pleasant smell or odour
Perfume is a mixture of fragrant essential oils and aroma compounds, fixatives, and solvents used to give the human body, animals, objects, and living spaces a pleasant smell.
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 but was developed and further refined by the Romans and Persians. Although perfume and perfumery also existed in East Asia, much of its fragrances are incense based.
The world's first recorded chemist is considered to be a person named Tapputi, a perfume maker who was mentioned in a cuneiform tablet from the second millennium BC in Mesopotamia.
Recently, archaeologists have uncovered what is 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 factory. At least 60 distilling stills, mixing bowls, funnels and perfume bottles were found in the factory. In ancient times people used herbs and spices, like almond, coriander, myrtle, conifer resin, bergamot, but not flowers.
The Persian, Muslim doctor and chemist Avicenna (also known as Ibn Sina) introduced the process of extracting oils from flowers by means of 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.
Knowledge of perfumery came to Europe as early as the 14th century due partially to the spread of Islam. But it was the Hungarians who ultimately introduced the first modern perfume. Made of scented oils blended in an alcohol solution, the first modern perfume was made in 1370 at the command of Queen Elizabeth of Hungary and was known throughout Europe as Hungary Water. The art of perfumery prospered in Renaissance Italy, and in the 16th century, Italian refinements were taken to France by Catherine de' Medici's personal perfumer, Rene le Florentin. His laboratory was connected with her apartments by a secret passageway, so that no formulas could be stolen en route. France quickly became the European center 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. During the Renaissance period, perfumes were used primarily by royalty and the wealthy to mask body odors resulting from the sanitary practices of the day. Partly due to this patronage, the western perfumery industry was created. By the 18th century, aromatic plants were being grown in the Grasse region of France to provide the growing perfume industry with raw materials. Even today, France remains the centre of the European perfume design and trade.
ConcentrationPerfume oil is necessarily diluted with a solvent because undiluted oils (natural or synthetic) contain high concentrations of chemical components (natural or otherwise) that will likely result in allergic reactions and possibly injury when applied directly to skin or clothing. As well, the scent in pure perfume oils are far too concentrated to smell pleasant. 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 lipids such as jojoba, fractionated coconut oil or wax. The concentration by percent/volume of perfume oil is as follows:
- Perfume extract (Extrait): 15-30% (IFRA: typical 20%) aromatic compounds
- Eau de Parfum (EdP): 10-15% (typical ~15%) aromatic compounds
- Eau de Toilette (EdT): 5-20% (typical ~10%) aromatic compounds
- Eau de Cologne (EdC): 2-5% aromatic compounds
Men's fragrances are rarely as EdP or perfume extracts. As well, 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, in order 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" appended to fragrance names might indicate completely different fragrances that relates only because of a similar perfume accord. An example of this would be Chanel‘s Pour Monsieur and Pour Monsieur Concentrée. Eau de Cologne (EdC) is originally a specific fragrance and trademark of a citrus nature and weak in concentration made in Cologne, Germany. However outside of Germany the term has become generic for a weakly concentrated perfume.
Describing a perfume
The precise formulae of commercial perfumes are kept secret. Even if they were widely published, they would be dominated by such complex ingredients and odorants that they would be of little use in providing a useful to a general consumers in description of the experience of a scent. Nonetheless, connoisseurs of perfume can become extremely skillful at identifying components and origins of scents in the same manner as wine experts .
The most practical way to start describing a perfume is according to the elements of the fragrance notes of the scent or the family it belongs to, all of which affect the overall impression of a perfume from first application to the last lingering hint of scent
Fragrance notesPerfume is described in a musical metaphor as having three sets of 'notes', making the harmonious chord of the scent. The notes unfold over time, with the immediate impression of the top note leading to the deeper middle notes, and the base notes gradually appearing as the final stage. These notes are created carefully with knowledge of the evaporation process of the perfume.
- Top notes: The scents that are perceived immediately on application of a perfume. Top notes consist of small, light molecules that evaporate quickly. They form a person's initial impression of a perfume and thus are very important in the selling of a perfume. Also called the head notes.
- Middle notes: The scent of a perfume that emerges just prior to when the top notes dissipate. The middle note compounds form the "heart" or main body of a perfume and act to mask the often unpleasant initial impression of base notes, which become more pleasant with time. They are also called the "heart notes".
- Base notes: The scent of a perfume that appears close to the departure of the middle notes. The base and middle notes together are the main theme of a perfume. Base notes bring depth and solidity to a perfume. Compounds of this class of scents are typically rich and "deep" and are usually not perceived until 30 minutes after application.
Manufactures of perfumes usually publish perfume notes and typically they present it as fragrance pyramid, with the components listed in imaginative and abstract terms.
Olfactive familiesGrouping perfumes, like any taxonomy, can never be a completely objective or final process. Many fragrances contain aspects of different families. Even a perfume designated as "single flower", however subtle, will have undertones of other aromatics. "True" unitary scents can rarely be found in perfumes as it requires the perfume to exist only as a singular aromatic material.
Classification by olfactive family is a starting point for a description of a perfume, but it cannot by itself denote the specific characteristic of that perfume.
TraditionalThe traditional classification which emerged around 1900 comprised the following categories:
- Single Floral: Fragrances that are dominated by a scent from one particular flower; in French called a soliflore. (e.g. Serge Lutens' Sa Majeste La Rose, which is dominated by rose.)
- Floral Bouquet: Containing the combination of several flowers in a scent.
- Ambery: A large fragrance class featuring the sweet slightly animalic scents of ambergris or labdanum, often combined with vanilla, flowers and woods. Can be enhanced by camphorous oils and incense resins, which bring to mind Victorian era imagery of the Middle East and Far East.
- Woody: Fragrances that are dominated by woody scents, typically of agarwood, sandalwood and cedar. Patchouli, with its camphoraceous smell, is commonly found in these perfumes.
- Leather: A family of fragrances which features the scents of honey, tobacco, wood and wood tars in its middle or base notes and a scent that alludes to leather.
- Chypre: Meaning Cyprus in French, this includes fragrances built on a similar accord consisting of bergamot, oakmoss, patchouli, and labdanum. This family of fragrances is named after a perfume by François Coty. A notable example is Mitsouko (meaning mystery in Japanese) by Guerlain.
- Fougère: Meaning Fern in French, built on a base of lavender, coumarin and oakmoss. Houbigant's Fougère Royale pioneered the use of this base. Many men's fragrances belong to this family of fragrances, which is characterized by its sharp herbaceous and woody scent.
ModernSince 1945, due to great advances in the technology of perfume creation (i.e., compound design and synthesis) as well as the natural development of styles and tastes; new categories have emerged to describe modern scents:
- Bright Floral: combining the traditional Single Floral & Floral Bouquet categories.
- Green: a lighter and more modern interpretation of the Chypre type.
- Oceanic/Ozone: the newest category in perfume history, appearing in 1991 with Christian Dior's Dune. A very clean, modern smell leading to many of the modern androgynous perfumes.
- Citrus or Fruity: An old fragrance family that until recently consisted mainly of "freshening" eau de colognes due to the low tenacity of citrus scents. Development of newer fragrance compounds has allowed for the creation of primarily citrus fragrances.
- Gourmand: scents with "edible" or "dessert"-like qualities. These often contain notes like vanilla and tonka bean, as well as synthetic components designed to resemble food flavors. An example is Thierry Mugler's Angel.
Fragrance wheelThe Fragrance wheel is a relatively new classification method that is widely used in retail and in the fragrance industry. The method was created in 1983 by Michael Edwards, a consultant in the perfume industry, who designed his own scheme of fragrance classification.The new scheme was created in order to simplify fragrance classification and naming scheme, as well as to show the relationships between each of the individual classes.
The five standard families consist of Floral, Oriental, Woody,Fougère, and Fresh, with the former four families being more "classic" while the latter consisting of newer bright and clean smelling citrus and oceanic fragrances that have arrived due to improvements in fragrance technology. With the exception of the Fougère family, each of the families are in turn divided into sub-groups and arranged around a wheel.
Plant sourcesPlants have long been used in perfumery as a source of essential oils and aroma compounds. These aromatics are usually secondary metabolites produced by plants as protection against herbivores, infections, as well as to attract pollinators. Plants are by far the largest source of fragrant compounds used in perfumery. The sources of these compounds may be derived from various parts of a plant. A plant can offer more than one source of aromatics, for instance the aerial portions and seeds of coriander have remarkably different odors from each other. Orange leaves, blossoms, and fruit zest are the respective sources of petit grain, neroli, and orange oils.
- Bark: Commonly used barks includes cinnamon and cascarilla. The fragrant oil in sassafras root bark is also used either directly or purified for its main constituent, safrole, which is used in the synthesis of other fragrant compounds such as helional.
- Flowers and blossoms: Undoubtedly the largest source of aromatics. Includes the flowers of several species of rose and jasmine, as well as osmanthus, mimosa, tuberose, as well as the blossoms of citrus and ylang-ylang trees. Although not traditionally thought of as a flower, the unopened flower buds of the clove are also commonly used. Orchid flowers are not commercially used to produce essential oils or absolutes, except in the case of vanilla, an orchid, which must be pollinated first and made into seed pods before use in perfumery.
- Fruits: Fresh fruits such as apples, strawberries, cherries unfortunately do not yield the expected odors when extracted; if such fragrance notes are found in a perfume, they are synthetic. Notable exceptions include litsea cubeba, vanilla, and juniper berry. The most commonly used fruits yield their aromatics from the rind; they include citrus such as oranges, lemons, and limes. Although grapefruit rind is still used for aromatics, more and more commercially used grapefruit aromatics are artificially synthesized since the natural aromatic contains sulfur and its degradation product is quite unpleasant in smell.
- Leaves and twigs: Commonly used for perfumery are lavender leaf, patchouli, sage, violets, rosemary, and citrus leaves. Sometimes leaves are valued for the "green" smell they bring to perfumes, examples of this include hay and tomato leaf.
- Resins: Valued since antiquity, resins have been widely used in incense and perfumery. Highly fragrant and antiseptic resins and resin-containing perfumes have been used by many cultures as medicines for a large variety of ailments. Commonly used resins in perfumery include labdanum, frankincense/olibanum, myrrh, Peru balsam, gum benzoin. Pine and fir resins are a particularly valued source of terpenes used in the organic synthesis of many other synthetic or naturally occurring aromatic compounds. Some of what is called amber and copal in perfumery today is the resinous secretion of fossil conifers.
- Roots, rhizomes and bulbs: Commonly used terrestrial portions in perfumery include iris rhizomes, vetiver roots, various rhizomes of the ginger family.
- Seeds: Commonly used seeds include tonka bean, coriander, caraway, cocoa, nutmeg, mace, cardamom, and anise.
- Woods: Highly important in providing the base notes to a perfume, wood oils and distillates are indispensable in perfumery. Commonly used woods include sandalwood, rosewood, agarwood, birch, cedar, juniper, and pine. These are used in the form of macerations or dry-distilled (rectified) forms.
- Ambergris: Lumps of oxidized fatty compounds, whose precursors were secreted and expelled by the Sperm Whale. Ambergris is commonly referred to as "amber" in perfumery and should not be confused with yellow amber, which is used in jewelry.
- Castoreum: Obtained from the odorous sacs of the North American beaver.
- Civet: Also called Civet Musk, this is obtained from the odorous sacs of the civets, animals in the family Viverridae, related to the Mongoose.
- Honeycomb: From the honeycomb of the Honeybee. Both beeswax and honey can be solvent extracted to produce an absolute. Beeswax is extracted with ethanol and the ethanol evaporated to produce beeswax absolute.
- Musk: Originally derived from the musk sacs from the Asian musk deer, it has now been replaced by the use of synthetic musks which usually are called “white musk”.
Other natural sources
- Lichens: Commonly used lichens include oakmoss and treemoss thalli.
- "Seaweed": Distillates are sometimes used as essential oil in perfumes. An example of a commonly used seaweed is Fucus vesiculosus, which is commonly referred to as bladder wrack. Natural seaweed fragrances are rarely used due to their higher cost and lower potency than synthetics.
Synthetic sourcesMany modern perfumes contain synthetic odorants synthesized. Synthetics can provide fragrances which are not found in nature. For instance, Calone, a compound of synthetic origin, imparts a fresh ozonous metallic marine scent that is widely used in contemporary perfumes. Synthetic aromatics are often used as an alternate source of compounds that are not easily obtained from natural sources. For example, linalool and coumarin are both naturally occurring compounds that can be inexpensively synthesized from terpenes. Orchid scents (typically salicylates) are usually not obtained directly from the plant itself but are instead synthetically created to match the fragrant compounds found in various orchids. The majority of the world's synthetic aromatics are created by relatively few companies. They include:
CharacteristicsNatural and synthetics are used for their different odor characteristics in perfumery
Obtaining natural odorantsBefore perfumes can be composed, the odorants used in various perfume compositions must first be obtained. Synthetic odorants are produced through organic synthesis and purified. Odorants from natural sources require the use of various methods to extract the aromatics from the raw materials. The results of the extraction are either essential oils, absolutes, concretes, or butters, depending on the amount of waxes in the extracted product.
All these techniques will, to a certain extent, distort the odor of the aromatic compounds obtained from the raw materials. This is due to the use of heat, harsh solvents, or through exposure to oxygen in the extraction process which will denature the aromatic compounds, which either change their odor character or renders them odorless.
extraction: The most used and economically important technique
for extracting aromatics in the modern perfume industry. Raw
materials are submerged in a solvent that can dissolve the desired
aromatic compounds. Maceration lasts anywhere from hours to months.
Fragrant compounds for woody and fibrous plant materials are often
obtained in this manner as are all aromatics from animal sources.
The technique can also be used to extract odorants that are too
volatile for distillation or easily denatured
by heat. Commonly used solvents for maceration/solvent extraction
include hexane, and
ether. The product of this process is called a "concrete".
- Supercritical fluid extraction: A relatively new technique for extracting fragrant compounds from a raw material, which often employs Supercritical CO2. Due to the low heat of process and the relatively nonreactive solvent used in the extraction, the fragrant compounds derived often closely resemble the original odor of the raw material.
- Ethanol extraction: A type of solvent extraction used to extract fragrant compounds directly from dry raw materials, as well as the impure oily compounds materials resulting from solvent extraction or enfleurage. Ethanol extraction is not used to extract fragrance from fresh plant materials since these contain large quantities of water, which will also be extracted into the ethanol.
A common technique for obtaining aromatic compounds from plants, such as orange
blossoms and roses. The
raw material is heated and the fragrant compounds are re-collected
through condensation of the
- Steam distillation: Steam from boiling water is passed through the raw material, which drives out their volatile fragrant compounds. The condensate from distillation are settled in a Florentine flask. This allows for the easy separation of the fragrant oils from the water. The water collected from the condensate, which retains some of the fragrant compounds and oils from the raw material is called hydrosol and sometimes sold. This is most commonly used for fresh plant materials such as flowers, leaves, and stems.
- Dry/destructive distillation: The raw materials are directly heated in a still without a carrier solvent such as water. Fragrant compounds that are released from the raw material by the high heat often undergo anhydrous pyrolysis, which results in the formation of different fragrant compounds, and thus different fragrant notes. This method is used to obtain fragrant compounds from fossil amber and fragrant woods where an intentional "burned" or "toasted" odor is desired.
- Expression: Raw material is squeezed or compressed and the oils are collected. Of all raw materials, only the fragrant oils from the peels of fruits in the citrus family are extracted in this manner since the oil is present in large enough quantities as to make this extraction method economically feasible.
- Enfleurage: Absorption of aroma materials into wax and then extracting the odorous oil with ethyl alcohol. Extraction by enfleurage was commonly used when distillation was not possible because some fragrant compounds denature through high heat. This technique is not commonly used in the present day industry due to its prohibitive cost and the existence of more efficient and effective extraction methods.
Antique or badly preserved perfumes undergoing this analysis can also be difficult due to the numerous degradation by-products and impurities that may have resulted from breakdown of the odorous compounds. Ingredients and compounds can usually be ruled out or identified using gas chromatograph (GC) smellers, which allow individual chemical components to be identified both through their physical properties and their scent.
Reverse engineering of best-selling perfumes in the market is a very common practice in the fragrance industry due to the relative simplicity of operating GC equipment, the pressure to produce marketable fragrances, and the highly lucrative nature of perfume market.
Health and environmental issuesPerfume ingredients, regardless of natural or synthetic origins, may all cause health or environmental problems when used or abused in substantial quantities. Although the areas are under active research, much remains to be learned about the effects of fragrance on human health and the environment.
ImmunologicalEvidence in peer-reviewed journals shows that some fragrances can cause asthmatic reactions even when the participants could not actually smell the fragrances. Many fragrance ingredients can cause allergic skin reactions or nausea.
In some cases, an excessive use of perfumes may cause allergic reactions of the skin. For instance, acetophenone, ethyl acetate and acetone while present in many perfumes, are also known or potential respiratory allergens. Nevertheless this may be misleading, since the harm presented by many of these chemicals (either natural or synthetic) is dependent on environmental conditions and their concentrations in a perfume. For instance, linalool, which is listed as an irritant, causes skin irritation when it degrades to peroxides, however the use of antioxidants in perfumes or reduction in concentrations an prevent this.
Some research on natural aromatics have shown that many contain compounds that cause skin irritation, However some studies, such as IFRA's research claim that opoponax is too dangerous to be used in perfumery, are still lack scientific consensus . It is also true that sometimes inhalation alone can cause skin irritation.
CarcinogenicityThere is scientific evidence that some common ingredients, like certain synthetic musks, can disrupt the balance of hormones in the human body (endocrine disruption)
and even cause cancer (nitro-musks). Some natural aromatics, such as oakmoss absolutes, contains allergens and carcinogenic compounds .
PollutionSynthetic musks are pleasant in smell and relatively inexpensive, as such they are often employed in large quantities to cover the unpleasant scent of laundry detergents and many personal cleaning products. Due to they large scale use, several types synthetic musks have been found in human fat and milk http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=pubmed&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=AbstractPlus&list_uids=16182860&query_hl=1&itool=pubmed_docsum, as well as in the sediments and waters of the Great Lakes .
These pollutants may pose additional health and environmental problems when they enter human and animal diets.
Species endangermentThe demands for aromatic materials like sandalwood, agarwood, musk has led to the endangerment of these species as well as illegal trafficking and harvesting.
Safety regulationThe perfume industry in the US is not directly regulated by the FDA, instead the FDA controls the safety of perfumes through their ingredients and require that they be tested to the extent that they are Generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Due to the need for protection of trade secrets, companies rarely give the full listing of ingredients regardless of their effects on health. In Europe, the mandatory listing of any of a number of chemicals thought to be hazardous has just begun. As well many old perfumes of like chypres and fougeres classes, which require the use of oakmoss extract, are being reformulated because of these new regulations.
Preserving perfumeFragrance compounds in perfumes will degrade or break down if improperly stored in the presence of:
Perfumes are best preserved when kept in light-tight aluminium bottles or in their original packaging when not in use, and refrigerated at a relatively low temperatures between 3-7 degrees Celsius. Although it is difficult to completely remove oxygen from the headspace of a stored flask of fragrance, opting for spray dispensers instead of rollers and "open" bottles will minimize oxygen exposure. Sprays also have the advantage of isolating fragrance inside a bottle and preventing it from mixing with dust, skin, and detritus, which will degrade and alter the quality of a perfume.
Lists of perfumessee List of Famous Perfumes
- Edwards, Michael (1997). "Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances". Crescent House Publishing. ISBN 0-646-27794-4.
- Moran, Jan (2000). "Fabulous Fragrances II: A Guide to Prestige Perfumes for Women and Men". Crescent House Publishing. ISBN 0-9639065-4-2.
- Turin, Luca (2006). "The Secret of Scent". Faber & Faber. ISBN 0-571-21537-8.
- Stamelman, Richard: "Perfume - Joy, Obsession, Scandal, Sin". Rizzoli. ISBN-13:978-0-8478-2832-6. A cultural history of fragance from 1750 to the present day.
- The World of Smell: An Inside Tour of the World's Largest Perfume Lab from Time.com
- Basenotes: Award-winning, online guide to the world of perfume and fragrances
- Fragrantica perfumes magazine, online encyclopedia of fragrances with user reviews, visual pyramid of notes and online community
- IFRA: International Fragrance Association
- The Fragrance Foundation "FiFi"
- osMoz: All on the perfumes
fragrance in Arabic: عطر
fragrance in Aragonese: Perfume
fragrance in Bosnian: Parfem
fragrance in Catalan: Perfum
fragrance in Czech: Parfém
fragrance in Danish: Parfume
fragrance in German: Parfüm
fragrance in Estonian: Parfüüm
fragrance in Spanish: Perfume
fragrance in Esperanto: Parfumo
fragrance in French: Parfum
fragrance in Indonesian: Parfum
fragrance in Italian: Profumo
fragrance in Hebrew: בושם
fragrance in Lithuanian: Kvepalai
fragrance in Dutch: Parfum
fragrance in Japanese: 香水
fragrance in Norwegian: Parfyme
fragrance in Polish: Perfumy
fragrance in Portuguese: Perfume
fragrance in Romanian: Parfum
fragrance in Russian: Парфюмерия
fragrance in Sicilian: Ciàuru
fragrance in Simple English: Perfume
fragrance in Slovenian: Parfum
fragrance in Finnish: Hajuvesi
fragrance in Swedish: Parfym
fragrance in Thai: น้ำหอม
fragrance in Vietnamese: Nước hoa
fragrance in Turkish: Parfüm
fragrance in Samogitian: Parfomerėjė
fragrance in Chinese: 香水