Friday, 24 February 2012

Blend Collective


I have just finished a breakfast PR launch presentation for the Blend Collective at the Herschel Rooms in Portland Street. Blend Collective launched an exciting new range of body care products, which divide into three categories: - Enlivening, balancing and unwinding. A different perfumer formulated the fragrance for each category. My own contribution was the fragrance for the get up and go enlivening group of products.

What’s different about the Blend collective is their commitment to naturals goes further than the usual aromatherapy considerations for such products. Secondly, they are prepared to fund quality ingredients above and beyond the all too common inclusion of a few exotics in miniscule amounts in order to get them to appear on the inci list (international nomenclature for cosmetic ingredients ie list of ingredients in a product using standard terms recognised internationally).

As we know incis can be misleading, for example neroli, petitgrain and bitter orange are all obtained from the flowers, leaves and fruit respectively, from the same tree. Neroli is currently approximately 300 times the price of bitter orange yet the inci for each is exactly the same (citrus aurantium). The cheapest steam distilled lemon and the finest cold pressed Sicilian lemon again share the same inci (citrus limon).

Aroma therapists are trained to blend considering assumed therapeutic or physiological effects of the oils that they use. However, the odour profile and tenacity of the blend is not a consideration. Those of us who work with naturals, as perfumers need to understand the interaction of oils in terms of their collective aromatic profile. There are certain structural rules concerning the molecular weight of ingredients in a fragrance and their distribution in terms of top, middle and base notes. These rules need to be understood and obeyed if one has a hope of producing professional quality fragrances.

When formulating fragrance for an aromatherapy product I start by making a list of the ingredients associated with producing the desired effect. The budget of the client is a major determining factor. Personally, I feel most comfortable formulating products for a physiological purpose, as I believe that on this level the effects of essential oils are most easily demonstrable. Evidence also shows that synergistic blends work better than single oils. For these reasons I was delighted to be asked to formulate a fragrance to be enlivening.

The oils in my list were yellow grapefruit, sweet fennel, petitgrain, cedrat, West Indian bay, lime, litsea cubeba and lemon myrtle. I wanted to celebrate the fragrance of cedrat (citrus medica Linn), which is a very special kind of lemon from Sicily. It looks like an overgrown Brueghelesque lemon painted by Rubens and its use is stipulated in certain traditional Sicilian recipes. The oil produced by cold pressing the skin is exquisite, unmistakably lemon like but it has a delicate, elegant, floral quality lacking in even the finest Sicilian lemon oil.

I chose to use several citrus oils to create a structure to support and project the fragrance of the cedrat forward but due to its delicacy great care is needed not to overwhelm it. Yellow grapefruit and petitgrain were used to give a clear fragrant citrus message. Lemon specifically was alluded to by the addition of litsea cubeba and lemon myrtle. Citrus oils have an overlapping odour profile (ie they have constituents in common albeit in different proportions) so it logically follows that to some extent it’s possible to replicate the odour of a particular fruit by skilfully blending oils derived from its cousins. In this way it is also possible to amplify and project or mute a particular characteristic in a fragrance.

Lime is quite crude but very tenacious. The cold pressed quality is photo toxic whereas the steam distilled one is not so safety determines the use of it in its most crude form. It easily dominates so must be used with caution but small amounts provide a sparkle and I like to think of it as a citrus glossy varnish.

West Indian bay blends beautifully with citrus so this was included primarily for its aromatic profile to add some interest. The sweet fennel has some fresh herby notes in common with the bay, which I wanted to amplify. It also supports the stimulating effect of all the fresh citrus oils.

During the presentation smelling strips containing steam distilled Brazilian lemon oil, cold pressed Sicilian lemon oil and cedrat oil were passed around the room. The exercise demonstrated that if the three were compared simultaneously than everybody was able to assess the relative quality as the oils spoke for themselves.

I am very pleased to have been a part of this project and am confident that the Blend Collective steered by Clive and Pippa will achieve great success once a discerning public discover their range.