CI Fragrance Diaries: Why We Love Ylang-Ylang
This month, as we enter the final throes of summer, Cape Island is celebrating romance by falling head over heels into the exotic note of Ylang-Ylang. This topsy-turvy flower with its slender, drooping petals may appear fragile at first glance, but what it lacks in form it makes up for with its fragrant power.
Ylang-Ylang offers us a rich, delightfully sweet and somewhat narcotic heart note with Jasmine nuances which blends well with most floral and citrus notes. It features prominently in our Constantia Heights fragrance where its heaviness has been lifted by adding fresh neroli to the blend.
Ylang-ylang’s penetrating aroma has a sedative effect, calming the central nervous system while supporting blood circulation and creating a gentle euphoria. It is this combination that gives ylang-ylang a reputation as a powerful aphrodisiac and anti-depressant. Excessive use can lead to headaches and nausea in sensitive people.
The botanical name of the tree is Cananga Odorota and it can best be described as a smooth-barked evergreen reaching a height of 25 meters. The six-petaled yellow flowers appear to drip from the branches when they are fully opened, and harvesting is best just before the dawn as the oil concentration is elevated at night.
The valuable essential oil produced by a steam and water distillation of the freshly picked flowers and separated into different grades (extra, 1, 2, or 3). The very first pressing is known as the ‘extra’ and contains the highest amounts of esters and therefore has the sweetest odor. It is the ‘extra’ oil which is used in the perfume industry.
The name Ylang-Ylang (pronounced “ilang-ilang“) originates from the Tagalong language of the exquisite Philippines islands in South East Asia, and while the exact meaning of this name has been disputed, Ylang-Ylang is often referred to as “The Flower of Flowers”. There can be no arguing that the fragrant qualities of this plant have long been valued in Asia, well before it was first brought to Europe in 1864.
Perhaps ylang-ylang’s most famous appointment has been in the iconic perfume, Chanel No.5 which was the very first fragrance released by the house of Chanel on the fifth day of the fifth month, 1921.
It is said that master perfumer Ernest Beaux had numbered his vials 1-5 and 20-24 when it came time for Madame Chanel to make her final decision. Having spent much of her childhood in a convent orphanage where the paths that led Chanel to the cathedral for daily prayer were laid out in circular patterns repeating the number five, it had long been sacred and mystical symbol for her.
Coco Chanel said to Ernest Beaux, “I present my dress collections on the fifth of May, the fifth month of the year and so we will let this sample number five keep the name it has already, it will bring good luck.” And thus, the world’s most famous perfume was born.
Our sense of smell is one of the most subjective senses we have. We associate odors with our feelings and memories, which makes perfumery a powerful and complex art. Ylang-ylang has the power to hypnotize the olfactory nerves and send us into a state of peaceful rapture which is why we love it.
If you need some ylang-ylang in your life peruse our Constantia Heights fragrance collection here…
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