Parfum A Nose Really Knows

Parfum. Cologne. Perfume. Eau de toilette. Mist. Spray. Vaporiser. Atomizer. There are so many words, yet so little known about the stuff we put on our body. What is it? How do we war it? Who can wear what type of what fragrance? There is an air of mystery around a product that is used by millions worldwide. Even though there is sure uncertainty, there is one thing we know: we like it and it smells really nice.

Parfum. What is it? Well, simply put…it is the French word for perfume. Perfume is a combination of essential oils, aroma compounds, fixatives and solvents. All these are jumbled together to produce the sweet-smelling compounds that we slather on our bodies. These compounds can be produced synthetically or derived from natural sources.

The idea of parfum has been around for a very long time. I mean, even the ancient girls wanted to smell good too! The world’s first chemist (and perfumer), a woman named Tapputi, was mentioned on an ancient cuneiform tablet from Mesopotamia dated from the 2nd millennium BC. The art of making parfum has been widely documented and talked about throughout the annals of history. In the 14th century, flowers began to be cultivated for their olfactory addition to flowers. Between the 16th and 17th century it was widely thought that parfum was used by the rich to mask body odors due to infrequent bathing. By the 18th century sweet-smelling plants were being grown across Europe which is still considered to be the center of parfum design.

Parfum is more than just plants and oils put together to smell pretty. There is a very human element to perfume making as well. This person, the perfumer, is often referred to as ‘the nez,‘ which is the French word for nose. They are called this because the greatest of perfumers are equipped with a keen and delicate sense of smell and an above average skill set in smell composition. The perfumer should be viewed as a skilled artist whose canvas is the elegant bottles of parfum we covet.

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