making scents with ylang ylang extra


Today’s musings on making scents with Ylang Ylang Extra have to do with choices, choices and more choices for building a floral accord — but also with luxury and s*x. When you want to think beyond the classical Rose or Jasmine consider Ylang Ylang in all the various fractions as an open field of possibilities for expanding your olfactive palette.

Common name: Ylang Ylang (pronounced “eelang-eelang”)

Genus name: Cananga odorata

Supplier: Perfumery Art School (part of our kit)

Note: Heart

Family: Floral

Diffusion: 7

Dilution: 10%

Blends well with:  Peru balsam, bergamot, carnation, cassie, citronella, grapefuit, jasmine, labdanum, lavender, lemon, melissa, neroli, orange, oakmoss, patchouli, rose, sandalwood, tuberose, verbena, vetiver.  Or why not try blending the various types together to create your own ylang ylang accord, suggests Eden Botanicals.

Chemical components: Linalol, farnesol, geraniol, geranial, benzyl acetate,benzyl benzoate, geranyl acetate, eugenol, methyl chavicol, b-caryophyllene, farnesene, p-cresyl methyl ether and other sesquiterpenes. 

Interesting bits:  Tropical tree native to the Philippines was later adopted in countries like Comoros, Madagascar, Reunion and Indonesia.  Although derived from the same tree, ylang from Comoros and Madagascar have distinctly different compositions and odors. (Biolandes)

The Extra … contains the highest amounts of esters and therefore has the sweetest odor, while the later pressings have a less-sweet odour. The ‘extra’ is not used in aromatherapy, but used in the perfume industry…(Esoteric Oils)

The Extra fraction of Ylang Ylang is the oil that is collected from the first hour of distillation; this fraction of Ylang Ylang is generally the most desirable grade of all the ylang ylang oils and usually comprises about a third to nearly half of the total distillate. It is used mainly in high-end perfumery. The I (first) fraction is from the next 2-1/2 hours, the II (second) fraction from the next 3-4 hours of distillation, and the III (third) fraction is collected from the last hours of the distillation process. Ylang Ylang Complete is a continuous distillation of 6-7 hours, rendering a full-spectrum, non-fractionated (complete) oil. (Eden Botanicals)

Products known as “ylang complete” are available which can be either a blend of the three grades of ylang or the complete oil that results from the full, uninterrupted distillation of the flowers. No uniform standard exists as to when the distillation is suspended and each grade of ylang drawn off. This results in a notorious inconsistency of aroma across the three grades; an experienced nose is required for accurate evaluation. If ylang extra is taken too soon, for instance, many of its outstanding aroma characteristics could show up in the secondary ylang II oil — thereby creating an outstanding ylang II but a weak ylang extra. If the secondary ylang II distillation is allowed to go too long, some of the less fine aroma characteristics of ylang III might show up in the ylang II.

Ylang tends to predominate, so it should be used in small amounts on its own or when blending with other oils. Too much of a good thing might evoke negative effects; restraint is the key to working successfully with ylang. When creating blends, start with amounts that seem too small. Let the blend age for several days before evaluating the aroma, so the power and radiance of the ylang can expand through the blend and reach its ultimate presence. You may find that a blend comprised of as little as 5 to 10% (in aromatherapy) ylang smells like 20 to 30%.


Their nose: Fresh, sweet, floral, slightly fruity, fragrant yet delicate.

Our organic Ylang Ylang Extra is intensely sweet, highly floral, and ethereal, with watery undertones. The intoxicating aroma of Ylang Ylang conjures palpable images of the flowers’ paradisial origins: palm trees swaying over sun-drenched beaches, exotic spices, peaceful island breezes, gossamer rays of moonlight, and the rhythm of the ocean’s song. Such is the power of Ylang Ylang’s amazing aroma for easing the mind, as well as for its effect in the composition of perfumes. It is one of the finest aromatic materials in the perfume industry. (Eden Botanicals)

The standard bearer of all ylang grades is ylang extra, which has a creamy, delicate aroma, never overpowering or too densely sweet. Aroma-sensitive individuals sometimes experience headaches when inhaling the potent ylang III, but usually don’t when inhaling the subtle sweetness of ylang extra. (Auracacia)

An elegant intensely sweet floral odor with a refined vanillic, fruity, spicy undertone. (White Lotus Aromatics)

My nose: Ylang Ylang Extra literally explodes as a thick, floral big-petaled bomb! It’s like the word in Italian “femmena” (really it’s “femmina”, meaning female, but said with a southern Italian accent it comes out as this beautiful, heavy, important word.) There is nothing discrete about Ylang Ylang Extra. It’s evocative, cloying, creamy and dominating.  Ylang Ylang Extra is all that and then some! 15min and now it’s juicy, heady, intoxicating, opening up seriously now, over blown, like a storm of floral power blasting you. 30min and to me this is now like s*x. So far no other floral or material for that matter has made such an impression upon my mind. It’s total sexual abandon. (I had other words to describe it but had to keep this post G-rated ;). S*x without fear, sweet thick, succulent, satisfying, sultry, carnal and of course floral. 45min into the top notes and any hint of submission is only a deception. She’s cheating because later Ylang Ylang Extra comes back! She remains carnal, still s*xually disruptive, but now there’s a hint of green, a bit of shine, but the projection remains powerful. 1hr now but I had a phone call and didn’t evaluate. 2hrs and it’s warm, sweet, still gutsy, a bit more aged but there’s a roundness to the shape, thick, still loaded with this warm sensuality. 3hrs into the heart now and it’s round, bold, extravagant, exotic and voluminous. After 7hrs now Ylang Ylang Extra is wonderfully soft, plumy, warm, floral, like late summer languishing over a beautiful glass of wine at the golden hour. I can’t believe how bold this layer still is!!! 12hrs later and this is so pleasing. The first inhale brought a smile to my lips. It’s more ethereal now, I can smell commonalities with Rose, but still she remains generous and a sheer delight. The final 24hrs evaluation is WOW! Ylang Ylang Extra is intensely floral, even after a whole day on the scent strip! It remains thick and commanding. But, now it’s expression is much more classically floral and approachable, still a voluptuous, Botticelli beauty! If anyone just a few months ago would have told me that I would have been this overcome by a floral I would have laughed. And not ha-ha-hehe. But ha-ha-WHATEVER! But this just shows me that I am making progress in my olfactory training as I develop an ability to smell beyond my olfactive boundaries set only by my past opinions, culture and a whole host of assumptions!

12/24 comparison: The 12/24 comparison yielded some interesting insights: the 12hr strip was pungent, arresting, consuming; this layer was still powerfully floral! But at this stage I prefer it’s carnal suggestions more. In a straight comparison it’s much more exciting. Which leads me to believe that interacting with other materials this facet of excitement could become highlighted. The brightness is still there. Whereas on the 24hr strip comparing the two, this one is simply beautiful, it’s pure poetry now. There is a fuller appreciation that emerges when you do the comparison that you just don’t pick up on its own! I can appreciate this so much more for how it suggests sensuality during the comparison. The brightness is gone but what remains is a glow, the embers of a wild night that coax you into a warm slumber with a smile on your face.

The gift of this floral is that Ylang Ylang Extra reminds me to luxuriate in all that life is and to take pleasure in the simple things.

Enjoy your mid-week!



note evaluations: the floral family


I am not naturally drawn to florals, never have been, unless they are very exotic which usually translates into very expensive.  I don’t know, there’s just something about the florals that screams commonplace; whenever I see Rose as a note ingredient, I roll my eyes and think, “Oh, God, not again!”  And yet I must explore, even though my mind wants to convince me that I already know what Rose smells like, that I already know everything about the olfactive landscape of Rose, I must recognise it as a prejudice that does not work in my favour, push it aside and let curiosity lead.

My favourite floral notes, two of which are not part of the course, are: Osmanthus, Tuberose and Jasmine.  The florals on my future “To Buy” list are: Frangipani, Blue Lotus, Jasmine Sambac and Gardenia.

On with the evaluations:

Ylang Ylang III: sweet, floral, a garden. Out of the right nostril it smells even sweeter, warm tender and creamy.  I even get a soft green note hiding there.  Ylang Ylang III dries down to a soft green, warm sweetness.  I can smell tobacco together with this!  Volatility: mid to low.

Ylang Ylang Extra: this note is much more piercing, almost medicinal and herbaceous in quality. Strong, green impression, more complex than the Ylang Ylang III, sweet. It dries down into a much softer version than the III less green although it retains its floral outlines; it is much more floral in the dry down.  Volatility: mid to low.

Jasmine (grandiflorum): opens with a heavy, rich, sweetness; feminine and flowing even though a bit dark.  Lighter and more penetrating, summer soft and happy memories, kindness, round and voluptuous, comforting.  I love this note!  Creamy and deep.  6 hours later it is still warm, bodaceous, sensuous, thick, creamy and rich.  Jasmine is a woman with curves, it’s the Monica Bellucci of florals. Volatility: low volatility.

Geranium Bourbon: opens sweetly, sharp, thin and light.  That’s interesting, I assumed that all floral notes were thick in quality. Slightly herbaceous, light, Lichee fruity, fruity, floral, creamy, trance-like quality, it pulls you in.  It dries down to a much brighter feeling than the other florals, green, fresh floral, vibrant! Volatility: mid to low.

Phenyl Ethyl Acetate (PEA): a natural isolate of ylang ylang, narcissus and champaca and occurs naturally in narcissus and jasmine sambac.  It opens thin and metallic, light and to my nose a hint of mint. Peppermint, floral petals, vaguely rosy and sweet.  6 hours later and it’s still soft , still metallic in quality, sharp, very present.  Volatility: mid-low.

Rose Absolute: enters like an “O”, round, dry, sweet but only with a faint gesture of rose.  Thin, garden, grass, green, rummy(?), gentle, soft, downy, creamy.  The dry down is definitely rose heavier now, even woody and it has an intoxicating quality.  Volatility: low.

Aldehyde C14: a natural isolate of peach which occurs naturally in fruit and fermented products.  Opens creamy soft but to me, one dimensional. Bright, powdery, floral, I only get a few sniffs of this and then it becomes invisible to my nose.  The dry down is much more floral but still singular, not complex, softer a bit heavy. Volatility: low.

Linalol: a natural isolate derived from citrus but naturally occurring in citrus, rosewood, aniseed and geranium.  Opens light and airy, summery and breezy, lavender.  Fresh pungent, green, transparent and lemony. After 6 hours there is a vague scent of lavender, and vaguely herbaceous.  Volatility: low.