Glorious golden flowers of the sun
Helichrysum italicum, as its name suggests (the scientific name of the plant is a contraction of two Greek words: helios, meaning “sun” and chrysos, meaning“gold), is a flower that represents the golden sun of Italy.
Widespread across the Mediterranean, Helichrysum, also known as Immortelle or Everlasting Flower, is a key constituent of the Mediterranean scentscape – a glorious and fragile yellow flower, heavily scented and vaunted throughout history for its use in beauty and adorning the crowns of gods – woven into the laurel worn by the mighty Apollo.
This herb with slim leaves and tiny yellow flowers is a hardy shrub, found clinging to barren hills surviving and thriving, in sunbaked landscapes, resisting drought and high temperatures inhospitable to the less robust.
In Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Galatea was a sea-nymph who frequented the coasts of Sicily and attracted the attention of a Cyclops, Polyphemus. In jealousy, the Cyclops murdered her lover Acis, who Galatea turned into the river Acis. As she mourned and cried, her tears grew into Helichrysum – explaining its abundance where rivers meet the sea.
What does Immortelle smell like?
Immortelle is available as both an absolute and an essential oil. Typically, the absolute is known as Immortelle absolute, and the essential oil as Helichrysum oil, but the names are often used interchangeably.
Immortelle absolute is produced through solvent extraction of the dried flowers – it is extremely faceted and rich, smelling of sun warmed hay, tobacco leaves, sweet notes of caramel, maple and liquorice, a hint of tree sap, a touch of zestiness reminiscent of white grapefruit, and a pronounced spice facet which is like the heat of cinnamon – or even curry leaf. There is also a fruity, cherry and camomile facet to the absolute, missing from the essential oil.
Immortelle or Helichrysum essential oil is much fresher and lighter, even more suggestive of hay, and with much less of the sweet and maple character – instead, the spicy facet has more of a clove bud vibe, and there is a touch more on dried tobacco.
Overall, the impression is golden straw, long dried beneath the summer sun of the Mediterranean, with spicy and sweet facets.
The golden oil
Renowned since ancient times for its beautifying properties, Helichrysum oil was even mentioned in the Odyssey – as Ulysses is gifted and bathed in the oil by Nausicaa, his strength, vigor and beauty returns.
Immortelle oil has been used in skin preparations and beauty products for years – renowned for its anti-inflammatory and soothing properties, and as an anti-aging treatment (most famously by L’Occitane). The oil and hydrosol (water produced during distillation) is also used for skincare, and even first aid.is said to have almost magical qualities:
- help the skin regenerate and promote collagen synthesis and skin cell growth
- improving skin tone and elasticity
- reducing the signs of ageing – a fitting property for a flower known as Immortelle
Where to smell Immortelle
Immortelle is often used in perfumery as a technical ingredient, its chameleon qualities acting as a bridge between other notes to create synergistic accords.
In Gladiator Oud, for example, immortelle connects the spicy cumin top notes and the warm hay absolute and honey accords in the heart.
It offers its golden warmth and delicate spice to sublimate the hay note, bringing a softness and roundness to the accord. Its caramelised notes also lend themselves to Oud, bringing a subtle sweetness to this incredibly virile material. Overall its impact on the fragrance is to bring an aura of gold, and suggest the sun beating down on the gladiatorial arena.
In Gladiator Oud, the Immortelle absolute used is from the IFF LMR ingredients collection – grown in the Balkans, solvent extracted and purified with alcohol. These ingredients are grown in partnerships with local producers, guaranteeing a consistent income for the farmers and supply of high quality materials for IFF LMR.
EXTRA TITBITS on immortelle
Mix it up a little
The Bee’s Knees….
Immortelle is a botanical which can be used in distillery for gin but what does it taste like? Much like the olfactory notes, immortelle offers spicy, warm curry like flavours, dry but with warm undertones.
We recommend you try MELIFERA, an artisanal gin brand who produce a beautiful range of gin spirits showcasing Immortelle, but working with communities to ensure sustainable production and run a program protecting the Black Bee. They have created a menu of fabulous cocktails worth checking out, including our favourite: The Bee’s Knees with lemon juice and honey water. We have paired this with Gladiator Oud for our launch events, as the notes and flavours complement each other beautifully ????.
Nez have created a beautiful little book we love in conjunction with LMR, on all things Immortelle including poems, references, history, science, perfumery and more. It’s available to buy in specialist perfumeries, bookshops and online Immortelle in Perfumery – NEZ + LMR the naturals notebook.