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Home page > Grasse & the perfume > SECRETS OF MANUFACTURE



A perfume is composed of natural materials and / or synthetic materials. To extract the essential oils from the natural materials, there are several methods:

The direct distillation (from the method used in ancient Egypt): the raw material (flowers, spices, wood, grass) is put in a still with water and boiled. The steam carries the oil in a condenser and a separator.

The steam distillation, more modern, consists in distributing the steam through the raw material.

The vacuum distillation, in a watertight distiller, reducing the air pressure.

The expression, for citrus fruits is the extraction of the oil contained in the peel of the fruit. This process used to take place in the past by hand, and now with a juice extractor.

The enfleurage consists in putting petals of flowers (like roses) in baths of animal fat or vegetable oil, letting them soak, then throw them away. By repeating the process several times, the fat accumulates the aroma of flowers. The fat is then washed with alcohol, and once alcohol is evaporated, we get the Concrete, then the Absolute. The enfleurage is realized hot (for roses) or cold (for jasmine, tuberose) according to the flowers worked.

Maceration in alcohol is used for animal oils: amber, civet and castor.

Extraction with volatile solvents such as petroleum ether or hexane tends to replace today long and expensive process such as enfleurage and distillation.

To extract 1 kg of essential oil for example, 200 kg of lavender and 3 tons of roses petals are needed.


The development of organic chemistry in the late XIXth century brought a lot to perfumery. First under the form of reconstitution (synthetic compositions of species of rose, jasmine ...) to replace the natural essences whose production is irregular and expensive. Synthetics are also a great alternative for creation. Thus new materials have revolutionized the perfumery: aldehydes, hedione, to name only some. If certain substances cannot be extracted naturally (like the smell of lilies for example, which exists only chemically), on the other hand some smells like the patchouli one cannot be reproduced chemically. Now more than 2000 synthetic products are used in perfumery.


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Laboratories or composition firms thus develop the formulas of fragrances from natural and synthetic materials. A formula can contain a dozen different substances while others contain hundreds! In a general way, a formula contains between 50 and 90% of synthetic materials. Brands buy to composition firms the fragrance raw material which is the concentrate (the formula of perfume). This concentrate is then diluted with alcohol and/or water, depending on the desired percentage. This is followed by maceration which will allow the stabilization of the formula (it now takes an average of one month). Finally the product is mixed, cooled and filtered to remove any residue. The scent is then ready for packaging.


The scent is bottled in a silkscreened or engraved bottle, it is blocked or evacuated if it is a spray bottle. Finally labeling is carried out, then putting in cardboards and storage take place in warehouses at room temperature.