Sunday, January 13, 2013

A softer side of lemongrass

(Lemongrass Droplets copyright Nick Fletcher on Flickr).

The sharp, citrusy-aroma of lemongrass is easy to recognize and loved by many of us. I find it energizing and uplifiting and could smell it all day. But many also find it sensitizing and irritating to the skin and mucous membranes. These people can only tolerate it in small doses, or sadly not at all.

Citral is the main chemical component of lemongrass. Lemongrass contains up to 85% citral. Citral is what gives lemongrass its fresh, lemon-y citrus aroma. Citral can also be found in many other essential oils including rose, ginger, lemon verbena and may chang.

Knowing that some of us cannot tolerate this beautiful oil inspired me to start working on a new perfume formula last year. I am trying to create a lemongrass perfume that is an elegant interpretation of the actual essential oil, one that is less sharp, softer, and sweeter – perhaps with fruity-green notes and a hint of gourmand honey or spice. A lemongrass that everyone can love; especially those who are allergic or sensitive to the pure essential oil. It won't be a 'true' lemongrass perfume, but more of a fantasy interpretation.

I’ve been playing with different combinations of essential oils and aroma chemicals to create this re-interpretation. I tried for example using lemon and may chang (a small tree native to East Asia with fragrant leaves that smell similar to lemongrass), along with a touch of hexyl acetate. Hexyl acetate is a strong molecule with a distinct green, pear-like aroma. Also some clove absolute, rose and other notes to form the heart of the perfume. Last year I gave this blend to a friend to smell who promptly handed it back to me and informed me that it smelt like ginger! Lol, that was definitely not the effect I was going for. So I shelved that formula, but was so glad for the feedback. And at least now I have an idea of how to go about creating a ginger accord(1.) if I ever need one.

What also inspired me to create a lemongrass perfume was that although lemongrass is grown in many kitchen gardens in the Caribbean, and is well-known and respected for its medicinal qualities, it is not widely appreciated for its aesthetic value. It tends to look like your average green grass that you see growing all around, and because it grows very tall and out of control quickly if left unattended, it sometimes gets treated like an unpopular garden weed.

So I thought it would be nice to challenge and play with this traditional perception and present the ordinary lemongrass plant as something more elegant and unexpected, and I will keep working on my formulas until I get it just right. Above is an image of an elegant lady holding some lemongrass stalks which I hope to incorporate into the packaging once the perfume is completely finished. (This image is also available exclusively on my website as a fine art print.)

(1.) An accord is a balanced and harmonious combination of two or more different aroma materials that when combined create a completely new and distinct aroma.

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