'Verbena, or Verveine' by G.W. Septimus Piesse, 1857

Excerpt from The Art of Perfumery, and the Methods of Obtaining the Odours of Plants by G.W. Septimus Piesse, 1857

"Verbena, or Vervaine. -

The scented species of this plant, the lemon verbena, Aloysia citriodora, gives one of the finest perfumes with which we are acquainted; it is well known as yielding a delightful fragrance by merely drawing the hand over the plant; some of the little vessels or sacks containing the Otto must be crushed in this act, as there is little or no odor by merely smelling the plant.

The otto, which can be extracted from the leaves by distillation with water on account of its high price, is scarcely, if ever, used by the manufacturing perfumer, but it is most successfully imitated by mixing the otto of lemon grass, Andropogon schoenanthus, with rectified spirit, the odor of which resembles the former to a nicety. The following is a good form for the:

Extract of Verbena.

Rectified Spirit, .....1 pint.

Otto of lemon gras, .....3 drachms.

Otto of lemon peel, ..... 2 oz.

Otto of orange peel, ..... 1/2 oz.

After standing together for a few hours and then filtering, it is for sale.

Another mixture of this kind, presumed by the public to be made from the same plant, but of a finer quality, is composed thus - it is sold under the title:

Extrait de Verveine.

Rectified spirit ..... 1 pint

Otto of orange peel, ..... 1 oz.

Otto of lemon peel. ..... 2 oz.

Otto of citron, ..... 1 drachm

Otto of lemon grass, ..... 2 1/2 drachms

Extrait de fleur d'orange, ..... 7 oz.

Extrait de fleur tubéreuse, ..... 7 oz.

Esprit de rose ..... 1/2 pint

This mixture is exceedingly refreshing, and is one of the most elegant perfumes that is made. Being white, it does not stain the handkerchief. It is best when sold fresh made, as by age the citrine oils oxidize, and the perfume acquires an ethereal odor, and then customers say "it is sour". The verveine thus prepared enters into the composition of a great many of the favourite bouquets that are sold under the title "Court Bouquet", and others which are mixtures of violet, rose, and jasmine, with verbena or verveine in different proportions. In these preparations, as also in Eau de Portugal, and in fact where any of the citrine ottos are used, a much finer product is obtained by using grape spirit or brandy in preference to the English corn spirit as a solvent for them. Nor do they deteriorate so quickly in French spirit as in English. Whether this be due to the oil of wine (œnanthic ether) or not we cannot say, but think it is so."




The 'Smelling History' series has been published for purposes of entertainment & education. It is not recommended to recreate the formulas and instructions outlined here. The methods and materials in these historical exerts could be extremely dangerous.

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