How are fragrances composed?
There are 3 types of ingredients that make up fragrances: naturals, synthetics and bases.
Obtained from natural products, these give the impression of nature when smelling a scent and bring richness to the composition. Before the 19th century perfume materials were natural. This was the time of Eaux de Fleurs and Eaux de Cologne. Natural ingredients are obtained from flowers, leaves, seeds, citrus fruit, various woods, gums, barks and roots.
Some examples are:
can be obtained from natural products, by chemical synthesis or through research molecules. These ingredients enrich the perfumer’s palette and often provide better stability than naturals. Whereas natural extracts give a high quality image to perfume, synthetics assure consistent quality and supply. They can also add creative value to a perfumer’s palette.
During the 19th and 20th centuries we see the surge of synthetic materials, coumarin, musk, vanilla, violet... Fougère Royale was the first perfume to use coumarin. It was created in 1882 for Houbigant. Then at the turn of the century, technology brought aldehydes, which were used to enhance the floral accord of Chanel 5. This combination in conjunction with the bottle's sleek design was a sensation at the time (1921).
Fragrances can also contain bases, or ready made accords. An accord, like in music, is a blend of two or more ingredients, which forms the base of a perfumer’s composition. These give an added dimension to a fragrance. Some ingredients are obtained through headspace reconstitutions. The application of this technique allows for original olfactive elements. It is useful when scent cannot be obtained from nature or to replace expensive or rare natural raw materials.
What are some of your favorite perfume ingredients?