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  1. #1
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    Default Vanilla won't mix with other oils

    I've tried "vanilla extract" and "vanilla essential oil", but the so-claimed oil sticks to it's own solid dark-brown blob at the bottom of any carrier oil. How can I get it to diffuse properly into the carrier / other oils? Doesn't seem to be a big problem once I get it into the alcohol, but it sticks to my glass bottles and I have to give it a good stir or shake before I can smell it in the mix properly.

    I also have a similar problem with resins, if I put benzoin in with the vanilla too, they bond together and make a very rubbery mess at the bottom of my perfume blend. Anyone experienced this?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Vanilla won't mix with other oils

    Vanilla Extract would be in a water base, so it will never blend.

    try a bit of heat, or other solvents first, then into the oil, as I have a sneaking suspicion that the vanilla may not like the carrier oil too much.
    Paul Kiler
    PK Perfumes
    http://www.PKPERFUMES.com
    Gold Medal for "Best Aroma"; Los Angeles Artisan Fragrance Salon

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Vanilla won't mix with other oils

    I tried leaving the blend in the hot sun and also sitting the bottle in hot water, but neither helped... have I just bought the wrong thing?

    - - - Updated - - -

    Hmm also, another relatively unrelated question... I can dissolve about 4mL of oil into 50mL of ethanol, but when I get past that dilution, blobs of oil start forming on the bottom of the bottle, and don't ever really dissolve into the alcohol, though the smell does get stronger each day (I shake it too). Any ideas about this? Is that expected?

  4. #4

    Default Re: Vanilla won't mix with other oils

    The first thing to say here is that vanilla is notorious for being difficult to work with, so you are not alone. The second thing I need to say is why are you using both a carrier oil and alcohol? Work with one or the other but not both or you will get into all manner of difficulty with all sorts of materials.

    The fundamental reason for this difficulty is the fact that vanilla pods give up their aroma best in a combination of ethanol and water, meaning that even when you buy an Absolute from a reputable supplier it will often struggle to dissolve successfully in cold ethanol and will be even harder to get into solution in a fixed oil (carrier oil).

    Having said that, I don't think what you've got is a true absolute. Hydroglycolic extracts, as Paul says, will never dissolve successfully so best to abandon those completely. Now the oil you have: there is a true essential oil of vanilla but I've never seen it offered in quantities of less than a Kg and very few suppliers stock it, so it's likely that what you have is something else. Since you describe it as dark I'm even more convinced of that - the true vanilla essential oil is pale in colour (as always btw the essential oil and the absolute don't smell quite the same).

    I think what you have is an infusion of vanilla in a fixed oil of some sort and what you are doing when you put it into ethanol and shake it is, in effect tincturing it.

    My advice is to stop using either of the products you have and adopt one of these alternative strategies:

    Buy vanilla absolute already dissolved in ethanol
    Buy vanilla pods and tincture them yourself in ethanol
    Buy ready-made vanilla tincture
    Buy true vanilla absolute and an automatic stirrer and dissolve it in ethanol yourself.

    Notice that the last option includes buying a stirrer because even the true absolute will take a long time and a lot of work to get into solution. This is true of a good few perfumery ingredients but vanilla is probably the single most difficult to handle, at least among naturals. I've talked about stirrers along with other useful equipment on my blog.

    And saying that has just reminded me that there are also synthetic options including:
    Vanillin
    Ethyl vanillin
    Isobutavan
    Ultravanil
    The first two come as crystalline powder - so you still have to get them into solution, but they dissolve much more readily than vanilla. The others are harder to handle so if you're not familiar with using synthetics I would start with vanillin, which is the main ingredient that gives natural vanilla it's characteristic smell.
    Chris Bartlett
    Perfumes from the edge . . .

    www.perfumedesigner.co.uk
    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.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Vanilla won't mix with other oils

    Thanks Chris, that's so helpful! Yes I had started suspecting what you said with carrier oil vs alcohol. I suspected it especially when I found that not all the oil was dissolving in the alcohol, and the smell was not very strong.

    How do you work with tinctures? What is your process for creating a perfume using a combination of essential oils and tinctures? how and when do you smell the development of the perfume?

  6. #6
    Basenotes Junkie Curly11's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vanilla won't mix with other oils

    Glad I read this post as I am considering ordering some vanilla and didn't know which way to go with it. I, too, have had problems with benzoin sticking to the bottom of the bottle. It is not an easy material to incorporate, is it?

  7. #7

    Default Re: Vanilla won't mix with other oils

    Buy vanilla pods and tincture them yourself in ethanol
    This is a lovely solution to the problem. Far better than the EO. Can also use it as your carrier if you like vanilla. Can throw in nutmeg and cloves etc for a more glorious spice. And, pop the lot into an ultrasonic cleaner, speeds up the tincturing process.

    Mind you, with nutmeg, you may get cloudiness which can be filtered later. Or the synthetics, either or work beautifully, but I really do like the tincture.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Vanilla won't mix with other oils

    Quote Originally Posted by Ambolt View Post
    Thanks Chris, that's so helpful! Yes I had started suspecting what you said with carrier oil vs alcohol. I suspected it especially when I found that not all the oil was dissolving in the alcohol, and the smell was not very strong.

    How do you work with tinctures? What is your process for creating a perfume using a combination of essential oils and tinctures? how and when do you smell the development of the perfume?
    I'm not sure why but there are a lot of places on the Net that tell people they need both oil and ethanol to make perfume (at least one I've seen by someone claiming to be a qualified chemist which is just laughable). Anyway it doesn't work and is one of the myths I find myself dispelling here more often than any other.

    Vanilla tincture is about 7 times less powerful than vanilla absolute. That's assuming you've made a 10% tincture by weight - in other words weigh out your chopped vanilla pods and add nine times their weight of ethanol. Essentially you then keep it for a few weeks or months, shaking daily until you're ready to filter and use it. As it's 7 times less powerful (roughly, tinctures are not exact) you'll need to use more than you would if you were using pure absolute but more than, for example, an absolute at 1% in ethanol such as I routinely use.

    I normally work with essential oils etc pre-diluted in ethanol as detailed in this blog post and in that case using a tincture is no different. If you normally work with pure essential oils and aroma chemicals then you will need to adjust your technique slightly because the order you put things together becomes important - in essence just put the tinctures in last, with or just before you dilute with plain ethanol to your required strength. In this latter case you won't be able to discover what your perfume is like for a day or two after the tincture goes in - one reason I work the way I do.
    Chris Bartlett
    Perfumes from the edge . . .

    www.perfumedesigner.co.uk
    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.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Vanilla won't mix with other oils

    Cool, my only question is how do you go from your 10% dilutions (which would be approximately a Eau de Toilette) to a Eau de Parfum? I had a look at your spreadsheet which was great for calculating the weight of each tincture, but I didn't understand clearly how to make something more concentrated. Do you also keep all the oils and absolutes to more approximately drip into the product at the end of the weighing to get more concentration of oils? Or do you only make Toilettes?

    - - - Updated - - -

    Also, is it feasible to keep all essential oils at 20% dilution to keep it easy to make Parfum or Toilette?

  10. #10

    Default Re: Vanilla won't mix with other oils

    Quote Originally Posted by Ambolt View Post
    Cool, my only question is how do you go from your 10% dilutions (which would be approximately a Eau de Toilette) to a Eau de Parfum? I had a look at your spreadsheet which was great for calculating the weight of each tincture, but I didn't understand clearly how to make something more concentrated. Do you also keep all the oils and absolutes to more approximately drip into the product at the end of the weighing to get more concentration of oils? Or do you only make Toilettes?

    - - - Updated - - -

    Also, is it feasible to keep all essential oils at 20% dilution to keep it easy to make Parfum or Toilette?
    I'm sorry, it seems that just about everyone has trouble working out how to use my spreadsheet. I'm going to have to supply it with some instructions I think.

    First, there is no problem at all with starting at 20% if that suits you. I happen to think 10% works better for blending with most materials - other perfumers work with different default concentrations - there isn't a wrong answer. However you are always going to want to use different concentrations, for example you wouldn't use a 10% solution of civet - 1% or even 0.1% would be more like it - otherwise it's too easy to overdose.

    The idea of the spreadsheet is to reconcile all those differing concentrations and calculate two essential things for you:
    1) the total concentration of the resulting mixture
    2) the percentage by weight of each ingredient (essential for compliance calculations but also very useful for learning purposes)

    If, when you're done with a blend, you want to make up a production sample you can simply use some or all of your materials pure or at a higher concentration: you can use any concentration you like.

    So for example, say you have a fragrance with a lot of Bergamot in it, you could simply replace bergamot at 10% with one tenth as much bergamot at 100% and the spreadsheet will calculate how much of everything else you need to use and the overall concentration.
    Chris Bartlett
    Perfumes from the edge . . .

    www.perfumedesigner.co.uk
    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.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Vanilla won't mix with other oils

    Ah, cool. Makes sense doing two separate samples. For your tinctures, am I fine using perfumer's grade denatured ethanol, or do I really need some proper perfumer's alcohol with the added mystrate for those?

  12. #12

    Default Re: Vanilla won't mix with other oils

    Quote Originally Posted by Ambolt View Post
    Ah, cool. Makes sense doing two separate samples. For your tinctures, am I fine using perfumer's grade denatured ethanol, or do I really need some proper perfumer's alcohol with the added mystrate for those?
    You'll get slightly different results depending on the additives in your perfumers alcohol if you use it. Many perfumery ingredients dissolve better with the aid of a little IPM but in the case of vanilla you really want a more polar additive like propylene glycol to help get the best out of it.

    If you are starting with pure 96% denatured ethanol there is nothing to stop you making an alcohol blend to suit the purpose you have in mind. If you are going to add either or both of those though, keep it to low levels or you'll get into difficulty when it goes together into the final fragrance 5-10% should be fine.
    Chris Bartlett
    Perfumes from the edge . . .

    www.perfumedesigner.co.uk
    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.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Vanilla won't mix with other oils

    If you do go with Chris' suggestion and buy new product, don't get rid of what you already have. I had the same problem and ended up using the "problem" vanilla oil to make soap. I bought a melt and pour soap base online and the vanilla mixed beautifully with it. My kids, wife, and I made some wonderful smelling soaps that we sold at a friend's holiday boutique around Christmas.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Vanilla won't mix with other oils

    Quote Originally Posted by jbthorpe View Post
    If you do go with Chris' suggestion and buy new product, don't get rid of what you already have. I had the same problem and ended up using the "problem" vanilla oil to make soap. I bought a melt and pour soap base online and the vanilla mixed beautifully with it. My kids, wife, and I made some wonderful smelling soaps that we sold at a friend's holiday boutique around Christmas.
    Excellent suggestion. Keep in mind though that the vanillin in the vanilla will cause soap to discolour - going dark brown with time - so don't attempt to make white soap: if it starts off dark the discolouration is less likely to show!
    Chris Bartlett
    Perfumes from the edge . . .

    www.perfumedesigner.co.uk
    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.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Vanilla won't mix with other oils

    My vanilla pod tincture is smelling fantasic. What a well-rounded complex vanilla!

  16. #16
    Basenotes Junkie Curly11's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vanilla won't mix with other oils

    Quote Originally Posted by Ambolt View Post
    My vanilla pod tincture is smelling fantasic. What a well-rounded complex vanilla!
    What quantities of vanilla pod? How much EtOH? Very exciting!

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