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History of perfume: Some curiosities

Historia del perfume: Algunas curiosidades - Parfumerie d'Aquitaine

As human beings, we have always been fascinated by our history, as it teaches us about our past, our culture, and who we are today. When it comes to the history of perfume, it should come as no surprise that it also dates back to ancient times.

It is interesting to know where certain things come from, such as the ingredients of perfumes, their history and the raw materials with which modern perfumes as we know them are made.

The origin of the word perfume

The word perfume comes from the Latin "per fumus", which means through smoke. The word "perfumery" refers to the art of making perfumes.

Later, the French modernized the word to "parfum," which refers to the scents produced by burning incense resin.

The world's first known perfumer/chemist was named Tapputi, a woman from ancient Babylonia, in Mesopotamia. Records of it still exist on a cuneiform tablet from 1200 BC.

Where does the art of perfumery come from?

The first documented discoveries of perfumes date back to the early Egyptians (3000 BC to 1000 BC). However, perfumery is known to have started in ancient China, Egypt, and the Indus Valley Civilization, and was perfected by the Romans and Arabs.

It is good to know that the Egyptians used aromas to improve their lives and also their deaths by using oil-based perfumes as a celebration of rituals and prayers.

In this way, the burned oils fulfilled different functions such as:

  • divine protection
  • convey sentences
  • purify the dead
  • embalming ceremonies
  • medicines

Among other things, these oil blends were found in the mummy tombs of the pharaohs, which also meant that the perfume was used as a status symbol.

Finally, the Egyptians knew how to capture the fragrance by storing it in fat (hot decoction and cold maceration), but they were unaware of the distillation used in perfumes today.

What was the first perfume in history?

The first modern perfume (oils mixed in an alcoholic solution) was “Hungarian Water”. This perfume was a blend of lemon, orange blossom, thyme, and rosemary notes.

It was made for Queen Elizabeth of Hungary in 1370.

What is the oldest perfume still in production?

The two oldest perfumes in production are:

- 4711 By Muelhens (Mäurer & Wirtz)

In production since 1799, created by Wilhelm Muelhens, whose main notes are lemon, neroli, jasmine, basil and orange.

- Cologne Water (Kölnisch Wasser) by Farina

Created in 1709 by Johann Maria Farina, its main notes are lemon, orange, mandarin, neroli and lavender.

How are modern perfumes composed?

Modern perfumes are made up of pure ethanol or a mixture of water and ethanol, with scented essential oils mixed in an alcoholic solution. These essential oils can come from natural or synthetic sources.

The longevity and projection of the perfumes depends on the combination of the concentration of perfumed oil, the raw material and the aromatic compounds. You can find more information about perfume concentrations in this post .


I hope you have enjoyed this post about the history of perfume and the most important facts related to it.

We can realize with history that although trends change and there are always new innovations, perfumes, like many other things, always return or refer to their origins.

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  • Anonymous

    Muy interesante articulo.util para quen es queremos saber y aprender mas de este mundo de la perfumería que nos atrae y apaciona

  • Anonymous

    Muy interesante información para saber mas y entender mejor los orígenes de la perfumería

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