Human manufacture and use of perfumes originate way back in history, at least 5,000 years to the early Mesopotamians (modern Iraq and Iran), the Indians, the Chinese and the Egyptians.

The first documented manufacturing facilities are from Iraq and Cyprus, both approximately 4,000 years old, using flowers and other plant oils as basic ingredients.

Modern perfume manufacturing goes back to the Arabs from roughly 800 AD with the publication of a recipe textbook. Refinements have been made over the years.

France and Italy now provide the world with the most famous and expensive perfumes; Hungary also was an early European center for perfumes.

Perfumes powered the Chanel and Wertheimer fortunes. Perfumes remain basically aromatic plant oils dissolved in an alcohol, water or other plant oil with sources including (all lists from Wikipedia) barks, flowers, fruits, leaves, resins, roots, seeds, woods and terpenes.

Descriptive terminology has long been in flux, but it currently includes for concentration extrait, esprit de perfum, eau de parfum, eau de toilette, eau de cologne and eau de fraiche; and for fragrance single floral, floral banquet, amber, woody, leather, chypre and fougere, or bright floral, green, aquatic, citrus, fruity and gourmand. Many of the French perfume manufacturing plants are heavily guarded and secretive.

Early perfumes were probably originally used to cover body orders, particularly where bathing was out of fashion, and for sexual attraction, but are also used to generate a delightful atmosphere and mood. Rich blood flows at the pulse points at the wrist, neck and ears, and flexor surfaces warm and distribute perfume fragrance most effectively.

High-concentration perfumes last the longest at approximately six hours, while low concentrates last roughly two hours. Stored perfumes deteriorate with heat, light and oxygen; so, preservation is helped by darkness and refrigeration.

Famous perfumes include Chanel No. 5, Coco Mademoiselle, Daisy, Flower bomb, Chanel Chance, Guess, Can Can, 360 Red, D and G Light Blue, 1 Million, Obsession, VIP, Lovely, Beyoncé Pulse and Blue Opium.

Chanel perfumes are now sold all around the world, but the mother lode of their shops is in Vendome Square in Paris. Several years ago, we wandered the square and its impressive Trajan-like column topped by a Napoleon statue; the column replaced an equestrian statue of Louis XIV.

The square is famous for luxury perfume, jewelry and watch shops and the noted Paris Ritz Hotel (average room rate $1,000 per night and the suites from $3,000 to $6,000 per night), all guarded by the impressive column and statue.

The Vendome Napoleon Statue has a convoluted history: first erected in 1806 atop a column 143 feet high, modeled after Trajan’s Roman Column with an internal staircase and wrapped with bronze plates depicting the battle in bas-relief, showing Napoleon as a Roman-style emperor, holding a Winged Victory, commemorating his military victory at Austerlitz. It was melted down in 1816, recast in 1830 to portray Napoleon in normal, French military dress, then replaced in 1850 with a copy of the original, Then it was taken down again in 1871, but it was back again up in 1875 to remain.

You can hire a private guide for the square shops, but we bravely foraged on our own. The Coco Chanel Shop is unmistakable and gorgeous. The attendants are all formally dressed and ready to show or demonstrate perfumes of all kinds. You can spend thousands, but a decent bottle of Chanel No. 5 for several hundred dollars would fit most budgets.

We walked next door to the Louis Vuitton store to buy a magnificent necklace for Shirley. Two attendants brought the piece for inspection in a very impressive box. But we walked right out again when told the price was only $475,000. My, my, how cheap do they think we are? Only the best for my Shirley!

The nose is the main human organ for smell, applying scents to the brain’s olfactory bulb and cleft and nerves. The human nose can distinguish approximately 1 million scents, although it requires higher concentrations than the average dog.

It probably is a brain effect that makes perfumes so pleasing to humans. Certain smells trigger memories and can affect human effect and mood. Virus infections, cigarette smoke, trauma and stroke can all limit or damage smell.

There are many famous quotes about the nose, the most famous of which is probably “Follow your nose,” referring to tracking smells, but the nose contains some magnetic sensitive cells, so it also might have a sense of direction.

Need a lift in your life? Go out to dinner with your lover, order flowers and wine and of course wear a great perfume. As the punch line says: Enjoy! You’ve got at least six hours.

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Dr. Stephen Imbeau and his wife, Shirley, have been in Florence for more than 30 years and raised their three children here. He and Dr. Joseph Moyer started the Allergy Center about 21 years ago, and it is now one of the largest in South Carolina. Contact him at

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