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Aromatic sources of perfumes

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The art of making perfume is known as "Perfumery". In recent discoveries, more than 4000 years old perfume bottles have been recovered from one of the oldest perfumery factories in Pyrgos, Cyprus. After doing much research archeologists discovered that 'Tapputi' was the first person in the world to make perfume. He lived in the second millennium B.C in Mesopotamia.

Traditionally perfumes were made from the natural sources found in the local areas. It has been revealed from the old records that they have been using herbs and spices such as bergamot, almonds, coriander, myrtle, etc to make perfume. The flowers were not used at this time.

In the history of perfume 'Avicenna', a Persian doctor who was also a chemist is known as the father of modern day's perfume. He started the process of extracting essential oils from the flowers. The distillation process was used which enables subtle tones to be extracted from the plants. The scents made from the distillation process were so delicate that this technique is in use even in the modern day's perfumery.

Perfume is made from the constituents taken from both natural as well as synthetic origin. Below is the detailed information about the aromatic sources of the perfumes.

Natural Origin- This category of perfumes has its origin from plants and animal sources. Plants are known as the largest source of fragrant compounds used in the perfumery. Perfumes of natural origin are made out of complex blends of woods, resins, and spices. Natural perfumes are subtle and sublime and these are the sources of aromatherapy. The natural oil is being extracted from plants by the steam distillation process.

Plant Sources

Bark- fragrant oils are most commonly extracted from the barks of cinnamon and cascarilla.

Flowers and Blossoms- this is one of the largest sources used for making perfumes. The first flower which was used for the extraction of its fragrant oils was rose. Other than rose, jasmine, osmanthus, mimosa, tuberose and the blossoms of citrus ylang-ylang trees are used as the aromatic sources. Orchids flowers are the exception as the fragrance in it cannot be extracted. However, an exact match to the fragrance of the orchids is developed synthetically. Even the fresh fruit scents also cannot be extracted from fruits like strawberries, cherries. All perfumes which are found in the market having fruit fragrant are synthetic except few exceptions like juniper berry, vanilla, and litsea cubeba.

Leaves and Twigs- leaves of lavender, patchouli, sage, violets, rosemary, and many citrus leaves are highly used in perfumery.

Resins- the sources of most commonly used resins are labdanum, frankincense/ olibanum, myrrh, Peru balsam, gum benzoin. Resins from Pine and Firs are considered to be the most valuable sources of terpenes. Terpenes are used in organic synthesis for many other synthetic and naturally occurring aromatic compounds.

Roots, Rhizomes, and bulbs- orris root- rhizomes of iris Florentina are dried and powdered and are widely used in perfumes. Various other rhizomes of the ginger family are also used in the perfumery.

Woods- wood oils and distillates are widely used in the perfumery to provide the base notes. The most commonly used wood oils are extracted from sandalwood, rosewood, agarwood, birch, cedar, junipers, and pine.

Animal Sources

Ambergris- It is found in the intestine of the sperm whale. It has a very peculiar sweet and earthy odor but when diluted in alcohol it gives a very pleasant smell.

Natural Musk- it is found in the small bag secreted in the body of the musk deer found in the Himalayas. It is considered to be very highly concentrated perfumes.

Civet- it is a glandular secretion occurs underneath the tail of the civet-cat. For this reason, the civet-cats are sometimes bred in captivity to extract this white-yellowish color material. This secreted material is used in making perfumes.

Castor- it is found in two pear-shaped bags on the abdomen of the animal. It has a bad odor but when diluted gives out a very pleasant smell. It is used for fixing scents.

Synthetic Perfumes- Most of the modern day's perfumes have their origin from the synthetic source. These synthetic aromas are created as an alternative when extraction from natural sources is not possible. For example, the fragrance of the orchids is not possible to be extracted. Hence, many companies make synthetic compounds to match those fragrant compounds which are found in different types of orchids.

They use the synthetic odorants commonly synthesized by the petroleum distillates and other cheap origins. 

Perfumes made from synthetic origin brought a revolution in the perfume market. Unlike natural sources, the perfumes which largely use synthetic aromatics have widely become available in the market at very affordable prices.