Egyptians, Romans, and Arabs loved perfume (“perfume” in Latin). East Asian perfumes contained incense. Perfumes were made from bergamot, myrtle, coriander, pine resin, and almond. Avicenna, an Iranian doctor and scientist, demonstrated how to distil flower oils. At Queen Elizabeth of Hungary’s request, “Hungary Water” was created in 1370 by combining perfumed oils with alcohol.
A perfumer handles core fragrances like rose, jasmine, cola, etc., modifiers like esters, blenders like linalool and hydroxy citronellol, and fixatives like resins, wood scents, and amber bases. Top notes (consisting of fast evaporating small size molecules) like citrus and ginger; middle notes (containing slow evaporating medium size molecules) like lavender and rose; and base notes (consisting of slowest evaporating biggest size molecules) like fixatives etc. These notes form a chord.
Perfume oils contain high quantities of volatile chemicals and must be diluted with solvents to prevent skin or clothing damage. Pure ethanol or ethanol-water mixtures are typical solvents. Fractionated coconut oil or wax, neutral-smelling fats like jojoba, can also dilute perfume oil. Aromatic chemicals are added to perfume oil. Perfume extract has 20-40% aromatic components, eau de parfum 10-30%, eau de toilette 5-20%, and eau de cologne 2-5%.
The oil content of a perfume, along with other aromatic ingredients, determines its intensity, longevity, and price, hence it’s a tightly kept secret. By changing the perfume’s proportion and notes, Chanel produced Pour Monsieur and Pour Monsieur Concentree.
Ever-evolving perfumes make classification impossible. The contemporary classification includes Bright Floral, Green, Oceanic/Ozone, Citrus/Fruity, and Gourmand. Michael Edwards, a perfume consultant, created “The Fragrance Wheel” in 1983. It classified and sub-grouped five standard families: Floral (Floral, Soft Floral, Floral Oriental), Oriental (Soft Oriental, Oriental, Woody Oriental), Woody (Woody, Mossy Woods, Dry Woods), Fougere (has elements from all families), and Fresh (Citrus, Green, Water).
Perfumes are made from aromatic plants, animals, and synthetics. Aroma compounds and essential oils come from plants. Plant components used:
Cinnamon, cascarilla bark;
Rose, jasmine, osmanthus, tuberose, mimosa, vanilla;
Citrus, ylang-ylang, clove blossoms;
Apples, strawberries, cherries, litsea cubeba, juniper berry, vanilla, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit;
Lavender, patchouli, citrus, violets, sage, rosemary, hay, tomato;
Labdanum, myrrh, gum benzoin, Peru balsam, frankincense/olibanum, pine, fir, amber, copal;
Roots, bulbs, and rhizomes (vetiver roots, ginger, iris rhizomes);
Coriander, cocoa, mace, cardamom, anise, nutmeg, caraway, tonka bean;
Woods (agarwood, birch, rosewood, sandalwood, pine, birch, juniper, cedar).
Ambergris, Castoreum, Musk, Rom terpenes, Honeycomb, and Civet. Lichens and Protists are natural sources. Synthetic sources include petroleum distillates, pine resins, etc. Modern perfumes are largely manufactured from synthetic sources since they allow aromas not present in nature, such as Calone’s sea metallic ozonous fragrance. Synthetic aromatics are more consistent than natural aromatics and are employed in modern perfumes.