"Knowledge is universal but opprotunity is not"

Here I share with you my passionate journey in the world of fragrances!!

The Epic trail of Perfume

“A perfume is nothing without the skin and it’s this relationship which is magical’- Georgio Armani

Bonjour!! Ca va toi?
I just cannot believe how time has flown by. If there is one place on earth that will suck up all your extra time..in my opinion, it’s Paris!!
It has come to the last month of an amazing journey in cosmetics and perfumery!! And I cannot digest the fact that I’ll be saying good bye to France soon. However it is going to be a month of much activity with 7 written exams, 5 detailed lab reports to submit, a day of training at Chanel and a week in Grasse (The birth town of perfumery)!! Whoa!!
Studying at ISIPCA, has given me much insight in to all the know-hows in the fragrance industry and the knowledge I have acquired is amass. We as students are blessed to be in touch day-in-day-out with the only perfume museum of its kind, the ‘OSMOTHEQUE’!! Here you would find all the rare works of artistic perfumery which have been forgotten. They are the only authority who is able to recreate some of these famed works using their original formulas. It has been such a privilege to get the chance to smell the original creations of the perfumers before they were modified with time mainly to meet new regularity standards. I hope to write about the OSMOTHEQUE in a future post where I would certainly tell you a lot more being an insider ;)
The historical trail of perfumery surely inspires the work of any young perfumer-to-be. So I thought of sharing some facts about the beautiful history of perfumery with you. The word perfume comes from the word ‘per fumum’ which means ‘through the smoke’. It has been found that perfumes were discovered at the time when fire was discovered as it had been a practice to burn resins in fire to honour God. And eventually the priests became the first perfumers.
Perfumes are treated as cult objects in each religion. And even the bible says that the three wise men gifted Jesus Gold (resembling ‘king’), Myrrh (resembling ‘man’) and Frankincense (resembling ‘divinity’), where both Myrrh and Frankincense are perfumery raw material and to-date they are burnt in churches as a symbol of purity. The written history of perfumery was first sighted in ancient Egypt where there had been laboratories and certain ancient formulas for perfumes were found written on the walls at the entrances of Egyptian pyramids. Initially perfume was only for the Gods and humans were forbidden to use them, if otherwise it would mean that they are similar to God. The first perfumes were used as concentrated oils or in solid form, until the technique of distillation was discovered. The very first perfume of its kind with a written formula was called ‘Khyphi’ which was an ancient Egyptian blend of honey, wine, jasmine, myrrh, coriander, cinnamon, saffron, juniper and incense. Thereafter during the days of King Alexander the Great, perfumery raw material such as nutmeg, cinnamon, saffron, ambergris and musk were traded along the silk-road from the Arab world together with other spices. These raw material were traded in equality to Gold. And Arab was called ‘Happy Arabia’ as the traders became very rich. Arabia became the centre of trade of oriental raw material from India and China introducing them to the West.
Then during the time of the crusades Venice became the centre for the trade of perfumes where rich Arab sellers often went there. The tradition of blowing glass bottles for perfumery also began here. It has been recorded that the first book on perfumes was written by an Italian alchemist. However in France, the first perfumers were apothecarians and doctors. The two most important places in the history of French perfumery are Montpellier and Grasse. To-date Grasse is regarded as the birth place of French perfumery. It is believed that once the Queen of Hungry (1370) who was very old and feeble used a magical perfumery portion of rosemary water to regain her youth and later it became a wanted product by every woman then lived. It is said that the Queen not only wore it as a perfume but also bathed in it and also drank it. Most of these ancient perfumes were initially used for medicinal purposes. Then came the era of the ‘Eau de Cologne’ meaning ‘Water of Cologne’. This is a universal scent which to-date is the most sold and used perfumery product in the world! It was first produced by Saint Maria Nouvella, the convent in Italy as a vinegar. A young man having a love affair with a nun of the convent went on to Cologne to prepare this magical formula where he became an apothecary after passing out from the faculty of medicine. However until the end of the 19th century eau de Cologne was used as a medicinal product. Jean Marie Farina was known to be the supplier of Eau de Cologne for Napoleon 1st who was believed to be a heavy user of Eau de Cologne. He used it as a hygiene product and as well as a drink. It is only after this the famed brand ‘Roger and Gallet’ was born.
During the times of the Kings and emperors the role of perfumers were quite pronounced and they were some of the wealthiest at the time. Each King and Queen used to have their own personal perfumer who would compose exclusive formulas for them. And the perfumer became a position of honour at the Royal court. Then came the blast of perfume production in the 20th century where many industrial houses were opened. Perfumes through this time underwent lots of change giving birth to perfumes such as Jicky-Guerlain, Fougere Royale-Houbigant, Chanel No.5, Odor di Femina-Francois Coty, Oregan Coty, Shalimar-Guerlain, Opium-YSL, Pour un Homme-Caron, Eau Sauvage-Dior, Polo-Ralph Lauren, One Million-Paco Rabanne, Le male-Gautier etc..
However, in the 2000s the Cologne made a re-entry to the industry and many industrial houses produced their own version. It is now the trend to create Niche brands of perfumes in dedicated perfume houses rather than targeting the masses for economic advantages. Even the most famed brands have opened their lines of high-end perfumery reflecting back on the culture at the Royal courts of the Kings. i.e Armani Prive (2004), Chanel-Exclusive (2006).
I hope this short reflection gave you an idea about the 'Epic Trail of Perfumery' through the years. :-) And with that, it’s time to cook something… 11.00h.
This is Melani signing off from Le Chesnay, France! Hope to see you soon..after my exams!! Phew!! Je suis Fatigue!!! indecision
Posted by Melani Fernando on Jun 16, 2015 7:51 AM Europe/London

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