In my previous article, I had discussed the wonderful world of backyard scientists. Go see it if you haven’t. One of the more interesting areas of science for me is chemistry. The ability to understand and do basic chemistry for me figures into self-reliance and it is connected to two aspects of my life: making food and creating sensory entertainment.

9de22a6dce4e602ccf8afdf633277f87We live in a world of constant sensory attacks. In fact, my greatest fear is that an arch nemesis would lock me up in a “Bath & Body Works” for more than 30 minutes. Surely that would cause a miserable death. But natural fragrances are a true source of joy for me. I can access this by cooking, be it cakes or bread, or making Polish fruit teas. Cooking always produces wonderful fragrances. Lately, we have been concentrating various fruits and spices to produce unique soft drink concentrates never before tasted.

When travelling, I like to bring something nice with me. One of the most precious things I own is a tiny tin of Ylang Ylang perfume from the French company Fragonard. France, via the city of Grasse, is the source of all things nice smelling. A myriad of French companies from Provence offer these ‘one note’ perfume products that are sure to become impossible to buy again. This is not the first time I splurge on a truly rare fragrance only to never again be able to find it. When I first moved to Montreal, I had found this Provencial perfume packed full of the zest of oranges rather than the familiar smell of orange blossoms. It didn’t really have a name, it was a biggish blue bottle with a Art Nouveau floral label called ‘Orange Made in Grasse’.

At this point I thought to myself. Well, if there is only one fragrance in these things, surely I can make my own solid perfume… I set out to find Ylang Ylang essential oil across 2000 miles of North America and have come up short. I have found out though, that no two brands of Ylang Ylang smell the same or have the special sweet quality of the Fragonard batch I purchased 5 years ago. This bewilders me to no end! Of all the things that one could set out to make at home, certainly, essential oil extraction would be the most cost prohibitive process!

I never set out to look for chemistry videos on Youtube. I was made aware of Nile Red via a common acquaintance. I highly recommend watching all his videos. Since then I have added more channels to my frequent viewing. You see, I flunked chemistry in high school. I never took chemistry lesson in college. Even though I care a great deal about following scientific topics, I am a total chemn00b. It just so happens that Nile Red explains chemistry in a way that makes me feel like a genius (because I can follow) rather than a nitwit. I know now that it is because I did not have a chemistry teacher that cared about or understood chemistry. Or at least I did, for one week, until the home economics teacher took over for him a he left on sick leave. And that was the end of chemistry for me. I come from a world where it would have been too expensive to do chemistry on my own and the educational material was scant. But we do not live in that world anymore. I am a grown ass person with access to tools but also peer education via Youtube. It’s quite world changing really.

But here is a Nile Red video where he makes a most foul product! What is interesting about this is that by linking the world of fragrance and death, you get the truly creepy but good movie: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, a story set in the magical city of Grasse.


I want to learn how to extract fragrance from botanicals. I want to know why no two bottles of Ylang Ylang essential oils smell the same. I want to find a way to extract the wonderful goodness that is housed into orange pimples! But also, I want to access a secret fragrance that doesn’t seem to exist on the market.

Try this. Next time you eat an apple take a few seeds and chew them. Your mouth may be overwhelmed by a very perfume-like apple concentrate… THAT is what I want to figure out how to extract. The hyper concentrated concept of the Apple, as a smell!

Keep doing the science, there is still so many things to discover!