Perfume is a fragrant liquid distilled from flowers, herbs and other aromatic plant oils. It is the product of centuries of refinement and innovation, and it has been an important part of society for thousands of years.
In the beginning, perfumes were mainly used to mask body odors and as fragrances in clothes, perfume bottles and cosmetics. In the 16th century, perfumes were also used as gifts for loved ones and as a way to express individuality. During this time, Europe was dominated by the perfume trade and the Grasse region of southern France became the leading supplier of fragrance ingredients.
The first step in creating a perfume is the extraction of its essential oils. The process is usually called distillation and can be done using either steam or solvents. The result is a waxy substance that contains the perfume oil, which can then be diluted in alcohol.
Another technique is called expression, which involves pressing the ingredients until all of the oil has been extracted. It is often used with delicate oils, such as those found in lavender and geranium, and is more expensive than other methods.
There are also several other techniques used to extract the oils from plants, including maceration and enfleurage (a process in which petals are placed between layers of purified animal fat and the flower oil is squeezed out). These processes can be carried out under vacuum or pressure and can be performed for different amounts of time depending on the amount of essential oil required.
Aromatic Plants: The most common sources of perfume aromatics are the leaves, roots, and fruits of various flowering plants, such as rose, jasmine, lilac, orange blossom, eucalyptus, rosemary, tarragon, and lavender. Other popular ingredients include clove, cypress, sandalwood and musk.
Chemical Components: Synthetic chemicals are also commonly used in perfumery. They allow perfumers to create scents more quickly and economically. These chemicals are often referred to as “essential oils” and are made by adding certain chemicals to the natural plant extracts, which make them more concentrated.
Perfumes are classified by their concentration of essential oils and their odor. A low-concentration, or eau de parfum, is a weak perfume and typically contains 3 to 8 percent of the essential oils; a higher-concentration cologne is a stronger, longer-lasting perfume that contains 20 to 50 percent of the essential oil.
Depending on the scent, perfumes can be classified as floral, oriental, woody, aromatic or fresh. These classifications are arranged around a wheel and are used to group scents into categories that are recognizable to the average consumer.
The earliest forms of perfume were made from essential oils, but now, most of the perfumes are manufactured with synthetic compounds. The most popular and highly regarded of these synthetic components are Benzyl Salicylate, Agarwood (also known as benzoin) and Aldehyde.
In addition to these chemicals, perfumes are often infused with the flavors of citrus fruit, spices and other ingredients that can add complexity and interest to the final product. Other additives include resins, mosses and other materials to give the perfume an extra special touch.