With its mysterious silhouette and bewitching scent, ylang-ylang has intrigued noses for many years. Cultivated since the beginning of the 20th century, this plant has crossed borders to reveal its floral and spicy notes in numerous compositions. Embark on an olfactory journey to the tropics to discover the perfume of ylang-ylang.
Ylang-ylang, the traveling flower
The origins of ylang-ylang
The origins of ylang-ylang lie in Southeast Asia, and more specifically in the Moluccan archipelago, a paradisiacal place located in the east of Indonesia. This tree, with its mysterious silhouette, flourishes in the heart of tropical rainforests, where it unveils its yellowish tangled flowers, reminiscent of a witch’s fingers. In Indonesia, the cananga odorata, from its Latin name, is called “the flower of flowers” thanks to its bewitching and incomparable perfume. The story goes that the German sailor Albertus Schwenger fell under the spell of this narcotic flower. Determined to exploit this pleasant fragrance, he was the first to set up an ylang-ylang distillation laboratory in Manila, Philippines, in 1860. The precious essential oil then began to be exported to Europe to be used in fine perfumery.
Growing the plant
After the Philippines, ylang-ylang travels to Reunion Island, then to Madagascar and the Comoros archipelago where it is now widely produced. This tree of the magnolia family blooms almost all year round, cradled by the sun’s rays and humidity. In the wild, it can reach up to 30 meters in height! But to facilitate harvesting, it is ruthlessly pruned so that it does not exceed 3 meters. Its sinuous branches wrap around the trunk and reveal several times a year white flowers that turn green and then yellow at maturity. Each year, an ylang-ylang tree produces an average of 5 kilos of flowers. It is a tree that grows very quickly and it can produce flowers until it is 50 years old.
The virtues of ylang-ylang
Before being appreciated for its delicate perfume, ylang-ylang is known for its many virtues. The Filipinos have been using it for thousands of years to make boori-boori, an ointment created from coconut oil and ylang-ylang flowers. This substance is still used today to protect the skin and hair from the sun. The ancients used to rub it on their bodies during the rainy season to protect themselves from fever and possible infections. Still widely used in aromatherapy and herbal medicine, ylang-ylang essential oil acts against stress and anxiety by calming blood pressure. In addition to its therapeutic virtues, it is said that the ylang-ylang flower also awakens the senses and is a powerful aphrodisiac…
Ylang-ylang, a perfume of well-being
From the flower to the bottle
The delicate flowers are picked by hand before the sun gets too high, by experienced pickers who place them in woven baskets to avoid damaging them. Quickly, the flowers go to the next step: distillation. The flowers are immersed in a tank filled with water, which is brought to a boil over a direct fire. The distillation process lasts between 12 and 20 hours, but it is during the first hours that the flowers deliver their purest essence. There are five qualities (called fractions) according to the density and concentration of the essence obtained. There is the Super Extra fraction (delivered during the first two hours of distillation), the Extra, the First, the Second and the Third. The first 3 fractions are used for perfumery while the others are reserved for cosmetics, soaps, detergents…
To obtain 1 kilo of ylang-ylang essence, it is necessary to distil 40 to 50 kilos of flowers.
The perfume of ylang-ylang
The first fractions of this essence are quite rich, with floral and fruity aspects that do not really reflect the scent of fresh ylang-ylang. Its smell is much more powerful, with an elusiveness side that makes it difficult to describe. This essential oil also displays spicy facets reminiscent of carnation or clove. The note that comes after reveals nuances of white flowers, between narcissus, jasmine and tuberose that evoke powdery and flowery notes. The perfume of ylang-ylang is very persistent. Too much of it can reveal a “nail polish” aspect, medicated shades or a smell of an overripe banana. When the nose finds the right balance, the scent of ylang-ylang becomes creamy and exotic. It reminds of monoi with a very sensual side, almost animal and carnal… What a program!
The use of ylang-ylang in perfumery
With its white flower scent, ylang-ylang usually brightens up fresh, floral compositions. Designers use it sparingly to bring richness and depth to “too wise” juices with its sensuality. Ylang-ylang is also used for its exotic facet in fruity and sunny fragrances. Thanks to its many shades, we find this subtle essence in oriental and spicy accords. Moreover, its creamy scent blends perfectly with vanilla tones. This “all-purpose note” also softens overly acidic citrus and reinforces musky fragrances with caressing and powdery notes.
Carrément Belle and ylang-ylang
The perfume of ylang-ylang has seduced us for several decades and is thus found in various fragrances of our Collection:
Oriental sunshine with kilim
The eau de parfum kilim takes us in a disorienting wake where the East is within reach of the nose. If its base is woody thanks to patchouli, its heart is softened by a floral bouquet in which ylang-ylang plays the leading role. Its essence reveals all its aspects by adding powdery nuances and reinforcing the spicy side of this fragrance of a thousand scents. A perfume that makes you travel in a few drops…
The delicacy of musc
Change of scenery with musc! This discreet and intimate fragrance envelops your skin with a sensual and fresh caress. Its fruity top notes will first blow the cold away while its floral and comforting heart will plunge you into a tender thrill. The scent of ylang-ylang combines with the sensuality of white musk, amber and cotton flower in a fragrance that can be savored close to the skin…
Do you like the scent of ylang-ylang?
Discover the fragrances mentioned in the article