Saturday, 9 October 2010

Revising - top middle and base notes, Poucher

Now we come to one of my favourite englishmen.  It is forgotten now but a century ago England dominated the mass market of fragrance due in large measure to the genius of the chief chemist at the London firm of Yardley now owned by Wella.  His name was W.A. Poucher and he lived to the age of 96. One of his many lasting contributions was to classify fragrant substances including essential oils according to their volatility on a scale 1 to 100 which is of great use not only to a perfumer but to an aromatherapist as well. 

However before this decimalisation WA Poucher originally classified essential oils according to the 88 notes to be found on a piano hence 'top', 'middle' and 'base' notes which helped him remember and personalise the fragrant compounds he worked with.  Like musical notes some essential oils like the floral and citrus fragrances have a sharp quick note which quickly falls away while some a relatively long lived and take upto 24 hours to evaporate.  Composing a perfume was like composing a tune with lingering base notes, impressive middle notes and sharp short lived top notes.

Oils containing the smallest and therefore the most volatile of molecules are termed 'top' or 'head' notes, those containing more of the heaviest and least volatile molecules are called base notes, those in the middle as 'middle' or 'heart' notes. 
Find out more- see Poucher's scale 

Just as a knowledge of the solubility of essential oils is useful so a knowledge of their volatility is useful and not just in the creation of perfume.  A holistic therapist uses their knowledge to deal with common ailments and improve the happiness and self image and so health of their clients.  The perfume that is worn by men as well as women is a great boost to confidence and wellbeing.  It is not too far fetched to imagine a holistic therapist using their knowledge of the volatility of essential oils to create an aroma which their clients have an affinity to.  Art with a little help from science.

One of Shirley Price's contributions is to apply this to the emotional effects of the oils.  Top notes being more volatile are indicated when the mind needs a lift as in poor concentration or despondancy.  Bottom notes being more relaxing come into their own for relieving intense feelings which are difficult to let go like anxieties and stresses.  With this in mind when blending oils for a particular individual oils can be selected from each group.  "the fact that you love the smell is healing in itself" ref Aromatherapy Workbook p182
A good example of this is Sandalwood which is burned by middle eastern brides on honeymoon to relax their husbands.

WA Poucher is perhaps better known for his love of British mountain photography.  Find out more.


No comments:

Post a Comment