How is perfume made?
When you think of fragrance what do you think of? For me, it’s France, roses and beautifully designed bottles.
Fragrance is intrinsically linked to culture. You can trace bottled smells back many hundreds of years and study their movement across the globe, from oud in the middle east to citrus essential oils in France. Many countries are known for their curated scents and have perfected the process over the years.
Looking at the modern fragrance industry, it seems to have found its home in France and in particular the town Grasse. In recent years, the art of perfume making has become more accessible, making it into our homes with DIY mixing kits where you are able to mix a variety of oils to create your own scent. Another change we see is in the larger perfume institutions making perfume in labs at mass scale - which has become more reliant on synthetic production techniques, as traditional techniques and natural ingredients become more costly.
Having said that, there is a resurgence in some of the classical techniques which can be used to create the essential oils that we all love. So let's take a look at these in more detail.
Perfected by the Arab population in the 8th century this method of production has become the main method of traditional perfume making. Taking flower petals for example, they are submerged in water and this mixture is then boiled. As the mixture boils, the rising vapour contains the fragrance from the flower petals, this vapour is then cooled and condensed leaving us with the essential oil. This technique works for different materials - you can extract from a variety of flowers and barks as well as woodier leaves and roots.