By Roja Dove
Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis
Perfume has been around a long time. The oldest written record of perfume comes from Assyro-Babylonian texts of around 1800 BC. The perfume was called qanu tabu. Canaanite texts from Ugarit, circa 1400 BC, speak of a perfume designated smn mr – a liquid myrrh. The Egyptian queen Hatshepsut had ‘white’ trees brought to Egypt around 1490 BC. From these ‘white’ trees, her perfumers made frankincense, which was the “perfume that deifies.” To the ancient Egyptians, perfume was the medium for wafting the soul to heaven and for putting demons and evil spirits to flight.
Making perfume is part science, part art, and part passion. In his book – The Essence of Perfume – Roja Dove relates how these three seemingly incompatible parts come together to form a fragrance. And the book is as magical as its subject matter.
After providing a brief overview of perfume, Dove moves on to the birth of modern perfumery, which occurred in 1832. That was when J. Mero et Boyveau began using solvent extraction techniques to produce essential oils. This, along with the discovery of synthetic materials, “was the perfumery equivalent of the big bang.”
‘Methods of Extraction’ is the title of Dove’s third chapter. Essentially, this is the scientific portion of perfumery. In it, he explains steam distillation, solvent extraction, expression, enfleurage, and tinctures. And he does so in very simple and very clear language. It’s so beautifully done that it boggles the mind. Only a writer of vast expertise could accomplish such a task.