Intro To Making Perfume

The world's first chemist was a Babylonian woman named Tapputi. Using flowers, oils, resins, and solvents, she made perfume, and in the cuneiform tablet that mentions her, a tablet which is dated at 1200 BC, it describes her using what we, in our present day and age, know to be a still. 

I tell you this so you can understand just what a long, long history perfume has. It is a history that goes back to before Tapputi, so long as you are defining perfume in its most basic sense. It is an interesting, detailed history, one that I am not going to tell you any more about.


 I don't know that you would benefit from having me spew a series of long passages detailing the history of scents and oils across your screen, and I know I certainly wouldn't. So, instead, I'm just going to tell you the absolute basics about fragrances so you can have a go at making your own scents, and I have even included two recipes from my own collection at the bottom.


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First off, there are four basic elements to an oil perfume: heart notes, top notes, base notes, and carrier oils.

I choose heart notes first because I feel that they really are the soul, the heart, of a fragrance. They are the notes that I want to manipulate and amplify. Heart notes are often florals such as rose, neroli, ylang ylang, lavender (though lavender is sometimes used as a top note), and certain spices and greens. 

Top notes are the most volatile oils, they evaporate quickly and are often what give us the first impressions of any fragrance. They are what make fragrances unique and control a lot of our perceptions of a scent. Popular top notes include lemon, bergamot, and black pepper, though black pepper is occasionally used as a heart note.

Base notes are always the majority of a perfume blend, and they are the platform for the fragrance. Base notes evaporate slowly and often linger hours after the heart notes have gone. Popular base notes include cedar, vetiver, and musks.

When making a fragrance, there are two basic structures: pyramid and hourglass.

The pyramid structure is set up as 65% base notes, 20% heart notes, and 15% top notes, while the hourglass structure is set up as 50% base notes, 20% heart notes, and 30% top notes. Both have their virtues, and your choice of structure really depends on what you are trying to achieve with the fragrance.

And because we are using essential oils, we are going to use a 40% essential oil to 60% carrier oil blend. So if your bottle is 5ml, like the bottles that I use, you're going to only want to use 2ml of your pure perfume blend and 3ml of your carrier oil. For carrier oil, I recommend grapeseed oil because it is entirely scentless and does well over long periods of time.

Now that you have a (very) basic understanding of fragrances, here are a couple of perfume recipes that I created and use frequently.

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Rabbit's Foot is an hourglass composition that is simple, quite earthy, and reminiscent of the meeting between a field and a forest.

30% Top Notes: .6ml of the following: lavender, clary sage.

20% Heart Notes: .4ml rose geranium

50% Base Notes: 1ml patchouli

Add 3ml of grapeseed oil when finished.

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Le Grande Serpent is a sharp, deep, melodic scent that I wear maybe three or four times a week. It plays well with other fragrances, particularly fragrances with white florals. It is a triangular composition.

15% Top Notes: .1ml of each of the following: blood orange, lavender, basil.

20% Heart Notes: .2ml neroli, .1ml rose, .05 ml black pepper, .05 ml nerolina, a drop of cognac. (NOTE: for needs of .05 ml, just use two drops)

65% Base Notes: .43 ml of each of the following: patchouli, opoponax, vetiver

Add 3ml of grapeseed oil when finished.