This weekend I took a walk through Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Beyond the roses I made my way to a small gathering of frangipani growers and enthusiasts at the Tropical Garden Centre. The meeting, dubbed Frangipani Fever is an annual event and offers a public workshop on growing the exotic trees. The flower’s scent is seldom used in perfumery. A few examples are Chanel’s Beige and Annick Goutal’s Songes. Frangipani grows easily along Australia’s east coast. Although it’s not a native, many East Coasters have adopted the trees into their backyards adding a sense of colour, character and aroma. The intoxicating scent can often be detected in quiet suburban streets around the city. Walking into the Tropical Centre the scent was unavoidable. It is one thing to smell the flower in the street. In a closed space, the cumulative scent of over one hundred flowering plants is quite a spectacle. I was taken by the buttery nature of the flower’s scent, a quality not as easily identified in open air. The show had a range of species on display. The Plumeria Rosea Frangipani has pinkish flowers and as the name suggested, has hints of rose (phenyl ethyl alcohol) in its fragrance. Another variety is more jasmine (benzyl acetate- a smell I connect with banana candy) and another has buttery lactonic notes of gardenia and tuberose. It is a remarkable smell, one I would love to see more in perfumery. This week I am talking with London perfumer Linda Pilkington from Ormonde Jayne. One of her first creations is dedicated almost entirely to the flower. Her work often pays homage to rare flowers. Aside from these few examples frangipani is rarely seen in either highly distributed or niche perfumes. Price and availability are certainly a consideration. Most frangipani absolutes are extracted in India and 5ml of the Indian absolute will today cost you AU$93.50 at the Sydney Essential Oil Company- www.seoc.com.au I would love to see a men’s frangipani fragrance; a cologne with frangipani in place of orange blossom or frangipani a-la Serge Lutens? With the abundance of frangipanis growing in Australia perhaps I should invest in a farm and harvest the flowers? The only issue is I am a terrible horticulturalist and it’s rare for plants to survive my not so green thumbs! “Stick to what you are good at”, is what the wise would say.
Frangipani Fever: Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney