Perfumery is an art. It delves and works on extracting ‘scent’, ‘perfume’ or ‘aroma’ from nature. Whether it is to extract smell of water laden soil or that of rose or jasmine flowers, perfumery is applied to extract the smell and store it to be used later. Most importantly, this art has been perfected to extract aroma which is strikingly close to the smell that is naturally emitted from the desired flower/plant.
The process of extraction of scent in the modern day has evolved greatly and use of solvent is widespread. In the process, the substance from which the aroma is to be extracted is treated with solvent such as Ethanol. This treatment forms essential oils which are concentrated and highly aromatic. These oils are further diluted as per their use. However, this method is not considered effective for extraction of aroma from substances/plants/flowers which are delicate or inert to solvents.
In such cases, use of solvent and steam distillation fails to garner best results. In some of the cases, the fragrant compound gets damaged during steam distillation and therefore, alternate methods are used. As one of the most widely used traditional process is that of extraction of Absolute. Moreover, this process is not just an alternate; rather, it has been used extensively and has been in use even before perfumers experimented with process of extraction of essential oils.
Absolute is generally extracted through cold or hot method. In the process the substance from which the perfume is to be extracted is treated with animal fat. Depending on Hot or Cold method, whichever is used, the fragrant is then extracted out of the animal fat using Ethanol. Once the all the fragrant is extracted from the fat, ethanol is allowed to evaporate leaving behind oily Absolute. This method has in-depth mention in literature about perfumery in ancient India.
This residual is highly concentrated and aromatic. However, use of solvent used to extract the Absolute from fat can be traced, but it does not hinder much to the fragrance and its quality. Then, use of poor quality of solvent certainly mars the overall aroma of the perfume. And therefore, it is highly advisable by expert perfumers with vast experience in perfumer to use only highest quality of solvent for extraction of Absolute.
In the modern time fine versions of Ethanol is used which were not present traditionally. This has allowed perfumers and perfume manufacturers to produce various types of perfume of the highest quality. In addition, though it is popularly believed that essential oils are best form of concentrated aromatic material extracted from a natural source, but it is a fact that Absolutes are better than essential oils and are able to most closely replicate natural aroma of the product they are produced from.