Fragrance is an ingredient used in a wide range of products, from cosmetics to cleaning and personal care items, that gives them a particular scent. The ingredients that give these products their fragrance are a trade secret, meaning that they are not required to be disclosed on the product’s label.
Fragrances are a mixture of fragrant essential oils or aroma compounds, fixatives and solvents that emit and diffuse a pleasant odor. They can be naturally derived from plants, flowers, herbs, and animal odors or artificially formulated using synthetic materials.
Perfumes contain a complex molecule composed of many aromatic molecules, some of which are insoluble in water. These molecules are separated from each other by chemical reactions that produce aromatic ions and release their fragrances. These ions travel through the air to give the perfume its scent, and they also help the molecules adhere to the skin and other surfaces that can be touched.
The chemistry involved in creating fragrance is a delicate process that involves a variety of techniques. Some of the more common methods include maceration, enfleurage and distillation.
A perfume may be diluted with various types of alcohol, which acts as a solvent for the dissolved aromatic molecules and allows them to mix. Typically, a perfume is diluted with ethanol (a mixture of distilled water and a fixed alcohol). A number of different neutral-smelling oils are also commonly used for dilution.
Some perfumes are diluted with vegetable oil such as olive, coconut or palm kernel oils. This helps keep the fragrance from being too powerful and can also make the perfume last longer.
Synthetics are a large part of modern perfumery, providing a broad spectrum of odorants that are not present in nature. They include calone, a synthetic discovered in 1966 that imparts a fresh ozonous marine scent to perfumes, or other compounds such as linalool and coumarin, which are extracted from terpenes in natural sources and synthesized into a synthetic form to mimic a particular aroma.
The blending of these aromatic compounds is a complex process, and it can take months to years before a perfume is completely matured, and the desired scent is achieved. The resulting fragrance is then blended with other components to create a final fragrance.
A perfume’s fragrance pyramid consists of top, middle, and base notes. The top note is the immediate impression of a perfume, the middle note is deeper and more complex, and the base note is the long-lasting, persistent scent that lasts after a person has stopped wearing the fragrance. The fragrances in the upper and lower parts of the pyramid are often referred to as a perfume’s “families”, although these terms can’t be completely objective or even fully characterized.
There are several families, ranging from the traditional categories of floral bouquets, to woody, oriental, aquatic, and fruity. In addition, a newer category, ‘fougere’, is a fragrance that combines both floral and oriental aromas in an extremely refined and sophisticated manner.