Enfleurage is not commonly used today, but it is one of the oldest methods of essential oil extraction that implements the use of fat. By the end of this process, either vegetable fat or animal fat becomes infused with the flower’s fragrance compounds. The fats that are used are odorless and solid at room temperature. The enfleurage process can be done either “hot” or “cold.” In both instances, the fat that is saturated with fragrance is called “enfleurage pomade.”
- Highly purified and odorless vegetable or animal fat, usually lard or tallow, is spread out over glass plates in a frame called a chassis and is allowed to set.
- Fresh flower petals or fresh whole flowers are then placed on top of the layer of fat and pressed in. They are allowed to set for 1-3 days or for a couple of weeks depending on the flowers that are used. During this time, their scent seeps into the fat.
- The depleted petals are replaced and the process is repeated until the fat reaches the desired saturation.
- The final product is the enfleurage pomade: the fat and the fragrant oil. This is washed with alcohol to separate the botanical extract from the remaining fat, which is used to make soap. When the alcohol evaporates from this mixture, the “absolute” is what is left over.
- The only difference in this process is that the fats are heated.