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(Part 3) Things I wish I would have known when I got into Perfumery. Almost done.

Updated: Apr 4, 2018



Last article we got to the point of mixing several materials, drop by drop, to take the composition as closer as our objective as we could. From now on I will refer to this mix as “perfume compound”.


I don’t know what you did after you were finished reading the last article, but me, as soon as I stopped writing it, I started mixing all those materials, y added around half a dozen more, play with different percentages for several days and a really nice rosy-floral-peachy thing came out of it. So nice actually that I decided to keep using it as an example all along with the rest of the articles in this series so we can see some marketing applied to it: naming, concept design, graphic design, etc. I am going to end up making some sample spray vials with the resulting perfume and I’ll ship one to the first 20 people that leave a comment in any of the articles of the series “Things I wish I would have known when I got into Perfumery”.


So, let’s continue:

We have our perfume compound ready. We were working with dilutions. As solvent we used IPM. Most of the dilutions, as an average, were at 10%, so by smelling our perfume compound, we should have an approximate idea of what the final perfume would smell like, at a 10% dilution.


Time to scale:

There are some aleatory definitions we need to make to calculate the amounts of materials to be mixed.

  • What strength (concentration) the perfume will be?: The following table shows the percentage of perfume compound used for different kind of products or concentrations. As I just mentioned, by smelling the perfume compound we made we can have an approximate idea of how strong the perfume would smell at a 9%-10% dilution. If I want to make an Eau de Toilette: How do I know if I should do 5% or 8%? You don't. It comes down to creativity. Costs. At the end of the day, it will be trial and error till you smell it and you say: YES! This is it!

  • Will we be adding distilled water? You will hear people saying that water is not necessary but a smart addition because it “expands” or makes the perfume “stronger” and other people saying “Adding water to perfume does not make it stronger. It makes it wetter, that is all”. Leaving aside the histrionics of the last affirmation, I personally think that somehow it DOES expand the odor. Let's see what Stephen V. Dowthwaite, the mastermind behind PerfumersWorld.com tells us about the subject:

"The alcohol-water mixture is actually standard in the industry - adding more water to the more dilute Colognes and EDTs. One benefit of water is that you get better odor release. Is the perfume strictly stronger? - No - there are no extra odor molecules - it just smells stronger (higher impact actually) from the liquid because of a partitioning effect that pushes more of the perfume into the headspace. Is it professional to add water? - Search Images "perfume ingredients label". Bear in mind though that most commercial denatured alcohol used by perfumery companies almost always contains some water (~5%), so the water may not be added as water. Higher water content also reduces to some extent the sting of the alcohol. However, a downside is that it becomes more important to chill and filter the perfume after maturation. Technically too, higher water content is more likely to result in hydrolysis of the components so there is also an argument for using less water."
  • What carrier we will be using (Alcohol, oil?)

  • How much finished perfume do we want to obtain?

  • Any extra ingredient? Here, before continuing, I need to set a paragraph apart to explain something:

Always remember that nothing is set in stone. Perfumery is an evolving art and as such, it has a dynamic framework. This means that you ARE (or should be) truly free to experiment and try different things.

Probably you noticed that I keep saying things like this and I do so because I am infuriated and tired of people trying to make this art look like it is something more complicated than it is. Yes, it's true: we need to study hard and grasp as much knowledge as we can, there's mountains of things to learn, but some people seem to enjoy believing they are in a position that only just a few can reach and that somehow that gives them the right or privilege to show off and have an attitude like "Don't worry, once you learn everything that I know, you might be able to understand what I am saying..." If you love what you do and you are a good person, you should transfer your knowledge in a manner to attract more people to your field so they can feel as happy as you feel about it. Anything different, like making it more complicated or making it look like just a few will get there, shows nothing but your selfishness and precarious and sad need of attention.

I am writing all these articles mostly for newbies, so they are not afraid of getting into unknown territory and with the understanding that, as a path they are just beginning to walk, they will not spend half their salary on it. For now, probably the less the better. This includes, not recommending the most expensive items which, in some cases, are better than their cheaper versions but in others they are just a snobbish statement of a pseudo - self acquired position.


So, having that got out of the way, let's go back with the extra ingredients:

Since I like to play around and experiment, something I think makes a small but significant difference is replacing part of the distilled water with a Floral waters or Hydrosols. What is a hydrosol? It is the water left over from the distillation process of an essential oil. I usually also add Glucam P-20 (It delivers a humectant feel, reduces the stinging effect alcohol has on skin and acts as a fixative by subduing volatilization of the "high notes"). I buy it at perfumersapprentice.com. The last thing I add is PWx Factor (from PerfumersWorld.com). What does it do? The following video explains its effect quite well with a neat comparison with layering painting.



You can actually check PerfumersWorld Youtube channel that has tons of interesting videos. I know at PerfumersWorld they are revising the price of the PWx Factor, but in the meantime, if you are interested in getting some, you should go to Christine’s Perfumery Supply House, where you will find it in some kind of promo since the price is like 10 times cheaper...Here is the link.

So to be able to continue with our example, let’s define (Remember this is aleatory, do whatever you want):

  • Strength: 5%, EDT. So this means we will mix 5% of our perfume compound with 95% of a carrier)

  • Water: Yes (Out of the 95% of carrier, 10% will be water)

  • Carrier: Perfumer’s Alcohol. I buy mine at Creatingperfume.com.

  • Final Size: 100ml (From now on, our "target")

  • Extra ingredients: YES! 30% of the distilled water will be replaced with this Sandalwood Hydrosol bought at New Directions Aromatics.


Jumping from drops to grams:

For this there are 3 things we need to keep in mind:


1.- We have to have consistency in everything we use: This means that when we added materials drop by drop to our perfume compound, we necessary need to use for every product the same kind of dropper (not the same dropper, but the same kind…otherwise we would be cross-contaminating). I showed you in the first part of this series of articles where I buy the 2 dram bottles with droppers I use for my dilutions, and of course, all of them are the same. Basically, we need every drop to be the same size (regardless of the weight of its content).


2.- Every product has its own specific gravity and, in order to scale correctly, you HAVE to know it.

What is specific gravity? I would say is how much heavier or lighter a product is comparing it with distilled water [1] (or whether is more or less dense that water). Specific gravity is a number. Distilled water is a 1. (This actually means that 1ml of water, at 20ºC and with a pressure of 1 nominal atmosphere, weighs 1 gram. Anything lower than 1 means that is less dense or lighter than water and anything higher than one means that is more dense or heavier.

Why does oil float in water? Because is less dense, its specific gravity is less than 1 (for example, olive oil is 0.703).

Where do I get the Specific Gravity of a material? Your provider should be able to give it to you, otherwise, google it. You will find it.


3.- We will consider, as a default, that 20 drops, equal 1 ml and we will keep that proportion at all times, for every calculation.


S0, now a little math, because there is no other way to explain this but with math. I will try to do it as less painful as possible. Let’s suppose that our whole formula has ONLY 5 ingredients (of course this is NOT realistic, but it is just to understand the math) and those 5 materials are distributed with the following proportions:


Sp. Gr is the specific gravity of the material, Drops, the amount of drops of that material that we have put in our perfume compound and the % is the percentage of that material in the whole mix (which you obtain by dividing the individual amount of drops ―as instance ,40 for Apritone―) by the total amount of drops (88) and multiplying the result by 100. (40/88=0.4545*100=45.46%)

First, we will switch from drops to grams:</p>

We know, as per our definition, that 20 drops are 1 gram, so

40 drops are 40/20 = 2 grams. We also know that Apritone’s specific gravity is 0.914, less than 1 (which means that is less dense that water, or lighter). If it is lighter than water, then its weight should be LESS than 2 grams so…

…we need to adjust the obtained amount of grams by the specific gravity coefficient:

2grams * 0.914 = 1.828 grams (effectively, it IS less than 2 grams!).


We do the same with the other 4 materials and we obtain:


Did you notice that we have a new and different percentage of each product on the perfume composition? That is ok! Before, we had a percentage for standardized drops that did not take into account the actual weight of the material. When we incorporate to the equation the specific gravity, we are actually standardizing our formula to grams, so we can scale. We just switched our thinking mode from drops to weight. Now, whether we want to make 3000 grams (3 kilos) of the perfume compound or just 5 grams, by applying the newly obtained percentages, we know that we will always have the right proportions. Neat!

I also added here the last column with the "specific gravity proportional" (you get this number by multiplying each specific gravity by its correspondent percentage. By adding this column we get the specific gravity of our perfume compound which we will need in a sec.


Come'on, almost there, keep up!


So how many grams of the perfume compound are 5% of our final target (100 ml)?

If you are thinking 5 grams you are wrong!. 5 grams would be IF the specific gravity of everything that is inside the bottle would be 1, but it's not. We have a mix of alcohol, water, hydrosol, and the perfume compound itself. And each of this "parts" has a different specific gravity, so we need to find out the actual weight of our perfume (so we can calculate its 5%):


We know that our target will be 5% perfume compound + 95% alcohol, out of which 10% will be a mix of water and hydrosol. With some math, this is the same as saying:


5% perfume compound + 85.5% alcohol + 9.5% of Water (The hydrosol is made with distilled water, so I will consider it as water) [2]


So finally, we got all the different parts of the puzzle:


Our perfume will fill a 100ml bottle and will weight 82.07 grams (Without the bottle, of course).

FINALLY!!! Now we know that for our target of 100ml, we need to make 4.104 grams of perfume compound (5% of 82.07 grams, the total weight of the perfume)!


And you are thinking: I AM NOT DOING ALL THIS MATH, NO WAY!, I QUIT!, THIS GUY IS CRAZY! I DIDN'T SIGN UP FOR THIS!

LOL, don't worry. I don’t do it either. You can make, like I did, an excel file that not only calculates the right amount in grams but it also calculates the cost of any given amount of finished perfume (provided you’ve input the cost of materials), visualize top, middle and base notes as percentages; allows making variations for different carriers, and a lot more. The following picture shows a view of the file I use. The info you see in it is for the perfume compound we mixed in the last article of this series. I crossed all the extra materials I added after writing the article, but you can have a pretty good idea of where it goes. There's a lot of information you don't need, for now, to understand it all. Just focus on the amount of drops and how they translate into Grams for a 100ml target bottle of an EDT perfume at a 5% dilution.


And yes, you are guessing right. I will e-mail the file to anyone who wants it. I will respond to doubts and questions about it, but I will NOT be personalizing it for your needs. You DO need to be a somehow average or more than average Excel user in order to feel comfortable using it, otherwise, at the first enter, all the formulas will go berserk.


Want the file? Leave a comment in any of the articles of the series “Things I wish I would have known when I got into Perfumery” and then send me an email requesting it at maximob@mxscents.com.

Feel free to comment what you like, what you don’t like, your questions, your doubts, your critiques and I’ll do my best to respond to everybody. As long as we respect each other, there’s no reason why we couldn’t make this a place for knowledge exchange. Please notice that I said exchange because I am learning as well and I would love to hear your experiences as well, whether they are a few or a lot.


Let’s go back to the scaling: We said we are going to mix enough to fill a 100ml perfume bottle.

After doing all the math (or filling up the information on the file) we end up with the total amount of grams per material that we need to make a perfume compound that’s enough for a 100ml of finished perfume. So we add, one by one these materials in a beaker (or any other kind of container) till all of them are there.


How do you add the materials? When I am scaling just for a few bottles, I use these plastic disposable pipettes I buy in bulk on amazon. They are only $7 for 300 of them and free shipping. Please be sure to never use the same pipette with 2 different materials. You would be mixing them and changing their odor profile. That is what it’s called cross-contamination.


So, for our example perfume we would mix 0.007 grams of Aldehyde C-12 lauric (dodecanal) + 1.350 grams of a Rose accord + 0.227 grams of a Carnation accord + 0.246 grams of Aprifloren + 0.279 grams of Apritone + 0.018 grams of Cis-3-hexenol + 0.060 grams of Ginger grass + 0.041 grams of cyclamen aldehyde and so on till you add the rest of the middle and base notes (including the PWx Factor).


If you would be following my exact formula, you would end up with a total of 4.68 grams of perfume compound. To that, you would add first 67.22 grams of alcohol, after that 2.85 grams of the sandalwood hydrosol and then 6.65 grams of distilled water. Water, after a certain point, will start clouding the perfume. I always pour part of the water (let’s say 60 or 70%) and then I follow with a pipette to watch for cloudiness. At the first sign of clouding, I make a note of it to adjust quantities of water and alcohol in my formula and fill what it’s left with alcohol. Last thing: Add the Glucam P-20 (1% of the total perfume weight which in this case is 81.40 grams).


So, what’s next? Ok. I should tell you DO NOT TEST YOUR PERFUME YET but both of