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Essential oils and perfume


From incense to perfume


The word perfume comes from the Latin per fumus (through smoke).

Incense, made from crushed aromatics, was the first form of perfume, the one offered to the gods.

The language of perfume is as ephemeral as the scent itself.

Perfumers and poets evoke music and colours to try and describe its effects, but it's certain that a fragrance evokes reactions that can bring back many memories. 

How do you create your own fragrance ?

Before putting together your own personal fragrance, you should try several types and strengths of perfume to see what suits your skin best.

A drop of essential oil lasts longer than the same oil in an alcoholic solution, but each oil has its optimum threshold.

Eau de Cologne is simply a more diluted solution of essential oils. It is designed to be sprayed onto the skin after bathing - before applying your perfume.

Eau de toilette contains more essential oils than Eau de Cologne and can replace perfume for those who prefer a lighter aroma.

Some fragrances - narcissus, tuberose, violet or civet, for example - can cause discomfort if inhaled too closely or in too concentrated a form.

In fact, some people are allergic to all fragrances. If you have a tendency to allergies, consult your doctor before starting to make perfume. 

Do-it-yourself perfumes

Before the discovery of synthetic aromas, all perfumes contained essential oils derived from various parts of plants and animal products.

Essential oils remain the basis of all perfumery, but today a large number of natural oils, particularly those of animal origin, are being replaced by synthetic products.

There are also many synthetic oils that are pure chemical inventions and bear no resemblance to anything found in nature.

These oils are quite volatile at room temperature. It is therefore very important to cap containers tightly to prevent evaporation. 

How to choose essential oils ?

Like all the arts, perfumery combines technique with imagination. Start by choosing several essences that you like to wear, or whose scent you enjoy.

Feminine, romantic, elegant and luxurious fragrances are dominated by floral scents. The most common are rose, jasmine and orange blossom.

Exotic fragrances are heavy, sweet, pleasantly unsettling and downright sensual. Their components include rose, jasmine, musk and civet of animal origin, sandalwood and cedarwood, spices such as clove, cinnamon and ginger, and the most penetrating plant fragrance, patchouli.

Sports fragrances are lively and fresh, with green and woody notes reminiscent of the smell of crumpled leaves. Citrus essences such as orange, lemon and bergamot play an important role. 

Alcoholic solvents

The best alcohol is wine alcohol. You can use 90° or 85° alcohol sold in chemists, but not methylated spirits sold in hardware stores, as they have an unpleasant odour. 

How do I dilute the oil mixture ?

The proportions of essential oils and alcohol can be as follows :

  • For perfume, dilute one part essential oil to four parts alcohol.

  • For eau de toilette, dilute one part essential oils in 6 to 15 parts alcohol.

  • To make eau de Cologne, dilute one part essential oils in 20 parts alcohol.

Note that some fixatives of animal origin are only sold in the form of tinctures (diluted at 1 part to 10 parts of alcoholic solvent).You need to take into account their lower concentration when mixing your perfume.

These are only guidelines. You need to take into account the quality of the oil, its degree of tenacity and volatility.

In practice, if you are diluting a light floral essence, use less alcohol, as delicate floral essence is also very volatile.

It is easier to perfect the bouquet by adding solvent than essential oils. 

Mixing and measuring

  • Mix the essential oils in a clean glass or porcelain container. Brown glass is best, as the fragrance needs to be protected from both light and heat. Use a dropper to avoid wasting essential oils or diluent.
  • After mixing the oils, cap the bottle and leave it to stand for 24 hours.
  • Then cut small strips of filter paper or white blotting paper 3 mm wide, dip a strip in the mixture and smell.
  • If you're not completely satisfied, it's time to change the mixture.
  • But if you like the scent, add the alcohol.The first time, don't add more thinner than indicated above. You can always add more if the fragrance is too concentrated for your taste.
  • Close the bottle tightly and leave it to stand for at least four weeks in a cool, dark place. 

Animal essences


Used on their own, these fragrances can be unpleasant, but they are so tenacious that they make delicate scents last, and are therefore used as fixatives.

Since ancient times, the most popular animal products have been ambergris, an intestinal concretion of the sperm whale, and the glandular secretions of the male chevrotin, the civet and the beaver (castoreum). At present, these animal essences are compounded in laboratories. 

Some essences

  • Rose : A warm, very floral, sweet and slightly woody scent, with peppery notes and a honey aftertaste. It has a narcotic effect.
  • Orange blossom : The scent of bitter orange blossom is intensely floral, heavy, warm, rich and long-lasting. It is a natural fixative. Its effect is exhilarating. It is used in all kinds of fragrances, from heavy oriental scents to the lightest eaux de Cologne.
  • Jasmine : An intensely floral, warm, rich and very powerful scent with rare underlying notes that combine wax, grass, fruit and tea. The effect is heady and stimulating. Experienced perfumers say that there is no really good perfume without jasmine.
  • Mint : A very warm, herbaceous, slightly green, powerful and penetrating scent reminiscent of crushed plants.
  • Patchouli : The essence has a very rich, grassy and aromatic scent, with peppery, woody and balsamic notes. The effect is hypnotic. It is particularly popular in India. It is the strongest scent of plant origin.
  • Rosemary : This fresh, invigorating scent provides a stimulating top note. Rosemary is the base of two historic products: eau de Hongrie and eau de Cologne.
  • Citronella : This is one of the ten most important essential oils. Fresh, lemony, grassy, strong scent with an aftertaste of tea.
  • Sandalwood : A soft, woody scent. It has no dominant note, but is one of the best blenders with clove oil, lavender, bergamot, patchouli, vetiver or musk. Use as a fixative in floral and woody oriental fragrances.
  • Juniper berries : A fresh, warm scent, rich and evocative of a pine forest. It is distinguished by its balsamic overtones. Juniper is one of the most ancient of aromatic plants.
  • Essence of lemon : A refreshing element and the dominant note in a large number of fragrances, particularly lemon colognes. The essence is obtained by pressing the peel.
  • Bergamot : This clean, fresh scent, reminiscent of lime, is pleasant and calming. It is a traditional dominant note found in lemon colognes.
  • Vetiver : A soft, woody scent. Vetiver is a grass grown in India. Both men and women find its scent heady.
  • Myrrh and frankincense : Both are aromatic resins. Myrrh is mentioned in papyri dating back to 2000 BC. These two spices were among the gifts brought to the Infant Jesus by the Kings. 

Some fragrance ideas

A fresh, lively, lemony fragrance for men and women alike.
Bergamot = 20 drops
Essence of lemon = 10 drops
Sandalwood = 5 drops

A tenacious fragrance for men or women.
Vetiver = 20 drops
Sandalwood = 10 drops
Musk = 2 drops

A fresh, modern aroma.
Juniper = 20 drops
Mint = 2 drops
Sandalwood = 2 drops.