Perfume is a blend of substances made from plant oils, flowers and synthetic materials which produce a pleasant smell. People use perfumes to make themselves smell sweet and more attractive. The word perfume comes from Latin, perfumum which means ‘from or through smoke’. The earliest makers of perfumes burnt aromatic woods and gums, using their perfumes at religious ceremonies. The art of making perfumes was known to the ancient Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, Israelities, Arabs, Greeks and Romans.A perfume is made of the flowers, leaves, stems, roots or even wood turned into liquid form. This fragrance consists of tiny drops of essential oils, and it is the perfumer’s art to extract these. Modern perfumes are a mixture of real and artificial flower oils, alcohol and fixatives, which ‘fix’ the fragrance and make it last for a long period. Some ingredients are taken from animals such as musk from the musk deer, castor from the beaver, civet from the civet cat and ambergris from the sperm whale.
A good perfume may contain as many as two hundred ingredients. Essential oils obtained from plant materials are often extracted by stem distillation. The blending of various ingredients requires great skill and a perfumer takes many years to learn hi art. The floral group blends such fragrances as jasmine, rose, lily and gardenia. The woody group consists of khuskhus, sandalwood and cedarwood. France produces the maximum quantity and the best quality of perfumes in the world.