August 11, 2007

Jasmine Days

August for me is the month of jasmine, it's the quintessential scent of summer. It has that heavy sweetness and mellow buttery undertone, that seems to lift into the humidity of August like an embodiment of deep joy itself.

I would love to go to Grasse for the August Festival of Jasmine. The pretty girls dress as jasmine flowers and pelt the onlookers with fragrant flowers in an evening parade. Grasse harvests tons of jasmine each year, and I can only imagine what that must be like, the atmosphere of the entire countryside in the full summer of southern France. What an idyllic, heavenly festival of scent.

Natural jasmine has hundreds of components. It has a complexity and smoothness that is seductive and insinuating. I am surprised to learn that it is not as popular in the U.S. as elsewhere. I wonder if our uniquely part-puritanical cultural background has some bearing on why that is. Jasmine is perhaps a little too softening for an atmosphere of strictly work-ethic goal setting and striving.

I once had the opportunity to try some high quality jasmine absolute from Grasse -- it was so complex and soothing, that I was immediately transported to a place between dreaming and waking. It was like floating on an ocean of flowery, sweet, green, slightly animal warmth.

There are hundreds of fragrances that depend on a jasmine like note for an integral part of their structure. Because it is so expensive and difficult to produce, having to be made by the traditional enfleurage method, it is very rare that true Grasse jasmine essence is used in even the finest fragrances. It usually is an interpretation of jasmine, either entirely through a chemical imitation or an approximation made by combining other natural substances with a little of the natural to tone down any sharp edges produced by chemistry.

Chanel No. 5, Patou's Joy and I believe Molinard Jasmin contain the treasured jasmine from Grasse, which is considered to be the softest. It seems that the lightest most transparent note of jasmine reveals of its beauty most clearly.

It's worthwhile to grow a flowering jasmine sambac plant, for summer evenings spent at home, to get the full force of the vitality and lift of this substance. The real jasmine scent is very elusive and difficult to obtain outside of the flower itself. It can be very mentally and physically beneficial to have direct contact with the plants and materials that go into the perfumes we love.

White Lotus Aromatics has a wonderful article with quotes from those who have toured the jasmine fields of the French and Indian countryside in past centuries.

Nature's Gift offers highly regarded jasmine absolutes from India and a bath product.
Logee's offers jasmine grandiflorum, night-blooming sambac plants, indoor containers and outdoor climbers.


chayaruchama said...

Summer makes jasmines blossom on the skin, and winter renders them warming, when combined with spices, tobacco, or woods.

Love all varieties and combinations...

Lucy said...

It's a jasmine moment, all of August, for sure...