The scent of balsam fir propelled a forestry student to build a company based on essential oils

written by Seamus Casey
photography by Dan Hawk

Robert Seidel was studying forestry in New York in the 1970s when he encountered the aroma of balsam fir. This set off a “quest” for the extraction of aromatic compounds from natural products and, later, designing his own distillation equipment.

He learned everything he could find on the topic and then, at Powell’s Books, found a six-volume set of books, The Essential Oils by Ernest Guenther. “I devoured all six volumes and still use that set of books today.”

Seidel with his daughter and The Essential Oil Company’s COO, Ilana Seidel.

“I started my business in 1977 with the goal of supplying true essential oils to the consumer, the herbalists, soap makers and candle makers,” Seidel said.

The Essential Oil Company, based in Portland, imports the majority of its essential oils from around the world—rose from Bulgaria and Turkey; jasmine from India and Egypt; patchouli, clove bud and leaf from Indonesia; neroli from Egypt; and rosemary from Morocco.

Bottles of oils at The Essential Oil Company in Portland.

“I am proud that I have created a business doing what I enjoy doing,” said Seidel. “I am also pleased to have been able to provide employment for my staff for the last forty-four years.”

Published by
1859 Oregon's Magazine

Recent Posts

Fire + Ice = Love

A recipe for winter fun in Bend, from mellow to adrenaline-laced, or both written by…

1 month ago

Romantic Getaways for 6 Types of Lovers

Indulge every kind of passion—for food, wine, art, culture, the outdoors, your dog, yourself and…

1 month ago

A Rockfish by Any Other Name

written by Thor Ericksonphotography by Tambi Lane Order rockfish at a restaurant in New York,…

2 months ago

Go East!

The Wallowas offer wide-open spaces to play, explore and discover inner and outer peace written…

2 months ago

Lovely Rita

written by Lauren Sharp Teeming with ’60s glam—bronze fixtures, velvet chairs, walnut dining tables— this…

2 months ago

Pink Rabbit

written by Lauren Sharp Take a trip down the rabbit hole in Portland’s Pearl District…

2 months ago