Once upon a time, perfume meant parfum, whose aromatic ingredients are diluted in pure alcohol at their highest practical concentration (usually around 15-20 per cent). One or two drops of this intensely concentrated liquid would last for hours, but it was a luxury that only the very rich could afford. All that changed in the early 1900s with the development of synthetic aromas, the costs of which were a fraction of natural ingredients, while entrepreneurs like François Coty ushered in the age of mass luxury by selling the same scent at different strengths and prices, from expensive parfum to affordable eau de toilette(whose concentrations are more like 4-10 per cent).
Coty’s model has worked for the past hundred years, but recently big names like Tom Ford and niche brands like Heeley, Nasomatto and Ormonde Jayne have started offering fragrances at higher concentrations such as eau de parfumand extrait de parfum. Fragrance expert Michael Donovan puts this down to the fact we lead busier lives. ‘We don’t have time to reapply a fragrance throughout the day, so we need something with staying power.’
Alexandre Piffaut of Mad et Len, whose scents all come as eau de parfum, adds that working with higher concentrations ‘allows us to use the full potentiality of a note’. It’s a trend that can only get stronger.