The History of Fragrance
The world’s love story with perfume dates back many millennia with examples of fragrance found in ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire, Mesopotamia, and the Persian Empire. These ancient civilisations were so enamoured by scent it was kept sacred and used in ceremony and as a sign of nobility; with the burning of essential oils, resin, and perfumed unguents.
Notably, hieroglyphics in tombs show that Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians were making perfume as far back as 3,000 BC, where its origins are thought to lie. For the Ancient Egyptians the link between scent and deities was so strong, that the tombs of Pharaohs were fragranced. And Egyptian priests, who were considered the fathers of modern perfume, used aromatic resins to mask the smell of sacrificial offerings.
Beyond its inception, perfumery evolved through different civilisations and cultures, with new meanings, distillation practices, ingredients and uses formed. For example, it was the Ancient Greeks who went on to link perfume to the myth of beauty and body care, seeing it play a fundamental role in everyday life, and the Roman Empire who realised its appeal as a global commodity.
The Olfactory Pyramid has long been used to represent the fragrance notes and their composition within a perfume. Since the 1800s scents have been classified according to musical criteria, with each perfume divided into its different “notes” according to the volatility of its essential oils, which correspond to their evaporation rates when in contact with the air.
Each perfume is made up of Top notes, Heart notes, and Base Notes, which are visually represented by scale within the olfactory pyramid.
Top Notes form the top layer of the fragrance as they’re the most volatile and will evaporate first when in contact with the skin. When smelling a perfume these are the notes you will pick up on first, giving you your first impression. But they’re only fleeting compared to the heart and base notes. Citrus scents are common top notes.
Heart Notes, as their name suggests, make up the “heart” of the fragrance, and around almost 70% of the total scent. As the top notes fade, the heart notes transition in and make themselves known, remaining evident for the full life of the fragrance. Heart notes are aromatic and full-bodied, and produce a stronger scent, true of jasmine, geranium, cinnamon and pepper.
Base Notes form the foundation of the fragrance, and help to boost the lighter notes above whilst adding depth and resonance. Base notes are rich, heavy and long-lasting and typically activate 30 minutes after application as they evaporate slowly, working with the heart notes to create the fragrance’s scent, and lasting upwards of 6 hours. Popular base notes include vanilla, patchouli and woody notes like cedarwood; they will be the notes you remember the perfume by.