The world of flowers

Beauty, charm, intrigue, sensuality and love: flowers have always represented all these nouns and speak to us in different ways, through their smells and their colors. Who has never given a bouquet of flowers to declare a love or to celebrate an anniversary? Roses, orchids, tulips, carnations, lilies, hyacinths, daffodils, orange blossoms, violets, lilacs make both those who give them and those who receive them happy.

Many ancient stories give numerous examples that explain the origin of flowers: roses are said to have been generated by the drops of blood of the goddess Aphrodite wounded by the brambles while she rushed to the rescue of her beloved and beautiful Adonis, killed by the boars sent by Ares, the jealous lover of the goddess; Giacinto, on the other hand, was a beautiful Spartan prince whose love was contested by 3 gods, Apollo, Zephyr and Boreas. Giacinto chose Apollo unleashing the anger and jealousy of the two gods of the winds. One day, Giacinto and Apollo challenged each other in a discus-throwing competition and the disc launched by Apollo was deflected by a gust of wind sent by Zephyr, mortally hitting the head of the young Hyacinth. Torn, Apollo transformed the blood of the young man into a flower, the hyacinth, in memory of their love.

Each flower also carries a secret message that can only be read by those who know its code. Therefore cultivating, giving or offering flowers can communicate many moods, promises, wishes and emotions: the lily speaks of royalty and elegance, the rose of love and passion, the orange blossom of purity and beauty, and lily of the valley of happiness, to name a few.

The particular scent of  flower is due to the hundreds of chemical molecules contained in its essence which are produced in the petals and released slowly and constantly during the duration of its life. Alcohols such as geraniol, phenylethyl alcohol, citronellol, linalool, benzyl alcohol, esters such as geranyl acetate benzyl acetate, ethyl phenyl acetate, and ketones such as acetophenone, a-ionone, are just some of the more common molecules found in flower essences.

The quantity of the flower's essence is generally very low, between 0.1 and 0.5% of the weight of its petals and is obtained mainly through extractions with low boiling point volatile solvents (40-60 ° C). Collected flowers are immersed in the solvent which after 3-4 hours is able to extract all the essence which, after a further final treatment, is purified, and given the name of absolute. Some flowers are also able to withstand the temperature of water vapor at 100 ° C and therefore it is possible to obtain the essence as an essential oil: rose, orange blossom, and ylang ylang, for instance, are popular essential oils.

Flower essences are very important for the world of perfumery as they are the most used raw materials to create perfumes: heart notes in the olfactory pyramid, they make up the largest family in the official international classification of fragrances. In iconic fragrances such as Chanel 5 or Joy by J. Patou, the floral notes of the flowers (that are mostly used in perfumery), rose and jasmine, are clearly recognizable.

The molecules that we find in the essences of flowers and contained in the perfumes we wear are often also part of the aroma or aromatic bouquet of different foods and drinks with which our nose comes into contact; it is therefore no coincidence that when we try to sensorially describe a wine, a beer, a food, paying attention to what we smell directly or indirectly when we bring the drink or food to our mouth, somewhere we can detect a note which leads back to a flower. Training your sense of smell to recognize them can be useful in many areas.

So, stop and smell the roses!


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