Monday, July 21, 2008

Blending Citrus Peel Oils

Fleeting comes to mind when I am asked to describe the characteristics of most citrus peel oils. These lovely, fresh scents spring to life as top notes within a blend, but tend to fade away rather quickly, unless they are anchored. I include the grapefruits, the lemons, the oranges, the limes, bergamot, pettitgrain and mandarin/tangerine in this class.

Why are these oils fleeting? Citrus peel oils oxidize more rapidly than an Olympic track star can run a 50 meter race. They contain turpenes, such as limonene and pinene: multiple double bonds that react with oxygen. There's not much you can do about that, unless you are able to exist in an oxygen-free world.

So, what's the workaround? One secret to maintaining a citrus peel oil or blend is to anchor it with a middle and/or bottom note that will blend beautifully and fix it in place. Essential oils such as sandalwood and orris root are excellent fixatives, but they are costly. Try oakmoss, patchouli and vetiver for a less expensive, deep bottom note that adds a resinous, stick-to-it characteristic to your blends. For a lighter anchor, consider using an oil that contains citral, a lemony-scented constituent that works well as a middle or heart note in a blend. Lemongrass and litsea cubeba are both high in citral and blend seamlessly with the family of citrus peel oils. Geraniol is another constituent, floral in nature, that blends well and anchors nicely with turpene oils. Geranoil is prevalent in rose geranium oil. Grassy-lemony oils rich in citral and citronellol fix and blend well, too. Find them in citronella, lemongrass, litsea cubeba (May Chang), lemon eucalyptus (E. citridora), melissa (bee or lemon balm), and palmarosa.

For those who are adamant about using only citrus peel oils or want a single citrus note only, consider using folded citrus oils or turpeneless citrus oils. Folded oils have the turpenes removed or drastically reduced through redistillation. Turpenes have low boiling points and flash off quickly in redistillation. Bergaptene-free bergamot is turpeneless single oil while 5 fold orange and 5 fold lemon are folded (reduced) 5 times, effectively reducing the turpenes to nothing, but leaving the fragrant constituents intact. As an added benefit, folded oils deliver beautiful color more intense than their single-fold cousins.

Most citrus oils do not fare well as soliflores -- or single notes in formulation. Use our blends as inspiration or a starting point for your own creations. Mix your citrus peel oils as you wish using any amount of grapefruit, lemon, lime, tangerine/mandarin, orange or other citrus peel oils you please.

Citrus & Floral I

1 part lemongrass
1 part palmarosa
2 parts citrus peel
2 parts rose geranium

Citrus & Floral II
1 part citronella
3 parts lemon
1 part bergamot

Citrus & Floral III

2 parts ylang ylang
1 part vetiver
4 parts grapefruit (I prefer pink)

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