Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, November 21, 2010 - 10 a.m. to 10 PM EST

The outlaw is in the house ;-) I hope y'all have been following the Outlaw Perfume project and it's fired you up to be one, too.  Use that rose and jasmine in appropriate amounts.  IFRA and the EU are getting pushed back at by some artisan perfumers! Well, outlaw or not, you're welcome to submit questions on perfumery today from 10 to 10.


  1. Hi, thanks for offering this!
    Okay, I have been struggling with conflicting information regarding use of black pepper and other spices in perfumery. I have been working on a blend for like 6 months, and I really need a strong spicy note, that mixes well with cocoa, and other sweet stuff, like benzoin or vanilla. It does not have to be black pepper, but it does need to come through in the perfume as somewhat not subtle? And another problem is I am getting even more conflicting information on the the amount of spicy oils safe in perfumery (not IFRA's safety standards, just other perfumers standards). Just wondering if you may have any advice?
    Oh, and on other (sorry), where to get tomato absolute, and how safe is it?

  2. So brave and creative action. Well done Anya! :)

    What would be the best period for perfume to age? Month, less, more?

  3. Hi Aer:

    There are some beautiful spice notes in perfumery, and I'd advise you to make some mods of the blend without any spice, and try different spices and compare how they interact with the other aromatics in the blend. It's difficult to make recommendations without knowing what all the aromatics are, and their proportions, and that's a little beyond the scope of this Sunday session.

    It sounds like your cocoa, benzoin and/or vanilla is taking your blend to the gourmand family. How about some beautiful nutmeg or mace? Black pepper, or even pink pepper work well with them, so you could have a lovely melange at the top.

    A few spices, not many, are sometimes problematic on the skin - for some. These include cinnamon bark and clove bud, which are high in eugenol. I'm not particularly fond of them in perfume anyway, so I have never paid attention to their usage level recommendations. I provide clove leaf in my student's kits if they want to work with that scent, and it's much lower in eugenol. Ditto for cinnamon leaf.

    Robert Tisserand has written a good guild to safe levels of EOs, and you can find that book on amazon and other sites.

    You may have seen the Outlaw Perfume project the Guild launched this week. We say that a patch test and a warning label should suffice. That may answer your questions ;-)

    There is no tomato absolute. If you're talking about tomato leaf absolute, that's rather hard to find, and I've heard some bad feedback about it. Some call it muddy. It should be processed to remove the troublesome alkaloid, so if you do find some, confirm that it is alkaloid-free.


  4. Akica, a month is best. Some swear by six months! I have a lot of time invested in evaluating my accords, so I can kind of predict the chemical interactions, so I usually go with a month or less.

  5. Thank you! Will check out the book you recommended. Yes, it is sort of an odd gourmand, ha. Sorry, I did mean Tomato leaf absolute, but was guilty of lazy writing,lol!Thank you so much again!

  6. Thank you for offering this, Anya!

    My question is in regard to dilution of a blend that I've created to make "cologne" as a companion product to perfume.

    I've seen so many different formulas in regard to this, I'm not sure which one is correct.

    I've also seen premade bases that I could purchase but they all contain synthetic chemicals.

    I'd like to use alcohol with distilled water and/or glycerin, and that's it, but I'm not sure what the correct proportions are.

    Any feedback that you offer would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  7. Hi Sonsa:

    You can generally add up to 5% glycerin to your perfume for fixative purposes.

    About your desire to dilute a perfume to a cologne strength, know that there may be some aromatics in the undiluted compound that can be a bit problematic when water is added. Citrus oils, for example. Some are very high in terpenes, and so if you're using them, you might consider terpeneless oils. Heck, terpene-rich oils can cause a perfume to look, well, what's a good term? Woozy, oily. They include citrus, nutmeg, anise, and some pines, I believe. Since terpenes are hydrophobic, some chemical dance occurs and I'm not savvy enough with chemistry to explain why. I know enough to say it means they don't play well with water, and all alcohol has water, and now you want to add water. Complicated, eh?

    A cologne is typically diluted to 3-8%, but I've found that designation a bit slippery. If you've created a very light perfume, 10% may be desired, and, of course, a very heavy, say, chypre, down to 3% you go ;-)

    So we've talked about the glycerine and the compound of oils themselves (terpenes or not), and now the alcohol and water question. Counting the glycerin as part of the compound, for formulation's sake, let's say you want to create 500mls of cologne.

    I've given you a wide range of percentages, according to the perfume type, from 3-10%. To keep the math easy for me ;-) let's say you're making a 10% cologne. Tradition says you can use up to 8% water, but that depends on a few things: your alcohol's percentage (and some can absorb water from the atmosphere just sitting with the lid off for one moment!), the temperature you're doing the blending at, i.e., the ambient air temperature, the compound's ingredients, terpenes and all that, and probably the position of the moon, for all I know, LOL.

    Here's where the dedication of a perfumer is called for: you must do *many* modifications on the ratios.

    Use weight measurements for the final juice, but be careful! At the final blending, it's better to add less water than more, as correcting/waiting for the chemical dance to play out can be frustrating.

    Make 5 gram mods.

    Try 1 gram of compound, 0.8 grams of distilled water or hydrosol (watch the citrus hydrosols!) and the rest your 190 proof alcohol.

    This way you can tweak and play with the mods until you reach the clear, cologne you wish.

    The cloudy ones? Save them for yourself. By using this method you've saved a lot of money, and you can get quick results.

    PS: double check my math, I'm doing this on the fly! ;-)

  8. God, I just had such a scare. After posting the answer to Sonsa, I got an error message saying the URL was too large to post. Phew! It did post. I wasn't about to retype all that. Hope it helps you, Sonsa.

  9. Thank you, Anya! Yes, this definitely helps a lot. I appreciate your thoughtful and thorough reply very much! Have a wonderful day! :0)

  10. Hi Anya,

    What would you suggest as a starting point for a still budding NP'er to introduct their products into the market? Online store, fairs or local farmer market type settings, marketing to local boutiques, etc?

    Also, when you are developing new fragrances, who do you go to for another nose's opinion, or do you?


  11. Hi Michael:

    How are you branding your perfumes? High end /luxury wouldn't fit a fair or farmer's market, not at all.

    High-end/luxury would be targeted at online stores, your own online website brand development, and high-end boutiques.

    I only use my opinion for the development of a perfume. I'm sure I have surprised many with my two new perfumes, they're a 180 turn from my previous offerings. I decided to go all about the pretty this time, and if I relied on those who love the previous perfumes in my line, I wouldn't have taken this route. My previous perfumes were beautiful, some of them, and others were deliberately challenging. I mean, who creates a perfume in homage to the aftermath of a hurricane (Fairchild)? It's a dramatic, beautiful perfume, but not pretty. See what I mean?


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