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Everything you need to know about perfume extraction!

Updated: Mar 7

Did you know that there are different ways of extracting a perfume ?

Originally, extraction is a method of infusing plant material in water and solvent heated to 60°, in the past water was even replaced by oils. Today there are five different methods to complete a perfume extraction: Expression, Distillation, Enfleurage, Volatile solvent extraction, and finally, Supercritical CO2 extraction.

If you are intrigued by these processes, please read on!

Episode 1 : Expression.

Expression is a fairly old mechanical extraction process, which began in the 19th century in Sicily, and which is only used on citrus fruits. It is a mechanical treatment that allows the essential oil (or essence) to be extracted from the small glands found in the peel of the citrus fruit (also known as "zests" or "epicarp"). The aim is to subject this to a high pressure with the help of a press in order to obtain a liquid called the "absolute". This process does not alter the basic product in any way, so that the smell remains intact and is best respected.

In the past, the process was carried out manually using a so-called "sponge" process. Then the citrus fruit was cut in half, the pulp was removed and the skin was moistened well. After letting it sit for about 10 hours, all that was left to do was to press the essence onto a set of sponges. After decanting, one of these sponges had to be pressed to extract the essence of the fruit in the vase. However, this method has now given way to industrialisation. Now, the representation is done in a second way where you can use the whole fruit and press it. A centrifuge is then used to separate the juice and essential oil from the fruit.


Episode 2 : Distillation.

Distillation is an essential method in the perfume industry for extracting essential oils from aromatic plants. The history of distillation in perfumery dates back to ancient times, but the modern method was developed in the Middle Ages by the Arab alchemists.

The technique of distillation in perfumery involves the use of an alembic, which is a large steel vessel with serpentine pipes, to heat the aromatic plants with steam. The steam is then condensed to produce a concentrated essential oil and travels up the pipes. As it cools, condensation is created and collected, which is known as floral water. Commonly used raw materials for distillation in perfumery include lavender, rose, jasmine, patchouli and sandalwood.

The quality and fragrance of the essential oil depends on the plant used, the distillation method, temperature, pressure and distillation time. Perfumers can also use fractionation techniques to separate the different components of the essential oil and create more complex fragrances. However, with this technique the ratio remains very low, as it takes on average one ton of rose to obtain one kilo of essential oil.


See you next week for a new episode ;)

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