This post was prompted by a new material that I discovered
at Liberty Naturals called “round cypress” or “Cupressus rotundus
”. I started out with a small amount to sample,
but quickly became fascinated by it because it was the closest thing to real
oud that I’ve smelled. Clearly it’s not oud, but it has a lot of the same
woody-barnyard notes initially and the sharp “varnish” drydown that I smell in
some varieties of oud. In short, it would make an excellent base for an
oud-based scent, and raises the question of whether it’s actually used in India
and elsewhere to adulterate “real” oud oils.
I was curious about what this ”round cypress tree” might
look like, so searched online for it, imagining that it looked like the Monterrey cyprus in the photo above. The only thing that came up was the
certificate of analysis sheet from Liberty. According to this source, Cupressus
comes from India, is 100% natural, wildcrafted, steam distilled from
, and – get this – comes from Cyperus scariosus
[photo at above left], not “Cupressus
”, or even Cyperus rotundus
. There is actually a Cyperus rotundus
“nut grass” or “purple nutsedge” [photo in oval frame, below], whereas Cyperus scariosus
is a larger plant, also known as
“nagarmotha”, and is the source of cypriol. Both have tubers on the roots that can be distilled to yield oil. Are you confused yet?
There are about 600 different species of Cyperus distributed
throughout the world, all sedge-like grasses that include ornamentals like
umbrella papyrus, so it’s anyone’s guess as to which Cyperus species (or mix of
species) this is.
I am extremely grateful to Liberty for publishing the
certificate of analysis because it confirms what I suspected – that this
material is not what it says it is (an imaginary species), and there is no way
of really knowing what it is. It also confirms my skepticism about the accuracy
of labeling on anything coming from India. Having said that, it brings up an
interesting dilemma that every perfumer is sure to face at some point or
another. What to do about attractive materials of dubious origin and composition?
On the one hand, I’d like to clear up the mystery of what
” really is and not touch it until I do, but on the other
hand, I want to use the material in a composition, even if it’s a single-batch
fragrance that can’t be replicated later. It’s not standard nagarmotha or
cypriol, so I ordered a big bottle of it for the purpose of making my own
relatively inexpensive fine oud accord.
In the end, I suppose this is no different from using
pre-mixed accords from Givaudan, Firmenich, or other big companies. Like the “Cupressus/Cyperus
” oil, there is no indication of what is in those, and they
could become unavailable at any time, as could any oil or single aroma
chemical. I suppose the bottom line is that if it smells good and is harmless,
then we should feel free to use it while it’s available. Not an ideal solution,
but a pragmatic one.
[All photos are from Wikimedia]