Perfume has a long and rich history, dating back to the Egyptians. The Greeks and Romans were influenced by Egyptian perfumery, but after the fall of Rome, the art was largely confined to the oriental world. The 13th century Crusades brought samples of perfume from Palestine to Europe. During the 17th century, Europeans began to appreciate the healing properties of fragrances. They believed that covering the mouths of plague victims with spices would protect them from disease.
Perfume is made by distilling essential oils from plants. Typically, the fragrance oils come from flower petals. This process can take years to complete. Several techniques are used to extract the oil. Some methods involve boiling flower petals in water, solvent extraction, enfleurage, maceration, and expression.
Today’s perfumes contain tens or even hundreds of ingredients. Some ingredients are natural and others are synthetic. Natural perfumes contain essential oils extracted from flowers and animals. Perfumes also contain synthetic essences, which are liquids or solids that help to improve the scent of the fragrance. Perfume oils are then dissolved in solvents, including alcohols.
There are over 2500 different types of perfumes on the market. Some are made from pure fragrance chemicals, while others are made from crude extracts. Perfumers use these raw materials to create a unique fragrance. While many perfumes are made with pure essential oils, most are based on synthetic compounds. The concentration of aromatic compounds is what distinguishes different perfumes.
Persistence is another important aspect of perfume. Perfumes contain three main notes, called top, middle, and base. The top note is the most powerful, and lasts a few minutes to an hour. The middle note appears later, around 2 to an hour after the top note. The balance between the notes allows a perfume to have more or less persistence.
Perfume notes are produced in accordance with the pyramid of the olfactory system. The fragrance notes of a particular perfume vary according to the volatility of its constituent compounds. A common example of this is the scent of Eternity by Calvin Klein. This fragrance has a strong animalic scent and is considered one of the most indolic scents in history.
The production of perfumes depends on the availability of plant substances and animal products. Typically, it takes thousands of flowers to produce a single pound of essential oils. In addition, adverse weather conditions and disease can affect the crops and hamper the production of essential oils. Additionally, consistency is difficult to maintain with natural oils. Even the same species of plant grown in different regions may produce different scents.
Perfumes can be powerful reinforcers of human behavior. Humans repeatedly seek out and use fragrances because of their pleasant associations. Perfumes may also contribute to social status and attractiveness. But the exact mechanism by which perfumes elicit these responses remains unknown.