In chemistry, an alcohol is any organic compound in which the hydroxyl functional group (ľOH) is bound to a saturated carbon atom. The term alcohol originally referred to the primary alcohol ethanol (ethyl alcohol), the predominant alcohol in alcoholic beverages.

The suffix -ol appears in the IUPAC chemical name of all substances where the hydroxyl group is the functional group with the highest priority; in substances where a higher priority group is present the prefix hydroxy- will appear in the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) name. The suffix -ol in non-systematic names (such as paracetamol or cholesterol) also typically indicates that the substance includes a hydroxyl functional group and, so, can be termed an alcohol. But many substances, particularly sugars (examples glucose and sucrose) contain hydroxyl functional groups without using the suffix. An important class of alcohols, of which methanol and ethanol are the simplest members is the saturated straight chain alcohols, the general formula for which is CnH2n+1OH.

Essential oils dissolve very readily in alcohol, and various forms of alcohol are used in making perfumes and other preparations from essential oils.

Isopropyl alcohol (or isopropanol) is sometimes used in making rubs, deodorants and aftershaves, although it is rather 'savage' to the skin, and needs to be used in very small amounts, along with floral waters or distilled water. Some very large retail chemists sell it, though they may limit the amount you can buy at any time. Ethyl alcohol, or perfume grade alcohol (ethanol) can only be bought with a special licence.

For home making of smallish amounts of aftershaves, skin toners and deodorants vodka (the highest proof you can find) is a good substitute, and if you visit the continent and can bring back some 'eau de vie', that would be even better. Brandy makes a good basis for a mouthwash.

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