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How is a perfume made? A walk through ancient and modern techniques

Introduction:

People refer to perfumes as one of the most important discoveries on the planet earth. It has been a subject of constant evolution since the beginning of time.

 

Perfume is another name given to a pleasant scent that people create by infusing the scents that nature produces. These scents are usually a mixture of herbs, wood, and oil.

With the progression of time, there have been a lot of advancements in the way how companies are manufacturing these perfumes.

 

The article below will take you through a whole journey of perfumes and provide you all the information you need!

The history of perfumes:

 

Perfumes had great significance in ancient times. They were developed without synthetics or artificial ingredients, because of which all of them were considered a hundred percent natural. Water, flower, wood, and spices were some of the most common ingredients used to develop perfumes back then.

 

These ingredients then underwent a process to extract their scent and use it for the development of a perfume. Unlike the modern days, perfumes in ancient times had an oil base, which besides cosmetics, could also be used as an ointment and for religious ceremonies after tampering the consistency of the oil by adding water.

 

The first step was to gather the components, after which the most appropriate extraction method was applied to deduce the scent. As you continue reading, you will find a list of different ingredients and extraction methods that have been used over time.

What ingredients do you need?

 

To develop a perfume, you need to gather the right ingredients. Most of the fragrances contain oil that you can easily extract from the raw material. Some common oil-producing elements are fruits, plants, animal fat, or woods.

 

You can also use synthetic ingredients such as petrochemical, coal, tar, or alcohol to enhance the scent of your perfume. These synthetics are also useful in developing and extracting the scent of an ingredient that does not produce oil or has a scent of its own.

Below given is a list of natural and synthetic ingredients. Since most of the new perfumes carry artificial ingredients, you are likely to find these ingredients in your favorite fragrance as well.

Commonly used natural ingredients

  • Frankincense (also called Olibanum)
  • Myrrh
  • Jasmine
  • Rose petals
  • Sandalwood
  • Oakmoss
  • Citron
  • Vanilla

Commonly used artificial ingredients

  • Hedione
  • Musk (reproduced synthetically)
  • Clone
  • Ambergris (reproduced synthetically)
  • Iso E Super
  • Lily of the Valley (reproduced synthetically)
  • Indole
  • Aliphatic aldehydes (gives sparkle to Chanel No. 5)

How do you manufacture perfumes?

Developing a perfume can become a very daunting task. It requires a lot of hard work and dedication to ensure the quality of the outcome.

 

While there have been significant advancements in most of these processes over time, some of them are still similar to the methods that were used in the olden times. It is easy to undergo some of these processes by yourself. However, most of them require experts to operate.

 

An explanation of each of the steps is given ahead.

Expression

It is one of the simplest and oldest methods of extracting oil from a natural resource. It involves putting manual or mechanical pressure on the material to extract its oil.

Steam Distillation

The process involves heating all of the natural resources in a jar. It extracts the scent in the form of vapors, which are then are passed on from the jar to another jar through a plastic tube, where they cool down and liquefy again.

Solvent Extraction

It involves placing the ingredients in a rotating barrel covered in petroleum. The constant rotation makes the ingredients dissolve and leaves a sticky substance behind. The material is then dissolved in alcohol and burnt, which leaves behind a perfume oil with high concentration.

Enfleurage

Enfleurage refers to spreading the natural resources on top of grease coated glass sheets. These sheets are contained in wooden frames and are changed in rotation. It allows the grease to absorb the scent from these resources.

Maceration

It is similar to Enfleurage. However, the scent is contained in animal fat instead of grease. The fat is then dissolved in alcohol to extract the scented oil.

Blending the Ingredients

 

Perfumes are a mixture of essential oils, fixatives, and solvents. These elements are combined in various measurements and tested by the master crafter, often referred to as the 'nose,' till a perfect or required balance is acquired. The balance is then considered to be the formula for that particular aroma.

 

Fixatives are essential in perfumes as they reduce the rate of evaporation and gives longevity to scent. It makes the wearer smell pleasant for hours. They can be animal-based, natural like balsam, or synthetic chemicals like benzyl salicylate.

 

Aroma compounds are often diluted with a solvent like water, alcohol, or ethanol. The ratio of solvent to aroma compound determines the strength of the perfume and thus reflects on how costly that particular perfume maybe.

 

Perfume types reflect the levels of concentration or dilution of aromatic compounds in a solvent. An Eau de Parfum would have more concentration of aromatic compounds than an Eau Fraiche, generally known as splash, mist, etc. which has more percentage of solvent.

The Aging Process

Before being used, the perfume is kept undisturbed in a cool, dark place allowing for the permanent bonding between the aromatic compound and the solvent.

More exceptional perfumes are often aged for very long periods to ensure that the proper scent has been created.

Aging allows different scents to blend appropriately. A typical perfume is made up of top notes that provide the fragrance when they come in contact with a human body, and base notes which create an enduring scent in the air.

Quality Control

It is essential to ensure that all materials used in the preparation of perfume are non-toxic, harmless, and have no adverse effects on the wearer as well as the environment. It isn't straightforward to maintain the quality of scent because the base or aromatic compound is derived from natural sources like plants or animals. These resources can be costly, because of which, quite a few perfumers prefer to prepare synthetic perfumes as they are effortless and cheaper to create.

Conclusion:

Perfumes are a remarkable discovery. It reminds us of the beauty of nature, and how everything that's there on earth has a significant scent of itself.

There have been numerous transformations in the perfume industry over time. The constant need for me in human nature has been a driving force behind the exploration of newer perfumes in the market.

While the scent extraction process still carries some ancient methods, there has a significant change in the ingredients that manufacturers use nowadays. However, it is essential to remember the stages of manufacturing to ensure that the scent of your perfume turns out to be pleasant and not vice-versa.

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