Vintage Shaver
Seattle, WA
Headspace Technology

Headspace technology is a method pioneered in the 1970s and 1980s of "capturing" scent molecules and reconstructing their smell for perfumes. A belljar-like apparatus is placed over the scented object and the aromatic compound molecules, such as fatty acid derivatives, benzenoids, and isoprenoids, are extracted and saved.

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Once they’re analyzed, a synthetic version can be created. This is how fragrances that are hard to distill or do not lend themselves well to other extraction methods, like gardenia, rose, or lily of the valley, and notes like dirt, such as that in Demeter’s Dirt perfume, are created. The various perfume manufacturers have their own fragrance capture systems based on this technology, examples being ScentTrek (Givaudan), Aromascope (Takasago), and NaturePrint (Firmenich). Similar techniques also have been used to analyze and recreate the interesting scents of particular locations and environments such as tea shops, classrooms, and sawmills. Headpace technology extends the perfumers' pallette, even providing them with new and unique scent "profiles" from nature, such as the mineral-filled smell of freshly rain-soaked cobblestones, pure air in the high mountains, washed laundry drying in the wind, the odor of hot dust from a lightbulb, or burned rubber (for the race car enthusiast).

The headspace equipment involves a hollow dome or sphere-like object, which forms an airtight seal over the target object. Inert gases are passed into the space, or a vacuum is created, so that the odor compounds are removed from the headspace. The compounds are then captured using a variety of techniques, including cold surfaces, solvent traps, and adsorbent materials. The sample is then analyzed with gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, carbon-13 nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

One of the early pioneers of this technology is Roman Kaiser, a Swiss fragrance chemist. Since 1968, Kaiser has been working at Givaudan, in Dübendorf near Zürich, the world's largest flavor and fragrance company. His main research activity centers around analysis and reconstitution of natural scents for use in perfumery, and he been using headspace technology for this purpose since 1975. His recent work has been focused on the plants of the canopy and understory layers of tropical rainforests, allowing reconstitution of scents of endangered plant species there.

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There is a common misconception that natural perfumes are safer than and superior to synthetic aromas. But synthetic chemicals have been used in perfumery for almost acentury without consumers being able to detect the differences. In fact, synthetic chemicals are often less volatile, and more stable, than natural chemicals whose smell changes over time. And certain plants are so rare that it is prohibitively costly for companies to harvest them for their smell. In addition, a synthetic copy of a scent often can be less complex and thus easier to use in mixes than the naturally occurring compound. And finally, over-harvesting of perfume plant sources and environmental care are becoming increasing concerns and have an effect on consumer demand and manufacturing processes.

In the 1971 cult classic movie "Harold and Maude," the eccesntric octogenarian character (played by Ruth Gordon) takes the young, death-obsessed character Harold (Bud Cort) back to her house and shows him her "odorifics" machine, a kind of recorder of smells. Says Maude, "Then I became infatuated with these, my odoriics. Give the nose a treat, I thought, a kind of olfactory bandwidth. So I began first tiwh the easiest: roast beef, old books, mown grass. And Mexican farmyard. Here's one you'll like, Snowfall on 42nd Street." Maude gives Harold a face-mask attached to a tube that runs from the machine and provides him with the captured smells: subway, perfume, cigarettes, and snow. An precursor of headspace technology!

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Vintage Shaver
Seattle, WA
Aromatic Extraction Techniques in Perfumery

Before perfumed products can be composed, the odorants used in the various perfume compositions must first be obtained. Synthetic odorants are produced through organic synthesis. The term "aroma extraction" refers to the extraction of aromatic compounds from raw natural plant materials, using methods such as distillation, solvent extraction, expression, or enfleurage. The results of the extraction are essential oils, absolutes, concretes, or butters, depending on the amount of waxes in the extracted product. The different methods have been devised to make the extracted material smell as much like the donor plant as possible and to be cost-effective. To a certain extent all of these procedures are damaging: they denature the aromatic compounds, changing their odor profile or even making them totally odorless. This has to do with the materials themselves having so little volatile oil that they do not yield a sufficient crop (lily of the valley and gardenia, for example) or being too delicate to withstand techniques that employ heat, harsh solvents, or exposure to oxygen.

Commercial Extraction Processes


Expression is among the oldest methods of fragrance extraction. Aromatic essential oil is produced from plants that are squeezed or compressed, forcing the complete oil out. These oils were first produced in Egypt in unglazed ceramic vases, with the flowers pressed and then buried in the desert for driving out the moisture. The water has a smaller molecular size, so it diffuses through the ceramic vessels, while the larger essential oils do not. The lotus oil in Tutankhamen's tomb, which retained its scent after 3000 years sealed in alabaster vessels, was pressed in this manner. Expression is an especially mild process, historically used in cases where steam distillation would modify or damage the end product. Today the only oils obtained by expression are those from the rinds of citrus fruits, due both to the abundance of aromatics in this squeezable part of the fruit and to the low cost of growing citrus fruits in general. This method is sometimes called cold pressure extraction.


Distillation, using an alembic (an alchemical still consisting of two vessels connected by a tube), is an advanced method developed in the Middle Ages and is now a common one, used for rendering a variety of aromatic essences, with the raw material sources being wood, bark, roots, flowers, leaves, seeds, peels, and flowers. In this procedure, a carrier solvent (usually water but sometimes another liquid such as alcohol) is boiled and its steam is passed through the raw material in the still for 60-100 minutes, taking the fragrant substances along with it. After cooling and condensing of the vapor, the essential oil, which floats to the top, is separated from the distillation water in Florentine flasks. The resulting material is still mostly called an essential oil, comprising aromatic and volatile ingredients of the raw material. Several very common essential oils such as peppermint, basil, lavender, rose, palmarosa, geranium, sandalwood, and eucalyptus, are produced in this way. Distillation produces different quality grades of essential oils, making some finer than others. The water collected from the condensate, which retains some of the fragrant compounds from the raw material after the oil is removed, is called hydrosol and is also sometimes sold. Examples are rose hydrosols and orange blossom hydrosols.

Rectification (also called dry or destructive distillation): The raw materials are directly heated in a still, without a carrier solvent such as water or alcohol, and often in the absence of air. Fragrant compounds that are released from the raw material by the high heat undergo anhydrous pyrolysis, which results in the formation of different compounds and thus different fragrance notes that can be used in perfume compositions. This method is used to obtain fragrant compounds from fossil amber and fragrant woods, where an intentional "burned" or "toasted" phenolic (tar-like) odor is desired. Examples are birch tar oil and Styrax pyrogenated oil.

Fractional distillation: A prolonged process is used, employing a fractionating column, which renders several grades of the aromatic compound, varying in quality and depth of scent. This allows for greater control of the qualities of the end material produced and is therefore very helpful in allowing manipulation of the effects they have in a fragrance formula. Although the product of fractional distillation is more expensive, this process is sometimes necessary to remove unpleasant or undesirable scents of a material. It is commonly used for ylang-ylang.


Organic solvent extraction is the most common and most economically important technique for extracting aromatics in the modern perfume industry. Raw materials are submerged in a solvent that can dissolve the desired aromatic compounds. Commonly used solvents for maceration/solvent extraction include hexane, ethane, and dimethyl ether.

Fragrant compounds from woody and fibrous plant materials are often obtained in this way, as are all aromatics from animal sources (although this is increasingly uncommon due to ethical concerns). The technique can also be used to extract odorants that are too volatile for distillation or are easily denatured by heat. The remaining waxy mass is known as a concrete, which is a mixture of essential oil, waxes, resins, and other lipophilic (oil-soluble) plant material. Although highly fragrant, concretes are too viscous - sometimes even solid - at room temperature to be useful. This is due to the presence of high-molecular-weight, nonfragrant waxes and resins. Another solvent, often ethanol (ethyl alcohol), which only dissolves the fragrant low-molecular-weight compounds, must be used to extract the fragrant oil from the concrete. The alcohol is removed by a second distillation, leaving behind what is called the absolute. Due to the lower temperatures used in this process, the absolute can be more faithful to the original scent of the raw material than are the products of distillation.

To differentiate between an absolute and a tincture: A tincture is a material produced through use of ethanol extraction directly from dry materials submerged in the alcohol, while absolutes are rendered through washing and effectively purifying with ethanol the waxy materials (oils, concretes) derived from solvent extraction/enfleurage.

Supercritical fluid extraction: In supercritical fluid extraction, a relatively new method, high pressure carbon dioxide gas (up to 100 atm) is used as a solvent. When carbon dioxide is put under high pressure at slightly above room temperature, a supercritical fluid forms. (Under normal pressure, CO2 changes directly from a solid to a gas in a process known as sublimation.) CO2 in a non-polar compound has low surface tension and wets easily, and it can be used to extract the typically hydrophobic aromatics from the plant material. This process is identical to one of the techniques for making decaffeinated coffee. Like solvent extraction, CO2 extraction takes place at a low temperature, extracts a wide range of compounds, and leaves the aromatics unaltered by heat, producing an essence that is very faithful to the original. Since CO2 is a gas at normal atmospheric pressure, it also leaves no trace of itself in the final product, thus allowing one to get the absolute directly without having to deal with a concrete. Extracts produced using this process are known as CO2 extracts.


Water maceration produces an infusion, a familiar term from tisanes/herbal teas and a comparable technique. The plant material is submerged in hot water (or alcohol or oil) and left to marinate (steep) for a period of time, yielding its aromatic properties. Then the plant is removed with a strainer and the water remaining is called an infusion. The process of infusion is distinct from decoction, which involves boiling the plant material, or percolation, in which the water passes through the material (as in a coffeemaker). Infusion is a very simple chemical process used with botanicals that are highly volatile and dissolve readily or release their active ingredients easily in the liquid. The botanicals are typically dried herbs, flowers or berries.


Decoction is a method of extraction by boiling out dissolved chemicals from mashed plant material, which may include stems, roots, bark, and rhizomes. Decoction produces liquids with differing chemical properties than those of infusion because the temperature/preparation difference results in more oil-soluble chemicals in decoction than in infusion. Decoction is also the name for the resulting liquid.


Enfleurage is a famous but now antiquated process, prized in years past for its capacity to capture the mature, deep aroma of delicate flowers, such as jasmine or tuberose, that lost their precious aromatic bouquet in high-heat distillation. Enfleurage in the original French means to “impregnate with the scent of flowers.” It is also defined as “extracting perfumes by exposing inodorous oils or fats to the exhalations of flowers.”

The technique uses animal fat (deodorized lard or tallow) as a waxy 'dress' for the flowers, allowing them to macerate for days on large glass plates in wooden frames. Fresh produce was added to the point of fragrance saturation. The fragrant fat 'pomade' was then washed with ethanol to render an 'absolute de chassis.' Two variations of the technique existed: 'cold' enfleurage, perfected in the 19th century and using no external heat, and 'hot' enfleurage, in which the fat was gently heated while the botanical matter was stirred into the fat.

This technique is not commonly used any longer in the perfume industry, due both to its prohibitive labor intensity and cost and to the existence of newer, more efficient extraction methods such as solvent extract and supercritical fluid extraction.

Otto, Attar, and Monoi

Otto (most often rose otto, but also including saffron, lotus, and jasmine osttos) is essential oil derived from the petals of flowers. Rose otto is produced from different varieties of roses through steam distillation (as opposed to the absolute, which is produced through solvent extraction or supercritical CO2 extraction). The finest rose otto is produced in Turkey and Bulgaria. Ottos are used less often in perfumery than absolutes.

Attar is the English form of the Arab term ittar, an ancient Persian word meaning "to smell sweet." It is used to denote a variety of natural oils rendered from botanical sources, especially those that do not contain any added alcohol. The oils are most often distilled into a wood base such as sandalwood and then aged. The aging period can last from one to ten years depending on the botanicals used and the results desired. Attars are highly concentrated and therefore are usually offered for sale in small quantities in decorated crystal cut bottles or small jeweled decanters. The terms attar and otto are sometimes use interchangeably.

A variation on this is the famous Monoi ("scented") oil, which uses Tiaré flowers (i.e. Tahitian gardenias), macerated and distilled in coconut oil (which is a semi-solid wax substance in its pure form).
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Vintage Shaver
Seattle, WA

Incense (from Latin: incendere, "to burn") is composed of aromatic biotic materials which release fragrant smoke when burned. It is used in religious ceremonies, ritual purification, aromatherapy, meditation, for creating a mood, and for masking bad odors. The exact origin of incense cannot be traced, but ancient writings provide insight into how religions and cultures of old used the aroma of burning herbs, flowers, tree leaves and other natural sources in their spiritual practices. The common use of incense may have originated in ancient Egypt, where gum resins and oleo gum resins of aromatic trees were imported from the Arabian and Somali coasts to be used in religious ceremonies. When the tomb of Tutankhamun was found, archeologists discovered oils, perfumes, and incense around his mummified body. Incense relics that are thousands of years old have been found all over the world.

When referring to burned materials, the term 'incense' refers to the substance itself, rather than to the odor that it produces. But in perfumery, the word means a complex aromatic fragrance blend that generally contains wood and spice elements, most commonly frankincense. In the darker register of oriental fragrances, for instance, frankincense, with its suggestion of green stems and leaves, lends a soft glow and buoyant lift to accords of spices, vanilla, and patchouli; the luminous quality of some of these fragrances is derived from the manner in which their spicy floral notes are modulated by the balsamic dryness of incense. Incense mixes contain both cold and warm elements: a citrusy, peppery top note and a dark, balsamic finish. Although this contrast is dramatic, the overall character is serene and calming. Although incense often tends to be associated with heavy, dark, smoky fragrances, it actually is a common note in many fresh citrus and green fragrances.

Early incense contained nothing more than a few ground herbs, plant gums, and honey, but the preparations have become much more complex and varied. Fragrance materials found in incense today include woods and barks (agarwood, cedaar, cyprus, sandalwood, juniper, cassia), seeds and fruits, (star anise, nutmeg, juniper berries, coriander, vanilla), resins and gums (benzoin, copal, frankincense, myrrh, labdanum, dragon's blood, mastic, storax, galbanum, elemi, opoponax, tlu balsam, choya loban, copahu, guggul, sandarac, kauri gum, amber), roots and rhizomes (vetiver, orris, jatamansi, calamus, galangal, costus), leaves (patchouli, sage, bay, tea), and flowers and buds (rose, clove, lavender, saffron). The materials that are used most often now in the making of incense for fragrances are borneol camphor, benzoin, frankincense, makko powder, tolu balsam, myrrh, labdanum, opoponax, and white Indian sandal powder. There can be various combinations of substances used to create differing tone accords, such as woody, floral, herbal, spicy, or resinous.

Well-known incense perfumes for men and women include Tauer Incense Rose and Incense Extreme; Amouage Tribute and Lyric Man; Czech & Speake Frankincense & Myrrh and No. 88; Gucci Pour Homme; Heeley Cardinal; Comme des Garçons Black, Kyoto, Avignon, and Ouarzazate; Armani Privé Bois D’Encens; Creed Himalaya; Dupont Signature; Cacheral Nemo; Azzaro Visit; Givenchy Xeryus; Perfum d'Empire Wazamba; Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles and De Profundis; Donna Karan Black Cashmere and Chaos; Annick Goutal Encens Flamboyant; Aedes de Venustas; Yves St. Laurent Nu; L'Artisan Seville a l'Aube and Passage d'Enfer; Kilian Incense Oud; Atelier Cologne Bois Blonds; Hermès Eau de Gentiane Blanche; Chanel No. 22; Aesop Mystra; Etro Shaal Nur; Norma Kamli Incense; Carlos Santana for Men; Montale Full Incense; l'Occitane en Provence Eau des Baux; and Jovoy Paris La Lithurgie des Heures.
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Vintage Shaver
Seattle, WA
'Dry' and 'Powdery' in Perfumery

In perfumery, the term 'dry' dates to the 1930s, when couturier Jean Patou created a cocktail bar where men could drink and talk while their women companions shopped. Subsequently he decided that this could be conveted into a perfume bar, and his perfumer, Henri Alméas, was instructed to create 'cocktail' fragrances: Cocktail, Cocktail Dry, Cocktail Sweet, and Cocktail Bitter Sweet.

'Dry' is the term for a woody, masculine odor effect in perfume products that is the opposite of a 'sweet' effect (as in wines). It is achieved through the use of ingredients such as woods, mosses, and herbs that provide a drying sensation and of formate group aroma chemicals. Dry scents are usually provided by woods such as cedar, certain grasses such as vetiver, rhizomes (orris/iris), phemols (essences such as birch tar, guiacwood, and leathery compounds), and mosses like oakmoss and treemoss). Dry fragrances do not have dewy, watery elements that suggest vegetation, tending to be more mineral-like and providing a solid sense to the nose. A dry element is particularly useful in fresh daytime fragrance mixes.

'Powdery' as a fragrance tone sometimes can be considered a subcategory of 'dry.' It is a somewhat musky, opaque, or hazy effect produced by the interaction of mossy, wwody, sweet, and crystalline elements. Yet a powdery element can at times take on either sweet or dry nuances according to manipulation by the perfumer, with the sweeter types hinting at a feminine smell rather than the traditional masculine one. Usually the distinction is between 'face powder' (sweeter) and 'talcum powder' (drier). Face powder notes generally are more refined and have a vintage, perfume-like trail, while talcum powder tones are simpler, usually involving a vanillic/balsamic background combined with geranium and/or ylang ylang, recalling the lemon-lavender-vanilla accord of Johnson's Baby Powder. A baby powder scent effect is sometimes produced when a heavier sweet or woody note is blended with a lighter citrus, fruity, or green note, similar to the result of mixing vanilla with lemon in a sorbet. Ambery ingredients are often involved in giving a powdery effect, and these include opoponax gum, heliotropin, vanilla, and some musks. But 'powderiness' can also be provided by orris'iris, certain aldehydes, and mosses. Old style face powders often contained Evernia prunastri, which is oakmoss. Many perfumes leave an overall powdery impression after evaporation of the floral ingredients.

Modern face powder-smelling fragrances include Hermès 24 Faubourg, Ombre Rose by Jean-Charles Brosseau, No.19 by Chanel, Patou's discontinued Normandie, Creed Fleurs de Bulgarie, Jolie Madame by Balmain, Coriandre by Jean Couturier, and Ma Griffe by Carven. Talcum or baby-powdery fragrances are represented by Petits et Mamans by Bulgari, Cashmere Mist by Donna Karan, and Flower by Kenzo.

Some powdery fragrances for men are Dior Homme, Lorenzo Villoresi Musk, Bulgari Blu pour Homme, Zizanie, Lagerfeld Classic, Royal Copenhagen, Santa Maria Novella Melograno, Amouage Gold, Passage d'Enfer, Five Star Royal Secret, Rive Gauche, Knize Ten, Escada Magnetism,
and Dana Canoe.
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Super Moderator
San Diego, Cal., USA
As always, John, very interesting and, at least for me, eye opening.
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I think after I reread this post about a half dozen times, and have a half decent grasp of the information, I might be able to follow along with Will and his vocabulary.

There are volumes of information in this post. An excellent dissertation. Knowledge and information like this is what is making DFS a true leader.
B&B Ban date 4 July 2016
My personal B&Blexit
True irony
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Vintage Shaver
Seattle, WA

Oud (sometimes spelled oudh), the Arabic word for wood, usually refers in perfumery to wood from the Agar (Aquilaria or Gyrinops) tree, an evergreen genus native to southeast Asia. It is sometimes called agar, aloeswood, gaharu, jinko, or ligne-aloes. When attacked by a common fungus (Phaeoacremonium parasitica) that decomposes its bark and branches, this tree produces an aromatic resin. The resinous agarwood occurs in the trunk and roots of the trees, where the volatile organic compounds it contains appear to suppress or retard the fungal growth. While the unaffected wood of the tree is a light, pale beige in color, the resin markedly increases the density and mass of the affected wood over the course of decades, changing its color to dark brown or black. Since only about 2-7% of trees are infected naturally by the fungus, artificial forestry methods are often used to inoculate all the trees in a chosen area with the fungus.

Natural oud products vary widely in quality depending upon geographical location, botanical species, age of the tree, and the section of the tree from which the source piece of agarwood is taken. The highest quality agarwood comes from the tree's natural immune response, while an inferior resin is produced by deliberate wounding of the tree. Once the resin is developed, it is only good for harvesting for a few months, after which the essential oil cells dry out.

Oud oil is steam-distilled from the agarwood, producing up to 20 ml of pure oil from each 70 kg of heartwood. Agarwood oil is very complex, with over 150 different compounds identified to date. Extremely expensive to obtain (costing more than $60,000 per kilogram) and considered endangered in the wild due to overharvesting, the oil has been replaced for the most part in modern products by synthetic substitutes (such as Oud Synthetic 10760E by Firmenich and Agarwood Orpur by Givaudan). There are claims that Chinese factories produce very fragrant but fake scents made of the very low-grade agarwood soaked for about a month in European synthetic oud.

Overall, oud has an animalic, earthy, oriental-woody, soft fruit-floral tone that is usually complex and dark, making it a good base for men's colognes. It has nutty, musty-earthy undertones. It is intense and pungent, and lower grades can be quite sharp. When burned in incense, it also is characterized by a sweet-balsamic note with touches of vanilla, musk, and amber. Oud is often used as a backnote for other scents in modern fragrance mixes. It pairs well with traditional oriental notes, such as rose and vanilla, as well as with modern amber and hesperidic (bright citrus) notes. Oud generally produces strong emotional responses, positive or negative. “Oud is astonishingly rare,” says Chandler Burr, the former New York Times perfume critic and author of 'The Emperor of Scent.' “It has a very particular scent, and there is nothing like it on the market. It is dark, rich and opaque.”

The scent is an ancient one that has been used in incense and perfumes for thousands of years in the Middle East and Asia, both in homes and in religious ceremonies. The International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences states that agarwood, also known as the 'Wood of the Gods,' is mentioned as early as the third century AD in Chinese literature. Agarwood has also been used as a medicinal product, dating back at least to the eighth century.

Oud has been getting more popular in the West over the past few years. Sales of oud perfumes are strong within the niche prestige fragrance market, which is valued at over $3 billion. A 2013 report stated that total oud sales had increased by 68% over 5 years. About two-thirds of oud scents are artisanal, according to the NPD Group. Well-known commercial fragrances with prominent oud notes include:

Acqua di Parma Colonia Oud
Amouage Homage Attar
Amouage Jubilation XXV
Anya’s Garden Temple
Arabian Oud range
Armani Prive 1001 Nights Collection Oud Royal
Ayesha Ziya The Oud
By Kilian Pure Oud and Rose Oud
Byredo Oud Immortel
Christian Dior Leather Oud and Oud Ispahan
Commes des Garçons Wonderoud
Creed Royal Oud
Czech & Speake Dark Rose
Donna Karan Chaos
Ermenegildo Zegna Indonesian Oud
Guerlain Oud Sensuel
Henri Bendel Rose & Oud
Jo Malone Oud and Bergamot
John Varvatos Oud
Krigler Oud for Highness 75
L’Artisan Parfumeur Al Oudh
Le Labo Oud 27 and Rose 31
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Silk Mood, Velvet Mood, and Cashmere Mood
Montale oudh range
Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Man
Ralph Lauren Polo Supreme Oud
Reiss Black Oudh
Secret Oud and Oud de Caron
Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque
Tom Ford Noir de Noir and Oud Wood
Yves Saint Laurent M7 Oud Absolu and Splendid Wood
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Vintage Shaver
Seattle, WA

What does the term 'leather' mean in perfumery? Does it mean the smell of leather material itself? Or does it refer to fragrances that suggest the environment in which one finds leather? Or is it something else?

Some authors suggest that it means a fragrance type that resembles the sweet, pungent, animalic smokiness characteristic of the ingredients use in the process of tanning leathers, achieved through use of castoreum, labdanum, and synthetic chemicals. Others argue that it is a fragrance tone suggesting hay, leather itself, the manure and dirt of wood stalls, the odor of urine (used to make leather pliable), and the rich, earth scent of horses themselves. Leather perfumes, whether natural or synthetically derived, can have several accord variables and satisfy different interpretations, which makes the overall perception and definition of 'leather' variable and somewhat confusing. This is further complicated by the modern addition of a 'suede' note, a synthetic slightly salty tone. In terms of imitation of the actual scent of leather itself, there is also the question of differentiation among the different animals producing the leather hides: cowhide smells quite different than horseside or pighide, for example. And many people detect vague gasoline impressions from leather perfumes, which appears to be due to their methods of production.

Leather in perfumery is sometimes defined as a subdivision of the chypre family, but with added fougère and oriental tones. However, the Société Française des Parfumeurs puts it in its own separate family, Category G, which is subdivided into true leathers (G1), floral leathers (G2, usually with touches of iris or violet), and tobacco leathers (G3, with smoky, woody, and blond tobacco notes). And modern perfume classifications seem generally to be following this trend, although some people divide leather scents into Russian ones (inspired by the sharp odors of military garments) and Spanish ones (characterized more by the essence of herbs, flowers, and fruits). Probably the best known leather fragrances are those of the Cuir de Russie family. The word 'cuir' has French origins and is derived from the latin word corium for leather or hide.

Historically, leather is one of the oldest basic notes in perfumery, dating to a French Guild of Glovers (Gantiers et Parfumeurs) that was incorporated in 1268 and became well known for scenting the leather gloves of the aristocracy, especially in the 16th century. Guild members used pleasantly scented essences to mask the unappealing odor of newly tanned leather, which was redolent of curing materials such as urine and dung. In Italy, frangipani was used for scenting, in Spain it was camphor and ambergris, and in France orange blossom, violet, iris, and musk were preferred. In addition to providing a way to overpower the residual odors of leather curing, the essences used to scent gloves were employed as a way to bring something pleasant to the nose when one crossed the streets of the time, which were in fact open sewers transporting human and animal waste to rivers and ultimately to the sea. The Gantiers, as they were called, were given a place in the Six Corps, which were the six most powerful manufacturing societies of that time and which had preferential access to expensive raw products from overseas. Leather was primarily produced in the tanneries of Montpellier and those of its economic rival, Grasse.

Catherine de Medici (1519-1589), Queen of France from 1547 to 1559 and mother of three kings, took her favorite perfumer, René le Florentin, with her when she left Italy to marry Henri, Duc d'Orleans. In addition to his perfumes, he devised special toxic mixes for her to use to dispose of her enemies, including the one that scented the gloves with which she poisoned Jeanne d'Albert, mother of Henry IV. René eventually became the first perfumer to open a commercial shop in Paris. Catherine also sent for a Florentine perfumer, Tomarelli, and had him work in Grasse, renowned for its flowers, instructing him to capture their scents in perfumed essences. One of his products was the famous gloves called Gants à la Frangipane, named after a Roman family of the 12th century and using leather odorized with fresh jasmine flowers fixed with civet and musk. From these gloves came the term 'frangipani.'

The first officially documeted leather scent, still available today, was Creed Royal English Leather, worn by King George III. It was created as a body fragrance at the request of the king because he was very fond of the smell of scented leather gloves.

Natural Materials

Birch - Traditionally used in tanneries in Northern Europe, and especially in Russia and Finland, its bark produces tar and resin with an intensely wintergreen and tar-like odor that has been used frequently in Cuir de Russie type scents. For a soft deer leather smell, the birch scent is dissolved in vanilla or floral notes. Birch is often used in Russian leather perfumes.

Juniper and cade oil - Cade is a dark viscous oil produced when juniper trees are burned, possessing a smoky aroma reminiscent of forest campfires. It also has been used in Cuir de Russie scents along with birch. It has mold-suppressing properties and has been used for binding leather books to prevent deterioration.

Styrax - Liquidambar trees, from both Central America and Asia Minor, produce a sapwood (styrax) when their bark is pounded. An essence derived from the sapwood by vacuum distillation or use of volatile solvents is used to give a leather undertone which is sweeter than that of birch.

Cassie - The bark of the cassie tree, a tree in the mimosa family, as well as an absolute from its flowers, are used for giving a deep, intense leather note to perfumes.

Castoreum - This secretion from the glands of beavers, a by-product of the fur industry in Russia and Canada, has a very intense and repulsive odor when concentrated but provides a desirable dry leathery scent and fixative properties when highly diluted. It is prized for smelling like real leather.

Myrtle - Although it can produce a leather note (and is used in tanneries for curing hides) and is infrequently used, myrtle has a camphoreous, green tone that makes it not a preferred choice.

Cistus labdanum - This can give a more smoky/ambery leather note when such is desired for a perfume background.

These natural factors are especially good at rendering leather notes when they are combined with other essences such as black tea, patchouli, or tobacco.


Synthetic materials giving leathery notes in perfumery appeared in the 1880s with the discovery of quinolones, a family of aroma chemicals that were then used early in the 20th century in the production of modern Cuir de Russie scents such as Chanel Cuir de Russie, Caron Tabac Blond, Lanvin Scandal, and Piguet Bandit. The chemical name of the quinolone ingredient primarily used is 4-(2-methylpropyl) quinolone, commonly called isobutyl quinolone. Used in a concentration of 1% or less, it has a strong odor profile described as ambery, woody, and tobacco-like, as well as earthy, rooty, and nutty, similar in some ways to oakmoss and vetiver.

Another newer synthesized note is the suede accord, much more subtle and less aggressive than that of the quinolones. Suggestive of velours, it has been used in perfumes such as Lutens Daim Blond andDonna Karan.

Less often used is safraleine, an aroma chemical present in isolates of saffron that gives a smell combining elements of shoe polish, black cherry, and air conditioning/refrigeration fluid.

Aldehydes are also used in leather perfumes to balance and smooth the composition.

Well known leather perfumes/colognes/aftershaves for men include the folowing:

Acca Kappa 1869; Acqua di Parma Colonia Leather; Adidas Dare; Amouage Memoir Man; Antonio Banderas Diavolo Club; Atkinsons The Excelsior Bouquet; Aubusson Homme; Avon Black Suede Leather, Infinite Seduction, and Urban Edge; Axe Instinct; Baldessarini Private Affairs; Bond No. 9 Dubai Emerald; Bvlgari Man in Black "All Black"; Burberry Brit Rhythm; Byredo Baudelaire and Accord Oud; Carolina Herrera Men Prive; Cerruti L'Essence; Choppard 1000 Miglia Extreme and 1927 Vintage Edition; Christian Dior Homme Parfum and La Collection Couturier Parfumeur Leather Oud; Coach Leatherware series; Crabtree & Evelynn Sienna; Creed Royal English Leather; D.R. Harris Windsor; Davidoff Leather Blend; Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Exotic Leather and Velvet Wood; Donna Karan Men Summer 2014; English Leather; Floris Mahon Leather; G.F. Trumper Spanish Leather; Giorgio Armani Prive Cuir Majeste and Cuir Noir; Givenchy Cuir Blanc; Guerlain Cuir Beluga, Cuir de Russie, Derby, and Habit Rouge Rider Edition; Hermes Cuir d'Ange and Eau d'Hermes; Houbigant Duc de Vervins; Jack Black Signature Black Mark; Jean Patou Pour Homme; John Varvatos Dark Rebel Rider and JV Platinum Edition; Knize Ten; Marbert Man No. 2; Maurer & Wirtz GranValor Tabac; Missoni Uomo; Molinard Cuir; Montale Aoud Cuir d'Arabie; Oscar de la Renta Pour Lui; Paco Rabanne 1 Million Absolutely Gold and Black XS; Perry Ellis for Men Original and PE Red; Pierre Cardin Centaure Cuire Etalon, Enigme, and Collection Cuir Intense; Ralph Lauren Polo Supreme Leather; Robert Piguet Knightsbridge; Roberta Andrade Tabac Blanc; Santa Maria Novella Nostalgia; Serge Lutens Boxeuses and Cuir Mauresque; The Crown Perfumery Eau de Russe; Tom Ford Neroli Portofino Forte and Tuscan Leather; Truefitt & Hill Spanish Leather; Valentino Uomo; Versace L'Homme; and Yves St. Laurent Noble Leather.
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Vintage Shaver
Seattle, WA

Mastic (also called lentisque), a plant resin from a small shrubby tree (Pistacia lentiscus) found almost exlusively on the southern part of the Greek island of Chios, is a rare ingredient in perfumery, particularly as the most prominent note in a fragrance.  A hard, brittle, bitter green or yellow resin, it is derived by sun drying from the transparent ‘tears’ of liquid mastic produced from incisions in the trees.  There is a legend that as St. Isodore of Chios cried out in pain during his martyrdom, God blessed the mastic tree, which then began to cry its tears.

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Mastic was used as a remedy for snakebite in ancient Greece and burned in North Africa as an incense.  It also has been used medicinally for a large number of body disorders, especially stomach problems, as a seasoning in Turkey and Egypt, as a liqueur, candy, and pastry flavoring, and as a varnish.  The oil from the seeds is called shina oil and is used for cooking.  Mastic resin has been used as a kind of chewing gum, becoming soft and bright opaque white when chewed.  In pharmacies and nature shops it is called arabic gum and Yemen gum.

Similar to pine, cedar, and olibanum, the complex smell of mastic is clean, balsamic, dry, lemony, and crisp, somewhat reminiscent of a fresh morning forest.  It provides a sharp and pungent top note and a deep, smoky dry down to fragrance mixes, especially citrus and lavender-fougere colognes, and it has good fixative properties.  It blends well with various herbs, frankincense, black pepper, coconut, tonka bean, vanilla, blood orange, carnation, violet, lavender, rose, juniper, and cedarwood.

The essential oil used in perfumery is produced by steam distillation or alcohol extraction of the resin and also of the leaves of the tree.  It is a relatively expensive ingredient.

Mastic or lentisque perfumes include:

Annick Goutal Ninfeo Mio and Encens Flamboyant
Maurer & Wirtz 4711 Wunderwasser Elixir
Floris Soulle Ambar
Hussein Chalayan Green Comme des Garcons
Tom Ford Noir Extreme and Costa Azzurra
Acqua di Parma Blue Mediterraneo - Mirto di Panarea
Calvin Klein Reveal Men
John Varvatos Artisan Acqua
Davidoff Cool Water Night Dive
Aramis Black Aramis
Faena Mastic Tree Artisan Aftershave
Queen B French Mastic
Phaedon Lentisque
Baruti Berlin im Winter and Indigo
Sisley Eau d'Ikar
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Vintage Shaver
Seattle, WA
Aromatic and Herbaceous

The term 'aromatic' is sometimes used, especially by laymen, to refer to the assertive, fresh fragrance produced by sweet balsamic and resinous green-herbal notes, such as that of pure lavender essence. But strictly speaking, it means an organic compound with a benzene (or arene) hydrocarbon ring structure. The name was originally given to these compounds, before their chemical structure was known, because of their somewhat sweet scent. Aromatic notes are not typically syrupy sweet, but are not at all bitter either. Aromatic compositions are most typically found in fragrances for men.

Herbaceous aromatic materials pair quite well with citruses and spices, in that way lending themselves to fragrances for women as well as unisex perfumes, in addition to the better known masculine ones. Lavender is the prototypical aromatic substance and is used very commonly in perfumery. With its pleasant association with the outdoors and cleanliness, it is a mainstay of the fougère/fern family and frequently is combined with ferny smells with which it has overlapping qualities. The term 'aromatic fougère' is used especially with masculine fragrances, forming a subclassification typified by heavier use of cool, refreshing herbal top notes. Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche pour Homme is the perfect example of this genre.

Aromatic accents are used with classic cologne-like notes, providing a somewhat sharper, tonic scent such as that of the 4711 Acqua Colonia series, and are also used to provide a contrasting brightness with darker resinous notes such as incense, as is found in Serge Lutens Encens et Lavande.

In addition to lavender, herbal contributors of aromatic-green camphorous notes, frequently used together in combination, include rosemary and sage, present for example in the top notes of Dior Eau Sauvage, Caron pour Un Homme, and Guerlain Habit Rouge, as well as cumin, mugwort, star anise, and other plants with a very intensive grassy-spicy scent. Examples include artemisia, basil, estragon, marjoram, peppermint, tea, and tobacco.

Other well-known fragrance products with a prominent aromatic nature include:

Acca Kappa White Moss
Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo series
Alfred Dunhill Pure
Alt-Innsbruck Eau de Cologne
Amouage Sunshine Men
Annick Goutal Eau de Lavande
Aramis A, Black, and New West for Him
Atkinsons Rockford and Sport Blue Sky
Aubusson Man in Blue
Azzaro Aqua Verde and Pour Homme LE 2014
Baruti Berlin Im Winter
Borsari Acqua della Macchia Mediterranea
Brooks Brothers New York for Gentlemen
Burberry Summer for Men
Bvlgari Eau Parfumee au The Bleu
By Kilian Moonlight in Heaven
Calvin Klein Eternity Summer and Reveal Men
Caron Pour Un Homme
Caswell Massey Michelsen's Bay Rum
Christian Dior Fahrenheit Summer 2006 and Eau Sauvage
Claus Porto Agua de Colonia No. 4 Spearmint Tea
Coty Gravity series
Crabtree & Evelyn Black Absinthe
Creed Silver Mountain Water
Davidoff Cool Water Freeze Me
Flamboyant Royal White
Floris Lavender
Giorgio Armani Code Ice and Diamonds Summer Fraiche
Givenchy Insense series
Hermes Eau de Gentiane Blanche
Jil Sander Ultrasense
Kenneth Cole Blue and New York Men
Marbert Man Personality
Masaki Matsushima M
Maurer & Wirtz 4711 series
Paco Rabanne Ultraviolet series and XS Sensual Summer
Paul Sebastian Fine Cologne
Penhaligon's Douro and Lavandula
Perry Ellis 360 Degrees and Portfolio Green
Pierre Cardin Vertige
Ralph Lauren Polo Red White & Blue
Roger & Gallet L'Homme
St. Charles Shave Bulgarian Lavender
Santa Maria Novella lavanda Imperiale, Porcellana, Potpourri
Serge Lutens Laine de Verre
Taylor of Old Bond Street Luxury Lavender Water
The Body Shop White Musk
Tom Ford Lavender Palm
Truefitt & Hill 1805
Yves St. Laurent Kouros Eau d'Ete 2006

The term 'herbaceous' often is used more broadly to refer to components derived from or reminiscent of herbal plants in general, which produce a naturally cool, dry, leafy, or hay-like note, such as chamomile, lavender, rosemary, or clary sage. The term 'grassy' is used to refer to a similar but different green, sharp tone like the scent of a freshly mowed lawn or crushed green leaves. Examples include the fragrances of Balmain Vent Vert and L'Artisan Premier Figuier. It should be noted, however, that 'herbaceous' and 'grassy' are not exactly the same as 'aromatic.' Purely herbaceous or grassy materials typically are cool (and especially produce that sensation when blotted and pressed to the lips), while more characteristically aromatic substances tend to be spicy and warm.
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