The Art of Making Perfume

When it comes to making perfume, there have been many methods for scent extraction through the centuries, but the basic idea stays the same. There are two key approaches: enfleurage, where flowers are dipped into wax so that the fragrant oils can be harveste, and distillation, where the essential oils are boiled from the object, then separated from the water and collected. Regardless of the method, the goal is to achieve the purest form of fragrance possible.

Once scented oils are created, they are placed in the hands of a perfumer. Perfumers are part chemist and part artist, always with a supernatural sense of smell. They mix the fragrances to create unique scents, also known as perfume oils.

A perfumer doesn't do this fragrance mixing randomly, but rather follows a timeless technique that separates assorted scents into different categories. These categories, known as notes, are separated into bottom, middle and top notes.

Bottom notes, such as musk or cedar, are the basic scents and last the longest. Middle notes, such as sage or lavender, are the blending scents and last a medium amount of time. Top notes, such as tangerine or peppermint, are what give the perfume its initial scent and last the shortest amount of time.

As a perfume evaporates, each of these notes will vanish. The best perfumes for women are created so that notes blend and evaporate perfectly, always smelling about the same. The worst perfumes are created so that the notes evaporate harshly, smelling different with each passing minute.

After the perfumer mixes a note or notes, it's time to add modifiers to lightly alter the scent. Next, the perfumer takes to blenders, which smooth the scent transitions. Last are the fixatives that help preserve and bolster the notes.

After the perfume oil is finished, it's time to add the alcohol and a little water. This dilutes the scent, and can also alter it. Perfume is then aged to reveal its final fragrance. If a large amount of water is added, this product goes from a true perfume to a lighter fragrance, known as toilette water.

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