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The Ancient Art Of Perfumery

Jul 19, 2008
The art of making perfume is an ancient and secretive one. Ingredients from every source of nature, animals and plant life, are taken and mixed with ethyl alcohol and a whole host of ingredients - sometimes up to one hundred different ones - and mixed into a concoction that promises all sorts of romantic connotations.

To the perfume connoisseurs of this world, the aroma of perfume consists of certain 'notes'. This is something we should all be aware of as it makes a huge difference to the way we choose to buy perfume. We all know what it's like. We pass a woman at work or in the street and get a whiff of whatever she is wearing and make it our mission to find the exact same perfume.

When we get the name, we rush off to the shops to buy some, inhale, and spend. What we are often disappointed with is getting home to find that it doesn't smell the dame on us. This is because we all have differing ph levels in our skin and the perfume will react with everyone slightly differently so there can be a vast difference between the way one perfume smells on two different people.

In every perfume there will be the top notes. This is the initial aroma that we experience when we first spray a perfume and many people will buy once they have smelt this initial tone. However, this smell will quickly evaporate leaving a middle note, or heart note. This forms a base for the finished perfume smell but is not the end product.

The end product is the base note and this doesn't come through for at least thirty minutes after the initial perfume spray. This is exactly why you should never buy a perfume on immediate smells. I'm sure we've all sampled a perfume while wandering round a department store and found that the ones we first thought were great, then go on to being quite repugnant to us.
However, the ones we first thought weren't so pleasant are the ones that we end up liking the most.

When you seriously want to buy a new perfume, spray a different aroma on each wrist, wander around, preferably in a different department so that your nasal sensitivities are not subject to an onslaught of different smells, and wait at least thirty minutes until you make a decision.

My daughter and I are great fans of perfume and have quite a collection between us. However, if we are going out in the car we always check that we are wearing the same perfume as a mixture of two heady perfumes in one small space can become quite sickly. At the same time, when we wear each others perfume, we both think they smell different on each other and I always find myself asking her what she is wearing because, to me, it smells so much better than when I wear it.

Of course, perfumes are not just restricted to women. Men also wear it but call it something more manly like 'after shave'. You don't necessarily have to shave to wear it but it sounds better than 'man perfume'. Of course, this wouldn't work for women as so much more goes into cosmetic preparations other than a shave. It would have to be called something like 'after cleanse, shave, buff, polish, tone, moisturise and paint' and that's just silly.

Perfume is used by both sexes to attract the opposite sex. That is why original perfumes were made from musk, a basic aroma that is supposed to stir up powerful and uncontrollable emotions in the opposite party and entice you into wonderful romantic situations. Musk is still used today as a base, although mostly artificially reproduced, for both men and women's perfumes. They are also designed to put you in certain moods and it is a well-known fact that aromas can do just this.

There are fresh, flowery smells or ones with a citrus or vanilla base and all of these mainly used in warm, summer months. Then we have the more earthy tones of sandalwood, cedar and musk that conjure up warmer tones for the winter.

Whatever the season, whatever the mood and whatever sign you wish to give off about yourself, there is a perfume to suit you.
About the Author
Perfume expert Catherine Harvey looks at the reasons people buy and wear perfume and what influences their decision.
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