The Magic that is Perfumery: All You Need to Know About Perfumes

The Magic that is Perfumery: All You Need to Know About Perfumes

“There are some who believe that perfume is magic. The fragrance of a thing is its purest essence. And certain scents can awaken phantoms of past love, of sweetest reminiscence."

"Phantoms?" Daisy repeated, intrigued, and the other girl replied impatiently.

"He doesn't mean it literally, dear. Perfume can't summon a ghost. And it's not really magic. It's only a mixture of scent particles that travel to the olfactory receptors in your nose.”

― Lisa Kleypas, It Happened One Autumn

Perfume bottle with a flower on the side


Perfumes have fascinated people for centuries. From 10th Century AD, when an early Islamic physician, Avicenna, mixed rose petal oil with distilled water; to 1370, when the first alcohol-based perfume was made for Queen Elizabeth of Hungary; to when the 4711 Cologne that was first used by Napolean for bathing during the French occupation of Cologne; to 1920, when Chanel No. 5 became the first perfume to offer a scent different from natural fragrances, perfumes continue to evolve and mesmerise us. Perfumers work their magic by creating unique, enchanting, long-lasting blends, that add a certain magical quality to our lives. 

But why are perfumes so dear to us?

We continue to adorn our lives with scents because they make us happy. They set the mood and forge strong memories. These memories are evoked vividly by the scent every time. Perfumes are scents that mark us. They are a statement that we make about our individuality. The right perfume will precede you, and reflect your mood and your personality.

But how does all of this magic happen?

The magic of Perfumery is in its science.

Perfumes are a blend of perfume oil, water, and alcohol. The fragrance comes from the oil, the water dilutes the fragrance to make it appealing, and alcohol helps it spread. In any perfume, the fragrance is made of three different notes. The top note is the fragrance that reaches you first when you spray, and it is also the fastest to evaporate. Heart note is the fragrance that remains for 3-4 hours, after the top note is gone, and what remains post that is the base note.

The time for which a perfume lasts depends a lot on the concentration of the perfume oil in the perfume. The body sprays are the most diluted, hence not very effective. Eau De Colognes have a higher concentration than sprays. Most Colognes are citrusy, and don’t last for more than a couple of hours. A lot of after shaves are Eau De Colognes too. Eau De Toillete (EDT) comes next. They can last up to 8 hours. A lot of men’s perfumes are EDT. The most effective perfumes however, are the Eau De Parfum (EDP) and the Extrait De Parfum. These are niche fragrances that last really long. Many of the famous women’s fragrances are EDPs, and they can last up to 10-12 hours. The Extrait De Parfum are most concentrated perfumes, and can last for way longer than EDPs.

For most parts, the strength and scent of a perfume depends on the concentration and composition of the perfume oil, but some of it depends on how it imprints on the one who is wearing it.

We are all wired a little differently to receive and carry a fragrance. Our receptors decode fragrances differently. Interaction with light, air, body temperature, body oils, changes the smell of our perfume, and gives it the individuality we long for.

Our aspirations and experiences also shape our memories and associations with different fragrances. So the same fragrance triggers different memories and emotions in different people. This is why everyone’s perfume preference is so unique and truly characterised by their individuality. And this is also what makes the world of perfumes mysterious and fascinating, and perfumery, as much magic, as it is science!

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