The word `perfume` is derived from the Latin `per fume` which means through smoke.
Perfume making began in ancient Egypt; later, it was improved by the Romans and the Arabs. The process of distilling oils from flowers was discovered by an Iranian doctor, and this is the process still used in perfume making today.
Modern perfume was first made in 1370 in Hungary, by blending scented oils in an alcoholic solution, and was known all over Europe as Hungary water. Perfume making continued to be developed in Italy during the Renaissance, and in France from the 16th century onwards. Growing of flowers for perfume making became an important industry in southern France; and France is still the center of perfume making in Europe.
The designer houses famous for their perfumes keep their formulas of the fragrances a closely guarded secret. But there are perfume experts who can identify the origins and components of the scents much like wine testers.
Perfumes are classified by their scent and concentration levels. The oils used in making perfume are diluted by ethanol and water, because the undiluted oils can cause damage to the skin or to clothing, or can cause allergic reactions. Accordingly, there are Pure perfume, Eau De Parfum, Eau De Toilette and Eau De Cologne, with Pure perfume containing the largest percentage of aromatic oils, and Eau De Cologne the smallest amount.
The fragrance designer houses use different levels of concentration for the same category of perfume; for instance, the Eau De Parfum belonging to one house, may be much stronger than one from another house. There are also three different perfume classifications according to scents; the traditional scents were created in the early 1900`s; the modern scents date from 1945; the Fragrance wheel was created in 1983, there being five standard fragrance categories: the Fougere family, Floral, Woody, Oriental and Fresh.
Perfumes are also known by their top, middle and base notes, which unfold gradually; the top notes can be sensed immediately, next, the deeper middle notes, and the base notes appear gradually in the last stage. There is an evaporation process in perfumes, and this knowledge is used in carefully choosing the notes. Top notes are important in selling the perfume as they can be perceived immediately; the middle and the base notes make up the perfume`s main theme.
The aromatic oils used in perfume making are obtained from various sources. Barks of cinnamon, sassafras and cascarilla are used. Flowers are the largest source; rose, osmanthus, jasmine, tuberose, mimosa and blossom of citrus trees are widely used. Odors from fresh fruits like cherries, strawberries and apples cannot be extracted well and synthetic substances are used. The exceptions are vanilla, juniper and oranges, grapefruit and limes. Among leaves and twigs, lavender, patchouli, rosemary, violets, sage and citrus leaves are used. Resins are obtained from frankincense, labdanum, myrrh, gum benzoin, Peru balsam, fir and pine.
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