What Is Perfume?

The word perfume used today derives from the Latin per fumum, meaning “through smoke.” Perfumery, or the art of making perfumes, began in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt and was further refined by the Romans and Persians.

Perfume /ˈpɜr.fjuːm/ or parfum is a mixture of fragrant essential oils or aroma compounds,fixatives, and solvents used to give the human body, animals, objects, and living spaces “a pleasant scent.” The odoriferous compounds that make up a perfume can be manufactured synthetically or extracted from plant or animal sources.

Perfumes have been known to exist in some of the earliest human civilizations, either through ancient texts or from archaeological digs. Modern perfumery began in the late 19th century with the commercial synthesis of aroma compounds such as vanillin or coumarin, which allowed for the composition of perfumes with smells previously unattainable solely from natural aromatics alone.

Although perfume and perfumery also existed in India, much of its fragrances are incensebased. The earliest distillation of Ittar, Arabic meaning scent, was mentioned in the Hindu Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita. The Harshacharita, written in 7th century in Northern India mentions use of fragrant agarwood oil.

The world’s first recorded chemist is considered to be a woman named Tapputi, a perfume maker who was mentioned in a cuneiform tablet from the 2nd millennium BC in Mesopotamia. She distilled flowers, oil, and calamus with other aromatics then filtered and put them back in the still several times.

In 2005,[archaeologists uncovered what are believed to be the world’s oldest perfumes in Pyrgos, Cyprus. The perfumes date back more than 4,000 years. The perfumes were discovered in an ancient perfumery. At least 60 stills, mixing bowls, funnels and perfume bottles were found in the 43,000-square-foot (4,000 m2) factory. In ancient times people used herbs and spices, like almond, coriander, myrtle, conifer resin, bergamot, as well as flowers.

The Arabian chemist, Al-Kindi (Alkindus), wrote in the 9th century a book on perfumes which he named Book of the Chemistry of Perfume and Distillations. It contained more than a hundred recipes for fragrant oils, salves, aromatic waters and substitutes or imitations of costly drugs. The book also described 107 methods and recipes for perfume-making and perfume making equipment, such as the alembic (which still bears its Arabic name).

The Persian chemist Ibn Sina (also known as Avicenna) introduced the process of extracting oils from flowers by distillation, the procedure most commonly used today. He first experimented with the rose. Until his discovery, liquid perfumes were mixtures of oil and crushed herbs or petals, which made a strong blend. Rose water was more delicate, and immediately became popular. Both of the raw ingredients and distillation technology significantly influenced western perfumery and scientific developments, particularly chemistry.

The art of perfumery was known in western Europe ever since 1221, if we consider the monks’ recipes of Santa Maria delle Vigne or Santa Maria Novella of Florence, Italy. In the east, the Hungarians produced in 1370 a perfume made of scented oils blended in an alcohol solution at the command ofQueen Elizabeth of Hungary, best known as Hungary Water. The art of perfumery prospered in Renaissance Italy, and in the 16th century, Italianrefinements were taken to France by Catherine de’ Medici’s personal perfumer, Rene the Florentine (Renato il fiorentino). His laboratory was connected with her apartments by a secret passageway, so that no formulas could be stolen en route. Thanks to Rene, France quickly became one of the European centers of perfume and cosmetic manufacture. Cultivation of flowers for their perfume essence, which had begun in the 14th century, grew into a major industry in the south of France. Between the 16th and 17th century, perfumes were used primarily by the wealthy to mask body odors resulting from infrequent bathing. Partly due to this patronage, the perfumery industry was created. In Germany, Italian barber Giovanni Paolo Feminis created a perfume water called Aqua Admirabilis, today best known as eau de cologne, while his nephew Johann Maria Farina (Giovanni Maria Farina) in 1732 took over the business. By the 18th century, aromatic plants were being grown in the Grasse region of France, in Sicily, and in Calabria, Italy to provide the growing perfume industry with raw materials. Even today, Italy and France remain the center of the European perfume design and trade.

Concentration

Original Eau de Cologne flacon 1811, from Johann Maria Farina,Farina gegenüber

Perfume types reflect the concentration of aromatic compounds in a solvent, which in fine fragrance is typically-ethanol or a mix of water and ethanol. Various sources differ considerably in the definitions of perfume types. The intensity and longevity of a perfume is based on the concentration, intensity and longevity of the aromatic compounds (natural essential oils / perfume oils) used: As the percentage of aromatic compounds increases, so does the intensity and longevity of the scent created. Specific terms are used to describe a fragrance’s approximate concentration by percent/volume of perfume oil, which are typically vague or imprecise. A list of common terms (Perfume-Classification) is as follows:

  • Perfume extract, or simply perfume (Extrait): 15-40% (IFRA: typical 20%) aromatic compounds
  • Esprit de Parfum (ESdP): 15-30% aromatic compounds, a seldom used strength concentration in between EdP and perfume
  • Eau de Parfum (EdP), Parfum de Toilette (PdT): 10-20% (typical ~15%) aromatic compounds, sometimes listed as “eau de perfume” or “millésime.” Parfum de Toilette is a less common term that is generally analogous to Eau de Parfum.
  • Eau de toilette (EdT): 5-15% (typical ~10%) aromatic compounds
  • Eau de Cologne (EdC): Chypre citrus type perfumes with 3-8% (typical ~5%) aromatic compounds. “Original Eau de Cologne” is a registered trademark.
  • Perfume mist: 3-8% aromatic compounds (typical non-alcohol solvent)
  • Splash (EdS) and Aftershave: 1-3% aromatic compounds. “EdS” is a registered trademark.

Solvent types

Perfume oils are often diluted with a solvent, though this is not always the case, and its necessity is disputed. By far the most common solvent for perfume oil dilution is ethanol or a mixture of ethanol and water. Perfume oil can also be diluted by means of neutral-smelling oils such as fractional coconut oil, or liquid waxes such as jojoba oil.

Imprecise terminology

Although quite often Eau de Parfum (EdP) will be more concentrated than Eau de Toilette (EdT) and in turn Eau de Cologne (EdC), this is not always the case. Different perfumeries or perfume houses assign different amounts of oils to each of their perfumes. Therefore, although the oil concentration of a perfume in EdP dilution will necessarily be higher than the same perfume in EdT from within the same range, the actual amounts can vary between perfume houses. An EdT from one house may be stronger than an EdP from another.

Men’s fragrances are rarely sold as EdP or perfume extracts; equally so, women’s fragrances are rarely sold in EdC concentrations. Although this gender specific naming trend is common for assigning fragrance concentrations, it does not directly have anything to do with whether a fragrance was intended for men or women. Furthermore, some fragrances with the same product name but having a different concentration name may not only differ in their dilutions, but actually use different perfume oil mixtures altogether. For instance, to make the EdT version of a fragrance brighter and fresher than its EdP, the EdT oil may be “tweaked” to contain slightly more top notes or fewer base notes. In some cases, words such as extrême,intense, or concentrée that might indicate aromatic concentration are actually completely different fragrances, related only because of a similar perfumeaccord. An example of this is Chanel’s Pour Monsieur and Pour Monsieur Concentrée.

Eau de Cologne (EdC) since 1706 in Cologne, Germany, is originally a specific fragrance and trademark. However outside of Germany the term has become generic for Chypre citrus perfumes (without base-notes). EdS (since 1993) is a new perfume class and a registered trademark.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s