Spraying your perfume has become a natural gesture in your daily routine. But what happens between the harvest of the raw materials and the filling of your bottle? The diversity and complexity of natural raw materials force the perfume industry to stretch the limits of its know-how in order to use the infinite olfactory richness that surrounds us. Let us explain you the main perfume manufacturing techniques…
When fats absorb smells
Hot or cold enfleurage are perfume manufacturing techniques used since Antiquity, which rely on the ability of fatty substances to naturally absorb smells. This method is practiced hot or cold, depending on the resistance of the plants to heat.
Resistant flowers, like rose or narcissus, are treated with hot enfleurage: they are soaked in fats or oils previously heated until the flower releases its essence. The fat called pommade is then scraped and washed with alcohol, which keeps its smell. After several filtering to remove all traces of fat, we obtain the absolute: the highest concentration of perfume.
Cold enfleurage, almost completely abandoned today, allowed to treat most delicate flowers as jasmine or tuberose. The principle is the same as for hot enfleurage, but petals are placed on thin layer of cold fat.
DISTILLITAION, OR HYDRODISTILLATION
Steam to catch essential oils
Among perfume manufacturing techniques, distillation is one of the oldest raw material treatment. Today, it is still widely used in the traditional perfume industry. Distillation is based on the capacity of steam to capture essential oils. Concretely, the raw material to distillate (petals, seeds, roots…) is placed on perforated trays in a still filled of boiling water. When raising, the steam is impregnated with the odorous principles of the raw material. The essence extracted is recovered in a condenser and then in a separator. The water separates from the odorous elements by decantation and the essential oils can then be collected and used.
When volatil solvents capture odoriferous molecules
Extraction process emerged during the 18th century and it is still commonly used today. This method is carried out in several stages and consists of dissolving the raw material of the plant in a solvent which we let then evaporate. Like a washing machine, the plants are immersed in a steel tank called “extractor”. They are then subjected to successive washes with organic solvents (ethanol or hexane) which fill with their smell. The perfumed solvent is boiled. When it evaporates, as solvent is more volatile than the material extracted from the vegetal, it produces a fat : a highly fragrant waxy substance called “concrete” for flowers, and “resinoid” for dry materials (roots, foams). After several washing with alcohol and several icings, the purified concrete becomes the absolute.
Only used on citrus fruits
Born in Sicily, this method is only used on citrus fruits (the Hesperides olfactory family). Cold expression, or cold pressing, allows to recover the essential oils found in their zest. Peel is separated from the fruit, pierced with many small holes and mechanically pressed. This process delivers a mixture of fragrant oil and water. Filtration of this extract finally makes it possible to separate the aqueous parts of the essential oils.
To give you an idea, it takes about 1500 lemons to get 1 kg of their essence!
SUPERCRITICAL CO2 EXTRACTION
Carbonic gas as solvent to catch odoriferous elements
Among the different perfume manufacturing techniques exposed so far, this one is probably the most modern and complicated. It allows to extract olfactory elements from flowers and plants like Damascena rose (featured in our fragrance label rose) or lilac for instance.
The principle is based on the use of CO2 gas placed in a supercritical state: neither liquid nor gaseous, but at a high pressure level called fluid. In this state, the gas acts like a solvent, which once dipped into the rose petals, extracts all the active elements without heating or adding chemical. At the end of the process, the CO2 is recovered by depressurization, which makes it a very ecological method because it is completely recyclable.
Now you master the traditional perfume manufacturing techniques, let’s make a test: which technique is used with the main raw materials of our eau de parfum enkor?