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The History of Fragrance - SCENTS Blog

The History of Fragrance

History of Fragrance

You may spritz your favourite scent every morning, but how often do you think about how that bottle came to be? Yes, we didn’t think so. Hop into our fragrance time machine and let’s go back to the beginning. Let the history lesson commence…

1000 BC

The word “perfume” derives from the Latin “per fumum” (through smoke). This is because the Ancient Egyptians burnt perfumed resins as offerings to their gods. People would try and attract each other with the use of scent even before taking an interest in their appearance. They would use flowers and herbs, and eventually balms that would intensify with heat.


Perfume was introduced to Britain when the Romans brought with them fragrant herbs such as bay, which was worn as crowns.


It did go out of fashion in the Dark Ages.


It only reappeared when the Crusaders brought back exotic fragrances from the Middle East.


The first known alcohol based perfume was created for Queen Elisabeth of Hungary and based on rosemary.


Soon after, the town of Grasse (famous for it’s leather gloves) was looking for something to mask the smell of the urine that softened the leather. The microclimate of the town was perfect for growing and creating aromatic oils and now produces some of the most expensive roses in the world.


The stench from the unwashed poor community became so strong, the wealthy found that the only smell to mask it was the Civet cat. Thus, perfumery was reintroduced to Britain.


Extraction of Citrus Oils was revolutionized with grinding machines and Eau de Cologne became popular.


In Paris, Paul Parquet created Fougère Royale. The first fragrance to contain Coumarin, a naturally occurring synthetic.


Queen Victoria dies, the first radio transmition between Britain and America, Einstien’s first papers on relativity and soon to be created was Guerlain’s Le Bon Vieux Temps, (The Good Old Times).


The first world war changes womens perceptions of themselves, jersey dresses replace bustiers and the Cyphré accord is created.


Chanel No 5, the fifth fragrance Gabrielle Chanel trialed from perfumer Earnest Beaux. Still baring the name No 5 for luck.


The war is coming to an end and society is focused on liberation and youth. Dior's Miss Dior is created with Galbanum, taking freshness to the extreme.


The decade of rock ‘n’roll. Freshness is replaced with animalic accents. Estée Lauder Youth Dew is created for women as an affordable alternative to perfume.


The beginning of the feminist movement. Revlon Charlie is launched and women want to buy for themselves.


A strong sense of escapism and the importance of the freedom of speech. The idea that ‘gender’ is irrelevant lead to the creation of the first unisex fragrance Calvin Klein CK1.


What Fragrance Means To Me - "Perfume is the ultimate accessory and finishing touch to any outfit. The power of scent serves as a reminder of moments in my life and helps to create memories of the future. I love everything about perfume, the amazing scents and stories behind the brands to how it makes me feel when I spritz every day." Cathy Newman, Marketing and Customer Director


Tell us what fragrance means to you! #ScentMemories