Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, September 12, 2010 - 10 a.m. to 10 PM EST

Ask the Perfumer is open for today, so ask all your natural-perfume-related questions.  I can also answer questions that apply to mainstream perfumery, if you keep it in the technical area, like weighing, specific gravity, etc.

PS:  In case you missed it, I posted two podcasts on - more to come.

PPS:  I also started a Facebook page for my online perfumery course - join it to receive timely updates.


  1. Would would be considered as COMPLEX perfume? Is it number of notes or how blend among each other or both or something else?
    When ever I make something... I keep on adding more - always trying to make it more rounded up... and in the end I mess it up. Too many ingredients... Is 5 notes too simple?

  2. Hi Ankica:

    You have observed the "muddying" or, as I teach my students "dampening" of a blend.

    Natural aromatics are complex chemicals in themselves, and yes, not observing the interactions of them as you add to the blend can cause a dampening of the beautiful aromatics you've already used, completely obliterating their beauty.

    I cannot recommend a number of notes, that is too general. I can recommend that you try to combine three or four base notes in varying ratios, just a few drops of each, and observe how they act. You MUST use a detailed written record to be able to have good evidence of your experimentation.

    Then repeat with middle notes. Then top notes.

    After all that, select a good accord from each experiment, and gradually build a perfume from the base up.

    Five notes is too simple.

    Creating natural perfumes is a lot harder than many realize, and creating a beautiful, upscale luxury natural perfume even harder. HTH.

  3. Dear Anya,

    I know I ask general questions (which can't be answered) but sometimes I think I don't go anywhere with my trials... since this is a hobby, it is taking a lot of energy and money - I find myself searching for some magic solutions (from experts) although I know I shouldn't.

    I always make base/middle/top (although I don't like top notes at all!) but many times something is lacking... and in the end I expand the formula (btw, I write down every single drop) and it looks like waste.

    Thanks for help!

  4. So this muddying concept has been something that I have a rough time comprehending, I was hoping you could provide some additional detail or elaborate on the concept further.

    As I understand it, when you start blending too many things together or things that are just not compatible, the scent gets muddied. But how so, or at what point exactly is it considered muddy?

    Is it when you can no longer pick out the individual components that were used to create it? Or is there a specific scent or characteristic that makes it so?

    Using Mandy Aftel's amber chord for example, when the benzoin, labdanum, and vanilla combine, the total scent is something new. If I were smelling it and I couldn't say "there is benzoin, ladbanum, and vanilla in there", does that make it muddy?

    If that is the case, when people create chords that smell so true to another substance, like lilac, or the scent is something unique that doesn't smell like anything else natually ocurring, does that mean its muddy because you only smell the total scent and not the pieces?

    Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom and enlightening this novice np'er!


  5. Hello Anya,
    I have just recieved Robert Tisserand essential oil safty book and I'm a little confused with the percentages he recommends.
    Looking at page 85 there is a table for calculating EO concentrations and an example of say 0.8 for bergamont in a 10ml of vehicle.This is a safe level for phototoxicity.
    This seems like such a small amount, one of my recipes has 5 drops of bergamont in 10ml.The recipe in Mandy Aftels book calls for 10 drops of bergamont.
    Do you use these percentages recommended by Robert and IFRA to the exact when creating a perfume for sale. I notice people use Costus in thier perfumes but Robert says they should not be used.
    Is there a definite rule of thunb we need to follow, may I ask what guide you use and also Anya what sort of warnings do you attatch to your perfumes.If your warning label included all the reactions to the oils in it such as oils that effect pregnancy, heart problems etc etc the list would be endless. Is there a short sharp warning statement you can recommend!! thank you for any advise.

  6. Ankica, perfumery takes years of study, preferably with a good teacher. Even then, after the basics, you must learn more and more techniques and how to be critical of your blends.

    Re-read when I posted earlier about creating separate accords and picking the best of them. That may help you at this time.

  7. Hi Michael:

    Muddying, or dampening, becomes instantly evident when the wrong essence is added. It is not so much you can't pick out the individual components (although that might occur), but that everything might have a sameness.

    Mandy's example is a good one: we strive to create harmonious accords, and they typically do not smell like the original aromatics! They are beautiful, and I would never call them muddy - or dampened.

    Muddy/dampened is unpleasant, or, sometimes just evident when you add one aromatic to another - and the original is dampened, and no beauty arises from the combo.

    I think the above paragraph answers your question about the lilac accord ;-)


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