The orchestra of the perfume world used to be ‘au naturel’ ... then Coco Chanel came along introducing in 1921, what would become the world’s most famous perfume, even today, Chanel No5.
|No 5 CHANEL, Paris|
Eau de Parfum
in iconic bottle
Perfumes are a mixture of fragrant essential oils used to give the human body a pleasant scent – and have been known to exist since the earliest of human civilisations. Modern perfumery began in the late 19th century with the commercial synthesis of aroma compounds, such as vanilla or coumarin (that newly-mown hay ‘sweet scent’).
Chanel No 5, firstly, was a landmark in fragrance chemistry – as it finally made a synthetic ingredient acceptable, although most of its components were still derived from natural products.
Secondly, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel launched her perfume to complement her collection of clothes, whose themes were elegance and mystery.
|"Coco before Chanel" is a|
2009 French film about the
early life of the famed
designer Coco Chanel
So now-a-days those wonderful perfumes you may be receiving/giving at Christmas are just chemicals with attractive aromas - ?
The melodies of the fabric softener and the air freshener are the pop songs of fragrance chemistry, whereas the symphonies of perfume are a much richer harmony, among which there may even be a few discordant notes, deliberately introduced to contrast with the harmonic ones.
‘Le Grand Nez’ (the big nose) Monsieur Ernst Beaux composed Chanel No 5 – he chose an oil derived from the flowers of the Philippino ylang-ylang tree, as the middle note of the perfume; the purely artificial fragrance material, called 2-methylundecanal, for the top note.
The top note is the most volatile part of the perfume and the one we detect first, the middle notes take a little longer to register, and are often derived from flowers that give off a heavy, almost overpowering aroma, such as jasmine, tuberose, lily of the valley, lilac, carnation, rose and ylang-ylang.
The base notes of a perfume are the least volatile – we may not even notice them to begin with – and yet they are the most tantalising and the most erotic. The base note is there to stir emotions and suggest experiences, such as the mysterious East, a wood at night .... Base notes also serve an important chemical function in ‘fixing’ the top and middle notes by slowing their evaporation over the lifetime of a perfume.
|Drawing of Vanilla from the Florentine Codex (ca 1580)|
and description of its use and properties - written in
Nahuati language (see a previous post)
The secret of Chanel No 5 is not only its chemical components but also the proportions in which these are blended. Before modern methods of analysis came into use the original formula of Le Grand Nez was a trade secret, however today we know the secrets ...
Neroli Oil is one of the minor top notes, while ylang-ylang is the major middle note – I seem to have heard of Neroli Oil recently – see my previous post on ScentingYour Gloves.
|The basic ingredients and methods|
of making perfumes are described
by Pliny the Elder, in his
But what a way we’ve come ... only about 130 years ago we were still using essential oils within 40 years or so - chemical compounds were becoming acceptable ... and now we have 'Scratch ‘N Sniff” – which that clever young man, Lenny, suggested in my Neroli Oil post.
How do these youngsters ‘beam’ these things up ... amazing it’s come true – Lenny!!
My flat has been scented with Christmas cake spice for the last week or so – not from any introduction I’ve made to my kitchen or sitting room ... just that wonderful pervasive aroma of Yuletide spices ... mmmmm - delicious ....
Can the Plum Pudding mix be down to a few sheets of newspaper? Well now to try ... from a Saturday’s Times pull-out title “12 easy treats for children to make: The first EVER recipe pullout that smells!!” – scented paper ... rub and sniff .....
Knickerbocker Glory – smells (chemically!) fruity ....
Mars Bar Cakes
Fast berry Ice Cream
Mini Gingerbread Cakes
Peanut Butter Cupcakes
Oreo Choc-Fudge Sundae
Marble Loaf Cake
Icy Lemon Meringue Pie
|Mincemeat .... mmmmmm!|
Not sure about the 'Scratch 'N Sniff' ... but something is wafting around that’s rather pleasant and Mince Piey .... and I knew you’d want to know which recipes were given ...
I pass my judgement on the scented paper ‘Scratch ‘N Sniff’ ... but the Mincemeat aroma is rather delicious ....
So Lenny – your prediction was very accurate – any other predictions you’d care to let us know about ...
Finally ... Marilyn is back in town... over at Talli’s masquerading as Willow Watts within Talli’s new book “Watching Willow Watts” ... launched in paperback today – Go TalliGo ...
The screen icon Marilyn Monroe was once asked what she wore in bed, and then scandalised many by replying “Only Chanel No 5” – a curvaceous, sensuous woman’s perfume that’s for sure ... personally I use Lanvin – and have done ever since (ever since!) a friend’s mother brought me a bottle back from Antigua ... I bet June and Judy never thought I’d never change .. it just immediately suited me and still does.
Congratulations to all of you who have finished NaNoWriMo ... now – Good Luck with the Christmas countdown ... no time to rest on your laurels ...
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