How can you make perfume at home?
If you’ve tried to make perfume by mixing essential oils before, you may be disappointed to realize that the resulting smell does not smell like a luxury perfume, but like essential oils. You may have asked just how can you achieve the finished smell of professionally blended perfume?
Becoming a master perfumer is a very complex journey, and the talent of these master perfumes cannot be understated. However, in this article, we’ll teach you how to craft your own beautiful perfumes at home, that can smell just as good as the ones you buy in shops.
This article will be split into five parts, including:
- The Equipment
- The Ingredients (or “Raw Materials”)
- Terms to Know
- Constructing a Perfume
Without further adieu, let’s read on to learn how to create a great-smelling perfume at home!
Part 1: The Equipment
Ideally, you’ll need scales that can measure down to 0.00 grams. These types of scales will allow you to really dial in the blends of your perfumes, and will also allow you to save money on expensive raw perfumery materials as well. Do not be tempted to not purchase a scale at all, as this piece of equipment is the most crucial for creating masterfully blended perfumes. These scales will run you anywhere from USD $150 – $300.
Next, you’ll need to purchase some sample bottles. Throughout the perfume-making process, you’ll need to test and sample your blend. We recommend buying these in bulk – you can find up to 100 pieces for around USD $50 – $100.
Plastic pipettes will be needed to extract the raw perfume materials and put them within your blend. These are quite cheap when bought in bulk – $15 for 500 pieces.
Scent strips will help you test the perfume’s smell throughout the process – these will run you $15 for 500 pieces. Lastly, just get a pen and some labels so you can know which sample formula you’re testing. These will cost $10 for 1000 pieces.
Part 2: The Raw Materials
The ingredients used in your perfume are referred to as the “raw materials” of the perfume. These raw materials are typically divided into three main categories – let’s discuss the different types.
The three categories are:
First, we’ll discuss naturals, which as the name suggests, are materials found in nature. Naturals can be further divided into other categories, based on how those natural materials are produced. These categories are:
- Essential Oils
The most common variety of natural raw material, essential oils are extracted from plants using steam distillation.
Absolutes are created by combining natural materials with solvents to produce raw materials for perfumery use. These materials are usually longer lasting than essential oils, and smell closer to the actual natural materials that they are produced from.
Unlike naturals, synthetics are single-molecule aroma chemicals produced in laboratories. Synthetics are a common ingredient in modern perfumery, and are often easier to use – these are the key to producing perfumes that you can smell from some of the most famous perfume brands.
Solvents are other various materials used in perfumery that do not involve aroma. The major one needed for home perfumery is cosmetics-grade ethanol – also referred to as “Perfumer’s Alcohol”.
Our Recommended Raw Materials to Start
When it comes to these raw materials, there are a few that we recommend seeking out when you’re first starting to make perfume at home.
ISO E Super, Hedione, and Ambroxan are the most famous synthetic materials used in modern-day perfumery. These materials help to add longevity and sillage to your home perfumes.
Bergamot Essential Oil is one of the most commonly used essential oils in modern perfumery, as bergamot is the most famous citrus note used in perfume. Ethylene Brassylate is a musk that helps to provide longevity, so we recommend it as well.
Patchouli Essential Oil is used heavily in perfume, and it’s related to lavender and mint plants. Vanillin is a popular flavoring agent used to provide a sweet vanilla flavor to food, and it’s also used to provide a sweet vanilla smell to perfume. Dihydromyrcenol is a fresh aroma chemical used heavily in men’s perfumery, so we recommend adding that material to your arsenal too.
Where Should You Buy Raw Materials?
Now that you know what raw materials are and which you should seek out, the question becomes: where should you buy these materials? Most websites offer low-quality essential oils that won’t be fit for fine perfumery. Additionally, many aroma chemicals are very hard to find online. That being said, these are the websites we recommend – they specialize in materials for perfumery and thus, you’ll get the ingredients you need to create great perfume!
Part 3: Important Terms to Know
Before we dive into how you can make your own perfume, there are a glossary of important terms you should know.
Eau de Toilette
The most common form of perfumery, and also the least expensive. This typically combines 90% alcohol with 10% fragrance raw materials.
Eau de Parfum
Another common variety of perfumery, EDPs feature more fragrance raw material than EDT: 80% alcohol to 20% fragrance raw material.
The shortest-lived notes of your perfume. These are the notes that will be most prominent when you first spray the fragrance.
The longest-lived notes of your perfume. These are the notes that act as the backbone for your perfume, and will linger on for the entirety of your perfumes life on skin.
These notes are in the middle, not on the top, or on the base of the fragrance.
An accord is a smell that combines multiple notes (or raw materials) to create one singular smell.
Much like an accord, a base is a collection of raw materials that will act as a single raw material in a finished perfume. Many designer houses have trademarked bases that they use in their perfumes.
Part 4: Stages for Learning Perfume Production
To create your own unique perfumes, you’ll need to practice making your formulas. Much like learning a musical instrument, a certain level of mastery over the instrument is needed before you’re able to compose your own music with it.
If you’re looking to create your own unique perfumes, there are three stages that will set you on the right path to becoming a master perfumer.
- Explore Your Raw Materials, and Know Them Well
- Gain Experience in Creating Accords and Bases
- Gain Experience in Perfume Composition
Let’s go in-depth on each of these steps to explain them in further detail.
Stage One: Master The Raw Materials
Once you’ve purchased your raw materials, you’ll likely be tempted to smell the raw materials out of the bottle, but this will provide you with very little knowledge in the actual way these materials will work in a perfume. This is because raw materials are extremely concentrated, and once your nose smells such a concentrated fragrance, it begins to experience olfactory fatigue. Essentially, you become nose-blind to the smell because you are smelling it so closely.
In order to smell your raw materials properly, you’ll need to dilute them. We typically recommend diluting them to 10% within alcohol, although some people prefer to dilute them to 20%. This way, you can evaluate them properly. Label a scent strip with the name of the raw material, dip the strip into your raw material, and smell it closely. Make sure to now allow the strip to touch your nose.
Try to write down how you’d describe the smell – this is good for future reference. Let the scent strip dry further, and smell it again. Again, write down how you’d evaluate the smell. Continue to do this until you can no longer smell the raw material. Raw materials that last one day on the scent strip are typically top notes, those that last less than one week on the strip are typically mid notes, and those that last over one week are typically base notes.
Don’t skip this part! Knowing your raw materials will become hugely important when you’re crafting your final perfume.
Stage Two: Time to Learn How to Create Accords and Bases
Next, you’ll want to learn how to create accords and bases so you can craft a perfume. Let’s take an amber accord for instance. This accord is created using labdanum absolute and vanillin. If you take both of those raw materials, dip scent strips in them, and smell them, you should have an idea of what the accord will smell like.
Once you’re happy with the way the accord smells on the strips, you can create a trial blend. Take the two materials and blend them into a sample vial for testing. When mixing the raw materials, your workspace should fill up with aroma. As such, recommend that you get some fresh air before testing your trial blend.
Work with the ratios of the raw materials into you’re happy with the trial blend that you finish with. If you’d like to continue your accord, you can continue to add other materials to it to create an ever more complex accord.
Stage Three: Learning Perfume Composition
Understandably, this is the most complicated stage in creating your own perfume. However, if you’ve learned a lot about raw materials and accords at this point, you should have a good frame of reference for how you want to design your perfume.
Let’s take that amber accord we were talking about. With enough knowledge, you’ll discover that amber is a base note. To add life to the perfume, we’ll need to then add a mid note and a top note. Let’s take rose, which is a famous mid-note. To add freshness and sparkle to the perfume, we’ll then add a note of bergamot (from bergamot essential oil) to the formula.
From this point, we’d test the three notes on scent strips and smell them alongside each other. We can then begin to pinpoint what we need to add (or remove) from the formula to make it better. In this case, we tested our initial formula and decided that we’ll add helional (a fresh, breezy note) since it pairs nicely with rose. Then, we’ll also add florol, which is another fresh floral note that we can add to the top notes of the perfume. Hedione is another note that we’ll add to add an extra dimension to the floral notes within the perfume.
In our initial testing, the amber in the formula was a little strong. So let’s add a little less to our next test formula, and also add notes like ethylene brassylate and ISO E Super to create a more balanced base. Lastly, we’ll add ambroxan to deepen the breezy freshness that the helional provides to the formula, and a-isomethyl ionone to create a comforting aspect to the entire blend.
At this point, you should write out your perfume formula and create a finished test vial to sample the perfume. We prefer creating 5-gram sample vials using a 0.00 scale.
Tips for Perfume Composition
Don’t view the sample vials as tests in progress. This is because you will experience olfactory fatigue if you continue to add raw materials to sample vials. Instead, sample your formula, and draft a new formula on paper that you’d like to try before testing the new formula – this way you won’t experience olfactory fatigue and you’ll be able to exactly pinpoint which formula you prefer.
Part 5: Safety
We should definitely talk about safety before you dive into creating your new perfume. Raw materials are flammable, so be sure to keep flames and heat sources away from them. They’re also highly concentrated, and they can sometimes be toxic and can irritate the skin. Never ingest them or place them on your skin in their raw form as a result.
To know which substances are toxic, do your research on IFRA (The International Fragrance Association) – they are the governing body of which perfume materials are safe for human use.
Stage 6: Recommended Reading
Now that you’ve read this guide, here are the other books we recommend seeking out to learn more about making perfume.
Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent by Jean-Claude Ellena
This is a great book to learn about perfumery and making accords, and it’s written by the former perfumer of French fashion house Hermes. We recommend it for beginners, due to its affordability. It’s also quite short and easy to read!
Perfumery: Practice and Principles by Robert J. Calkin and J. Stephen Jellinek
This one has a more academic feel, but comprehensively describes the different stages of perfume production in great detail. This one is a bit more expensive than the first book we recommend, so we can only advise picking this one up if you’re serious about making perfume.
Scent and Chemistry: The Molecular World of Odors by Gunther Ohloff, Wilhelm Pickenhagen, and Phillip Kraft
If you’re a chemist, this book is a fantastic resource for the art of using chemistry to make perfumes. If you aren’t a chemist however, this book is extremely technical, and likely won’t be a great resource unless you’re familiar with the subject.
The Diary of a Nose by Jean-Claude Ellena
Another book written by Ellena, this is a great resource for accord formulas. It’s more of a diary, so it doesn’t contain as much valuable information, but it’s still a good read for those looking to get into the art of perfumery.
Various Books by Stephen Arctander
These books are 50 years old, but they provide great descriptions of the smells of various raw materials: both synthetic aromachemicals and naturals.
Introduction to Perfumery by Tony Curtis
This book is a textbook in many perfumery courses. It acts as a great resource for base formulas and also provides a lot of information on the industry in general.
If you’ve read this whole article, congratulations! Hopefully, now you know what you need to start making perfumes for yourself. Like any art form, perfumery takes a lot of practice, but after enough trial and error, you should be able to make perfumes you’ll be proud to wear.
For more perfume-making tutorials please visit Sam Macer Youtube channel