Alcohol
The use of alcohol (ethanol) in perfumes and other products, and even purchasing it has many issues. Here we try to give some information and guidance on the topic.

Legal information

The information on this website is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of writing. However, we are not a legal consultancy, and laws and regulations change over time. So please take this information as a guide and do your own research. We do not accept liability for any incorrect or incomplete information on our websites.

A bit of history

The word alcohol comes from the Arabic language. Arab scientists knew much earlier than Europeans how to make and use this substance in a pure and concentrated way. It was, of course, already known as a constituent of wine and beer, but in its pure form it only became available in Europe from around 1200. Until then perfume was made from oil and fat. Herbs, resins and other fragrant matters were macerated in them. The introduction of alcohol led to a revolution. The alcoholic perfume gave a much stronger smell than the traditional perfume. This was caused by the rapid evaporation of the alcohol after application. Oil and fat fix the perfume, which means that although the perfume gives off scent for a longer time, it is less intense. To this day, most perfumes in Europe are based on alcohol, for this reason, there are no suitable alternatives that give the same effect.

Issues

There are however three important issues around alcohol.

Excise duty, a kind of tax, is levied on alcohol and most products containing alcohol. Depending on country this duty is between about 6 and 50 EUR per liter pure alcohol. For 50 ml perfume that is 0,60 to 5,00 EUR, not a lot of money for perfume, but it still is an issue for there are a lot of legal demands to make sure this excise is paid. It is not only the cost that is the issue, it is the legislation and the obligations that come from it.
On the other hand: for the low and middle segment of room fragrances this cost may be an additional issue. In Finland a 500 ml bottle of alcohol based room fragrance would cost about 25 EUR for the alcohol in it alone.
It is possible to use denatured alcohol, however not all kinds of denatured alcohol are suitable or allowed for use in perfumes or room fragrances. For the excise part we made a page regading alcohol and excise.

Alcohol is highly flamable. For this reason alcohol and products containing more than a small amount of alcohol can only be shipped in case certain legal demands are fulfilled. Besides this shipping issue it has consequences for storing it, using it, insuring your business...
For the shipping part we made a page regading alcohol shipping.

Alcohol is forbidden to use, or even have available, for certain religions, most notably islam. For European perfumers who like to enter the lucrative perfume markets of the Middle East using alcohol may therefore be a problem. This is in general a small issue, but certainly worth mentioning.

Alternatives

The tradition and the expectation of consumers of perfume dictates the use of alcohol for the European market. That does not mean it is impossible to use alternatives. However, you probably need a clear marketing to avoid problems and to promote acceptation. For this is quite a substantive subject we made a page regarding alcohol alternatives.