What Is the Process of Making Perfume?

The process of making perfume starts with collecting the initial ingredients, including plant substances. Then, oils are extracted from plants by different methods, such as steam distillation and solvent extraction. The last two steps of the process are blending and aging.

For the first step, natural ingredients such as flowers, fruit and wood are harvested from around the world. Alcohol, petrochemicals and other chemical substances are also used in the manufacture of perfumes. Not every plant contains essential oils; for example, lily of the valley doesn't produce oils naturally.

The next step is to extract the oil, which should be done immediately after picking. Solvent extraction is a common method. To extract oils from roses, layers of petals are placed on a metal-layered drum. The flowers are then immersed in a solvent. The result of this process is a waxy material that contains the oil, which is then washed in ethyl alcohol. The oil dissolves in the alcohol and rises. Other extraction methods including steam distillation, enfleurage and maceration. A huge amount of plant is needed to get a small amount of essential oil. It takes 400 kilograms of rose flowers, and approximately 200,000 rose flowers to make 600 grams of essential oil.

Once the essential oil is ready, it is blended together according to a certain formula and then mixed with alcohol. It may take as many as 800 different ingredients and several years to develop the special formula for a scent. Most full perfumes are made of about 10 to 20 percent perfume oil dissolved in alcohol and a trace of water. In the last step of the process, the perfume is aged for several months or even years after it is blended.