“Perfume is the most intense form of memory” – Jean Paul Guerlain
For the last “normal” Christmas that I had with my family, I received some perfume that I’ve not been able to wear.
And that’s not because I don’t like it, I love it. But it’s just that when I smelt it, I felt sad, and I even wanted to cry. At the time I managed to hide it, I said thank you and I took it home with me.
And there it is, a year and a half later. I don’t want to get rid of it but I can’t wear it either.
It’s a perfume that a person I cherish used to wear and now they’re not here.
Having that perfume has become a way of having that person close by, and when I think about them and I want to tell them something, I pick up the perfume, open it and smell it and then I put it back.
It might sound crazy, but there is some science behind it: there is a direct connection between the areas of the brain involving emotions and aromas.
Further to this, we have what’s called an olfactory memory whereby we associate a certain smell with a specific time in our lives, whether it be positive of negative. This is because scent is also a defence mechanism to avoid bad situations from reoccurring.
Therefore, although our sense of smell might be the least important to us out of the five, it is the one that provokes the most memories and stays with us the longest.
It is extrasensory, since a smell can cause us to experience endless feelings and make us relive good and bad memories from the past as we saw them.
It’s fascinating, don’t you think?
Let’s discover more secrets about perfume.
What is a perfume?
We can define perfume as an exclusive and complex blend of olfactory materials with its own identity, which is almost impossible to describe unless we compare it with another object we are familiar with.
“A fragrance is unique due to its composition, its ingredients, their proportion and, of course, their quality” – Jean-Luc Gardarin, an expert in perfumes at Le Secret du Marais
Because they are so exclusive and inimitable, they are expensive, and that’s not to mention the careful packaging that wraps the perfume and the marketing, of course.
Although nowadays consumers have evolved a lot, perfume is still one of the products that we don’t skimp on; if we like a type of perfume and we can relate to it, we will pay for it.
Because it is one of the most emotional purchases that there is.
We see perfume as the essence of our personality, and we are not prepared for our own personality to be cheap.
“The scent given off by perfume can make a person more attractive, and even more so if they can relate to it” – A quote from the magazine Plos One
Have you never walked into a room or gone up some stairs and noticed that a certain person has walked by or are in the room because of their perfume?
That trail that is left behind in the air after a person has walked by wearing perfume is called sillage.
Sillage is a perfume’s ability to linger in the air and be noticed. So it therefore goes much further than anything physical and reaches an emotional level, and for this reason it is one of the most rated aspects of perfumery.
Who were the first humans to appreciate pleasant smells?
The origins of perfume
The first clues that humans were using scented aromas or perfumes date back to the sixth millennium BC in the Middle East some 8000 years ago.
The Egyptians, for example, knew about the scent of some plants and resins and they burnt them to perfume the air, first in their religious ceremonies and then later on during their romantic soirées.
The actual etymology of the word perfume comes from Latin: “per” and “fumare”, which means “to produce smoke”.
A quick journey through the history of perfume
The Phoenicians were the first to sell perfumes, as they transported flowers and scented plants from East to West almost 4000 years ago.
The Greeks mastered the art of extracting lotions from medicinal plants with the aim of curing respiratory illnesses (like bronchitis) by breathing them in, and they also anointed balms and oils onto different parts of the body such as hands, arms and feet.
The Romans adopted the Greek beliefs and customs and those from the other places that they conquered, becoming big perfume lovers. It was in Ancient Rome where the first perfumer’s union was established, the influential unguentarii.
In the Arab civilisation they experimented with new essences thanks to alchemy, whereby they distilled a plant over and over until its qualities were transformed into another state.
In the Middle Ages, the history of perfume comes to a halt in Europe, partly because Christianity backed austerity and perfumes were seen as superficial and sensual and had to be abolished.
But that did not last long, and together with the crusades and trade exchanges with the East, fragrances made a definitive comeback.
Perfume as we know it today for wearing on our bodies arose during the Renaissance period in France, where, with the desire to rekindle all the Greek and Roman customs, the penchant for perfume for clothing and the body itself started to evolve.
Cities such as Paris, Florence or Venice also stood out as the capitals of perfume.
By the 20th century, the perfume industry had merged with the fashion industry when big designers began to create their most famous perfumes with Gabrielle Chanel leading the way.
What makes a perfume legendary?
For Isabel Guerrero, the first perfumer and artist to exhibit a perfume in a museum of modern art, it means that the perfume has been created with the aim of conveying or telling something.
A tale tells a story, as does good photography.
This is exactly the same as a legendary perfume: with a presentation, middle notes that act as a knot and its denouement or base notes.
The perfumer is therefore an artist that makes use of chemistry to obtain their work of art.
There is a wonderful book called “Parfums mythiques” in which its author, Marie Bénédicte Gauthier tells the story of 65 legendary perfumes that are still being sold today.
In the book, she reveals the details of their formulas and gives us useful suggestions on how to choose the essence that goes best with our personality.
Arpège, L’Air du temps, Eau Sauvage, L’Heure Bleue, Coco… these are splendidly analysed by Marie, making this book an object of desire for lovers of legendary perfumes.
In the image is a photo of the book with two of our porous ceramic scented pieces decorated with engraving.
They are customisable in terms of shape and engraving, but on this occasion, they only come in white.