Updated: May 3, 2022
Discover how the mysteriously enticing notes of incense and smoke are captured in our perfume: MIRAGE.
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Welcome to the LabHouse Perfume blog post. Here you will find detailed write-ups on the subscription box of this month. Without further ado, lets dive right into the fuming details of Box #0004. As a quick reminder, each box contains 2 perfumes and an evaluation sample of this month's featured raw material. The (-) perfume is formulated without said material and the (+) perfume features it. Now would be a good time to dip a small amount of the evaluation sample onto your blotter, have a sniff, and follow along!
The featured raw material for this month, Fumencens HTC, is a fascinating smokey specimen often used to convey a note of burning incense and spirituality. If you said this material reminds you of your childhood, then I might guess that you were raised in a religious family. For me, one whiff of this material takes me back to my childhood Sundays spent in a Byzantine Catholic Church, playing with the wrinkles on my grandmother’s hand while being enveloped in sweet resinous fumes. I can practically hear the chanting, almost like a mirage…
As it turns out, there is a very logical explanation as to why Fumencens HTC triggers such a specific memory. The aroma chemicals I remember smelling in that church as a child were the results of burning frankincense tears, and Fumencens HTC is made from pyrogenated (burnt) frankincense! More specifically Fumencens HTC is obtained by high temperature dry distillation from olibanum gum followed by molecular distillation.
Quick note: You may notice I use the words olibanum and frankincense in this post, these are interchangeable terms :)
An interesting thing to point out is that frankincense is derived from the Boswellia genus of trees, of which there are about 25 species. Only a handful of these species are of commercial use in perfumery. In the case of Fumencens HTC, the gum is derived from the Boswellia Carteri species. Some others that are commonly used include B.Sacra, B.frereana, and B.Seratta.
(Fumencens HTC is a trade name belonging to the product manufacturer, Payan Bertrand)
Now for the nerdy stuff…
In this case, we are talking about two specific types of distillation: dry distillation and molecular distillation. Dry distillation is the heating of solid material, olibanum gum in this case, to produce gaseous products which are then condensed and collected. The dry distillation of frankincense involves pyrolysis, where the different chemical components of frankincense go through thermal degradation. This means that molecular bonds are broken so this would be a destructive distillation.
After the dry distillation, we are left with a mixture of smelly chemical components, but not all of them are the desired delicious fragrant molecules used to make Fumencens HTC. The next step is to pick out the desired components through molecular distillation. This process involves exposing the distillate liquid to high temperatures in a high vacuum whereby the desired fraction is isolated. I won’t go into further detail because then I would have to talk about fluid dynamics and free molecular flow, and you probably would not finish reading this.
To sum it up, Fumencens HTC is made by heating frankincense, which they have been doing in rituals for many years.
History of frankincense:
The first mention of frankincense is said to be traced back to the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus, dated to 1500 BC, where it is suggested for its medicinal properties. However, we don't see it in perfume until 3000 BC, when the very first perfumes were created by the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations. During this time, fragrant resins were burned in an attempt to connect with the gods through the entrancing smoky fumes. In fact, the word perfume is actually derived from the Latin word “per fumus” meaning through smoke. Perhaps the smoky fumes connected ancient civilizations to their gods, but for me the pyroginated frankincense is a mirage (illusion).
Notes: Citrus, Sichuan Pepper, Cardamom, Sugar, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Labdanum, Frankincense, Amber.
It may be a cold day, or a dark night but, like a mirage, this warm and embracing fragrance takes you back to the toasty fireside, good food, and good times. It opens with bright sparkling top notes of Sichuan pepper, citrus and cardamom; layered with middles notes of creamy sandalwood, toasted sugar, and thick vanilla; melting into base notes of dark resins, fizzing ambers and sappy green frankincense.
Overall, I would put this one in the gourmand category. It contains many delicious edible smelling materials such as ethyl maltol, ethyl vanillin and vanillin, as well as tonka bean absolute which adds a complex baked quality. The sweet character balances the aldehydic citrus character of the Somalian frankincense, the smokey Fumencens and peppery Elemi. While Fumencens does not make up a large portion of the formula at 3%, I find that it has a profound effect on the character of the fragrance. I perceive the difference between the (-) and (+) fragrance as the difference between a candle that was once lit then blown to one that has never been ignited. The Fumencens in this case brings some smokey burning heat into the formula and adds a whole new layer of complexity to the dry down.
Note: Don't forget to smell the fragrances throughout the day, as it evolves on skin and new layers emerge. The different molecular compounds throughout the formulas evaporate into the air at different rates, so the fragrance left on your skin or the blotter changes over time. The rate at which the different fragrance materials diffuse into the air is dependent on their vapor pressure. It is also important to note that the fragrance may smell different depending on where you spray it. Your skin, for example, is quite warm and will flash off some of the more volatile aroma chemicals more quickly.
So now that you have trained your nose to identify Fumencens HTC and its effect(s) in perfumery, what do you think?
Feel free to share any questions or comments you have on Box#0004, I would love to hear your thoughts! As always, thank you for subscribing. I work very hard to make this subscription as fun, engaging, and educational as possible, but I am always seeking suggestions for improvement.
If you like what this raw material has to offer, I do suggest sniffing the perfumes listed below:
Tom Ford Metallique
Estée Lauder Paradise Moon
Jul et Mad Stairway to Heaven
Olympic Orchids Dev #4 Reprise