Jasmine, my favorite flower, comes in lots of different packages. My poor Maid of Orleans sambac jasmine died when Hurricane Irene brushed us last summer. They are not terribly easy plants to grow on windswept dunes….
So I’ve given up gardening with jasmine, but I keep wearing it. There were rumors in the scientific community a couple of years ago that certain components of jasmine were proving to be strong antidepressants. Some drug companies apparently are researching those compounds now. I’m not surprised, but if I’m gloomy, I’m going to put on some real jasmine absolute, not take a jasmine pill!
The two most famous varieties of jasmine in perfumery are Jasminum grandiflorum (the sweet one) and Jasminum sambac (the skanky one). Sambac is also known as Sampaquita, or Motia. (Though motia can also mean any kind of jasmine in India and Pakistan.) Jasminum auriculatum is also well known in India, and is making its way into perfumery here. It’s also called Juhi, and has a more balsamic and herbaceous profile. Sambac has a deeper profile, with more indoles, hence, the skank. Star jasmine, also used in perfumery, is not jasmine at all, it’s a dogbane, so I’m leaving it out, though it’s awfully pretty.
IFRA’s 43rd amendment put severe restrictions on the use of actual jasmine. The technocrats are worried that someone, someday, might come out in a rash from it and sue everybody. Labs have some interesting synthetic jasmines, my favorite being Sampaquita by Givaudan. It’s very pretty, though it has little in common with actual jasmine sambac. Utterly de-skanked, every bit of earth has been removed. On its own merits, though, it’s lovely, airy and sweet. The synths are “clean” florals. The vast majority of IFRA-compliant perfumes use the synthetics, so when “jasmine” is a note, think synth. I’ve met some people that love synthetic jasmine but loathe the natural. So be careful and clarify when someone says their favorite floral is jasmine before you buy them perfume!
I like my jasmine straight up and natural. I have several bottles of absolute, and a few attars. My favorite is an Indian grandiflorum from Eden Botanicals. And of course, a number of famous perfumes in vintage format are loaded with real jasmine (some from Asia, some from Grasse), and if kept properly, they’ll last decades.
Natural perfumers and many indies are committed to using real jasmine, so I seek out their creations to sniff. Bellyflowers Perfumes just came out with a new potion called Blue Jasmine that I like very much. It pairs every jasmine I’ve mentioned with lotus and ylang ylang; nagarmotha and blue chamomile give it an unusual zip. Blue Jasmine has that ancient Indian attar vibe in spades, though I find it easier to wear than some of the shamamas. To my nose, it’s warm, grounding, and earthy. This is not a well-kept jasmine from a Lucknow garden, but wild jasmine growing in damp earth in a primordial forest.
Bellyflowers is giving away a 3ml sample of Blue Jasmine to interested readers. If you want to be in the drawing, please leave a comment about your favorite type of jasmine, either from the garden or the perfume bottle.