Sunday, 27 October 2013

Make Your Own Perfume - The Magnificent Perfume Making Experiment, Part 4, The Result.

 The view from my apartment at 10am, a very grey Manchester.

Last night the clocks went back, this seasonal shift arrived in collaboration with a morning of grey be-fogged rain. It’s exactly the kind of autumnal gothic horror that I wrote about when I began to compose my first perfume making experiment. It’s timely that today, the day I proclaim it ‘finished’, is a drab Mancunian soak-fest. If you recall my intention, it was to make a perfume that possessed a sparkly top note and a sense of ‘light’ through it, to counteract the sense of entrapment that comes to those who suffer with light depravation in the dark months - the fragrance equivalent of Vitamin D. As a reminder, click here to read the first article.
I am delighted to say that I think it works!

Here’s the recipe to make roughly 35 ml (I know that’s a bonkers size but that’s how it worked out). 
EO = essential oil, PF = synthetic from Plush Folly

6 drops of Grapefruit (EO)
4 drops of Petitgrain (EO)
8 drops of Bergamot (EO)
18 drops of Rhubarb (PF)
15 drops of Aldehyde 2 (PF)

3 drops of Orris (PF)
5 drops of Ylang Ylang (EO)
15 drops of Rosewood (EO)

12 drops of Vanilla Bourbon (PF)
10 drops of Atlas Cedar (EO)
8 drops of Frankincense (EO)
6 drops of Ambrettia (PF)
20 ml of Perfumer’s Alcohol (PF)

So what does it actually smell like? It’s impossible to review my own scent in the effusive manner that I write of the atmospheric effect of others. Though I do know that it smells original. Having experienced a lot of genre mutations recently i.e. amber this, oud that, it smells very different to current trends.  It does however have a slight feel of the Miller Harris creation - Figue Amere if the fig were replaced by rhubarb.

Rhubarb - green, sour and earthy, a delight to smell and eat.

The rhubarb is delicious. It imparts a sourness and earthiness that is recognizably rhubarb. Because it’s used in combination with equal amounts of ‘the green side of’ citrus notes (comprised of bergamot, petitgrain and grapefruit), it has a real sensation of cut sap and oily greenery. The soapiness imparted by the aldehyde softens the zing of the citrus and keeps it from being too acidic.

As the top notes evaporate you are left with a woody, soapy, sappy and (very vaguely) green floral scent where you can’t really pick out the individual notes. I think this is positive as the word ‘seamless’ is often used to describe harmonious scents where notes don’t jar for attention. A base of frankincense and cedar give a little weight to the otherwise flighty volatile quality. Although there is a hefty quantity of Vanilla in here, you can’t really smell it. It acts to ‘smooth’ the scent rather than literally smell of vanilla.

The beautiful (and endangered) tree from which Frankincense is harvested.

In the process of making it, a genuine intuition arose. After many initial experiments, I gained a significant sense of what to drop in next, or what proportions to alter. It was no longer a random trial. This experience has given me a great drive to play at perfumer again, with the next experiment (a woody coffee, as dark as number 1 is light) already sitting in the fridge waiting for my next move. I don’t think Odiferess 1 is a masterpiece. I think it’s a first attempt that’s inspired me to keep going.

The difficulty with creating your own scent is that you are inevitably going to compare it to your favourite perfume. Judged on it’s own merits, I feel Odiferess 1 is a curious and original creation. Hold it up against Mitsouko or Eau de Reglisse and it smells like the pointless kitchen lab foolery of an amateur!

If my experiment has inspired you to play at perfumer, here’s my advice based upon my own experience:

  • Spend money, you can’t truly experiment unless you have enough notes to blend together.
  • Unless you have cash to waste, consider how you’ll use the rest of the ingredients. I burn essential oils at home and make my own candles. My investment will become hand made Christmas presents.
  • Read books. Mandy Aftel’s Essence and Alchemy is practical, informative and entertaining. She writes of the history and culture of scent with grand atmosphere and provides a ‘how to’ guide to creating your own scent.
  • Start with ‘easy’ notes. Notes such as citruses, patchouli and vanilla are really easy to work with. Rare floral essential oils will cost a fortune and be hard to combine unless you know what you are doing, which I don’t. I really wanted to play with undiluted rose absolute and immortelle but managed to reign myself in before committing a frightening credit card transaction.
  • Consider your aim. Are you making it for you and your friends, as a hobby or do you have a real desire to become a perfumer? I came to it from a ‘fun in my kitchen with cool stuff’ perspective so I won’t be devastated if it the resulting perfume is not a ground breaking master work. If you want to become a perfumer there are some restrictive issues to contend with, in particular, finance and EU regulations. You are going to need money and tenacity in addition to a natural ability to blend scent.
Readers, if you have made, or intend to make, your own scent I'd love to hear from you. For those who are inspired to have a go, I wish you a fruitful time!

I’m giving away a small sample of Odiferess 1 to a lucky reader. If you would like to enter the give-away, simply leave a comment below or at the facebook page ( 
I’m so sorry to my international friends but our postage rules here in the UK prevent us sending perfume abroad. Please do join in the comments though!


  1. Well done. I was going to volunteer to run it through the regulations software for you to see if it's legal, but unfortunately I can't do that with the Plush Folly creations, unless you have the CAS numbers.
    Can't wait to give it a sniff.

  2. Ooh Sarah that sounds exciting.. Thank you. I'm sure Plush Folly could supply me with CAS numbers as they sell to legal toiletry/cosmetics makers. However, don't do it on this one. I think I need some more time playing in the kitchen before I decide if something would be worthy of being deemed legal, unless of course you think it's utter genius! I've packaged your little sample, it's on it's way to Tuesdays Towers tomorrow. I wonder, in your own experience as an amateur turned proper, legal and fabulous perfumer, did you have a moment when you shouted Eureka?

  3. Sounds lush - no pun intended, especially in present company! I am pleased to see that Petitgrain made the cut, and I love me a good rhubarb note eg in TDC Bergamote and Ulrich Lang Anvers 2. In fact every note listed in this scent of yours is calling my name. Great job - especially the fact that you got to the stage of being able to tweak it instinctively.

    1. Vanessa, the rhubarb is delish. I adore it, by far my favourite ingredient in this one. It doesn't last long though, it's definitely a top note in it this line up. If I did it again I think I'd lower the aldehyde and up the frankincense.

  4. Hello Sarah, 'scuse me for hijacking a moment: PF Sally, if you spot this, I emailed but I'm not sure my Gmails are get getting past people's spam boxes. But let's see if we can get it organised. :-)