Some perfumes manufactured today contain no real flower scents, but consumers never know the difference. Scientists have been able to engineer certain scents from man-made chemicals that closely mimic the way smells are perceived in nature. Higher price tags on perfumes may be a good indication of real plant scents being used, but even they may sometimes contain synthetics.
In addition to flowers and synthetic fragrances, perfumeries also use other plants, spices, wood, leaves and grasses, and other natural materials in their perfume making processes. In the majority of cases, the natural substance creates an essential oil that is extracted through different processes. Some flowers and plants do not produce oils, and their scents must be reproduced synthetically. Lily of the Valley is a common perfume ingredient that is not derived from the flower.
It takes thousands (sometimes hundreds of thousands) of flowers to create just one pound’s worth of essential oils. Most are cultivated and then hand-picked to ensure the natural fragrance is worth using in a perfuming process. Those who rely on natural oils have to remain vigilant about the growing climate of their crops to ensure a successful season for creating perfume.
Ways to Process Flowers for Scent
There are several different ways that perfumeries get the essential oils needed to create perfumes. Sometimes they will complete the process in house, and other times they will buy extracts and essences from third party vendors. Here are the main ways scent extraction occurs:
- Expression. This is the same method used to make olive oil. The process uses force to squeeze the oils out of a plant and is best used for oily ingredients like citrus fruits.
- Steam distillation. By boiling or steaming a plant, perfumers can extract the residual oils from the water. In the steaming process, the oil turns into a vapor that returns to oil form when cooled.
- Solvents. In this process, flowers are coated or dipped in a fatty solution that absorbs the scent from the flowers. Sometimes the solvent oil will then be used as the scented oil in a perfume product. Other times, the solvent will go through one more stage in which it is dissolved with alcohol. The fragrance left in the alcohol will evaporate and leave concentrated scented oil.
Using the Oils
After the scents have been collected, master perfumers work to blend the scents into a harmony of fragrance to put on the market. There may be hundreds of different oils and distinct scents blended together in one fragrance.
The type of product being produced – perfume, cologne, or eau de toilette – will determine the ratio of oils, water, and alcohol in a product. Perfume is the most concentrated form of scent you can wear, though the word is often used interchangeably to describe all three fragrance types. Cologne is significantly less fragranced than perfume, and eau de toilette has the lowest ratio of scented oil to alcohol and water solution.
Commonly Used Flowers in Perfumes
You may occasionally recognize the particular scent of a flower in a product. Most of the time, though, you will sense something vaguely familiar in a scent that you can’t quite put your finger on. The blends may be so complex that it’s difficult to discern individual oils used in the process. There are generally three different detectable notes in a blend:
- Top notes include bright, citrusy smells
- Central notes are encompassing and fully of body or aroma
- Base notes tend to be natural, woody, and deep
Flowers that are commonly used for their distinct scents include:
- Orange flowers
- Sweet pea
Choosing a Perfume
Smelling the little cards that perfume retailers provide is helpful, but won’t give you a good idea of how you will like a scent on your body. Perfumes react with our own unique scents and will smell differently on different people. Test out a perfume before you buy it by putting some on your pulse points and wearing it around for a few hours. The scent will change over that time and give you an idea of how it will smell if you wear it on a daily basis.
Wear perfumes on your wrists and neck. Depending on the strength, one spray may be enough to last for most of the day. The pulse points are recommended because that is where your body stays heated. That heat will interact with the scent and your own body oils to create the fragrance that is 100% yours.
Photographer Josch13 offered the photograph of Perfume Bottle under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay
Photographer louda2455 offered the photograph of Bath under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay
Photographer dietmaha offered the photograph of Perfume under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay
Photographer Tuku offered the photograph of Field of Flowers under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay