The History of Perfume

How is Wilderness Perfume different than conventional perfume?

Why did we (as humans) begin to interact with plants and wear their extracts? Was it for purely aesthetic reasons? Was it just to attract members of the opposite sex? Or is there a deeper meaning behind the perfume and how our bodies are wired to appreciate it? We, at Juniper Ridge, certainly believes there is. This is why we don’t use synthesized fragrance. Let’s take a brief look at what can be called the historical sociology of perfume and perfume making. Then we will discuss how the answers to these questions may be revealed in not only perfume is, but how botanical aromatics are derived and ultimately why fake perfume doesn’t cut it.

The physiological origins of perfume surely begins the genetics of olfaction. The human genome has approximately 3% of its entirety dedicated to our sense of smell. That might not sound like a lot, but when you consider that only 1.5% is dedicated to our nervous system, you begin to see its importance. That must mean that up until a few tens of thousands of years ago (a blink in our evolutionary history), we were dependent on our ability to taste and smell; it protected and guided us. It may be that we knew when something (or someone) was “off” simply by their smell.

The recorded history of perfume making begins with a woman who was also the first chemist. Her name was Tapputi, and she lived 4500 years ago in Babylonia. Cuneiform records reveal that she used the first recorded example of a still to extract the fragrance of native plants in the Indus Valley. Was Tapputi deriving wearable perfume to simply mask the stink of being human? Or maybe she was just inventing an artform that speaks to the history of trade. Babylonia was a trade route long even before Tapputi’s time. What if wearing perfume was a way of communicating the place where you were from? Certainly, in the early days of the written word, the power of scent and aroma was as powerful as any media could have been.

Modern perfume came into its own in the 17th century, and was merely about covering up smells related to sanitation habits of the day; it was used as a substitute for soap and water. This cosmetic purpose of perfume is a vector that the convention industry continues to this day (…want to smell like a piece of candy? Go for it, we can turn up the fake fragrance all day long.) Of course, back in the days of Louis XV, petrochemically derived fragrance was still two hundred years from being invented, so how did they do it? How did Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain (the founder of House Guerlain, one of the oldest, still-existing perfume houses in the world) know that civet (if used sparingly) made an excellent base note? The answer is Wilderness Perfume. There is no other way to do it. Crawl on the wet dirt, look for the unique and subtle biotic and abiotic sources of the beauty in the wind, and figure out a way to juice them out. Sound familiar? You are on the Juniper Ridge website right now, it should.

This is what we still do.

Even now, with the advent of a steady market that is educated and demanding natural products, where is one to turn to find the magic we have lost? Where can one “find the place” like Tapputi once might have? The answer is Wilderness Perfume: true, botanical distillates, sourced in the wild and carefully formulated to present something that amounts to a landscape painting or an imaginative poem. The only way to do this is to not cut corners and use the old methods of steam distillation, enfleurage, tincture and infusion. From source to bottle. It is the only way to unveil the total potential of perfume and how it relates to our ancient human heritage. Tap into the power of place, tap into the power of Wilderness Perfume and you are tapping into a core facet of our common history.