What is the current status of this simple question, “Does real lilac essential oil exist?”

The answer has always been, quite frankly, “No”. Real lilac essential oil has been deemed problematic, evasive, illusory, and impossible by the great perfumers, chemists, alchemists and extractionists of the 19th and 20th century.

The main reason there has been no known lilac essential oil in these centuries is because lilac cannot be distilled like other flowers. Steam distillation destroys the floral essence of lilac. Over the decades the wood of lilac has been distilled and used for plant medicines. The lilac wood essential oil is very potent as a vermicide and was used in treating malaria in North Africa and parts of the Middle East.

Many perfumers and pharmacists’ notebooks have hand scratched details of the best formulae to use in order to try to duplicate the distinctive fragrance of lilac.

Today, overwhelmingly, manufacturers heralding ‘lilac essential oil’ are selling a fake, a chemical blend of synthetic fragrance oils, that suggest to the mind a resemblance of the true scent, but being completely unrelated to the actual plant.

Tragically the therapeutic properties of lilac flower essential oil cannot be transferred to the synthetic form. Synthetic formulations of lilac essential oil vary in their constituents, very little safeguards or standards exist and these synthetic fragrances are largely unregulated. Synthetic formulas are kept as trade secrets and products sold to consumers are not required to list ingredients on the package. Synthetic fragrances do not convey the same therapeutic properties as naturally derived plant essences, and may even be harmful and pose health and environmental hazards.

There is a travesty of misinformation and a collapse of ‘truth in advertising’ standards in the aromatherapy world. I seek to bust the myths and lift the lid so we may look inside and understand the truth.

The questions remain amid all the misinformation: Is there a real lilac essential oil? Has it ever existed? Does lilac essential oil exist today?

Well, there are two known ways to extract the essence of lilac flowers. Both are very intensive and costly. One way to extract lilac essence is through a very ancient and traditional extraction method called Enfleurage and one is through a very advanced and technical modern laboratory method called CO2 extraction.

I’ll talk about what I know, what I perform, and what I have pioneered, reinvented and revitalized here in the 21st century, and that is the art of Enfleurage. I have brought to light this ancient artisan practice and have adapted it to Lilacs, extracting a true essence of fresh blooming Lilacs.

So the answer is ‘YES’ Lilac essential oil does exist. It is extracted through the ancient artisan method of Enfleurage. I listened and the plants revealed their alchemistry to me in 2017. I have been making the essential oil of lilac, steadily increasing my yield each year, since then.

The process of Enfleurage is very simple but very labor intensive. Thirty days of fresh lilac blossoms are required to produce this rare essence. At our lilac farm in Cherry Valley, NY, conditions are just right for this beautiful work. Here is a description of how we do it at our Enfleurage studio.

Enfleurage is the French term for an ancient, labor intensive, and all-but vanished, technique in which a fat is used to absorb scent from fresh exhaling flowers. Enfleurage captures the most delicate components of scent and the most comprehensive spectrum of scent molecules. Lilac does not lend itself to distillation and other methods collect only fractions of the scent and leave behind or destroy certain elements. Traditional Enfleurage yields the most authentic essential oil of lilac.

In our Atelier, fresh lilacs are placed in fat substrate where the lovely lilac scent is captured in the fat molecules. We use all organically grown, sustainably harvested, palm kernel oil to extract the scent. Every day for 33 days, we painstakingly replace the hand picked lilac blossoms with fresh blossoms, so the aroma is intoxicatingly authentic. Then we separate the scent molecules from the fat using organic spirits and concentrate it with a gentle evaporation process to preserve the delicate notes of lilac.

This is the authentic essential oil extract of lilac that we create with natural enfleurage, using more than 150 different varieties of lilacs from our lilac farm. Our 2019 Lilac Enfleurage is made from lilacs: Maiden’s Blush, Sweetheart, Konchkalovsky, Frank’s Fancy, Paul Thirion, Burgundy Queen, Royalty, Palibin, Charles Jolie, President Lincoln, Elenor Roosevelt, President Grevy, Miss Kim, Pocahontas, Brent’s Beauty, Miss Canada, Peace, Wedgewood Blue, Dappled Dawn, Sensation, Josie, Monge, Alice Mae, Mrs. Havermeyer, Emile Lemoine, Amy Schott, Agincourt Beauty, Crepuscule, Sara Sands and Donald Wyman, Violeta, Flora, Vesper’s Song, Silverking, and Arch McKean. Each year the scent will vary slightly in accordance with which lilacs are the colossal bloomers that year. Nothing is added or taken away from this pure natural product. More than 30 bushels of fresh flowers go into producing 10 ml of Lilac Enfleurage extract.

Our delicate lilac essence may be used as an exquisite stand alone natural perfume, or as an ingredient in blending with other natural scents.

Does lilac essential oil really exist? Yes it does. In season you can visit our lilac farm and take a tour of our Atelier and see Lilac Enfleurage in action.