I’ve already talked about, and shared recipes from, The Toilet Of Flora, a popular beauty book published around 1772. A section of the book is dedicated to scented waters, which were used both to wash your face and hands, but also as perfumes. So, here are a few recipes on how to make them:
To make Rose-Water
To make an excellent Rose-water, let the Flowers be gathered two or three hours after sun-rising in very fine weather; beat them in a marble mortar into a paste, and leave them in the mortar soaking in their juice, for five or six hours; then put the mass into a coarse canvas bag, and press out the Juice; to every quart of which add a pound of fresh Damask Roses, and let them stand in infusion for twenty-four hours.
Then put the whole into a glass alembic, lute on a head and receiver, and place it on a sand heat. Distil at first with a gentle fire, which is to be encreased gradually till the drops follow each other as quick as possible; draw off the water as long as it continues to run clear, then put out the fire, and let the alembic stand till cold. The distilled water at first will have very little fragrancy, but after being exposed to the heat of the sun about eight days, in a bottle lightly stopped with a bit of paper, it acquires an admirable scent.
To make Orange-Flower Water
Having gathered (two hours before sun-rise, in fine weather) a quantity of Orange-Flowers, pluck them leaf by leaf, and throw away the stalks and stems: fill a tin cucurbit two thirds full of these picked Flowers; lute on a low bolt-head, not above two inches higher than the cucurbit; place it in balneo Mariæ, or a water-bath, and distill with a strong fire. You run no risk from pressing forward the distillation with violence, the water-bath effectually preventing the Flowers from being burnt. In this method you pay no regard to the quantity, but the quality of the water drawn off.
If nine pounds of Orange Flowers were put into the still, be satisfied with three or four quarts of fragrant water; however, you may continue your distillation, and save even the last droppings of the still, which have some small fragrancy. During the operation, be careful to change the water in the refrigeratory vessel as often as it becomes hot. Its being kept cool prevents the distilled water from having an empyreumatic or burnt smell, and keeps the quintessence of the Flowers more intimately united with its phlegm.
Take of good French Brandy, a gallon; of the best Virgin Honey and Coriander-seeds, each a pound; Cloves, an ounce and half; Nutmegs, an ounce; Gum Benjamin and Storax, of each an ounce; Vanilloes No. 4; the Yellow Rind of three large Lemons: bruise the Spices and Benjamin, cut the Vanilloes into small pieces, put all into a cucurbit, and pour the Brandy on them. After they have digested forty-eight hours, distil off the Spirit in a retort with a gentle heat.
To a gallon of this water, add of Damask Rose-water and Orange Flower-water, of each a pint and a half; Musk and Ambergrise, of each five grains; first grind the Musk and Ambergrise with some of the water, and afterwards put all into a large matrass, shake them well together, and let them circulate three days and nights in a gentle heat. Then, letting the water cool, filtre and keep it for use, in a bottle well stopped.
It is an antiparalytic, smooths the skin, and gives one of the most agreeable scents imaginable. Forty or sixty drops put into a pint of clear water, are sufficient to wash the hands and face.
Take sweet Basil, Mint, sweet Marjoram, Florentine Orrice-root, Hyssop, Balm, Savory, Lavender, and Rosemary, of each a handful; Cloves, Cinnamon, and Nutmegs, of each half an ounce; three or four Lemons, cut in thick slices; infuse them three days in a good quantity of Rose-water; distil in a water bath with a gentle fire, and add to the distilled water a scruple of Musk.
Which one would you have used? My favourite is the sweet honey water. Judging from the ingredients, it must have smelt divine!
Oh, and if you want to read the whole book, you can do so for free at Google Books.