MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: How do you make perfume?

Area: Chemistry
Posted By: Uncle Al Schwartz, Organic synthesist
Date: Tue Sep 30 13:45:30 1997
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 868027688.Ch
Perfume is a solution of pleasant-smelling materials in solvent, usually
alcohol plus water.  A single scent would be rather boring.  The mixture
usually contains very volatile scents for the initial top note, less
volatile scents for the sustained aroma, and persistent scents for the 
final end note.  Fixatives alter the rates of vaporization and hence the 
sustained scent development.

There are thousands of plants with interesting aromas - buds (cloves),
flowers (roses, gardenia), fruits (apple), leaves (pelargonium, mint, 
"green notes"), bark (cinnamon), seed pods (vanilla), seeds (cardamon), 
roots (derris, camphor)... They are typically extracted from the whole, 
macerated, or ground up natural source with pure alcohol.  Add the 
chemists' reaction flasks for almost anything imaginable.  Fixatives are 
ambergris, civet and other animal musks, synthetic musks ("muskone")...

A very old technique for capturing scent is "enfleurage."  Look it up.

The trick is to mix the scents, sometimes dozens of them chosen from among
thousands, to create something wonderful start to finish.

Visit the library for books like "Fragrance: The Story of Perfume from
Cleopatra to Chanel," (ET Morris; Charles Scriber's Sons, 1990) "The 
Handbook," (N. Groom; Chapman and Hall, 1992) and "Scents and Fragrances,"
(G. Ohloff, Springer-Verlag, 1994).

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