Category Archives: DIY

Making Perfume – Working with Thick Aromatics

Monday - 30 September 2019

Making Perfume: Working with Thick and Pasty Aromatics

I have been working with perfumery aromatics since 1976. That’s the year I began to seriously study perfumery with the aid of a few rare books and the assistance of two retired perfume industry sales representatives. I had already been collecting essential oils and absolutes for hippie fun, but that year I got serious about making perfume.

At that time, I hadn’t come across labdanum, tonka bean absolute, myrrh, and some of the other thick and pasty aromatics. The thick ones, as I’ll call them from here out, are impossible to pour, or use with a dropper. When I did come across them, the perfume reps taught me about diluting* aromatics to work with them, both the thin, pourable stuff and especially the thick, difficult-to-work-with ones. *Dilution is the subject of another blog and is taught in Module one of my course.

I remember my jaw dropping when I read a perfumer recommend something like “50 drops” or labdanum in a “recipe”. Impossible! (and amateurish, too). This was about 15 years ago, and I was already using diluted aromatics to make my mods (modifications are the name given the experimentation with aromatics when composing perfume alternatives).

The typical way to make the thick oils more fluid was to heat the bottle they were in a bain-marie aka a water bath. What is a bain-marie? An invention by Maria the Jewess in ancient Egypt adapted for modern culinary and in our case, perfumery work. In the culinary world, custards, cheesecakes, and other foods are either cooked in or kept warm in, a pot containing water.

I typically used a “coffee cup” warmer with a borosilicate beaker on it that contained water up to about the halfway mark on the aromatics bottle. Messy and dangerous.

A Wonderful Revelation in Working with Thick Aromatics

So, for years, artisan perfumers were placing the bottles of myrrh, fir balsam absolute, oakmoss absolute, etc, into a pot of hot water. You had to pay careful attention that the water didn’t get too hot, and VERY careful when you removed the bottle from the water to pour the aromatic. Use a potholder, and make sure not one drop of water got into the receiver bottle, or the aromatic would be contaminated. A lot of scary, potentially dangerous work.

I have been teaching distance-learning perfumery online courses since 2007, pioneering both the concept of learning natural perfumery outside of the classroom, but more importantly to me, sharing decades of workarounds and introducing modern techniques to aspiring perfumers.

Bottle of aromatic in hot rice to liquify so it is pourable.

Four ounce bottle of thick labdanum absolute nestled in hot rice

A few years into the course, in the student forum where we all chat, a student shared a brilliant idea about an alternative to using a bain-marie. Michael Singles suggested that fill a bowl or beaker with rice, heat the rice (two minutes seems to be a good time) in a microwave and then insert the bottle into the rice for a few minutes, and the thick oil will liquify. It works beautifully!  I have been on perfume and aromatherapy forums for decades, and had never seen this tip, it was a revelation! BTW, at the time, I didn’t have a microwave, and I heated the rice in a small saucepan on the stove, which also works beautifully.

Snuggling a bottle down into the hot rice

You’ll still need a potholder to handle the hot bottle, but no water is involved, no mess, no fuss! You have to reinsert the bottle into the bowl or beaker occasionally, as it does start to solidify after a few minutes, but what a great relief to have such an easy way to warm oils to make them pourable!

If the receiver bottle or jar has a wide enough opening, you can just pour the aromatic, but you’ll probably find you need a pipette to transfer the oil or absolute.

The rice is reusable, so after you’re done, allow it to cool, and place it in an airtight container and keep it for the next session.

Using a beaker with the hot rice

Using a beaker with the hot rice. Of course, this can be scaled up for a large bottle.

Hot Rice and Stuck Caps

I told a friend I was working on this subject for my blog, and she said she had purchased several bottles of myrrh and couldn’t open them. Myrrh is notoriously thick and sticky, and I guess the cap is fused to the neck of the bottle. In this case, I would recommend burying the bottle in the hot rice and then attempting to open it. If successful, I would recommend pouring the now-liquified myrrh into a *jar*. Suppliers should pack thick aromatics in jars, not narrow-necked bottles, in my opinion. Once in the jar, you should apply a thin layer of coconut oil to the inside of the cap threads, and to the jar threads, as this might help avoid the stuck cap problem in the future.

I hope I have helped readers with this *sticky* problem and saved them having to deal with boiling water and all the subsequent problems that may entail. Let me know if this post has helped you, I know I depend on this method every time I work with thick, unpourable aromatics. This tip has been in the textbook for my Basic Course in natural perfumery since 2010, so there are many using this method. I gladly pass it on to the rest of the artisan community to help y’all out. I’ve shared it in various posts over the years, but recently realized I hadn’t blogged about it. Start heating that rice!

 

 

Homemade Perfume book by Anya McCoy July 31, 2018

Sunday - 1 July 2018

Homemade Perfume Book by Anya McCoy cover

Homemade Perfume Book by Anya McCoy cover

 

Homemade Perfume will be published July 31, 2018! You can preorder now and lock in the price. http://amzn.to/2HG7Bhs

 

This unprecedented, comprehensive guide from renowned perfumer Anya McCoy is an inspiring resource for anyone interested in creating artisanal perfume at home. Discover simple step-by-step methods for making perfume without harsh chemicals. Jump right in, using local plants and common household ingredients. Soon you’ll be building your own scent collection and creating unforgettable gifts for friends and family.

This book covers a variety of techniques for capturing fragrances from natural materials, making it easy to choose the project that works for your schedule and experience level. Source your own organically grown botanicals, and enjoy the earth-friendly benefits of creating your own essential oils and extractions sustainably.

Make your own all-natural perfumes, room and linen sprays, body butters, massage oils, and more. Explore the nuances of scent blending to create delightful fragrances that are unique to you. Packed with easy methods and expert guidance, this book will become an indispensable reference as you grow into a confident scent designer.

Homemade Perfume book

Monday - 16 April 2018

I’ve spent over forty years  extracting fragrance from plants, blending those extracts and purchased essential oils and other fragrant materials into perfume. Not just perfumes, but also sprays, body butters, and bath and body scented products. With the publication of Homemade Perfume on July 31st, all of my experience is in one book for everyone!

I wish I had this book when I started working with herbs and fragrant plants year ago, and I know you’ll appreciate the detailed information in my book, me passing my hard-earned knowledge down to you. You can pre-order the book on Amazon so you’ll get it immediately after the July 31, 2018 release date by following this link.

(Read to the end of the blog to discover the giveaway)

Homemade Perfume Book by Anya McCoy cover

Homemade Perfume Book by Anya McCoy

Capturing the Fragrance of the Garden

The self-satisfaction of tincturing or infusing that gardenia bush, or preserving the scent of the lily-of-the-valley plants that spring up each year, only to fade is something a DIYer, perfumer, crafter, soapmaker, or just lover of fragrance can enjoy after reading Homemade Perfume.

How about turning the peonies or tuberose blossoms into an indulgent body butter or solid perfume? The book is the first of its kind to give detailed instructions on how to do this, and much more. Don’t have a garden with fragrant plants? Well, I hope to encourage you to either start growing them, or seeing with your family or friends or neighbors might be willing to share.

There are also instructions on how to extract the scent from fragrant botanicals that you can purchase, such as coriander seed, vetiver, patchouli, and rosebuds (to name a few). These can easily be made into room sprays, oil or alcohol perfumes, and other scented delights.

I’ve done this for years, and now you can, too, with guidance and detailed instructions. Help lessen the burden on the Earth by growing your own! Sustainability and self-reliance are satisfying goals, and my book will help you with both.

Willing to get ambitious and start distilling, making essential oils or hydrosols? You’ll find what will – or will not – work.

Perfume Making Techniques and Instruction

Best of all, I share basic perfume making techniques. You’ll learn how to evaluate and record your impressions of the scented extracts, and how to start constructing a perfume, room or body spray, etc. I do teach an advanced course, but for someone not planning to go into the business of making perfumes, Homemade Perfume will give you the knowledge of how to create fun and fragrant projects.

Table of Contents for Homemade Perfume


HOMEMADE PERFUME BOOK TABLE OF CONTENT PAGE 1

HOMEMADE PERFUME BOOK TABLE OF CONTENT PAGE

HOMEMADE PERFUME BOOK TABLE OF CONTENT PAGE 2

HOMEMADE PERFUME BOOK TABLE OF CONTENT PAGE

HOMEMADE PERFUME BOOK TABLE OF CONTENT PAGE 3

A Book for all Growing Zones

I live in Miami, and enjoy the beauty of ylang ylang trees, frangipani, champacas, and other tropical beauties you probably never have experienced. It’s been decades since I breathed in the beauty of lilacs, linden trees, or fresh and lively conifers – so we’re even!

Homemade Perfume is written with a mix of all types of plants, from all zones. I supply a table that will allow you to select the type and duration of processing necessary for your plant, in your zone. Have a delicate flower like mock orange? That’s covered. Thick, leathery leaves? Covered? Roots or wood? Don’t worry, you’ll have the hand reference table to help you.

Forty plants are profiled in the book for further reference, and the type of fragrant part of the plant will be covered, so you can yes, find if it’s in your garden, or area, and follow the instructions for a successful scent extraction.

Other Sources for Supplies – Supplied!

I grow a lot of fragrant plants, and have a cabinet filled with my extracts, but of course, I have to buy supplemental essential oils and absolutes to round out my perfume organ. No linden trees here, no pinyon pine, so I have reputable suppliers I depend on for obtaining these oils. The appendix in the book lists these suppliers, plus alcohol, bottle, and many other items you may need.

Giveaway

Dear Readers, it’s time to spread the news about Homemade Perfume! Please do two things: Leave a comment, and share this blog post on your social media. Leave me a note about where you shared it: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.

I’m also asking if you can preorder the book on Amazon to help the search engine rating for it. You might think, why do that if I might win a copy? Well, you keep the signed copy and give the Amazon book to a friend! Win all around!

What if you’ve already preordered? You might win a signed copy, and yes, give the preordered copy to a friend. I’d still appreciate your comments and sharing!

Five helpful readers who do this will be in a random draw for a signed copy of Homemade Perfume when it is published. I would love your help in spreading the news about my book, truly the first of its kind. So many years and so many experiments went into it! Deadline for the commenting and sharing on social media is Sunday, April 22, 2018, Earth Day. Isn’t that appropriate? 🙂