A Brief History of Perfume

Perfume is a delicate blend of science, art, and personal expression. It has a rich history, and learning about its different notes and concentrations can enrich your perfume experience.

Perfume can have an almost magical effect on us, capturing our sense of smell with a blend of natural and synthetic ingredients. The fragrances evoke memories, elicit emotion, and even have the power to change how we are perceived by others. Perfume is a combination of fragrant essential oils and aroma compounds, fixatives, and solvents, in liquid form, used to give the human body, clothing, food, objects, and living spaces an agreeable scent.

The perfumery industry is constantly evolving, influenced by new scents, chemicals, and the development of new techniques. The art of blending and combining scents has been perfected over the centuries, dating back to ancient civilizations like Egypt and Mesopotamia. Today, there are countless perfumeries throughout the world that continue to master the craft of creating unique and captivating fragrances.

In the seventeenth century, European perfumes reached a new level of sophistication. The royal courts of France, England and Spain were scented with expensive flower perfumes. It was thought that the higher your status in society, the more expensive your perfume would be.

By the mid-nineteenth century, however, the promotion of germ theory made many women rethink their perfume use. By the early twentieth century, the public image of perfume had changed dramatically, and wearing fragrance was viewed as unattractive. Gender stereotypes also influenced perfume choices, with sweet floral blends regarded as exclusively feminine and sharper woodsy scents such as pine and cedar considered masculine.

As a result, perfume became a personal and private activity. People began to wear a fragrance that matched their mood or reflected a particular occasion. The perfumes of the day were often a combination of natural extracts such as ylang-ylang, jasmine, and rose. Some fragrances even included animal musk, such as ambergris, an ingredient found in the digestive tract of whales.

Today, perfume is created by extracting scented oils from natural materials including various flowers, fruits, and woods. These oils are then mixed together and aged, similar to the aging process of wine. The different ingredients are then blended, and filtered to ensure the highest quality. Perfume can contain as few as 10 ingredients or as many as 100, depending on the complexity of the fragrance. Perfumes can be categorized as having top notes (the first scents your nose notices), heart notes, and base notes. The different perfumes that you see on the shelves have varying concentrations of perfume oil, and they may be labeled with French names that correspond to their different levels of intensity.