While a perfume might be misunderstood be the final product you see in stores, the scent in them comes from the fragrance. Fragrances have a 4 stage manufacturing process, namely; collection, extraction, blending (this step is where you get the perfume in the common sense) and aging. We will explain each in some detail.
The initial materials must be carried to the manufacturing center before manufacturing. From around the world, plant substances are gathered, often hand-picked for their fragrance. Animal products are obtained directly from the animal by removing the fatty substances. Perfume chemists create aromatic chemicals used in synthetic perfumes in the laboratory.
Many methods are used to obtain oils from plant substances: steam distillation, extraction of solvents, enfleurage, maceration and expression.
- Steam is passed through plant material kept in a still in steam distillation, whereby the essential oil transforms to gas. The gas is then passed through pipes, refrigerated and liquefied. Oils can also be extracted instead of steaming them by boiling plant substances such as flower petals in water.
- During solvent extraction, flowers are placed in large revolving tanks or drums and benzene is poured over the flowers or a petroleum ether extracting the essential oils. The sections of the flowers dissolve in the solvents, leaving a waxy layer containing the oil that is then soaked in ethyl alcohol. The oil dissolves and falls in the alcohol which can be removed by heating.
- Flowers are spread over glass sheets, and covered with grease during enfleurage. The glass sheets are placed in levels between wooden frames. The flowers will then be picked by hand and adjusted until their scent has been absorbed by the grease.
- Maceration is similar to enfleurage except that the floral smell is soaked with warmed fats. As in solvent extraction, in order to obtain the essential oils, the grease and fats are dissolved in alcohol.
- Expression is the most ancient and least complex extraction process. The fruit or plant is pressed manually or mechanically by this method, which is now used to extract citrus oils from the rind, until all the oil is squeezed out.
Once the perfume oils are collected, they are ready to be mixed together according to a formula determined by a field master, known as a “nose.” It may take up to 800 different ingredients and several years to develop the special formula for a fragrance.
The fragrance is then mixed with alcohol and can be brought to you in the form of a perfume. The amount of alcohol in a fragrance can vary considerably. Many full perfumes are made of oils dissolved in alcohol and a trace of water, between 10-20 percent. Colognes contains about 3-5 percent of the oil dissolved in 80-90 percent of the alcohol, with about 10 percent of the liquid. Toilet water is the most diluted — 2% oil only.
Good perfume is often aged after being blended for several months or even years. After that, a “nose” can check the fragrance again to make sure the right smell has been achieved.