Ancient Methods of Extraction for Making Perfume

Making perfume is an art that’s been around for many centuries. To many, it’s much more than an art. It’s a creation of thought, inspiration and care, resulting in some of the most beautiful fragrances imaginable.

Although there have been different methods implemented through the years, the general principle and purpose of making perfume is the same: extracting a desired scent. In a previous blog we covered many methods of extracting fragrances from various plant parts. There are actually two methods of scent extraction today: effleurage or distillation.

Effleurage is a process where a glass plates are filled with highly purified and odorless animal or vegetable fat, where petals of your choice are placed. The petals of fresh flowers are pressed into the fat and will stay in the grease for a few days so the essence has a chance to disperse and leak into the compound.

After a few days, the petals are removed and replaced with freshly picked ones. This process continues until the greasy compound is saturated with the essence. This process is repeated several times. Once the saturation point has been reached, the petals are removed and the grease and fragrant oil mixture, also known as effleurage pomade, is washed with alcohol so that extract can separated from the grease.

The remaining grease is used to make soap and, once the alcohol evaporates, you have the essential oil you need for perfume. Effleurage is not only very time consuming but an expensive way of extraction as well. This process is often used for Jasmine and tuberoses.

Distillation is a process where steam is used to capture the fragrance. The plants or flowers are put in the top part of a sill on perforated trays, with the bottom part filled with water. The water is brought to a boil, as it’s the steam that brings out the fragrances and scent-bearing components, which are transferred into an attached glass-cooling worm to be refrigerated and condensed.

The essential oil and water mixture is placed in bottles, where the essential oils will rise to the top leaving the scented water on the bottom. While the scented water is used for toilette water and other purposes, the essential oil is made into the finest perfumes.

Although technology has provided perfume makers with state-of-the-art equipment to make their perfume quickly and efficiently, the methods are still basically the same. Once they have the desired perfume, they don’t stop there. Being chemists as well as artists of the trade, they’re able to mix them with other essential oils to create exotic and beautiful fragrances.