Monday, June 26, 2017

Perfume Production Up Close (Video)

Last week I posted a video on YouTube showing the production of 900 ml of a new fragrance. The video shows both the production of the oil -- 135 ml, from a formula which is shown -- and then the mixing of the oil, water, and alcohol.

The video is posted here.

The "footnotes" to the video are posted here.

And -- for your amusement only -- a "fail" in producing the video is posted here.

Or just view it here:

Thanks for your interest.

-- Phil

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Perfume Production: weight vs volume

    I posted a second YouTube video, this one showing how I converted a "drops to grams to percents" formula to a volume (milliliters) measurement to allow me to produce my fragrance by liters or gallons (or milliliters or fluid ounces).

    The point is, it is easier to develop a formula by the weights of the aroma materials you are using. But when you want to produce a few liters or gallons, it is easier to measure your alcohol and water by volume. But what about your fragrance oil?

    By knowing the weight of a liter (or milliliter, or fluid ounce, or gallon) of your oil, you can calculate the weight you'll need to produce to fill a certain volume.

    I've discussed this on my PerfumeProjects website but the video tells all:

    Thanks for your interest.

-- Phil

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Perfume Production -- drops to grams

    When I develop a new fragrance, I work with dropper bottles. Because of this, my initial formula is written out in drops.

    To scale up the formula for production, I convert drops to grams and then convert then to percents. Once I have calculated the percentage, by weight, that each material contributes to the formula, I can scale up to any size batch I want.

    I've posted an article describing the "drops to grams to percents" conversion here, at my website.

    I've also posted a short video on YouTube showing how to set up an electronic balance to do the measuring.

    Thanks for your interest!

    -- Phil

Friday, April 21, 2017

Cleaning up a sour note

    I was almost finished with the new fragrance. I had my formula worked out, ready to go into some final testing.  But there was a problem. For one split second -- for less than a split second -- when I dipped a test blotter and smelled it, there was a momentary disconnect, a non-harmonious moment, before the fragrance settled down ("evolved") into what I intended it to be.

    This non-harmonious moment was very short. Perhaps a split second. But it was jarring to my nose and put me on notice that something wasn't right. Should I ignore it (since it smoothed out so quickly!) or should I obsess with trying to discover what was causing that little problem and, hopefully, fix it?

    If a perfumer tried to hand a perfume with this "problem" to Estee Lauder or Coty, he or she would be fired. Professional, full time perfumers know how to fix these issues before anyone calls the problem to their attention. I'm not that good. Still, I wanted very badly to fix this problem. Everything else about the fragrance had come together very nicely.

    For me, correcting this problem, which just barely needed correction, meant trying to find exactly what was causing the problem and then making a small change that would leave everything else alone.

    In this case I'm happy to say that I overcame that bad spot, that single sour note that was bothering me more than it might have bothered a person wearing this fragrance. It was an issue of balance. Too much of something (two somethings in this case) that had to be toned down to blend more perfectly with all the "something elses." While I may continue with a few small trials that will help me better understand what role each ingredient is playing in the formula, as for the "commercial" version, it's done.

    So what comes next? The answer: some mathematics. I have to decided how much I want to produce -- perhaps no more than 12 bottles -- and then how much of each ingredient I'll need for that production.

    Working backwards now, if I'm bottling just 12 bottles which each will take one ounce of fragrance (I already have bottles on hand), that's just 12 ounces of finished fragrance I'll need; the fragrance mixed with alcohol which, itself will be mixed with water.

    Twelve ounces of finished fragrance is a pretty small amount so, as a practical matter, I'll make up a somewhat larger batch of the fragrance oil. That amount will still be small. But I want to go through the step that will allow me, should I decide to do this later, to "scale up" and produce any size batch I want, and even be able to have a professional lab create that larger batch for me, from my formula. Here are the details on how I will do this.

Friday, April 7, 2017

12 to 60: A good perfume comes from the mind

    I've been writing a series of articles on making a profit and starting your own perfume business by producing just 12 bottles of perfume. I've covered bottles, pumps, labels, water, and alcohol. Next we need fragrance. Today's message is about fragrance but it is an interlude -- a message about the art of fragrance creation.

    A good perfume comes from the mind. Where else could it come from? It doesn't matter whether you are buying it ready made, commissioning it, or formulating it yourself. The starting point is in your head, your vision of what this perfume should be.

    Mental visions, visions that lead to a new perfume, can be of many varieties. You might have a name that seems important to you. Then you think of what that name means and create a fragrance that translates that name into a scent that brings that name to life.

    You might be starting with a name that you've derived from a visual image of something you've seen: fully, partially, or only in your imagination. This can make the development of your fragrance easier (or more difficult!) as now your formulating efforts are guided by and must match both the name and visual image.

    You can also add music to guide you. Can you imagine what tones might go with your perfume name and visual image? Sit down at a keyboard or pick up a guitar and play a few notes. Can you find notes, then chords, then perhaps a melody that reinforces your perfume's name and visual image?

    While you are not yet creating the perfume itself you are putting together a road map by which the perfume can be created. This road map will help determine what smells should go into your perfume and what smells should be left out.

    Let me give you some specifics. I was riding on a train, going through New Jersey swampland, and a certain scene caught my eye. The scene, which I only glimpsed in passing, suggested a name which was not at all what I would consider a good name for a perfume, but it was a name which captured my mental impression of the scene which had passed by so quickly.

    The combination of my mental-visual image and the name I had attached to it gave me the means to sketch out a new fragrance. To replicate that name and image in a perfume I knew I would need certain notes and would have to avoid others.

    I started with a handful of materials that I believed would work as the skeleton of my fragrance. I mixed them, smelled, and decided what needed more and what needs less, and what did not belong at all. When my skeleton started to come together, I begin to lay on the "flesh." Here it gets more complex. With one or two or three more aroma materials my design comes closer to my mental image. Gradually the skeleton is fleshed out.

    At this point, while my fragrance fit the visual image and name, and while, in a sense, it is complete, it had no personality. The trick is to create this "personality," this distinction that is recognizable, but unconsciously rather than screaming out at your face. The elements of the "personality" must blend with the flesh and skeleton but gently, and they must add something on their own. The trick to pulling off this personality is in finding just the right extra ingredient or ingredients and adding it or them in just the right amounts. This is the point I've arrived at for this project of mine.

    And even then, I still won't be finished.

    My next test is to see whether I really need all the ingredients I've used.

    This now is the tedious process of subtraction, eliminating one ingredient at a time to see whether its absence makes any noticeable difference and whether its absence might even clarify the theme of the fragrance. This step takes a lot of work.

    And still I will not be finished.

    Are the ingredients balanced? Is there too much of something? Too little of something else? You might not go through all your ingredients here but certainly you'll want to go through your major aroma components. Strip out everything you can strip out without destroying the flesh or the personality.
    Now back to your project.

    If all goes well, if the mental-visual image and name you started with were strong guides, you should be able to produce a perfume that harmonized with its name and image. And now, thanks to your visual image, a graphic image, and perhaps a few notes of music you wrote to go with it, not only do you have a "good" perfume, you have the start of what could be a strong promotion to sell it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

12 to 60: Getting alcohol for your perfume

This message is a continuation of a series on making a profit by making and selling just 12 bottles of perfume.

    Perfumery grade alcohol can be obtained in just about every corner of the world. But it is not always easy to find a source and it is difficult or impossible to find a source that will accept a small order -- a gallon, a liter, something along those lines. Your best (current, 3/29/17) hope of finding small quantities of  200 proof ethanol is in the U.S. or Canada. For the UK you may be relegated to a product sold as "perfumers alcohol" and sources can be found on Amazon UK.

    If you are following along with this "12 bottle production" project, a quart or liter should be all you need. Then, to get the proof you really want, you can mix it with de-ionized water.

    So there you are. In this series of articles we've covered bottles and closures, de-ionized water, and alcohol. All we need now is the fragrance.

Friday, March 24, 2017

12 to 60: Fragrance oil, alcohol, and yes, water!

     This is a continuation of a series of articles on producing a fragrance -- for profit -- with production limited to 12 bottles ("60" is when you start to grow!) Prior blogs: 12 to 60: Building a profitable perfume business, a few bottles at a time and 12 to 60: Planning your 12 bottle perfume launch.

    Having covered bottles, pumps, and labels it's time to get to the heart of the matter, the fragrance itself -- the magical fluid that goes into the bottle and makes a sale possible. That magic liquid is composed of three components: fragrance oil (the "juice"), alcohol, and water. On a bottle you may see these ingredients listed as "fragrance, SD alcohol, DI water." Today I want to write about water, a topic easily overlooked and greatly misunderstood.

    The water can be left off. You can make your perfume without it. That would leave you with just the fragrance oil and alcohol. The issues with water are "why?, "what kind?", and "how much?" Let's start with the easy question: "how much?"

    The starting point for our exploration of water is the alcohol for your perfume because the water in your perfume comes with the alcohol. Our starting point is pure, 100% ethanol -- 200 proof alcohol.

    But 200 proof alcohol has no water in it. If we want water, we have to add it. How much? I typically "water down" my alcohol to 180 proof -- 90% ethanol and 10% water -- by volume. 190 proof is also common for perfumery, 95% alcohol, 5% water -- by volume.

    So my answer to the first question, "how much?" is ten percent or less by volume, the balance being pure ethanol. Products sold as "perfumers alcohol" are generally not pure, 100% ethanol so be aware of this.

    Since these measurements are by volume, it's easy to do your blending. Say you want a liter of 180 proof alcohol, 90% ethanol and 10% water. Start with a 1000 ml (l liter) measuring cup. Fill it to the 100 ml mark with water. Then top it up to the 1000 ml mark with 900 ml of alcohol. Then be sure to store it in a clean bottle with a stopper to prevent evaporation. And be sure to label it for what it for what you made: 180 proof alcohol: 90% alcohol, 10% water.

    As for the question, "what kind of water?" the answer is de-ionized water, which is not the same as distilled water. Both distilled water and de-ionized water are high in purity. Much of the purity is the result of pre-treatments through filtration before each is subjected to its final process.

    Distilled water is produced by distillation, the same process used to make moonshine. The water is boiled, steam rises, goes through a condenser -- the cooling tube or tower -- and becomes liquid water again leaving behind various minerals.

    Even if you don't have distilling equipment you can witness this process on your kitchen stove. Boil a small pot of water until steam is released, hold a place in the path of the steam (watch your fingers, the steam is hot!) and you'll see droplets of water form on the bottom of the plate and then fall back into the pot. If you let all the water boil off, you will see a residue left on the pot. This residue is some of what your distillation process has removed from your water.

    One small problem for perfumery with distilled water. If your water contains organic materials with the same boiling point as the water, they will join the steam and end up on in your newly distilled water. For the home perfumer this may not seem like a big deal, but why cut corners?

    De-ionized water is water from which all ions have been removed. This can be done in several ways but the result is water that, chemically, is a "blank slate." It won't react with your fragrance oil. It won't change the odor, it won't change the color. It is the preferred water for perfumery. It is not expensive. You can buy it in small quantities. I've listed some sources here.

    Now, to the question, "why use any water at all?" I've written about this elsewhere but it comes down to these three points. Water softens the alcohol so it is softer on the skin. Water clings to the top notes and gives them a persistence that they would not have otherwise. And, in a spray, water intensified the effect of the perfume.

    Now you have it. A better understanding of water. The next issue I'll tackle will be alcohol, what kind you want and where you can get it.