How perfume is created

parfimerAs a musician knows music, a perfume creator has to know manifold fragrance notes and their combinations. His or her olfactive sense, knowledge of a vast number of materials, and the ability to imagine results in an infinite number of fragrance combinations. A Perfumer’s nose is not only sensitive to scents and odors, but highly trained as well, so he or she is able to recognize, compare and dose the right amounts of components in order to create a desired perfume. The work starts in the office, far away from the lab and its vials and tubes with essential oils and synthetic components. The desire of a client has to be translated into the tongue of fragrances, so s/he has to select the components whose scents have or resemble the note needed for the envisioned creation.

In time, a perfume evaporates as its composition gradually opens. To be able to enjoy the long and altering process of perfume evaporation on the skin, the perfumer uses three kinds of components: those that evaporate quickly, such as bergamot, lemon, lavender; fragrance ingredients with medium longevity, such as floral components; and finally those that evaporate slowly and therefore last longer on the skin, such as sandalwood, patchouli, musk, vanilla, amber. Regardless of their durability, each component can be perceived as soon as it is applied to the skin. With time, all of the components and scents disappear, starting with transient top notes and ending with the longer-lasting base notes.

bociceThe first impression of a perfume is based on the visual perception of perfume bottle and its outer case. We often form our opinion upon viewing the package design, even before knowing the fragrance of a particular perfume. At the begining of the 20th century Francois Coty changed the approach to perfume packaging in a revolutionary manner. According to Coty, "a perfume is actually its package." The perfume bottle became a means of communication, expression and seduction. Its color, shape and design promote the perfume, passing on the marketing concept and perfumer's message.

The main techniques for production of perfume materials

Distillation and extraction:

  • Distillation. Steam distillation is one of the oldest extraction techniques, used by Arabs in the 9th century. Before distillation the raw materials are being processed – chipped, rasped, grounded or amalgamated with ferments. The intention is to produce evaporation in order to separate the solids from the various volatile elements present in a blend. The steam that carries the ethereal components from the raw materials is then chilled, and in the next phases the water and odoriferous elements separate due to their density differences. The product of the distillation process is a raw essential oil, subsequently refined by rectification. The vacuum processing of the derived oil, achieved by simmering at a low temperature, enables separation of desired molecules only, which is the method for producing so called ‘absolute’ and other precious components of the raw ethereal oil.
  • Solvent extraction. The raw materials are placed in a special extractor together with solvent materials such as ethanol, methanol, hexane, toluene and butane. After the raw materials were soaked in the solvent for several times, the solvents-fragrance carriers are eliminated through evaporation. This process produces the so-called 'concrete.' The result of the last concentration is the pure essence or absolut. This process usually gives a better result than distillation.
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction – SOFTACT. Carbon dioxide under a pressure of 73,8 bar at a temperature over 31°C becomes a liquid with excellent solvent characteristics. This method makes extraction possible at a low temperature, which enables production of an absolute with fragrance of high quality and purity and with a fragrance identical to the original odor of the plant. Furthermore, the CO2 extraction produces excellent results with dry raw materials that do not do well with the traditional extraction techniques. In addition, this method is environmentally-friendly, as CO2 does not pollute.


The ability of fat and oils to absorb odors was known since ancient times. However, the technique for extraction of odoriferous components of raw materials using fats was first utilized in the 19th century, by using ethyl alcohol. This method of extraction is costly, requires highly-qualified technicians and gives a very small quantity of essence. It is therefore rarely applied nowadays.

  • Cold enfleurage. For the cold enfleurage fresh and delicate flowers, such as tuberose, jasmine, violets or orange blossoms, are deposited in a single layer on a 'chassis', a glass pane in wooden frame, previously covered with a film of animal fat, usually a mixture of beef and pork fat. Over a period of 60 days, the flower petals are replaced with the fresh ones every 3, 5 or 7 days. Once the enfleurage process is completed, the fat, saturated with odors, is scratched and washed in wine spirits. After the spirits are evaporated, the scented fat is used in cosmetics and for production of absolutes.
  • Hot enfleurage. This procedure is suitable for less fragile flowers only. The flower petals are placed in a basin filled with fat diluted with water. The petals are kept in the fat for 2-3 days. Then the petals are removed, and the fat is filtered and used in the same way as the product of the cold enfleurage process.

Cold expression

Expression is used only for extracting citrus essential oils from the fruit peel, as only citrus fruits have peels rich enough in natural essences to make the expression process worthwhile. These oils are sensitive to high temperature, oxygen, chemical agents and acids, so the citrus peel is usually processed manually, or by using hydraulic presses. Subsequently, essential oils are distilled or filtered in order to separate them from water.


Concentration is used mainly for processing fruit juices. Vacuum concentration or concentration by freezing enables preservation of the finest aromatic fruit elements.


Fractioning, or selective distillation, helps extract the fragrant essence from a particular essential oil, in order to produce an extract whose scent is absolutely different from the scent that this particular oil possessed before this processing method. By subtracting and adding chemical components it is possible to attain the scent of rose out of pelargonium oil, the fragrance of carnation can be produced from cloves, etc. This method is widely used, especially to produce fragrant substitutes for components which are difficult to extract from the original plant.


There are several chromatography techniques. The most popular is gas chromatography. This method enables the decoding of the fragrance and identification of its main chemical components. The technique is based on isolating the molecules of raw materials or their compositions for the purpose of identification or quantification.

Headspace or Nature Print

This progressive technique enables the capturing of odor from natural sources--fresh plants--without causing damage to the plant. For instance, using this method the most fragrant and qualitative molecules whose characteristics are identical to those of the real flower can be isolated from a lilac blossom in vacuum conditions. After the molecules are isolated, they are analyzed using the chromatography technique.

Artificial aromas

At the end of the 19th century, production of new fragrances was enabled by organic synthesis. It was possible to:

  • Precisely imitate natural odors by using other sources, which preserved plans and saved many animals;
  • Create new fragrances that do not exist in nature;
  • Reconstruct complicated fragrances for which production was not previously successful, such as the scent of lilac and lily.

Artificial aromas do not pollute. They are of high quality and their production is less expensive then the production of natural raw materials. Today, 50% to 90% of the perfume components are artificial. The invention of artificial aromas has democratized the perfume and cosmetics industry. Therefore, synthetic components play the main role in perfume production nowadays.


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