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Analysis as an Aid to Perfumery Or Who Needs Perfumers Anyway?

Contact Author John Mayo
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The perfumery industry has existed, in some form or other, since the beginning of recorded history. In relative terms, it is only in recent years that perfumers have ceased to be totally and exclusively dependent upon natural products for their ingredients. Moreover, most of our knowledge of and our ability to measure the chemical composition of these natural products has only been derived in the past twenty-five years or so.

It is worth emphasizing this point because it is necessary to understand how the role of the analyst has changed and is still changing in order that perfumers may be aware and take advantage of these changes.

For many years the rule of the analysts was to control the quality of materials purchased for and produced by the fragrance industry. Prior to the late 1950s they were largely trying to control the quality of natural products without knowing the chemical identities of many and probably most of the constituents and with no ready means of determining the quantities of these constituents. Thus, the tests used were built around measurements of physical constants such as refractive index, specific gravity, melting or boiling point, and by measurements relating to functional groups such as ester value, iodine value, oximation, total alcohols and so on. The same restrictions, of course, applied to the checking of compounded products, i.e., fragrances, since once the mixing had taken place there was no simple way to check, by analysis, what had been added.

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