Once Baldini deems Grenouille experienced enough, he allows him free use of the alembic. Grenouille spends his nights attempting to distill a variety of items. He's successful with plant matter, but fails with things like glass, porcelain, and water from the Seine. The narrator notes that Grenouille is unaware that for substances without essential oils, distilling is impossible. After months of failing to produce scents present in his memory, Grenouille falls deathly ill.
While Grenouille's gaps in knowledge are obvious, his very scientific process of testing out what he can distill is a nod to the growth in scientific interest of the times. His illness then makes it very clear how important learning these processes are to Grenouille, as his inability to produce these scents leads to a physical affliction.