Monday, March 4, 2013

Home-Made / Custom Perfume Experience

This past weekend my daughter and I used a Living Social deal to go to Aroma Workshop and create our own perfume.  It was a fun experience and we made a great day of it. However, I was disappointed in the lack of  science in the process. I had previously been to a perfumer in London that provided a great education and experience in perfumes.
Aroma Workshop Chicago 3/13

In my London experience the perfumer explained that essential oils (which may be synthetically or naturally derived) form the basis of your perfume. Each essential oils contributes a 'notes' of the perfume. A good perfume composition requires base, middle, top and bridge notes.  These “notes” are essentially three different levels of scent, each with varying rates of evaporation. The top note is the most volatile, it's the scent you notice first.  The base note is the part of the perfume that lasts the longest. The middle note linking the top and base notes together, and set the type of fragrance family for the perfume — earthy, floral, spicy, woodsy, etc.  Because the essential oils evaporate at different rates, perfume smells changes as you wear it. Without the base note your perfume will not last. In the London perfumer they systematically walked you through the process of selecting notes, and then weighting blends of up to 10 oils to create your fragrance. They said the best perfumes had roughly equal top and base note percentages and 50% middle notes.  In addition, this shop was expert in understanding from your current favorite perfume, what might be a great blend to recommend for you.



In contrast at Aroma Workshop you are seated in front of approximately 18 essential oils and asked to select those that appeal to you. They are arranged into floral, citris, and "other."  The oils available for selection do not contain higher end items like Rose, Mimosa, Jasmine or Frankincense (at least they were not there when we visited)   There attendant then applies drops of three oils onto a sheet for you to determine which combination you prefer.  From your selection they then dilute with alcohol and bottle your fragrance. There was no discussion of what constituted a good blend or balance of a perfume.  While it was fun - it was not optimal in this and other regards. The shop is very small and overwhelmed with smells - so patrons often go out to the street to get a cleaner smell. As a result - the many patrons that were there at the same time as we were all walked out with Top note only perfumes. :( 

Should you decide to go to a make-your-own perfume workshop, you may want to do some research for your self first.  If you know what you already like it can be easier to experiment in recreating it or improving it. For example, here are the compositions of two of my favorite perfumes that I obtained from basenotes.net fragrance directory:


Opium by YvesSaintLaurent
  • Top Notes - Mandarin orange, Bergamot, Lily of the valley 

  • Middle Notes - 
    Jasmine, Carnation, Myrrh 

  • Base Notes - 
    Vanilla, Patchouli, Opoponaux, Amber

Paloma Picasso

  • Top Notes - Hyancinth, Citrus 

  • Middle Notes - 
    Rose, Mimosa, Coriander 

  • Base Notes - 
    Patchouli, Honey



Essential Oils Section - Whole Foods
If you decide to make you own perfume - the insight into the composition of your favorite perfumes can be a great recipe for starting your fun!  You need to create or acquire your own oils and aromas.  Local health or hobby stores will have a great selection - like the photo below from my nearby Whole Foods.  You can also source rarer items online.  Information on various essential oils is available on Aroma Web.  This will tell you if an oil is top, middle, base. It also provides the most common way the oil is made. This is helpful if you want to make the oils your self. For example, in my post on making orange cooking flavored oil, substitute almond oil for cooking oil and you can then use this in body lotions. To get more intense aromas keep the source of the essential oil in contact with the oil much longer. There is a good overview and approach on how to do that on this blog, although she started from store bought dried herbs  - I would dry my own herbs.  Other sites provide process for water / steam extraction processes.

With the oils you then need to combine and blend. A really great options on making your own perfume at home on wikihow  which include extraction from herbs and oil blending processes.

If you don't have a shop near you to secure these items - not to worry, Perfume Lab online experience will send you your own kit and even make up items to your percentage specifications.


Have fun!

Teresa Marie

PS When I came home from Aroma Workshop I added my favorite base note to my perfume