News from Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Monday, January 12, 2015

Without a Nose There'd Be No Sex. Who Knew?

      Rogue-Phoenix press will release my new novel, Love in a Small Town, in October. Learning how to make a perfume is an important part of the plot. Since Professional Perfumer was one of my job descriptions in one of my former lives, I decided to write a few blogs on perfume making and the important role scent plays in our lives. We all know about how smell protects us from fire and spoiled meat, but few know the important role it plays in human procreation.
The following quote is from my book, Accidental Alien, wherein aliens, who are plants living on the planet Agra, which contains only plants, are trying to understand animal (Earth) behavior. The whole matter of human sexual activity amazes them. As one alien, a moss, explains:

"The human male has little choice in the matter. His nose controls him, though he is not aware of it, because, although his body can detect female sex hormones, he is not aware of the odor. His hormonal makeup forces him to act at any opportunity. The female has scent glands behind her ear. When a fetal egg has ripened, she emits a scented hormone called 'Copulin.' Sex glands in nearby males are stimulated by this odor to produce another hormone, testosterone, in their saliva. He coaxes the female to allow him to put his mouth on hers, Earthlings refer to this action as kissing, and the saliva arouses the female, encouraging further male mating activity. Fertilization takes place."

We’ve never been able to incorporate hormones into commercial fragrance, but our desire to smell good to others supports a billion dollar industry. Creating a fragrance isn’t difficult. It requires scented oils and grain alcohol, available at the local liquor store. The fragrance Sarah makes in my new book is one I made and sold in my store as “Shakespeare’s Flowers.”
This week I’ll explain the different materials used as scent. Next we’ll discuss the various scents you might want to start your own collection; then we’ll go on to possible mixtures. There are three materials generally available on the retail market. The first, essential oils, are distilled from living plant material: wood, leaves, stems, and flowers. They’re generally found in health food stores or online, and are the oldest, historically. They were made by simple distillation, a process discovered in the Middle East, as early as 3,000B.C., by men attempting to discover “the essence of life.” They roamed the desert, distilling everything in primitive pots, down to the tiniest part, hoping they’d discover the key to everlasting life. The oils use for fragrance and healing became important later on. Today a similar process, called extraction, but less expensive is used. The Romans were crazy about roses and scented everything with rose oil.
Many flowers cannot be distilled, so most fragrance today uses perfume oils, which and are not nearly expensive as essential oils, and are manufactured in a laboratory. They are generally available online and are recommended.
The other fragrance source comes from chemicals that have no counterpart in nature. They are simply compounds found to have odor useful in perfume manufacture.  I’ll only mention aldehydes, which are compounds with one carbon atom and attached oxygen atoms. Aldehydes go by names such as C 12, which means one carbon atom and twelve oxygen atoms, and smells like fresh air, or C 16, which is like peach. One chemist, on the other hand, described aldehyde C 10, as “ten nights on a troop train.”
Don’t worry about these; just know that most fruit scent is an aldehyde. Coco Chanel was the first person to use one in Chanel #5. I think it was Aldehyde C 12MNA. The French, who only, at that time, used “real” oils, were scandalized.
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