What are the ingredients of a awesome perfume kit?
October 20, 2011 11:42 AM   Subscribe

What supplies & book should I get for an adult that wants to get started making their own perfumes? I'm looking to spend around $75 for everything.

I've seen the little "crafty" kits at stores, but they don't seem to be put together well - the components are subpar. I'm looking for high quality components.
posted by Brent Parker to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You want to look for "perfumers alcohol" although Everclear or even vodka will do. You also want oil-based scents, either synthetic or essential oils. You will want at least two disposable eye droppers, more for more scents so they don't mix in the original single-scent bottles, or in the alcohol. You want blue, green, or amber glass bottles so the oils aren't degraded by light.

You can find all this stuff by searching for "soap making supplies" because the sites usually sell more than soap supplies, and there is some overlap. I wish I could remember the name of the place I used to get my stuff... something like Wholesale Supply Plus? Along those lines. It was very cheap.

To make a perfume mix together the oils into a smell you (they) like, and dilute it down with alcohol until it's as strong as you like; 25 to 30% oil for a perfume, usually, but you can go lower.

Oh, and you might want some perfume spray bottles. Read reviews carefully because many leak.
posted by Nattie at 12:14 PM on October 20, 2011

If you are worried about component quality, you only need to worry much about the oils, by the way. Most supply sites will have info and reviews about the oils, but personally "does it smell good and doesn't degrade" is as far as quality goes, short of concerns about organic, non-synthetic, that sort of thing.
posted by Nattie at 12:16 PM on October 20, 2011

The folks on the DIY board at Basenotes.net can answer all your questions. I believe that Essence and Alchemy by Mandy Aftel is a book that is frequently recommended there.
posted by matildaben at 12:53 PM on October 20, 2011

If you want to make the kit really fancy, you can add some nice adhesive labels and a permanent ink pen. The labels you can probably find at any craft store. Health food places often have essential oils, but these are sometimes already diluted with carrier oils. You may want to consider at least a trio of oils, so that there's a basenote (heavier, often earthy, woodsy or incensy lingering scent), middle note (the main component, often a stronger floral, herbal or medium-bodied earthy scent) and top note (the lighter, more effervescent scent that you pick up first. Sometimes a citrus, light floral, fruity or 'green' scent). Some oils will be insanely expensive and difficult to find if you only want natural components. Rose oil, for example, is almost always diluted. The true pure essence (called rose otto or attar of rose) could set you back quite a bit. Aura Cacia rose otto, for example is about $48 for 0.13 oz

I use vodka to dilute my oils, but the resulting liquid separates like salad dressing. When I shake up the bottle for use, it turns cloudy. It doesn't affect the scent, but if you want the resulting perfume to look nice, be aware of this.

The more disposable droppers, the better. Prevents cross-contamination of the scents.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 2:06 PM on October 20, 2011

I bought two amazing kits from The Perfumer's Apprentice and not only are they loaded with very good quality essential oils, but they're really great teaching tools. I can't recommend them enough. The two kits I bought are the Beginners Perfumery Set and the Natural Perfumery Beginner's Kit. I learned of the kits initially via a mention in the Essence and Alchemy book matildaben mentioned above, which is also invaluable and should be in every perfumer's library.
posted by iconomy at 2:16 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you have a hard time getting ahold of disposable pipettes, coffee stirrers -- the tiny straw kind -- work well, too. Just put your finger over the top and extract at will :]
posted by fiercecupcake at 3:05 PM on October 20, 2011

CB I Hate Perfume sells some pretty interesting accords, but they're kinda spendy.
posted by jeb at 3:11 PM on October 20, 2011

When I took a class in making natural perfumes, two of the books the teacher recommended most highly were Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume by Mandy Aftel and Perfumes, Splashes & Colognes: Discovering and Crafting Your Personal Fragrances by Nancy Booth.

The studio I took the class at also sells the class handouts for people who can't attend a class in person, in case that might be useful.

And if you haven't seen the second episode of the BBC show Perfume, which features Christopher Brosius (of CB I Hate Perfume), it's well worth watching: Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4. (The other episodes are also interesting, but the marketing-speak made me twitchy and I laughed out loud at the shot of the late-40s marketing person earnestly explaining to the couldn't-be-a-day-over-22 sales crew "what young people want today". The sales crew's efforts to maintain their poker faces were commendable...)
posted by Lexica at 3:44 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Notes and accords can be phenomenally expensive, yes, but there are a lot of indie perfumers on Etsy which makes me think there must be cheaper ways of doing it - even if you're only using a drop or two per bottle, it can't be so expensive that someone can't make a profit on selling a $15 bottle (argh, that was some odd grammar there).

Many of the indie perfumers make perfume oils - 5ml or so at a time - which might be worth looking at. Not sure what carrier oils are used (you'd need this as a) using purely oils is expensive b) it can be overpowering or, in the case of cinnamon, likely to mess up your skin to use these neat).

Also, remember that 'natural' isn't everything - for example, it's impossible to get pure gardenia or iris extract, so every perfume you find with these notes will be made with an accord ie. other or synthetic fragrances designed to mimic the smell.
posted by mippy at 5:10 AM on October 21, 2011

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