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  1. #1

    Default Embarrassing ignorance: what proof alcohol was ised in vintage perfumes?

    Just what the title says, except I meant "was used"... 190 or 200?

    I am curious because maturing/aging could go differently.

    Of course with repeated openings 200 will become 190, but I would like to know what they started with.

    (Can't believe I either forgot or never saw, but that seems to be the case.)

    And has anyone noticed a difference in tincturing?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Embarrassing ignorance: what proof alcohol was ised in vintage perfumes?

    Some materials solve into water better than alcohol, so sometimes, 190 is fine.

    Honestly, I don't buy 200 anymore, I just buy the 190 for everything.
    Makes life a bit simpler...

  3. #3

    Default Re: Embarrassing ignorance: what proof alcohol was ised in vintage perfumes?

    Thank you, Paul! Very glad to know you are using 190: that's a real confidence builder.

    On the question, I'm interested in what was used way back when (Jicky, Shalimar) because I want to know whether hydrolysis was going on the maturing process then or it pretty much wasn't, only reactions with ethanol and amongst themselves.

    And same for successful tincturing of materials that really need maturing.

    It's a timely question for me because I need both to buy alcohol and do some civet tincturing. My previous material smelled wonderful as it was and IPM tincturing, which is inert, was fine but the current stuff needs to transmogrify to floral from, well, crappy

    I have only used 190 to date.

    I would guess that 190 was used back in the day both for perfume dilution and for tincturing, and if so, surely no reason not to now. But if they went to the extra trouble for 200 maybe there was a reason, or a reason with their materials anyway.
    Last edited by Bill Roberts; 25th June 2019 at 04:32 AM.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Embarrassing ignorance: what proof alcohol was ised in vintage perfumes?

    Btw, on seeing the title today, it's just the way I was feeling, especially because when I first started learning perfumes online, on a Yahoo perfumemaking group, it seemed the #1 topic they talked about was water content of perfumes, LOL!

    It's quite possible I did see back then accurate information as to what is and has been used in the industry but there was so much stuff that was plain wrong that I may have erased it all out...

    Still would like to know if vintage perfumes were 190 or 200 and whether it can make a difference to tincturing materials such as civet paste, or other fairly dry materials, if anyone knows. Thank you!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Embarrassing ignorance: what proof alcohol was ised in vintage perfumes?

    I don't think I am capable to answer on what was used prior to my time of learning, for alcohol content, at least without some intensive research on your behalf, so I leave that question for you to research for yourself.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Embarrassing ignorance: what proof alcohol was ised in vintage perfumes?

    Thank you Paul!

    Definitely wouldn't want anyone to take time to look for it, I just hoped perhaps someone knew it offhand.

    Websearching to date has gotten me nothing on this. It may be the sort of thing very little written about, as it was just common knowledge in the industry at the time and few people have seen a reason to put anything online about it.

    And as for tincturing things like civet paste and whether water content of the alcohol makes a difference to the maturing, that's kind of specialized knowledge too, not necessarily ever put on the web.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Embarrassing ignorance: what proof alcohol was ised in vintage perfumes?

    I would still love an answer from anyone who knows, but taking the approach of researching WHY water in more recent years has been added to perfume when in cases where 200 proof was used to start with has led me to believe it doesn't seem likely that vintage perfumes would have been released at 200 proof and not particularly likely that 200 would have been used in traditional tincturing.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Embarrassing ignorance: what proof alcohol was ised in vintage perfumes?

    Honestly, besides from working in a vacuum (or with an inert gas), it's technically impossible to have 100% pure ethanol once you expose it to air, and considering the low tech lab equipment used way back when, even if they started at 200 proof it definitely ended up containing some water. Not to mention some of the materials tinctured probably contained some amount of water as well. I think the effect would be negligible.


  9. #9

    Default Re: Embarrassing ignorance: what proof alcohol was ised in vintage perfumes?

    Some of the technical accomplishments in chemistry in the late 1800's and early 1900's were pretty amazing, so it could have been done at least in the sense of 99.9% or so, though I don't know if that could have been done then with also virtually zero benzene. But you are surely right that it would have been considerably harder than working with 190 and that's another good reason to suspect 190.
    Last edited by Bill Roberts; 25th June 2019 at 08:46 PM.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Embarrassing ignorance: what proof alcohol was ised in vintage perfumes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Roberts View Post
    Some of the technical accomplishments in chemistry in the late 1800's and early 1900's were pretty amazing, so it could have been done at least in the sense of 99.9% or so, though I don't know if that could have been done then with also virtually zero benzene. But you are surely right that it would have been considerably harder than working with 190 and that's another good reason to suspect 190.
    I do wonder why you are curious about the proof of previously used ethanol. The products we have today are cheap and generally extremely pure. What more is needed? Standard perfumer's alcohol is like 96% ethanol. The rest is water and (if it is sold legally) denaturents. Sometimes stabilizers, UV filters or antioxidants are added. Most all commercial perfumes now a days also have some water added (do to regulation of VOCs; this varies by region). If you are a hobbyist, get a gallon from creating perfume; its fine stuff.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Embarrassing ignorance: what proof alcohol was ised in vintage perfumes?

    Yes, I know what's available and have been using 190 proof beverage alcohol for many years. It's an unrelated subject as to why beverage alcohol as opposed to denatured, but while others insist they can't smell the t-butyl alcohol of SDA-40B, I smell it quite strongly and dislike it intensely (including specifically the product sold by CP) but that was not why I was asking.

    It's possible my explanation of why I wanted to know was unclear but it was about as clear as I can write it. Maybe a briefer effort simply is because the chemical processes of maturation will proceed differently in near-absence of water than in presence of substantial water so I was interested to know if water has been involved going back that far. I understand that in commercial perfumery today initial mix is often with 200 proof and water is added later, but that may not have been the case in the past. Additionally, I didn't know for a fact the bottling proof of the older perfumes either but would like to know.

    Probably not important, but sometimes people will wonder about things that another might not.

    Thank you.
    Last edited by Bill Roberts; 26th June 2019 at 01:19 AM.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Embarrassing ignorance: what proof alcohol was ised in vintage perfumes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Roberts View Post
    Yes, I know what's available and have been using 190 proof beverage alcohol for many years. It's an unrelated subject as to why beverage alcohol as opposed to denatured, but while others insist they can't smell the t-butyl alcohol of SDA-40B, I smell it quite strongly and dislike it intensely (including specifically the product sold by CP) but that was not why I was asking.

    It's possible my explanation of why I wanted to know was unclear but it was about as clear as I can write it. Maybe a briefer effort simply is because the chemical processes of maturation will proceed differently in near-absence of water than in presence of substantial water so I was interested to know if water has been involved going back that far. I understand that in commercial perfumery today initial mix is often with 200 proof and water is added later, but that may not have been the case in the past. Additionally, I didn't know for a fact the bottling proof of the older perfumes either but would like to know.

    Probably not important, but sometimes people will wonder about things that another might not.

    Thank you.
    No problem with curiosity. Iím skeptical, though I could be wrong, that in a double blind presentation people could pick out what kind of denaturant was used in the ethanol. But thatís an interesting observation Iíve never heard anyone raise. Perhaps it warrants for more consideration.

    No commercial perfume houses or manufacturers use dry 200 proof ethanol. Itís essentially impossible to store. Most use 40B and add extra water than that already naturally present. As I said, sometimes the addition of water (or non volatiles to be exact) is required by law

  13. #13

    Default Re: Embarrassing ignorance: what proof alcohol was ised in vintage perfumes?

    Why skeptical?

    It's 1.25 ppt in the alcohol, so in the final product that is equivalent to having more than 2.5 ppt in the concentrate. Hardly microscopic for a high intensity noxious material, which I consider it to be, as I have experienced it pure and it's the same smell as in SDA-40B.

    But what matters is not the ppt, it's that I smell it plainly and find it obnoxious enough that I don't want that unintended note even if buried.

    It's possible I am more sensitive than most to it. I haven't asked others. But hand me SDA-40B and I'll know instantly from smell it is not beverage alcohol, to say the least.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Embarrassing ignorance: what proof alcohol was ised in vintage perfumes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Roberts View Post
    Why skeptical?

    It's 1.25 ppt in the alcohol, so in the final product that is equivalent to having more than 2.5 ppt in the concentrate. Hardly microscopic for a high intensity noxious material, which I consider it to be, as I have experienced it pure and it's the same smell as in SDA-40B.

    But what matters is not the ppt, it's that I smell it plainly and find it obnoxious enough that I don't want that unintended note even if buried.

    It's possible I am more sensitive than most to it. I haven't asked others. But hand me SDA-40B and I'll know instantly from smell it is not beverage alcohol, to say the least.
    More importantly, do you smell it in in a finished perfume? I think once it is mixed with fragrance the odor is imperceptible. Personally I haven't noticed the denaturant in neat 40B.


  15. #15

    Default Re: Embarrassing ignorance: what proof alcohol was ised in vintage perfumes?

    I agree that that would be the important point. If no one could tell in a blind A/B in the finished product then the difference makes no difference and certainly not one to pay extra for.

    I have never tried it in my own work because I was so appalled by SDA-40B that I wouldn't work with it.

    Of course there will be commercial products that have it. I don't have anything in the house that lists it so the possible disproof of "here's a commercial product you really like and never noticed it in" doesn't happen to be available. That doesn't mean it may not exist.

    I have not followed recent perfumes at all. I rather suspect everything I'm familiar did not use it: I don't recall ever seeing it on a label and I certainly didn't ever pick it up as a note in anything I (otherwise) liked.

    Whether it's ever been part of a perfume I hated I can't say either yes or no. Not saying this is a good thing, in fact it's something that among other lacks would rule out being a commercial perfumer, the majority of commercial products are a horror show for me. It's surely not from SDA-40B as being the sole explanation, as for example heavy ionones immediately rule out anything for me, but for this question it would make an argument "Most commercial perfumes use it today and you like them" as not applying.

    This is substantial lack of knowledge on use of alcohols in perfume also but I just tried websearching:

    SDA40B (Chanel OR Coty OR "Hugo Boss" OR "Elizabeth Arden" OR Guerlain OR Gucci OR Hermes)

    to see if I could spot either ingredient on an ingredients list for any perfume from these houses, as representative houses. Turned up nothing.

    I also tried:

    (Jicky OR Shalimar OR "L'heure bleue" OR "Carolina Herrera") "SDA-40B"

    just to pick some and got nothing.

    Perhaps it's legal for perfume to list SDA's as simply being alcohol, though in functional products like mouthwash for example absolutely you list it as being the SDA, and I have read EU regulatory things that say perfume alcohol has to be denatured so that seems a contradiction.

    So right now I can't answer from commercial perfume.

    One answer could be this: Paul has sent me samples of his perfumes that were really quite excellent.

    Did they use SDA-40B?

    If so, then that would prove outstanding result can be achieved despite presence of this amount of t-butyl alcohol. (It wouldn't show they might not have been still greater to me without that, but I do say I did not detect that note.)

    Btw, just as minor and unimportant story... I actually used to blame Bitrex for that smell, as I thought that was the only denaturant used, even though it didn't make much sense that Bitrex would do that. The way I learned t-butyl alcohol was in there was on obtaining pure t-butyl alcohol for some partitioning work in natural products separation, and on experiencing the extremely strong and to-me-toxic smell I thought of it instantly as being "perfumer's alcohol times 1000" and then websearched it and saw that indeed was in SDA-40B and in substantial amount. Again, proves nothing except that the aspect of perfumer's alcohol that really bothers me does match up exactly with the smell of that pure ingredient. If it were placebo effect then the imaginary smell would have been any random bad thing rather than matching exactly.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Embarrassing ignorance: what proof alcohol was ised in vintage perfumes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Roberts View Post
    Perhaps it's legal for perfume to list SDA's as simply being alcohol, though in functional products like mouthwash for example absolutely you list it as being the SDA, and I have read EU regulatory things that say perfume alcohol has to be denatured so that seems a contradiction.
    This is indeed the case, but not in the US I don’t think. It varies by region. I have seen specific denatured products listed too. You mention Arden; I know someone who used to work for them. It was at one point 40B. No idea about now.

    Also, I’m sure Paul uses denatured ethanol if he’s manufacturing his perfumes legally. It’s illegal to sell perfumes otherwise (for tax reasons primarily, I think; though I could be wrong).

    Of interest : https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmet...s/alcohol-free

  17. #17

    Default Re: Embarrassing ignorance: what proof alcohol was ised in vintage perfumes?

    Thank you, George.

    I see that as of 2016 and 2019 (and possibly at all times) you are exactly correct on Paul's use: http://www.basenotes.net/threads/432...=1#post4019508 http://www.basenotes.net/threads/463...=1#post4574198

    So that does prove that while SDA-40B is quite objectionable to me when it is neat, it's possible for a final formula using it to be absolutely excellent to me and with me not realizing its presence at all.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Embarrassing ignorance: what proof alcohol was ised in vintage perfumes?

    Bill, yes it is going to be different. After aging perfume, mix half with natural and half with denatured alcohol, to see the difference but its the law :0
    Before prohibition in US perfumes and machine industry did not need to use denaturants, so the original question, how vintage.




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