Scent Sense: Ylang-ylang

“Crowned the ‘flower of flowers’ in the Philippians; evoking the vibrant colours of summer”

Ylang-ylang (pronounced “ilang-ilang”) has an exquisite scent profile that is rich, floral, banana-toned, sweet, narcotic and erotic. Coined as the poor man’s jasmine due to the similar scent and lower cost.  The blooms of this flower are so delicate that they must be picked by hand at dawn, and distilled within two hours. It takes around 400 kilos of flowers to produce one kilo of essential oil and each tree provides around 10 kilos of flowers a year. A highly labour-intensive process, which many people’s livelihoods depend on.

Some of the earliest recorded uses were as additives to coconut oil hair pomade, ceremonial decoration and personal ornamentation. Today, the flowers are used to scent clothes closets and bed linens, and the essential oil is added to infusions to be applied after bathing.  Ylang-ylang is widely used in aromatherapy treatments to relieve stress and is a powerful aphrodisiac. The wood from the tree is used for making boxes in Sri Lanka, and rope is made from the bark in the Celebes.  In Malaysia, ylang-ylang is mainly planted along roadsides for shade.

Ylang-Ylang is used in approximately 40% of perfume creations today. Made famous in the iconic Chanel No 5 and Joy perfumes offering bright and ethereal tops notes with a skin-like soft dry down.

Ylang-ylang is native to tropical Asia, Australia, and several Pacific islands, and has been introduced into Africa, China, India and the Americas. The main exporters of ylang-ylang oil are Indonesia, the Comoro Islands and the Philippines.

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