How to create a perfume?

Posted On: 2/17/2021

Perfume production is no easy task. It can be divided into two parts: the first one requires a knowledgeable mind to concoct, which includes creating the combination of notes and perfecting the harmony between them, and the other one is actually creating the perfume – or mass-producing it for the perfume market. This process can go on for years because perfume notes can be difficult to combine in an adequate mixture, and they often have to be ’aged’ to be completed and to provide the best experience for the customer.

In order to make an enticing perfume (or Eau de cologne and Eau de toilette), a skilled perfumer must compose a perfume using guidelines that a certain firm requested. Most of the time, these firms are famous Haute couture giants that would like a scent that can evoke a certain emotion in the wearer, maybe even complimenting their clothing or accessories. Now, the perfumer has a task to combine a plethora of notes into accords, or collections of notes classified as a bottom, middle, and top. Each accord has to be perfect on its own and has to combine with the others perfectly (or, as the perfumer wants them to) to deem the perfume concoction finished.

After the creative labor has been done, the industry takes the wheel of perfume making. In the olden days, it was necessary to scout for the right ingredients – to walk to your lavender field and pick a couple of flowers, or maybe trade with the local spice trader to get that much-needed cinnamon. Nowadays, you have everything already at your disposal – you’d only have to check on your computer whether you have the needed ingredient in stock, and even if you don’t, you can easily replace it with another one. In the olden days, it was not uncommon to find scents derived from animals. Consequentially, a lot of animals had to be sacrificed for us to smell good. Of course, this is best avoided now, thanks to scientifically derived notes that can mostly emulate their real counterparts.

Next, the scents have to be extracted from the plants and other materials. Leaning on the basis that ancient, medieval, and some modern scientists invented, like expression, enfleurage, maceration, steam distillation, solvent extraction, and boiling, the essential oils are extracted from a large number of materials. For example, to make a 15-milliliter bottle of rose perfume, the oils from 660 roses have to be extracted. This is why the perfume market is still vulnerable to droughts and fires – the sheer amount of flowers needed is so big that every flower counts. The extraction process is probably finished even before the perfume formula is made because these processes are now automated.

Now, it is time actually to combine the notes to make the perfume! All the chosen notes are blended in previously determined concentrations to recreate the needed formulation, and then alcohol is added to dilute the essential oils. The amount of alcohol added to this mixture of oils determines the mixture's strength - more alcohol gives a less potent smell that lasts less on the skin. For example, if the concentration of essential oils is about 15-40 percent, the mixture is an Extrait de perfume, from 15-20 percent is an Eau de perfume, an Eau de toilette has 5-15 percent, and if it’s the lowest, 2-4 percent, that is considered an Eau de cologne. Having a more concentrated mixture is not always better, so choose according to your wants and let them be your guide.

The perfume is almost ready, but it needs one final touch. The essential oil and the alcohol added must permanently bond within the containers in a process called perfume aging. The perfumes stay for a span of a couple of months up to a year in a cold, dark place. After the time has passed, a perfumer is called to test the aged perfume and to see whether it’s set for bottle packaging. If the answer is yes, the perfume is filtered, bottled, packaged, and then transported into a store, waiting for its perfect owner.

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