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Why do oil scents vary from company to company?

Why do oil scents vary from company to company?

Undecided womanHere are some common questions asked of many essential oil companies:

  • Why do the scents vary from company to company?
  • Why is it that I can get the same oil from the same company and the scent isn’t exactly the same?
  • Shouldn’t they all smell exactly the same?

Sound familiar to thoughts you have had? The answer is no they shouldn’t smell exactly the same. They will usually be very close but they will be different. So let’s look into why.

Why do they vary?

First thing to look at is how much do the scents vary? Is it a huge amount or just a little? Then look at where the oil came from. Peppermint from the USA smells a little different than Peppermint from India. They are different countries, different soil, different plants, and different environments. Another example is Frankincense. Frankincense from India is going to smell different than one from Somalia. And neither will smell exactly the same as one from Oman.

Then there are the extraction and distillation processes. Lemon oil that is cold-pressed will smell differently than distilled Lemon. (For more information on extraction and distillation, see our article that explains the different methods of extraction.)

Generic Peppermint OilLet’s use Peppermint for our example. There are two different methods of distilling Peppermint — low heat and high heat. We could both go to the same farm and harvest the same plant, but if we use different distillation methods the essential oil will smell different. The first method uses low heat and low pressure to maintain the highest therapeutic quality. The amount of oil processed will not be as much as with high heat but the therapeutic quality is higher with low heat. The oil has a warm, slightly herbal peppermint scent.

The second method is for a strong smelling peppermint, and to increase the yield (or amount) of oil extracted so with high heat, a high pressure distillation process is used. The oil will have a much stronger or bolder peppermint smell, and some people may confuse that for potency or quality. Don’t let that fool you! When the heat and pressure are turned up it does increase the yield and  gives you a stronger smelling oil, but it also removes the parts or components that make up the peppermint, and you  lose  therapeutic properties.

Vetiver field coverOther factors

There are many small changes that also occur. The weather and seasons effect plants, as well as the amount of water available, when the plant is harvested, and which part of the plant is distilled. Some essential oil companies only use the leaves, or maybe the roots, berries, or it could be just the bark that is required. So the chance of you finding a company that sells essential oils with the same exact smell as another are low. Even the same company’s oils may smell different from harvest to harvest because even when using the same farm and same distillation process, other factors like droughts, average temperature, etc may effect the scent. They would have had to purchased from the same farmer, and from the same distillation batch.

With all this in mind, essential oil users should be looking for a company that understands the distillation process, and works with quality farmers. If a company sells the exact same oil year after year after year, with no change in smell, tone, or quality, this should  raise a red flag.  Perfumes smell the same because they are engineered from exact synthetic formulas. Essential oils are from nature and plants don’t follow exact formulas. Their free spirits ebb and flow from crop to crop, and season to season.

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