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  1. #1

    Default New to Fragrance-Making - Seeking Some Advice from Old Pros

    Hello Everyone. I'm new to the fragrance-making world, and I am just now beginning to put together some hardware and oils to begin dabbling.

    I'd love some advice. I have been doing a lot - a lot - of reading, but there are some items that I simply cannot get answered. So, I have five questions that I thought I'd run by you good folks here. Any and all advice would be appreciated to the fullest!

    QUESTION 1 (the “smart” question)
    Is there a definitive standard of what percentage of top/middle/base notes to use in a mixture? While studying, different sources cite different percentages – 30/50/20, 30/45/45, 20/30/40, etc. What is the standard? I’d rather hear someone who knows, i.e. you guys.

    QUESTION 2 (the “is he kidding?” question)
    I realize that this may be a loaded question, but is there a good database of ingredients divided by not only tiers of top/middle/base, but, also smell families? For example, “CITRUS: (Base) Bergamot, (Middle) Orange Blossom, Grapefruit (Top) Lemon, Bitter Orange, Lime – etc.

    I can find the smell families (I follow Michael Edwards’ version), and I can find lists of top/middle/base tiers of ingredients. What I can’t seem to find is a list of top/middle/base tier ingredients organized by smell families. Help!

    QUESTION 3 (the “dumb” question)
    Finally – and I realize that this may be a pretty lowbrow question, but – is it common to mix oils from smell families (i.e .combine say FLORAL with WATER), or does it generally bring pretty bad results? Are successful fragrances ever made with ingredients from two or more (more or less opposing) smell families?

    QUESTION 4 (the “okay, this legit” question)
    What percentage tocopherol (vitamin E) should I add to the mixture for longevity? I can’t seem find a standard recommendation. I read somewhere that tocopherol should 1:10 of your carrier oil (1 = tocopherol, 10 = carrier oil), but that seems excessive.

    QUESTION 5 (“it depends” question)
    I see that some top/middle/base notes can be more than one tier. For example, Lavender is often listed as both top and middle. So, it’s pretty fluid, I get that. (hehe, get it -"fluid...") Understanding that, can I make – say – a middle ingredient known to be a "heavier" smell a base by putting more of it into the mix?

    Again, any and all advice is appreciated. If any of these questions are answered by forum topics I missed (and I did check), I am sorry that I missed it.

    Thanks in advance, friends!

  2. #2
    Basenotes Member Ivor Joedy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2019

    Default Re: New to Fragrance-Making - Seeking Some Advice from Old Pros

    Quote Originally Posted by Gersh View Post
    Again, any and all advice is appreciated ...
    ... and only because of this, I try to contribute to your questions from my short experience:

    1. Know your materials
    2. Build an own scale of intensity levels.
    3. Catalog materials by means of odours.
    4. Subdivide materials based on volatility levels.


    No. The top/middle/base proportions are part of the perfume structure. But there are proven classes.


    The term "top/middle/base" encompasses two different things, which are not completely congruent: Volatility and impression. (Jean-Claude Ellena even rejects this term and speaks of expanding volume of a perfume.)

    - For most materials volatility and impression is about the same: Citrus notes are volatile and gives the impression of freshness.

    - The impression of some materials seems to be a grade under (petitgrain bigarade) or above (neroli, sandalwood) their volatility class.

    - Some change their volatility class more as impression with the extraction method: lavender EO - lavender Abs; clary sage EO - clary sage Abs.

    - Some materials are of base note volatility, but contain an element of top note impression. This can be their nature: galbanum absolute.
    Or it can be because they are themselves containing top notes (being a little perfume of their own): fir absolute, olibanum, mastic, cypriol ...


    Both. This is also part of the creative process. Mixing different smell families is the real work.
    Mixing ONLY within the same family is boring: Clary sage contains an element of citrus bitterness -> freshness: it can be extended upwards with galbanum -> citruses; it also contains some herbal, even woody elements: it can be extended downwards with hay abs or cedar -> patchouli. Nice boredom.


    No experience. Never needed anything but ethanol-96 (except for some argon & fridge).


    This has been already answered. But besides them, there seem to be synthetic perfumes, which turns the volatility pyramid completely upside down.

    And finally about an old dream: If you manage it to some time, with naturals or synthetics, to last citruses as long as base notes - let me know.
    Last edited by Ivor Joedy; 22nd June 2019 at 02:48 PM.

  3. #3
    Basenotes Member
    Join Date
    May 2019
    New York

    Default Re: New to Fragrance-Making - Seeking Some Advice from Old Pros

    I'll address question 4: But first, what do you mean by longevity? I'll assume you mean: product contains an anti-microbial slash preservative. If you are making perfumes with ethyl alcohol, perfumer's alcohol or 190 proof Everclear you will not need any sort of preservative. The alchohol sterilizes (for lack of a better word) your perfume for life.

    However, if you are adding water, say to make a commercially saleable perfumed lotion, or room spray or other product that contains oils and water, you will need a broad spectrum preservative -- something like Germall Plus for example -- usually added as 1% of product.

    Tocopheral --Vit E Acetate is an anti-oxidant. Does have some anti-rancidity properties in oil based products but it is more often used as an anti-oxidant in beauty products for its benefit to skin as a free radical scavenger + emolient.

    Hope this was some help -- off the top of my head from my long ago days as a beauty product formulator.
    Last edited by DanaB; 22nd June 2019 at 01:01 PM. Reason: typos

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Southern California

    Default Re: New to Fragrance-Making - Seeking Some Advice from Old Pros

    Question #1

    Looking over a GC for a Calvin Klein fragrance that I am studying, I see that the topnotes can be given at 0.26%, middle at 31.38%, and the basenotes at 58.63%.
    This fragrance indeed lasts a long time, and it is stacked heavily to the bottom and lower bottom, especially with about 10% of captives that I am having quite a time identifying or understanding. This fragrance is indeed, built from the bottom, up.

    Other fragrances are NOT built this way. Tea fragrances would not be built this way, because TEA is not a basenote. Tea scents throw out the tea scent into the perfume, and then use things to try to make it last longer, and hold it down.

    There is no right answer to your question. The answer is dependent upon too many other factors.

    Question #2

    You are your own database, as materials have differing aspects inside of them.
    An essential oil, is different from a CO2, is different from an absolute, all from the same raw plant material.
    And inside of each of those extractions, the list of molecules, and each molecule's longevity is quite different... Naturals are / can be a full spectrum of top to bottom notes, just dependent upon the ratios at which they appear in that material.

    Question #3

    Contrast is / can be important in all art forms. The next question is: "Can you make it work, over the life of the evaporative timeline?"

  5. #5
    Basenotes Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2017

    Default Re: New to Fragrance-Making - Seeking Some Advice from Old Pros

    Paul I see You are working a lot with GC of mamy perfumes. Where do You get them from? Or do You just let someone do them ?

  6. #6

    Default Re: New to Fragrance-Making - Seeking Some Advice from Old Pros

    Thank you for all the good feedback.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Southern California

    Default Re: New to Fragrance-Making - Seeking Some Advice from Old Pros

    Quote Originally Posted by MiDDeN View Post
    Paul I see You are working a lot with GC of mamy perfumes. Where do You get them from? Or do You just let someone do them ?
    I have paid for nearly 20 GC tests, personally. Six of these results cost $1000 each. About three cost $400, the rest cost $100. Now, I pay $175, and get a pretty good result, loads better than the old $100 result. Then I gain more results by also trading with other people for their test results.

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