As summer approaches making your own perfume is a fun and easy project.
Making your own perfume or cologne is extremely easy if you have lots of time to just experiment with blending various scented oils. Almost all scents originate from the oil part of a botanical extraction. Even if a scent is not usually found in an oil form it is always best to try to find the oil version of the scent you like when trying to blend - if it is available in oil form. Vanilla would be a great example. Making vanilla extract is essentially making a perfume. Meaning the scent of vanilla is extracted by a form of alcohal. Vanilla is usually sold as water based (extract) but can be purchased as a much harder to find oil (essential oil)-however the oil based vanilla is going to last much longer in most professional applications. In a nutshell, I made my first perfume years ago by combining different precious oils, fragrance oils, flavor oils and essential oils I liked and had on hand. My formula was a mixture of vanilla, musk, neroli, vetivert, sweet spices, white florals (such as lilly of the valley, white rose), oppomax and incense. It took months to "build." I even soaked incense in oil for a few months, to capture the scent of the incense. (Naturally I strained it when I when I felt it was the most scent I could impart.) For about a year I just dabbed the oil I formulated on myself. It was not until I took that oil mixture I adored and dropped it into a very high proof alcohol (190 proof ethanol) - did it "bloom" and blow me away. I cannot recall why I did that - I think I was just bored or trying to make what I did have stretch to also share with a friend. Dispersing the oil in a high proof alcohol gave the scent so many new facets. Like my creation went from two dimensions to several. Most importantly it made it "throw" just like the Chanel #22 I was trying to copy. Chanel had ceased making that arrangement years back and I could not envision living without #22. Number 22 was known as the "wedding" perfume made with only white flowers. Knowing this was a major advantage to coming close to a copy I liked. There is a "perfumers alcohol" that is about 200 proof, but it is not easy to get. Mainly those who sell it, will elaborate on why you "must" use that. I use whatever I can get my hands on and that is generally "Everclear" or Mohawk, 190 proof.
Dilutions: What Makes Perfume Grade vs Toilet Water Grade?
I will call your final product a “compound” or “ester.” Once you have designed a great scent (compound) and given it a name it is going to be fantastic in any dilution! Your masterpiece “symphony” of oil based compounds will become more multifaceted with the addition of a high proof alcohol. A high proof alcohol such as Everclear 190 will “solve” your oils. Some states can only secure 150 proof and that is acceptable, but still not as good as 190. In fact, I really do not like 150 for much at all-so maybe forget that.
Real perfume is usually 10-20% of the master oils formulation and 80% a very high proof alcohol. Some perfumeries add 5% distilled water in exchange for part of the alcohol but I never have. Colognes are usually maxim 3-5% of the precious formula with 80% alcohal, and 10% distilled water. Toilet water is usually maximum 2% precious oils to 80% alcohol and 20% distilled water. Body splash is pretty much in the cologne dilution category. I do worry about oxidation of precious raw materials so I drop anti-oxidants such as dendritic salt and or vitamin E into my oil blends. ROE, Rosemary Oleoresin extract is also great and very powerful but can discolor the project.
Perfume = 10%-20% compound /5% distilled water/80% alcohol
Cologne 3-5% compound/10% distilled water/85% alcohol
Toilet Water=2% compound/18% distilled water/80% alcohol
Materials to make Perfume?
Beyond securing a high proof alcohol such as Everclear 190 and distilled water, you can draw raw materials to make your compound from many places. I know people who soak special woods in alcohal to extract a special scent. I find that so facinating. I did the same with orange blossoms that were always plenty on my property in Florida. When making your own perfume, you are going to want to buy some atomizers when you are on a roll with a great scent or two. Sephora makes some really neat ones I buy on line - probably half the price of all others ($10) and same peformance. Always keep careful notes. Your best creation could be what you felt your worst mistake. My readers generally have the same materials around the house that I have in my lab. They generally already have fragrance oils, flavor oils and/or essential oils. My Chanel #22 copy had about 50% fragrance oil, 20% flavor oil and 30% essential oil because I drew from what I had. I made careful notes about my sources of each scent because, for example, a vanilla fragrance oil is no where near as strong as vanilla essential oil. This means much less vanilla is needed in my formula if I ever replaced vanilla FO with vanilla EO.
Your Blend Can Go Into Lotion and Crème
Your compound can usually blend right into an already made lotion or crème without adding alcohol. Vanilla is my absolute favorite ingredient, and in almost all of my formulas, but the down side is browning. Vanilla seems to “bloom” into pink dots and over a month’s time make the entire lotion a pinkish brown. It looks just like women’s’ cosmetic foundation. Although the change always freaks me out, many of my friends liked that attribute and felt it was more natural. I am still on the fence about the “blooming” but I still loving my vanilla. Lately I just opt for a synthetic vanilla, that still is from a natural source. It is a tree resin. Meaning not all synthetics are dangerous chemicals. And some "natural" things that are "organic" are more dangerous that synthetics. Arsenic is a great example of a natural substance.
Other Ways to Garner Scent
Many people do not realize water is the most used solvent known to man. When we make a cup of coffee we are using water to “solve” the parts of the bean we are after. This is also known as solvent extraction. Now envision putting barks, petals, spices (in whole or freshly crushed form,) citrus peels and/or moss in the coffee filter. The end result would be a melange of scent.
Looking at scent compounding another way, think of vanilla extract. It is made over time by placing the vanilla bean in a high proof alcohol. To save money and perhaps reduce any residual alcohol smell, some distilled water is added to most extracts. As I said above, making vanilla extract is essentially like making perfume.
Just for Fun! Extraction Project
In 16 ounces of a high proof alcohol (2 cups) put lemon citrus rinds, cinnamon sticks, a vanilla bean (partially macerated- spliced- for maximum flavor,) crushed whole nutmeg or any other peel, rind, aromatic you can think of. Petals are OK but do brown. Allow to sit for a few months, shaking a few times a week. Filter through a coffee filter. For a stronger result do it a second time. I call this “folds,” such as “four fold” if I repeat the process 4 times. The end result should be a wonderful aromatic base you can spray around your home. Keep this away from heat because alcohol is very flammable.
Excerpt How to Make Perfume and Aromatherapy Basics Copyright © Deborah Dolen 2011 This e-book is available in full version on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook. By Deborah Dolen Mabel White
A very comprehensive list I created years ago is here:
Designer Perfume Notes Index
Deborah Dolen on Perfume Crafting with Exotic Oils Recipes and Formula's
Deborah Dolen on How to Make Perfume
Introduction to Making Perfume and Most Important 66 notes to Have: Propensity Chart
http://petalscience.com/ by Deborah Dolen