Raw Materials Heliotrope in Perfumes

Heliotrope in Perfumes

12/15/11 12:07:06 (20 comments)

by: Elena Vosnaki


It is often that we pass along bushes and hedges without paying much attention unless they possess either a striking colour or a heady scent to draw us in. Heliotropium, an annual flowering plant (heliotrope) belonging to the borage family (Boriginaceae) comprising as many as 300 species, is small in stature, but magnificent in both colour and scent (especially heliotropium peruvianum with its characteristic bright violet small flowers); which is why butterflies are so fond of it!

THE HELIOTROPE PLANT


The most usual heliotrope variety grown is heliotropium arborescens, resembling a small tree. Garden heliotrope has been a constant feature since at least the Victorian times, thanks to its delicious scent that oscillates between marzipan, vanilla, cherry pie and almond (hence its alternative name "cherry pie flower"). Indeed vanilla essential oil contains an amount of piperonal (heliotropin) in its composite, drawing the two close.
 

Although heliotrope is renowned for its delicious scent, several modern varieties of the heliotrope plant have been bred to mainly produce vivid colours, but in the process some of the wonderful fragrance has been regretably removed as well; this is why sometimes you have to lean real close to catch the scent. This odour profile made it a suitable contestant for inclusion in perfume and scented products.

     Heliotrope flower by h.d.lange

ETYMOLOGY


The name comes from the Greek words "Helios" (the sun) and "tropein" (turning), denoting the propensity for turning towards solar rays. Thus is explained the old English name "turnsole" (via the French "tournesol").
 

PRODUCTION


Both maceration and enfleurage (enrobing blossoms in clarified fat and then treating the fat with volatile solvents in order to catch the pure essence of the flower) yield heliotrope essence from heliotrope peruvianum. But in perfume formulae, heliotrope is replicated with heliotropin.
 

HELIOTROPIN, the note for HELIOTROPE

Also known as piperonal or oil of sassafras, heliotropin derives from sassafras indeed (Sassafras albidum) and has been in wide demand for perfume and soaps for decades, especially for reasons of cost. The odour profile is powdery, like vanilla meringue with a helping of almond. The characteristic comforting scent of heliotrope has been proven to induce feelings of relaxation and comfort, a pampering atmosphere that finds itself very suited to languorous oriental fragrances and delicious "gourmands".

 

In Kenzo Amour the heliotropin take is on the vanillic side, boosted by milky notes. In Love, Chloe we encounter the retro-smelling pairing of heliotropin and violet notes producing a powdery effect, reminiscent of makeup products. In Sicily by Dolce & Gabanna it provides the sweet anchoring of soapy aldehydes on top. In Lolita Lempicka eau de parfum heliotropin takes a anisic mantle and becomes a full-blown gourmand, while in the older Cacharel Loulou it's the comforting billowy background alongside tonka bean (with which it shares an almond and hay facet) and orris, producing a true floriental. In L'Eau d'Hiver (F.Malle) heliotropin is almost reduced to its pure state: fluffy, like a late afternoon cloud.
 

But classic scents have also greatly benefited from heliotropin, notably the nostalgic L'Heure Bleue by Guerlain which pairs the vanillic facet of heliotropin with anise on top, soft flowers in the heart (violet and carnation) and benzoin, iris and Tonka bean in the base to compliment the floral-oriental character of this iconic composition. Or the more ethereal Guerlain Apres L'Ondee which is mainly the pairing of warm heliotropin with cool and shy violets.

REGULATIONS

Currently heliotropin is under reduced ratio of use in perfumery, according to IFRA regulations, because safrols in food have been proven to be carcinogenic and hepatotoxic. Therefore concerns about the inhaled and skin-absorbed quantity from scented products have resulted in a preventory measure, rationing heliotropin to much lower ratios than before. This may be why your favourite fragrance with heliotrope might start smelling less deep and almondy in the coming months.

You can find fragrances with heliotrope notes using our SEARCH by NOTES

 


Author: Elena Vosnaki is a historian & perfume writer from Greece and a Writer to Fragrantica. She is the founder and editor of Perfume Shrine, one of the most respected independent online publications on perfume containing fragrance reviews, industry interviews, essays on raw materials and perfume history, a winner in Fragrantica Blog Awards and a finalist in numerous blog awards contests. Her writing was recognised at the Fifi Awards for Editorial Excellence in 2009 and she has been contributing to publications around the world.
 

 



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mimi.smell
mimi.smell

I'm very glad to have an opportunity to read such kind of articles. Every time I read your article I learn something new. I'm starting to understand the single ingredients and their addition to final scents of perfumes.
Thanks for beautiful presentation of Heliotrope!

Mar
02
2012
lapolli
lapolli

Thank you! Another beautiful article! Heliotrope and vanilla are my favourite notes!

Mar
02
2012
Jeanbaptistescl
Jeanbaptistescl

I recently synthetized Heliotropin from a pepper alkaloid in my home lab, because heliotrope oil are hard to find, and it disperse quite easily in my formulation, and I need to preserve the heliotrope smell, and the smell is amazing, that is for a perfume that I'm working it, based on Diesel Fuel For Life, a lot of work but really comforting results, far away one of my favorites flowers.

Mar
01
2012
HelenCQ
HelenCQ

Excellent article. Beautiful illustrations also. Learnt alot. Thank you!!

Dec
20
2011
Aredore
Aredore

...they're scaling back on the heliotrope? :(

I love heliotrope. In fragrance and the flower. Definitely a favorite note. Love the powdery, floral almondness!

Dec
17
2011
Elena Vosnaki
Elena Vosnaki

Thank you for your kind words everyone, much appreciated! Glad you enjoyed the article.

Indeed there are hundreds of heliotrope fragrances or fragrances in which it's a very perceivable note: Etro is indeed a characteristic one. Hopefully the different treatments of the note are highlighted enough, it's such a pliable note to variable orchestration.

Dec
17
2011
naheed
naheed

Great read, Elena. I am enjoying reading your articles and also follow your blogposts.

Dec
16
2011
lapolli
lapolli

You are right Maelle, nothing is as comforting as Etro Heliotrope, Piver Heliotrope Blanc and Guerlain L'Heure Bleue.
I was in hospital today and I wore Heliotrope by Etro (I was swimming in it, I must admit). The patients cheered at me and the nurses asked what that wonderful smell was!

Dec
16
2011
Αλεξάνδρα
Αλεξάνδρα

Thank you Elena! Your posts shine like gems! Heliotrope is such a great note, and thankfully in abundance in Greek gardens!

Dec
16
2011
maelleinrome
maelleinrome

Good job! :) Heliotrope and almond are my favourite notes in fragrances...I absolutely love fragrances like L'Heure Bleue Guerlain, Heliotrope Etro and Heliotrope blanche Piver!

Dec
16
2011
ANGELICA07
ANGELICA07

Good job, Elena !
Heliotrope is one of the rare florals I'm craving for.

I agree with Donna here under : you forgot to mention the royal Etro's creation ! ^^
But it's great to have an article about heliotrope, though ! ^^

Dec
16
2011
DarkViolet
DarkViolet

Recently I've been searching for a little plant of heliotrope everywhere.. unfortunately I couldn't find it, it seems like they don't sell it here in Italy :(

I simply adore this lovely, cute, little flower for its sweet and powdery scent as for its smooth violet petals. It gives the fragrances that kind of touch of magic...

Lovely article too, thanks.

Dec
16
2011
donna255
donna255

I adore heliotrope in fragrances.

You missed out the fabulous Etro Heliotrope or Crown Perfumery Heliotrope.

Dec
16
2011
cshekhar
cshekhar

Good ! very good written and informative article...............

Thanks and best wishes

Dec
15
2011
SilverFire
SilverFire

Excellent article. The meddlesome EU needs to die.

Dec
15
2011
mylancome
mylancome

They are not ban, just reduce the doze, some people may have allergy on this notes. Or long term of usage may cause health hazard?

Dec
15
2011
nattonline
nattonline

Thanks or the article and keep it coming! I ❤ learning and understand what i smell.

Dec
15
2011
Gosha
Gosha

I love the smell of heliotrope...and I have found myself obssessed with the colour lately...so...I must explore more fragrances with this beauty, before they ban it!;-)
Nice article, well written!

Dec
15
2011
systeme_d
systeme_d

Best note article I have yet seen on Fragrantica. Very well done, Ms. Vosnaki.

Dec
15
2011
Tulip211
Tulip211

Great article Elena! Heliotrope is a note in almost every perfume I love. Ironically, in it's almost every perfume I dislike as well. It is such a paradox! I think that the tendency to pair heliotrope with violets, producing that sharp, itchy, talcum like scent is what bothers me. However, I love when it leans toward the vanilla side, and is blended out with a bitter almond, or a frangipani. What a relationship I have with heliotrope! :)

Dec
15
2011

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