Jasmine : A Perfumer’s Perspective

Posted by Emily van Oosterom on



Jasmine, with its intoxicatingly sweet, sensual aroma, has been a symbol of love, beauty, and spirituality for centuries. The name originates from the Persian 'Yasmin,' meaning 'gift from God’. The two most commonly used species in perfumery are Jasmine grandiflorum and Jasmine sambac, each with its own unique characteristics.

Jasmine grandiflorum, often referred to as Spanish or French Jasmine, was first cultivated in the 16th century in Grasse, France, a region known as the cradle of perfumery. Its flowers, which bloom in the early morning, were traditionally handpicked at dawn to capture their exquisite scent.

Jasmine sambac, also known as Arabian Jasmine, traces its roots to the eastern Himalayas. Cultivated extensively in India, it's deeply intertwined with the region's culture and spirituality, often used in religious ceremonies and to adorn women's hair.

Current Cultivation and Processing

Today, Jasmine grandiflorum is predominantly grown in France, Italy, Morocco, and Egypt, while Jasmine sambac's primary sources are India, the Philippines, and China. Despite their different geographies, both require meticulous care and attention during cultivation and processing.

Jasmine flowers are handpicked because of their delicacy, and the extraction process is equally labor-intensive. Traditionally, enfleurage was used, a method where flower petals are placed on a layer of animal or vegetable fat to absorb the fragrance. Today, solvent extraction is more common, resulting in a 'concrete' that is further processed to yield the highly concentrated 'absolute.'

It takes approximately 8,000 carefully handpicked flowers to produce just 1 ml of Jasmine absolute!

Constituents and Chemical Compounds

Jasmine grandiflorum and Jasmine sambac possess captivating and complex fragrances, thanks to the diverse array of chemical compounds found within them. Some of the key constituents that contribute to their unique aroma profiles include benzyl acetate, linalool, indole, and jasmonates.

Benzyl acetate is the primary constituent in both Jasmine grandiflorum and Jasmine sambac, contributing to their characteristic sweet, fruity, and slightly floral aroma. This ester imparts a delicate, yet rich, fragrance reminiscent of ripe fruits, which adds depth and sweetness to the overall scent profile (Teixeira da Silva et al., 2018).

Linalool, another common constituent in jasmine flowers, is a naturally occurring terpene alcohol that provides a fresh, floral, and slightly citrusy note. It is widely used in the fragrance industry and is often found in floral essential oils like lavender, geranium, and bergamot (Jirovetz et al., 2002).

Indole is a key compound responsible for the intense, heady, and narcotic aroma often associated with jasmine flowers. This nitrogen-containing compound imparts a distinctive animalic note, which is both alluring and exotic. In small amounts, indole adds warmth, depth, and sensuality to the jasmine scent. However, when present in higher concentrations, it can take on a more pungent, mothball-like odor (Raguso, 2016).

Jasmonates, a group of compounds derived from jasmonic acid, are also present in jasmine flowers. They contribute to the overall fragrance by adding green, herbaceous, and slightly spicy nuances. Jasmonates can help balance out the sweetness of benzyl acetate and the animalic character of indole, providing a harmonious blend of aromas (Jetter et al., 2006).

Jasmine grandiflorum's aroma profile is intensely floral, sweet, and narcotic, with a slightly fruity undertone. Its scent is often described as warming and deeply sensual.

Jasmine sambac's scent profile, while still floral and sweet, has a more exotic, musky note with a hint of green. Its aroma is often perceived as more sensual and intoxicating.

Uses in Perfumery

In perfumery, both Jasmine grandiflorum and Jasmine sambac are celebrated for their ability to impart a sweet, alluring floral note.

Jasmine grandiflorum is more commonly used in high-end perfumery, featuring in many classic and modern fragrances. Its rich, floral character makes it a popular choice for feminine, floral compositions, where it lends depth and warmth.

Jasmine sambac, with its more exotic and intense aroma, is often found in oriental or floral-gourmand compositions. Its musky-green notes can impart an intriguing complexity to a fragrance.

Environmental and Ecological Considerations

The cultivation of Jasmine is labour-intensive, and its yield per flower is very low, making it one of the most expensive natural ingredients in perfumery. As such, it's vital to source Jasmine from ethical and sustainable sources.

Increased demand for Jasmine oil has put pressure on producers, leading to potential issues such as overharvesting and unfair labor practices. It's essential to support suppliers who prioritize fair trade and sustainable farming practices, ensuring the longevity of this precious resource and the wellbeing of those who cultivate it.  

Adulteration with cheaper isolates and oils is common.  Care should be taken to source Jasmine absolutes from trusted suppliers.  As a general rule of thumb, if the price is too good to be true, it probably isn’t (true, that is).  

Safety Limitations

As with all natural ingredients, Jasmine oils should be used with care. Jasmine absolutes are potent and should be diluted before use on the skin to avoid potential irritation. As always, those with sensitive skin or existing skin conditions should perform a patch test before wider application.

Pregnant women are often advised to avoid using true Jasmine oil, particularly in the early stages of pregnancy, due to its potential abortifacient and emmenagogue effects. Always consult a healthcare provider or a certified aromatherapist before incorporating any new essential oil into your routine if you are pregnant, planning to be pregnant, or are breastfeeding.

IFRA Standards

The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) sets strict safety standards for many fragrance ingredients, including Jasmine. For Jasmine grandiflorum absolute, IFRA guidelines limit its usage to a maximum concentration of 0.7% in the final product due to the risk of skin sensitization. Always adhere to these guidelines to ensure the safe use of this potent and captivating ingredient in any fragrance composition.



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