The term essential oil comes from quintessential oil, the way old world perfumers used to refer to their scent extractions. Before the science and chemistry of their potions and healing oils was fully understood, these early alchemists believed that what they were extracting was the “spirit” of the plant and any healing properties conjured seemed mystical and sent from the divine.
We refer to our lilac absolute, the main ingredient of Syringa's Cloak, as a quintessential oil because it’s made using the same ancient, labor intensive, and all but vanished scent extraction process of enfleurage that these early perfumers invented. Most absolutes today use chemical solvents but in that process many delicate components of the flowers spectrum of scent molecules are lost. Lilac, a graceful and subtle blossom, doesn’t lend itself to these harsh methods and so much of its true essence is lost that most have given up on the extraction. Our lilac absolute is made using the original methods – two to three gallons of fresh, organic lilac flowers are placed into an organic fat on glass chassis every day for 33 days. At the end of the process, between eight and ten bushels of flowers have been used (about a bathtub full of flowers) and the fat molecules are infused with the pure, rich scent from the exhaling flowers. The fat is then scraped off the chassis and combined with a high proof, organic, and edible solvent, in this case an alcohol almost like vodka. The alcohol separates the scent molecule from the fat using a gentle evaporation process and all of this results in about 5 precious milliliters of highly concentrated and exquisite lilac perfume oil.
The heritage varieties of lilac used in our absolute are from a female owned, organic farm dedicated to the propagation and preservation of local lilacs. More than thirty different varieties of lilac are used to create the absolute, depending on which plants are resting, and the scent of each year’s batch is wonderfully varied by that season’s unique blend and the way early bloomers, mid-season bloomers, and late season bloomers are combined (some have honey notes and some tend to be on the spicier side). In keeping with the ancient perfumers, spiritual invocations and prayers of gratitude are said each year by the farmers as the plants are being harvested to infuse the “soul” of the lilacs with appeals for world healing, peace, giving, love, and abundance.
Lilac is known throughout history as a harbinger of spring and often signifies new beginnings. Passengers on the Mayflower are said to have carried sprigs of lilac as a talisman of safe passage and the flowers became symbols of a fresh start. An uplifting and mood enhancing scent, the lilac is also naturally aphrodisiac. About half of the lilac varieties used are white and when white flowers are broken down they create a chemical compound called indole, a musky, heady scent associated with sexual intimacy (the ancient perfumers used to caution that virgin maidens should never be allowed to pick in fields of white flowers).