Tuesday, November 2, 2021

A perfume formula can be valuable -- very valuable!

To produce a perfume you need a formula. A formula is more or less valuable depending on the perfume produced from it. The formula for a successful perfume will always have great value... and will be a closely guarded secret.

If your interest is in developing a business where you produce your own perfumes you will need formulas. If you are not a perfumer yourself, the simplest way to get formulas is to work with a fragrance house and let their perfumers create formulas for you. You will never see these formulas – the fragrance house will not show them to you – but they will be yours exclusively. What you will see and smell are fragrances produced from these formulas but they will be given to you without any guarantee they will sell.

If you want to start with the formulas for someone else's winners, this too is possible. You won't be able to get your hands on the exact formulas of the originals but, depending on the fragrances you want, you might find good approximations.

What will it cost? Will anything be free?

It you are just starting out with a very limited budget you might wonder if there are formulas you can get free. Two kinds of free formulas can be found online. The first variety involves mixing essential oils. Want formulas? Search Google for "perfume formulas for mixing essential oils" and take your pick. None of these formulas will approximate a best seller.

If you want a more commercial formula for free you can occasionally come across an older one but when you look for the materials needed to make it, two problems arise. Specialty bases used in the past are no longer available and certain raw materials from the past are now banned.

The reality is that a formula, for even an approximation of a successful perfume that can be produced today, is valuable and not something given away free. Why would you want someone else's formula? Usually to produce a replica that can be sold at a lower price. While an authentic bottle of Chanel's No.5 may cost $150, a replica version may sell for $1 (yes, one dollar, and I have purchased one at that price). So how is a knockoff produced? Obviously from a formula but where did that formula come from? Certainly not from Chanel.

The project begins with gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. A sample of a popular fragrance is purchased from any store that sells it and the "juice" is run through a machine which breaks down its components by their evaporative times. The results are matched with a database which identifies (or tries to identify) each separate raw material. From this information a crude formula is produced. Then a skilled, experienced perfumer takes the rough data and fills in a few blanks to produce a coherent formula. A good deal of work and expense is involved but now a tool exists to produce an approximation of the original.

Looking at this approximation, two points must be kept in mind. First, since the replica cannot compete with the original on price, its formula must be adjusted to achieve a lower production cost. Expensive naturals are replaced by synthetics. Expensive synthetics are replaced by cheaper synthetics. But there is more to it. Most current best sellers make use of "captives." These are specialty molecules available only to perfumers working for the company that invented them. The knockoff formula has to fudge its way around them because they are almost impossible to replicate.

Innosol, Inc. advertises that it has 20,000 formulas for sale. These formulas are modeled after popular brands and are sold for $500 each. The buyer is warned that to produce each formula a considerable inventory of raw materials will be required but, if you wish, Innosol can arrange the production for you. Their service gives you one way to develop your own product line.

PerfumersWorld offers contemporary formulas as part of their Formulation Bulletin series. Each Bulletin package includes a number of formulas. Also available are physical samples produced from the formulas. A set of formulas plus samples if offered at $149.95. Formulas are sent by email; samples by mail or courier. PerfumersWorld is a source of all raw materials needed to produce these formulas, in small, large, or very large quantities.

Even with a formula in your hands it is recommended that you test it by producing your own small sample before diving in and ordering raw materials on a commercial scale.

The truth is that perfume formulas are valuable. The more successful the perfume made from the formula, the more valuable the formula itself... and even a formula for a good replica of a big seller can be quite expensive.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Formulas: find them, buy them, or create them

To create a great perfume you need a great formula. To create an average perfume you need a ... formula. To create even a stinky perfume you need a ... formula. Excluding packaging, the formula is the heart of your perfume. Where will you get it?

We usually think of perfume as something someone has created. Every major launch by every major fragrance marketer involves an original perfume formula that has been created by a major fragrance (F&F) house.

If you get together with a group of investors to market your own perfume, you will almost certainly employ the talents of a professional perfumer, introduced to you by a smaller, less well known fragrance house, who will create a formula for your perfume.

Whether a perfume formula is created by a major or a minor fragrance house, the formula itself will remain with the creator, not you. While you will pay to have the work done, you will never see the formula that was created on your dime. Formulas are trade secrets, carefully guarded by fragrance creators.

Now suppose you want to develop your own perfume but you are not flush with enough money to hire a professional perfumer. You want to produce your own perfume but you can't do it without a formula – or can you? A simple solution is to buy one of the many quite acceptable fragrance oils already on the market. They were made using formulas you will never see but, as you can get the oil ready made, you don't need to see the formula. For the non-creator this is the perfect solution.

Now suppose you want control over the formula. Suppose you want it in your hands so you can mix the recipe yourself to produce the oil and perhaps make a few adjustments as you go along. Here you have three possibilities. You can buy a formula from someone who is willing to sell one, perhaps a perfumer who has a formula he or she isn't intent on keeping as a trade secret Or you may get lucky and find a formula that has, for whatever reason, been posted somewhere on the internet Or you can create your own formula, if you have the skill.

Creating your own formula can be the most rewarding path but also the most challenging. You need skills: you need aroma materials to work with and, when you're finished, the fragrance you have created is not likely to be anywhere near as polished and professional as any fragrance available at the mall or in a drugstore.

This doesn't mean your fragrance can't be good. Following your own muse you may create something quite beautiful, quite compelling, and quite different than anything on the market. But it won't be quite as polished. A few rough edges will exist. Yet if people like it – a good possibility – the rough edges will be overlooked.

If creating your own perfume from scratch – from a formula you've written yourself – is your goal, an excellent starting point is the home study Perfumery Training Kit K26 from PerfumersWorld. The course includes both materials and equipment and is quite reasonably priced.

Finding a formula somewhere on the internet is another not impossible possibility. Books on perfumery with formulas exist. Written many years ago, the formulas are generic and old fashioned. Moreover, they require materials no longer obtainable due to various reasons. Formulas from this age of "all natural" perfumes can be found in Piesse. Bland by today's standards, they were drafted in an age that had not yet enjoyed the benefits of synthetic odorants.

On the other hand, if you find a modern formula such as Honey Lips Kiss Macaron Au Cassis, you will have difficulty obtaining the required odorants as some are "captives" whose distribution is tightly controlled by the patent holder – Givaudan in this case. Then, working from the idea of the formula, you are forced to find acceptable substitutes. In short, you will be required to reformulate the formula to get what you hoped for.

In my mind it all comes down to this: if you're an investor and want to market a perfume, go to a filling house or fragrance house that can hook you up with a qualified perfumer and then let that perfumer develop a perfume for you. If you don't have money but want your own perfume, work with a ready made, off the shelf fragrance and make it uniquely yours by naming it with a unique name that then becomes a trademark – your trademark – for your perfume.

If you want to produce a fragrance from a formula, doing all the mixing and weighing yourself, you can do it... but be warned.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Color control for your perfume

The color doesn't have to be what it is

It doesn't matter whether you're making perfume by the drum or by the quart, your perfume is going to have a color. Its color will depend on the ingredients used to make it. If you want your perfume to be a particular color, you're going to have to plan for this color in developing your formula.

Perfumes I've made generally come out in shades from light golden to deep amber. I've always been fascinated by the colors produced by the ingredients that were selected to achieve the scent. I've been happy to live with the "natural" color the ingredients produce. I haven't planned colors for my own fragrances, but this can be done.

There are several ways you can color your perfume, some more professional than others. The simplest down and dirty method is to use food colorings from the supermarket. This is fine if you're just making a few bottles of your perfume for family and friends. These food colorings are harmless. In the short term they won't do anything bad but long term stability could be a problem. Your food colorings could, over time, change in color thus changing the color of your perfume. And, as they change, they could change the scent itself. So if sales are your goal, food colorings are out. This leaves two methods of coloring your perfume. I'll start with the method you are unlikely to use.

Synthetic aroma molecules tend to be colorless. If you have created your formula with these colorless molecules, certified coloring materials you can make your perfume whatever color you want it to be. Your formula could also make use of specialty essential oils that have been decolorized.

This approach to controlling the color of your perfume requires (1) a great deal of skill in perfumery and (2) access to the required materials. Lacking these resources, your best bet is to work with cosmetic grade colorants and, experimenting bit by bit, try to find an approximation of the color you want.

It's likely you will have better luck going for a darker color than trying to dress your perfume out in a light color. It's a lot like working with new paint over a dark patch of existing paint. Getting the repaint to be white or light yellow will be a struggle.

Stability will still be an issue. Will the color you have given your fragrance still be the same in a month... in three months... in a year? You will have to test.

As for myself, I'll stick with those shades from light golden to deep amber. Note that the percentage of alcohol used in your fragrance will affect the color. Alcohol, being clear, will lighten your oil. Using more alcohol will produce a lighter shade. But you're still likely to end up with a color between light golden and, perhaps, a slightly less deep amber.

When you start to mess with color for your perfumes, you'll quickly gain an appreciation for what the skilled professional can do and which you can only approximate. But, if you want to give coloring a try, here are some available resources.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Put your focus on selling the best fragrance you have

In the book I just finished a few long weeks ago -- Making Perfume By The Quart: A do-it-yourself project book -- there's as chapter on selecting the fragrance oil you're going to use for this project. What it comes down to is a choice between using an oil you've made yourself, purchasing your oil ready made from one of the many available sources, or commissioning a fragrance house to create an oil for you, to your specifications. Your choice of which path to take will depend on the purpose for which you are undertaking this project.

If you have been creating your own fragrances and want to see one of them turned into a commercial product, by all means use that oil for the 'quart'. But if your goal is to sell as much of your new fragrance as you can... if you want that quart to be just the first stepping stone toward producing thousands of bottles of your fragrance, then you should strive to find the best fragrance you can get your hands on, regardless of who made it.

For ten years or more I've been working on a small scale with fragrances I've created myself. Before that I had larger success with fragrances I purchased from others, fragrances that were created by skilled industry professionals. Of my own creations there are only two I would judge outstanding. Both are for men and I use them daily. They are not, I can point out, everyone's taste. But they are good. But, while really good in quality, they are not every man's taste. Taste and quality are different animals.

A few other of my originals I would judge "pretty good." At least the scents are interesting. My wife will use them from time to time and I think she holds back a little for fear of running out. Others of my creations are junk. You could use them. They don't smell bad. But I know perfectly well they weren't well crafted.

If you're going to put money into a marketing a fragrance, you want that fragrance to be the best you can come up with.

So whether you're making a quart of perfume or ten gallons, if you plan to put money into marketing it your first and most important step is to find a fragrance -- an oil -- a composition -- a formula -- that is the best, most likely to sell, fragrance you can find. If you make your own fragrances but know, that while you like them and are proud of them, they aren't as good as what you could buy elsewhere, buy the one you know is better, even if it bruises your pride and vanity -- if you're doing this to make money.

Let me give you a personal example. I have a fragrance called Moonfaire. I can't recall how long ago I made it but, when I arrived at our vacation home in Canada last week, I found a bottle on my desk. So I tried it to see how I liked it. I wasn't impressed. It seemed to heavy. So I thinned it down with alcohol to make it more of an eau de cologne. Perhaps this helped a little. Perhaps in time I could like it. But I couldn't take pride in it. I liked the name but the fragrance had never really come together. It was something of an embarrassment.

Before you set out to develop a fragrance to sell, you've got to get familiar with what people are buying. Haunt fragrance counters. Sample every scent you can. Find out which are the best sellers and get a few whiffs of them. How do they smell? This is the smell of success. If sales are what you are looking for, find a scent that will be acceptable in a market where money is being made.

Hold up a bit.

Not everyone wants to be a copycat. In the distant past I worked with people who make very good money by being quick to invest large amounts of money in a products that simply copied the latest hot product. These people couldn't do something original to save themselves but they were very good at spotting hot products they could copy. They were acquired by a publicly traded company.

For me, the real excitement comes when an odd-ball product, a fragrance for example, emerges as a big winner and yet is truly original. These breakthrough products are rare and investing in them is risky. But you may have one. How can you tell? When you've sampled everything else and, although your fragrance is different -- not at all like the current big winners -- and yet you are certain it is quality, you may have something worth putting your money into. How do you go about it? Try making a quart or two and shopping it around to see if anyone stands up and salutes. But remember, start with a quart. Test with pennies. Hang on to your dollars. You'll need them for production and promotion should that quart turn out to be a big winner.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Technology for small scale perfume production

I've just published a book called Making Perfume By The Quart: A do-it-yourself project book. It's now available on Amazon. It has occupied most of my time during the months of July and August. The point of this book is simple. If you want to make your own perfume, your own brand with your own chosen name on the bottle -- on any scale -- getting started by making just one quart teaches you almost all of what you need to know to make 10,000 bottles or more. The advantages of getting started by making just one quart rather than 10,000 bottles are that (1) you can do it for pocket change and (2) you don't have to submit your idea to a committee or investors and, if you mess up, no one has to know. To me this makes a lot of sense and, along the way, I've met more than one person who should have tried doing a quart before jumping in with both feet and ending up with Christmas presents for the next few centuries. Disclaimer here: the first time I got involved with perfume we gave away a lot of unsold perfume at Christmas... and every other holiday for a number of years! The wonderful thing about writing a book is that you learn a lot along the way. You think you know something -- and you did, ten years ago -- but now there are changes. The most dramatic change has been the access to everything you need, in the U.S., through the internet. (Elsewhere there can be issues with alcohol and labeling.) One of the coming changes is in spray pump technology. In the book I tell readers they can only use screw-on pumps with matching threaded neck bottles -- and this is still about 98 percent true. But last week I capped a perfume bottles with a snap-on spray pump using a capper tool I got through an English source, Plush Folly. It worked very nicely and gave the bottle a much lower profile than it would have had with either a screw-on or a crimp-on pump. Bottles for snap-on pumps are easily available in the U.S. because they are the same bottles that take crimp-on pumps and crimp-on pumps are still the industry standard. But, in the U.S., snap-on pumps are hard to find. I can't name a single source. However, I have discovered several Chinese sources that will take small orders. Shipping time and cost from Chinese vendors has become quite reasonable so for me, snap-on pumps are the way forward. One more issue on my mind today -- continuity. Using the new capper tool I bottled the last of a fragrance which both my wife and I like. I want to produce more and have the formula along with the sources for each required material. But some of the natural materials were from a company no longer in business. That's a problem. No doubt I can find replacements for the resins but for certain I'll have to do some testing and adjusting. When it comes to natural materials, what you buy from one source can have very different characteristics than that what you might buy from another, even though both sell it under the same name. For perfumers the source of any natural material is very important for the effect of say oil from roses grown on one side of a hill might be quite different than the effect of oil from roses grown on the other side of the hill. Soil, water, sunshine, temperature, altitude all make for differences. This is something to ab aware of when developing your own fragrances. On the other hand, synthetic materials of the same CAS (chemical abstracts service) number should be identical and interchangeable, regardless of source. So these are my thoughts that I wanted to share with you today. Thank you for your patience! -- Phil

Thursday, July 1, 2021

New spray options for desktop perfume creators

I've been working on a book about creating perfume in small batches both as a regular commercial project and as a tool for test marketing a perfume, to see what might fly on a larger scale. Since the number of bottles this project calls for is small -- well under 100 bottles -- the problem of finding bottles arises. This is one of the biggest headaches for the desktop perfume creator.

Bottles are generally sold by the case and distributors have minimums which can make it difficult to buy just one case of bottles -- and one case might hold 200 bottles or more, depending on the capacity of the bottles. What happens when you only want a few dozen bottles?

To buy just a few dozen bottles you have to find a vendor who will break cases and sell by the single bottle or by the dozen. The number of vendors who will do this is small.

But that's just the beginning of your problem. You need not only the bottle but a sprayer than will mate with the bottle. This leaves you even more limited in your choices when selecting bottles.

Until recently the only option you had was a threaded neck bottle with a screw-on spray pump of the same "finish". ("Finish" is a term describing the configuration of the neck of a bottle.) Your options were either gold or silver screw-on pumps and silver pumps could be hard to find.

While there is nothing wrong with this combination, screw-on pumps have a high profile. Some customers won't care but most are accustomed to the lower profile of a crimp-on pump. But to attach a crimp-on pump to a perfume bottle a machine is needed. Herein lies the problem. Typically a manual crimper can cost well over $1,000, and manual crimpers have a reputation for breaking bottles, deforming pumps, and making a leaky connection.

Some changes in the marketplace

Recently I've seen bottles with screw-on pumps sold as sets by Scentsational Shoppe and these sets use black pumps. A nice touch. Then Perfumer's Apprentice has begun selling sets of bottles with crimp-on pumps and, to make this practical, they also offer a hand held crimper at a modest price.

Another fine mist spray pump possibility is opening up. These are the snap-on (also called "press-on" or "crimpless") spray pumps. They have a very low profile and can give your perfume bottle a very nice look. Like the crimp-on sprays, a machine is needed to attach these pumps to bottles and even the least costly manual press was expensive. Snap-on pumps may look like you might find a way to mount then on bottles without a press but in practice alternative techniques have proven themselves a disaster.

Now Plush Folly in the U.K., which had been selling snap-on pumps for a while, has a connection for a press that is said to be effective and yet is quite reasonably priced. I've already put in my order for one.

Possibilities for the desktop perfume creator are opening up. You still have to hunt to find a bottle and pump that suits you but your current options are far less limited than what was available even a few months ago. Hopefully this positive trend will continue.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Don't be afraid of alcohol

There's very little you need to know and the right alcohol is available

Regardless of your approach to perfumery you are probably quite aware of alcohol but when it comes to buying, using, or selecting alcohol or an alcohol substitute for your perfume you might feel a bit lost. You're not alone.

The first time I had a perfume made for me – this was before I began formulating my own oils – the vendor supplied it ready to bottle. The alcohol had already been added. There were no questions about alcohol for me to answer. The next perfume oil I had made for our company was simply purchased by the pound, without alcohol. I had to find a filling house to add the alcohol. Here my education began. I was what alcohol I wanted and I didn't have a clue. They helped me.

If you are interested in how commercial perfumes are made you will quickly or not so quickly discover that most commercial fragrances made in the U.S. use alcohol tagged "SD" or "SDA" indicating that the alcohol has been "specially denatured" and therefore not subject to the tax collected on the alcohol content of alcoholic drinks. Thus the big issue is not the quality of the alcohol or its scent or lack of scent but the rate at which it is taxed.

The U.S. allows alcohol to be denatured according to a number of formulas. Today alcohol denatured by formula SDA 40B is a common choice for perfumery.

SDA 40B is pure ethanol with a very small amount of a denaturant added, one which has minimal effect on its odor. In the U.S. you can purchase up to 5 gallons of denatured alcohol a year without a permit. If you require more you can either apply for a permit or take your project to a filling house with a permit that can supply you with all the alcohol you need.

If you are a beginner in selecting alcohol, SDA 40B is the favored choice. You'll find sources here. As you become more experienced you may want to try alternatives but if you never use anything but SDA 40B ethanol you won't go wrong.


The other question asked when purchasing alcohol is the "proof" you desire. 200 proof is pure ethanol. 190 proof alcohol is 95 percent ethanol and 5 percent water. 170 proof alcohol is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent water. The use of 200 proof alcohol is rare. Having some amount of water in the alcohol is believed to make the fragrance better. There is no complete agreement as to WHY water makes the perfume better. A number of theories are presented but there is no definite answer (in spite of what you may read!) Do your own experiments and go by your own results.


Today "perfumers alcohol" is more available than it was ten years ago. Not only are there, in the U.S. and U.K., a number of sources that will ship small quantities, also available varieties beyond SDA 40B. This means that the "hobbiest" – or small, independent perfumer – need not look to vodka, Everclear or one of the non-alcoholic solvents in order to make perfume.

How Alcohol Is Made

Typically the alcohol used in perfumery is distilled from a grain such as corn. Alcohol can be distilled from a variety of other plants such as grapes or potatoes. While, chemically speaking, ethanol is ethanol, it is said that a sensitive nose can, by smell, distinguish the source of any particular alcohol. If you are interested in the fine points of alcohol used for perfumery, you might read this article from Culinary Solvent (The Northern Maine Distilling Company), one of the current sources of perfumers alcohol.