Essential Oils: Understanding Notes When Making Perfume

When planning to make your own perfume, it’s important to understand the basics. When we think of expensive perfume, we automatically think of France, since France is the perfume capital of the world. Although the French did not discover perfume, they were the ones that turned making perfume into a Science.

While the perfumers in France were not the original creators of perfume, they were the geniuses that figured out a way to make the fragrances last longer than a few minutes. Their method was by layering the different fragrances. They started using the three layers that we now call “notes.”

If you’ve never made perfume before, you may not know the importance of using the different notes. For the best fragrances, you can’t just throw together several essential oils and hope for the best. Some fragrances are stronger and longer lasting than others. Knowing what essential oils are in each note group will help you to make some beautiful and interesting creations with your perfume. Notes are what make up the difference between perfume and cologne.

Perfumery is a science.  Today’s perfumes are made with synthetic copies of essential oils as real oils would be too expensive to use in the mass production of perfume.

You will find most perfumes on the market today are diluted with alcohol and water. In your own laboratory, you may also want to use oil to dilute your perfume, although using alcohol will make them last longer.  As you begin to blend your fragrances, you will want to experiment with a variety of different aromas.  Most perfumes fall into one of the five categories:

* Woodsy

* Floral

* Oriental

* Spicy

* Citrus

It takes a bit of experimenting with essential oils to get the scent that you want.  Making perfume is definitely an art and, like any art, the result will depend on the time, inspiration and imagination that go in the product. Perfume is seldom made with just one fragrance. They’re usually a blend of up to three or more fragrances. These fragrances, in the perfume world, are called “notes.” Perfume consists of base notes, middle notes and top notes.

Base notes, usually the backbone of the perfume, is what the users will remember most about this particular fragrance. This scent of base notes will last the longest in the air. Examples of base notes are Vanilla, Sandalwood, Lichens, Cinnamon, mosses or other woodsy scents. The middle notes are usually the inspiration for the perfume and often a floral scent such as Geranium, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Lemongrass or Neroli. Top notes are usually the selling point for the perfume as well as the first name listed. Common top notes include Rose, Lavender, Orchid, Lemon, Bergamot or other citrus or herbal scents.

As with any good creation, it’s combining the right mixture of ingredients that counts. Using notes that go well with each other will give you a beautiful fragrance you’ll never tire of wearing and your friends will never tire of smelling. Your friends will constantly be asking you what you’re wearing and where you got it. Imagine their surprise when you tell them it’s your own creation!

One of the keys to successful perfume making is in mixing the right blend. Don’t just assume because you happen to like two different fragrances that they’ll make a good mixture for perfume. Before you waste a lot of time and money on essence oils, make some samples. Although making your own perfume is a lot cheaper than buying perfume, essence oil can get costly as well.

If you’re considering blending a couple different oils together, put them on a cotton swap or perfume tester strip and let them sit overnight. In the morning, check out what they smell like and if you’re pleased with the results, you have your new perfume fragrances and you’re ready to start creating your own masterpiece!

A.  The Base Oil (Base Notes) – This will produce the scent that stays longest on the skin and for this reason it is usually added to the mixture first. Some of the fragrances with a base note include: Sandalwood, Vanilla, Patchouli, Cedarwood, Clove, Cinnamon, Mosses, Lichens, Ferns and Frankincense.

Base notes are what you smell after about 30 seconds of applying it to your skin. The based and middle notes are what make up the main fragrance of the perfume. However, for a perfume to be successful, they must have a combination of all three notes.

B.  The Middle Oil (Middle Notes) – This also influences the smell of the perfume for quite some time, but not as long as the base notes does. Some of the fragrances with a middle note include: Lemon Grass, Geranium, Rosewood, Neroli, Jasmine, Rose, Hyacinth and Ylang-Ylang.

Middle notes are what we smell when the scent from the top notes disappears. It is generally considered as the heart of the perfume and often server to cover up any unpleasant scents that may come from the base notes. This scent often evaporates after 15 seconds.

C.  Top Oils (Top Notes) – This is added to the mixture after the middle notes, and may then be followed by some other substance which will help to bridge the scents together. Some of the fragrances that are top note include: Orchid, Rose, Bergamot, Chamomile, Lavender, Peppermint, Lemon, Orange and Lime.

Top notes are the scents that you smell as soon as you apply it. If you’ve ever sprayed a perfume in a store, the smell you get immediately after spraying is coming from the top notes. The top notes, although they quickly evaporate, are what give us our first impression of a perfume.

Your fragrance will contain one or more from each of the above categories: base note, mid note and a top note. Some perfumers recommend using a four note, a bridge notes such as Lavender or Vanilla. The bridge is what will help the other three blend together well and is often Vitamin E oil, Jojoba oil or carrier oil, which you can get at a health food store.

The top note is the first to evaporate on your skin.  It is also the first impression that you have of the fragrance.  The mid note stays on a little bit more and the base note is what will remain on your skin for hours.

The base note will react with your skin to form a scent of its own.  This is why no two perfumes smell exactly alike on any two people.  It is also the reason why you should test out a perfume for about a half an hour by putting a dab on your wrist, doing your shopping and then taking a sniff to see if you still like the scent.

It is very important that when you are making perfume, you mix the extracts in the above order starting with base, then the middle and finally adding the top note. Typically, you add equal amounts of each type in order to produce the right sort of perfume.

The nice thing about using “therapeutic” perfumes that you make yourself is that the essential oils can actually help heal anything troubling you, or even give you energy, while also giving you a pleasant scent.  Because regular perfumes they are made with synthetics, they cannot boast of this power.

When using pure essential oils, there will be quite a difference to ratios when making perfumes, however, and are meant to be used sparingly.  For instance, you will dilute the perfume with one tablespoon of carrier oil or alcohol to about 30 drops of essential oils.  As you can see, the ratio between essential oils and either carrier oil or alcohol is almost equal.

For floral notes, use Rose, Lavender or Geranium.  For woodsy notes, you can use Sandalwood, Myrrh or Frankincense.  For Oriental notes, use Mandarin, Jasmine or Ylang Ylang.  Spicy notes can be Ginger, Neroli, or Nutmeg.  The citrus notes are Orange, Lemon, Lime and Grapefruit.

It takes a bit of experimenting when mixing blends at home. Perfumery is an art unto itself and takes years to practice.  Perfumers today still practice this art and make scents that fail.  It is all a matter of personal taste and seeing what blends well with what.

One nice perfume recipe that you can use is very simple and combines woodsy with oriental:

Basic Perfume Recipe – Oriental

1 tablespoon Carrier oil

15 drops Sandalwood Essential Oil

5 drops Jasmine Essential Oil

4 drops Ylang Ylang Essential Oil

This particular fragrance is a very romantic perfume!  Perfumes were commonly used as aphrodisiacs to attract a mate.  This one is no different. It has a unique scent with a pleasant base note, but again, perfume scents are very subjective.  Be sure to experiment a little before you decide to open up your own perfumery.

For this perfume, you will only want to use just a dab on your wrists and behind your ears to carry the scent with you throughout the day.  Because the essential oils are so concentrated in this blend, you do not want to use too much.

There is an old saying that your perfume should not walk in the room before you do.  You want people to remember a pleasant scent, not be overpowered with fragrance.

In addition to being a pleasant perfume, the above aromatherapy fragrance also works to promote energy as well as putting you aiding in creating a romantic mood. Both Jasmine and Ylang Ylang are powerful aphrodisiacs, so only use this blend with caution.

You will find the recipe listed above is also beneficial for relaxing as well. The benefits of using aromatherapy in your own perfumes are the following:

* Completely natural products and non toxic

* Have healing powers as well as a pleasant fragrance

*You can have a scent that no one else has (don’t underestimate this one – there are people who pay plenty to create their own scent at perfumeries in Paris).

* Much less expensive in the long run.

The disadvantages?  You have to play around with scents for a little bit before you hit on what you like.  Make sure that you write each ratio of every essential oil used in a particular scent as nothing can be more frustrating than actually coming up with the fragrance of your dreams and then not remembering how you ended up making it.

Keep in mind, when making your perfume, that you can mix and match different essential oils to get the scent that you want. The purpose of using the specific notes is to ensure you have a fragrance that’s not only appealing but one that lasts as well.

For more information about how to make perfumes using essential oils, please visit my website to purchase my bestseller, The Art of Making Perfume.

11 thoughts on “Essential Oils: Understanding Notes When Making Perfume

  1. The flowers are essential for perfumes. Most of the perfumes of spring essential ingredients of the flower which exudes freshness with natural fragrances. The mixture of perfume in the perfume of flowers creates attraction that often leads to the identity of the flexibility and charm.

  2. Pingback: Medical Laboratory Technician » DIY Perfume 101: 25 Tips, Videos & Articles to Learn to Create Your Own Fragrance

  3. I plane to start making perfume for a friends. I am a chemist and this is very interesting for me. I got important information from you. It will help me more. My friends have a shop of perfum where I am making the perfume simple mixing athanole,Consontrate and sundal chaina.

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