After several months of olfactory travel, the end of our adventure is approaching. We have already explored ancestral traditions and new fragrant materials from the four corners of the earth. Asia, Africa, Oceania, the Middle East and North and South America, this fragrant journey has led us to olfactory and cultural discoveries. Today, we offer you a soft landing on the Old Continent… Because it is never too late to discover or rediscover the emblematic ingredients of European perfume.
European perfume, synonymous with elegance
If fragrances, in various forms, have existed since Antiquity in the Arab, Egyptian or Greek civilizations, it is in Europe that perfume became what it is today. It was really during the Renaissance that the world of perfumery developed, thanks in particular to the impulse of Catherine de Medici. She will create a new fashion object with the perfumed glove, which will spread like wildfire to the whole Court. Over the years, from Grasse to Paris, via Italy, perfume became a reflection of luxury and elegance. It refers to a refined way of life that makes people dream beyond purses and borders.
This image of finesse and delicacy of European perfume will become all the more established thanks to the links between perfume and French haute-couture. These creators will thus participate in the democratization of fragrances. Even today, the Grasse or Parisian mention is still a guarantee of authenticity and know-how when it comes to perfume.
Emblematic raw materials of European perfume
Between romantic flowers and almost exotic spices, the ingredients of European perfume are as good as their neighbors around the world. It is impossible to list all the raw materials grown and used on the continent, but here are a few emblematic ingredients of European fragrances.
Lavender is a raw material that is very frequently used in perfumery. It is mainly cultivated in the south of France, in Provence, where there are blue-violet fields as far as the eye can see. But lavender has also been established for several years in another European country, Bulgaria. The distillation of the lavender flower comes immediately after its picking and enables the production of an essential oil whose smell is fresh, floral, camphor with a slight smell of mushroom. It is used in fern accords and in many so-called masculine fragrances. Lavender is one of the main ingredients of our Carrément Belle fragrance alfred kafé.
Juniper berries from the Balkans
Juniper is a widespread shrub in Europe, which is now cultivated in the Balkans, from Macedonia to Slovenia. It grows as small bushes with thorny leaves on which round and bluish-black berries are formed. These are harvested at the end of the summer, by “hitting” the juniper to make the berries fall into a sheet. These juniper berries are used to flavor sauerkraut and to make gin for instance. In perfumery, the berries are steam distilled to extract an essential oil. This essence gives off a spicy, woody and resinous scent. It is a rather fine and peppery fragrance whose aromatic scent brings pep and depth to a composition. The juniper berry essence gives to alõ its festive side with an aromatic cocktail of gin note.
Bergamot from Calabria
The bergamot is a citrus fruit of ancient origin very much appreciated by perfumers. It is mainly cultivated along the Ionian coast of the province of Reggio Calabria, full of sunlight all year round. Its spherical shape is reminiscent of a lemon and its color once ripe evokes an orange. This is not surprising as the bergamot is in fact a cross between a lemon tree and a bitter orange tree. In January, when its peel turns yellow due to the cold, the bergamot is picked to extract essential oil. This is done using the expression method, which consists of pressing the rind of the fruit. This raw material is frequently used for its deep aroma. Its smell is tangy and sparkling, while remaining sweet and reassuring. At Carrément Belle, you can find its fresh, invigorating but also fruity and floral facets in some of our fragrances such as label rose, so, kilim, alõ or even alfred kafé.
Northern European perfume: the birch
In the regions of Northern Europe, some scented materials manage to develop despite the cold. Like birch, which is found in the taiga forests, especially in Sweden. As a resistant wood, birch is often called the tree of wisdom. In perfumery, we use its bark that delivers birch tar essence. Tar, or birch pitch, is a substance that is created by heating birch bark in a hermetic manner to obtain a pasty substance composed of tar and ashes from the bark. In perfumery, birch tar essence is obtained by a long dry steam distillation of this substance. This essence evokes the olfactory sensation of a wood fire, thanks to its warm and smoky notes. This tree is generally used to reproduce leathery facets in fragrances.
The lilac of an English garden
The English have a decided taste for the fresh and aromatic scents, based on mint, lavender or rosemary, that we smelled at the first barbers shop of the time. But we also find in British fragrances floral notes, directly inspired by English gardens where violet, geranium, rose and lilac blossom. The lilac grows in bunches on shrubs and blooms in shades of mauve, purple and white. In its natural state, its fragrance is subtle, delicate and feminine. Lilac gives off a floral scent with balsamic and green notes, which is also reminiscent of the scent of lily of the valley. It is not possible to extract an essence from it, so to reproduce its scent, the perfumer can resort to synthesis or headspace technique.
The May rose from Grasse
Along with the Damascena rose, the Centifolia rose, also known as the May rose or rose with a hundred leaves, is one of the few varieties of rose to be used in perfumery. It blooms in the fields around the city of Grasse in the South of France. Born in the 16th century, this flower is said to be a cross between various species and to have travelled from the Eastern Caucasus, via Persia, before arriving in Europe. For centuries it has been cultivated in Grasse and is harvested by hand throughout the month of May until the beginning of June. It has become the emblem of the world capital of perfume. Its smell is quite rich. It has very persistent rosy and sweet notes. The Centifolia rose is one of the most widely used ingredients in perfumery today.
It is with the European perfume that this olfactory world tour ends. We hope you loved this journey and learned a lot. If you know of fragrant traditions from elsewhere that we did not mention during these different stopovers, please do not hesitate to share your experience as a commentary… Or to give us new ideas of destinations to discover!