'perfumery' all matters and activities dedicated to the possibility of creating an olfactory experience (see n. 1)
'perfume' all kinds of materials that can be used for creating an olfactory phenomenon (see n. 2)



characterized by and describing the following:

  • practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith,
  • recognized by communities, groups, and in some cases, individuals, as part of their cultural heritage,
  • transmitted from generation to generation,
  • constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history,
  • providing with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity.

(by: UNESCO) (see n. 3)


Notes / Further explanations



The word ‘perfumery’ is used in a wider sense than it has usually been done. The redefinition offers the chance to focus on local varieties of the global phenomenon and to enable an intercultural discussion, thus transgressing the vocabulary’s narrow meaning according to its conventional use in English language.

     Famous examples of Asian perfumery activities include the offering of fragrant flowers to divine entities, the appreciation of fragrances in special rituals specifically for this purpose, or simply the production and use of incense.



According to its origin in European languages in the 16th century, the term ‘perfume’ traditionally only describes the character of Western perfumery arts and products. Following the goal of initiating an intercultural discussion, this term is redefined. Thus, ‘perfume’ may also denote such typically Asian goods like aromatic wood artifacts, incense, distillates, and flowers.

     Theoretically, all natural products could be used as ‘perfume’ due to their chemical nature. However, some produce more essential oils than others, and thus are more suitable for perfumery - especially the abundant world of flora.

      Worthy of mention, several natural key resources used in perfumery are diminishing in the course of globalization processes.



Although perfumery fulfills the criteria of 'heritage', its has hardly ever been acknowledged as such - especially the perfumery arts outside of the Western world.

     For example, not one of the over-1,000 sites, practices, knowledge and inventions, declared as Cultural, Natural and Intangible World Heritage by the UNESCO, has been awarded to some kind of perfumery art.

     However, many of the World Heritage Sites are related to perfumery (e.g. growing areas and entrepôts of raw materials), thus subtly recognizing the existence of perfumery, and its significance for society.

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text and photos: © dr. dinah jung, 2002-2015. all rights reserved.