Tobacco is native to the Americas, and evidence of its existence dates back to around 6,000 BC. Archeology reveals that American Indians have used tobacco for millennia: not only for ceremony, but this powerful medicinal plant was also used for wound treatment and pain relief. When Europeans discovered tobacco, the rumored benefits ranged from the curing of bad breath to cancer and myriad ailments in between. In fact, tobacco became so prized by the Europeans that its leaves were equivalent to cash money.
By the 1800s, a minority of people had become suspicious of tobacco and its newly discovered substance, nicotine. Notwithstanding, public demand for smoking and chewing tobacco increased far and wide well into the 20th century. Who can resist Audrey Hepburn with her elegant gloves and cigarette holder? "Baseball and chew" became practically symbiotic, and celebrity atheletes posed for cigarette ads as late as the 1960s (see Hank Aaron, below). As the combination of tobacco and fitness came under scrutiny, Americans continued to idolize the Marlboro Man; and not even today’s disdain for tobacco can erase his legend.
Rest assured that the tobacco I use in my perfumes is entirely nicotine-free and safe to wear on your skin. Nicotine may offer addictive amusement, but it contributes nothing to the intoxicating aroma of the plant. Tobacco smells wonderful: sweet like molasses and honey, and it's rich with texture. Tobacco absolute (a form of plant extraction employed by the perfume industry) has excellent fixative properties. Meanwhile its scent lingers for hours, tobacco enhances the beauty of many other notes. Tobacco pairs well with vanilla, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, cascarilla, and all of the woody scents. It enriches the narcotic qualities of lush florals such as jasmine, orange blossom, osmanthus, and ylang ylang. Tobacco has resinous notes that compliment citrus oils, such as bergamot and bitter orange. Honestly, I struggle to think of a fragrance that conflicts with tobacco. I have been pleased with the blond, nicotine-free tobacco from France that is available for purchase through Liberty Naturals.
To experience tobacco in my perfumes, I suggest that you try Tabac or Tobacco Rose, both of which are built upon this mighty ingredient. Whether you partake in the dangerous pleasure of nicotine, or abstain for sensible reasons, the fragrance of tobacco leaves is a delight for everyone.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about tobacco. Stay tuned for future articles on ingredients, artistry, and methods that make perfumery a wonderful experience for the senses.