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  1. #1
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    Default Beginner with some questions

    I've been going through the forum for the past few days. I've read up on ItalianStallion's primer on perfume-making, and many of the comments and suggestions by Chris Bartlett. I want to thank you, and the many other contributors, for all the knowledge and experience that you have freely shared. I have two questions that I would appreciate some feedback on.

    1. Top notes are supposed to last anywhere from 1-30 minutes roughly. As much as I like the extra layer of scent that they bring to a fragrance, I want to ask: why are top notes even necessary?
    Other than possibly interacting with other chemicals in the mix, and modifying them, what else do they actually bring to the fragrance? There is usually at least 15 minutes between when I spray myself with perfume and when I get to the setting that I am wearing it for...some insight on top notes would be much appreciated.

    2. I just ordered some essential oils and will soon order some aromachemicals too. There has been a lot of great information on mixing and combining different chemicals, but not too much on containers and handling. What are the basic tools that a perfumer needs to combine their oils and chemicals? I understand that I would need enough bottles to dilute my ingredients, but I'd would really appreciate any basic information about droppers, pipettes, and measuring containers.

    Thanks a lot, guys.
    -Abdullah

  2. #2

    Default Re: Beginner with some questions

    Glad you've found the information here useful Abdullah and welcome to the forum.

    I'll answer question 1) first and come back to 2) later because I think it probably calls for a more structured answer that I don't have time to put together just yet.

    So - top notes - the first thing to say is that if you prefer a perfume without top notes there is no reason at all why you can't make one without any. I have made quite a few that way and I think they can be very successful.

    You are right to draw attention to the fact that they will interact with other things - neroli for example, which is the classic top note in cologne and appears in many other fragrance types contains quite a bit of methyl anthranilate and that in turn reacts with a wide range of aldehydes to form Schiff's Bases that can significantly improve / change the fragrance once it has matured properly. The effect of a Schiff's base once formed can last well into the dry-down.

    Another reason why perfumes are given extensive top-notes is to help cover the smell of the ethanol, which otherwise can be quite astringent and undesirable. This is one reason why traditional Arab perfumes (normally made in oil) often don't have any top-notes as there is no alcohol to cover.

    Finally in modern commercial perfumery top-notes are considered essential because most people buy perfume on the strength of a quick spray onto a card or themselves in a department store: it is considered vital to getting the sale that what they smell in those first few minutes is attractive and powerful: without top-notes it will seem much less strong, especially in an environment where many other fragrances are also being tested.

    I've had this experience myself with one of my fragrances that is very strong (made at 30%) but almost devoid of top-notes, where a customer who has just sniffed their way through four or five other fragrances will come to that one and declare they can't smell it at all (and therefore not buy). They don't wait long enough to discover that the scent will still be on their skin many hours after a classic cologne will have vanished. This commercial reality is probably the single most important reason for the extensive use of top-notes, but if you are making only for yourself you needn't be concerned about it at all.


    On basic equipment, while you are waiting for me (or someone else) to come back with specific details you might like to have a look at my blog posts on the process of blending and advice on buying suitable scales, which may go part way to answering the question:

    http://pellwall-perfumes.blogspot.co...-blending.html

    http://pellwall-perfumes.blogspot.co...or-volume.html
    A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.
    ― Dave Barry

    Chris Bartlett
    Perfumes from the edge . . .

    www.perfumedesigner.co.uk
    Twitter: @PellWallPerfume

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

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Beginner with some questions

    Chris, thanks for the comprehensive answer on the reasons top notes are used. I'm most interested in perfumes that will last a relatively long time on the skin (about 3-4 hours if not 8-12) and it seems that those possible chemical reactions are the most important part for my desired use, since I have no intention of selling perfume and the alcohol scent shouldn't last too long.

    As for answering my second question, please don't inconvenience yourself with a lot of detail. I would really appreciate any tips or advice, but I really just want to know what sorts of containers and vessels, and the procedure I would need to mix a fragrance using essential/absolute oils, aromachemicals, and alcohol.

    Lastly, I have read several of your blog posts already (I actually used the suggested ingredients for beginners in selecting EOs, and will refer to it again for ordering aromatics) and I think they're fantastic. You're really a saint for sharing so much information freely. If Natural Liberty ever send me my order, and I manage to mix a nice fragrance, I owe a whole lot to you and ItalianStallion.

    Best regards,
    Abdullah

  4. #4

    Default Re: Beginner with some questions

    Quote Originally Posted by bluesaffron View Post
    2. I just ordered some essential oils and will soon order some aromachemicals too. There has been a lot of great information on mixing and combining different chemicals, but not too much on containers and handling. What are the basic tools that a perfumer needs to combine their oils and chemicals? I understand that I would need enough bottles to dilute my ingredients, but I'd would really appreciate any basic information about droppers, pipettes, and measuring containers.
    I promised to come back to this when I'd had time to put together a structured answer. I've now done a post on my blog covering Starting Equipment where you'll find there are also lots of links to where you can obtain these things, but I'm repeating the text here for convenience, but I'm afraid repeating all the links here is too time-consuming so you'll need to go to the blog for those.

    I've written elsewhere on this blog about what materials I recommend to start with and I've also talked about the single largest investment for most starting perfumers, which is good scales.

    What I have not covered is all the other things you are going to need in order to be able to experiment effectively with blending and mixing fragrances.

    First of all, as I've already recommended in the post on blending, I think it's best to keep most materials ready diluted in ethanol, and do your blending with those. That automatically means that you are going to need at least one empty bottle for every different material you buy - probably more - I buy mine in bulk from a bottle manufacturer. I use standard 30ml and 50ml bottles in either amber or cobalt blue, to protect the contents from the light.

    I find there are some materials that I use so often, or that are such a fiddle to dilute, that it's worth having bigger bottles on hand to save doing a new dilution too often, so I'd suggest you buy a few 100ml and 200ml bottles as well.

    To keep all those bottles accessible you'll need something to help organise them. The traditional perfumers' organ is quite an investment but I found these simple steps, designed to organise containers in kitchen cupboards a cheap and effective way to arrange a reasonable number of bottles.

    I like to be able to see what I'm blending when I'm working on a new accord though, so I prefer to do that in a clear container. To save on wastage of expensive materials I do first cut blends in little 7ml vials - so I have lots of those, a stand to keep them upright while filling and a tray to put them in when they're full.

    For the actual moving of material from stock bottle to blend, what I prefer is glass pipettes. These are intended to be disposable, so you might prefer to use plastic disposables instead. On the other hand I find the plastic kind are also a bit less easy to be accurate with and glass is easy to recycle everywhere (I put them directly into a clear glass bottle so that the whole thing can go in the recycling with no risk of anyone coming into contact with the sharp ends). It is possible to re-use the glass ones if you take out the cotton-wool plug and wash them thoroughly, but it does not work to do that with the plastic ones as the scents tend to impregnate the polyethylene they are made from.

    Whichever type you use, on no account use the same pipette in two or more different materials or you will cross contaminate and end up with mixtures in every bottle: quite useless.

    Once I have a blend near-right I prefer to make it up in a larger amount for more testing and for that I find standard laboratory conical flasks ideal. Flasks are also great for making up dilutions of sticky resins or solids that take a bit of swirling to get into solution.

    Some things will need more than just a bit of a swirl to dissolve: for those some glass stirring rods are useful, or for the more difficult things an automatic stirrer is a great boon. There are several types of these, but I recommend buying the cheapest to start with, which works by using a magnetised stirrer, coated in glass or plastic that you put in the liquid and a motor that you sit the container on that rotates another magnet, thus turning the one in the container. Some materials take a long time to dissolve and you can leave these running for a couple of days if necessary.

    That reminds me of another thing you'll need, which is some spatulas for measuring out solids ready to dissolve. I find the spoon type handy for wider mouthed jars, but the narrow sort essential for getting into those little bottles that very expensive materials and samples come in.

    Another vital thing to buy is blotters or smelling strips as you need these both for training yourself to recognise and deconstruct smells and for testing your blends. There are lots of different ones on the market but the are so useful I think it's well worth buying plenty.

    I also keep some measuring cylinders, and accurate measuring pipettes (plus filler devices) for those occasions when you need to measure something out by volume - if you are working routinely in weight these are not essential. I also have Simax bottles in various sizes for keeping larger dilutions and stock in - I like these because they are strong and easy to pour from and will clean up without leaving traces of scent.

    Finally you need a workspace with a surface that won't be damaged by spills of aggressive liquids (melamine, glass and granite are all good).
    A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.
    ― Dave Barry

    Chris Bartlett
    Perfumes from the edge . . .

    www.perfumedesigner.co.uk
    Twitter: @PellWallPerfume

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

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Beginner with some questions

    Hey Chris, do you use a sprayer every time you try to evaluate a blend? I am always worried about keeping on smelling it and desensitizing my nose when spreading it around. Can you recommend an air cleaner?

  6. #6

    Default Re: Beginner with some questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Domek View Post
    Hey Chris, do you use a sprayer every time you try to evaluate a blend? I am always worried about keeping on smelling it and desensitizing my nose when spreading it around. Can you recommend an air cleaner?
    No I don't and I guess that's quite a good question I should probably address on my blog somewhere. When I'm blending something new I normally work 'bottom up' - start with base notes, then middle and finally top. I don't smell the blend for the first time until the base notes are completed and unless it's exceptionally complex I don't smell it again until all the notes are in - with very complex blends I will test at the completion of the middle notes too.

    The reason for that is to avoid olfactory fatigue.

    When I'm doing those tests I may fail to resist having a sniff at the blending bottle, but the real test is to dip a smelling strip, let it dry a moment and then smell it. Once I've done I throw away the strip in a bin with a lid.

    Once I'm testing a new, completed blend for the first time I'll label the smelling strip, dip it and smell as above, then put it aside and go out of the perfumery (ideally outside, but anyway somewhere relatively unscented) for a few minutes and return to re-smell. I often do that many times over a period of a couple of days or weeks to evaluate the development.

    Only when I'm satisfied that what I've made is approaching a finished fragrance will I make up a larger sample and put it in a sprayer for 'road testing' when I'll wear it on my skin and probably ask some friends and family to do the same, gather feedback and make final improvements (with a full range of re-testing each time).

    When I do spray perfume I don't generally do that in my workroom either: scents in there are confusing enough as it is without adding traces of completed fragrances to the background too.

    Finally air-cleaning: my very simple method is to open the large patio door to my perfumery and let fresh air blow through from outside. I've never tried using a mechanical air-cleaner as such.
    A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.
    ― Dave Barry

    Chris Bartlett
    Perfumes from the edge . . .

    www.perfumedesigner.co.uk
    Twitter: @PellWallPerfume

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

  7. #7

    Default Re: Beginner with some questions

    Thanks for taking the time to write all that out Chris, it's really helped me too. On the pipettes, do you use those ones with a rubber bulb on top? So far I've been using the longer, graduated pipettes with a pipette pump/filler (which I find are great for adding tiny drops at a time), but I imagine the pasteur type are far cheaper? Are they easy enough to be accurate with when working on very small batches?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Beginner with some questions

    Thank you Chris for the reply!

    Quote Originally Posted by Renegade View Post
    On the pipettes, do you use those ones with a rubber bulb on top?
    About pipettes, I probably have a very unusual thing I am doing. I dilute chemicals to more than 10% in average and use a l-pipet conjunction with little 1ml caps, both used in microbiology/molecular biology. Pipet tips and the caps (Eppendorfer Htchen,
    there are photos of the caps on this webpage: http://www.mallig.eduvinet.de/bio/pr.../profipr12.htm) are both very cheap, so I bought 1000 of them 5 years ago. There exist also little vortex shaker/mixer-machines for the caps, but they cost more than 200 Euro.

    I found that I need only small samples of about 0.5ml to test, and the measurement with the l-pipet I find precise enough. The method is for sure less precise than mixing 10g and measuring by weight with a 0.001g-scale. But the advantage is that one can do many tests and only waste small amounts. This is not meant as general recommendation, it is just my way of doing it. Maybe someone here tells me to give this idea up for some reason. Until now it seemed to work out for me.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Beginner with some questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Domek View Post
    ...I found that I need only small samples of about 0.5ml to test...
    I do this very often too, especially when using more expensive ingredients. Sure, it's not extremely accurate, but it's a nice way to get a feel for different proportions, etc. You need a steady hand though.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Beginner with some questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Renegade View Post
    Thanks for taking the time to write all that out Chris, it's really helped me too. On the pipettes, do you use those ones with a rubber bulb on top? So far I've been using the longer, graduated pipettes with a pipette pump/filler (which I find are great for adding tiny drops at a time), but I imagine the pasteur type are far cheaper? Are they easy enough to be accurate with when working on very small batches?
    I think the graduated pipettes with the filler are too difficult to use for routine blending. I use the pasteur type and I find that with most materials at around 10% or less in ethanol I can get a drop as small as 0.01g with those, which is fine for most blending needs. Plus they are vastly cheaper and I use loads of them so that's quite a big factor.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Domek View Post
    Thank you Chris for the reply!
    I found that I need only small samples of about 0.5ml to test, and the measurement with the l-pipet I find precise enough. The method is for sure less precise than mixing 10g and measuring by weight with a 0.001g-scale. But the advantage is that one can do many tests and only waste small amounts. This is not meant as general recommendation, it is just my way of doing it. Maybe someone here tells me to give this idea up for some reason. Until now it seemed to work out for me.
    I say if it works for you, go for it. For me, very few materials are so expensive as to make me want to work with such small amounts, but if you are comfortable working that way then it's a great way to do more experiments with minimal wastage.
    A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.
    ― Dave Barry

    Chris Bartlett
    Perfumes from the edge . . .

    www.perfumedesigner.co.uk
    Twitter: @PellWallPerfume

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

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