Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/99

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87
NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL PERFUMES.

are generally scandalously adulterated, European manufacturers have been impelled to bring home such of the crude material as will bear transportation. So sandalwood, cloves, patchouli leaves, and vetivert-grass roots brought dried and with their scents unimpaired are distilled in France and Germany rather than in the countries of their origin.

The most important center of this manufacture is the little city of Grasse, near Nice and Cannes, which, besides being a large center of production for the distillation of plants and woods, is the chief place where these special processes which have been transmitted through ages and are the only ones for the extraction of the perfumes of flowers are in use. The only chemical agents employed in these processes are vapor and fat.

The manufactories of artificial perfumes, on the other hand, are real laboratories of chemical products where the habitual agents of chemical industry are employed, requiring the intervention of chemists and engineers, and are established by preference at the great industrial centers. Hence good reasons exist for these two branches having been kept apart, although it is not certain that this separation will continue permanent.

The simplest process of extraction is by distillation. The flowers or leaves are put into the retorts with water and heated to the proper degree. The perfume passes over to the cooling apparatus with the vapor of the water and is condensed with it, after which it is separated from the water by taking advantage of the difference of density. The heat is applied by means of vapor under pressure. Formerly fire was applied directly, but the amount of production was insignificant compared with what it is now; this method is, however, still in use in small portable apparatus. Some distillations are literally performed on the spot, as those of certain aromatic plants which are not grown very near Grasse, the finer lavenders especially being found wild at considerable heights on the mountains. The communal lands up there are allotted every year, and extractors who make this a specialty establish themselves in their plots with their direct fire apparatus, expecting to dispose of their production to the large houses.

When the quantity produced is regarded, distillation is the most important branch of the perfumery industry. It is simple, inexpensive, requires but little manual labor, and is applicable to large quantities of material. But there are objections to it, and some of them are of so much force as to have led to the substitution for it of seemingly more primitive, and at all events more expensive, methods of extraction. The first objection is the liability of vapor, coming in contact with some of their more unstable constituents,