Palatial doses of the finest floral absolutes–tuberose, orris butter, orange blossom, sambac jasmine, chrysanthemum, and ylang. Unimaginably narcotic.
Kavi and I both love the flower tuberose. It was the scent of Kavi’s early visits to Delhi. Her uncle would place fresh tuberose flowers next to her bed every day.
The tuberose flower is creamy white, green, and narcotic. While most people would love the smell of the flower, many do not like tuberose perfumes. Often when it is recreated as a perfume, it comes out sugary, soapy, or cloying. Tuberose absolute is prohibitively expensive, thus many “tuberose” perfumes have little or none of the absolute in them.
In order to make most of the great flowers sing, the perfumer must employ the “off-notes” present in the real thing. Tuberose with out mushroom-earth will not smell real. Nature does a tremendous job of balancing the off notes with the good notes and that’s why we love flowers (and more importantly pollinating insects and animals do!).
For years, I tried to make a great tuberose scent. Some were ok, but they usually smelled like tuberose perfume, not the flower. I tried many things, until I broke down a sample I had over the course of a few days. I started to smell its melon, mushroom, rot, and the slickness of the petals’ grassy green freshness and its haunting tea note.
Durga uses the most amount of tuberose absolute I have ever seen used in a perfume. The supporting cast only adds to its richness. This scent is the pinnacle of what we do. It is a scent excited about the materials we as perfumers live and search for. I can see why Jean Patou named the fragrance Joy. Sometimes it is just that simple.
Durga puts together some of our favorite materials in the world: rich flower absolutes. Besides the tuberose, there is: Orris butter with a high irone content. Along with Oud, Orris Butter (a concrete made from the root iris pallida flowers), is probably the most prized raw material in the world. It takes 3 years to extract from the root, and the yield is low. Its lasting powdery effect is halfway towards the dryness of the fabled ambergris. Like many great materials, it provides a natural contrast dry vs butter, woody vs floral.
Orange Flower Absolute. The richest expression of the bitter orange tree –which also gives us bitter orange (called bigrade) oil from the expressed fruit, neroli from the distillation of its flowers, and petitgrain from the leaves and twigs, among a few other specialties. Orange Flower Absolute is solvent extracted from the flowers. It is a thick brown floral-vegetal mass, muddy but also crisp. It ‘s on the way to jasmine absolute. Some grades go from smoke, leather, all the way towards an almost onion like pungent floral heart. In dilution it sings of hills around the cote d’azur, Morocco, etc.
Chrysanthemum concrete. This is a rarely used material. It is a strange scent. Slightly off-putting by itself. It is chalky, and has a thick dried apple note, with hints of sulphur. It adds a realness to the tuberose – giving a green fruit and chalky earth that helps extend the fullness of tuberose.
Jasmine Sambac. Too much could be said about this oil – one of the most important items in the perfumers palette. Along with rose otto and jasmine grandiflorum, jasmine sambac has the mystical ability to meld together disparate contrasts into a “perfume.” It is effusively narcotic, with a a honey sweet syrup of green fruit and indole (mothballs). It is a perfume in itself. The flower represents so many cultures – India, Bhutan, Indonesia, the Philippines. It goes by many fantastic names – Motia, mogra, Matsurika, etc. It is written about in songs and poetry. It rests in the abode of lovers laying in the moonlight, yadda yadda yadda.
Ylang Ylang. One of the greatest modifiers, ylang ylang is white, wet, and calming as opposed to the raw animal sex of jasmine. I like ylang ylang, which like lavender induces a state of calm— on my pillow before sleep. Ylang is a classical floral modifier especially with jasmine. It can quietly sit in the back and add touches of cooling wet spice to the heart of floral fragrances.-D.S.
Alcohol denat., parfum (fragrance), aqua (water), limonene, butylphenyl methylpropional, hydroxycitronellal, hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde, alpha-isomethyl ionone, amyl cinnama, anise alcohol, benzyl alcohol, benzyl benzoate, benzyl cinnamate, benzyl salicylate, cinnamal, Cinnamyl, alcohol, citral, citronellol, coumarin, eugenol, farnesol, geraniol, hexyl cinnamal, isoeugenol, linalool
When our fume master David creates our fragrances, he sees them in color. The throw of a particular aroma can be described in the colors it implies in the mind of one with synethesia. Vetyer can smell straw like yellow, patchouli, deep red, and so on. David is very enthusiastic about translating an idea from one discipline to another—so music, words, and ultimately color become aromas to wear on skin and in sanctuary.
A desert island flower at DSD. Tuberose absolute is a different fragrance than the flower. It is much more compacted—earthy mushroom with fine fatty pink flower aromas, suggesting subterranean caves and chalky earth. Real tuberose is more delicate but strong with fatty cheese tones over creamy white flowers.
Besides oud, orris—the root of iris—is the most expensive material in perfume. It takes three years to extract its miraculously penetrating powder of fancy blue-violet bliss. Chalky and umami, orris root concrete spruces up the heart of many perfumes. An absolute is also made from it which brings out its chocolate gourmand characteristics.
A perfume in itself, ylang is the smell of paradise isles real and fantastical. I have found it growing in the Caribbean and was astounded by its depth. Overripe banana, vanillic, with a bready malt. It is a well-known cheaper alternative to modifying white flowers like jasmine and gardenia. Ylang ylang has a watery quality that is fresher and more calming than other tropical flowers. Indeed, it is used to relax in aromatherapy (I bring it on planes to sniff).