Jasmine | Featured Note For May, the Month of Dante


With feet I stayed, and with mine eyes I passed
Beyond the rivulet, to look upon
The great variety of the fresh May.
Canto XXVIII, Purgatorio
With this message we celebrate the notes of Jasminus grandiflorium sambac, also known as Common Jasmine or the Poet's Jasmine. Aptly, we choose to revere these notes during the estimated month of birth of Dante Alighieri, writer of the Divine Comedy, and whose Canto XXVIII, marked by the appearance of the Proserpine-like character of Matelda in Purgatory, is a lush display of the blooms of May and their rapturous fragrance. Let us herald the Jasmine of the poets and those who with pen praise it, as it bursts forth with tremendous aroma and captivates the heart and mind at the precipice of summer.

"There is no perfume without Jasmine."

As the above common saying in the perfume industry indicates, the scent of Jasmine—here specifically to be discussed in the Jasminum grandiflorum and sambac varieties—is ineluctably essential to perfume-making and the craftsmanship of scents. The world-renowned perfumer Jean Carles—mentor to Jacques Polge and creator of the Miss Dior scent—described Jasmine as the butter of the perfume industry, illustrating, by way of undercutting the unconvincing simulacra of margarine, that nothing could replace, compare, or come close to it.

Of the Jasmine absolutes, two here reign supreme: the grandiflorum and sambac varieties—

Jasmine—of the Arabic yasmin, meaning fragrant, and originating from Persia, Kashmir—in the form of absolute is a dark orange/brown liquid. Like other typical white florals—this one derived from a genus of shrubs and vines in the Oleaceae (olive) family—it is incredibly complex and has over a hundred constituents, with the outstanding aromatic ester, benzyl acetate (sweet and pleasant). The aroma of the absolute is greatly influenced by the extraction process, what varieties are used, in what proportions, and where these varieties were grown; of the earth from which it springs forth, filtered through processes to harness the enormous into the very small (350 kilos of Jasmine are required for 1 kilo of absolute!), Jasmine absorbs all it passes by, through and around, leaving its potent, unctuous odour in its wake.

Eager already to search in and round
The heavenly forest, dense and living-green,

While the absolute generally speaking has a heavy, floral scent with fruity, tea-like and waxy undertones, there are definite differences between the grandiflorum and the sambac varieties. The first is an overall more restrained and straightforward clean white floral, while the sambac is more green and animalic. Let's begin with grandiflorum, as it is the traditional jasmine of the perfumery trade, and the variety grown on the famed blooming hills of Grasse (where the above-mentioned Carles practiced, and known to many as the hub of French perfume, with Chanel owning various private aromatic fields in the Southern region). The grandiflorum possesses a luxurious, elegant, white floral scent with a somewhat fruity note like that of white peaches with a creamy instead of juicy finish (like the heady scent of peaches and cream versus that of the peach on its own). It is an odour truly beyond and without comparison, as even simulacra of the scent inevitably contain a portion of the real absolute.
Which tempered to the eyes the new-born day,
Withouten more delay I left the bank,

Jasminum sambac, on the other hand, is relatively new to the Western perfumery world, introduced to it in the 1990s. It's been used for at least a thousand years by various ancient cultures, and was perhaps the variety planted in China as early as 300 BC—so prominent now that it is synonymous with their teas, with the Green variety of note—or the Jasmine oft-quoted in Indian poems and lore of that same time. Its scent is heavier on the indoles, with a darker, greener and more animalic scent, that can be a bit funkier than the grandiflorum variety, delivering a complexity that extends far beyond the more direct grandiflorum.

Taking the level country slowly, slowly

While Jasmine was used for thousands of years throughout Asia, it was not until the 16th century that Jasmine travelled to Europe and North Africa via the Arab trade. It was introduced to the South of France by Spanish sailors, specifically in the area around Grasse, now (as mentioned) a significant perfume production hub. Shortly after its introduction, little jasmine fields would be found lining bordering most homes in Grasse; residents would pick their flowers and bring them to the local cooperative extraction plant in the city, where the flowers would be extracted by a process called enfleurage (which later shifted to processes that would obtain a concrete or absolute). The seasonal jasmine harvest was often the sole source of income of residents and would provide them with enough to live on for the rest of the year, with the cooperative taking care of not only the extraction process, but the marketing and sales as well. These cooperatives exist to this day, and are for the most part where LVNEA sources many of its precious oils.

Over the soil that everywhere breathes fragrance.
Jasmine absolute has a terrific rounding and binding ability to blend and harmonize aromas into a more unified scent. Often combined with rose (and sometimes aided on by neroli) to create a classic floral accord, it can be used in small amounts to elevate almost any fragrance, bringing to it a depth and richness that no other scent can produce, brightening the darkest of accords and clarifying the muddiest of fragrances. It is a truly boundless absolute, traveling, like Dante, from the fiery depths of the smokey or leathery accords, through the purgatoried rings of corporeal amber varieties, through the chypres and fougeres that ring both entry points, and finally to the bright, celestial citrus blends of the heavens.
And so much power the stricken plant possesses
That with its virtue it impregns the air,
And this, revolving, scatters it around—

On this approximation of Dante's date of birth, betwixt two faces as he was and as we were in this season of Gemini, celebrate the multiplicity of the Jasmine, within each variety and both entwined.


Featured LVNEA Products Containing Jasmine:

Jasmine & Fir

Pendulum gesture, reflect on the purpose
Of calmest of lakes, of warmest of hours.
Stillness resides in the Pyrrhic contender

Whose victory hides at the heart of their error.

Jasmine Hydrosol


Jasmine Absolute

Nuit Désert

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