By Michèle Duquet
Featured photographer: Colette Stevenson
(Click here to visit Colette’s website; click photo for larger view)
Ahhh spring! It has finally arrived, and there is definitely something in the air!
Our senses seem suddenly reawakened by the freshness of its enticing bouquet. With its perfect blend of scents and sensuality, what better time than spring to explore the seductive allure of essential oil elixirs.
One of my great passions is creating essential oil blends for organic perfumes.
Essential oil perfumery is such a sensuous art form. It involves all the senses… even the intuition… and the heart. Like a beautiful song, the right blend can make my soul sing.
A lot goes into blending and building a scent bouquet, drop by drop, harmonizing the notes, listening with the heart and ‘nose’, journaling every detail and nuance, then knowing when to let it rest, age, like a fine wine.
It is where art meets organic chemistry with an entrancing sprinkle of je ne sais quoi.
Now before I get too carried away, I first need to introduce you to the concept of “Notes”.
Notes are the building blocks of any captivating blend. These are grouped into to 3 categories: Base, Middle and Top notes.
To understand how notes function in a perfume blend, think of them in terms of which scent you smell first. Those are the top notes. Let a bit of time pass, and a secondary scent appears. These are the mid or middle notes. And finally, after the mid notes seem to settle, a final scent emerges. These are the base notes, or a mix of the base and mid notes that remain as your main scent.
The basic science behind it is the size of the molecules and the rate at which they evaporate. The faster they evaporate, the quicker we can smell them.
The notes are also known as head (top), heart (mid) and base (I like to think of these as the connection to our sensuality). I love the notes seen through this imagery. Very romantic!
So let’s get you started on creating your very own enchanting bouquet!
Here are my sexiest picks for each category:
To start building a blend, always begin with your base notes. Think of these as your ‘fixatives’, the notes that will grab hold of the mid and top notes, enhancing the whole bouquet while giving it its depth.
This is a very common base note you’ll find in many perfumes. It has a beautiful velvety touch when creating a perfume blend. One of my absolute favorite base notes.
I love the scent of sandalwood, such a sensual sexy scent. It isn’t very strong as a base note, but what it lacks in strength, it more than makes up in sexiness. It can literally make me weak in the knees!
What?? Oh no not patchouli! I know, I hear you, but you’ll have to trust me on this one, it is a fantastic base note. A little goes a long way. You might not even be able to detect it in your blend, but the result will amaze you. It has a way of mixing with the mid and top notes that can turn a simple 5 essential oil blend into a rich complex and sophisticated scent. But ok, if you really hate patchouli, just go for vetiver.
4. Balsam de Peru:
This essential oil is special on its own in that it is already textured and layered with a soft vanilla undertone and a hint of cinnamon. But its richness and warmth, along with its ability to fix floral mid and top notes, makes it a beautiful base note to any perfume blend.
The important role of the mid notes is as the heart of the perfume. It also helps to soften some of the stronger or even more unpleasant side of some base notes (Myrrh is a good example of this).
Before determining which mid notes you will choose, you’ll first need to determine which mix well with the base notes you’ve selected.
Here are a few of my favorites followed by which essential oils they combine well with (I’ve only listed those that are among today’s picks).
Use these combination lists when you choose your top notes as well.
Rose otto or rose absolute. This essential oil, known as the queen of essential oils, is a powerful aphrodisiac. It has a rich and enveloping scent, undeniably sensual. Unfortunately, it is also very pricy. If you find one that is inexpensive, it’s not an essential oil but rather a chemical or synthetic replica made in a lab. A few milliliters should cost over $100. I include it here because it is one of my favorite essential oils for perfumery. I am positively mesmerized by its sensuality… its delicate yet rapturous scent transports me to a world of love and beauty like no other. Oops! Getting carried away again – did I mention that it’s a powerful aphrodisiac!
Rose blends well with the base notes of vetiver, sandalwood and balsam de peru. It also combines well with bergamot, carnation absolute, geranium rose, jasmine, mandarin, neroli, and ylang ylang.
Neroli comes from the blossom of the orange tree. Many of you might not be familiar with it but it is a most delicate and intricate scent. In aromatherapy it is known to fight depression. It is a scent I am quite certain I can never live without. It has a delicate flower aroma, offering instant freshness. It reaches me deep in my soul every time I smell it.
Neroli blends well with the base notes of sandalwood and patchouli. It also combines well with carnation absolute, geranium rose, jasmine, lavender, mandarin, sweet-orange, rose and ylang ylang.
3. Geranium rose:
This floral scent is reminiscent of an English garden. It is fresh and instantly uplifting. It has a lightness of spirit that seems to grab your attention in a most delightful and surprising way.
Geranium rose blends well with the base notes of vetiver, sandalwood and patchouli. It also combines well with bergamot, carnation absolute, jasmine, lavender, mandarin, sweet-orange, rose and ylang ylang.
We cannot talk of sexy oils without mentioning Jasmine. Rich and exotic, it is a heavier mid note than the others, so I find I use it as a base/mid note that combines well with a light fruity top note like mandarin. It is known as the king of essential oils and is another powerful aphrodisiac. What a mood it creates!
Jasmine blends well with the base notes of vetiver, sandalwood and patchouli. It also combines well with bergamot, carnation absolute, geranium rose, mandarin, neroli, sweet-orange, rose and ylang ylang.
5. Ylang Ylang:
Ylang ylang is another essential oil classified as an aphrodisiac. It has a very distinct floral scent, and can be quite a strong addition to your blend, so start by adding only one drop at a time. I find it balances very well with base notes because its scent is so ‘heady’.
Ylang Ylang blends well with the base notes of vetiver, sandalwood, patchouli and balsam de peru. It also combines well with bergamot, carnation absolute, jasmine, mandarin, sweet-orange and rose.
Top notes are what will form your initial impression of a perfume, so keeping this in mind, ask yourself what are your preferences. Do you prefer a floral scent or a citrus scent? Citrus oils are often used as top notes but there are also some deliciously exotic floral scents, as you’ll see!
Bergamot is used a great deal in perfumes because it blends well with so many essential oils. It has a lovely light citrus scent without being too lemony. It is a more mature bouquet than the other citrus scents, and as a top note, it is a delightful first impression while your senses await the rest of the blend to travel with the mix.
Mandarin has a more distinctive citrus flavor than other citrus essential oils like lemon or sweet-orange. I find it both richer and more robust than the others. As such, I like to blend it with stronger mid and base notes like jasmine and vetiver.
Who doesn’t love the smell of fresh oranges! Nothing like inhaling that zesty burst of freshness. It can be a fun and lively way to top off your blend. Although this might sound counter-intuitive, I don’t recommend mixing it with mandarin, rather try blending it with bergamot instead.
Have you ever brushed against lavender flowers, accidentally experiencing the soft and calming fragrance? During my summer walks with my dog Roxy I cannot resist passing my hands over the lavender flowers I encounter along the way. This same effect is what I look for when mixing lavender into my blends. A hint of it is all I need. It is especially lovely with roman chamomile, although chamomile is not on today’s list.
My main reason for listing lavender is that it is known as an enhancer. A single drop of lavender in a synergy will enhance all the other oils. As an experiment, after your perfume is complete, add a single drop of lavender to enhance the blend’s olfactory and aromatherapeutic properties.
5. Carnation Absolute:
Ahhh at last, carnation absolute. Its rich scent is a striking blend of floral, spicy, honey and clove notes. It is expensive, but a little goes a long way. As soon as you open the bottle and sample its lavish scent for the first time, you will never forget it. It has nuances of the carnation flower, but only slightly as the flower itself has a much weaker and simpler scent. Even if it’s not in your perfumery budget, ask to sample its scent at the store, you are in for a treat!
Step-by-step ‘How TO’ blending tips:
What you’ll need:
– A journal for your perfume blend trial entries
– 5 ml dark bottle with a dropper
– Essential oils grouped in base/mid/top notes
– Jojoba carrier oil
– A small bowl of coffee beans
VIP! ….. Write everything down! Nothing like discovering an amazing scent blend only to be unable to replicate it.
Ensure that you are working in a well-ventilated area, and take frequent breaks by stepping outside for some fresh air. Otherwise you may end up feeling a wee bit too ‘euphoric’, or unable to distinguish one scent from another.
Between each smelling test you do with the essential oils, make sure it’s then followed by smelling the coffee beans. This will prevent each individual scent from losing its perceived odor intensity between your scent sampling. If only air is smelled between samplings, the odor intensity will decrease.
Ever wondered why there’s always a bowl of coffee beans next to the essential oils display in health food stores? Now you know!
The “lab” work:
(Here’s a photo I took of some my perfumery tests. Each number’s detail is noted in my perfumery journal, along with my impressions of the scent as it grows and changes)
(1) In a clean dark 5ml bottle, add 1 drop each of your base note choices. You can choose more than one*.
(2) Add your mid note choices: add 1 drop of your mid-note choices in the same bottle, once you’ve decided on a combination you like*.
(3) Using the same method (*), decide on which top note you feel most attracted to and add 1 drop of each to your blend.
(4) Cap it and roll it in your hands vertically in a quick back & forth motion for about 30 seconds. This heats the mix slightly, just enough for you to get a better first impression.
(5) Open the bottle and smell your blend by waving it back & forth under your nose.
(6) As you smell, decide if there is anything missing, or any scent you’d like to add.
(7) Add 1 or 2 drops of these essential oils. They can come from any note group, even a base note if you feel the blend needs more grounding.
(8) Cap it and put it aside without opening it for a few hours. When you smell it again after this rest, see if you’d like to add anything else. Don’t forget to write everything down!
*A little trick I sometimes use is to simply open each essential oil bottle and ‘wave’ them together under your nose to pre-sample them together.
Bottling your potion:
Now that you’ve fallen in love with your blend, you are ready to amplify it and add a carrier oil to it.
(1) Multiply each drop you’ve chosen by 5 for a light blend, or 10 for a stronger blend. For example, a blend of 2 drops of sandalwood, 1 of jasmine, and 4 of mandarin, will have 10/5/20 drops when multiplied by 5, and 20/10/40 drops when multiplied by 10.
(2) Fill the rest of your bottle with jojoba carrier oil. Cap it tightly and store it in a dark place, away from the sun and heat.
(3) Try leaving it unopened for a few days, but if you can’t resist, go ahead and start using it!
Voilà! Congratulations, you’ve just created you very own personalized organic perfume!
An organic perfumer’s secret: essential oil perfumes only last a few hours on the skin, so just use a few drops of essential oil perfume on the inner seams of your darker clothes and the scent will last until the next wash!
Don’t be surprised if everyone wants to know what perfume you’re wearing… just tell them Michèle showed you how to DIY!
(NOTE: Essential oils are for external use only. Always consult your health care professional if pregnant, breastfeeding, on medications or homeopathic remedies before using any essential oil products. Keep out of reach of children and pets, especially cats and birds. NEVER use essential oils on cats or birds.)