Fragrances are surprisingly easy to make.
You may think that from the exorbitant cost in the stores that they all contain the most expensive ingredients or involve a long drawn-out process. Nothing could be further from the truth. 95% of the money you are paying for perfume is for packaging, marketing and the retailer's profit.
The difficult part of making fragrances is getting the smell that you want. There's a lot of scope for experimentation - actually that's an understatement - there's an almost unlimited scope for experimentation and creativity in perfume making. To start with you should follow some well-tried recipes. These are very simple and are as easy as baking a cake. In fact the process is a lot easier than baking a cake. It's really had to burn perfume.
Firstly some cautions. Some of the oils we will be using are quite concentrated, so exercise great care when handling them. Keep them well away from your eyes and mouth and cover work surfaces with plastic. A few on the oils can damage a table or work surface.
So.. how to make fragrances. Any fragrance, perfume, cologne, eau de cologne, eau de toilette or after-shave lotion is made from a blend of the same basic ingredients. Typically you will use an alcohol base together with one or more fragrance or essential oils. Since most people won't have these at home they will have to be purchased from a specialist retailer. Some of them are quite expensive so I'm going to cover ways to get these are greatly discount prices and how you CAN substitute items that you may well have sitting at home.
I want to back up a little and discuss the ingredient you might use and their characteristics.
Parfumiers have come up with a classification system for essential oils that you will need to understand if you are blending your own fragrances. Their system is complex so I'm going to try and break it down to the basics. Fragrance Oils are classified according to their note. They may be top note, middle note, bottom note or bridge note.
Some examples should make this clear:
Top Note Oils include mints such as peppermint and spearmint. They also include the fruits such as lemon, orange and lime. This group also includes bergamot.
Middle Note Oils are lemongrass, geranium, nutmeg, basil rosemary, rose and lavender.
Base Note Oils are patchouli, sandalwood, cedarwood and frankincense.
Before we go on, stop and think about these oils. Imagine the smell of each. Spend a little time on this and if you have some of each at home go and smell them. By becoming aware of these classifications and their characteristics if will be easy for you to sort any new essential oils into the correct category.
In addition to these three categories, we have Bridge Notes. These are oils like vanilla and lavender. These act a little differently that those in the first three notes in that they create harmony within a blend of oils.
There's a lot of discussion about some of the oils and their correct category. You may see some of them placed into a different section by another parfumier. Don't worry too much about this - we are an argumentative bunch - just get a feel for the characteristics of each scent as you consider them in a blend.
Each group of oils behaves slightly differently when in a blend. The base notes will stay active for a long time and provide the longer lasting scent. The middle notes are important but stay around for a little less time and the top notes evaporate quickly. Those are the ones you smell as soon as you apply the perfume.
Perfumes are a blend of alcohol base and oils. I've seen websites, and even books, suggest that you use vodka as a base. I can think of another and better use for vodka personally.
Interestingly enough, in the United States, The Department of Tobacco, Alcohol and Firearms prohibits the use of vodka, or indeed any other spirit, as an ingredient in fragrances without a special permit. The better solution is to use special perfumer's alcohol which is a blend of alcohols with a fixative that is designed for skin contact.
In future posts, I will go into the specific details on how to make fragrances as well as some secret recipes. I will also cover wholesale and discount retail supplier of fragrance oils and perfumer's alcohol.