by a dull sweet-citrusy scent, and the sweet, leathery base overwhelmed by resinous off-notes.

I warmly suggest to buy only fresh expressed oils and to store them properly.

Pale yellow, ambery mobile liquid (denser than the redistilled quality).

Soft, sweetsawdust-like, patchouliy odour. Drier and more powdery than the redistilled one. Almost no trace of terpenic, mouldy, “cooked vegetable” notes.

In the opening it starts very softly, it has a very poor impact (if kept in cold you barely could tell you are smelling patchouli at all). Then, it opens up and blooms in a beautiful, well refined, cedary, dusty, camphory, clean patchouli. Fruity plum-like nuances. It’s less green-floral than the redistilled quality, but woodier. It does smell a little earthy, but in a clean way: without any mouldy effect.

I like to think this smells like a summery walk in the woods by night: you can detect dead leafs, wet wood and an earthy odour, while a cold humidity arising from the dark chills you to the bones. It also recalls me the smell of rain.

Modern (linear) and interesting. It is well-faceted and complex. I think it is special and different from a simply redistilled oil because here’s the intelligence of some mind that picked-up some fractions and put them together shaping a new character, different from any other patchouli oil.

I can also perceive an ambery (ambrox-like) captivating facet: woody, dry, musky and addicting. Do I detect an animal whiff? Maybe, or simply this oil recalls me some 70’s 80’s animalic bases (like the Animalis, Synarome) used not infrequently in those years in perfumes like Yatagan (Caron, 1976), Antaeus (Chanel, 1981) or Kouros (YSL, 1981): a patchouli-cedar theme, enriched by costus root castoreum and civetty notes, completed by fatty, incensey aldehydes (c12 MNA-like).

Long lasting and beautiful in the dry down. Dry and cedary, ambroxy, orris-like.

A 3D (sort of) gif I made. Photos taken in the woods near Versailles.

A 3D (sort of) gif. Photos were taken in the woods near Versailles.

Pale yellow, mobile liquid.

A very fine, smooth, silky patchouli oil. The terpy, mushroomy, earthy notes: erased in this redistilled quality.
It starts a little softer than the regular one: there’s only some distant green, leafy suggestion. It is velvety and rich in the heart. It dries out in a cedary, woody, dusty, ambery very patchouliy odour. It is indeed very long lasting.
I can smell some resemblance to narcisse absolute: its vegetable greenness, soft floralness (powdery and pollen-like) does suggest me an interesting and unexpected facet. Somehow hedione-like.

This is an intermediate quality between a regularly distilled oil and a fractioned one. Here the bouquet is lighter than the regular but finer. It is quite similar to the fractioned patchouli oil (see: Patchouli Coeur n.3 – IFF).

Very modern and linear. The most useful quality in my opinion: not too much chaotic or dirty in the top notes, ambery and velvety, elegant and simple all throughout the evaporation.

The IFF logo and name are a trademarks of IFF.

Pale yellow, mobile liquid.

Very fine and fresh, soft floral, with hesperidic nuances, well rounded. Slightly pungent, vert, terpy; evoluting from white fresh flowers to a metallic, rosey, ocimene-like, warm odour; very slightly indolic, but in a pleasant way, perfectly balanced.
A subtle, sweet tension produced by some linalyl acetate-like molecules, enlightens its aura. It somewhat recalls me the odour of wet, hot cotton tissue. It has a powdery, ‘clean’ aspect. After 15 minutes smelling it beautifully dries out and stabilises in a pronounced hesperidic bergamot-petitgrain-like whiff, and a tender flower suggesting hints of hay, tobacco, civet under a green fleshy and waxy veil.

Smelling this oil, discovering its facets throughout the evaporation curve is enchanting, a charming experience.

I like to ask me how one could use this product in a new, original way. Besides conventional compositions (colognes, chypres, fougères) or soliflores featuring orange blossom or rose, this material may need complete reinventing. It does smell just wonderful all alone, simply diluted in alcohol. It’s great in simple mixes (with woody, musky materials), but quite boring.. I think I should do some research on the flowery side of the perfumer’s palette. For example: it could be worth testing in some fine Narcisse, Lilac base, or leafy, green, imitation tea accord (its sweet fruitiness does fit well, indeed).