The first editions of our formulary, especially those of 1911 and
1920, had their merit; it was then a question of choosing and
devising a new approach.
Synthetic perfumes and terpeneless oils first appeared on the
market as curiosities, and flower absolutes extracted with volatile
solvents had hardly begun to replace pomades or enfleurage oils.
These new products appeared both daring and somewhat
startling to manufacturers who, still steeped in a mysterious,
traditional technique, were using a great variety of incompatible
We assumed, then, that they were a mark of progress and
simplification; did they not show a common characteristic of
maximum concentration? Unit weight of the synthetic perfume
was practically equal in fragrancy strength to a similar unit of
the flower extract obtained with volatile solvents or to unit,
weight of terpeneless oil from which the less active hydrocarbon
components had been removed in dilute alcohol.
Because of these new maximum strength fragrant materials
there was no need to standardise the pomade washings whose
"number" only indicated the number of kilogrammes of flowers
used in their preparation and not the actual concentration; it was
also necessary to ascertain the odour strength of fragrant oils; the
uniformity of strength of the main raw materials allowed the
preparation of a 100 per cent composition of odorous preparations
even if made up from raw materials from a variety of sources.
Some expensive synthetic perfumes-e.g., ionone-were still
sold in alcoholic solution; some crystalline products-e.g., synthetic
musks-were blended with several times their weight of
inert odourless materials. The manufacturers had to be stimulated
into supplying only pure materials.
The perfume manufacturers and chemists soon realised where
their interests lay and barely ten years were required to crystallise
the views which gave the French perfume industry its superiority.
Thus a new industry of completely artificial perfumes was born.
These perfumes only required dilution with alcohol to yield
commercial products such as extracts, lotions, etc. The factories
found it a rich source of business, especially the export to countries
in which the French "composition" still enjoyed very great
The wars, however, had a terrible effect on our national industries;
while we were busy defending our land and later regaining
our liberty, foreign factories, more favourably situated than
ours, exerted themselves to satisfy the world-wide demand of
customers and to supplant us. To what extent have they succeeded?
The answer lies in the future.
We yet have our reputation; the main French perfumes are
still recognised as the best by men and women of taste throughout
The present formulary does not teach the compounding art; it
is intended to keep the classical fundamental ideas, which we
stressed in our earlier publications, constantly in front of manufacturers.
The manual contains only typical examples of tested
formulations and methods of preparation. It does not contain
recipes which, slavishly followed, will yield perfumes similar to
those of our great compounders.
As perfumery is an art, it should be revealed to artists; oil, or
water-colour, painting manuals teach the holding of the brush
and the spreading of colours, but not the art of producing a masterpiece.
Our book will indicate how to handle odorant raw materials.
If the compounder has talent and has acquired the technique of
the art, then he will become an artist. When he has prepared a
formula on the lines indicated in one of the subsequent chapters,
and when he has memorised and classified the odours of various
ingredients, he will be able to assess the smell of a composition
and to relate it to his ideal; he will vary the proportions of the
ingredients if he thinks it desirable, or he may replace some with
other ingredients having a more subtle aroma. Ultimately he
obtains the odour he desires, and if this odour pleases a large
public he will become a "perfumer."
The manufacturer must realise that raw materials from different
sources differ in their characteristics; essential oils are all vegetable
products; there are essential oil soils just as there are vineyard
soils. A common oil, like thyme, has its aroma affected by such
factors as its botanical origin, its place and time of harvesting
and its distillation. When this well-known flower is not well distilled
an inferior oil results; if the distilled oil is unsuitably preserved,
or if it is adulterated, deterioration will occur.
Similar reservations apply to synthetic products; even though they are
chemically pure they may lack faultless purity of odour; during
their manufacture some fault, regarded as unimportant, may have
arisen, but this fault nevertheless detracts from the perfume's
final perfection. Lastly, the discovery of such odourless or practically
odourless derivatives such as ethyl benzoate or benzyl
benzoate permitted their use in blending, but by such blending
the olfactory strengths of the ingredients are proportionately
lowered. Watch must be kept on the quality and purity of the
raw materials. A low price for an ingredient is not a criterion of
its suitability; to the taster of fine wines and liqueurs price is a
secondary consideration if their quality satisfies him.
The best perfumery formulations are not derived from the best
formula; they are the inevitable result of the blending of faultless
ingredients. One day it will be desirable to lay down specifications
and limits for the origin of aromatic oils and to define their
botanical classifications. After all, such specifications exist for
branded chemical products.
A manual cannot impart this knowledge. It does, however,
constantly remind us that perfumes cannot be made with ordinary
ingredients of poor quality.