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Basic Perfume Making


The strength of your aromatic liquid depends upon the ratio of essential oil to water and alcohol. Perfume is the strongest formulation and should comprise 15 to 30 per cent essential oil with the remaining 85 to 70 per cent being between 90 to 95 per cent alcohol and 10 to 5 % water. This is shown more clearly on the chart that follows:

Type of Aromatic Liquid / % of Oil / % of Alcohol

Perfume / 15-30 / 90-95

Eau de perfume / 8-15 / 80-90

Eau de toilette / 4-8 / 80-90

Eau de cologne /3-5 / 70

Splash cologne / 1-3 / 80

The essential oils should be used neat – that is to say, they shouldn’t be diluted in vegetable oils or anything else. Perfume always contains a percentage of water, even if this is as little as 5 per cent of the whole, and you should use distilled water (available from pharmacies)

Here is the recommended list of base notes for feminine perfumes or colognes. As you can see, these are usually roots, gums or resins:

Feminine Base Notes: Balsam de Tolu, Balsam de Peru, Benzoin, Cedarwood, Cinnamon, Frankincense, Guaiacwood, Heliotrope, Labdanum, Melliot, Myrrh, Oakmoss, Olibanum, Opoponax, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Styrax, Tonkabean, Vanilla, Vetiver

Next we have the oils which are found in either base or middle notes; they could make good bridges between the two – depending upon your overall formula, of course.

Feminine Oils – Base or Middle Notes: Cedarwood, Cinnamon, Frankincense, Heliotrope, Myrrh, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Styrax, Vetiver

Feminine Oils – Middle Notes: Carnation, Cassia, Clary-sage, Clove bud, Geranium, Ginger, Hyacinth, Jasmine, Jonquil, Lemongrass, Linden, Marjoram, Mimosa, Narcissus, Neroli, Nutmeg, Orchid, Oriental rose, Pahna rosa, Pimento berry, Pine needle, Rosa cendfolia, Rose Rosewood (Bois de rose), Thyme, Tuberose, Violet flower, Ylang-Ylang.

Feminine Oils – Middle or Top Notes: Bay, Cassis, Clary-sage, Hyacinth, Marjoram, Mimosa, Nutmeg, Neroli, Palmarosa, Rosewood, Thyme.

Top notes are the most volatile – that is to say, they evaporate the most quickly and are, therefore, the ones you smell first of all. They gradually evaporate and leave the middle notes which eventually fade and reveal the base notes. You could think of the whole process as a love affair: the top notes represent the excitement of love at first sight, the middle notes (or ‘heart notes’ as they are known in the perfume trade) grow on the heart, and the basic notes make it a long-lasting affair.

One reverses this order when actually making the perfume, so that the top notes are your final flourish, so to speak. Use several essences, or just one, from each list to formulate your own perfume – and, we hope, love affair!

Feminine Top Notes: Angelica, Anise, Armoise, Basil, Bergamot, Cardamom, Chamomile Roman, Coriander, Cumin, Estragon, Galbanum, Juniper berry, Lavender, Lemon, Lime, Mandarin, Marigold, Neroli, Petitgrain, Tagetes, Spearmint

The exact formulas of the world’s most famous perfumes are a dosely guarded secret but we do know a little about them. Joy, from Jean Patou, advertised as ‘the costliest perfume in the world’, contains rose and jasmine – but what else and in what proportions remains a fact locked away in a Swiss bank.

Arpege, by Lanvin, is a blend containing rose, jasmine, iris, lily of the valley, vetiver and sandal-wood – and more besides. Jicky, a perfume that suits both men and women with its sporty scent, contains lavender, lemon and bergamot – and that’s as much as we know.

But perfumes are usually composed of several ingredients and their base, middle and top notes are themselves quite complex concoctions.

When making colognes for men follow the same procedures as for making perfume, although the concentration of essences will be far less.

Male Oils – Base Notes: Bay, Benzoin, Cedarwood, Cinnamon, Frankincense, Moss, Myrrh, Oakmoss, Olibanum, Sandalwood, Styrax, Tonkabean, Vanilla, Vetiver

Male Oils – Base to Middle Notes: Bay, Cedarwood, Cinnamon, Myrrh, Patchouli, Pimento berry, Sandalwood, Vetiver.

Male Oils – Middle Notes: Angelica, Anise, Artemisia, Basil, Caraway, Cardamom, Carnation, Carrot, Clary-sage, Clove, Coriander, Cumin, Galbanum, Geranium, Ginger, Jasmine, Juniper, Lavender, Mandarin, Marjoram, Neroli, Nutmeg, Oregano, Orris root, Pepper (black), Peppermint, Pettigraine, Pine, Rose, Rosemary, Rosewood, Sage, Tarragon, Thyme, Ylang-ylang.

Male Oils – Middle to Top Notes: Angelica, Basil, Bay, Caraway, Clary-sage, Coriander, Lavender, Marjoram, Nutmeg, Oregano, Pepper (black), Pimento berry, Rosemary, Rosewood, Tarragon, Thyme.

Male Oils – Top Notes: Anise, Artemisia, Bergamot, Cedar leaf, Cumin, Galbanum, Juniper, Lemon, Lemongrass, Lime, Mandarin, Neroli Orange, Peppermint, Pettigraine, Sage Verbena.

You can see from the preceding lists that fragrances one might consider to be exclusively ‘feminine’ actually feature very strongly in male preparations. The difference between male and female fragrances does of course depend largely on the ingredients, and by scanning the male and female lists you can see where these differences lie.

But another important factor is the proportion of each oil used, and to come to a fragrance that perfectly suits you will be a matter of experimentation. Although the marketing of male products relies heavily on macho images such as the martial arts and predatory animals, the fact of the matter is that the products themselves contain delicate ingredients such as lavender, bergamot, lemon, lime, orange, jasmine, carnation and geranium.

As with the female products, these are, of course, used in addition to synthetic and animal products, which by making our own we are going to do without.

First make your concentrate using the information that has gone before or following one of these formulas:

Eau de Cologne Formulas


Bergamot 10drops
Rosemary 2 drops
Lemon 10 drops
Orange 2 drops
Orange 20 drops
Neroli 2 drops<


Rose 4 drops
Lemon 2 drops
Orange 2 drops
Basil 1 drop
Neroli 1 drop
Pettigraine 1 drop
Bergamot 2 drops


Palma rosa 10 drops
Orange 8 drops
Pettigraine 3 drops
Lime 2 drops
Geranium 1 drop

Pour your essential oils into 70ml of 100 per cent proof vodka, stirring slowly but long enough to ensure complete dispersal. Leave it to stand for forty-eight hours and then add 30ml spring water and, again, stir slowly but enough to ensure a thorough mixing is taking place.

The mixture should be left to stand now for at least another forty-eight hours, but the fragrance will be much stronger if you follow the procedures of the perfume trade and leave the liquid for four to six weeks.

After letting the liquid mature, for however long you decide that shall be, pour it through a paper coffee filter and bottle. If you find the aroma too strong, the eau de cologne can be further diluted by adding more spring water and mixing well.

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One Response to Basic Perfume Making

  1. women's perfume March 5, 2010 at 3:06 am #

    I have been making homemade perfumes since last year as a hobby. But I haven’t created a perfect scent that would appeal to my senses. I’m still exploring other techniques to get the right scent. Thanks for this post! It helped me a lot.

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