Fragrances are complex, often consisting of dozens of ingredients to create a well-rounded scent. As a result, fragrance creation is a bit of a mystery to many people, but perfumers spend decades perfecting their craft.

Here are six things you probably didn’t know about professional scent creation.

1. Perfumes are Aged for Several Months

Once a fragrance’s oils have been extracted and blended, they’re mixed with alcohol and placed in a cool, dark area to age for several months. Then, the fragrance sits undisturbed to allow the oils and alcohol to blend together thoroughly. The aging process is important because it allows the fragrance to mature fully.

Before going to market, an expert will test the fragrance again after it has aged. The aging process makes the scent stronger. If necessary, the perfume’s formula can be adjusted again and blended.

Perfumes go through multiple rounds of testing to make sure they smell precisely as intended.

2. The Alcohol Content Determines the Type of Scent

There are different types of fragrances that you can purchase, and the type depends on the amount of alcohol that’s added. The concentration of essential oils also makes a difference. Once perfumers have created their desired scent, alcohol is mixed with the oils for dilution. The amount of alcohol that’s added will determine what type of fragrance is created:

  •         Cologne
  •         Perfume
  •         Eau de toilette

Cologne contains up to 10% essential oils. Eau de toilette contains up to 15% essential oils with less alcohol than cologne. Perfume contains the least amount of alcohol and has up to 40% essential oils.

The high essential oil content of perfumes is what makes them more expensive than eau de toilette or cologne fragrances.

3. Many Perfumes Contain Animal Secretions

Today, fragrances usually contain synthetic versions of animal secretions (for ethical reasons), but at one time, perfumers used the real thing.

Some animal secretions that were once (and sometimes still are) used in perfumes include:

  •         Ambergris (whale vomit)
  •         Castoreum (from a beaver’s abdominal gland)
  •         Civet (from the anal glands of if the civet animal)
  •         Musk (from the musk pod of the male musk deer)
  •         Hyraceum (from the feces of a small rodent)

These ingredients may not sound pleasant, but when they are combined with other oils, they can create a beautiful fragrance.

In addition to synthetic animal secretions, perfumes often contain dozens of essential oils as well – up to 70 at times.

4. The Quality of Ingredients Can Make or Break a Fragrance

Ingredients are everything in perfumery. If the raw materials are of the highest quality, the resulting fragrance will also be of high quality.

Perfumers use 60 or more raw materials to create their fragrances. If those materials are of poor quality, the fragrance itself will be of poor quality.

Perfume creators go to great lengths to ensure that they secure the finest ingredients for their fragrances.

5. Some Plants Have “Off” Notes

Plants have a variety of scent molecules. Some have dozens or hundreds of these molecules. Roses, for example, have hundreds of scent molecules that create a wide range of aromas. Some of these molecules have a fruity-floral scent, while others have more of a refreshing citrusy scent. Because it has so many different scent molecules, rose perfume can be layered in so many different ways.

Plants can also have “off” notes. Many perfume creators say that beautiful fragrances often sit beside the ugly ones. White lilies, for example, have a scent molecule that’s really similar to the smell of ham.

Perfume creators incorporate these “off” notes into their fragrance blends because they can help create authentic floral or plant scents. They can also help round out a perfume that may be too citrusy, floral or fruity.

6. Fragrances are Tweaked Multiple Times Before Going to Market

Creating a fragrance is a slow and lengthy process. Each bottle of perfume goes through extensive rounds of mixing and testing until the formula is just right.

Perfumers may experiment with hundreds of ingredients to create a single perfume. The process can take years.


Fragrance creation is still a bit of a mystery, and it’s more of an art than a science. Perfumers have fantastic noses and the unique ability to truly understand what makes up a scent. But it’s surprising to learn that some of the world’s best fragrances contain synthetic versions of animal secretions and other odd ingredients.