Making perfumes from natural ingredients that grow in nature is for people who enjoy fine scent, good food and delicious drink. Discussed are formulas with essences that smell like nature and food.
Natural Botanical Perfumery From Nature
By Jeanne Rose
When I first thought about writing about essential oils, scents, and perfumery as well as the edible and umami stimulating food scents, I wanted to describe my perfumes as gourmet, but I was not clear about the true meaning of the word’s gourmand and gourmet. Since I do own the 22-volume set of The Oxford English Dictionary, it felt correct to first give a definition of what I would discuss.
According to the Oxford, A Gourmetis someone who is a “connoisseur in the delicacies of the table” and in our scent-world one who is a “connoisseur of scent” while a Gourmand is a “glutton, greedy, fond of eating and eats to excess” and for scent collectors “one who is greedy and uses to excess the natural scents of the plant world”. Sometimes one sees the words gourmet and gourmand used interchangeably, though more properly gourmand carries a connotation of gluttony and gourmet is knowledgeable enjoyment. These are gourmet scents.
DESCRIBING THE ODOR OF THINGS
To make perfumes you have to be able to describe them correctly. A good vocabulary is helpful, but I stay away from poetic descriptions and try to use clean and simple odorous words. See smell/scent article
BASIC PERFUMERY INFORMATION
What is Natural (Botanical) Perfumery? It is the use of scent from plant materials for personal fragrance. It really is as simple as that. It is an aromatic art and a fine craft that uses the pure, essences of plants extracted from plants, the use of botanical extracts, essential oils, absolutes or tinctures (and for some, natural animal essences) to scent the body. Natural Botanical Perfumery relies solely on plants as their scent source and the scent sources are whole and not isolates. Natural Perfumery refers to making perfume without using synthetic aroma materials.
Ways to Obtain Natural Botanical Perfumery Ingredients.
There are several different types of natural Botanical Perfumery ingredients and these can be obtained by several different methods:
_____ABSOLUTES are prepared perfume materials obtained by solvent-extraction from plants, usually delicate flowers that would be harmed by distillation. They are alcohol-soluble and often oil-soluble. They are liquid but sometimes solid or semi-solid. Absolutes are obtained by the alcohol-extraction of concrètes and other types of extracts. During the preparation of absolutes, most terpenes, waxes, and most odorless matter is eliminated but often collected elsewhere as another product.
_____Concretes, CO2, and TOTALS are obtained by either solvent-extraction from plant material, or by CO2 extraction, they are solid or semi-solid and are good for solid perfumes. They often represent the full scent of the plant material. They yield tinctures (alcohol & essential scent) and the essential plant wax. Often, their uses can also be included in herbalism.
_____EtOH is ethyl alcohol; it can be made from the general term ‘grain’ (wheat, rye, millet, rice or corn) sugar cane, or grape. It is called neutral* grain or grape spirits and is used as a diluent for complex natural perfumes. For proper dilution, the perfumer should use 95% neutral spirits. Lower percentages often do not dissolve the perfume ingredients. And neutral spirits are defined as un-flavored, un-scented alcohol of 95% (percent), or 190° (proof), obtained chiefly from grain or grape.
*neutral means that it has not been adulterated, is high percentage and thus can cause alcohol poisoning as it has no odor and no taste. It is dangerous to drink and to over-consume.
_____What does proof mean? 50% is the same as 100° and it means that it is the proof required by the British Royal Navy, that is, the benchmark strength, at which a spirit could be spilt on gunpowder and it would still ignite. In perfumery, you will want to use 95% neutral spirits, particularly neutral grape spirits, as it is the way to achieve the eponymous scents of the original scents. These scents are is fruity and distinctive in a nicely aged perfume.
There has been some discussion about alcohol for use in tinctures and in perfumery. It is good to remember that 95% alcohol is a preservative, while 70-80% alcohol extracts the plant properties. In biology, specimens are put up into increasingly stronger alcohol until they are in 95% alcohol. Alcohol is hydrophilic. It attracts water. In addition, there is a difference in how 95% neutral grain spirits or 95% neutral grape spirits or 95% copper-distilled neutral grape spirits is used. Grain spirits are made from grain; wheat, rye, barley, etc. and is useful in tincturing for plant medicine. Grape spirits are made from grape and so has a fruity overtone that is useful in perfumery. Copper-distilled neutral grape spirits are the base of eau de vie and brandy and have a sweet, fruity overtone, and is great in perfumery.
_________A family-owned company that double distills organically grown plants in stainless steel is www.organicalcohol.com. They sell neutral grape and neutral grain spirits. Also, proof ° is different from percent %. Proof is another way of discussing the strength of the alcohol. Alcohol is hydrophilic and can only be made up to 96% or 192°. The proof is always twice the alcohol number. It is a great word to look up in the dictionary. Look at all your wine bottles and liquor bottles – you will see both proof and % listed.
_____ Essential Oils are steam distilled and are EtOH (alcohol) and oil-soluble.
_____ Floral Waxes, Beeswax will need to be heated to be used. Floral waxes are obtained from natural plants, solvent extracted to form the concrète, which is then separated into the absolutes and plant/floral waxes. Beeswax is collected and made by bees.
ACCORD ~ A perfume accord is a balanced blend or synergy of notes which will lose their individual identity to create something new, a new odor, it is a harmonious combination of 3-4 ingredients. It can be composed of 2-3 of your Bases. An accord is not to be confused with a Family of Odors nor with a harmonious completed note. Also, keep a collection of premade accords so that your perfume will be ready to use sooner rather than later.
BASES ~ Instead of building a perfume from the ‘ground up’, many perfumers make and use a premade base or fragrance bases for their perfumes and colognes. Also called simply a base scent (not aa base note). Each base is essentially a simple or modular scent that is blended from two of your essential oils or aromatics and formulated with a simple concept in mind such as fatty floral (butter + Jasmine) or spice (Juniperus virginiana + Clove). A base is not the same as a base note and you should use only 2 or no more than 3 scents to make it.
A base is the basic building block of a perfume. Make it, name it, label it and store in your scent library for further use. If you maintain a collection of bases, then you will always be prepared to make a new accord or scent.
A collection of bases is kept because the combination can be reused, or to pre-age ingredients that are difficult or overpowering and when premade can be more easily used as the foundation of a new scent; you can combine multiple known bases to make a new accord.
Try making a Rondeletia base using only Lavender and Sandalwood. Make several using different types of Lavender and different species of Sandalwood to see the differences.
See Natural Perfumery Workbook for more detailed information.
Bases is not a base note — Instead of building a perfume from “ground up”, many modern perfumes and colognes are made using fragrance bases or simply bases. Once again, each base is essentially a modular perfume that is blended from essential oils and aromatic chemicals and formulated with a simple concept such as “fresh cut grass” or “juicy sour apple”. Many modern perfume makers begin with their simple fragrance concepts and expand to produce a new concept scent and are good examples of what perfume fragrance bases are like.
Make the effort to develop bases as they are useful in that they are reusable. They are reusable only if you keep good notes and label everything that you make as you make it. On top of its reusability, the benefit in using bases for construction of perfumes are quite numerous:
- Ingredients with “difficult” or “overpowering” scents that are tailored into a blended base may be more easily incorporated into a work of perfume
- A base may be better scent approximations of a certain thing than the extract of the thing itself. For example, a base made to embody the scent for “freshly picked Jasmine after the rain” might be a better approximation for the scent concept of jasmine after rain than just plain Jasmine oil. Afterall there are at least 20 different odors of Jasmine and your desire to imitate your Jasmine flower scent will be different from the scent of the Jasmine that I grow or is grown elsewhere. Flowers whose scents cannot be truly extracted, such as gardenia or hyacinth, are composed as bases from the data derived from headspace technology and your own collections and tinctures.
- As a perfumer using Bases, you can quickly rough out a concept by combining multiple bases, then present it to your client for feedback. Listen, alter accords, complete perfume, smooth the “edges” of the perfume, add fixative, complete.
FAMILY OR PERFUME FAMILIES ~ There are 7-8 main groups of perfumery-making called perfume families. Within each of these families are 7 separate accords that you can make. I will only list the perfume families as the entire chart is listed in “Natural Perfumery Workbook”. Just as in the Vocabulary of Odors©, each family of odors corresponds to a perfume family (not a particular plant): Floral, Fruity, Citrus, Fern/Green, Woody, Herbal, and Spicy/Oriental. The other family that I like to work with is called Leather or Chypre.
As an example, in the large Floral Family that includes the separate odors of floral, powder, honey, oily, musk scents; this family contains perfumes whose main accords are the flowers such as Jasmine, Gardenia, Tuberose, Osmanthus and the various accords can be called 1. Floral-floral (Ylang-Ylang); 2. Floral-fruity (); 3. Floral-Citrus (Neroli) ; 4. (Floral- Green (Violet leaf), 5. Floral-Woody (Atlas Cedar); 6. Floral-Herbal (Lavender) and 7. Floral-Spicy (Vanilla-Cinnamon) combinations.
NOTE or NOTES ~ This is a word that is borrowed from the language of music to indicate an olfactory impression of a single smell, or to indicate three distinct periods in the evaporation of a perfume – top note, middle or heart note, bottom note. I have gone further and identified the parts of the perfume in musical thought as well with the help of jazz bassist Ron McClure.
Top Note – ▲ These are the ‘Trills or Variations’ of the perfume and make up to 5-20% of the total perfume. They are often the most volatile of the scent, one that is perceived for only about 30 minutes after application. In music, variation is a way of organizing a piece of music by taking a tune (a theme or melody) and then repeating it in several different ways. It is often called Theme and Variations. The same is true in perfumery.
Heart Note – ♥ The ‘Melody’ of the perfume. The melody is the single phrase or motif of the perfume, the tune, voice, or line, and is a succession of musical tones, which can be identified as a single entity and make up 20-30% of the perfume. And in perfumery the same is true, a single family or accord that is basic. What it is, is the scent that you want it to be on your skin for the longest time; it is the principle part and determines the character of the perfume. The Heart note is the recognizable tune; I call it, the ‘Melody’ of the perfume.
Base Note – ■ I call the Base note, the ‘Beat’ of the perfume. In music, a beat is the basic time-unit of a piece of music; for example, each tick sounded by a metronome would correspond to a beat. The base note makes up anywhere from 5-20% of a perfume. A base note is a class of odorants that evaporate very slowly and are typically not perceived until the perfume dry(s)-down. Base notes are fixative and ‘hold’ the scent in place. These notes are often not very volatile and are also often incorporated into the Base Accord. It is the beat or ‘drumbeat’ of the Perfume.
More parts of the perfume
Bridge Note – ∩ A bridge connects one scent to another, florals to seeds or leaf scents to roots. Experience them in your Vocabulary of Odors to get a deep understanding. Bridge Notes or Accessory notes e scents tie everything together, they are the theme, ‘the Timing’ of the scent or what supports the scent. They take you from one note to another like flower to leaf or leaf to root or “across the water from the city to the country”). They are usually only about 10% or less of the total weight of the perfume complex.
You can also use other Accessory notes. These are intensely-scented aromatics that are used to add freshness, lift, or a fashionable essence to a blend, or to highlight a main note. They are typically used in very small amounts so that they don’t overpower the other aromatics in a blend. (Birch tar, which is a heavy smoky scent or Kewda, Pandanus odoratissimus, which was described once as smelling like a combination of Horse Radish and Gardenia, are examples.)
Fixative Note – ※ is an old term for any natural substance that will hold and ‘fix’ and that ‘Gives long life’ to a perfume and that helps a fragrance last longer on the skin. Alcohol-based scents are fleeting, so you want to add something to help ‘anchor’ or ‘fix’ the scent. Lowering the evaporation rate of the alcohol with a ‘tenacious’ scent usually does this and gives long life to a scent. Fixatives are ambergris, civet, Labdanum, Africa Stone and more. The fixatives can be part of the alcohol diluent or part of the base Accord or base-note. Fixatives notes are deep and complex. In the past fixative notes were the animal part of the finished perfume but are now often mineralized animal products such as Africa Stone or tinctures of odd deep and sometimes unpleasant odors that when used in small amounts fix the scent. See page 97 in 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols or Natural Botanical Perfumery for the vegetable perfume fixatives.
TINCTURES OR PERFUME TINCTURES. Perfume tinctures are different than medicinal tinctures, as only the scent is desired. Flowers without the calyx (green parts) are put in a jar and a spirit of 80-95% pure ethanol is added. The jar is left to stand for 15-minutes and up to 1-day OR as long as the flower is producing scent and is shaken occasionally. The spirit is then poured onto another jar filled with flowers and on and on. This is continued until the alcohol has taken on the scent (and usually) and color of the flowers. It will take a season of the flowers to produce the true perfume tincture. This is then refrigerated until the alcohol is perfectly clear. Then the clear scented alcohol is removed by decanting or by pouring or using a pipette. The flowers that are left in the jar can be used in the bath or placed in a muslin bag, pressed, and any liquid left can be used in a cream as both a scent and a preservative.
MAKE A PERFUME
A Perfume is three notes, the top, the heart, and the base, with a bridge or two and a fixative to complete it. The notes may be made with your pre-made bases or accords and to which you will just add something to change it from what it was to what it is now.
BASIC PERFUME — Making a Perfume substance for topical application is to make something that smells good on you, that has no obvious medicinal value, but may have emotional or sexual value, and will usually be composed of the connections between the notes of » Top — Heart — Base « plus the addition of Bridge notes to connect.
Make it at 17%-25% or so, that is, up to 25% of the total is natural perfume ingredients and to which you add the neutral spirits. Cologne is 15% or so natural ingredients with 85% neutral spirits. Please remember that we always start with 95% neutral spirits (ethyl alcohol). I am personally a fan of neutral grape spirits and not a fan of using carrier oils or Jojoba liquid wax or Coconut oil to dilute a perfume. They are prone to oxidizing and thus limit the life of the perfume.
The Delicious Accord
3 C’s of Craft Gourmet Perfumery ~ Cardamom, Coffee and Cocoa
Cocoa and Coffee absolutes are thick and viscous and need to be pre-diluted 50•50 with your perfume alcohol (95% neutral grape spirits) to get it liquid enough to measure. So, when you use them remember that they are pre-diluted, and you can accommodate your formula ahead of time. They are also slow to dissolve into the alcohol. If the math confuses you, pre-dilute everything 50•50 with your spirits ahead of time and then you can add drops and the drops will be the same volume (not necessarily the same weight). If you are making large quantities always measure by weight on a quality digital scale. And Cardamom is always a pleasant addition to any perfume where a bit of spice is nice.
JEANNE ROSE TOMATO TALES
༆ Natural Perfumery Formula ༆
“Breakfast in Marseille Perfume”
I fancy having breakfast at a cafe in Marseille, near the Mediterranean Sea and it is early in the morning and unusually quiet. Let us call it “Breakfast in Marseille Perfume”. I will have some citrus or juice and then Madeleines and a spicy hot Chocolate.
I made a Sea fennel Accord of Samphire (Crithmum maritimum), Lime, Clary Sage, Petitgrain, algae (Seaweed), and Basil in a combination that made me think of the sea.
I made a base (not a base note) of Chocolate and Vanilla, called it CocoVan. (See page 12 of Part 3 of The Natural Perfumery Workbook for details.) Then added it to the base note accord. Of the Chocolate + Vanilla bases that I had, I chose bottle 4, with 4 parts of Vanilla and 6 parts of Chocolate. This particular bottle I called Coco #4 and used it as part of my Breakfast Accord by adding to it an equal amount of Butter CO2 and Coffee CO2. Now I had the foundation of my Accord note with this Bases Note that I could age for a week or so while I decided on my Top and Heart note. I added a bit of Tobacco abs. to the Breakfast Accord to call it now “1950 Breakfast Base Note”.
I made the three notes separately and left them to age for a few weeks.
The scent would be the floral citrus fragrance of a woman’s perfume and possibly someone smoking nearby and the gurgling sea-smell of the Mediterranean Sea to the Base note of chocolate, butter, vanilla, coffee. I then added this base note to the top and heart note, added the bridge notes and kept careful records of what I added and made my perfume. I wanted to try to evoke the scent of Marseille at 10 a.m. while having a bit of juice and then a simple breakfast of a Madeleine while drinking a spicy cup of hot chocolate. Of course, it helps to have been to Marseille so that you know what it smells like.
A base is a building block of a perfume. Base or Bases is not a base note — Instead of building a perfume from “ground up”, use your premade fragrance base or simply called a base, named and stored for future use. You could have dozens of these ready. Each base is essentially a 2-part modular perfume that is blended from essential oils and extracts and formulated with a simple concept such as “cut grass” or “cookie” or “spiced Coffee”.
I had decided on a Citrus citrus top note and a Floral Jasmine Heart note; the Top note was a common combination of Bergamot and white Grapefruit with attending scents of Yuzu and Lemon; the Heart note was Champa, Jasmine, Ylang-Ylang Extra, smoky Osmanthus and high-elevation Lavender; an added bridge of the Sea Fennel Accord on one end for the sea smell and Birch tar and Cardamom on the other end for a bit of spice; the Base Note was made with the base and accord as listed plus Tobacco; and then a fixative of ambergris completed my “Breakfast in Marseille Perfume”. Oh, my! I am ready to roll now.
Three weeks later after aging these pre-made bases, accords, and notes separately and adding them together and aging they were now ready to be diluted with 95% neutral grape spirits. I made the final perfume by diluting 1-part natural perfume ingredients with 3-parts of the grape spirits or 25% to 75%. And let it age again.
Here is the end formula of “Breakfast in Marseille Perfume”
This was my general perfume, but you can use whatever amounts that you wish here in the final combining of notes. There are a thousand combinations and every combination that you make will have a different odor.
“It is not the number of oils that determines the fineness of a perfume,
but the manner in which certain odors are combined.” … 1865
The Oxford English Dictionary
EdenBotanicals.com and jeanne-blog.com
Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols. Frog, Ltd. 1999
Rose, Jeanne. Natural Botanical Perfumery. 2015 edition from http://www.JeanneRose.net/books.html
Bibliography for Advanced Perfumery:
Anonis, Danute Pajaujis: Flower Oils and Floral Compounds in Perfumery, Perfumer and Flavorist. 1993.
Arctander, Steffen. Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin
Barillé, Elisabeth and Catherine Laroze. The Book of Perfumery. Flammarion Press. 1995
Calkin, Robert R. and J. Stephan Jellinek. Perfumery Practice and Principles, Wiley Interscience, 1994.
Edwards, Michael. Perfume Legends, 1996.
Gaborit, Jean-Yves. Perfumes The Essences and Their Bottles. Rizzoli, New York. 1985.
Guenther, Ernest: The Essential Oils, volumes I-VI, Krieger. 1949.
Mabberley, D. J. The Plant Book
McMahon, Christopher. AROMAtherapy 2037, Fall 97. “Tuberose Treasure”
———. AROMAtherapy 2037, Summer 97. “Extraction of Floral Concretes”
Ohloff, Günther: Scent and Fragrances, Springer-Verlag 1990. Translated by Pickenhagen and Lawrence
Pavia, Fabienne. The World of Perfume. 1995
Piesse, G. W. Septimus. The Art of Perfumery. 1867
Rose, Jeanne: 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols; Frog, Ltd. 1999.
——— . AROMAtherapy 2037. Winter 1997/98
———. The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations 1996.
———. The World of Aromatherapy, 1996.
———Herbs & Things, Last Gasp. 2002
Thompson, C. J. S. The Mystery and Lure of Perfume. Lippincott. 1927.
Williams, David G.: The Chemistry of Essential Oils, Micelle Press. 1996.
Moderation in All Things.
Be moderate in your use of essential oils as they are just not sustainable for the environment.
Be selective and more moderate in your usage.
Use the herb first as tea or the infusion. —JeanneRose 2014
It is with pleasure that I acknowledge Eden Botanicals as asking me to think about writing about the particular scents that have an edible connotation and also sending me their selection. I had already in my library of scents, old and older samples that I could also look at and smell. I wrote these posts in 2018 and they included Almond, Butter, Coffee, Cacao, Cognac, Ginger, Tobacco and Vanilla as ingredients in high-end perfumery. See the posts at
4 thoughts on “NATURAL PERFUMERY”
Love your original selection of your perfume adventures and techniques! This post is very near my heart!
Glad you can now write about whatever you want! Your Breakfast in Marseille Perfume sounds rich!
I remember after taking the Blending Class at your home, how excited I was to be able to access that long table of absolutes, essential oils, and extracts along the side wall for the Natural Perfumery Class.
I still have my blends from all the courses, I should break them out and see how they have aged!
This blog is a crash course in it, and the info in your Natural Perfumery book is vast!
Pingback: HOME PERFUMERY – pt. 2 | JeanneRose-blog
Pingback: Violet — Perfumery | JeanneRose-blog