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Perfume History I

Written by Hannah Parry


Posted on December 02 2019

The name of the "perfume" dates back to Roman times, when they asked their gods "per fummum" through smoke, their needs. Smoking in certain woods has also always been a way of preventing disease.

In the Middle Ages the great epidemics were fought with pestilent smoke obtained from the burning of certain herbs, among those species were already wood, sandalwood, thyme, sage, juniper and lavender.
In parallel, it was found that with these aromas the body could also be perfumed, but for that operation the smell was required to be preserved.

The first elements that were applied to preserve the smell were animal fats and vegetable oils where the plant or flower was allowed to macerate. Subsequently, the mixture had to be pressed to obtain an aromatic oil or alcohol, the latter discovery attributed to the Persians.

Perfume historyThe first perfumers were priests who aromatized the statues of the gods and the kings at the time of their coronation. The custom of perfume was not, however, common to all ancient civilizations: the Egyptians considered that a day without perfume was a lost day; The Greeks and Romans of Alcurnia were smeared with aromatic oils after bathing, while Old Testament Jews were forbidden under penalty of death.

By the year 1000, Avicenna managed to isolate pure essential oils from plants by different distillation processes, which facilitated the trade and transport of aromatic substances. But the date on which the power of some animal substances was discovered to improve the aroma and maintain it is doubtful, although its usefulness has been known since
ancient times.
These substances, which in their original state are smelly, deepen, highlight and improve the main aromas of a perfume. The most commonly used are musk, a secretion produced by the sexual glands of the musk deer (a kind of original deer from the mountains of Inland Asia); amber, a substance produced by the metabolism of
sperm whale, algalia, civet secretion (still raised for this purpose in present-day Ethiopia); and castor oil, which is secreted by the stomach of that animal.

During the centuries before the nineteenth century, the perfume was used not to smell good, but to mask the lack of hygiene. In the 16th century, bath houses were closed because they were responsible for the transmission of venereal diseases. The upper classes were precisely those who shunned the water: they did not change the suit until it was completely unusable and the handkerchiefs with perfume were used under the nose to withstand the stink.

The Original Water of Cologne manufactured by the firm Johann Maria Farina was created by the Italian Giovanni Maria Farina (1685–1766) at the beginning of the 18th century. This aroma was quite innovative for the time, as it was a very fresh fragrance in contrast to that of the heavy perfumes (especially French) that were used at the time. Thanks to the Eau de Cologne the city of Cologne was recognized in Europe between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as "City of Fragrances."

Although the idea of ​​scented waters was prior to the creation made by GM Farina, or in German, JM Farina, it created in 1709 its fragrance "Farina aqua mirabilis" or "Farina Eau de Cologne" based on essential oils of lemon, orange , bergamot, tangerine, lime, cedar, grapefruit and in a secret mixture of herbs. This scented water is manufactured until today according to the original recipe by the Farina house and is patented as Original Eau de Cologne.

Farina's knowledge on distillation, essences, maceration and extraction processes were considerable and were the result of the influence of her mother's family (her grandmother came from the Gennari family, the famous Italian perfumer of the seventeenth century).

Farina came to personally describe the fragrance of the Original Cologne Water: « I discovered a perfume that reminds me of an Italian sunrise, mountain daffodils, orange blossom orange trees right after the rain. He refreshes me and reinforces my senses and my fantasy »(taken from the Farina archive. Free translation of a letter written by GB Farina to his Baptist brother in 1708)

In 1853, Pierre Francois Pascal Guerlain, a doctor and chemist, was commissioned by Empress Eugenie to prepare an exclusive fragrance. In this way the "Eau de Cologne Imperiale" was born.
The saga of perfumers has only just begun and to this day we would have to reach aromas as well known as "Vetiver", "Mitsouco", "Orient Express" or "Shalimar".
In 1951, Chanel commissioned the creation of his mythical N ”5, but in Spain the Myrurgia house had already advanced to the creation of an exotic perfume with“ Maderas de Oriente ”.
In 1931, the dressmaker Jean Patou imitated Chanel and launched the mythical “Joy”.
In 1940 Antonio Puig created “Lavender Water” and in 1947 “Dior Miss”, by Christian Dior, and Femme, de Rochas, appeared on the market.
The perfume industry is currently called by the names of fashion designers, who as quickly as they achieve notoriety commission a fragrance that represents their brand. And many of them disappear just as quickly. Perfumers, formerly authentic magicians and true artisans of aromas, are currently in the shadow of great names and in the most complete anonymity.

Some perfumes and perfumers who have made history

Guerlain French perfume company founded in 1828 by Pierre-Francois Pascal Guerlain, who was perfumer of Empress Eugenie. A Throughout its history, the house has created perfumes for characters like Honore de Balzac and Sarah
Among his most famous creations are Jicky (1889), "Misouko" 
(1 91 9), "Salimar" (1 925), Vetier (1 955) or "Jardin deBagatelle" (1983).

Chanel . E l prestige of the house Chanel, founded in 1916, and the myth of the famous Coco Chanel made it necessary for the firm also counted with her perfume. The first that was launched, at the height of the house, was the famous No. 5, the work of Ernest Beaux, composed of synthetic products, something unheard of for the time.

Rochas , a firm created by French fashion designer Marcel Rochas, who launched his first perfume in 1944: "Femme". It was a limited edition, with numbered bottles and which was purchased by subscription. The bottle was designed by Lalique. In 1949 Inzaria "Mustache", a colony for men, and in 1959 "Madame Rochas" appears, with almost 200 essences. Then
came "Monsieur Rochas", "Eau de Rochas" and "Mystere" in 1978, one of the great creations of the house.

Antonio Puig founded in 1914, in Barcelona, ​​his cosmetics and perfumes company. After the civil war, his "Lavender" began to perfume the entire country. Later “Agua Brava” and “Estivalia” appeared and the firm began exporting to New York, Paris and London. The founder's children created the most emblematic perfume of the “Quorum” house that continues to conquer consumers worldwide

To be continued…

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