Making perfume is an easy, relatively inexpensive hobby, and knowing how to make perfume can have many varied uses: it makes an excellent gift and also helps a person create their own, unique scent.
Perfume is generally made with a mixture of essential oils or fragrance oils, an alcohol base (such as vodka or Everclear. For the more professional perfume maker, specially denatured ethanol is used), and distilled water.
While we may refer to fragrances as a whole as 'perfume', they are really referred to with different names depending on the concentration of scent within the fragrance (the essential oil to alcohol-and-water ratio). Perfume, also referred to as parfum, contains the highest concentration of scent, with 30% to 50% being essential oils; 45% to 65% being the alcohol base; and 0 to 5% being distilled water. Eau de parfum contains 15% to 20% essential oils; 70% to 80% alcohol base; and 5% to 10% distilled water. Eau de toilette, also referred to as a body splash, contains 5% to 10% essential oils; 75% to 80% alcohol base; and 10% to 15% water base.
A well-rounded, harmonious perfume contains these three notes: the top note, middle note, and base note. The top note of a fragrance is the scent you smell first; it also evaporates the quickest. The middle note has a medium strength; it is used as a balancer for the scent, and pulls the different elements together. The base note is the strongest scent in its staying power; after the top note has evaporated, the middle and base notes are what remains. A general rule of thumb for top-middle-and-base note ratio is 3:2:1.
There are literally hundreds of different types of essential oils, and so figuring out which would be base, middle, or top notes can be confusing. As such, the following is a list of the most common essential oils for each of the three groups:
- Base notes: oakmoss, vanilla, benzoin (will offer a vanilla scent), peru balsam (will offer a vanilla type scent), sandalwood, jasmine, patchouli, vetiver, frankincense, myrrh, cedarwood, pomouwood, cabreuva, fokenia wood.
- Middle notes: lavender, geranium, clary sage, neroli, rose, jasmine, tuberose, ylang ylang, ladanum, cypress, ho-wood, ho-leaf, cinnamon, clove bud, basil, nutmeg, petitgrain, chamomiles.
- Top Notes: all citrus scents, including (but not limiting) bergamot, orange, lemon, lime, mandarin, grapefruit.
Now that the explanation is over with, on with the fun stuff: actually knowing how to make the perfume. If this is something you'd seriously like to do, go to a health food store or other equivalent that sells essential oils. Choose between five and ten different essential oils, keeping in mind ones that would smell good when mixed, the desired tone of the perfume, etc. Essential oils usually come in 1 oz. or 1/2 oz. bottles, and vary in price from around $6 all the way up to $30 and sometimes more, depending on what kind of oil, what quality, and what store you buy it from. On another note, it is also possible to buy essential oils from respectable websites (just search on google or go to eBay) at a very reduced price.
Next, you need to get a few more supplies: go to your local liquor store and ask if they have Everclear firewater. If they don't then the highest proof vodka should be bought; just a small bottle is needed. You will also need a plastic dropper for measuring; glass-and-rubber droppers will work if you can't find an all-plastic one, but some essential oils can actually corrode the rubber and you don't want chunky perfume. Also, a glass bottle with a plastic spray mechanism or lid will be needed, preferably of blue, brown, or green glass.
So now you have your alcohol, your bottle, your dropper, your essential oils... now what? Well, this is actually the tricky part. Picking which oils you want to use can be difficult and a little daunting, to say the least. A good way to test which oils smell best together is to put a drop of each of the oils you are thinking of using for one perfume on a paper towel, together. This will help you gauge how much stronger/weaker each needs to be in the mixture, and if they are actually compatible. If not, use a new paper towel and try again.
When you've chosen the oils you wish to use, pour the appropriate amounts of alcohol and distilled water into your glass bottle. Then, start adding your essential oils. Add the base note(s), then the middle and then the top. Add drop-by-drop and smell your mixture after every 5 drops or so. And always be sure to write down exactly how much of each oil you used; therefore, you can recreate it if you like your final result.
After you're done adding essential oils to your alcohol-and-distilled water base, cap the bottle tightly and shake, then place in a room temperature (68° to 72° F) area out of direct sunlight. For two weeks, just let it sit and be sure to shake it every day. After the two weeks are up, the perfume should be ready for everyday usage!
You may notice that your perfume smells slightly different than when you first made it; this is because the scents start to blend. This is a good thing, as it creates a more harmonious scent. Also, it's a good idea to shake your perfume before every usage, because the oils, water, and alcohol can start to separate, and some essential oils can stain clothing. If your perfume separates, don't worry; you didn't make it wrong, that is just the nature of the beast.
As far as perfume recipes go, there are many different websites which are easily accessible and have very reliable recipes to choose from. Also, the above method can be applied to making more than just perfume; mild scents that contain chamomiles and lavender make wonderful linen sprays, and floral scents can make great house sprays! And as with anything crafty: Enjoy yourself. This is utmost in importance.
And, of course, personal knowledge
I've been asked if I've developed any particular perfume recipes of my own. Generally, I just like to make sprays with one essential oil... simplicity simplicity simplicity, I suppose. I have, however, made one recipe for a friend of mine which uses vanilla, ylang ylang, and bergamot. Just make your alcohol-and-water base, then add the oils in a 2:3:1 ratio. The ratio is different than for most base:middle:top note ratios because vanilla and bergamot are very potent. Vanilla makes a great base; it's long-lasting, and many many people like its scent. Ylang ylang is my favorite floral scent, because it has a sultry--but not overpowering--scent to it; it is pleasant, and settles well, like jasmine. And finally, bergamot is my favorite citrus scent. It is rich and full; it almost smells like orange, except not as fruity. It is very powerful, so you might even use less than one for the above recipe ratio, depending on your taste. But in addition to this recipe, and why I personally enjoy it, I can't stress enough how many reputable websites have recipes for perfumes; all you have to do is use a search engine to find them. They are reliable and updated constantly, and often have recipes from hundreds of different people who actually use the website, as well, not simply those who own it.