We use perfumes since the ancient times. Early chemists experimented with various natural aromatic materials and made perfumes for royalty and aristocracy. Today, perfumes are made in factories and available to everyone.
Design of the perfumes are done by perfume experts – so called ““perfumers”. They are also called “Nez” after the French word for “nose” because they have fine sense of smell. Perfumes are often ordered from outside costumers like a fashion company or some celebrity. Perfumers will then blend multiple perfume mixtures and then present it to the costumer for evaluation. If the odor is satisfactory, perfumers will sell the formula to the costumer. If this perfume is used to enhance another product it is called a “functional fragrance” but if it’s sold as a standalone product it is called “fine fragrance”.
There is not one way to create a perfume and most of the perfume have tens or even hundreds of ingredients but most of these ingredients can be grouped into four group. The first group are “primary scents” or “heart” which together build the main scent when perfume wants to convey. This conveyed scent may be natural or abstract which doesn't exists in nature yet it resembles something that does. For instance rose and jasmine are often mixed to give such a scent. Second group are “modifiers” which shift the primary scent into desired, more precise direction. For instance if you want “fruity floral” scent you would add fruit esters (chemical compounds derived from acids), but if you want “fresher” floral you would add calone and citrus scents. “Blenders”, as a third group, smooth out differences between the first two groups and make a blend more natural. Fourth and the last group are “fixatives” that amplify the main scent of the perfume.
Manufacturing of the perfume starts with collection of ingredients. For natural perfumes, manufacturers use fruits, spices, resins, leaves, gums, balsams, grasses and flowers. Greater manufacturers even have their own fields where they grow their own ingredients. Animal fatty substances are also used. Synthetic materials are created in the labs. All these ingredients are the delivered to the manufacturer.
Next step is extraction of oils from the materials. These oils can be extracted in different ways. One method is “steam distillation” where plant material is treated with steam which in turn turns essential oils into steam. This steam is then cooled and turned back into oil. With “solvent extraction”, plant material is placed into rotating drums and covered with benzene or a petroleum which extracts essential oils. Result is mixed with alcohol. When the oil in mixture floats to the surface it is evaporated by heating and then cooled into liquid. In “enfleurage”, another method, flowers are placed on glass sheets covered with grease and left there until oils is removed from them. Then the flowers are removed and the next batch of flowers is placed on the glass and so on. “Maceration” is similar but the hot grease is used. In both cases oils are removed from the grease by evaporation. Last method that is used to extract oil is “expression” where materials are mechanically pressed to extract oil.
When the oils are extracted, they are mixed together (blended) following formula closely. Resulting highly concentrated scent is mixed with alcohol and water. Amount of alcohol and water depends on the desired type of perfume (different perfumes have different concentrations of scent).
Before the perfume is considered finished it can be aged – left to stay for a few months or even years. During that time it is controlled by perfumers to ensure that the result is desired perfume.