is a mixture of fragrant essential oils
and aroma compounds
, and solvents
used to give the human body, animals,
objects, and living spaces a "pleasant" smell
The word perfume
used today derives from the Latin
", meaning through smoke
. Perfumery, or the art
of making perfumes, began in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt and was further refined by the Romans and Persians.
perfume and perfumery also existed in India, much of its
fragrances are incense based.
earliest distillation of Attar
mentioned in the Hindu Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita.The Harshacharita
, written in 7th century A.D. in
Northern India mentions use of fragrant agarwood
The world's first recorded chemist is considered to be a woman
, a perfume maker who was
mentioned in a cuneiform tablet from the second millennium BC in
Mesopotamia. She distilled flowers, oil, and calamus with other
aromatics then filtered and put them back in the still several
archaeologists have uncovered what are believed to be the world's
oldest perfumes in Pyrgos, Cyprus.
perfumes date back more than 4,000 years. The perfumes were
discovered in an ancient perfumery. At least 60 stills, mixing
bowls, funnels and perfume bottles were found in the factory. In
times people used herbs
, like almond
, conifer resin
, as well as flowers
The Arabian chemist
(Alkindus), wrote in the 9th
century a book on perfumes which he named Book of the Chemistry
of Perfume and Distillations
. It contained more than a hundred
recipes for fragrant oils, salves, aromatic waters and substitutes
or imitations of costly drugs. The book also described 107 methods
and recipes for perfume-making, and even the perfume making
equipment, like the alembic
, still bears its
The Persian Muslim doctor
(also known as Ibn Sina)
introduced the process of extracting oils from flowers
by means of distillation
, the procedure most commonly used
today. He first experimented with the rose
Until his discovery, liquid perfumes were mixtures of oil and
crushed herbs or petals, which made a strong blend. Rose water was
more delicate, and immediately became popular. Both of the raw
ingredients and distillation technology significantly influenced
western perfumery and scientific
developments, particularly chemistry
Knowledge of perfumery came to Europe
early as the 14th century due partially to the spread of Islam. But
it was the Hungarians
introduced the first modern perfume. Made of scented oils blended
in an alcohol solution, the first modern perfume was made in 1370
at the command of Queen Elizabeth of
and was known throughout Europe
as Hungary Water
. The art of perfumery
prospered in Renaissance Italy, and in the
16th century, Italian refinements were taken to France by Catherine de' Medici's personal
perfumer, Rene le Florentin.
His laboratory was connected
with her apartments by a secret passageway, so that no formulas
could be stolen en route. France quickly
became the European center of perfume and cosmetic
Cultivation of flowers for their perfume
essence, which had begun in the 14th century, grew into a major
industry in the south of France. During the Renaissance
period, perfumes were used primarily
by the wealthy to mask body odors resulting from infrequent
bathing. Partly due to this patronage, the western perfumery
industry was created. By the 18th century, aromatic plants were
being grown in the Grasse region of
France to provide the growing perfume industry with raw
Even today, France remains the centre of the
European perfume design and trade
Perfume types reflect the concentration of aromatic compounds in a
solvent, which in fine fragrance is typically ethanol
or a mix of water and ethanol. Various
sources differ considerably in the definitions of perfume types.
The concentration by percent/volume of perfume oil is as
- Perfume extract (Extrait): 15-40% (IFRA: typical 20%) aromatic
- Eau de Parfum (EdP), Parfum de Toilette (PdT): 10-20% (typical
~15%) aromatic compounds. Sometimes listed as "eau de perfume" or
- Eau de Toilette (EdT): 5-15% (typical ~10%) aromatic
- Eau de Cologne (EdC): Chypre citrus type perfumes with 3-8% (typical ~5%)
- Splash and After shave: 1-3% aromatic compounds
Perfume oils are often diluted with a solvent, though this is not
always the case, and its necessity is disputed. By far the most
common solvent for perfume oil dilution is ethanol or a mixture of
ethanol and water. Perfume oil can also be diluted by means of
neutral-smelling oils such as fractionated coconut oil
, or liquid waxes
such as jojoba oil
The intensity and longevity of a perfume is based on the
concentration, intensity and longevity of the aromatic compounds
(natural essential oils / perfume oils) used: As the percentage of
aromatic compounds increases, so does the intensity and longevity
of the scent created. Different perfumeries or perfume houses
assign different amounts of oils to each of their perfumes.
Therefore, although the oil concentration of a perfume in Eau
(EdP) dilution will necessarily be higher than the
same perfume in Eau de Toilette
(EdT) from within the same
range, the actual amounts can vary between perfume houses. An EdT
from one house may be stronger than an EdP from another.
Men's fragrances are rarely as EdP or perfume extracts. As well,
women's fragrances are rarely sold in EdC concentrations. Although
this gender specific naming trend is common for assigning fragrance
concentrations, it does not directly have anything to do with
whether a fragrance was intended for men or women.
Furthermore, some fragrances with the same product name
but having a different concentration name
may not only
differ in their dilutions, but actually use different perfume oil
mixtures altogether. For instance, in order to make the EdT version
of a fragrance brighter and fresher than its EdP, the EdT oil may
be "tweaked" to contain slightly more top notes or fewer base
notes. In some cases, words such as "extrême
" or "concentrée
", that might indicate
aromatic concentration are sometimes completely different
fragrances that relates only because of a similar perfume
. An example of this would be Chanel‘s Pour
and Pour Monsieur Concentrée
Eau de Cologne (EdC) since 1706 in Cologne, Germany is
originally a specific fragrance and trademark.
However outside of Germany the
term has become generic for Chypre citrus perfumes (without
Describing a perfume
Shelves of perfumes
The precise formulae of commercial perfumes are kept secret
. Even if they were widely published,
they would be dominated by such complex ingredients and odorants
that they would be of little use in providing a guide to the
general consumer in description of the experience
scent. Nonetheless, connoisseurs of perfume can become extremely
skillful at identifying components and origins of scents in the
same manner as wine experts .
The most practical way to start describing a perfume is according
to the elements of the fragrance notes
of the scent or the
it belongs to, all of which affect the overall
impression of a perfume from first application to the last
lingering hint of scent
Perfume is described in a musical metaphor as having three sets of
'notes', making the harmonious scent accord. The notes unfold over
time, with the immediate impression of the top note leading to the
deeper middle notes, and the base notes gradually appearing as the
final stage. These notes are created carefully with knowledge of
the evaporation process of the perfume.
- Top notes: The scents that are perceived
immediately on application of a perfume. Top notes consist of
small, light molecules that evaporate quickly. They form a person's
initial impression of a perfume and thus are very important in the
selling of a perfume. Also called the head notes.
- Middle notes: The scent of a perfume that
emerges just prior to when the top notes dissipate. The middle note
compounds form the "heart" or main body of a perfume and act to
mask the often unpleasant initial impression of base notes, which
become more pleasant with time. They are also called the "heart
- Base notes: The scent of a perfume that
appears close to the departure of the middle notes. The base and
middle notes together are the main theme of a perfume. Base notes
bring depth and solidity to a perfume. Compounds of this class of
scents are typically rich and "deep" and are usually not perceived
until 30 minutes after application.
The scents in the top and middle notes are influenced by the base
notes, as well the scents of the base notes will be altered by the
type of fragrance materials used as middle notes. Manufacturers of
perfumes usually publish perfume notes and typically they present
it as fragrance pyramid, with the components listed in imaginative
and abstract terms.
Grouping perfumes, like any taxonomy
never be a completely objective or final process. Many fragrances
contain aspects of different families. Even a perfume designated as
"single flower", however subtle, will have undertones of other
aromatics. "True" unitary scents can rarely be found in perfumes as
it requires the perfume to exist only as a singular aromatic
Classification by olfactive family is a starting point for a
description of a perfume, but it cannot by itself denote the
specific characteristic of that perfume.
The traditional classification which emerged around 1900 comprised
the following categories:
- Single Floral: Fragrances that are dominated
by a scent from one particular flower; in French called a
soliflore. (e.g. Serge Lutens'
Sa Majeste La Rose, which is dominated by rose.)
- Floral Bouquet: Is a combination of fragrance
of several flowers in a perfume compound e.g. Attar Majmua &
Fancy Boquet etc.
- Amber: A large fragrance class featuring the
sweet slightly animalic scents of ambergris or labdanum,
often combined with vanilla, flowers and
woods. Can be enhanced by camphorous oils and incense resins, which
bring to mind Victorian era imagery of
the Middle East and Far East.
- Wood: Fragrances that are dominated by woody
scents, typically of agarwood, sandalwood and cedarwood. Patchouli, with its camphoraceous smell, is commonly found in
- Leather: A family of fragrances which features
the scents of honey, tobacco, wood and wood tars in
its middle or base notes and a scent that alludes to leather.
- Chypre: Meaning Cyprus in
French, this includes fragrances built on a similar accord
consisting of bergamot, oakmoss, patchouli, and
labdanum. This family of fragrances
is named after a perfume by François
Coty. A notable example is Mitsouko (a popular name for girls
in Japanese) by Guerlain.
- Fougère: Meaning
Fern in French, built on a base of
and oakmoss. Houbigant's Fougère Royale
pioneered the use of this base. Many men's fragrances belong to
this family of fragrances, which is characterized by its sharp
herbaceous and woody scent.
Since 1945, due to great advances in the technology of perfume
creation (i.e., compound design and synthesis) as well as the
natural development of styles and tastes; new categories have
emerged to describe modern scents:
- Bright Floral: combining the traditional
Single Floral & Floral Bouquet categories.
- Green: a lighter and more modern
interpretation of the Chypre type, with pronounced cut grass and
- Aquatic, Oceanic, or
Ozonic: the newest category in perfume history,
appearing in 1991 with Christian Dior's Dune. A very
clean, modern smell leading to many of the modern androgynous perfumes. Generally contains
calone, a synthetic scent discovered in 1966.
Also used to accent floral, oriental, and woody fragrances.
- Citrus: An old fragrance family that until
recently consisted mainly of "freshening" eau de colognes, due to
the low tenacity of citrus scents. Development of newer fragrance
compounds has allowed for the creation of primarily citrus
- Fruity: featuring the aromas of fruits other
than citrus, such as peach, cassis (black currant), mango, passion
fruit, and others.
- Gourmand: scents with "edible" or
"dessert"-like qualities. These often contain notes like vanilla,
tonka bean and coumarin, as well as synthetic components designed
to resemble food flavors. An example is Thierry Mugler's Angel.
Fragrance Wheel perfume classification
The Fragrance wheel is a relatively new classification method that
is widely used in retail and in the fragrance industry. The method
was created in 1983 by Michael Edwards, a consultant in the perfume
industry, who designed his own scheme of fragrance
classification.The new scheme was created in order to simplify
fragrance classification and naming scheme, as well as to show the
relationships between each of the individual classes.
The five standard families consist of Floral
, with the former four families being more "classic"
while the latter consisting of newer bright and clean smelling
citrus and oceanic fragrances that have arrived due to improvements
in fragrance technology. Each of the families are in turn divided
into sub-groups and arranged around a wheel.
Plants have long been used in perfumery as a source of essential
oils and aroma compounds. These aromatics are usually secondary metabolites
plants as protection against herbivores
infections, as well as to attract pollinators
. Plants are by far the largest source
of fragrant compounds used in perfumery. The sources of these
compounds may be derived from various parts of a plant. A plant can
offer more than one source of aromatics, for instance the aerial
portions and seeds of coriander
remarkably different odors from each other. Orange
leaves, blossoms, and fruit zest are
the respective sources of petitgrain
, and orange
- Bark: Commonly used barks
includes cinnamon and cascarilla. The fragrant oil in sassafras root bark is also used either directly
or purified for its main constituent, safrole, which is used in the synthesis of other
- Flowers and
blossoms: Undoubtedly the
largest source of aromatics. Includes the flowers of several
species of rose and jasmine, as well as osmanthus, plumeria,
mimosa, tuberose, narcissus,
scented geranium, cassie, ambrette as well as the blossoms of citrus and ylang-ylang
trees. Although not traditionally thought of as a flower, the
unopened flower buds of the clove are also
commonly used. One orchid hybrid named "Miss Udorn Sunshine" is extracted for
perfume. Other orchid flowers are not commercially used to produce
essential oils or absolutes, except in the case of vanilla, an orchid, which must be pollinated first
and made into seed pods before use in perfumery.
- Fruits: Fresh fruits such
as apples, strawberries, cherries
unfortunately do not yield the expected odors when extracted; if
such fragrance notes are found in a perfume, they are synthetic.
Notable exceptions include litsea cubeba,
vanilla, and juniper
berry. The most commonly used fruits yield their aromatics from
the rind; they include citrus such as
and limes. Although grapefruit rind is still used for aromatics, more
and more commercially used grapefruit aromatics are artificially
synthesized since the natural aromatic contains sulfur and its degradation product is quite
unpleasant in smell.
- Leaves and
twigs: Commonly used for
perfumery are lavender leaf, patchouli, sage,
violets, rosemary, and citrus leaves.
Sometimes leaves are valued for the "green" smell they bring to
perfumes, examples of this include hay and
- Resins: Valued since
antiquity, resins have been widely used in incense and perfumery. Highly fragrant and
antiseptic resins and resin-containing perfumes have been used by
many cultures as medicines for a large variety of ailments.
Commonly used resins in perfumery include labdanum, frankincense/olibanum,
myrrh, Peru balsam,
gum benzoin. Pine
and fir resins are a particularly valued source
of terpenes used in the organic synthesis of many other synthetic
or naturally occurring aromatic compounds. Some of what is called
amber and copal in
perfumery today is the resinous secretion of fossil conifers.
- Roots, rhizomes and bulbs:
Commonly used terrestrial portions in perfumery include iris rhizomes, vetiver roots, various rhizomes of the ginger family.
- Seeds: Commonly used seeds
include tonka bean, carrot seed, coriander, caraway,
cocoa, nutmeg, mace, cardamom, and
- Woods: Highly important in
providing the base notes to a perfume, wood oils and distillates
are indispensable in perfumery. Commonly used woods include
sandalwood, rosewood, agarwood,
birch, cedar, juniper, and pine. These are
used in the form of macerations or dry-distilled (rectified)
- Ambergris: Lumps of
oxidized fatty compounds, whose precursors
were secreted and expelled by the Sperm
Whale. Ambergris is commonly referred to as "amber" in
perfumery and should not be confused with yellow
amber, which is used in jewelry.
- Castoreum: Obtained
from the odorous sacs of the North American beaver.
- Civet: Also called Civet
Musk, this is obtained from the odorous sacs of the civets, animals
in the family Viverridae, related to the Mongoose. The World Society for
the Protection of Animals investigated African civets caught
for this purpose.
- Hyraceum: Commonly
known as "Africa Stone," is the petrified excrement of the Rock Hyrax.
- Honeycomb: From the
honeycomb of the Honeybee. Both beeswax and
honey can be solvent extracted to produce an absolute. Beeswax is
extracted with ethanol and the ethanol evaporated to produce
- Musk: Originally derived
from the musk sacs from the Asian musk deer, it has now been
replaced by the use of synthetic
musks sometimes known as “white musk”.
Other natural sources
- Lichens: Commonly used
lichens include oakmoss and treemoss thalli.
Distillates are sometimes used as essential oil in perfumes. An example of a
commonly used seaweed is Fucus
vesiculosus, which is commonly referred to as bladder
wrack. Natural seaweed fragrances are rarely used due to their
higher cost and lower potency than synthetics.
Many modern perfumes contain synthesized
odorants. Synthetics can
provide fragrances which are not found in nature. For instance,
, a compound of synthetic origin,
imparts a fresh ozonous metallic marine scent that is widely used
in contemporary perfumes. Synthetic aromatics are often used as an
alternate source of compounds that are not easily obtained from
natural sources. For example, linalool
are both naturally occurring
compounds that can be inexpensively synthesized from terpenes
. Orchid scents (typically salicylates
) are usually not obtained
directly from the plant itself but are instead synthetically
created to match the fragrant compounds found in various
The majority of the world's synthetic aromatics are created by
relatively few companies
. They include:
Each of these companies patents several processes for the
production of aromatic synthetics annually.
Natural and synthetics are used for their different odor
characteristics in perfumery
||Vary by the times and locations where they are harvested. It's
much more difficult to produce consistent products with equivalent
odor over years of harvest. As such, the perfumer has to "manually"
balance-out the natural variations of the ingredients in order to
maintain the quality of the perfume.
||Much more consistent than natural aromatics. However,
differences in organic synthesis may result in minute differences
in concentration of impurities. If these impurities have low smell
(detection) thresholds, the differences in the scent of the
synthetic aromatic will be significant.
||Thousands of chemical compounds.
||Depending on purity, consists primarily of one chemical
||Bears a somewhat similar scent to its originating material,
depending on the extraction method.
||Similar to natural scents if the compounds are the same. Novel
scent compounds not found in nature will often be unique in their
scent and dissimilar to the scents of any naturals.
||Deep and complex fragrance notes. Softer with subtle scent
||Pure and pronounced fragrance notes. Structural and
||Perfume composed of largely natural materials are usually much
||Perfumes using largely synthetic aromatics can be available at
widely-affordable prices. However, synthetic aromatics and perfumes
are not necessarily cheaper than naturals. Some synthetics can be
more costly than most natural ingredients due to various factors
such as the complexity of synthesis or extraction procedure.
Obtaining natural odorants
Before perfumes can be composed, the odorants used in various
perfume compositions must first be obtained. Synthetic odorants are
produced through organic synthesis
and purified. Odorants from natural sources require the use of
various methods to extract the aromatics from the raw materials.
The results of the extraction are either essential oils, absolutes,
concretes, or butters, depending on the amount of waxes
in the extracted product.
All these techniques will, to a certain extent, distort the odor of
the aromatic compounds obtained from the raw materials. This is due
to the use of heat, harsh solvents, or through exposure to oxygen
in the extraction process which will denature the aromatic
compounds, which either change their odor character or renders them
- Maceration/Solvent extraction: The most
used and economically important technique for extracting aromatics
in the modern perfume industry. Raw materials are submerged in a
solvent that can dissolve the desired aromatic compounds.
Maceration lasts anywhere from hours to months. Fragrant
compounds for woody and fibrous plant materials are often obtained
in this manner as are all aromatics from animal sources. The
technique can also be used to extract odorants that are too
volatile for distillation or easily denatured by heat. Commonly used
solvents for maceration/solvent extraction include
hexane, and dimethyl ether. The product of this process
is called a "concrete".
fluid extraction: A relatively new technique for
extracting fragrant compounds from a raw material, which often
CO2. Due to the low heat of process and the
relatively nonreactive solvent used in the extraction, the fragrant
compounds derived often closely resemble the original odor of the
- Ethanol extraction: A type of solvent extraction used
to extract fragrant compounds directly from dry raw materials, as
well as the impure oily compounds materials resulting from solvent
extraction or enfleurage. Ethanol extraction is not used to extract
fragrance from fresh plant materials since these contain large
quantities of water, which will also be extracted into the
- Distillation: A
common technique for obtaining aromatic compounds from plants, such as orange
blossoms and roses. The raw material is
heated and the fragrant compounds are re-collected through condensation of the distilled vapour.
- Steam distillation: Steam from boiling water is passed
through the raw material, which drives out their volatile fragrant
compounds. The condensate from distillation are settled in a
Florentine flask. This allows for
the easy separation of the fragrant oils from the water. The water
collected from the condensate, which retains some of the fragrant
compounds and oils from the raw material is called hydrosol and sometimes sold. This is most commonly
used for fresh plant materials such as flowers, leaves, and stems.
- Dry/destructive distillation: The raw materials are
directly heated in a still without a carrier solvent such as water.
Fragrant compounds that are released from the raw material by the
high heat often undergo anhydrous pyrolysis, which results in the formation of
different fragrant compounds, and thus different fragrant notes.
This method is used to obtain fragrant compounds from fossil
amber and fragrant woods
where an intentional "burned" or "toasted" odor is desired.
- Fractionation: Through the use of a fractionation column, different
fractions distilled from a material can be selectively excluded to
modify the scent of the final product. Although the product is more
expensive, this is sometimes performed to remove unpleasant or
undesirable scents of a material and affords the perfumer more
control over their composition process.
- Expression: Raw
material is squeezed or compressed and the oils are collected. Of
all raw materials, only the fragrant oils from the peels of fruits
in the citrus family are extracted in this manner since the oil is
present in large enough quantities as to make this extraction
method economically feasible.
Absorption of aroma materials into solid fat or wax and then
extracting the odorous oil with ethyl
alcohol. Extraction by enfleurage was
commonly used when distillation was not
possible because some fragrant compounds denature through high heat. This
technique is not commonly used in the present day industry due to
its prohibitive cost and the existence of more efficient and
effective extraction methods.
Although fragrant extracts are known to the general public as the
generic term "essential oils
", a more
specific language is used in the fragrance industry to describe the
source, purity, and technique used to obtain a particular fragrant
Of these extracts, only absolutes
, and tinctures
are directly used to formulate
- Absolute: Fragrant materials that are purified
from a pommade or concrete by soaking them in
ethanol. By using a slightly hydrophilic compound such as ethanol, most of
the fragrant compounds from the waxy source materials can be
extracted without dissolving any of the fragrantless waxy
molecules. Absolutes are usually found in the form of an oily
- Concrete: Fragrant materials that have been
extracted from raw materials through solvent extraction
using volatile hydrocarbons. Concretes
usually contain a large amount of wax due to the ease in which the
solvents dissolve various hydrophobic
compounds. As such concretes are usually further purified through
distillation or ethanol based solvent extraction. Concretes are
typically either waxy or resinous solids or thick oily
- Essential oil:
Fragrant materials that have been extracted from a source material
directly through distillation or expression and
obtained in the form of an oily liquid. Oils extracted through
expression are sometimes called expression oils.
- Pomade: A fragrant mass of solid fat created
from the enfleurage process, in
which odorous compounds in raw materials are adsorbed into animal
fats. Pommades are found in the form of an oily and sticky
- Tincture: Fragrant
materials produced by directly soaking and infusing raw materials
in ethanol. Tinctures are typically thin
Products from different extraction methods are known under
different names even though their starting materials are the same.
For instance, orange blossoms from Citrus aurantium
that have undergone
solvent extraction produces "orange blossom absolute" but that
which have been steam distilled is known as "neroli oil".
Perfume compositions are an important part of many industries
ranging from the luxury goods sectors, food services industries, to
manufacturers of various household chemicals. The purpose of using
perfume or fragrance compositions in these industries is to affect
customers through their sense of smell
entice them into purchasing the perfume or perfumed product. As
such there is significant interest in producing a perfume
formulation that people will find aesthetically pleasing.
The job of composing perfumes that will sell is left up to an
expert on perfume composition or known in the fragrance industry as
. They are also sometimes referred to
affectionately as a "Nez
" (French for nose
to their fine sense of smell and skill in smell composition.
The composition of a perfume typically begins with a brief
by the perfumer's employer or an outside customer. The customers to
the perfumer or their employers, are typically fashion houses or
industries. The perfumer will then go through the process of
blending multiple perfume mixtures and sell the formulation to the
customer, often with modifications of the composition of the
The perfume composition will then be either used to enhance another
product as a functional fragrance
etc.), or marketed and sold directly to the public as a fine
Although there is no single "correct" technique for the formulation
of a perfume, there are general guidelines as to how a perfume can
be constructed from a concept. Although many ingredients do not
contribute to the smell of a perfume, many perfumes include
colorants and anti-oxidants to improve the marketability and shelf
life of the perfume, respectively.
Perfume oils usually contain tens to hundreds of ingredients and
these are typically organized in a perfume for the specific role
they will play. These ingredients can be roughly grouped into four
- Primary scents: Can consist of one or a few main
ingredients for a certain concept, such as "rose". Alternatively,
multiple ingredients can be used together to create an "abstract"
primary scent that does not bear a resemblance to a natural
ingredient. For instance, jasmine and rose scents are commonly
blends for abstract floral fragrances. Cola
flavourant is a good example of an abstract primary scent.
- Modifiers: These ingredients alter the primary scent
to give the perfume a certain desired character: for instance,
fruit esters may be included in a floral
primary to create a fruity floral; calone and
citrus scents can be added to create a "fresher" floral. The cherry
scent in cherry cola can be considered a modifier.
- Blenders: A large group of ingredients that smooth out
the transitions of a perfume between different "layers" or bases.
Common blending ingredients include linalool and hydroxycitronellal.
- Fixatives: Used to support the primary scent by
bolstering it. Many resins and wood scents, and amber bases are
used as fixatives.
The top, middle, and base notes of a fragrance may have separate
primary scents and supporting ingredients. The perfume's fragrance
oils are then blended with ethyl alcohol
water, aged in tanks for several weeks and filtered through
processing equipment to, respectively allow the perfume ingredients
in the mixture to stabilize and to remove any sediment and
particles before the solution can be filled into the perfume
Instead of building a perfume from "ground up", many modern
perfumes and colognes are made using fragrance bases
. Each base is essentially modular
perfume that is blended from essential oils and aromatic chemicals,
and formulated with a simple concept such as "fresh cut grass" or
"juicy sour apple". Many of Guerlain
line, with their simple fragrance concepts,
are good examples of what perfume fragrance bases are like.
The effort used in developing bases by fragrance companies or
individual perfumers may equal that of a marketed perfume, since
they are useful in that they are reusable. On top of its
reusability, the benefit in using bases for construction are quite
- Ingredients with "difficult" or "overpowering" scents that are
tailored into a blended base may be more easily incorporated into a
work of perfume
- A base may be better scent approximations of a certain thing
than the extract of the thing itself. For example, a base made to
embody the scent for "fresh dewy rose" might be a better
approximation for the scent concept of a rose after rain than plain
rose oil. Flowers whose scents cannot be
extracted, such as gardenia or hyacinth, are composed as bases from data derived
from headspace technology.
- A perfumer can quickly rough out a concept from a brief by
cobbling together multiple bases, then present it for feedback.
Smoothing out the "edges" of the perfume can be done after a
Creating perfumes through reverse engineering with analytical
techniques such as GC/MS
can reveal the
"general" formula for any particular perfume. The difficulty of
GC/MS analysis arises due to the complexity of a perfume's
ingredients. This is particularly due to the presence of natural
essential oils and other ingredients consisting of complex chemical
mixtures. However, "anyone armed with good GC/MS equipment and
experienced in using this equipment can today, within days, find
out a great deal about the formulation of any perfume... customers
and competitors can analyze most perfumes more or less
Antique or badly preserved perfumes undergoing this analysis can
also be difficult due to the numerous degradation by-products and
impurities that may have resulted from breakdown of the odorous
compounds. Ingredients and compounds can usually be ruled out or
identified using gas chromatograph (GC) smellers, which allow
individual chemical components to be identified both through their
physical properties and their scent. Reverse engineering of
best-selling perfumes in the market is a very common practice in
the fragrance industry due to the relative simplicity of operating
GC equipment, the pressure to produce marketable fragrances, and
the highly lucrative nature of the perfume market.
Health and environmental issues
Perfume ingredients, regardless of natural or synthetic origins,
may all cause health or environmental problems when used or abused
in substantial quantities. Although the areas are under active
research, much remains to be learned about the effects of fragrance
on human health and the environment.
Evidence in peer-reviewed journals shows that some fragrances can
cause asthmatic reactions in some individuals, especially those
with more severe and/or atopic asthma. Many fragrance ingredients
can also cause headaches, allergic skin reactions or nausea.
In some cases, an excessive use of perfumes may cause allergic
reactions of the skin. For instance,
, ethyl acetate
while present in many perfumes, are also
known or potential respiratory allergens
Nevertheless this may be misleading, since the harm presented by
many of these chemicals (either natural or synthetic) is dependent
on environmental conditions and their concentrations in a perfume.
For instance, linalool, which is listed as an irritant, causes skin
irritation when it degrades to peroxides, however the use of
antioxidants in perfumes or reduction in concentrations can prevent
Some research on natural aromatics have shown that many contain
compounds that cause skin irritation. However some studies, such as
IFRA's research claim that opoponax
dangerous to be used in perfumery, still lack scientific consensus
.It is also true that sometimes inhalation alone can cause skin
There is scientific evidence that some common ingredients, like
certain polycyclic synthetic musks
can disrupt the balance of hormones in the human body (endocrine
and even cause cancer (nitro-musks). Some natural aromatics, such
as oakmoss absolutes, contain allergens and carcinogenic compounds
Synthetic musks are pleasant in smell and relatively inexpensive,
as such they are often employed in large quantities to cover the
unpleasant scent of laundry detergents and many personal cleaning
products. Due to their large scale use, several types of synthetic
musks have been found in human fat and milk, as well as in the
sediments and waters of the Great Lakes
These pollutants may pose additional health and environmental
problems when they enter human and animal diets.
The demands for aromatic materials like sandalwood, agarwood, musk
has led to the endangerment of these species as well as illegal
trafficking and harvesting.
The perfume industry in the US is not directly regulated by the
FDA, instead the FDA controls the safety of perfumes through their
ingredients and require that they be tested to the extent that they
recognized as safe
(GRAS). Due to the need for protection
of trade secrets, companies rarely give the full listing of
ingredients regardless of their effects on health. In Europe, as
from 11 March 2005, the mandatory listing of a set of 26 recognized
fragrance allergens was enforced. The requirement to list these
materials is dependant on the intended use of the final product.
The limits above which the allegens are required to be declared are
0.001% for products intended to remain on the skin,and 0.01% for
those intended to be rinsed off. This has resulted in many old
perfumes like chypres and fougère
classes, which require the use of oakmoss extract, being
Fragrance compounds in perfumes will degrade or break down if
improperly stored in the presence of:
Proper preservation of perfumes involve keeping them away from
sources of heat and storing them where they will not be exposed to
light. An opened bottle will keep its aroma intact for several
years, as long as it is well stored. However the presence of oxygen
in the head space of the bottle and environmental factors will in
the long run alter the smell of the fragrance.
Perfumes are best preserved when kept in light-tight aluminium
bottles or in their original packaging
when not in use, and refrigerated to relatively low temperatures:
between 3-7 degrees Celsius (37-45 degrees Fahrenheit). Although it
is difficult to completely remove oxygen from the headspace of a
stored flask of fragrance, opting for spray dispensers instead of
rollers and "open" bottles will minimize oxygen exposure. Sprays
also have the advantage of isolating fragrance inside a bottle and
preventing it from mixing with dust, skin, and detritus, which
would degrade and alter the quality of a perfume.
Lists of perfumes
- 4,000-Year-Old Perfumes Found
- Fox News: Ancient Perfumes Recreated, Put on
Display in Rome
- al-Hassani, Woodcok and Saoud (2006) 1001 Inventions; Muslim
Heritage in Our World, FSTC, p.22.
- Fortineau, Anne-Dominique (2004). "Chemistry Perfumes Your
Daily Life". Journal of Chemical Education.81(1)
- Edwards, Michael (2006). "Fragrances of the World 2006".
Crescent House Publishing. ISBN 0-9756097-1-8
- zibetto, civet, civette, profumi animali,
aromaterapia, feromoni, pheromons, animal, scents, perfumes,parfums
- Camps, Arcadi Boix (2000). "Perfumery Techniques in Evolution".
Allured Pub Corp. ISBN 0-931710-72-3
- Calkin, Robert R. & Jellinek, J. Stephen (1994).
"Perfumery: practice and principles". John Wiley & Sons,
Inc.. ISBN 0-471-58934-9
- Environmental and Health Assessment of Substances in Household
Detergents and Cosmetic Detergent Products 
- Burr, Chandler (2004). "The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of
Perfume and Obsession" Random House Publishing. ISBN
- Edwards, Michael (1997). "Perfume Legends: French Feminine
Fragrances". Crescent House Publishing. ISBN
- Moran, Jan (2000). "Fabulous Fragrances II: A Guide to Prestige
Perfumes for Women and Men". Crescent House Publishing.
- Turin, Luca (2006). "The Secret of Scent". Faber &
Faber. ISBN 0-571-21537-8.
- Stamelman, Richard: "Perfume - Joy, Obsession, Scandal, Sin".
Rizzoli. ISBN 978-0-8478-2832-6. A cultural history of
fragrance from 1750 to the present day.
- Süskind, Patrick (2006). "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer".
Vintage Publishing (English edition). ISBN 978-0307277763.
A novel of perfume, obsession and serial murder. Also released as a
movie with same name in 2006.
- "Attar Perfume" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ittar