Sunday, March 20, 2011

Perfumery Material: Osmanthus

Osmanthus fragrans (Sweet Osmanthus) or 桂花/ guìhuā in Chinese and金木犀/ Kinmokusei in Japanese is another member of the Oleaceae family (like olive or lilac) and its fresh and highly fragrant aroma is a natural wonder professing a nuanced texture. Also known as "Tea Olive" (because olive is the pre-eminent member of the Oleaceae family) it is the emblem flower of Hangzhou, China. It is especially valued as an additive for tea and other beverages in the Far East where usually the aromatic extract comes from the golden yellow flowers variety. This is because the variant Osmanthus fragrans Lour. var thunbergii has more carotenoids in its chemical make-up which contribute both to the sunnier colouring as well as the enhanced aroma.
The flowers are also used to produce osmanthus-scented jam (called guì huā jiàng)

Osmanthus absolute is an expensive raw material for the perfumer, but worth investing in due to its unique olfactory profile: Highly fragrant and succulent in its peachy-apricoty top note it is nothing short of mouthwatering. The effect of the natural flower is undoubtedly enhanced with a synthesized apricoty creamy note (benzylaldehyde, aldehyde C16, amyl butyrate), giving an almost velours effect. The essence of osmanthus naturally contains cis-jasmone (a white floral note), gamma-decalactone and various delta-lactones (peachy-milky notes) as well as several ionones derivates, which accounts for its violet-like sweetness.

Fragrances featuring a prominent osmanthus note:

Aubusson Desiderade
Aubusson Histoire d'Amour
Ayala Moriel Kinmokusei
Badgley Mischka by Badley Mischka
Bidjan DNA
Calvin Klein Escape
Davidoff Echo for women
Elizabeth Arden Sunflowers
Estee Lauder Beautiful Love
Escada Sunny Frutti
Fendi Theorema
Gap Dream
Givenchy L'Interdit (2003 re-issue)
Gucci Flora
Hermes Osmanthe Yunnan
Hove Tea Olive
Jean Patou 1000
Keiko Mecheri Osmanthus
Kenzo Jungle Le Tigre
Lancome Benghal (travel exclusive)
Marcela Borghese Il Bacio
Michael Kors by Micheal Kors
Narciso Rodriguez Narciso for Her (recreated note)
Nina Ricci Deci Dela
Oleg Cassini Cassini
Ormonde Jayne Osmanthus
Oscar de la Renta Volupte
Parfums d'Empire Osmanthus interdite
Providence Perfumes Osmanthus Oolong
Roger & Gallet Fleurs d'Osmanthus
Serge Lutens Datura Noir
The Different Company Osmanthus
Tous Touch

Ref: Sisido, K.; S. Ktirozumi, K. Utimoto and T. Isida, Fragrant Flower Constituents of Osmanthus fragrans

Photo of Osmanthus fragrans via jam343/flickr (some rights reserved)


  1. what a terrific post E - can you steer me in the direction of a non-aldehydic osmanthus ?

  2. Kinmokusei is a very popular garden ornamental in Japan. When it blooms, the fragrance is often noticeable from far away, while the flowers are not especially showy, so it can be a challenge locating the source that is perfuming the breeze! It is one of the strongest flower scents, I think. I wonder if Gucci Rush should be on the list of osmanthus perfumes? (Or maybe I'm just crazy...)

  3. I don't think I tried many perfumes with prominent Osmanthus note but I do love Ayala's Kinmokusei. And I'm so glad I have a little roll-on bottle of it as it's perfect for this time of year.

  4. Anonymous10:08

    I only recently dicovered how much I like Osmanthus. Thank you for your comprehensive list!

  5. I have a number of various varieties of osmanthus plants on their way to me now, and they'll be planted for my enfleurage efforts. I have several osmanthus concretes and absolutes, from either China or France, and the range of notes in them is delightful. I have some wild ideas for an osmanthus soliflore ;-)

  6. I am so very fond of osmanthus; it can be overwhelmed by other notes, though-
    And it is so expensive !
    Like a prism, it has so many facets.

    Very early Easter kisses to you .]

  7. C,

    hello! :-) Thank you!
    I like TDC Osmanthus very much, it's quite real-smelling. Lovely!

  8. John,

    how delightfully you describe that vision of scent've transported me.
    Rush has a peachy-apricoty thing going on, you're right; it might be similar to osmanthus, indeed, though I believe it would be too expensive to produce that effect the natural way and are going synth.

  9. ines,

    how thoughtless of me to forget that one by Ayala! I have added it in the list, it's very nice.

  10. B,

    a real pleasure, thanks :-)

    It's a glorious note but a very costly pomade to make...

  11. Anya,'re killing me! Those wonderful flowers and plants in your garden are the stuff of dreams. I'm looking forward to what your enfleurage will yield!

  12. Ida,

    darling, thanks for stopping by! How are you?

    Indeed as you say, it's a gorgeous note, but needs some balanced treatment to be just right.

    Thanks for the Eastern wishes; this year our (orthodox) Easter is in the end of April. Nature will be rampant with flowers... *dreamy sigh*

  13. Anonymous23:16

    love osmanthus... and doesn't un amour de patou (i think this was jean michel duriez's first for patou) rest on osmanthus?

    will have to look into several on your list... and revisit datura noir.


  14. J,

    good thinking! I need to add it, I guess. Thanks!!
    Datura Noir is quite apricoty: but the actual apricot part in it comes from the pits (which smell like bitter almond) while the apricot effect comes from osmanthus: trippy scent! (can't quite make it work for me)

  15. Elena, thanks for the recommendation - I'm adding it to my must-smell list!

  16. C,

    most welcome. And you know what you should do next, right? Report back!

  17. I recently came back from a vacation in Kyoto where I discovered the beautiful scent of Kinmokusei... I am so happy to come across your post and I can't wait to try one of these perfumes~~~

  18. Loulabelle05:59

    I am dying to know if it's true that it takes 1000 osmanthus blossoms to make a bottle of Jean Patou's perfume 1000. And do the flowers have a brief flowering time??

  19. C,

    what a joy it must have been! Thanks for sharing.

  20. Loula,

    it's such a romantic claim that we could almost leave it at that. :-)
    I don't know whether they bloom all too quickly. Depends on how one defines quickly, does it not?

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  21. MMMmmmmm Osmanthus! LOVE! My osmanthus bush is blooming right now. Delicious!


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