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.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

How many ingredients does it take to make a "real" perfume?

When Shakespeare wrote sonnets did he stop too soon? Would a few extra lines have made them better?

Today there are well over 2,000 ingredients available for perfume creation and the list continues to grow. Chemists develop new odors by rearranging molecules. Biologists plunk unfamiliar plants from remote jungles and plains. These allow the perfumer to create scents that are not easily knocked off by the competition. Cosmetic chemists use these ingredients to create wonderful face creams that could never before have existed. How many ingredients do you need to make a great new perfume? And do you really need new or rare ingredients to wow people? Does greatness depend on the use of exotic, never used before ingredients – or does it depend on the skill and artistry of the perfumer? Consider a sonnet.

A sonnet is a poem exactly 14 lines in length. It has a rhyming pattern which can be one of a number of possibilities. But it is always 14 lines in length. No fudging to allow 13 or 15 lines. No free verse. Just 14 lines with a fixed rhyming pattern and yet amazing poems are written within this arbitrary 14 line structure.

Consider your own work with perfume. Is your aim to be the great innovator who will be the first to discover and use some new exotic ingredient? Or are you the artist who can pull amazing rabbits out of a limited inventory hat?

It's always exciting to work with new scents that you've never used before, if only to see what you can do with them. But it may be a greater challenge to look at your current inventory of scent materials and ask yourself what you can do with them, without adding anything you've never used before. However limited your supply of aroma materials may be -- perhaps only a dozen or so scents -- this handful of materials can offer infinite possibilities in your selection of what you put in and what to leave out, how to balance the strength of "A" against the strength of "B" to give a pleasing effect, how to decorate a theme without killing its focus. A lot can be done with a little and, being forced to create within a fixed template is the same test the sonnet writer is up against. Constrained by fixed limitations, all will all depend on your skill and your imagination -- not the number of ingredients you use and certainly not the use of special new ingredients. You'll be working with just your imagination and your skill with the materials you have at hand.

Try this approach and see what miracles you are led to create!

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Would a blind person select your perfume?

Perfume marketers go to great lengths with their packaging, to make their fragrances enticing. Sophisticated buyers admit that sometimes they buy a perfume for its packaging rather than its scent. I've done this myself -- more than once. But suppose you were selling to a blind person who couldn't see your packaging? Suppose this person had only their nose to go on. Now all that would matter would be the perfume itself. Would your perfume measure up?

Generally the idea for a new perfume comes well before the scent. It would be rare today for someone to wake up in the morning with a very specific scent in mind, rush to their desk, write down the formula, produce and bottle it and then give it to the advertising people saying "go sell this." More commonly a marketing platform would be developed, then graphics commissioned for that platform and only then would the project be handed out to several perfumers to see who could come up with what. The marketer knows that a great scent will greatly enhance sales but it will be the packaging, advertising, and promotion that will get the sales rolling. Never will it be about the scent itself though that will be the pretense. In reality the scent is an afterthought.

But what happens when a blind person smells this new perfume? It is said that blind people have no greater sense of smell than the average person with sight. But, lacking sight and being free of distractions from packaging and promotion, the blind person is likely to be more aware of the scent itself. How might your fragrance be rated?

Amateur perfume makers typically start by making a fragrance and then asking the question, "how can I sell it?" If you're out to make money this isn't the smartest approach. But, if you are more interested in the aroma than the packaging, this approach can help you hone your skills and your ability to produce fragrances that could, some day, gain serious recognition -- and approval -- from both blind people and many others. After all, isn't it scent that, thousands of years ago, created the perfume industry?

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Why bother with perfume? (Hint: you can't get away from it!)

If you have a half-way sensitive nose you smell smells everywhere and some stand out as beautiful and others as stinky. Odor can move you and that's the story of perfume. It's not how it's made; it's not the cost or the markup. It's the moment you smell something and react. Your reaction wasn't intentional. It was something forced on you by the smell. My dog has an "accident." I don't see the dog; I don't see the "accident." But that odor immediately tells me what has happened. It communicates. When I'm in a supermarket and suddenly smell a fine fragrance, I can't tell where the scent has come from. I see no women in my aisle. Yet I know a woman has passed through and left a scent and I'm left wondering: Who is she? What does she look like? How might she look at me? Likely these questions will remain unanswered but that scent has left a memory. Scent instantly transforms an environment. In the supermarket aisle, among all sorts of food smells -- fish, meat, fruits and vegetables, coffee of various flavors and grinds, the oh, so light aroma of a fine fragrance can stand out. Odor is a powerful tool for communication. You can't see it coming. You can't see it at all. But suddenly you're enveloped in it. You can't say what direction it came from. You can't say where the person who was wearing it has gone. But it's there and it has your attention and you can't run from it. It's there -- and, if its a smell that can get a reaction out of you, it's going to do that whether you like it or not. With a visual image you can turn away if for whatever reason you don't like it. But a smell is just "upon you." Making perfume is (mostly) about making good smells, smells that will give pleasure when detected. But it involves a lot more than mixing aroma materials together until they smell nice. "Nice" can be boring and a great many of the materials used to make perfume smell "nice" by themselves -- which can make you wonder why, in the creation of a perfume, the "nice" smells are mixed with materials that may not smell so nice! (And that, really, is part of how fine fragrances are made.) If you want to be involved with/in perfume, you want to recognize what it does. It can identify a woman more quickly than a tattoo. It can make an instant statement about elegance -- or seduction. It can leave a trail behind after a woman has left the room. It can get attention leaving no ability to push back. But, as a maker of perfume, how do you control the message it communicates? Herein lies much of the art of perfumery. The best in the business can tailor their message -- their fragrance == so that it coordinates with a marketing theme and supports, through its aroma, the pictures in the magazines and the images on TV. The best creators of perfume are the ones who can direct your fantasies in the direction they have chosen. It's not easy and few can succeed at it regularly. A perfume can be an art form or it can be a mess. But once the scent is out there it will communicate, for better or for worse!

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Advertising results can guide marketing strategy -- if you're willing to read them honestly

    Only by advertising can you get "advertising results" -- and only by having "advertising results" can you guide your project to success.

    I've been doing some advertising. It involved a financial commitment. You might think this is a questionable time to spend money on advertising -- national events are grabbing people's focus -- but the results I'm getting NOW are showing me where I must tune up my presentation to get better results -- and there's no reason why I can't get better results.

    I'm spending money to advertise two related books -- Creating your own perfume from dropper bottles: Methods, mechanics, and mathematics and Creating Your Own Perfume With A 1700 Percent Markup!. Most of my advertising dollars are going to Google, to advertise the books which are sold on Amazon. Let me explain how my test campaign has evolved.

    I ran some advertising on Amazon. Advertising directly on Amazon had two drawbacks. First, because I have an Amazon Associates account, I can get a commission on sales. The commission doesn't just cover sales of the product I've advertised, it also covers others purchases from traffic I've sent to Amazon. But with Amazon's advertising program I can't use my Associates I.D., so I can't get these small but welcome commissions.

    The second drawback is that Amazon Advertising gives me only two choices: I can advertise a SPECIFIC title of my own or I can advertise ALL of my titles. This second option means my advertising money is split between multiple products -- some of which don't sell well -- instead of being focused on titles that do sell well, titles I want to promote.

    So on Amazon I have to select the title I want to promote. Then there's another problem. I'm severely limited in the length of my ad. I'm not allowed to write enough to explain the book. And finally, there's censorship that limits what you can say. Don't suggest your product will help people make money or that an investment is required to carry out the program. Can anyone make perfume without putting some money into it? Amazon wants you to advertise but to keep your advertising bland. Bland doesn't sell.

    So I've turned my focus to Google, Google Ads (once called Google AdWords). Here I am still very much in the "learning" phase but I'll share some of what I've learned. (If you want to know even more about Google Advertising, check out these books.)

    First of all you have to have a goal. In my case it has been to sell specific books. But I offer the books both as instant pdf downloads from my own website and as soft cover books from Amazon. The ads I've run have been for traffic, visitors to a landing page, but I had to make a decision. Should my landing page promote the download from my own site or should it promote the sale of the book on Amazon? This is a choice that must, and in time will, be tested to see which approach is more profitable. At present I'm going with Amazon as the royalty on a soft cover sale is greater than my current price for a pdf download.

    So the setup is this. I run small ads to drive traffic to the landing page at my website which gives a sales pitch and link to the page on Amazon that offers my book. And I do some tracking.

    Google shows me how many "impressions" they've given each of my ads -- how many times my ads have appeared somewhere out there -- and how many clicks each ad has received. I am charged only for clicks. In placing my ads with Google I can specify how much money I want to spend daily. Here you can start with just a few dollars -- $2, $5 or whatever. You'll want to let an ad run for at least 30 days before you kill it, even if you are only getting a handful of clicks. A small number of clicks means small expense.

    Aside from the statistics I get from Google, I get statistics from my own website. These show the volume and sources of traffic. Now, with my ads running, they show a leap in the amount of traffic coming from Google. This is good.

    From my own web stats I also get counts of traffic going from my landing pages to my Amazon book pages. This tells me how effective the sales presentations on my landing pages are.

    Finally, from the traffic going to my book pages at Amazon, I can judge how effective the sales presentations at my website and my descriptions of the books at Amazon are. I am now in a position where i can identify the weak links in the chain and try to strengthen them.

    At this point let's forget my personal marketing concerns and look at yours. My first point for you is that you can read all day about advertising but if you really want to learn about advertising you have to put up some money and do it. This requires two things. First, you have to be ready to spend money, say just a few hundred dollars knowing it could be lost. Next, you must have a product to advertise, a finished product that can be delivered immediately... perhaps a PERFUME.

    Here I'm going to quit for today. My next message will discuss how you might use what I've talked about above to sell... PERFUME.