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History of Perfumes – 5 Things You Should Know

History of Perfumes - 5 Things You Should Know

Last Updated on March 6, 2019 by Frank

To understand perfume is to understand its fragrant history. From the chemicals that make up our favourite smells to the classic fragrances that result, there are a number of considerations that must be made when choosing a signature perfume.

1. Classic perfumes

A classic must-have staying power.  It must be something that will be relevant from generation to generation. It can withstand the tests of time. It seems fresh even years after its introduction. The following list of perfumes does just that.

Chanel 5 - Classic perfumesNo. 5  by Coco Chanel– Featuring soft floral notes and a lasting scent, this is the classic among classics. The now and forever fragrance, it’s been in style since its inception. Take a smell, and you’ll be sure to know why this is the #1 selling perfume of all time.

Pour Femme by BVLGARI– A unique fragrance featuring hints of sambac, jasmine, and rose. Subtle, yet sophisticated. A classic that is still relevant today.

Guerlain by Shalimar – It is the perfume of temptation. Vanilla and mysterious musks are combined with floral accents, which create instant and lasting intrigue.

Eternity by Calvin Klein – A perfect combination of spice, flowers and exotic fruits combined with patchouli and amber creates a lasting and romantic scent.

2. Commonly used perfume ingredients

Perfume ingredients can be classified into five standard families: oriental, woody, floral, fougere and fresh. Apart from the five standard families, there is also a note system that consists of three different levels: base, middle and top.

Heavier, woody and oriental flavors are generally found in the base and middle notes while fresh and floral scents are often found in the top note. This is due to the rate at which the scents evaporate. Perfume ingredients are categorized by the family system, while the duration and strength of each ingredient determine its note. Common ingredients from the classic families include

Floral – Rose and jasmine are two of the most widely used floral ingredients. Both have a light airiness to them and make for delightful subtle top notes. Chanel perfume is known for their perfect use of floral ingredients. Just look to the top selling ladies perfume of all time, Chanel No. 5, to see their success with rose and jasmine in the industry.

Oriental – Precious woods and vanilla dominate the scene for oriental flavors. The youngest addition, vanilla, did not become a widely used ingredient until the early 1990s. Since then it has taken the world by storm, showing up in the majority of Burberry perfumes and colognes along with many other top brands.

Woody – Sandalwood and cedar are accompanied by a number of other heavy woods to make up a good portion of the base notes. These heavy woods are the foundation of musky scents and can be found in any evening or cold weather fragrance.

Fougere – Lavender is the most widely used flavor from this herbal branch of ingredients. While the majority of these scents are rather light, they manage to sneak their way in as base notes and are often accompanied by woody ingredients.

3. The chemistry of perfume

So you’ve probably wondered what sort of science goes into crafting perfumes.  First of all, the most basic makeup of perfume is a combination of scented ingredients and a solvent. The most common solvent used is ethanol alcohol.  Sometimes the ethanol alcohol is mixed with water. Most perfumes are made up of up to 22% scented ingredients, with the rest of the mixture consisting of the solvent.

Most modern perfumes use synthetic ingredients to create their unique smells. Artificial scents are generally cheaper to manufacture than organic scents. Synthetics generally resemble scents found in nature, such as jasmine or lavender, but are sometimes crafted to create new and unique aromas. Common synthetic compounds used in perfumes are benzyl acetate, Galaxolide, and ethyl linalool.

The most common organic material used to create perfume is found in flowers, although other things, such as barks, are also used for fragrance. There are a few processes that can be used to extract the aromas.  Distillation, where the plant material is steamed to extract its oils, is the most frequent. The other common, but more expensive process, is known as maceration. With this method, the plant material is soaked in oils and then pressed to retrieve its scents.

Perfumes are generally crafted so that the scent is released in three stages. The first stage occurs within the first 15 minutes of application. This is known as the “top notes”. The smells that are released in this stage are often strong, intended to garner your interest in the scent. After this wears off, you get what is known as the “heart notes”. The chemicals in these scents are designed to react more slowly with your body temperature.  These scents can be noticed approximately three hours after you first apply the perfume.  Finally, after five to eight hours, you begin to smell the “base notes”.  These stick to your skin the most stubbornly and take the longest time to release.

4. Top selling perfumes in history

The best selling perfume in history is Chanel’s No. 5. It was originally introduced in 1921. Chanel has recently begun marketing this staple as a spray for everyday use. Chanel No.5’s popularity has not curbed since its inception, and Chanel sells roughly one bottle of its famous fragrance every 30 seconds.

One of the top-selling perfumes in history is “Opium” by Yves St. Lauren. It features strong herb-infused accents mixed with softer ones like mandarin and jasmine. The line was rather controversial during its inception, largely based on the name. But rather than hurting the brand, it spurred curiosity and mass success.

Another top perfume is Azzaro Pour Hommes. It was initially introduced by Loris Azzaro in 1978 and has been on one of the best-selling perfumes worldwide ever since.

5. Where perfumes are made

Reaching back thousands of years, perfume has been a part of almost every society. Initially, perfumes were burned in the form of incense. The natural evolution of these scents was for people to apply them to their persons.

perfumes are made in the small French town of GrasseAlthough many perfumes today are comprised of synthetic materials, there are still numerous perfumes being manufactured by the traditional technique of extracting oils from natural materials such as flowers.

The majority of the world’s fine perfumes are made in the small French town of Grasse. It is nestled about 10 miles north of Cannes and boasts an idea climate for the cultivation of flowers, which are an essential ingredient in perfume production. It is home to notable perfumeries including Molinard, Galimard, and Salon de Parfums.


Frank is an aficionado of scents. He always wants to bring new experiences, the most useful advice for people about choosing scents, especially cologne for men. He wrote many useful post about cologne for women

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