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And The Answer Is…

September 4, 2019 3 comments

A few days ago, I had an opportunity to play a little game with you, my readers, which I couldn’t resist. In my post, creatively titled “What Is It?”, I was asking you to guess what might be stored inside of the stainless steel tanks shown in the picture – you can see it here for the reference.

While the internet didn’t break because of all the people rushing in with an answer, I was happy to see some people taking up the challenge. So it is time to provide an answer.

Drumroll, please.

And the answer is …

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Perfume

We grow up surrounded by “perfumes” of many, many kinds. But I always was taking it for granted, meaning that I never thought of how perfume is produced. The only interesting fact I knew was that Lancome was unable to produce their perfume in the USA as the water in the USA was different from the one in France where they make their famous products, and they can’t create the products in the USA which would be identical to the ones made in France.

As I’m in the South of France and I had a bit of free time, a friend suggested that I should go visit the perfume factory located in a small town not far from me – Fragonard in the town of Grasse.

As I walked up the stairs, the very first things I saw was the Still:

Still column at Fragonard

During our factory tour, I finally learned how perfume is made – or at least how it is made for the past 100 years – there are different methods which were used in the past. And this is where I learned about many similarities between the world of our beloved grapes and grains by-products and the perfume.

First, it takes a quality raw product to produce a good perfume. Let’s say, the rose petals. In the first step of the process, this raw product will be converted into the so-called Essential Oil. By the way, here is another mini-quiz for you.

How much (by weight) of the rose petals do you need to produce 1 liter (1 quart) of the essential rose oil?

I will give you a second to think about it.

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I don’t know what you came up with, but the answer is 3.5 tons (~7,700 lbs). 3.5 tons!!

I did a little research and found the report stating that the annual yield of Rose petals is roughly 1 ton per acre. So you need 3.5 acres of Roses to produce 1 liter of essential oil. Wow – color me impressed (yes, it is easy to impress the ignorant, if you feel an urge to comment).

Okay, let’s get back to the process. So the rose petals are assembled and boiled in water, which creates a very aromatic (I think?) steam. At some point, the steam travels through the still, and cools off, resulting in the separation of oil and water. That oil is an essential oil which will be further used in blending to produce perfume. The water is used to produce Eau de Toilette or similar products (also via blending, if desired).

Essential Oils display at Fragonard

Once different essential oils are acquired (lots of fruits, flowers, etc. can be converted into the essential oils – mango, lavender, vanilla, jasmine, coconut, … the sky is the limit), the “master blenders” will assemble (blend) the desired products. Then the neutral alcohol will be added, and the final blend will be stored in the temperature-controlled tanks (and this is what you saw in the picture – subject of this quiz), where it will stay for at least a few months or longer, undergoing periodic stirring and then the quality control before it will be bottled to ensure that the final blend is a quality product.

An interesting takeaway – we all know how expensive the perfume is, but just think of that amount of the raw material required to produce even minuscule amount of the perfume – it will give you a different appreciation for the $100 bottle of perfume.

Here you go, my friends – a perfume 101 session.

I’m glad to say that we have a winner in our quiz – Mika, who should definitely pat himself on a back for a very quick – and correct – answer.

Until next time – cheers!

 

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