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  1. #1

    Default Hello to Basenotes / Tincture question / Book suggestions

    Hello Basenotes, I'm a new reader and contributor, and very recently experimenting in creating scents. I first wanted to say 'greetings!' to the group, and also to ask a question.

    I decided that since I am a gardener as well as a scent enthusiast, I wanted to make some tinctures in high proof alcohol of plant material. I've been very happy with the success rate so far - the scents I've managed to pull from verbena, lemon thyme and juniper have been really nice. I think the greatest success, though, was a tincture I made from Chinese Oolong tea - something really amazing happens when it's been steeped in alcohol for a few days.

    Onto my question: I've just recently ordered some essential oils so that I can begin learning and experimenting. I'd like to continue making tinctures, but how should I combine tinctures with oils? I've read in a number of places that mixtures of essential oils need to be aged for a while to bring their scent to its peak - will mixing oils and alcohol disturb this process?

    Oh, and one more question while I'm posting: Can anyone recommend books that are good primers for the home perfume maker, or an history of perfumery?

    I would appreciate any suggestions, thank you in advance.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Hello to Basenotes / Tincture question / Book suggestions

    Welcome to Basenotes!

    Combining tinctures with oils - just go ahead and combine them - there is no real problem. However I think I would recommend that you start by diluting the essential oils in alcohol to about 10% - that way they are likely to be at a similar strength to your tinctures and also easier to work with.

    I'm fascinated by your Oolong tincture - what did you do? Others here have suggested that tea requires a more complex procedure to extract an absolute so if you've had good results with a simple tincture I'd be very interested to hear your method.

    Don't worry too much about the ageing process, just go ahead and blend. What usually happens is that you'll find when you've made a successful blend, it will get better over a period of a few weeks. Very rarely you'll find it's not as good after a period of ageing but predicting what will happen is a near to impossible as makes no difference so you'll just have to learn by trial and error. The ageing (in this sense) only starts when you get the ingredients together in the alcohol.

    Books: There are several and others will no doubt make different suggestions, but since you are interested in primary extraction of materials and history I'd recommend Septimus Piesse as a place to start. It was published in 1857 by a practicing perfumer and most of it is a good read plus it's cheap. My link will take you to the UK site for Lulu but there will be a US equivalent as the company is based there.

    Finally to return to your question about mixing tinctures and oils: some of your tinctures will be relatively high in water because all the water in the plant material ends up in the tincture. That may result in a cloudy mixture when you add essential oils. Another good reason to dilute your oils first in 96% ethanol to reduce the likelihood of that. You won't have a problem with tinctures of dry materials anyway but fresh, fleshy materials like petals and leaves will probably result in a tincture of no more than 80%, which isn't enough to reliably dissolve most essential oils to perfume strength.

    Happy blending!
    Chris Bartlett
    Perfumes from the edge . . .
    Twitter: @PellWallPerfume

    If you are looking for a perfumery consultation Iím happy to quote: if you want free advice, thatís what these forums are for
    You can also join my blog if you wish to ask questions of me.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Hello to Basenotes / Tincture question / Book suggestions

    Septimus Piesse is an excellent suggestion and not only cheap in paper but also available in for free via the Guthenberg Project:

    I wish you the best of luck with your experiments, It's a great way to enter perfumery through the real, living plants. Both knowledge and feeling benefits, I believe.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Hello to Basenotes / Tincture question / Book suggestions

    Iez, Chris, Thanks very much for the suggestions and encouragement! I've found a great wealth of information online and have also found the scent community is really helpful when it comes to asking questions. The book looks fantastic, I'm going to order a copy and do some of the free reading online until mine arrives.

    Chris, yes, that makes complete sense about drawing oils (via tincture) from dried material versus fresh material. I made a tincture of lemon verbena leaves which I'd grown myself and then dried. That tincture came out very clear, and some of the others in which I'd used fresh plants (like calendula) came out less clear and a bit cloudy. I don't think I would have understood why unless I'd read your post. Lesson learned: Dry items first!

    Also, about the oolong tea tincture: I'm not certain why this did come out successfully for me, but again I was very surprised by the results. I think it might possibly be because the tea leaves I was using had been aged for some time. Ironically, I wasn't particularly pleased with the taste of this tea (which is probably why it's been in my possession for about 7 years now,) so I thought I wouldn't miss the tea if I were to draw a tincture from it. The scent of the tincture is very interesting and very different from the leaves before tincture: not terribly aromatic dried, very smoky and deep in tincture. I'm curious now to find out if this has to do with the reaction of alcohol and the natural tannins in the tea.

    Thank you again, I'll report on progress!
    Painting: | Music: | Recent Writing: Serge Lutens

  5. #5

    Default Re: Hello to Basenotes / Tincture question / Book suggestions

    It's quite common to find that tinctures, essential oils and absolutes smell significantly different from the materials you start with. In fact I'd say it's rare to find something you can extract that is a perfect match for the scent of the material you extract it from - something is either lost of gained in the process most of the time. Just one of many aspects of this business that makes it so very fascinating, challenging and enjoyable!
    Chris Bartlett
    Perfumes from the edge . . .
    Twitter: @PellWallPerfume

    If you are looking for a perfumery consultation Iím happy to quote: if you want free advice, thatís what these forums are for
    You can also join my blog if you wish to ask questions of me.

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