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!