Education Booklet on Making Perfumes

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Participant booklet

Contact: Isabelle Gellé

29 Brigg Drive – First Lane

Hessle HU13 9HG

United Kingdom

Tel: (0203) 0869956 Mob. 07917850902


Web :





Welcome note


Perfumery : a bit of history


Olfactory groups


Methods and raw materials


Manufacturing techniques


Starting your own perfume creation


Starter kit


Creating a classic oriental perfume


Alcohol or carrier oil?


Creating a classic Eau de cologne


Creating a Floral eau de toilette


Eau de Parfum and concentrated perfume


Chilling, filtering and decanting process


Creating a Chypre base



Welcome to the world of natural perfumery and to an

exciting and endless journey to the scents!

I have compiled this booklet for you to be able to carry on

with your natural perfume creation and adventure once you

have grasped the basics which you will have learnt during

the workshop. It will give you a reference to go back to

when you design your own fragrance.

Like with any learning curve, you will face obstacles and

some of your blends will be huge failures or exceptional


Creating a perfume is a complex process requiring a lot of

patience. Perfumery is a different game from aromatherapy

which is about blending the correct oils for therapeutic

purposes. Those blends usually smell medical and do not

contain more than a few essential oils. Perfumes are

different. They can contain up to 100 different oils and can

take months or years to perfect.

Enjoy your journey!


Isabelle Gellé

Creative perfumer

NOTE: My method of perfume-making is based on 19th century books and

traditions. Other perfumers use more modern approaches and each perfumer has their own ‘secrets’ to make their own signature perfumes. The methods you will learn through my workshops might be different from what you would learn in Grasse or other workshops. For example, some perfumers place a lot of focus on calculation and percentages for exact precisions. Whereas we all have to use mathematics to ensure a good harmony of notes in the perfume, I am a loyal follower of Edmond Roudnistska, who focused on the Art of Perfumery and is the famous creator of ‘Femme by Rochas’, ‘Diorissimo and Eau Sauvage by Dior’.

He said ‘’''Perfumers are chemists no more than is the painter who manipulates chemical colors. In itself, composing a perfume has nothing to do with chemistry. The Compositeur must not let himself be influenced by systematic thoughts. Only by considering each odor by itself and in its rapport with the other odors, without any preconceived idea, will he make the best use of it"



PERFUMERY: a bit of history

Antiquity: origin of the term ‘perfume’ = Latin ‘parfumare’ meaning ‘through the smoke’; Egyptians were using fumigation to honour their Gods and goddesses. The first known perfume is called ‘


’ which is a blend of myrrh, juniper berry, fenugreek, pistachio, rosemary, mint. Perfumes were made of resins and fats which, when melted were

perfuming the hair and face. These techniques were then imported by the Greeks and the Romans which improved the ingredients and used them in religious rituals as well as everywhere in their houses because they were convinced about the medical properties of perfumes.

Perfumes as we know them now go back to the Arabs who invented the ‘alembic’, allowing distillation of plants and giving way to new scents including musk. So perfumery is not French originally. But the French are those who turned it into a trade and launched the modern perfumery. • During the Renaissance times, where arts flourished, all the Queens

and Kings in Europe were competing against each other to discover beauty secrets. Foreign alchemists started to open shops in Paris and perfumed gloves were offered on sale. One must remember that one of the reasons was the stench which needed to be covered. Not as romantic as we can expect but perfumes were born out of necessity.

It is under the Sun King Louis XIV (17th century) that perfumery became a trend and a big business and apart from perfume gloves, fragrances and scented powders were produced. Master glovers were allowed to take the official title of ‘maîtres parfumeurs et gantiers’ (still a famous perfume brand from Paris today) and a trade structure was

organised and established in Grasse to grow the plants and flowers needed including carnation, violet, jasmine, lavender and rose.

In the 18th century, fashion became the name of the game with every woman following the codes of seduction. The Court of King Louis XV was called the ‘perfume court’ and it was mandatory to use a new fragrance everyday. Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI were at the centre of this

fashion. Famous perfumer’s houses became more established with names such as Gellé Frères, the first perfumers of Marie-Antoinette and Jean-Louis Fargeon who took over from Gellé Frères. Farina invented the first ‘Eau de Cologne’ in 1732.

Napoleon and Josephine in the 19th century spent fortunes on perfumes and Josephine introduced exotic fragrances with cinnamon, vanilla due to her Creole origins. However, at the same time, the romantic trend had appeared and the British focused on light, feminine and discreet scents. British perfumery had to remain discreet in terms of perfume creation due to a Parliament Act of 1770 establishing that ‘any marriage based on seduction and on abuse of strong scents, make-up, high heels and corsets would fall under the law against witches and low morality and be declared void’. However, Creed, established in 1760, became the perfumer of Queen Victoria.


reproduction) and the first aldehydes (citrus notes with an animalistic background).

From 1900 to the 1990’s, famous perfumers’ houses proliferated with Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden. Aldehydes were used in all perfumes to give energy and freshness. After the 2nd world war, Dior launched ‘character fragrances’, adapting to men or women’s own style. Designer fragrances became popular. In the 1950’s, the first Eaux de toilette for men appeared with vetiver and lavender used extensively in the grooming routine (Vetiver by Guerlain was a popular one) and the first American fragrance was launched by Estee Lauder. Chanel no.5 became the sexy perfume, promoted by Marylin Monroe who declared that ‘she could not sleep without no.5’. In the 60’s and 70’s, the hippy movement gave way to the use of patchouli and the search for enlightenment is at the origin of ‘Eaux fraîches (fresh waters)’. The late 70’s and 80’s years were marked by ‘lifestyle’ fragrances and new notes were created such as marine notes and fruity notes.

From 1990 to 2000, perfume trends have been marked by wars, AIDS and a need to get away from the materialistic world and to return to Nature. Fragrances evoked sea, earth, plant and flowers and refocus on the basics: earth, fire, water and wind. On the other hand, perfumes link more to childhood memories and tend to link the sense of taste to the sense of smell with creamy sweet notes of vanilla, caramel, and chocolate. • Currently, the trends are divided in 2 categories:


Fragrances for the youth and the commercially oriented client with ‘


’ which are usually created very rapidly and focus more on the packaging and

marketing than the quality of the fragrance. They are created in as little time as 1 week and their lifespan is short. The main objective is ‘making money’ by having it endorsed by a celebrity.


Fragrances for the eco-citizens such as ‘


’ and


’ fragrances as well as fragrances based on the

exploration of oriental and floral notes for men. Those fragrances are called ‘floriental’ and are usually appreciated both by men and women.


The ‘vintage’ fragrances are limited editions and are treated like a good wine in a good year. Those include



including the return of



of a blend of fat ingredients such as beeswax and jojoba and presented in beautiful and luxurious containers.

There is a trend towards rediscovery of real scent sensations of green forest, rainforest, spices, using only essential oils, absolutes and resins distilled or extracted through classic alembic. Natural perfumers are in the ‘niche market’ of perfumery with clients turning to them to have their own bespoke fragrance made which will not be found on the high street. The Natural perfumery trend has been growing to the extent that big perfumer’s houses and perfume critics are now recognising Natural perfumers as

competitors and as major players in their industry (whereas a few years ago, we were seen as ‘hippies’!). Recently the famous Forbes Magazine has placed one natural perfumer, Mandy Aftel, as one of the 7 biggest bespoke perfumers in their 100 list.



• Fragrances are classified in olfactory (or perfume) families, each of them having a sub-family:






Based on a woody, mossy, floral accord, which can include leathery or fruity notes as well, chypre perfumes have a rich and lingering scent. Created by Coty in 1917. Based on an accord of cistus labdanum, oakmoss, patchouli and bergamot. Very classic and sexy.

Examples: Fuel for Life Cologne for women by Diesel; Mitsouko by Guerlain; Knowing by Estee Lauder; Cuir de Russie by Chanel

SUBFAMILIES: Floral (rose and jasmine) and fruity


An accord based on one or more aromatic herbs, such as sage or rosemary.

Examples: Fleur du Mâle Cologne by Gaultier; Fuel for Life Cologne for men by Diesel


- Fougere accord (lavender, geranium, oakmoss), - Aquatic (cedar, fir, musk, blackcurrant),

- Fresh (rosewood, vetiver), - Rustic (pine needle, ginger)

Citrus Citrus

Citrus oils, known to perfumers as "Hesperidia", are the key elements in this family that includes all "eaux fraîches".

Examples: Verbenas of Provence by Jo Malone; Eau de Cologne Impériale by Guerlain

SUBFAMILIES: Aromatic (thyme, tarragon, basil, mint)

The light and fresh character of citrus notes such as bergamot, orange, lemon, petit grain and tangerine is enriched by aromatic, woody and spicy accords.

Examples: Eau de Citrus by Molinard; CK One by Calvin Klein

SUBFAMILIES: Aromatic (tonka, iris)

Floral Oriental

The large floral family includes all fragrances with a flower or bouquet as their main theme.

Examples: Joy by Patou; J’adore by Dior; Blonde by Versace; Chanel no.5; Amarige by Givenchy

SUBFAMILIES: Green (galbanum), rose violet, tuberose,


Aldehydes: Animal, powdery or slightly woody

Spices, wood and vanilla harmonize to create intense and sophisticated perfumes.

Examples: Elegance by Lacoste; Intimately Beckham Night for him; Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford; Vintage Edition by Kenzo

SUBFAMILIES: Fougere, spicy, woody;


Oriental Woody

Where warmth meets sensuality. Musk, vanilla and precious woods with a touch of tropical flowers and spice.

Examples: Shalimar by Guerlain; Must by Cartier; Magie Noire by Lancôme; Bal à Versailles by Jean Desprez

SUBFAMILIES: - Floral (gardenia),

- Spicy (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove), - Vanilla, sandalwood, cedar

- Floriental: spices, resins and flowers

This family brings together perfumes whose key accord is based on woody scents such as sandalwood, patchouli, cedar or vetiver.

Examples: Adventure by Davidoff; 212 Splash Men by Caroline Herrera; Passion Boisée by Frapin; Versace pour Homme


- Aquatic (coffee, cardamom), - Aromatic (thyme, rosemary, sage), - Chypre (oakmoss, labdanum)

- Floral musk (oakmoss, violet, agar wood, patchouli)

- Spicy (pepper, clove, cinnamon)



• Whether natural or synthetic, raw materials in perfumery are essences of flowers, plants, spices, herbs, animal or material which, through their combination and chemical synergy, create a scent. Chemical perfumers use up to 4000 different types of essences and the study of conventional perfumery takes up to 4 years, focusing on chemistry as well as labelling, marketing, health and safety.

• Natural perfumery does not use as many essences as the focus is on the chemistry of natural essential oils. The perfumer’s ‘palette’ contains approximately 500 essential oils, absolutes and concretes. Some commercial fragrances still contain essential oils although in minimal quantities due to their high cost and low yield (for instance, it takes 4 tonnes of rose petals to obtain 1 kg of rose essential oil. Hence the current cost of £7000 per kg). Nowadays, most of the perfumes sold in stores are composed of synthetically reproduced fragrant notes as mass-market would make it impossible to sell with a profit. Natural perfumers, on the other hand, do not mass-market and are thus in a position to principally focus on the quality of the fragrances and use only natural essences. • Whether natural or not, a perfume is composed of notes blended together

and creating a new scent which can be of any of the olfactory families. These are:

o Top notes: these correspond to the first notes you smell when the perfume bottle is opened or the fragrance put on the skin. Also referred as ‘silage’ to explain that it is in the ‘wake of’, leaving a scent trail behind. Those notes are volatile and do not stay nor last long. They are usually citrus notes such as bergamot, lemon, orange, grapefruit; green notes such as galbanum and for a floral perfume can be flowers such as lavender, ylang ylang, gardenia.


Middle notes (also called ‘heart’ notes): these represent the HEART of the fragrance and usually have a long lasting power as their

combination has been worked for longevity. These are the notes which will still come up after the top notes have disappeared and when the base notes have appeared. They can be either floral notes such as ylang ylang, rose, jasmine, carnation, iris, tuberose, osmanthus, lily, gardenia, geranium; spice notes such as clove, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander


pepper or green notes such as all the aromatic herbs including rosemary, thyme, peppermint as well as pine and juniper berry.


Base notes: These are the last notes one smells when the rest of the fragrance has gone. Also called the ‘


’ notes which occur within one hour and are the final characteristic of the fragrance with which one must be comfortable since they stay longer. They are very important in a composition as they act as a fixative of the whole fragrance and can balance or enhance some of the heart notes. The base is generally composed of woody notes, tobacco notes, musk

notes, leather notes, animal notes and balsamic notes (examples are vetiver, patchouli, rosewood, sandalwood, Ho wood, Peru balsam, tonka bean, myrrh, oakmoss, cedarwood, vanilla, benzoin and for the animal notes, castoreum, civet, hyraceum, deer musk and ambergris. Nowadays, all the animal notes are synthetic although we still find Copyright notice:


natural castoreum, hyraceum and ambergris since their extraction process does not involve any harm on animals (those are ingredients naturally excreted by the animal and collected for perfumery


The combination of these notes create a fragrance and it is the percentage of concentration in the alcohol or oil which will determine the type and strength of the fragrance:

o Concentrated or pure perfume: Until the 1950’s, perfumes were available as ‘extracts’. An extract is usually composed of up to 40% concentration diluted in alcohol or vegetable oil. Today, major

perfumers’ houses do not produce extracts. These can only be found from natural perfumers.

o Eau de parfum: Typically contains 15 to 20% fragrance in alcohol. The scent is richer and usually has a longer lasting power. Women use it for special occasions.

o Eau de toilette: When the fragrance is diluted with distilled water in the alcohol, it is referred as an ‘Eau’. The Eau de toilette is the most classical type of fragrance, with the potential to be worn easily

everyday and on any occasion. The concentration is typically 8 to 10%. Aftershave for men is part of the Eau de toilette group.

o Eau de Cologne is a lighter, fresher fragrance, usually aimed at refreshing during the day. Its name derives from the city of Cologne (Köln) in Germany where the Italian perfumer, Jean-Marie Farina

created a new fragrance named after this city where he had just moved at the beginning of the 18th century. This Eau de Cologne was then bought by the Muehlens family who decided to name it ‘4711’, corresponding to the house number of their residence in Cologne, on the eve of the French revolution. An Eau de Cologne typically contains 3 to 5% fragrance. Splash for men is part of the Eau de Cologne group. o Eau fraîche (fresh water) is a very modern version of fragrances. It

contains about 3% concentration and its purpose is a light, youthful and easy-to-wear fragrance that can be sprayed over and over again. Perfumes ‘signatures’ are based on ‘accords’, a harmonious blend of several ingredients that echo one another: The major accord in the fragrance sets its character: An example is Shalimar by Guerlain whose theme is a classic oriental accord based on jasmine-benzoin-labdanum-patchouli and musk.

This is why perfume making is often associated to ‘musical composition’ as the harmony of notes creates a masterpiece.




• Essential oils and essences derive from the extraction of the essence of a plant, a flower, leaves, wood or a resin aiming at reproducing the

characteristics of these components either to be used in perfumery or as a flavouring aroma and for medicinal purposes.

• The extraction methods vary from traditional ones producing essential oils to modern and advanced ones using chemical processes producing

synthetic molecules.

1. Expression

Expression is the process used to extract the essence from citrus fruit. The fruit bark is separated and pierced and mechanically pressed (cold process). The extract is settled then filtered on wet paper to separate the water parts from the oils.

2. Distillation

Distillation allows the separation of solids and all the volatile components through steam. Alembics are used to heat the blend of scented components and water. The water steam moves the scented elements through a distillation column and are then cooled off and finally collected in a vase. With

settlement, water is separated from the elements named ‘essences’.

3. Solvent extraction

This method consists of adding a solvent in the vegetal components. This solvent will extract the scents. Traditionally called ‘enfleurage’, this was done ‘cold’ with fats such as lard. The result was pomades or scented oils. These fats have today been replaced by volatile solvents such as hexane, ethanol or carbon dioxide which are heated. Then, they are eliminated through evaporation, isolating a wax-like matter called ‘concrete’. The concrete is blended in alcohol, heated, cooled off and purified. Once the alcohol has evaporated, the result is an ‘absolute’.

4. Enfleurage

Cold enfleurage is the most ancient method which is very rarely used today due to the lengthy time it takes and the low yield it produces. It was

traditionally used for fragile flowers such as orange flowers, tuberose and jasmine. Petals were hand collected and placed in fine layers on animal fats spread over a glass plate (called chassis). Every 24 or 48 hours, petals were removed and replaced with fresh ones. These operations continued until saturation of the fats. The resulting scented pomade was scraped and washed with wine spirit to produce infusions.

5. CO2 extraction

CO2 is placed under pressure with a temperature below 40°C and goes

through various stages until it becomes liquid and becomes a solvent as liquid as gas. This ‘soft’ extraction method is excellent to obtain pure olfactory Copyright notice:


substances with low volatility and works well on dried raw materials such as woods. The CO2 is recycled inside the system and does not pollute. It is a non-harmful gas which can be released in the atmosphere.

6. Synthetic molecules

After many years of research, once a new molecule has been selected, very sophisticated methods are implemented to produce it in big and stable quantities. This manufacturing process can be lengthy and include various operations including chloration, distillation, hydrogenation, etherification… It is the complexity of chemical reactions combined with the various stages

needed which influence the costs of a synthetic raw material.

7. Headspace technique (or NaturePrint®)

Headspace is a recent technique allowing to ‘capture’ the essence of a plant without the need to produce this plant extensively, particularly for plants in remote countries such as certain spices or fruit. It is also used to capture the essence of some plants which naturally smell gorgeous but that cannot be extracted through the more traditional methods as they will not give up their smell. These include flowers like Lily of the Valley or violet. The essence is captured directly from the fresh flower, and then researched in laboratories with various extracts created. These are assessed against gaseous

chromatography and mass spectrometry. Once these data have been analysed, the subtle and complex scent is reconstructed.




• 1 clean space • 1 notebook and pen • labels

• pipettes

• 1 measurement cylinder (10 ml or higher) • Blank copies of perfume pyramid

• 1 set of top notes essential oils* • 1 set of heart notes essential oils* • 1 set of base notes essential oils*

• Carrier oil (jojoba or fractionated coconut) or alcohol • A set of 30 ml amber or clear glass bottles

• Dry instant coffee in a cup to clear your nostrils


You don’t need to have any knowledge on chemistry in order to create a natural perfume but you do need a high degree of intuition and a sense of smell.

You also need to know those oils which have to be handled with caution due to their photosensitivity potential or their potency as you will have to use their sparingly in order to avoid any allergic reactions. You can find interesting information about the potential reactions of some essential oils on the following website:

As a reference basis, a balanced NATURAL perfume is usually composed of1:

- 30-40% top notes

- 20-50% heart notes

- 10-30% base notes

Some perfumers might argue that the highest percentage should be the base notes. This really depends on your likings as too many base notes might give a heavy and woody scent, not appreciated by everyone.

In the next paragraph, I will give you an example of what this means when using drops or millilitres.



* See the table of notes in the ‘starter kit’ page to determine those notes

11Commercial perfumers state that the percentage is 25% top notes, 30% heart notes and 50%

base notes. In natural perfumes, I found that there was a need for more top notes. However, the percentages can be altered according to the oils you use as long as you try to keep a balance. Copyright notice:



The ingredients to make perfumes can be very costly. I advise to start with the basic list below. Once you have got acquainted to how the oils blend together, you can then add the more expensive ones to create fabulous perfumes, fragrances, candles and any product in which you want a scent.

I also use essential oils a lot in my cooking. This is where I find my inspiration. Just think! For instance, basil and lemon or cardamom and coffee are great in food and drinks. When you experience, try to find your inspiration somewhere. It can be your garden: observe how some flowers seem to blossom more next to some rather than others.

Another example is that you don’t find gardenia next to lavender in the tropics. You can try mixing them together but you will notice that lavender tends to be a flower of its own and to take over. If you are going to mix them together, watch your quantities.





Chamomile PeppermintRosewood

LemonYlang ylangSandalwood




GrapefruitJuniper berryCedarwood

GalbanumGeraniumClove bud






• 20 drops bergamot • 15 drops lemon • 6 drops ylang ylang • 12 drops rose • 15 drops patchouli • 15 drops sandalwood • 3 drops Cedarwood • 1 drop vanilla • 15 ml jojoba oil

• Optional: 2 drops agar wood


Typically, 20 drops = 1 ml

If we use the balanced perfume basis (50% top notes, 30% heart notes, 20% base notes) the total number of drops in this example is 100 i.e. 5 ml


Bergamot + lemon + ylang + rose = 53%


Patchouli + sandalwood + cedarwood = 33%


Frankincense + myrrh + vanilla = 14% Total = 100%

Although the top notes are less and the heart notes are more, the balance is still observed.

You can increase, decrease or add your favourite essential oils to this base. For instance, if you’d rather have a more floral heart, then you will have either to add one of the top floral notes in the heart too or another one of your choice. You could add 10 drops of ylang but in order for the perfume to be balanced, you then need to increase the quantity of one or several of the top notes.

The ‘silage’ of the perfume i.e. what you smell when you open the bottle is a blend of citrus and flowers. It gives place to a woody oriental heart which ends with a scent of incense and vanilla. This is what will remain the longest. In order to ensure a lasting scent, we have added 33% of blend in the jojoba oil.

In the next chapter, we work out the percentages to blend your base with a carrier oil or alcohol.

To make a big quantity, just multiply the number of drops by the quantity desired. Over 30 ml, I suggest you start using millilitres as a reference, bearing in mind that the 20 drops to 1 ml is only a guide as some oils (absolute or resin ones) are thicker so you might have to increase the percentage.

Some perfumers use grams and in the US, they use cups but it depends on what you feel comfortable with.



So now, you have prepared your base and you want to create your final perfume. First, you need to determine what you want it to be:

• An Eau de Cologne • An Eau de toilette • An Eau de parfum • A pure perfume • A solid perfume • An aftershave

Then, you must decide whether you want it in alcohol or oil. In the next paragraph, we are going to discuss each possibility and work out the percentages needed according to your preferences. But first let’s talk about the alcohol.

Alcohol makes it easier to fix the perfume on the skin and also acts as a preservative, allowing the perfume to have a longer shelf life. Whereas in France and many European countries, it is generally quite easy to get a 100 ml bottle of 90% alcohol from the chemist’s counter, in the UK, regulations make it extremely hard to obtain alcohol and the only available ones are grain alcohol such as vodka. Nothing prevents you from trying with grape alcohol such as Cognac but the presence of sugar in those will make it more difficult to finish the fragrance.

For your homemade perfumes, I recommend using vodka at a minimum of 47% volume. The higher the volume, the easier it will be to create your perfume. You might be able to obtain a small 100 ml bottle of 90% alcohol from a doctor or NHS worker if you know any or otherwise, if you decide to make a business out of it, you can request a license from HM Customs and Excise but then you need a special storage place for health and safety regulations. Some alcohol licensed distributors do produce perfumer’s alcohol at 94% volume which is denatured alcohol used by perfumers.

The more straightforward way is to go back to the old system of using carrier oils. The Ancients used olive oil but in the modern days, jojoba or fractionated coconut oils are used due to their long shelf life as they are renowned for their natural antioxidant properties. Almond oil is also a nice alternative but it is recommended to add some Vitamin E in this type of carrier oil. The beauty of oils is that they do not alter the smell of your blend and tend to last longer on your skin as they penetrate through the skin upper layers.




‘Eau’ means water in French. However, a genuine Eau de Cologne does not have water. The major difference between an Eau de Cologne and a Perfume is the percentage of alcohol used with the blend. In a nutshell, the more alcohol, the lighter and the less lasting the blend will be. This is why some fragrances are fit for evenings, others for working and others just for daily use in order to freshen up.

Often, the Eau de Cologne is renamed ‘After shave’ for men although many so-called aftershave fragrances also contain witch hazel (Hamamelis water), renowned for its soothing properties against razor burn.


• 12 drops petitgrain • 7 drops clary sage • 18 drops orange • 18 drops lemon • 5 drops bergamot

• 15 ml alcohol or carrier oil • 1/4 csp glycerine

FOR AN AFTERSHAVE, add • 18 drops mandarin

• 4 drops coriander • 5 drops patchouli • 3 drops vanilla

Typically 1 ml = 20 drops

The typical percentage for an Eau de Cologne is 8-15% blend in 100% alcohol. Commercial perfumers prefer a percentage of 3 to 5% but this is usually due to cost-effectiveness. But if you wish a lighter version, then you can stick to the commercial perfumes percentages. In the traditional methods based on natural essential oils, the fragrances are usually not so long lasting as there is no synthetic additive to fixate the scent. The purpose of the Eau de Cologne is to refresh.

Now, if you add some vetiver, patchouli, mandarin, coriander and vanilla in the example blend, you end up with a lovely aftershave or unisex fragrance.

The typical percentage for an aftershave is 10 to 15% blend in 100% alcohol. If you want to use witch hazel to protect the skin against razor burn, use 60% alcohol and 40% witch hazel. In our example, you would use 30 ml alcohol and 20 ml witch hazel.

The glycerine is used as a fixative to make the smell last longer but it is also helping to eliminate the sensation of dryness caused by alcohol on the skin. Besides it has some anti-oxidant properties for a longer shelf life. Note that

glycerine is never used in carrier oil. Isabelle’s tip!


When using carrier oil instead of alcohol, do not hesitate to double the top notes as the oil tends to absorb top notes quickly and make the scent more volatile.




• 30 drops ylang ylang • 12 drops patchouli • 12 drops sandalwood • 2 drops jasmine • 4 drops rose • ¼ csp glycerine

• 15 ml alcohol or carrier oil • 10 ml distilled water • 2 ml rosewater


The Eau de toilette is the most classic way of using perfume as a daily fragrance and in the day time. It is well suited for those people who do not like strong smells as it is more discreet than perfumes.

The typical percentage for an Eau de toilette is 18-30% blend in alcohol. In natural perfumery, it really depends on the blend itself. I typically add 30% blend in the alcohol as it allows the perfume to last longer. However, this process is quite expensive if you intend to make a business out of natural perfumes.

For your creations, I advise you to visualise your perfume and how you want it to smell like before starting. It will help your intuition. You need to get acquainted with the way oils blend with each other. Smell them and write notes about how you feel about them, what they remind you of etc.

Note that because of the distilled water and rosewater, your blend will look blurred to start with. Put it in the fridge for a couple of weeks to allow it to settle and then, filter until clear (see Technicalities for the filtering process).

Learn to create accords which you can then blend together to make a perfume. For example, blend 6 drops of oakmoss to 1 drop of vetiver to obtain a chypre base accord.

Isabelle’s tip!

Use the soaked filter paper to make a room fragrance: place them in a blend of alcohol and water and leave to macerate for a few weeks. Place in a sprayer and spray your house with your favourite scent! An example of genuine ‘recycling’…





The difference between an Eau de parfum and a concentrated perfume is the percentage of blend used in the alcohol. In a concentrated perfume, the percentage of blend is high and because this concentrate is so expensive, you will usually see pure perfumes contained in small 5 to 15 ml bottles at a very expensive price.

Both are usually worn for evenings out or special occasions although Marilyn Monroe was renowned for wearing her expensive Chanel no.5 while sleeping! Eau de Parfum and perfumes also have animalistic bases such as civet, musk or ambergris or leather ones such as agar wood and birch. The animal bases are difficult to find in their natural state nowadays due to the cruelty on the animals (civet or deer) so tend to be replaced by synthetically reproduced ones. The ambergris essence is the most commonly used. It is a natural stomach rejection from the sperm whale which does not involve any harm to the mammal. The excrement is washed out by the sea on the sand and over the years, gives a strong smell to this most precious ‘stone’. The natural alternative to ambergris is vegetal ambrette seeds. Agar wood is a leather note most commonly known in the famous ‘Cuir de Russie’ perfume by Chanel, based on the Cossack leather boots rubbed against birch tree.

One way to ensure your perfume is strong and long lasting is to tincture your favourite base note in alcohol and let it macerate for at least 3 months. For instance, if you like sandalwood, tincture 10 ml of sandalwood in 100 ml of alcohol or carrier oil. Then, you add your perfume blend into it and let it macerate again. You will end up with a tenacious perfume since the alcohol itself has been impregnated with the oil. This same process is used with ambergris.

Solid perfume is fashionable again. It used to be the way to make perfumes

before alcohol started to be used. The simplest way is to buy the ‘concrete’ extracted from the flower (this is the butter which comes out the first expression of the flowers through the enfleurage process). For instance, you can blend 10 g of rose concrete with 20 drops of sandalwood. Solid perfume is used a lot in the Middle East as it is alcohol free. It also offers the benefit of being able to smell your favourite flower in its purest state.

There are more complex ways to create a solid perfume which is to blend jojoba oil with beeswax and the perfume on heat but I am in favour of remaining as close as possible to what nature offers unless you have a lot of space and special pots and pans for making perfumes in your kitchen.




In order for your perfume to have a longer lasting power and to ensure it is cleared off any residues, you will need to chill and decant your perfume.

The CHILLING process allows all the residues to get to the bottom of the bottle so that all you need then is to filter and decant. To do so, once you have made your perfume and added the alcohol, place it for 24 hours in the freezer. Note that this process does not apply to perfume with a vegetable oil base.

After 24 hours, take it out and let it sit in room temperature. You should see residues at the bottom once it has warmed up.

To FILTER, you have two options:

• The most straightforward is to place a filter (a tea filter paper folded in two is ideal but you can also use a thin wall coffee filter) in a funnel (do not use a big funnel as you might loose more perfume) and slowly pour your

perfume into the funnel and decant in a new bottle. The residues will remain in the filter. The problem with this process is that sometimes, the essential oils are so thick that you might need to filter several times before you get a clear perfume (since the residues will keep on transferring when you decant). Some perfumers use Fuller’s Earth to ensure the residues go to the bottom of the bottle and stay.

• The other option requires more precision but ensures that residues remain at the bottom of the bottle. It is not suitable if you use bottles of over 50 ml content. Using a pipette, take out the top part of the product and transfer in the new bottle. Make sure your pipette does not touch the bottom of the bottle so that you don’t fill it with some residues.

Whichever option you use, note that you will have some loss of product. So if you wish to fill in a bottle of 50 ml, you should actually prepare 55 ml of product, for example.



Ingredients • 10 drops grapefruit • 8 drops bergamot • 8 drops rose • 12 drops oakmoss* • 2 drops cedarwood • 8 drops labdanum • 30 drops benzoin • 3 drops vanilla

Note: these last three oils are the base to create a natural amber accord + 10 ml jojoba or fractionated coconut or 20 ml alcohol


The Chypre family is the most flexible one in perfumery as it can give sensual or sophisticated, masculine or feminine perfumes. This is the family of the French classic perfumes such as Mitsouko of Guerlain or Ma Griffe of Carven or Aramis Eau de toilette for Men. The base is accords of oakmoss, cistus-labdanum, patchouli and bergamot, to which floral or fruity notes can be added.

For a great and addictive masculine fragrance, I suggest adding 5 to 10 drops of vetiver to obtain a classic Chypre vetiver (Guerlain’s one is the most famous) or 5 to 8 drops of sandalwood for a Chypre sandalwood.

For a feminine fragrance, the creativity is unlimited. Add a few drops of floral essential oils to create a typical early 20th century Chypre perfume. And if you

would like a slightly smoky result, add 3 drops of cinnamon leaf in the end.

This base is both easy and complex to play with and it guarantees very interesting results while being fun to create. In order not to waste too much of the expensive essential oils, start adding small quantities, smell and add until you like the final result. You are free to add as many oils as you want to this base but beware of those oils such as jasmine and tuberose which tend to overwhelm the rest.

NOTE: Nowadays you can find fruit smells reproduced naturally as ‘extracts’ (you can find some in supermarkets). Adding a blackberry or raspberry extract to the Chypre base will result in a savoury sweet and fruity perfume.

When using alcohol as a carrier base, add blackcurrant bud to give a sweet, fruity smell to the

Chypre base.



Once you have got acquainted with the basics, you can start experimenting with the rarest oils (but also the most expensive ones). Below is a list of those used in fine and luxurious perfumery. Their high price makes them unique and nowadays, they are rarely used in perfumery which is a real shame since they can add so much more to a perfume. In the comfort of your home and for your own personal use, it can be an idea to acquire some. I also give you the name of a couple of websites on which you can purchase your oils. For rarer ones, you are free to contact me as I have access to some ‘professional’ producers/suppliers.

• Acacia

• Agar wood (Cambodia)

• Australian and Indian sandalwood

• Blond tobacco

• Blue cypress

• Bourbon geranium (Reunion island)

• Broom

• Carnation

• Davana

• Freesia

• Gardenia Tahitensis (Tahiti flower)

• German chamomile

• Inula

• Japanese osmanthus

• Jasmine sambac (India)

• Magnolia (champaca)

• Mimosa

• Narcissus (very rare)

• Neroli (Tunisia)

• Orris absolute

• Pink lotus (Asia)

• Rhododendron

• Rose de Mai (centifolia rose from Grasse)

• Rose otto (Turkish Anatolia rose)

• Rosewood

• Spikenard (Amerindian plant)

• Tonka bean (vanilla smell with a coconut undertone – also known as ‘coumarin’ and found in pipe tobacco)

• Tuberose

• Violet leaf (Egypt and France)




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