Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ask the Expert - Creating Natural Perfume

Amanda Feeley of Esscentual Alchemy
Please welcome Amanda Feeley of Escentual Alchemy as our Day 3 Expert.  Amanda has been into natural scents her whole life, having grown up on an Iowa farm.  She left the farm, to attend college, at Simpson College, in Indianola, majoring in music.  After that, she used her musical training to have some fun as a stay at home mom, to four wonderful children.  In December of 2010, she discovered natural perfumery.  The rest, as they say, is scented history.

A Brief Tutorial on the Art of Creating a Natural Perfume

 I hope you find this short tutorial interesting and informative!  Natural Perfume is a fascinating and amazing subject.  One of the best parts about natural perfume as a hobby, is that you always smell divine!  Without further ado, let's begin.

The word perfume, comes from the Latin 'per fumum' meaning ‘through smoke.’ Ancient civilizations utilized aromatic substances in religious ceremonies.  The art of making perfumes, began in ancient Mesopotamia, and Egypt.   It was expanded upon by the Greeks and Romans.  The French further refined the art form.  Perfumes have been in use as far back as 7000BC.

Perfume is composed much like music, and is often described in terms of musical adjectives.  Each one is composed of chords, which are made up of notes.  There are three types of notes: Head, Heart, and Base. 

Head notes are perceived a few seconds after initial application of perfume.  Head notes are also called top notes.  Head notes create the scents that forms a person’s initial impression.
Heart notes are the essential character of the composition.  Heart notes, or Middle notes, form the main  scent theme, and act as a transition from the top notes.
Base notes bring depth and solidness. Base notes are the foundation, and give structure.  These fixatives are used to support the top and heart notes.

Previous to the mid 19th-century, natural essential oils, absolutes/concretes, enfleurage, and tinctures were the only implements of the perfumer’s art. Today the perfume industry relies mainly on synthetic/petro-chemicals; natural essential oils and absolutes are used only in minute quantities.

For example:  Roses have over 200-300 scent molecules that make up what you smell when you sniff the flower.  Large perfume companies, take a few molecules and synthesize them in the lab, and declare it is “ROSE!”  This makes for an extremely narrow, horizontal smell.  Natural essential oils or absolutes provide a vertical and broad olfactory experience. 

Natural Perfumes also have an aromatheraputic quality to them, because of the high concentration of essential oils. In addition to being chemical/synthetic free, they also work on an emotional level when you apply them.


·         5ml amber bottle
·         essential oils
·         carrier oil
·         disposable pipettes
·         fragrance tester strips
·         paper towels
·         notebook to write down your formula, and notes about your chords

Each perfume composition, is built upon three chords.  This is also called a formula.  The formula is the math of the composition.  Each chord in a formula contains a dominant note, and supporting notes.  The dominant note will make up around half of the chord, and the supporting notes make up the rest of the chord.  Each formula has two components:  the perfume concentrate, and the carrier oil.  For this tutorial, I have created a ratio as follows:  1 part head chord, 1 part heart chord, 2 parts base chord, and 1 part carrier oil.

It's extremely important to keep track of which pipette you use for each oil, because you cannot use them for more than one oil.  Using pipettes across more than one oil, will result in contamination of both the oil, and your perfume.  Some pipettes are marked for volume, and some aren't.  When starting out, it's easiest to transfer oils by drops.   In this tutorial, one part is equal to 40 drops.  To transfer oils, suction the oil from each vial by squeezing the bulb.  Measure by drops into your perfume bottle, and return the remainder, if need be, to your main vial.  Set aside on a paper towel.  It's sometimes helpful to write on the paper towel which pipette you used where.

An example composition, might look like this:

Head Chord                                                                1 PART
Lavender                                                                     10 drops
Rosewood                                                                   10 drops
Blood Orange                                                             20 drops
                                                                        Total:  40 drops

Heart Chord                                                               1 PART
*Rooibus                                                                     10 drops
Jasmine                                                                        20 drops
Rose                                                                            10 drops
                                                                        Total:  40 drops

Base Chord                                                                 2 PART
Benzoin                                                                       20 drops
**Hyrax                                                                      40 drops
Frankincense                                                               20 drops
                                                                        Total:  80 drops

Carrier                                                                        1 PART
Jojoba Oil                                                                    40 drops

*Rooibus is an absolute that comes from an African bush.  It is a sweet and berry/fruity note.
**Hyrax is a substance used to obtain a musk scent, without harming any animals.

To create a perfume formula, you should test the chords before mixing your oils together.  Open the vials you have chosen for each chord: head, heart, and base.  Drop a single drop onto a tester strip.  Paper tester strips are helpful for figuring out the dominant note for each chord.  Once you have figured out the dominant note for the chords, then you can finish your chord.

Begin blending your composition, by transferring the base chord into the perfume container.  Repeat this process for the heart chord, and head chord.  Your composition will change as you blend the chords together.  This is one of my favorite parts of the process!  Write down your notes, and amount of each oil, for each chord.  Don't depend on your memory, as this can cause sadness when you realize you forgot something!

After you have finished blending your chords, and final composition, add the jojoba oil carrier to your perfume, just like you did for the chords.  Transfer with a pipette to your perfume bottle.  This is called is dilution.  Essential oils must never be worn undiluted, as they can cause skin sensitivity.  It's time to seal up your bottle, and put your perfume in a cool, dark place.  The next step is to age your perfume.  This is the hard part!  Your perfume should age for 1 week, at the bare minimum.  One MONTH is recommended.  Depending on how complex a natural perfume is, it can take many months for the aging process to finish.  Do what you can to forget the magic happening in your bottle!  It takes time to create beautiful wines, and creating a beautiful perfume is much the same process!   

After your month is up, apply your perfume anywhere you would like to be kissed, as Coco Chanel once said...

I wish you many beautiful and scented journeys!

Please take a moment and visit Amanda's shop, Facebook Page and Follow her on Twitter

Thanks so much Amanda for providing this fantastic tutorial on perfume making.  If anyone is interested in trying this and needs more information, please comment below.  Amanda has a comprehensive list of suppliers for high quality essential oils, bottles, pipettes and vials. And I know she would love to answer any questions you may have!




  1. This is wonderful! To think I can create my own perfume! Thank you very much!

    1. Yes! This is on my "list". Thanks so much for dropping in!

  2. Thank you Christine! I appreciate you having me here :)


  3. Thanks for the very interesting tutorial! Making perfume is a lot more complicated than I thought! Your explanations were great and it looks like fun!
    - Kathy

  4. Thank you Christine for this informative tutorial!

    Michelle Blackwood

  5. Love learning about the history and your process. Very very cool!