Since ancient times, fragrant extracts from plants and animals have been utilized as sources for both essential oils and aromatic mixtures. Even today, they represent the largest resource for fragrant compounds used in perfumery. Perfumes are made of natural materials as well as synthetic. Natural materials can be of plant, animal, and mineral origin while synthetic materials are used to recreate smells that cannot be extracted from natural sources or as sources of new, original odors. Thousands and thousands of materials are used in perfume manufacturing. Here are some of them:
1. Plant sources
Plants have long been used in perfumery as a source of essential oils and aroma compounds The sources of these compounds may be derived from various parts of a plant. A plant can offer more than one source of aromatics, for instance, the aerial portions and seeds of coriander have remarkably different odors from each other.
· Bark: Commonly used barks include cinnamon and cascarilla.
· Flowers and blossoms: Undoubtedly the largest and most common source of perfume aromatics. Includes the flowers of several species of rose and jasmine, as well as osmanthus, plumeria, mimosa, tuberose.
· Fruits: The most commonly used fruits yield their aromatics from the rind; they include citrus such as oranges, lemons, and limes. Fresh fruits such as apples, strawberries, cherries rarely yield the expected odors when extracted; if such fragrance notes are found in a perfume, they are more likely to be of synthetic origin. Notable exceptions include blackcurrant leaf, litsea cubeba, vanilla, and juniper berry.
· Leaves and twigs: Commonly used for perfumery are lavender leaf, patchouli, sage, violets, rosemary, and citrus leaves. Sometimes leaves are valued for the "green" smell they bring to perfumes, examples of this include hay and tomato leaf.
· Resins: Valued since antiquity, resins have been widely used in incense and perfumery. Highly fragrant and antiseptic resins and resin-containing perfumes have been used by many cultures as medicines for a large variety of ailments. Commonly used resins in perfumery include labdanum, frankincense/olibanum, myrrh, balsam of Peru, benzoin.
· Roots, rhizomes and bulbs: Commonly used terrestrial portions in perfumery include iris rhizomes, vetiver roots, various rhizomes of the ginger family.
· Seeds: Commonly used seeds include tonka bean, carrot seed, coriander, caraway, cocoa, nutmeg, mace, cardamom, and anise.
· Woods: Highly important in providing the base notes to a perfume, wood oils and distillates are indispensable in perfumery. Commonly used woods include sandalwood, rosewood, agarwood, birch, cedar, juniper, and pine.
2. Animal sources
· Ambergris: Lumps of oxidized fatty compounds, whose precursors were secreted and expelled by the sperm whale. Because the harvesting of ambergris involves no harm to its animal source, it remains one of the few animalic fragrance agents around which little controversy now exists. The various flights of fancy regarding ambergris were perhaps further inspired by the seemingly miraculous transformation of the material from this fresh state — fecal, soft, dense, and jet black on the outside and dark brown inside — to the aged white, porous, and faintly sweet-smelling chunks. The finest ambergris develops an incomparably lovely, sweet, musky odor that seems to combine perfume, the sea, and some primordial animal scent. For the chemist, ambergris remains one of the great mysteries of perfumery; a fixative of great value, it is long-lasting and mellowing. Used in small quantities, it creates an exalting and shimmering effect on the entire perfume. Sweet and dry, with stronger notes of wood, moss, and amber, it has only a slight animal aroma.
· Castoreum: Obtained from the odorous sacs of the North American beaver and the European Beaver. These materials, animals use to mark their territory. In perfumery they are used for base notes and as a leather “new-car smell”
· Civet: Also called civet musk, this is obtained from the odorous sacs of the civets, animals related to the mongoose. World Animal Protection investigated African civets caught for this purpose. Although once very popular, today its use is in decline due to the upsurge in synthetic musk.
· Honeycomb: From the honeycomb of the honeybee. Both beeswax and honey can be solvent extracted to produce an absolute. Beeswax is extracted with ethanol and the ethanol evaporated to produce beeswax absolute.
· Hyraceum: Petrified and excrement of rock badger that lives in Africa and the Middle East. Its scent is a combination of musk, castoreum, civet, tobacco and agarwood.
· Musk: Originally derived from a gland (sac or pod) located between the genitals and the umbilicus of the Himalayan male musk deer Moschus moschiferus, it has now mainly been replaced by the use of synthetic musks sometimes known as "white musk".
Many modern perfumes contain synthesized odorants. Synthetics can provide fragrances that are not found in nature. For instance, Calone, a compound of synthetic origin, imparts a fresh ozonous marine scent that is widely used in contemporary perfumes. Synthetic aromatics are often used as an alternate source of compounds that are not easily obtained from natural sources. For example, linalool and coumarin are both naturally occurring compounds that can be inexpensively synthesised from terpenes.
One of the most commonly used classes of synthetic aromatics by far are the white musks. These materials are found in all forms of commercial perfumes as a neutral background to the middle notes. These musks are added in large quantities to laundry detergents in order to give washed clothes a lasting "clean" scent.