Magnolia champaca or champak, is known as the perfume tree or the joy perfume tree. Champaca absolute is often worn as a single note or soliflore perfume. It is also one of the most expensive scents in the world. It grows native to Southeast Asia and Southern China. I am lucky enough to have one in my garden. I purchased this white champaca from a rare fruit nursery about 5 years ago.
Now that summer is coming to a close, I want to preserve the beautiful scent of this flower. Every evening as I go outside to water our plants, when the wind picks up the sweet scent of of these blossoms fills the air. The flowers bloom until September and as we draw close to the end of August, I thought I would experiment with these delicate blooms.
In past years, I have attempted to extract champaca's unique fragrance both through oil and alcohol. Typically when you are infusing herbs you leave them in the oil for a month or more. Using fresh herbs is a little harder and you let them wilt before so that you lessen the chance of rotting in the oil. But infusing flowers was all new to me! I am no perfumer but I couldn't give up on this enchanting flower!
Since you have to use this blossom fresh, you have to do many, many...MANY changes to achieve an oil with a strong enough scent. The petals turn brown quite quickly so you can't just let the flowers wilt and then add them to the oil. The trick is to change the flowers every 24 hours. The hardest part is remembering to do this everyday. If you let them go more than 24 hours the flowers will start to turn brown in the oil, and the scent changes. It is a lot of effort and if you aren't careful the entire batch could be ruined and you have to start over again.
Since my champaca tree is still quite young, I have a limited amount of plant material to work with. Unless you have access to a large amount of flowers, the infused oil you will yield will only be 1 cup or so at most. This should make enough for a few small tins of solid perfume you can keep for yourself or share with a few friends!
60-100 fresh champaca blooms
1/2 cup sweet almond oil
1/8 cup beeswax
Small glass jar or bottle
Fill your small jar with sweet almond oil. I used a small quilted jam jar which fits approximately 1/2 cup of oil. If you have a larger jar, just fill it halfway. Unless you can gather a consistent supply of champaca everyday for a month in large quantities, the few blooms you can gather won't scent the oil enough to make a perfume with it.
Every day, gather 2-3 flowers. Make sure they are newly opened, as the more mature flowers will have brown tips and won't impart as bright and fresh of a fragrance. Place the flowers in the oil and give your jar a little shake. The next day, remove the old flowers and replace with fresh material.
Replace and renew flowers every day for at least 20 days. The more changes of flowers you do, the stronger and more potent your oil will smell.
Once the oil has reached your desired level of fragrance, strain out any remaining flower material.
Place the oil into a glass measuring cup For every 4 oz of oil, add 1 oz of beeswax. If you have a smaller quantity of oil, or a much larger quantity, use the ratio of 4:1 of oil:beeswax. This will make a nice firm solid perfume. If you want it slightly softer, you can do a 5:1 ratio.
Place the measuring cup into a pot of simmering water. The water should come halfway up the measuring up. Bring to a boil, then turn to low and let it simmer. Once the beeswax is completely melted, pour into a jar, small tin, or whatever container you want to store your perfume in.