Have you ever wondered why perfumes are so expensive? It’s not just the fact that quality simply doesn’t come for free. A professional perfumer needs time to create a unique bouquet using different essential oils. Extracting these oils from fruits, flowers and woods is a complex and time-consuming task. When the base material is very rare or hardly yields any essential oil, the price per ounce shoots up, sometimes forcing perfumes to go with the more affordable synthetic alternative. Today, I’m taking a closer look at some of the most exclusive essential oils on the planet.
Essential oil from rose petals may be the most popular, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get. Whilst ‘rose absolutes’ can be obtained chemically by solvent extraction. In order to produce the more exclusive ‘rose otto’, the oil has to be traditionally distilled using steam. With this method, distilling one single ounce of essential oil takes up to 500 pounds of petals. They also have to be hand-picked before sunrise to get the best quality fragrance. The Bulgarian rose yields the most expensive essential oil, selling at a whopping 900 – 1000 US dollars per ounce.
Better known as “oudh” or “oodh” in the perfume industry, agarwood essential oil is distilled from Aquilaria and Gyrinops trees that grow naturally in the majestic rainforests of southeast Asia. They are also cultivated in parts of New Zealand. Its woody-nutty fragrance is produced only when the tree is infected with a certain tropical mold that influences the resin in the heartwood of mature trees. Depending on its purity, real agarwood essential oil sells at 700 – 850 US dollars per ounce. It lends perfumes a bittersweet, earthy note.
- Cannabis Flower
Famous for its medicinal properties and the sturdiness of hemp when used in textiles, cannabis is a very versatile plant. What a lot of people don’t know is that the essential oil from the cannabis flower is also used in many perfumes. Depending a little on the sort, the oil adds a tender and sweet or a slightly fruity note to the perfume bouquet. At around 950 dollars per ounce, cannabis flower oil is amongst the most expensive essential oils in the world.
When it comes to rare materials, sandalwood is definitely in the same league as agarwood. It is only cultivated in India, where the government limits the production of essential oil. The wood is considered holy by Hindus, who built temples from it and use sandalwood in some of their rituals. It retains its smooth, creamy smell for years, but the tree itself needs plenty of time to grow. The essential oil gives perfumes a lovely woody base note that works in fragrances for men and women. Priced at around 500 US dollars per ounce, sandalwood oil does not come cheap.
- Wild Orchid
Now, this one is technically not an essential oil, since the petals of the wild orchid will not yield their fragrance through any kind of distillation. With wild orchid oil, it’s all about the required skills that make the product so exclusive. Did you know that orchids are one of the oldest flower species we know, dating back 80 million years? Their family is huge and so is the variety of fragrances they hold – not only in their petals: vanilla comes from the orchid’s seedpods. Only the most experienced perfumers manage to capture that typically sweetish, clean orchid note using a combination of natural and synthetic materials.
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