At one point in time, perfume making was once an art that was practiced by large sections of the population. Just about every woman knew how to make their own perfume, and there was no need for them to go to a market to get the scent they wanted. Unfortunately, all of that has changed over the past few decades, and the art of perfume making has almost disappeared.
I say almost because there are still people making great perfumes. These people are resurrecting the art of perfume making and are once again showing it’s possible to make your own perfume. We’ve picked the brains of some of these people and have gathered some of the techniques and recipes they use when they’re crafting their own perfumes. And we’ve assembled these tips and tricks in this guide to give you a way to start your own perfume making.
Step One: Begin With the Notes
Before you can craft your perfume, you have to decide upon the scents which will make up the three layers of the perfume. As you’ve probably heard elsewhere, perfumes can be broken down into their three individual notes: Top Notes, Middle or Heart Notes, and Base Notes. Let’s take a closer look at these notes and find out what scents usually compose them.
Top Notes: These notes last up to 15-minutes and are the fragrances that you smell first when you apply the perfume. Top notes are usually with citrus fruits and aromatics. Popular top notes usually consist of grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange, bergamot, basil, lavender, rosemary, mint (both peppermint and spearmint), and neroli.
Middle Notes: Once the top notes of your fragrance begin to fade, the middle notes will then be the ones that take over. Middle notes last up to 30-minutes. Middle notes usually consist of scents which are floral, fruity, green or spicy. Popular middle notes include basil, black pepper, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, palmarosa, chamomile, clove, marjoram, lemongrass, neroli, rose, rosemary, neroli, petitgrain, nutmeg, ylang-ylang, and lavender.
Base Notes: Base notes literally form the foundation of your perfume and last anywhere from 4 to 24-hours. These notes begin to kick in once the heart notes begin to fade. Bottom notes usually contain woody or balsamic scents. Some of the more popular base notes include cedar, sandalwood, pine, cypress, ginger, vanilla, vetiver, patchouli, musk, and frankincense.
No matter what notes you choose for your perfume, you are going to have to find those scents in an essential oil form. Essential oils are easy to find on the Internet today or can sometimes be found at your local craft shop.
Step Two: Understand Note Ratios
Knowing the different fragrance notes of your perfume isn’t enough. You also have to know the ratio used in making perfumes. Most perfumes contain approximately 20% Base Notes, 50% Heart Notes and 30% Top Notes. While some perfume makers like to play with this ratio a little bit to create custom fragrances, it’s better to stick with a tried-and-true recipe when you first begin. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can then go on to create your own custom fragrance.
Step Three: The Basic Recipe
As you may already begin to realize, there are more to perfume than just base, heart and top notes. There also needs to be a medium for them to do their magic. This medium is a carrier oil of some type. Some of the more popular carrier oils in perfume making include grape seed oil, jojoba oil, and sweet almond oil.
Once you have your favorite carrier oil, you can then begin to add drops of your three notes to your oil. Be sure to start with the bottom notes, then add your heart and top notes. Once you’ve added your three fragrance notes to the carrier oil, you need to add something that will help the ingredients react with each other. This is always some form of alcohol.
Alcohol is needed because it evaporates rather quickly and this process will help to distribute your perfume’s distinct notes. You’ll need alcohol with a fairly high proof level of 80 to 100-proof. The proof is double the concentration level of the alcohol, so 80-proof alcohol is about 40% alcohol and 100-proof alcohol is about 50% alcohol.
Most people use either Everclear or vodka for their alcohol choice. If you decide to use vodka, however, I feel like I need to give you a word of warning. Be sure to avoid cheap vodka because it has a distinct smell that could interfere with your fragrance profile. High-quality vodka, on the other hand, doesn’t have any scent whatsoever. Which is why it’s the preferred form of alcohol to put into perfume.
Step Four: An Example Recipe
- 2-Tablespoons Sweet Almond Oil (Carrier Oil)
- 6-Tablespoons Everclear (Alcohol Base)
- 2-Tablespoons Distilled Water
- 9-Drops of Your Favorite Top Note Essential Oils
- 6-Drops of Your Favorite Heart Note Essential Oils
- 15-Drops of Your Favorite Bottom Note Essential Oils
- 2-Perfume Bottles (Clean)
- Coffee Filter
- 3 small mixing containers
- Divide your alcohol base into three different mixing bowls with 2-Tablespoons of alcohol in each one.
- Add your base note essential oils to one bowl, middle note essential oils to another bowl, and the top essential oils to the last one.
- Place your carrier oil into your perfume bottle.
- Begin adding your fragrance notes/alcohol mixture. Start with the base, then add the middle and finally the top note mixture.
- Add the lid to the bottle and leave it along for anywhere from 48-hours to 6-weeks. The longer it sits, the stronger the scent will be.
- Check the strength of the perfume. If it’s too weak, add additional oils or allow it to sit longer.
- Once you’ve achieved the correct scent strength, add the distilled water.
- Shake the mixture for 60-seconds.
- Place the funnel and coffee filter into the second perfume bottle.
- Filter the perfume into the bottle through the filter.
How to Make Perfume – Start to Finish
Congratulations, you’ve just created your first perfume. Hopefully, it’s a scent that reflects your individuality. Now that you’ve mastered the basics, you can feel free to experiment and create a scent that truly fits your style, personality, and lifestyle.