Sunday, November 27, 2011

Making Perfume

Many people, male and female alike, wear fragrances in one form or another. Some favor a soap with an exceptionally strong scent, which lingers on the skin. Others like to use scented lotions or creams. Perfumes and colognes are another form of wearable fragrance.
The origination of perfume can be traced back thousands of years to the early Egyptian’s where the first perfume was in incense form. The origin of the word perfume comes from the Latin words per and fumus, which mean through smoke.

Perfumes can be expensive, plus, who wants to smell like everyone else? You can create your own personal, unique fragrance quite easily.

Creating a perfume is a lot like cooking a multiple course meal where all of the courses blend together and compliment one another, resulting in a satisfying, fulfilling experience.

It is important to understand the terminology of perfuming. Here are a few words you will encounter as you journey along.


Absolutes are regarded as the strongest aromatic product from the starting plant material.


An Accord is the equivalent of a chord in music. It is a blend of two fragrances to produce a third, unique fragrance, without the two original fragrances distinctly detected. The two should be in balance and harmony with each other. The accord or note is usually only a part of a perfumes composition.


Alcohol is used to break down solids and heavy oils. It also lends to the diffusion and blending of perfumes. It also is catalyst to the dilution adding a fresh lightness.


A heavy, rich, sweet, full bodied aroma, slightly powdery.


The rich aroma displayed by balsamic notes.


Aromatherapy is a term meaning the combination of aroma with therapy, created by R.M. Gattefosse, a French chemist.

Attar (Otto)

Attar or Otto refers to essential oil obtained by steam distillation of the Bulgarian rose, a precious additive to floral perfumes.

Base Notes

The base notes are the final fragrance notes that appear once the top notes are completely evaporated.


A perfume term for the middle or "heart" of a perfume. Used to describe a fragrance that is well rounded or full.


The sum mixture of flower notes.

Bridge Notes

Bridge notes have intermediate evaporation rates and serve to tie a scent together.

Carrier Oil

An oil base into which aroma additives are mixed with to create oil-based products.

Citrus Note

The fresh, light notes of lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit and bergamot.


A style of fragrance that has rich large percentage of floral absolutes.


A perfume that is excessively sweet, clinging and overpowering.


It is primarily a blend of citrus oils. Also a light form of fragrance with about 3% concentration of perfume in a solution of alcohol and water.


The term used in the perfume industry for a concentrated mixture before it is diluted or used in products.


Concrete is the term used in perfumery to refer to the hard, waxy substance derived from the raw material.


Refers to the quality of a perfumes body and sophistication. Being rich and full bodied nature.


The volatilization or evaporation and dispersal of a aroma material into the surrounding atmosphere.


A product of distillation like lavender oil from the fresh, blooming lavender plant.


Plant material such as leaves, flowers or wood placed in a still where steam is passed through the plant material. The steam carries the oil out to a condenser which cools the steam & oil mixture. The mixture drips into container where the essential oils float to the top.


Alcohols help create this sort of scent. Think of it like a dry cocktail, not to sweet, more aromatic.

Dry Down

The final phase of a perfume, the bottom note. The aroma that lingers several hours after application.


Notes that give the impression of earth, soil, the forest floor, mold and moss. Earthy notes are clearly discernible in oakmoss absolute, vetiver and patchouli oils.


A very old method of extracting fragrant absolutes. Fresh flowers are pushed onto plates of glass and then covered with tallow. New blossoms are continually added to replace spent flowers until the fat is saturated with the fragrance.

Expression or Pressed

Method of obtaining essential oil from plant material, mostly citrus fruit peels.


The method by which essential oils are separated from the plant using solvents which can then be removed by evaporation. Strictly speaking, distillation and expression are methods of 'extraction' but the term is generally reserved for the use of solvents.


A material used in a perfume to fix the perfume or make it last longer.


The core of a perfume composition which gives it its character. (Also known as Middle Note)


An odor which is intense, often sweet and balsamic but lacks lift and vibrancy.


A solution obtained by steeping the material in a hot solvent. Making tea is an infusion.


Lively quality or diffusiveness.


Fresh, bright usually top notes.

Middle Note
The middle or "heart" notes make up the main body of a perfume. It denotes the classification of a fragrance. What you smell after the top note has mellowed. It usually takes from ten to twenty minutes for the middle notes to fully develop on the skin.


The language of music helps to describe an olfactory impression. It also indicates the three distinct periods of evaporation in the perfume. The top note, middle note, bottom note.


To be dissolved in a solvent (liquid) such as water, oil, alcohol.


Are used for dissolving solid or viscous aroma materials. This enables them to mix with other components of the production of perfume.


The degree to which a aroma material or perfume is effected over time by heat, light and air.


A man made aroma product is made to replace what occurs naturally. These products can be derived or isolated from natural products. They also may be made by chemists in a laboratory.


The life of a note or perfume. Its lasting quality.

Top Note
The first impression of a fragrance when applied to the skin. The most volatile and diffusive additive in your perfume which is light and evaporates quickly.

Now that you have a bit of perfume making knowledge base, lets explore further.

Much like musical notes make up a song and various shades of colors turn into a painting, fragrance notes are necessary to make a perfume. Overall, there are three note scales that when blended together create the perfume's fragrant accord. Each of these levels, has its own primary purpose.

Top Notes:
Also sometimes referred to as the opening notes or head notes, the top notes of a fragrance are generally the lightest of all the notes. They are recognized immediately upon application of the perfume. The top notes are also the first to fade.
The top notes of a fragrance represent the first impression.
Common fragrance top notes include citrus (lemon, orange zest, bergamot), light fruits (grapefruit, berries) and herbs (clary sage, lavender).

Middle Notes:
The middle notes, or the heart notes, make an appearance once the top notes evaporate. The middle notes are considered the heart of the fragrance. They last longer than the top notes and have a strong influence on the base notes to come.
Common fragrance middle notes include geranium, rose, lemongrass, ylang ylang, lavender, coriander, nutmeg, neroli and jasmine.

Base Notes:
The base notes are the final fragrance notes that appear once the top notes are completely evaporated. The base notes mingle with the heart notes to create the full body of the fragrance, but are typically associated with the dry-down period. The job of the base notes is to provide the lasting impression. These often rich notes linger on the skin for hours after the top notes have dissipated.
Common fragrance base notes include cedarwood, sandalwood, vanilla, amber, patchouli, oakmoss and musk.

Generally speaking, percentages are used when creating a perfume.
An example:

25% top notes

25 to 40 % middle notes

And the rest base notes.

The right amount of a top note will not only make the perfumes first impression but will temper the middle and base notes. Making them just that, middle and base. The top note is the first component of perfume that you smell. It generally dissipates quickly revealing the heart of your perfume.

The middle note comprises the heart of your perfume. A rose perfumes middle note will be rose. The top notes could be citrus, fresh or aromatic. The middle note defines the perfume type.

The base notes anchors your perfume and makes the perfume last longer on the skin. This is known as "fixing". Base notes add warmth, depth, body and longevity to your perfume. These notes are usually achieved by adding balsam, wood or animal notes. Base notes can dominate a perfume if used in equal amounts as top and middle notes.

Try to achieve the best balance you can. This will take a bit of experience, but you will be surprised how fast you will learn. Use your aromas additives on a smell strip or cotton ball first. This will really give you a good idea of how much you want to use and how aromas smell together. This is how all perfumers begin a new perfume.

Examples of Notes:

Base - Vanilla, Sandalwood, Cinnamon, Mosses, Lichens, Ferns

Middle - Yland Ylang, Lemon Grass, Neroli, Geranium

Top - Bergamot, Lavender, Orchid, Rose, Lemon, Lime

Bridge - Vanilla, Lavender

When beginning to make a perfume, the first thing to do it read about the aroma family. This will help you decide what sort of perfume you want to make. Once you have decided on the aroma accord that represents the sort of perfume you want to make, select other ingredients from the notes and aroma chemicals to enhance the accord.

It takes experimentation to get the scent you want, but you can get started in the right direction by keeping in mind the type of scent associated with particular oils:

Earthy: patchouli, vetiver
Floral: geranium, jasmine, neroli, rose, violet, ylang-ylang
Fruity: bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, lemongrass, lime, mandarin, orange
Herbal: angelica, basil, chamomile, clary sage, lavender, peppermint, rosemary
Sea: sea salt
Spicy: black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, coriander, ginger, juniper, nutmeg
Woodsy: cassia, cedar, cypress, pine, sandalwood

If the perfume is too strong, you can dilute it with more water. If you want your perfume to retain its scent longer, add a tablespoon of glycerin to the perfume mixture.

Sample Perfume Recipe

0.5 ounce Jojoba OR Sweet Almond Oil

2.5 ounces perfumers alcohol

2 Tablespoons Distilled Water

7 drops Base Note Essential or Fragrance Oil

7 drops Middle Note Essential or Fragrance Oil

6 drops Top Note Essential or Fragrance Oil

Add the jojoba or sweet almond oil to the bottle. Add the essential oils in the following order: the base notes, followed by the middle notes, then finally the top notes. Add a couple of drops of bridge notes, if desired. Add 2-1/2 ounces of alcohol. Shake the bottle for a couple of minutes then let it sit for 48 hours to 6 weeks. The scent will change over time, becoming strongest around 6 weeks. When the scent is where you want it to be, add 2 tablespoons of distilled water to the perfume. Shake the bottle to mix the perfume, then filter it through a coffee filter and pour it into its final bottle. Ideally, this will be a dark bottle with minimal airspace, since light and exposure to air degrade many essential oils.

Enjoy the scent of sweet success!!







  1. It is available online at various soap supply making sites.