Some things are meant to survive the changing times. The perfume you use today might last you for some time but the era of perfumes has lasted over millenniums. Initially a luxury item for the rich, perfumes were mass produced in the late 20th Century making it the 15-billion-dollar industry it is today.
The oldest perfume factory was discovered in Cyprus and is known to be 4000 years old (yep, that old). Many unearthed civilizations including the Indus Valley and Mesopotamia have carried traces of this concoction being created to make people smell good. As with everything, the style varied from region to region but the goal remained same to mask the stench what we now call body odour and to smell beautiful.
With such a wide history, it has evolved over time to meet the needs of the changing world and the need for quantity and quality. One major change has been the replacement of oil as a base with alcohol. Based on the concentration of ethanol mixed in water in perfumes, they are divided into four major categories:
Parfum : This is the perfume in its purest form with a high level of the aromatic compounds (about 40%).
Espirit de Parfum : This meets somewhere between pure perfume and Eau de Toilette. With about 20% concentration of aromatic compounds it is also popularly known as Parfum de Toilette.
Eau de Toilette: It has about 10% concentration, and is also one of the popular types of perfumes. If you have a bottle at home, you might want to check which category it belongs to.
Eau de Cologne: It has the lowest level of the concentration (about 5%) and is generally called cologne.
Other categories like splashes and mists are created by the companies to break through the clutter but their concentration is not above 3%.
Whenever there is fierce competition you also see unique ways you can find to market products, and companies have done just that. By using the power of celebrities, first as brand ambassadors and then naming perfumes after them. When that stopped working, there was the concept of limited editions with beautiful looking bottles. The empty bottles of such editions are still sold and stored as collector’s items.
Like many things the secret behind the perfumes comes down to a few basic scents, which have been combined with each other or used individually. These ingredients have their origins stored in the vast history of perfumes and are constantly been rediscovered with the help of the modern technology.
Single Floral – A scent of a single flower in high concentration. Most popular used were lilies and roses but now flowers like sunflower and tulips are also being explored. For example, Serge Lutens’ Sa Majeste La Rose, which is dominated by rose.
Floral Bouquet – A combination of scents, which comes with the promise to be very pleasant. It invokes the memories of wild forests with a combination of scents hitting your sense at the same time. Examples include Quelques Fleurs by Houbigant and Joy by Jean Patou.
Amber – These scents are usually combined with woods and vanilla beans and it is enhanced by oils and incense. Guerlain’s Shalimar, Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium and Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle are the perfect examples of this type.
Woody – Woody scents, as the name suggests have a strong wooden base like sandalwood, agarwood, cedarwoord, etc. Examples include Myrurgia’s Maderas De Oriente or Chanel Bois des Îles.
Leather – This is created using the combination of honey, tobacco, wood and wood tars. Examples include Robert Piguet’s Bandit and Balmain’s Jolie Madame.
Aquatic – The newest category in perfume history, first appearing in 1988, Davidoff Cool Water (1988), Christian Dior’s Dune (1991), and many others. It is a clean smell reminiscent of the ocean, leading to many of the modern androgynous perfumes.
Knowing more about the perfumes can always help in selecting the best for yourself. Share this piece of history and knowledge with your friends and keep smelling fresh.