Perfume making at home


Perfume Making at Home In Elizabethan times most large households kept a part of the garden for cultivating fragrant plants to use in medical and toilet preparations, making perfumed pomanders, wash-balls, sachets, pot pourri, cassolettes and distilled waters from them in the 'still room' of the house. The home perfumer who wishes to revive this craft may be able to follow some of the recipes of earlier times, but many of them will prove impracticable, because many of the ingredients then used, such as ambergris and musk, are now pro­hibitively expensive, if not unobtainable, fie, or she, does, however, have the advantage that many fragrant materials and essential oils are now readily available for purchase, and the laborious process of making them from the raw plants can be avoided.

Dry pot pourri is probably the easiest fragrant preparation to make, involving little more than the mixing of dried materials, of which a very wide range is nowadays available. The descriptions of plant materials in this book show whether they are suitable for pot pourri. Rose petals are the ingredient most commonly used. They should be collected on a dry morning free of dew and laid out to dry for about a week. Some­times coarse salt, or salt petre, is added as a preservative. A material with fixative properties should be included.

Moist pot pourri is a little more complicated. The rose petals or other flowers and herbs should be spread out to dry for about two days, so that they are not completely dried. Layers of this material, mixed up with spices and gums which have been ground into a coarse powder, are then rammed down hard into a jar or basin with alternate layers of salt; a pinch of brown sugar and a few drops of brandy can be added; the container is then sealed tight and the mixture left to cure for at least 2 months, when it will emerge as a congealed mass which can be broken up into cakes.

Pomanders are best made by mixing aromatic materials with gum arabic or tragacanth mucilage as a bonding agent. The selected in­gredients of the pomander, in the proporton of about 2 parts of gums and resins to 1 part of other dry ingredients, are finely powdered and mixed with a little of the mucilage until a paste is formed. A few drops of essential oil can be added and everything should then be well mixed by kneading. The paste is then shaped as required and left to dry.

Incense is best made using powdered charcoal as a burning base in the proportion of about 14 parts to 6 parts of aromatic material. The latter should consist of 2 parts of powdered resins, such as labdanum, storax, terebinth or frankincense, mixed with 4 parts of other fragrant plant materials (e.g. dried bay leaves, calamus root, cloves, cubebs, lavender flowers, marjoram, rosemary leaves or thyme leaves). These are all mixed into a paste with a mucilage of gum arabic or tragacanth. A drop or two of essential oil can be kneaded in. The mixture is then shaped into small cones or rolled round sticks to make joss sticks, and these are allowed to dry.

Sachets require very dry ingredients which can be ground into a coarse powder. Lavender has always been a favourite as a base, but orris, calamus, cedarwood, marjoram, sandalwood, oak moss, rose petals, verbena leaves, or patchouli leaves are good alternatives. A wide range of other materials, mostly similar to those that can be used in pot pourri, can be blended into this base. At least one ingredient with fixative properties should be included.


Liquid perfumes provide the would-be home perfume markers with rather more problems, as will be apparent from the entry above on Perfume Creation. They cannot hope to simulate the quality fragrances produced  by  commercial   perfumeries,   which   may  contain  several hundred    ingredients,   including   many   chemicals,   and   they   can realistically aim only at very simple constructions. They will have to be' prepared to purchase all their essential oils, some of which may be quite expensive. For a start a base will be needed on which the perfume can be built. This can either be an alcohol (vodka is sometimes used) or an oil; jojoba oil is regarded as a good, neutral, stable base oil, or, following the perfume makers of ancient Egypt and Greece, sesame oil could be used. The base should be prepared by the addition of such base notes as may be required, including fixatives, adding them drop by drop. The main body of the fragrance is then inserted, the chosen oils once again being added drop by drop. Ten drops of essential oils added to about half a pint of alcohol will produce a weak cologne-strength fragrance; for a stronger perfume a smaller amount of alcohol or base oil should be used (or, conversely, more essential oils). The mixture should be kept in a scaled container for at least a week in order to blend properly before it can be used. Home perfumers can experiment with the introduction of top notes as well (which  should  be added  last); the evaporation rates mentioned in Poucher's    table,    referred    to    under    Perfume,    Classification    of Fragrances, may assist in this, as will a study of which ingredients are used lor which notes in the descriptions of perfumes contained

Essential Oils or Fragrance Oils?

A common question raised in perfume making is whether to use Fragrance Oil or Essential oil. If you've been shopping for both you will have noticed that there is a steep price difference between the two.

Essential oils are, mostly, a natural product derived from flowers or plants. Fragrance oils are a blend, often synthetic, of a number of ingredients usually diluted with an oil carrier.

The recipes here are really designed for essential oils but really there's no reason you cannot use fragrance oils. In fact, I would suggest you start with the much lower cost fragrance oils until you understand the blending process. This will save you a lot of money until you discover what fragrance blend works for your skin.

It's true that the better perfumes will often come from a blend of essential oils, so be prepared to move onto these for the best results.

A few reasons to stick with fragrance oil:

1. Low Cost

2. Some scents are only available with fragrance oil

3. Some people are allergic to essential oil

4. They may have a lower environmental impact. Sometimes several hundred pounds of plants may be needed for a small bottle of essential oil.

And some in favor of essential oil:

1. Some say that they make a better quality perfume

2. They may carry natural health benefits derived from the plants

3. Some people are allergic to fragrance oils

Ultimately, it's your choice in the end. As I've suggested, start with the fragrance oils and if you find yourself wanting to create more advanced perfumes, move onto essential oils.

Perfume Recipes

Here are some of my own favorite perfume recipes. All of these use 1 cup of distilled water and 5 teaspoons of vodka or other spirit, only the fragrance oils vary. Follow the instructions in the previous post to make these fragrances.

Arabian Dusk

3 drops of coriander oil
1 drop of Frankincense oil
3 drops of Juniper oil
4 drops of Orange oil


1 drop Frankincense oil
4 drops Grapefruit oil
3 drops Rosemary oil
2 drops Spearmint oil

Here's my favorite cologne recipe:

3 drops lemongrass oil
10 drops lavender oil
10 drops lime oil

Don't be afraid to experiment with any of these fragrance recipes. Learning how to make your own fragrances is as much about experimentation as about following recipes. Just keep notes of everything you do so that if you do discover how to make the perfect perfume, you can duplicate the results.

How to Make Perfume

In this post, I'm going to cover the basic how to make perfume instructions. There's no special skills involved in making perfume, just follow the procedure and you will get a great smelling fragrance.

Since Perfumer's Alcohol can be hard to find in most cities, I'm going to suggest using Vodka in these recipes. As long as it's for personal use and you aren't selling the perfume, The Department of Tobacco, Alcohol and Firearms won't come and hunt you down. Use only 100 proof alcohol and be sure to test a single drop on your skin to make sure you aren't allergic to any ingredient.

The strength of the perfume is dependent on the ratio of fragrant oils, alcohol and water in the blend. Each blend will smell different and the amount of essential oil is critical. A single drop too much, or too little, will change the characteristic of the perfume completely.

The basic procedure for making perfume is the same whatever the blend.

Most simple perfumes are a mixture of alcohol, essential of fragrance oils and distilled water. Don't be tempted to use water from your kitchen faucet for this, it must be distilled. The oils are stirred slowly into the alcohol, one drop at a time. Stir slowly but long enough for the oils to be completely dispersed.

Let the blend of oil and alcohol stand undisturbed for 48 hours. Now add the distilled water, again stirring slowly until completely dispersed.

Perfume is like fine wine, it needs to stand and mature before it reaches perfection. Leave your perfume to stand for at least three weeks in a cool dark place.

After the perfume has matured, filter it through a coffee filter to remove any sediment and bottle it into a colored glass bottle with a stopper.

Part of the fun of making your own fragrances is being able to experiment and make one that is yours alone. You may need to experiment for a while before you discover the perfect scent, so make notes of everything you do including the exact quantities used. Remember that a single drop of an essential oil can change the smell of the perfume completely.

Here are some recipes to get you started:

Rain Shower

This is a very light scent reminiscent of a lingering rain shower.

5 drops Bergamot
3 drops Sandalwood
5 drops Cassis
1 cup distilled water
5 teaspoons of Vodka

Blend the ingredients as described above.

English Country Garden

5 drops Valerian
5 drops Chamomile
3 drops Lavender
1 cup distilled water
5 teaspoons Vodka

Useful Make Perfume Sites

Here are some good sites for background reading on making perfumes and fragrances:

Make your own perfumes


Basenotes Forum

How to Make Essential Oils

Essential oils can be quite expensive to buy so I though I would cover how you can make many of them at home.

Firstly, what is an essential oil? The formal definition for essential oil is that it is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid that contains volatile aromatic compounds from flowers and plants. In pure layman's terms it's the concentrated smelly stuff from flowers!

Most essential oils are made commercially by distillation. In this process the raw plant material, which can be in the form of flowers, bark, leaves, stems, roots or seeds, is placed on a rack above the water in a still. When the water is heated, the steam passes through the flowers vaporizing the complex volatile compounds. These vapors then pass through a cooling coil and condense back into liquid form. The essential oil itself then forms a film on the top of the liquid. It is then separated by skimming. The remaining water underneath the oil is a product known as a hydrosol and is often sold in this form as rose water or lavender water.

Unless you live in West Virginia and have a cousin with a still this probably isn't a practical method to use at home. Luckily distillation is a fairly modern method of producing essential oils so we have some more traditional alternatives for making our own fragrance oils.

Enfleurage is the process of placing flower petals or similar plant material onto trays of odourless vegetable oils which will absorb the flower's volatile essential oils. You can use a variation of the technique to make your own essential oils. Although this doesn't produce oils as concentrated as you can purchase, this is fairly easy to do at home given the raw materials.

You can use a variety of vegetable oils in this process including olive oil, sweet almond oil or refined jojoba oil.

How to make essential oils:

You will need:

Half a cup of oil
Four cups of tightly packed flowers (see instructions)
A wide-mouth jar such as a mason jar
A wooden mallet or similar
A zipping plastic bag
Some cheesecloth for filtering

You will need four cups of flowers picked over the course of a week for the best results.

Put one cup of the flowers into the plastic bag and expel as much of the air as you can before sealing. Bruise the flowers in the bag with a wooden mallet. The idea behind putting them in a plastic bag first to cut down on the mess and to avoid losing any of the material. Don't bash them to a pulp, this isn't necessary, just hit the bag a dozen times gently.

Mix the flower material with the oil well and place it into the jar. Seal the jar and put it into a warm place for about 48 hours. A sunny window ledge or a warm spot in the kitchen is fine. The warmer the spot, the less time they need to be left but don't overdo the warming or you may damage the oils.

Filter the mixture through the cheesecloth and return the oil to the jar. Discard the filtered flower material.

Take the next cup of flowers and repeat the bruising process. Mix this batch with the oil from step one and leave in a warm place for another 48 hours or so.

Repeat twice more with the next two cups of flowers.

After the final straining, transfer the oil to a storage bottle and keep in a cool, dark place. Colored bottles are ideal for storage. This will keep for up to a year.

This whole process to make your own essential oil will take a week or so so isn't as quick as the distillation process but of course doesn't involve the expense of building or buying a still.

Easy Homemade Fragrance

Before I discuss ways to make "proper" perfume here's an idea for an easy to make fragrance using only home ingredients.

Take about a cup and a half of flower blossoms. You can use rose, lavender, honeysuckle or anything that has a strong fragrance. Chop them roughly and add to three cups of warm water.

Leave the mixture to soak overnight and in the morning strain through cheesecloth or similar material. Put the mixture into an old saucepan (you may not want to use your best pans for this!) and simmer on the stove gently. The emphasis is on the word gently. Use only a very low heat. Reduce until there are only a few tablespoons left.

Cool and store in a suitable bottle. This fragrance will keep for about a month or six weeks in a cool place.

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