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Pear Essence
by Jeanne Rose

          Yes, it is really true, there is an essential oil from Pears.  That's right!  This fruit does produce an essential oil.  However, it takes 20 tons of pears to produce about 3 ounces of essential oil.  Here is the story of finding this precious substance.

          Recently, an aromatherapy conference was held near my hometown of San Francisco .  I had a house full of friends visiting that had all decided to go to the Conference but I on the other hand had not been invited to speak nor had I decided to pay to attend.  So on the Saturday of the conference I planned to go to Alameda island and check out  St. George's Spirits'  eau de vie distillery there and taste some of their new products.  Ah! from such small decisions do great events happen.

          At St. George's Spirits I met Lance Winters the distiller and began to discuss distillation.  He remembered me from an incident several years ago, when the company allowed one of their distillers to distill the high azulene Blue Artemis (Artemisia arborescens) in their smallest eau de vie still.  The Blue Artemis left behind enough heavy blue particles of azulene to cause everything that came through it to turn blue for days after our experimental distillation. [ummm! what a way to turn an alcoholic drink blue without synthetic colors].  Lance and I laughed about the incident and he began to talk about a Pear Essence that he had collected.  Fruit does not produce an essential oil, that I knew, but a Pear essence?  What was he talking about? He said that he used the Pear essence to add to personal body care products, it smelled really good and he was interested in essential oils and perfumery.  We spoke about absolutes and concrètes and that most  expensive perfumes were made from these fragrant items and synthetics rather than true essential oils. He informed me that he wanted to learn as much as he could about perfume, essential oils and now these absolutes.  As we continued our conversation, he suddenly left the room with this statement, "I have something for you."

          Lance returned with a test tube full of what he called Pear Essence. A years supply of it. As he said, probably $12,000.00 worth and gave it to me. I sat there at the tasting table with a friend and removed the cork. Pear hit me in the nose. Yum!  Pear odor — most powerful and complete. Pear, very ripe and beautifully golden fragrant —  Pear in all its powerful perfect fruity spectacular and edible sensory essence. The kind of Pear scent that when you smell it in a real Pear you know that the Pear is slightly over-the-hill, that is, over-ripe, smellable but with mushy flesh, not eatable. Pear, pear, smelly sweet and ripe Pear! "The odor impact is WOW!" as Arthur Tucker later wrote. As I smelled the Pear I thought, "the sense of smell is the gift that god gave us as humans to always remind us that there is a  heaven". Arthur Tucker also said, with the objectivity of his scientific experience, "from the richness of this "essence" and the absence of anything not found in nature, I doubt that this is synthetic." Such high praise from an academician.

          Lance gave this description of Pear eau de vie and the production of the essence.  About 20 tons of ripe Bartlett Pears are used.  Yeast is added and the Pears are allowed to ferment for about 14 days. The yeast eats the sugar of the Pear and turns it into alcohol. The entire mass is put into the copper stills. The alcohol distills out at about 60-65%.  This needs to be diluted down to about 40% to make a potable beverage called the Pear  eau de vie.  It is diluted with water that has been subjected to reverse osmosis.  However, when you add the water the eau de vie gets cloudy. So it is chilled to 32° and allowed to settle down for a number of hours.  This facilitates the filtering process to get rid of the cloudiness.  At this point, the clear, golden Pear essence floats to the top and is skimmed off as a fragrant golden fluid and kept.  The Pear eau de vie is left behind. 

          I brought the Pear home with me and shared the scent with all of my house guests.  What a wonderful sight. Seven normally calm aromatherapists all agog and aghast and doubting about what they were smelling.  The only persons who got the scent correctly the first time were bartenders, waitresses and one lone non-drinking-used-to-be-a-wine-salesman guy.  None of the aromatherapy experts could identify the scent. Aromatherapy people are so used to the fact that fruit does not produce an essential oil that even with Pear scent filling their nose and filling their palate they couldn't identify the scent. The Pear is so loud and rambunctious that it fills the palate until you also taste Pear.  It is persistent and will last in your nose and mouth and on your hands for hours.

          I did some very simple experiments with the Pear. Took 5 drops and added 5 drops of water.  The Pear essence floated on the water.  Next I did the same with 95% alcohol and the Pear dissolved in the alcohol. Aha! It floats on water and dissolves in alcohol keeping a very strong scent.

          The next step was to have the Pear essence analyzed by an expert and so  a note to Art Tucker with a query "are you interested in seeing this 'Pear essence' ?" was sent. This was followed by a note from him on November 15, ""I did a quick check of my reprint file and found nothing on "pear essence."... Hmmm! There seems to be a lacuna of information out there.  You've piqued my interest...yes, I would like to see the "pear essence"." Two mls. were immediately sent.

Pear essence Analysis – 11/21/00
GC/MS analysis

constituent percentage

ethanol 00.88
butyl acetate 00.21
hexanal 00.04
isoamyl acetate <0.01
isoamyl alcohol 00.38
ethyl hexanoate 00.08
hexyl acetate 00.69
methyl octanoate 00.01
ethyl caprylate (octanoate) 02.38
ethyl (E)-2-octanoate 00.02
methyl undecanoate 00.01
methyl undec-1-enoate 00.21
ethyl caprate (decanoate) 08.01
(E)-ethyl 4-decenoate 02.71
2'-methyl acetophenone 00.16
(Z,E)-alpha-farnesene 00.42
(E,Z)-alpha-farnesene 04.36
ethyl (E)-2-decenoate 20.54
methyl (E,Z)-2,4-decadienoate 10.33
ethyl (E,Z)-2,4-decadienoate 31.82
ethyl myristate 00.67
ethyl palmitate 00.83
decanoic acid 00.58
methyl 9-octadecenoate 00.43
dodecanoic acid 00.26
ethyl linoleate 00.88
ethyl linolenate 00.08

78.93 % esters  87.00%
analyzed by Arthur Tucker, Research Professor, Delaware State University. November 21, 2000 from St. George's Spirits, _Bartlett_Pear eau de vie.

          But it was about 82.47% esters with 90.00% of the compounds identified at this time. [12/07/00]

          So now we have most of the Pear essence left for smelling purpose and an academic mystery which will be further explored.

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©All Rights Reserved 2003. No part of this article may be used
without prior permission from The Aromatic Plant Project.
©Author's Copyright and Jeanne Rose,

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