tools for mixing perfume oils

formulation-bars

This is a great tool I use to mix my perfume oils in.  LV made these because I needed something to hold up my vials while formulating and it’s interesting to note how much freer I am to create when not unconsciously preoccupied with spilling an accord I’d painstakingly worked on for weeks.

This got me thinking, how to avoid this as much as possible and since I like experimenting with many trials I asked LV for three bars of 10 vials each and look at the beauties he lovingly created for me!

I find 5 trials of an accord a nice easy number.  Let’s say I’ve got a few ideas for a floral accord, I’ve got 3 florals in mind and I want to explore a “Floriental”, a woody floral and a powdery floral.  So I grab my first formulation bar and drop five vials in there and get to work! There’s even a place for a larger vial for accords that have matured for more than a year that I may want to add.  Using this method I’ve been able to increase dramatically my rate of experimentation — I have over 90 accords maturing!  Less than half will make it past the evaluation stage but who cares, I’m creating!

Life’s wonderful pleasures: someone who cares about your happiness enough to make you stuff by hand!  Love, love, love this tool and can’t imagine working without it now!

TGSC

One of the most useful tools out there for a perfumer in training is a website called The Good Scents Company. This site should become the perfumer apprentices’ best friend.

TGSC1

You can browse this site for naturals as well as synthetics, by odour, CAS Number, FEMA Number, by flavour ingredient, or by cosmetic function.  There’s a database of concretes, absolutes, essential oils, natural isolates or extracts.

TGSC2

Find the polarity, flash point, density of most aroma chemicals even the recommended odour strength. Verify whether it’s found in nature or not, whether it’s safe to use and how to use it.  TGSC even provides a suggested list of suppliers for that specific raw material.  Oh, and did I mention they also sell small sizes of most naturals and synthetics? Yup, they do that too.

I’ve been studying perfumery for almost two years and I’m only now breaking the ice with this site.

It’s left me wondering why in the hell I hadn’t used it before!

double distilled

double-distilled

Some double distilled water I picked up for only €2,50 at the pharmacy in our town.

Eau de Parfum, Eau de Cologne and Eau de Toilette all need to be diluted with distilled water as part of the formula.

So I thought, if distilled is good, double distilled should be even better being more pure than just distilled.

Gotta see if LV has one of those medical apparatus things that lets you hang the bottle upside down and have the contents be measured out without opening the tap.

cool stuff and new stuff on the way!

cool-stuff

“..because I’m HAPPY! Clap along if you know what happiness is to you.” Yep, totally in love with Pharrell’s new song!

AND my new smelling strips wheel is finally finished.  Elisa of Eligiart (and no, she doesn’t have a website up yet), the marvellous, creative, creature that makes my hand-bound journals and such, made this for me!  I saw it somewhere on a website made of plain paper used for another purpose and when I was in Elisa’s studio I saw the map just laying around and had an aha! moment and here’s the finished product.  This baby can hold a ton of smelling strips and all in an elegant design.  I love it when form and function combine into perfect harmony!  No little clips to fiddle with, just slide them into a fold anywhere.  Love, love, love it!

The other news is I’ve ordered the following new oils from Hermitage (UK) and Proxisante(France) and can’t wait to bury my nose deep in their mystery.  Here are the descriptions of what’s on it’s way (source: Hermitage and Proxisante), hopefully this week:

Cardamom MD (molecular distilled): Guatemala. Fresh, fusing, green, spicy, very true to fresh cardamom seed. This note is very clean, avoiding any initial camphoraceous and sometimes valerianic impressions often found as a background note in traditional extracts of cardamom.

Éclat de Cedrat: Italy. This essential oil is a sparkling zesty, fresh citrus aromatic. This material is a creation produced from Italian cedrats, bergamots and lemons; useful in the creation of fresh colognes, woody-vetivert accords and adds a sparkling top note to florals.

Guaiac Coeur MD: Paraguay. Produced by molecular distillation of Guaiac essential oil, with the focus being to concentrate the woody and lactonic notes with a floral and sweet-spicy connotation. The aroma is therefore very woody, lactonic, amber, with a soft spicy-floral and suede connotation. Less smoky and cleaner in aroma compared to the essential oil.

Patchouli Coeur MD (Select): Indonesia. The opening is warm, full-bodied, with lots of rich winter fruit notes spiced with hints of sweet oriental powdery musky incense. The heart and base notes are sublime. The rich musk incense notes blossom into a glorious creamy, ambery, woody, musky floral comparable to the heart notes of an aged Indian sandalwood, cedarwood atlas with a sprinkling of white florals and musk.  Honestly, getting this one was a no-brainer, really…how do I love thee, patchouli, let me count the ways.

Poplar Bud Absolute MD: France. Fruity-apricot, flowery-osmanthus, woody, leathery, liqueur-like davana notes with prune and fig undertones. Ideal for floral bouquets, oriental, fruity and leather notes.  I mean really, how could any perfumer say no to this novelty?!  Can’t you just smell it?

Vetiver Coeur (fractionation): Haiti. The main idea of this material is to allow the grassy and rooty nuances found in the heart to play the dominant role in the aroma.  A much lighter, fresher, brighter, crisper version of cedarwood atlas with a richness, warmth and weight associated with materials such as Cambodian oud and maybe Chinese cedar wood.

Sweet Gale essential oil: Scotland. The top notes of this material are candy-sweet and ice water fresh. In the heart a suave floral-sweetness takes charge, the sweet notes reminiscent of a Bergamot Mint and Bois de Rose infusion. … a really gentle sweet-herbaceous note that playfully wanders in and out of detection.  For the perfumer the value is chiefly within the top note, imparting distinctive freshness that would be of extra value to anyone creating an oriental themed perfume.  Sweet Gale is a marriage made in heaven with most spice materials along with fruits such as Bergamot and Cedrat and with floral and herb materials including Lavender, Lavandin, Rosemary, Hyssop and Clary Sage. The main constituents are Alpha Terpineol 11%, D-Limonene 53%, Geranyl Acetate 5%, Linalool 4%, Linalyl Acetate 4%.  I am so totally intrigued, sounds like a love affair.

Elemi Coeur (fractionation): Phillipines.  A very specialist material that of course is rose floral, pink pepper spicy and marine like in aroma. For the perfumer this material brings a very fresh, zesty, pink berry, pepper and peony top note to modern floral bouquets.  I have a tincture I made about a year ago and fell in love with Elemi.  Now this I have to try.

Santalol (natural isolate): Australia.  The aroma is sandalwood clean, creamy, masculine, rich bodied, full of natural sandalwood character without the phenolic and aldehydic notes one experiences with the all Australian essential oil. This will be invaluable to the perfumer creating floral, oriental, woody and ambery compositions adding real volume and substantivity.  And, folks, it’s bloody expensive at €8,95 for 1ml!!!

Cistus Absolute: more on this one when I do my own evaluation.  Something I’m also going to do is try to untangle the confusion around Cistus, Ladanum, Labdasur, and Éclat de Ciste (or Cistus Burst), ’cause my head’s spinning.

Éclat de Ciste (Cistus Burst).  See above.

Labdasur See Cistus.

I think that’s enough rambling for today, don’t you?  Off now to do some evaluations, heal my stiff neck and make a cup of tea…probably not in that order.

Have a gracious day :).

space!

space

This is a picture of my new/old desk in my studio.  Before I was only using the main one attached to the wall.  And that was the problem, I was facing a wall.

Often I would go into this room to work and come out an hour later having been completely unproductive, feeling thoroughly dissatisfied and depressed and not knowing why.  I put it down to various factors, some of which I’m still struggling with but I knew there was something more fundamental at the bottom of it and that it was solvable. I just didn’t know what it was. So I gave it time to breathe, to percolate, to exist, though it disturbed me.

Realisation dawned one day in the form of an idea to recoup the old desk (that I had chucked when we finished the room). I had resisted this idea because I was willing to sacrifice flow for aesthetics.  For me things need to be functional as well as beautiful, pleasing to the eye and in the beginning that desk just wasn’t doing it for me.  But the fact remained that I wasn’t creating.  I was constantly hitting a “wall”.

The fact is I love having a lot of empty space on my desk. I realise now I needed space to breathe, to imagine, to create. Now, you can find perfume ingredients jammed up against photography equipment and writing tools all working together to create a beautiful trinity of harmonious creative energy that is uniquely mine.

Creating one’s space takes time, at the heart of which lies the art of listening.

aromatic updates

They’re here! The shipment came from Proxisanté in France of Patchouli Coeur, Cocoa extract, Carrot seed, African Stone, and my minuscule investment (1ml each) in Tuberose and Osmanthus absolutes. I’m so excited to get them into their dilutions!  Now I can stroke those two off my wish list.

Oh and the skin care DIY products came in from the US last week so I will be needing to get my hands into those babies soon as I promised my lovely sister-in-law I’d make her an oil based skin serum and her own scent for her birthday.  Gotta get crackin’ on those.

So, what else has been brewing you ask?

The smell of the elderflower tincture was bothering me so much I’ve decided to dump it out!  Yes, I had great expectations but since I’m not one to waste time that’s it. The smell is just horrid and I can’t imagine putting that anywhere on my skin, so out it goes!

The jury’s still out with the jasmine flower tincture.  It’s not winning me over so it may come to the same fate as the elderflower, but I will give this one some more time.

While out walking Charlie this morning my mind started thinking about perhaps investing in a small alembic to distill some of the wonderful botanicals that surround us here in the Alps like the beeswax from our bee farmer friend (I’ve got about 3kgs of the stuff in a ziplock bag). I think I might get a better product out of the elderflower using this method, linden flower, our beautiful roses, the majestic Bay Laurel tree and the acacia trees that are so plentiful here…hmmm, I think I’ll check online today and see what the costs are and where I can source them here in Europe. Yikes, another project, how the heck did that happen?!

Make it a loving day.

making 10% dilutions

making-dilutions

I know, pretty boring stuff, but necessary to the perfume making process to ensure that every note has the same odour intensity, so I’m going to do a very quick run through of how to do a 10% dilution.

1. First turn on your scale, then place the empty bottle on it and tare it so that it reads 0

2. This is important: say you’re using a 30ml bottle don’t plan to fill it right to 30ml, leave room for the alcohol to breathe. So plan to fill to 25ml, therefore, measure 2.5gr of your synthetic or natural with a pipette

3. Then top up with alcohol until you get 25gr

è voilà your 10% dilution!  So, before beginning to formulate all of your ingredients should be diluted.

At this point I would label it and then write a brief description of the note on a sticker and label it. You can include things like odour description, supplier, date of purchase and the CAS or FEMA number for easy re-ordering.

Happy June!                                                                                                          – M


 

 

tools of the trade

Before we dive into the single notes that make up our perfumes everything should be at the more or less the same strength because some notes have molecules that are too big for the olfactory sense to perceive.  Not only this but having each ingredient at the same dilution puts them all on the same level for mixing so one doesn’t over-power another and everything’s at the same viscosity for easy pouring.

One of the guys that does a great job at explain perfume basics in general is Chris Bartlett of Pell Wall Perfumes.  For extra reading check out his tips on diluting and of course check out Basenotes DIY Perfume forum for loads of info.

Below the pics you’ll find step by step directions.  Here’s what you’ll need:

Digital scale accurate to 0.01gr – get into the habit of measuring with a scale right away and not relying on drops (other than when testing) or measuring by volume because every essential oil has a different mass, one drop of ylang ylang will not weigh the same as a drop of mastic oil for example.

Squeeze bottle for easy dispensing of the alcohol so you don’t end up over pouring

Plastic pipettes for disposability. I ordered a box of 500/1ml droppers but also keep some 3ml droppers on hand too

Smelling strips

Wooden, disposable spatula for getting stubborn absolutes that come in a paste out of the bottle like Oakmoss or Beeswax absolute

Glass stirring rod

Glass beaker to hold the spatulas, pipettes, smelling strips and glass rods for easy access

30ml or 50ml and 100ml brown glass bottles to hold the dilutions, I like the 100ml for synthetics and the 50ml for the essential oils. I got aluminium caps and not dropper caps because over time the alcohol fumes will erode the rubber

Digital labeller for naming the bottles

Adhesive labels I use to write a quick olfactive description of the note and whether it’s a Top, Middle or Base not

96% proof ethyl alcohol which should not be denatured meaning it has been rendered undrinkable by adding additives

Fuller’s Earth clay for filtering those concretes or absolutes that leave sediments. The Encyclopaedia Brittanica says the following about Fuller’s Earth: “any fine-grained, naturally occurring earthy substance that has a substantial ability to adsorb impurities or colouring bodies from fats, grease, or oils. Its name originated with the textile industry, in which textile workers (or fullers) cleaned raw wool by kneading it in a mixture of water and fine earth that adsorbed oil, dirt, and other contaminants from the fibres.” I learned about creating a crystal clear dilution from a video by the late perfumer Alec Lawless of Essentially Me who explains filtering and fining very well in this YouTube video – time well spent.

Glass beakers of various sizes for pre-mixing before putting into your bottles so you can see if they may need filtering

And…since this post has turned out to be longer than expected I’ll do an example of a dilution tomorrow.

Have a fabulous day!                                                                                                – M


 

 

getting started

Getting started
Getting started

Above is a snapshot of some of my tinctures, essential oils and synthetics…and they just keep growing. Almost all are at 10% dilutions some of the more stronger synthetics are 3%. You’ll also need some plastic, disposable droppers and some smelling strips.

Here are the lists that I’ve compiled of all of the raw materials I am currently working with that I said I’d post. My Raw Materials List  and The Language of Perfumes.The first gives you a look at what I’m working with.  I’ve also printed them out for myself for a quick glance at what I’ve got without having to go rummaging through the actually bottles themselves. The other list is a starting off point to prime the creative pump while working on training the nose when smelling the scent strips.  Sometimes words can escape us or what I’ve found as a beginner, is that I just don’t have and am not comfortable yet using certain words to describe the impression a scent is making on me.  This list I find really helpful.

Feel free to download.


 

 

what’s in your organ?

whats-in-your-organ

Before I began I knew I needed to have some raw materials and spendt untold hours deciding which ones to get first.   I found some great starter lists, such as Chris Bartlett’s list of important synthetics and naturals that he believes is a good starting place.  Most of what he suggested I did add to my own starter list.  Then of course there are so many suggestions offered by the members of Basenotes DIY forum like this one.  The answer is first decide on what approach you want to take… slow and steady or full immersion? I, true to my nature, opted for the full immersion approach and after much hand-wringing about whether to invest in naturals or synthetics finally settled on a list (I’ll post it as a link to a PDF tomorrow).  There are many places online that sell beginner kits like Perfumer’s Apprentice in the States or Olfactik here in Europe; these are great starting places.

How much to budget for in the beginning? This was answered for me when my husband, who I will refer to henceforth as LV, offered to get me a new iMac for my birthday last year and seeing as we already had a (dying) PC I chose to forego on the new computer and use the funds for a start up kit instead.  So opportunities are everywhere to follow our dreams.

I can’t remember where I read this anymore but it strikes me as a fundamental part of making great perfume, start with the best: no matter what the budget, whether we have $100 or $1,000 to invest, start with the very best raw materials money can buy.  If that means we end up starting off with 10 essential oils instead of 50 then so be it. I’ve kind of adopted it as my purchasing mantra and whenever I have to drop something from my list because of budget constraints I console myself knowing that the ones I did choose to buy are the best quality I could source at the time.

In the end what ended up in my organ, before I started training my nose, was a mix of months of research and personal preference, what I feel really drawn to, what speaks to me.  And as I grow in this craft others call me to them for exploration – and  of course I will answer.

 


 

my new/old perfume cabinet!

Sometimes life sends us gifts with no price tag! Yah, that’s right, free.

The other day my daughter’s fiancé found this treasure laying out for the garbage on a lot nearby while they were over for the weekend.  He and my husband hauled it back home and I was told he was going to fix it up and it was going to be my new perfume cabinet.  Our son-in-law to be (a talented artisan) restores antique furniture and he said this piece is apparently early 1900’s!