This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
The secret of making perfumery lies mainly in the choice of the fixing agents—i. e., those bodies which intensify and hold the floral odors. The agents formerly employed were musk, civet, and ambergris, all having a heavy and dull animal odor, which is the direct antithesis of a floral fragrance. A free use of these bodies must inevitably mean a perfume which requires a label to tell what it is intended for, to say nothing of what it is. To-day there is no evidence that the last of these (ambergris) is being used at all in the newer perfumes, and the other two are employed very sparingly, if at all. The result is that the newer perfumes possess a fragrance and a fidelity to the flowers that they imitate which is far superior to the older perfumes. Yet the newer perfume is quite as prominent and lasting as the old, while it is more pleasing. It contains the synthetic odors, with balsams or rosinous bodies as fixatives, and employs musk and civet only in the most sparing manner in some of the more sensitive odors. As a fixing agent benzoin is to be recommended. Only the best variety should be used, the Siamese, which costs 5 or 6 times as much as that from Sumatra. The latter has a coarse pungent odor.
Musk is depressing, and its use in cologne in even the minutest quantity will spoil the cologne. The musk lingers after the lighter odors have disappeared, and a sick person is pretty sure to feel its effects. Persons in vigorous health will not notice the depressing effects of musk, but when lassitude prevails these are very unpleasant. Moreover, it is not a necessity in these toilet accessories, either as a blending or as a fixing agent. Its place is better supplied by benzoin for both purposes.
As to alcohol, a lot of nonsense has been written about the necessity of extreme care in selecting it, such as certain kinds requiring alcohol made from grapes and others demanding extreme purification, etc. A reasonable attention to a good quality of alcohol, even at a slight increase in cost, will always pay, but, other things being equal, a good quality of oils in a poor quality of alcohol will give far better satisfaction than the opposite combination. The public is not composed of exacting connoisseurs, and it does not appreciate extreme care or expense in either particular. A good grade of alcohol, reasonably free from heavy and lingering foreign odors, will answer practically all the requirements.