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  1. #1

    Default A 'hole' in my perfume? Understanding bridging notes questions.

    I have mixed a perfume that I am nearly very happy with, except for two problems. I'm not sure how to solve them without ruining the overall impression. I think I need to understand about bridging a bit better.

    Firstly I have overweighted the base ingredient of cedarwood so it assaults a bit too much at the offset, this rapidly fades away to a nice spicy, woodsy, floral for about an hour or so. Then secondly, there is a blank area in the middle where only Frankincense is showing as a single note for a little while, whereafter the whole perfume 'wakes up again' for a nice gentle drydown.

    I don't quite understand how I can 'lose' most of my ingredients and then have them return. I thought once a smell had faded, then that was the end of it. I am quite pleased with the place just after the cedarwood has died down and also the area at the end.

    If I want to rebalance it, I would expect to up the middle note quantities and lay off the cedarwood a bit. How can I do this without making the overall smell too floral? My middle notes are Jasmine, Nutmeg and Rose in moderate quantities. Top notes are citrusy with galbanum and base notes are Vetiver, woodsy, incense.

    Should I be using a bridging note? What sort of percentages are bridging notes? What kind of smells apart from Lavender and Vanilla are good bridges? Are they something to smell, or something invisible to hold the hands of the smells either side within the whole?

    Sorry, lots of questions here. Does anyone feel like giving any advice as I've got lost?

  2. #2

    Default Re: A 'hole' in my perfume? Understanding bridging notes questions.

    Hmm, I would think that any heart note would be considered a "bridging" note. Nothing beats experimentation. It sounds like you could use a larger amount of florals and spice. Oh, and I've always thought of frankincense as a heart note. Certainly the citrusy aspect of frankincense doesn't last into the base. Perhaps you need less frankincense to keep it from sticking out. Just a few thoughts.

    Good luck

  3. #3

    Default Re: A 'hole' in my perfume? Understanding bridging notes questions.

    Thank you. I hadn't thought of my Frankincense as a mid note in this one. I put some on my wrist and smelt it on it's own all day to see what you meant. The problem I think, is that the one I used in this mix is a very heavy Indian one. Almost fecal in it's intensity without very much citrus aspect. I shall try my other lighter one with a lighter hand. I was worried about making this perfume too floral, but you are right. If I up the spice too, maybe it won't go there. I hadn't thought about an element 'sticking out', but of course that is what is happening. It isn't a hole at all is it?. It's a smell bulge, overpowering the rest.

    Thank you very much for that advice. I was considering so many things that I had got a bit lost about where to go on this one. I am going to remix the same perfume now with more thought, and in more than one way. I have much to learn. I'm finding it a very hard challenge, blending a seamless blend with no jags. This one is such a nice smell inbetween the wrong bits, that I was frightened to lose that part. I shall keep it for reference. If I have managed to make it nice enough for me to be pleased with it in those parts, then I suppose I ought in theory, to be able to get it even better. Onwards and upwards.....

  4. #4

    Default Re: A 'hole' in my perfume? Understanding bridging notes questions.

    I think a great way to experiment and not to waste too much ingredient is to put together your top, heart, and base notes, dilute, then experiment with the ratios you'd like. For instance, if you want a green, woody base, two parts cedar, one frankincense and vetiver, a heart with two parts jasmine and rose, one of nutmeg, and a top of one part galbanum and ten of citrus, then blend to see which ratio brings out the facets you'd like. This can be very tedious, but it's worth it when it glows. Best of luck and remember this is just one of many ways to create and learn about your fragrance materials.
    Additionally, I would recommend augmenting heart notes that are expensive, such as rose and jasmine with cheaper florals such as ylang, or with linalool rich woods like rosewood, and consider litsea cubeba to bring lemon notes into the heart. Hope it helps.

  5. #5

    Default Re: A 'hole' in my perfume? Understanding bridging notes questions.

    Thank you. That certainly does. I am slowly blending each of my eo's with fractionated coconut to a 10% so that I cannot waste too much whilst learning. At the moment I am using coconut oil as a cheap base for small tester perfumes. When I am happy and have had some feedback, I shall blend an alcohol version. I am teaching myself by using the notes of similar types of perfumes as a very rough reference guide of what may go together, and then pull out my own ideas after a sort of simplified summary appraisal of them. I hadn't thought of mixing the three sections separately. I was beginning at the base and working up. I shall mix those like you suggest and see what happens.

  6. #6

    Default Re: A 'hole' in my perfume? Understanding bridging notes questions.

    If it's any consolation, this is a pretty common problem. After all, if finding the right balance of ingredients were a simple matter, there'd be a lot more brilliant perfumers out there.

    The issue you've described is the one I frequently find the most frustrating: there are many times when I come up with accords which, I feel, have interesting potential... but then everything falls apart when I try to marry them with other aspects of my fragrance.

    I would echo what Roy said about working on the base/heart/top notes separately, but that approach isn't without its problems either, because sooner or later, the moment will come when you have to see how the whole thing hangs together.

    I suspect the only answer is trial and error... followed by more trial and error. Sorry if that seems discouraging, but I think it's probably the only realistic solution. Of course, you could also carry out as much reading as possible on the different ingredients/notes in order to see what other perfumers have discovered about their behaviour... but in the end, it's still going to come down to you, sitting on your own, waving tester strips under your nose, hoping for that magic moment. Keep going :-)
    ---

    I am a Jasmine Award winning fragrance critic, amateur perfumer, Basenotes contributor and regular columnist for Esprit Magazine. My perfume guide, Le Snob: Perfume, is published by Hardie Grant. Click on its title for more info.

    For giveaways, reviews of new perfume releases and thoughts on all sorts of scent-related matters, please visit Persolaise.com or find me on Twitter or Facebook.

    Many thanks.

  7. #7

    Default Re: A 'hole' in my perfume? Understanding bridging notes questions.

    It is so encouraging when one can discuss an issue like this in depth with people that understand. I haven't had time to readdress this perfume yet, but maybe the length of time it has been sitting for will improve the balance too. I did make a very nice, simple, floral perfume for a bride for her wedding day recently and she is delighted with it. So that was encouraging too.

  8. #8

    Default Re: A 'hole' in my perfume? Understanding bridging notes questions.

    So far, I haven't diluted EO's in anything. I fear I won't be able to smell them enough I kind like them with their full strenght
    OR maybe I am wrong and I am loosing a lot of ingredients?
    Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. ~Confucius

  9. #9

    Default Re: A 'hole' in my perfume? Understanding bridging notes questions.

    Ancika, I don't dilute EOs either. They get diluted in the final perfume anyway and I like to smell them full strength. If they're very strong, I just use less.

    Mumsy, congratulations on your first "bespoke" perfume. I usually mix base, middle and top separately, then put them together (in a small amount) after I'm satisfied with each on its own. At that point it becomes clear what needs to be tweaked in each part. As others have said, this process is trial and error, but I'm finding that with experience the "trial" becomes more educated guesses. The down side of having more experience (and a much wider selection of raw materials) is that I'm far more critical of what I make than I was when I first started out, so the tweaking process goes on a lot longer. I suppose that's a good thing.
    Blog: www.perfumenw.blogspot.com
    Website: Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfumes http://orchidscents.com.

  10. #10

    Default Re: A 'hole' in my perfume? Understanding bridging notes questions.

    I know this sounds a bit peculiar coming from a novice like me and maybe you will all shout me down, but the more I am mixing, the harder I'm finding it to apply my mind to this very basic principle of top, middle and base notes.

    My (perhaps erroneous) way of thinking is much more along the lines of:-
    1) first stage = full on all, top, middle and base
    2) second stage = minus top notes but with middle and base
    3) then just base
    all on a sliding scale with the differing times of disappearance determining whether it is well blended or not.

    As a beginner, I do not see at all how the top notes and mid notes, can be viewed separately from the base. I can obviously see why the base can.

    If a perfume were an orchestra, would it be a short and loud herald, then with the strings playing solo for a while and the rest being fairly quiet and getting louder as they are finishing.... then letting the mid range cellos have a turn and then all fading and letting the double base to get on with it alone. Is this what I should be aiming for?

    Am I being thick here? I don't mind if you say yes, but tell me why.

  11. #11

    Default Re: A 'hole' in my perfume? Understanding bridging notes questions.

    Different people formulate perfumes in different ways. I generally go by something that approximates the T/M/B system, knowing that every component is, as you say, on a sliding scale, with different amounts of temporal overlap. If you use natural ingredients, many of them will be present on all time scales since they contain multiple molecules that evaporate at different rates. You could think of the process of formulating a perfume sort of like choosing the rhythm, tempo, mode, key, melody, instrumentation, chords, chord progressions and larger structure that make up a piece of music - each can be analyzed separately, even though the composer knows more or less from the beginning how they will function as a whole. In fact, it is often the whole that is envisioned first, and the process of actually producing the music or writing the score requires some analysis and perfecting of the separate elements. To me, making perfume is a similar process. I "smell" it in my mind the same way I would "hear" a piece of music and then have to figure out how to actually design the formula or write the score. I suppose you would call this a top-down approach. Others take a bottom-up approach, building a piece of music from a basic rhythm or a chord progression, then noodling around that simple skeleton until they have something complex enough to start sounding like music. I'm sure many perfumers take the same approach, starting with some very basic building blocks and messing around until they come up with something that smells good and is more than just the base elements.

    One way of thinking about the different classes of notes is as the base versus everything else, with the top notes being ones that actually disappear completely at some point during the course of the drydown, with the other notes persisting at some level throughout. The latter would be the "bridging" notes, which would roughly approximate the middle or heart of the composition. This is probably a more realistic approach than the strict T/M/B scheme.

    As you have realized, there is no single way to make a perfume, and everyone has to find their own methods. I use the T/M/B method sometimes, other times I think in terms of T/B with bridging notes, and other times I do everything in parallel. It just depends on what seems like the best approach for the scent that I want to make.

    I think some perfumes do function as you suggest - with completely different "instruments" playing different segments, but to me it seems more satisfying to try to construct perfumes using a scheme something like the typical AABA scheme of a jazz standard or popular song in which the main theme is introduced at the beginning, is then reinforced with variations, there's a bridge that may be very different, but then the main theme is reprised (with variations) in the end, bringing closure. This means that the base notes would be somewhat perceptible from the beginning, with other things accompanying them in various ways as the scent develops. This is just my ideal of how to construct a scent and others will go about it from very different points of view. In the end, there is no "right" way to create anything whether it be music, art, or perfume. You have to do it in whatever way works for you.
    Blog: www.perfumenw.blogspot.com
    Website: Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfumes http://orchidscents.com.

  12. #12

    Default Re: A 'hole' in my perfume? Understanding bridging notes questions.

    While the old T/M/B method developed by Septimus Piesse in the 19th century is still useful in creating a full-bodied perfume, it is, in my mind, somewhat irrelevant in this day of using mostly synthetic materials to create a scent. So many scent chemicals today are so powerful and singular in their affect, that they all arise together once arranged by proportion into a beautiful perfume.

    Sometimes you just have to bring chaos to order though, throw in a red-herring, so-to-speak, and stir things up with an addition that would normally be unthinkable. If your perfume is just a tad lackluster, perhaps adding something completely 90 degrees from your original intended scent, could give your perfume the punch and complexity you are looking for. I have found that some of the experiments I have tried, while initially smelling off, morph into something quite beautiful given time to mature. Anyway, it is just a suggestion worth experimenting with.

  13. #13

    Default Re: A 'hole' in my perfume? Understanding bridging notes questions.

    i like the perhaps old fashioned way of starting with the base, the ultimate perfume. once that is right, it should pretty much stay that way. and then i rather like to think of the middle notes as modifiers. they can work in all sorts of ways, together with the basenotes: bridge, mask, stretch, enhance, add a melody, harmony or movement, whatever you need to do to create the shape and development that you have in mind. when that stands, you probably need to finish the top, in such a way that the perfume is appealing straight away.

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