You may be wondering why perfumes are such an indulging and expensive gift for one or even yourself… well the secret lies behind the content within the bottle. The natural ingredients! In addition to the indulgent aromas that they provide for your favourite perfumes, their high price tag, however, is somewhat justifiable, as they most commonly fall under at least one of these reasons. One, they are rare. Two, they are highly laborious to obtain, and finally, three, they are highly regulated.
Here are the top 10 expensive perfume ingredients that you need to know about!
One of the most prominent ingredients, used in more than 80% of women’s perfume. From the picking of this intricate, and highly fragile flower, which must be placed into special baskets to protect the petals from bruising to the extraction of the oil; a lot of time and effort is required. Approximately 900 kilograms of flowers produce one pound of oil, and 8,000 flowers yield 1 gram of the precious, highly concentrated, absolute oil. Therefore, the price of the ingredient is far from surprising, and hence synthetic, and therefore more affordable variations, are becoming common.
Similarly, the rose is also found in many women’s fragrance compositions. Nevertheless, the production of rose oil is even more intensive and expensive, with approximately a jaw-dropping 4,500 kilograms of petals to distil one pound of the highly coveted rose oil. To put that even further into perspective, for each drop of this oil, you need to distil 200 flowers! Dating back more than 300 years since its inception, Rose Valley in Bulgaria continues to produce 70% of the world's rose oil. The process of picking is very precise, with the workers who are most commonly women, having only a window of a few weeks from May to June to pick the flowers, doing so in the dark before sunrise. Each flower must be individually cut, and laid in willow baskets, to be then taken immediately to a distillery. Due to the high price of the oil, the industry commonly faces fakes or cheating, with some oil producers diluting the rose oil with similar florals, such as geranium or palmarosa oils.
The ‘gold for perfumers’, and highly valuable in fragrance compositions. Merely to produce 2 kilograms of Orris essential oil, one ton of iris plant bulbs, and roots, that have been aged 2 to 5 years are required, once again justifying its price! As one of the most expensive raw materials, there is luckily a synthetic copy, which has been produced, making it cheaper to have within a composition.
Extremely popular in the middle east, it is gradually becoming more popular in the west too! This ingredient is a dark, extremely fragrant resin, which is produced from the mould (called “Phialophora parasitica”), that infects the wild, tropical agar tree. With only 2% of agar trees producing oud, its rarity, high demand, and the difficulty of harvesting it, secures this oil a place as one of the most expensive oils in the world. It had even been estimated to be 1.5 times the value of gold, and thus sometimes is referred to as ‘liquid gold’!
This perfume ingredient has been considered one of the most expensive animal products. In order to acquire the authentic, natural, real musk, one must kill a male musk deer, which is now an endangered animal, and therefore the majority of musk that we see being sold today is synthetically produced. Until the late 19th century, this ingredient was still popularly collected, yet since then, with animal right protection movements having risen, the slaughtering of the Nepalese deer has been brought to a halt. However, unfortunately, there is still a lot of illegal killing of the deer. The poachers harvest the musk pods (glands located in the abdomen near the deer's genitals), creating grain from the dried out musk pod.
Used in the most expensive and luxurious fragrance compositions, including Chanel No 5, this ingredient comes from the digestive tract of the sperm whale. It has been largely valued at a ground breaking $71,000 for a lump of1.57kg, and thus, it isn’t surprising why it is commonly referred to as ‘floating gold’. Nowadays, a synthetic variation of this ingredient is most commonly used and found in perfume.
Sexy, smooth, palatable; an ingredient we adore to taste, as well as popularly admire in perfumery. With 80% of the world’s vanilla grown on the island of Madagascar, its price has been actively rising in the past decade, with currently having the same value as silver! This is due to several factors, including bean theft, complex pollination, extreme weather, and the rise of the all-natural food movement. In regards to the process of procurement, deriving from the vanilla orchid, it takes 3-5 years for the orchid to reach maturation, with their flowers only blooming one day a year. Moreover, the pods, which are 4 to 12 inches of length, have a tight time frame in which they must be hand-pollinated, with then several months to cure after the harvesting. Time-consuming and labour intensive; with such a volatile business, whilst at such high demand, synthetic alternatives are commonly used, such as vanillin.
Neroli is the name given to the oil extracted by steam distillation from the aromatic white flower blossoms of the bitter orange trees. Native to Italy, this evergreen tree is also highly cultivated in France, growing up to 10 meters tall. The small white flowers, that it grows, are hand-picked in the springtime, with one ton of the flowers to only produce approximately one kilo of oil! Therefore, the high price of this natural ingredient is rather expected.
An exotically sweet and intoxicating scent, that is highly popular as the ‘heart’ ingredient in perfume compositions. Nevertheless, along with the indulgence, there is a BIG price to pay… An astounding requirement of over 3600 kilograms of flowers, to produce only half a kilogram of tuberose oil! Therefore, it is no wonder why this ‘dangerous pleasure’ of an ingredient has synthetic copies, which are widely used in modern perfumery.
10. Tonka Bean
A multifaceted ingredient with fascinating olfactory aspects. It is popularly used to add warmth and a gourmand touch in modern fragrances. The high price of this ingredient is specifically due to the laborious and time-consuming process of its cultivation. Grown typically in tropical South American forests, the tonka bean derives from two varieties of the Dipteryx tree. On average, an adult tree produces 15kg of seeds per year, with the overall annual tonka bean production varying from 60-100 metric tons, depending greatly on the year’s climate. Once reaching its maturity in the winter, the fruits fall naturally, and the harvesting then takes place in spring. Hand-picked, the fruits are dried, allowing for the shell and meat to be easily broken, obtaining the bean. After further drying, the beans are left to macerate in 65% alcohol for half a day, with the alcohol then decanted before the final drying phase, lasting 5 to 6 days. And voila, you FINALLY achieve the highly desired Tonka Bean Absolute!