When I bury my nose into a bottle of fingerroot essential oil, I’m taken to another place and time, where there’s ancient forests and warm amber notes of calamus root and cattails before they lay their woolly heads to sleep for the winter. Fingerroot is known by many names; Chinese ginger, lesser galangal or Thai krachai. I knew the oil first as temu kunci when our little unctuous treasure arrived from Indonesia last fall. The oil is thick, syrup like and stands almost on its own as a single perfume, a drop of melted brown sugar perfection on warm skin. The root is a type of ginger and some of those notes come through upon initial evaluation but it’s almost a ghost, hitting the nose ever so mysteriously at first, then disappearing entirely into a complex amber brown sugar composition of base, middle and top notes. When I revisit the perfume strip, I pick up notes of citrusy Hawaiian sandalwood that melt back into the amber sugar after time and hold to skin long after I’ve forgotten its application.
Fingerroot is an underground rhizome that grows like splayed fingers as if to be reaching for something and the flower is a nod to the sensual aroma the rhizome holds. It’s primary use has been in culinary applications and tonics, but in my ravenous pursuit for finding unique perfumery ingredients, I knew from day one this oil would be part of the collection. It’s a perfumer’s perfume, an ode to extraordinary aromatic ingredients. My only regret is that it took a year to fully understand its complexity and to believe in those warm brown sugar and amber notes.