How is perfume made

Since the beginning of recorded history, humans have attempted to mask or enhance their own smell by using perfume to emulate nature's pleasant smells. Many natural and man-made scents have been used to make perfume to apply to the skin and clothing, to put in cosmetics, or to scent the air. Due to differences in body chemistry, temperature, and body odours, no perfume smells exactly the same on any two people.

A good quality perfume may have between 20 and 150 ingredients, mostly of plant or man-made origin. Most perfume houses commission their fragrances, which take about three years to create. The centre of the perfume industry is in Grasse, in the south of France.

Raw materials

For hundreds of years, perfumers (a person who makes perfumes) have created fragrances using raw materials like leaves, spices, herbs, flowers, fruits and even woods. However, as some plants don’t secrete oils naturally, perfumers use synthetic chemicals to recreate these original fragrances. They also often use alcohol and water to dilute perfumes to strengthen or soften its smell. This is why some perfumes are stronger than others.

Processing the ingredients

Before creating a perfume, ingredients are brought to a manufacturing centre for processing. This may involve extracting oils from plants and creating synthetic fragrances in a laboratory. The simplest way to extract oils and substances is by using specific methods such as steam distillation, solvent extraction, and expression.

Creating the perfume

After extraction is complete, it’s time to blend the scents together to a formula determined by an expert in the field, known as a ‘nose’. After the fragrances are blended, perfumers add alcohol to the mixture to create a certain kind of perfume, whether it be musk, cologne, or ‘eau de toilette’.


Fine perfume is often aged for several months or even years after it’s blended. A ‘nose’ will once again test the perfume to ensure the correct scent has been achieved. On reaching the desired smell, the perfume is packaged and then shipped to stores for selling. Each essential oil and perfume has three notes: Top notes, central notes, and base notes. Top notes have tangy or citrus-like smells; central notes (aromatic flowers like rose and jasmine) provide body, and base notes (woody fragrances) provide an enduring fragrance. More notes of various smells, may be further blended.