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Perfume Ingredients

Our promise at House of Formulas is that we only use ingredients of the highest possible quality for your tailored perfume. You can find ingredients and essential oils that are commonly used in perfumes on this page. Welcome to our perfumery bible.

Vanilla (Vanillin)

The most important components for the flavor of the vanilla bean is vanillin. As a result of vanilla's expensiveness, as it costs more than $5000 per kilogram, a synthetic version of vanillin has been created by scientists. This substitute is now widely being used in perfumery and only costs a few pounds per kilogram. 
Vanillin is a white or yellowish-white crystalline substance prepared artificially on a large scale both in Europe and America. It is obtained from several different elements: from iso-Eugenol by oxidation, from guaiacol by the introduction of an aldehyde group, and from protocatechuic aldehyde by methylation. Alternatively, Vanillin can also be made from clove oil. 
All in all, vanillin is an important ingredient used in perfumery, as being extensively employed as a fixer, a modifier, or a blender. It will 'sweeten' any perfume and combines well with heliotropin, coumarin, and benzyl iso-Eugenol ether for giving the 'body' of the perfume.

Plant of origin: Vanilla
Composition: 4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde.
Chemical structure of vanillin 

Typical country of origin: Reunion, Madagascar
Extracted from: Fruit
Process of extraction: Concrete and resinoids, tincture 


Rose oil is water-soluble and during the extraction of the oil the 'rose water' is kept as an ingredient to add scent or flavour to products. 
Rose is much more expensive and used in much smaller quantities than other oils. In fact, the weight of oil extracted is only 0.016% to  0.03% of the weight of the flower itself: 1g of oil requires approximately 2,000 flowers. 
Rose oxide is the fragrance chemical found in rose oils and that gives the oil its characteristic dry, green, rosy top-note.
Plant of origin: Rosa damascena, Rosa centifolia
Composition: main constituents are geraniol, L-citronellol, β-Damascenone and rose camphor
Chemical structure of  β-Damascenone

Rose oxide contributes to approximately 4% of the rose oil odor. β-Damascenone contribution to the odour is almost 70%.  However, β-Damascenone is what gives the oil its distinctive scent despite only existing in less than 1% of the oil. 

Typical country of origin: Southern slopes of the Balkans, Morocco, France and Egypt
Extracted from: Flower petals
Process of extraction: Steam distillation


Bergamot oil is produced from the fruit of the bergamot trees by distillation at the time of pruning between February and April. 
It is often accorded and mixed with exotic fruity materials until a satisfactory blend is achieved. Its ability to bend well with almost any synthetic, creating an array of scents and aromas complementing each other, makes bergamot oil one of the most used ingredients in perfumery and in the formulations of Eau de Cologne

Plant of origin: Citrus Bergamia, Risso and Poit (Rutaceae)
Composition: Main constituents are terpinyl acetate, glyceryl acetate, ethyl citrate and ethyllaurate
Typical country of origin: Italy, exclusively in the southern part of the province of Reggio-Calabria
Extracted from: Fruit
Process of extraction: Expressed
The process of extraction of expressed oil is a cold process in which the citrus fruit is compressed or rasped to release the oil that the outer skin of the fruit contains. 


Lavender essential oils exist under two different types: the lavender spike oil (a distillate from the herb) and the lavender flower oil (whose scent is usually lighter). 
There are over 400 different lavender species worldwide from which the oil can be extracted. Thus, the percentage of the individual component present in the lavender oils varies a lot. The composition of the oil is altered by several factors like: The area where the plant was grown, the rainfall that season, the harvesting method and the stage at which the lavender plants were collected.  Thus, those variables create very different oil scents and oil qualities.
The odour of lavender can be categorised as an aromatic floral clean note with green, fresh, spicy and liquorice facets.

Plant of origin: Lavandula vera (Labiatae)
Composition: linalyl acetate, linalyl butyrate, geranyl acetate, linalol, geraniol, with their butyric, capric and valeric acid esters, limonene, caryophyllene, d-pinene, coumarin, furfurol, valeric aldehyde, amyl alcohol, ethyl amyl ketone, d-borneol (and possibly nerol and thymol).
Typical country of origin: native of the lower Alps bordering the Mediterranean
Extracted from: Flower aerial parts
Process of extraction: Steam distillation  


Patchouly oil is a powerful odorous viscid liquid and one of the finest fixatives in perfumery. The oil is found in perfumes with a amber, a chypre, or a fougere type.
The steps for extracting the highest quality for the oil are still under discussion: some sources state that fresh leaves distilled close to where the harvest was conducted is best, while others state that boiling the dried leaves and fermenting them for some time will result in higher quality. 

Plant of origin: Pogostemon patchouli (Lamiaceae)
Composition: main constituents are patchoulol, norpatchoulenol and sesquiterpene alcohol
Typical country of origin: India, Philippines, Singapore
Extracted from: Leaves
Process of extraction: Steam distillation


Vetiver oil is one of the finest oriental perfumes with a persistent fragrance. The best quality can be obtained from 18- to 24- month-old-roots. The roots are dug up, cleaned and dried before distillation. The odour obtained develops and improves with aging but its characteristics of quality will mainly depend on where the grass was grown, and the climate and soil conditions.
The sesquiterpenes responsible for the odours of vetiver oils have complex structures, which can only be reached by lengthy and uneconomic syntheses. As a result, vetiver oil is not made synthetically and cannot be substituted.
In blended perfumes, the natural vetiver oil acts as a fixative for volatile compounds thanks to its high solubility in alcohol. This solubility improves its miscibility with other perfumery materials. 
The vetiver odour can be categorised as woody, deep, sweet, smoky, earthy, amber or balsam. 

Plant of origin: Vetiveria zizamoides (Graminaceace)
Composition: α-vetivone
Chemical structure of  α-vetivone

Typical country of origin: 
Extracted from: Roots
Process of extraction: Steam distillation 

Orris (Iris)

Rhizomes of the Iris plant are traded as orris root and processed to be used in perfumery. The rhizomes are almost odorless. After the harvest and a period of drying, the rhizomes aged up from 3 to 5 years during which the oil inside the roots undergo degradation and oxidation. This process produce many fragrant compounds valuable for a future use in perfumes.
The high costs of orris oil production limit its application and usage in the industry.
Orris oil has a woody tone with a distinctly violet-like odour, and a sweet-floral, warm and tenacious odour with a fruity undertone. 

Plant of origin: German Iris (I. Germanica) and Sweet Iris (I. Pallida) 
Composition: Orris concrete is used when the presence of myristic acid is not prohibitive
Typical country of origin: Mediterranean region
Extracted from: Rhizomes (roots)
Process of extraction: Distillation 


Two varieties of cardamoms are being cultivated in India: Mysore and Malabar. Mysore is the more esteemed variety as it yields a higher percentage of oil from extraction. The differentiation rely in the smooth ovoid shape and creamy colour of the cardamoms and in the rough and shorter capsules aspect present in the Malabar variety.

Plant of origin: Ceylon cardamoms, Elettoria Cardamomum (Scitaminae)
Typical country of origin: Southern India
Extracted from: Seeds and roots
Process of extraction: Distillation


Two main types of cedarwood sources are used in perfumery: the plants of the Juniperus family ( English, Texan or Chinese cedarwood and produced principally in China and in the USA) and others plants of the Cedrus family.
Chemically, the major components of these oils are based on the cedrane skeleton. The crude oils are often yellowish and their odours may change in the course of drying out. The odour of cedarwood essential oil can be categorised as woody and amber. 

Plant of origin: Juniperus Virginiana (Pinaceae)
Composition: methyl ether of cedrol, cedrene
Chemical structure of cedrene

Typical country of origin: North America and Mediterranean regions
Extracted from: Wood
Process of extraction: Steam Distillation


The composition of the sandalwood oil depends on the plant species, the region where it has grown, the age of tree and also the harvest season. 
The wood is rare and expensive. As a result, cosmetic companies have tried to find synthetic options but no related synthesised chemicals have been able to compete economically with the natural oil. 
Sandalwood oil plays a considerable role in perfumery thanks to its highly coveted fragrance: it is one of the most important constituents of Eastern perfumes with an odour that can be associated to a woody-floral note. 
Plant of origin: Santalum album (Santalaceae)
Composition: major components of the oil are the santalols, the oil contains more than 90% sesquiterpenic alcohols of which 50-60% is the tricyclic α-santalol while β-santalol comprises 20-25%. 
Chemical structures of  α-santalol and β-santalol 

Typical country of origin:
 India, Indonesia
Extracted from: Wood
Process of extraction: Steam distillation


The Geranium oil can be identified as a yellowish-green liquid. The fragrance chemical rose oxide (also present in rose oils) is present in geranium oils and gives the characteristic dry, green, rosy top-note. 

Plant of origin: various species of Pelargonium (Geraniaceae)
Composition: the main constituents are citronellol (38.0%) and geraniol (16.0%)
Chemical structures of Citronellol and Geraniol

Typical country of origin: Northern Africa, Southern France, Spain, Reunion, Kenya, Italy and Corsica
Extracted from: Leaves and stems
Process of extraction: Steam distillation


Neroli oil results from the process of steam distillation of a 'orange blossom absolute'. It is solvent extracted from the fruit orange blossoms from the plants Citrus Aurantium.
As a result, Neroli oil emits a rich and floral scent containing citrusy overtones and is often used as a base notes in perfumery.

Plant of origin: Sweet and bitter orange (Citrus Aurantium)
Composition: limonene, linalol, esters of geraniol, nerol, phenylethyl alcohol, methyl anthranilate, and indole.
Typical country of origin: Tunisia
Extracted from: Flowers
Process of extraction: Steam distillation 


Lime oil has been employed in place of lemon oil in perfumery since recent years. The lime oil has a relatively weak odour, although it adds dryness and green notes.

Plant of origin: Sour lime, Citrus aurantifolia (Rutaceae)
Composition:  a-pinene, b-pinene, myrcene, limonene, terpinolene, 1,8-ceneole, linalool, borneol, citral and traces of neral acetate and geranyl acetate
Typical country of origin: Southern America, India
Extracted from: Fruit (peel and zest)
Process of extraction: Distillation


Basil oil consists in a limpid yellow liquid with a fresh and penetrating fragrance. The strong scent of the oil comes from the principal oil constituents: methyl chavicol combined with linalol.

Plant of origin: Ocimum Basilicum (Labiateae)
Composition: a-pinene, camphene, b-pinene, myrcene, limonene, cis-ocimene, camphor, linalool, methyl chavicol, y-terpineol, citronellol, geraniol, methyl cinnamate and eugenol.

Chemical structure of Methyl Chavicol

Typical country of origin: 
Europe, Nothern Africa, the Seychelles and Reunion
Extracted from: Flowering tops
Process of extraction: Steam distillation

Ambergris (Ambroxan/Ambroxide)

Ambergris is a solid and waxy substance produced in the digestive system of sperm whales. Whale consume large quantities of food that presents the odourous principle of ambergris: 'ambrein'. However, it has not yet been proved whether the odour of ambergris is due to their retention in the animal intestines or to a bacterial action.

In the natural process, lumps of ambrein, weighing up to 100 kg, are excreted into the sea. In the presence of salt water, air and sunlight, the ambreine undergoes a variety of degradation reactions. The name arised because it is found washed up on beaches, as is amber ('ambre brun' in french or 'brown amber'), a fossilized resin to which ambergris resembles. 

Ambergris has been highly valued by perfumers as a fixative for perfume: allowing the scent to endure much longer. But as a very rare and expensive product, due to the decline in the whale population, scientists have worked on synthetic substitutes. Thus, 'ambroxan' as a synthetic form of ambergris, is now the mostly used form for ambergris oil in perfumery. 

Animal of origin: Whales
Composition: Ambrein producing ambroxan and ambrinol through oxidation
Chemical structures of Ambroxan and Ambrinol


Plant of origin: Citrus madurensis (Rutaceae)
Composition: contains methyl methylanthranilate together with large proportions of d-limonene
Typical country of origin: Italy, China
Extracted from: Fruit
Process of extraction: Expression from the peel of the fruit 
Chemical structures of methyl methylanthranilate and d-limonene


Plant of origin: Rosmarinus officinalis (Labiatae)
Composition: chief constitutents are  α -Pinene, Camphor, 1,8-Cineol, Camphene, Limonene, and Linalool.
Typical country of origin: France, Spain, Morocco and Tunisia
Extracted from: Aerial parts
Process of extraction: Semi Expression

Carvi (Caraway oil)

Plant of origin: Carum carvi (Umbelliferae)
Composition: consists principally of carvone together with limonene and anethole
Chemical structures of  carvone, limonene and anethole

Typical country of origin: Asia, Europe and North Africa
Extracted from: Fruit
Process of extraction: Steam distillation

The information in our perfumery bible has been retrieved from the following sources:

Parry, E. (2007). The Chemistry of Essential Oils and Artificial Perfumes - Volume 2. Wexford College Press.

Poucher, W. (1991). Poucher’s Perfumes, Cosmetics and Soaps — Volume 1 - The Raw Materials of Perfumery. (A. Jouhar, Ed.) Springer Netherlands.

Pybus, D. H., & Sell, C. S. (1999). The Chemistry of Fragrances. Royal Society of Chemistry.