Saturday, September 5, 2009

Dosing Ingredients: Some Advice for DIY perfumers

(photo of Mathilde Laurent evaluating scent strips)

I have learned that one of the most negative things you can do to the state of your psychology is to begin to create and behave with rituals. That is to mean that you create patterns in what you do that make you feel safe and secure. Although it may seem a bit abstract to apply this to perfumery, the way that I feel it applies most is in the dosing of ingredients. As students of perfumery when we begin to learn and more about the raw materials of the perfumers palette we find ourselves assigning relative strength associations to these materials. As a less experienced DIY'er we might become prone to be very careful with materials like vetiver and mace which we feel have a tendency to take over our blends completely. We may also even get so discouraged by "chemicals" like Maltol, IsoBQ and CIS Hex that don't seem to co-operate with us no matter how low of a dosage we use...

For the DIY'er out there who is trying to learn perfume the autodidact way I have some advice... Do not stick to your rules about dosage! For instance, tonight I have been trying to copy a man's scent from the 80's and my current dosage of coumarin is very far under 1%, however while copying Lagerfeld's Floriental I found myself dosing it somewhere around 3-5% (Caveat - I am not sure anymore the exact as I cannot find my formula, I am horrible with losing them! Another piece of advice - Don't lose your formulas!). Another example of an ingredient which I commonly use to underdose is patchouli - while it seems to have a tendency to dominate blends and therefore cause dosage paranoia, I have actually found myself dosing it somewhere around 10% tonight! Don't be afraid to experiment and always trust your nose not your heuristics!

Now, the second part of my advice on dosing comes in the arena of the dilution of your chemicals. Perfumery is an expensive hobby, so spend your money wisely. Do not buy as many raw materials as you can until your money runs out because believe me, you will lose more money this way than building your organ slowly and smartly. The smartest thing to do is to keep enouhg money aside to purchase DPG and dropper vials to create enough dilutions of your materials that you can always work with the fewest amount of drops possible. This is to mean that it is often wise to have not only the 100% dropper, but also a 10% and a 1%, or for chemicals that we know are really strong we can do 5% and 1% 0.1% and even 0.01%. I have some chemicals in dilutions such as 0.25% 0.1% 0.01% etc.. do whatever feels best for you. Also, if you are unsure of how fat to dilute your chemical, my experience says to dilute until you can evaluate the true facet of the material as many strong materials smell uncharacteristic of themselves at high concentrations.

Above all, do not scour the internet for formulas thinking they will "teach you a basic skeleton" - it doesn't really work that way. Be brave and challenge yourself, take your favourite perfume and try to remake it. You will probably not succeed the first time but if you get 50% of the way there pat yourself on the back - try to get to 80% within 5 trials :)


Leon said...

By what you said, it seems that this is a 60% art, 40% chemistry, profession. But it retains something of Alchemy and even of Sorcery to attain an excellent, beyond the craft habilities, result.

Parfum said...


I agree, I believe it leans more towards art, for instance some might say that the science knowledge of different molecules is needed to know how they will interplay in the perfume composition - however doesn't a painter need to know the physical properties of his/her different paints as well? Surely this does not mean painting is part science as well!

Fragrance composition is art, the science bit is only in the technology :)

sarah said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Parfum said...

Hi Sarah,

thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment, I will try to write as often as possible :)

Building Materials Supplies said...

Dosing Ingredients: Some Advice for DIY perfumers

Thanks this has been a interesting read