Tag Archives: how to make perfume

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

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? 🙂

Professional Course in Perfume Making 15% off Through February 28, 2015

Thursday - 12 February 2015

As a university professor, I wanted to provide a perfumery textbook for my students at the Natural Perfumery Institute. In 2010, this became a reality, and is the first ever perfumery textbook produced in the USA. The course is comprehensive, professional, and will give the student a firm foundation in perfumery, whether you stay with the all-naturals theme of the book, or use aroma chemicals. The techniques taught in the book apply to all forms of perfumery.

Natural Perfumery Institute cover. Textbook written by Anya McCoy.

Natural Perfumery Institute cover. Textbook written by Anya McCoy.

My background in artisan perfumery is focused and covers several decades of perfume creation, teaching, marketing, and community building. In 2013, I became the first artisan perfumer inducted into the American Society of Perfumery, in recognition of my long career and accomplishments in the field. I want to pass the skills I have amassed over the years on perfume making to you. Creating a textbook that works with unique, professional record forms, charts and ancillary materials was necessary to provide the best education.

I am offering 15% off the fee during February 2015. Pay via PayPal and the refund will be issued immediately. Please visit the course website by clicking here, and choose between the Independent Study or Private Tutorial option. If you have any questions about the options, please contact me. I urge you to take advantage of this offer and move forward in your quest to learn how to make perfume. If you know of someone who is interested in studying perfumery, please forward this to them, or share on social media, so they can obtain this course at a great savings.

Learn how to dilute aromatics, use a scale, and work with professional evaluation forms to record your impressions.

Learn how to dilute aromatics, use a scale, and work with professional evaluation forms to record your impressions.

Surprise! A Natural Perfumery Treasure – Free Online

Tuesday - 1 July 2014

(Update — Thanks to the three readers who did find it downloadable on this site at http://krishikosh.egranth.ac.in/bitstream/1/2031806/1/27102.pdf ) I will be so excited tonight when I get to draw the name of the winner of the print copy of the iconic natural perfumery book Natural Perfume Materials by Naves and Mazayur (1947). It was at the bottom of p. 40 where I found a passage on powder enfleurage that inspired my experiments and the giveaway. Click here to read more, including specific instructions on how to accomplish powder and vapor essence enfleurage.

But it just gets better! I began to search around the Internet, hoping to find a .pdf version of the book for sale, because although I love to hold a book in my hands and flip pages, moving back and forth as I research, a .pdf version is great for searching specific terms, and quite speedy. I didn’t find a .pdf, but I did locate a free Adobe Flash version of the book, and it’s great. The pages can be enlarged, the contrast is crisp and clear, and it is searchable. Cllick here to read the book, bookmark this site for your online library, and enjoy this vintage book, full of incredible information and history. I love sharing information about perfumery, and although I realize you may not wish to study perfumery, you may enjoy delving into the processes by which these lovely botanicals are turned into gorgeous essences. You may also have someone in your life who is interested in studying perfumery, and this book will be a great aid to them. My best wishes for enjoyment with this book!

PS Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog (right column) and subscribe to the individual blog you are commenting in, to ensure you get follow up comments.

Illustrations and Table of Contents from Natural Perfume Materials by Naves and Mazuyer

Illustrations and Table of Contents from Natural Perfume Materials by Naves and Mazuyer. Click to enlarge.

How to Make Your Own Perfume Professionally

Wednesday - 18 June 2014

I get frequent emails from potential students who want more information about the professional course I offer at the Natural Perfumery Institute. It’s all about them wanting to learn how to make their own perfume, and what it entails. There is no short answer: even though my course is systematic, professional, and guarantees you will learn how to make perfume, the path is still different for each student.

trio3ml-blue-copyright-mccoyThe secret to perfume making is that there is no secret, and no reason to hesitate in blending if you are given a firm foundation. A few years ago I was speaking with a good friend, now passed, the late perfumer Alec Lawless. He also taught perfumery, and we were comparing notes on what we observed with potential students that wrote us, asking how to make perfume, what would the course do for them? Many had, to that point, been self taught, with an admittedly hit-or-miss approach, and wanted to step up and learn a system. They sometimes said they were intuitive perfumers, and couldn’t replicate some things, and ran into dead ends with experimentation.

Alec had a different method of teaching than me, and we both were self-taught, but we found we had one thing in common: we had assembled our knowledge into a systematic, replicable, scientific manner. A manner in which the students could find out about ratios, assays, iterations, modifications, and a number of other organized approaches. We both believed that by numerous repetitions of proven methodologies, gathered from different schools of perfumery, it was akin to a musician taking a course in music theory, which would propel them to the next level. With education, knowledge “clicks” into place.

Then, the student/perfumer is able to be a bit intuitive. They’ll know how to experiment, take notes, formulate hypothesis about a certain accord, or perfume, and work it out successfully.

That, hopefully, is the future of artisan perfumery. There will be an upswing in professional methodologies, a learned system, and the ability to be a freethinker – with roots planted firmly in the ground.

I have a number of successful artisan perfumers as students. They realized at a certain point that they needed a framework of knowledge in which to improve their skills, and my course provides it for them. Sign up and move up the levels I designate in the course: Contextual, Certain, and Active. The students are excited as they see the milestones of learning achieved, then surpassed. It’s my goal to provide the most professional, comprehensive course in natural perfumery, and I believe I have succeeded.

Ask the Perfumer Sunday Forum on How To Make Your Own Perfume

Sunday - 8 June 2014

The Ask the Perfumer Forum is open for questions on how to make your own perfume today. I’ve been spending so much time on the Facebook page for my upcoming book Perfume From Your Garden, answering scent extraction questions, I felt a need to open up perfume making discussions here. I’ll be here until 10 PM tonight, ET USA, June 8, 2014, so please place your questions to me in that timeframe.

Working with, or wearing natural essences is a healthy choice. Want to study this healthful art? http://PerfumeClasses.com

Working with, or wearing natural essences is a healthy choice. Want to study this healthful art? http://PerfumeClasses.com

A little about my background as a perfumery instructor: In 2007, I developed a community based, professional natural perfumery course for those who cannot travel to study.  This was the first course of its kind, and I pioneered many techniques for students, including making dilutions for initial study, using scales, organoleptic evaluations and many more. I wanted this to be the best course available to those who cannot travel to study, perhaps due to finances, job and family commitments, or maybe health reasons. If any of these factors apply, this course is for you, especially if you’re looking for an instructor who has decades of perfumery experience. A few students have told me they took the course because they’re very reserved and didn’t want to be immersed in a real-life classroom setting where they would have to participate.  I understand this personality type, and I have found many natural perfumers to be reserved or shy, and I nurture them, as I have for eleven years on the Yahoo Natural Perfumery group I started and host, and in my Ask the Perfumer Sunday forum.

After studying perfumery on my own, from classic texts since 1976, I launched the first USA-based natural perfumery line in 1991, and since then have won dozens of awards for my perfumes.  What the bloggers who gave these awards didn’t know is that behind the scenes, I developed the first textbook for natural perfumery.  Not a handbook or manual, a fully-realized, illustrated, full-color, professionally-edited textbook.  It is copyrighted and is in the Library of Congress.

Textbook cover for the Natural Perfumery Institute basic course

So what do the students enjoy besides my expertise and wonderful textbook?  Well, there are two options, the value-priced $500 textbook Home Study, or the $2600 Online Interactive option.  The Online Interactive is for the student who feels they need one-on-one guidance and the ability to consult with me on an perfumery question, exercise or assignment.  Both options provide dozens of professional forms, charts and illustrations to make perfumery understandable and organized.  Both options also allow the student to be a part of the discussion forum – for life.  Adjunct faculty, students and myself take part in the forum.

You'll need to know specific gravity to make quantities of perfume.  The NPI is the only NP course that teachs SG

The convenience of distance learning is valuable for all the reasons stated above, and the companionship of the worldwide network of others in the forum is a treasure that will allow you to develop you skills.

Please visit http://PerfumeClasses.com and consider the premier online distance learning course for natural perfumery. Don’t forget to check out the testimonials, a tiny sampling of the many I receive for the course.

Anya McCoy

Founder and Head Instructor