What is the Perfume Project?

This blog is a constantly evolving forum for thoughts on perfume, perfume-making, plants (especially orchids and flora of the Pacific Northwest) and life in general. It started out chronicling the adventures of Olympic Orchids Perfumes, established in July 2010, and has expanded in other directions. A big part of the blog is thinking about the ongoing process of learning and experimentation that leads to new perfumes, the exploration of perfumery materials, the theory and practice of perfume making, the challenges of marketing perfumes and other fragrance products, and random observations on philosophy and society. Spam comments will be marked as such and deleted; any comments that go beyond the boundaries of civil discourse will also be deleted. I am grateful to all of you, the readers, who contribute to the blog by commenting and making this a truly interactive perfume project.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

SEAWEED TINCTURE


For a while now I have been fascinated by the possibility of making a perfume that truly reflects the scents of the ocean and the beach (no calone!). One of the components that I’ve been investigating is seaweed - the fresh, green, salty sort that is exposed at low tide. The first stage of my exploration was to buy a small quantity of seaweed absolute, made from Fucus vesiculosus, manufactured in France. The absolute smells wonderful, but it’s prohibitively expensive to buy retail and the company that sells it wholesale apparently does not respond to e-mail.

The other day when I was taking the ferry, I decided to go down to the beach and explore the seaweed situation, since there’s always plenty washed up, drying in the sun and emitting various kinds of odors. I gathered a big bag of seaweed from the beach, and then noticed that there was a lot of live, blackish-green seaweed growing on the rocks. I gathered some of that too, and when I got home, looked it up to see what it was. Bingo - Fucus vesiculosus, the same stuff that’s in the imported absolute, growing practically in my own backyard. It’s possible that some of it may be a hybrid with Fucus spiralis, but both are closely related species commonly known as bladderwrack. The exact ID doesn’t matter as long as it has a pleasant, ocean-like odor.

I dried the bladderwrack in the sun for a few days and then crumbled some of it into alcohol to make a tincture. Wow! It’s better than I had ever hoped. Not only does it smell as good as or better than the absolute, it is just as strong and the alcohol turns a beautiful, clear, emerald green. My plan is to make the perfume and use the seaweed tincture as the alcohol carrier. This way I’ll have a bright green perfume with a hint of sweet and salty seaweed. Now I have to figure out what the other beachy components will be, but I think that now that I have the seaweed tincture, with a reliable supply barring any undersea oil leaks, the biggest obstacle has been overcome.

13 comments:

  1. Wow, that sounds fantastic! Maybe you can just sell the seaweed tincture to people like me who grew up near the ocean but now live far from it. (This is why I'm such a big fan of Sel de Vetiver and Andree Putman Preparation Parfumee, among several salt-wood wonders.)

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  2. Hi Pitbull, PM me on Fragrantica and I'll send you some seaweed tincture to try - no charge.

    I love Sel de Vetiver, too. It's one of my go-to perfumes.

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  3. I have been told that Seaweed extract/tincture is very effective for arthritic and injured joints. I would be grateful to know if you feel this to be true. I would be most interested in this. Many thanks.

    Katherine

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  4. Hi Katherine, Your question is really outside my realm of expertise, so I can't give you a definitive answer. My only suggestion would be to try it and see if it helps. You would probably want an oil-based tincture rather than the alcohol-based one that I use in perfumery.

    If you live on the coast, you can gather your own seaweed and tincture it. If you have an Asian store in your neighborhood, they will have all sorts of dried seaweed for sale. You can ask them if they know what kind would be best to use for your purpose. They may be able to recommend some other materials, like mushrooms, that you could add to your mix.

    Good luck with your experiment!

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  5. Can you infuse the seaweed in an oil (almond or apricot) and use the oil in perfumery, or are essential oils the only oils used to create a perfume?

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    1. You could try to infuse anything into oil and use it in perfumery. Generally tinctures/infusions are not very strong, so would function as the carrier for a concentrated mix of essential oils, absolutes, and/or other raw materials. This means that you would be making an oil-based perfume with your infusion.

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  6. Could your tincture be used to produce a strong enough odorant to use in my train room to make it smell like seaweed as I run model trains along Puget Sound? I know, an odd request, but guys running trains through forests can burn a pine scented candle. I'm a waterfront guy--seaweed and creosote. The creosote I do with an old open can, it is pungent enough by itself. It is the seaweed that has me stumped. Any help you can proved would be appreciated.

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    1. I'm not sure if the seaweed tincture would be strong enough to be noticeable over the creosote, but you certainly could create a "seaweed can" with a lot of seaweed in it. I don't know where you live, but if you are near a coast, you should be able to find plenty of seaweed on the beach. Some kinds are smellier than others, so you'd need to experiment. I think you could dry it, then moisten it at times when you want to release the odor. If you don't live near a coast, let me know and I can send you some seaweed with a strong odor.

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  7. Thanks for your post! How much seaweed did you use when creating your tincture? I am going to the local Asian market to get some seaweed and try it, since I'm interested in creating a salty, marine note in a fragrance. Also, have you ever used seaweed tincture with floral and/or woodsy notes? Thanks!

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    1. Barry, I allow the seaweed to dry completely, then crush it up a bit and fill a container about 1/3 full of seaweed, then add alcohol. I only use the seaweed in one composition that has woody and herbal notes, but I'm sure one could use it in a floral, too.

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  8. Thanks for sharing this! It's exactly what I've been looking for! I needed to know if it was even possible to tincture seaweed and bladderwrack. Now I have my answer. Can you tell me what kind of alcohol you used and the amount? And did you add any water? I live in Iowa so it's impossible to get bladderwrack, unless I drive 4 hours to a little herbal shop that charges a FORTUNE for a tiny bag of it. I would love to buy some from you if you'd be interested in selling me some! Or maybe we could trade! I grow tons of my own herbs and flowers, and I also do a lot of wildcrafting. One of my personal favorite smells is slippery elm bark. It's really sweet and there's nothing else quite like it! I have about hundred different things you could choose from. So I'm sure I have things that you could definitely make use of!

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    1. Hi Jenny, Any kind of 95% ethanol will work for tincturing. I use perfumer's alcohol, but you could use whatever type you use as the carrier for your fragrances. I do not add water. I generally crush the thoroughly dried seaweed and fill the container about 1/3 full, then add alcohol to fill. Tincturing is n to an exact science, so this rule of thumb is about as accurate as it gets.

      Right now I'm low on bladderwrack, so need to go collect more. Once I have dried it, I'd be happy to sell or trade with you. Please shoot me an e-mail at olympic orchids at gmail dot com and we can negotiate from there.

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    2. Ok sounds great! Thanks so much!

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