People have enjoyed perfume for centuries. The hard work of two talented chemists, Jabir ibn Hayyan (born 722) and al-Kindi (born 801) helped lay the foundations and established the perfume industry. Jabir developed many techniques, including distillation, evaporation and filtration, which enabled the collection of the odour of plants into a vapour that could be collected in the form of water or oil.
Al-Kindi was the real founder of the perfume industry as he carried out extensive research and experiments in combining various plants and other sources to produce a variety of scented products. He elaborated a vast number of recipes for a wide range of perfumes, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. His work in the laboratory is reported by a witness who said `I received the following description, or recipe, from Abu Yusuf Ya’qub b. Ishaq al-Kindi, and I saw him making it and giving it an addition in my presence.’ The writer goes on in the same section to speak of the preparation of a perfume called ghaliya, which contained musk, amber and other ingredients which reveals a long list of technical names of drugs and apparatus.
Musk and floral perfumes were brought to Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries from Arabia, through trade with the Islamic world and with the returning Crusaders. Those who traded for these were most often also involved in trade for spices and dyestuffs. There are records of the Pepperers Guild of London which go back to 1179; their activities include trade in spices, perfume ingredients and dyes.