Perfume has always been important in the history of mankind. Used by the ancient Egyptians, Romans, Chinese and mentioned in the Bible it has been used to seduce, to mask unpleasant odors and for other industrial purposes. France has always been a world authority in the industry – the first guild of perfumers was established in the 12th century by Philippe-Augustine of France.
Initially, scents were only the privilege of the wealthy, but François Coty from Ajaccio in Corsica changed that by making perfume affordable for the masses in the 1900s. A first cousin of Napoleon de Bonaparte, he studied for a year under the expert tutelage of perfumers in Grasse before opening the 1st mass-production perfume factory on the outskirts of Paris in 1905. After the 1920s many other countries began to manufacture perfume but French perfume is still regarded as the best in the world by scent connoisseurs.
A perfume creation today consists of a unity of three different notes: top note; middle/ heart note; and base note.
The top note is formed of volatile short-lived components that last under two hours. The middle note is most often composed of flower extracts and lasts for around four hours. The base note takes its warmth and tenacity from very long-lasting fixatives or base raw materials such as oak moss and patchouli.
French perfume making’s technical body has classified fragrances into several families :
Florals. All the predominantly floral fragrances that can be described as fresh and bubbly, such as rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, tuberose and carnation. Combined with any other family, flowery perfumes are universally commercial.
Leathers. These more masculine fragrances evoke smells such as tobacco, smoke and leather.
Chypres. Based on a woody, mossy and flowery complex, sometimes with aspects of leather or fruits, chypre perfumes are rich and tenacious.
Ferns. This describes woody notes of the likes of Vétyver, a combination of vetiver, cypress, cedar and amber.
Ambers. Powdery floral fragrances combined with warm oriental scents.
Spices. These are highlighted by the pungent notes of cloves, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg and juniper
Oriental. A blend of warmth and mystery. Musks and precious woods are complemented by exotic essences.
Citruses. A family of fresh notes based on bergamot, lemon, orange, neroli and petitgrain. The light, fresh character of citrus notes is often combined with more feminine scents. The bitter orange is one of the most useful trees to perfumers, since orange blossom essence is obtained from its flowers, neroli from distilling the flowers and leaves and petitgrain essence from distilling flowers and branches. Bergamot is extracted from the skin of the bergamot fruit (similar to an orange or grapefruit) and its essence is much used in the making of perfume.
Green. Green notes are natural in character; often married with fruity and floral notes, they are modern and fashionable
Aromatics. These are perfumes based on bay, thyme, rosemary, verbena or lipia citriodora, clary, mint, natural and hybrid lavenders.