The Tincture

Ambergris Extract in the form of tincture

What is a tincture? Arctander describes a tincture as follows: “A Tincture is a prepared perfumery material, flavor material or pharmaceutical product. Tinctures can be considered alcoholic extracts of natural raw materials; the solvent is left in the extract as a diluent. Consequently, tinctures are not exposed to heat during preparation. There is no general rule governing the strength of perfumery or flavour tinctures. Pharmaceutical tinctures are generally prepared from one part of natural raw material plus five parts of an 86% weight/weight ethyl alcohol or in some cases, a 61% w/w ethyl alcohol. Certain tinctures are made in the ratio 1:10, and in most of such cases the alcohol is 86% w/w.”

How are they produced? Arctander refers to the method of producing most tinctures used for perfumery: “Most perfumery tinctures are made by Maceration (e.g. from gum resins, natural oleo-resins, etc.). A Maceration is a soaking of the comminuted material in the menstruum (alcohol or diluted alcohol) until the cellular structure of the raw material is thoroughly penetrated, and the soluble portions softened and dissolved. The maceration is usually extended over a period of many days, sometimes up to two weeks, during which time the raw material is frequently agitated in the alcohol. If the raw material is suspended in a gauze bag in the upper part of the alcohol, the method is called Circulatory Maceration.”
There are other important methods of producing tinctures, as he goes on to describe, ” Other tinctures are prepared by Percolation, e.g. from ambrette seed, vanilla fruits, etc. Percolation is a process during which the comminuted raw material is put in a suitable container and is then deprived of its soluble constituents by the descent of a solvent through it. It is one of the most basic, yet important methods of preparing pharmaceutical extracts. In a few cases, Tinctures are made by simple solution. These tinctures are dilutions rather than real tinctures, but the term “tinctures” is still applied to this type of preparation. Alcoholic solutions of resionoids, Resin Absolutes, etc. are among the more recent additions to the perfumers shelf. These tinctures are easier to standardize and simple to prepare. Resinoids are not necessarily alcohol-soluble. Furthermore, it is necessary to know the exact strength of the parent resinoid when tinctures are prepared from these materials.”