The history of perfumers


The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans were the first to be using scent a very long time ago. They used scents to make offerings to their gods and discovered how burning an ingredient created fragrant smoke. But it was only much later that the Arabs were called the world's first perfumers. Today, scents have entered our daily lives in countless forms and are, for example, also incorporated into our household products. It is the fragrances that have become an indispensable part of our existence and in which we can anchor our memories. We distinguish ourselves by smell and can have a clear preference when it comes to choosing a scent, whether to use on the skin or in a room. The priests of antiquity may have been the first perfumers, but as new techniques were discovered and pressing methods from flowers and plants, the profession of a perfumer became much more encompassing and creative.


Our ancestors did not have much to choose from when it came to perfumes. In those days, there were only floral fragrances and all they had to choose from was the type of flower; violet, rose, or lilac. The scent of reseda was also popular and had a special meaning. Worshippers would put a reseda in the bouquet they gave their beloved and if the reseda immediately wilted, it was a sign that the adored woman would not accept their offer. The only raw materials available to the perfumer in those "floral" times were natural flower extracts, the so-called "extraits". These extracts were divided into three groups: "extrait simple", "extrait double" or "extrait triple". Depending on their concentration and intensity. The perfumes made with them were nothing more than random blends of these flower extracts. These were extracted by distillation from the leaves, stems, roots, and wood of the plants or fruit. The theme of perfume, at least for a long time, revolved around "flowers".


In the old days, the perfumer would have an idea in his workshop while mixing and smelling. Or he might work out an idea he picked up on a walk. As a perfumer once did after a walk in the woods in the rain, when nature gave off a scent and the mixture of pines and ferns and passing wildlife created a sensational scent. The perfume in which this perfumer incorporated his walk was called Fougère, which means "fern", whereas ferns have hardly any scent of their own.

In the age in which machines have taken over many human activities, the perfumer has remained the most important link in the development of a fragrance. The complex and time-consuming process of creating a beautiful fragrance is done by someone with a trained and highly sensitive sense of smell and a library of knowledge about thousands of scents and combinations, no machine can compete with that. Also, discoveries and developments in the perfume industry have given the perfumer many more opportunities to create a wonderful fragrance and an infinite number of different fragrances can still be created.


A good example of scent evolution is that in ancient times the perfumer used the whole plant to create a fragrance. Herbs and spices were also added to the stem, the leaves, the blossom, the root, or wood and resin. Later, when distillation and extraction were invented, concentrated aromatic essential oils and extracts could be obtained and instead of using the whole plant with the roots, only the blossom, the stem, or the skin of fruits were used


Good perfumers are referred to as having "a nose". Some perfumers are far from happy with the simple name. The idea for a new perfume originates in the head and the nose of the designer serves only as a control. A pianist is not called "a hand" or a painter "the eye", some protest. And they are right. Some famous "noses" are André Fraysse, Ernest Beaux, for example, responsible for Chanel No. 5, and Henri Robert, the great man behind Chanel No. 19. Edmond Roudnitska is responsible for Femme and Moustache by Rochas and most of Christian Dior's fragrances.

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