Absolutes are similar to essential oils. They are concentrated, highly-aromatic, oily mixtures extracted from plants. The essential oils are typically produced through steam distillation, while absolutes require the use of solvent extraction techniques or more traditionally, through effleurage.
First, an organic solvent, such as hexane, is added to the plant material to help extract the non-polar compounds. This solution is filtered and concentrated by distillation to produce a waxy mass called concrete. The more polar, fragrant compounds are extracted from the concrete into ethanol. When the ethanol evaporates, an oil—the absolute—is left behind.
Absolutes are usually more concentrated than essential oils. Also, the efficiency and low temperature of the extraction process helps prevent damage to the fragrant compounds.
Absolutes are used extensively in perfumery because the aromatic compounds in absolutes have not undergone processes involving high temperatures. This makes them often smell fresher. Although the solvent traces could produce off-notes in the final product, this is usually not a problem if the absolute is of a decent quality.
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