In the sumptuous perfume documentary Nose, the legendary Christian Dior perfumer François Demachy says his job is that of an artisan.“ It requires creativity and intuition,” we hear in voiceover, as we watch him visit the lush patchouli fields of Indonesia to smell one of his favorite aromas at source. “Perfume is, in its essence, a human journey.”
At the farmers’ end of the spectrum, the perfume business is high intensity, low yield labor – hundreds of thousands of rose petals are required to make a few hundred milliliters of its distilled scent, for example. At the other end, the point of sale for the finished product, fragrances are thus notoriously pricey: a typical low-end, shop-bought perfume will cost you around $75, but you’ll pay $1,800 for a limited edition bottle of Jean Patou’s 1930 classic Joy Baccarat, if smelling like a golden age Hollywood film diva is really your thing (and assuming you’re being paid like one).
The seductive power of perfume is timeless and irresistible – who can deny the emphatic potency of a complex aroma, with its ability to transport you to a different plateau of emotion, or an intensely specific moment in time you thought you had forgotten? If you don’t have $1,800 burning a hole in your pocket, despair not – you can make your own bespoke perfumes with essential oils, and they ‘ll be as unique and interesting as you are!
Commercial fragrances contain between 15 and 50 different ingredients, extracted using techniques dating back hundreds of years. Many of these ingredients are essential oils, which are readily available for you to purchase and experiment with. But first, some basic knowledge of perfumery is helpful before you dive in, to help you create fragrances that are held together with a little bit of integral balance:
A good blend of essential oils adheres roughly to a 30:50:20 ratio of ‘top’, ‘middle’ and ‘base’ notes. Top notes, often sweet or citrusy, disappear rapidly in the air; middle notes are the stable warmth of the fragrance; and base notes linger longest, and so need to be used with the most caution.
Our ‘notes’ can be further divided into ‘families’ of aromas, such as citrus, floral, herbaceous, woody, spicy and so on. As a general yardstick, woody oils tend to blend well with all other families, and spicy oils can be overpowering when used in excess. But don’t be bound by received wisdom when it comes to creating your recipes – this is all about the fun of discovery!
For an atomizer:
Choose a 1oz (30ml), dark glass perfume spray bottle, to prevent the light spoiling your masterpiece. Add a teaspoon of witch hazel (or a clean spirit such as vodka) - this will help the water blend with the oils. Add around 30 drops total (you can always add more later) of your essential oils, allowing them to dissolve for a few minutes, then add a half oz (15ml) of distilled water. Shake gently, and leave for a while before applying – your creation needs time to get to know itself first!
For a roller ball /stopper bottle:
Use the same approximate measurements– just replace half the water with a carrier oil such as jojoba.
The world is your oyster but to help you take the first few steps on your exciting new ‘human journey’, here are some of our own perfume recipe ideas to get those olfactory juices flowing. You’re now an artisan – so go create!
Feeling floral? This light, upbeat blend of Lavender, Jasmine and Vanilla oils is alate-summer treat.
· 10 drops Lavender essential oil
· 15 drops Jasmine essential oil
· 5 drops Vanilla absolute oil
If you want to explore citrus notes in your creations, first try this fruity mix of Sweet Orange, Bergamot, Rose and Ginger essential oils.
· 8 drops Sweet Orange essential oil
· 7 drops Bergamot essential Oil
· 10 drops Rose essential oil
· 5 drops Ginger essential oil
Get ready for those Halloween parties with a nutty, spicy blend of Tangerine, Cinnamon and Cedarwood essential oils.
· 12 drops Tangerine essential oil
· 12 drops Cinnamon essential oil
· 6 drops Cedarwood essential oil
Looking to wear something a little more earthy? This sweet but musky blend of Patchouli, Clove, Ylang Ylang and Palmarosa is richly enticing.
· 12 drops Ylang Ylang essential oil
· 8 drops Palmarosa essential oil
· 8 drops Patchouli essential oil
· 2 drops Clove essential oil
Release your inner elf with this woody blend of Scotch Pine, Oakmoss, Vetiver and Lime essential oils.
· 7 drops Lime essential oil
· 9 drops Scotch Pine essential oil
· 8 drops Oak moss essential oil
· 6 drops Vetiver essential oil
Want to turn heads on the dance floor, and ignite some flirty conversations in the chill out room? A blend of Blood Orange, Nutmeg, Ylang Ylang and Sandalwood essential oils with have them leaning in close.
· 4 drops Nutmeg essential oil
· 8 drops Blood Orange essential oil
· 8 drops Ylang Ylang essential oil
· 10 drops Sandalwood essential oil
This blend of Bergamot, Lemon, Neroli and Rosemary essential oils has a tropical vibrancy that will leave a joyful trail.
· 10 drops Lemon essential oil
· 10 drops Bergamot essential oil
· 5 drops Neroli essential oil
· 5 drops Rosemary essential oil
Setting sail for an adventure? Don that fedora, crack that whip, and complete the look with this swashbuckling blend of Anise, Ravensara, Cypress and Peru Balsam essential oils.
· 6 drops Anise essential oil
· 8 drops Ravensara essential oil
· 10 drops Cypress essential oil
· 6 drops Balsam Peru essential oil
You can still smell great while you’re cocooning with a box set. A cozy blend of Petitgrain, Frankincense, Marjoram and Rose essential oils will keep you company.
· 8 drops Petitgrain essential oil
· 6 drops Marjoram essential oil
· 6 drops Rose essential oil
· 10 drops Frankincense essential oil
Thought we were joking about the cuttlefish beaks? Well, try Ambergris for yourself –its considered one of the ‘truffles’ of the perfume world. Blend its essential oil with Kunzea, Plai and Jatamansi essential oils for a perfume that’s deliciously leftfield.
· 7 drops Kunzea essential oil
· 9 drops Plai essential oil
· 9 drops Jatamansi essential oil
· 5 drops Ambergris essential oil
Are you excited about the creative possibilities of essential oil blending? You can see how the LabAroma software tool can help you compare ingredients here.