Friday, December 13, 2013

Creating Your Own Perfume With A 1700 Percent Markup!

    I've lost track of how many people have told me they've been helped by this book, to get over the obstacles that held them back from creating their own perfume. I just revised the web page describing the book and each time I do it, I feel I miss the essence of what this seemingly crude book is all about, and what it's done for others. Actually I was the first to profit from the information, before I put it down in the book.

    My situation back in 1993 was this. I had a sure shot opportunity to sell a men's cologne and, while I knew next to nothing about perfume at the time, I did know it could give us a good markup -- if we got it directly from a manufacturer rather than buying it through a wholesaler, which is what we had done for a marketing test.

    A person working for me at the time went out and put it all together -- or almost all together. We had a fragrance from Novarome (now part of Robertet), we had 1,000 sprinkler neck bottles, we had caps, we had labels -- all ready to be assembled. Then the filling house told us (this was in 1993) our job was too small. They refused to do it. And the ads had already been placed!

    The book tells, in step by step detail, how a commercial job became a do-it-yourself project -- successful, but only after we worked out technical hurdles that almost sank us. The good news was that we sold all 1,000 bottles, every one at full price, and then made more!

    Since writing the original version of this book I've added a lot to it, based on what I've learned since 1993. At the time I never imagined that I would become my own perfumer or that, all these years later, I would find myself deeply involved with perfume and loving it.

    Today, for me, it's more than a high return product but at the beginning I was just watching the numbers.

    If you are thinking of launching your own perfume, you might be surprised to find how beautiful scents can grow on you and your business might someday take the direction of art.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Creating perfume for a marketing test

Weighing out 300 ml of Confusion II

    What you see on the scale in the photo above is not a large amount of juice but enough, when alcohol and water have been added, to fill 100 bottles.

    The fragrance oil in the beaker was mixed on the scale by adding the required weight of each material -- first by pouring from their containers and then, for the final few grams, by transferring the material with a disposable plastic pipette, I buy these pipettes several hundred at a time.

    From the beaker the fragrance was poured into the bottle seen at the left edge of the photo. There it will stand, at room temperature, for about 30 days. From time to time I'll shake the bottle.

    This is a small amount of fragrance oil but it is intended for a very special test in a limited market. In the event that it proves a very large success -- far more than I anticipate -- I'll contract out both the production and the filling but, realistically, the project will probably remain "in house" for at least another 12 months.

    If selling perfume is of interest to you, you should try a 3-month subscription to our Perfume Makers & Marketers Club. A trial membership is very affordable.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

From drops to gallons - math for perfume production

Weighing 10 ml of "Confusion II"

This article is a continuation of my previous post.

    In front of me I have a bottle holding a small batch of a new perfume, "Confusion II." I'm working a plan to market it in a particular niche which, hopefully, will be nicely profitable. I've settled on the number of bottles I want to produce initially to test the market and my marketing concept. Now I need to produce the perfume.

    You may think this is the easy part and, in a way, it is. Once the formula has been developed, the rest is pretty mechanical. But it is also where serious money will be spent. Don't believe those who tell you that the fragrance in the bottle costs next to nothing. For a small company buying aroma materials in small quantities, what goes into the bottle costs plenty.

    So it's important to match the amount of fragrance being produced with the needs of the project. Produce too much fragrance and you eat up the profits from what you sell. Accurate calculations are important.

    First off, how many bottles do you want to fill and how much fragrance will be needed to fill those bottles?

    Suppose I want to fill 300 bottles, a small enough quantity that I can easily do by hand. And say I'm working with one ounce bottles, bottles that hold 1 fluid ounce which is about 29 ml.

    So I'll need (300 x 29) or 8700 ml -- 8.7 liters --  of the finished perfume to fill my 300 bottles.

    But I'll add another 100 ml to allow for spills and waste. My hand is reasonably steady but I know from experience that there will be spills and waste and I don't want to find, after all my bottles are lined up, that I only have enough fragrance to fill say 285 bottles -- meaning I'll now have to make a whole new batch of the perfume just to fill those additional 15 bottles.

    So for this example I'll need 8800 ml -- 8.8 liters -- of perfume to fill my bottles. But now look at the composition of the perfume. Say I decide to use the fragrance at 10% -- an eau de cologne strength -- which means I'll only need  880 ml (0.88 liters) of fragrance itself and then 7920 ml -- 7.92 liters -- of alcohol. (The alcohol here may be a 90% alcohol -- 180 proof -- with 10% being water to 90% alcohol.)

    So I get ready to produce 880 ml of my fragrance. But wait. I developed my formula by WEIGHT. To calculate how much I'll need I have to determine what 880 ml of this particular formula will weigh. It's time to get out the scale.

    In the photo above, 10 ml of fragrance are being weighed. The weight for 10 ml of this particular fragrance, my "Confusion II," is 9.55 grams. This means 1000 ml -- one liter -- will weigh 955 grams or 0.955 kilos.

    So in order to produce the approximately one liter of fragrance needed to fill 300 1-fluid ounce (29 ml) bottles with "Confusion II" at 10% fragrance, the balance being alcohol and water, I would need to produce, by weight, 0.955 kilos of "Confusion II."

    Now, working with my formula which shows the percentage, by weight, of each required material, I can calculate the weight that will be needed of each.

    The rest is simple. Weight out the materials and combine them. Give the perfume one to four weeks to become well blended. Then, by nose, make sure it smells right. If all is okay, add the required alcohol and water and let it blend for another one to four weeks. Then it can be bottled and sold.

    These are the steps needed to convert your perfume formula measured in drops to a formula measured by weight that can easily be used to produce as much of your perfume as you want.


Monday, November 4, 2013

From a few drops to gallons

    I'm finalizing the formula for a new perfume. It's called "Confusion II" and it's part of a multimedia presentation surrounding a piece of sculpture called "Confusion II." Music is being composed and recorded, a video is in the works, and the formula for the perfume is being converted from dropper bottle drops to grams, kilograms, liters, and gallons. This is the essential step in getting the formula ready for production.

    When I develop my formulas I use bottles with eyedroppers, writing the formula by the number of drops, 1/2 drops, and traces of each material I have used. This method has the advantage of allowing me to develop fragrances using very small amounts of aroma materials as the expense of these materials can add up quickly. On the other hand, drops are not an accurate measurement, only an approximation. So for a production formula the drops have to be converted to grams. This is how I do it.

Weighing out "drops" formula to convert is to grams

    Say my formula calls for just 30 drops total of all the materials I've used. This is too small an amount to get an accurate weight using an electronic scale. So I multiple the formula by ten or twenty or more, then make it up with drops while the container is on a scale. As each material is added I note the weight of the material. Once I've done this, I do it again. Why? To see if the weights recorded for the second batch are very close to those recorded for the first batch. It's easy to goof up when counting out a few hundred drops and you want to catch any errors you have made.

    If the first formula by weight closely matches the second formula by weight, I'll average each material out for my final formula. If the weight of any one material differs greatly from one batch to the next, I'll weight out another batch -- and keep doing this until the weights of each material are consistent from batch to batch.

    Then I'll check the final batch with my nose, to make sure the fragrance is what was intended.

    This is the first step in getting the formula ready for production.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Love scents, explore scents, use scents

    Part of perfumery -- an important part -- is a love for scents and being what you might call "a scent detective" as well as a scent collector.

    I'm coming into the final rounds with a fragrance I'm calling "Confusion II." You can read more about the concept here.

    I've made no secret of the fact that I sketch out my fragrances using the 26 "A-Z" bases from the PerfumersWorld K26 kit. But the world is full of many more than 26 scents and, for the perfumer, there are hundreds -- thousands -- of aroma materials available for use.

    But let's keep it simple. The essence of a very complex deal may be sketched out on the back of an envelop. Then lawyers fill in the next 200 pages.

    An architect may show a client a simple drawing of a house. Then 200 sheets of blueprint are prepared for the builder and subcontractors, showing where every board, pipe and wire must go.

    So too as I work with perfume. First its that simple sketch that conveys, to me, the "message" I want to convey to others. Then ... those details.

    This is where love of scents comes in. I have my "sketch." Is it enough? Or can I improve it, NOT by piling more notes into it but by making subtle adjustments to the notes I have already chosen. Should the "C" (citrus) note from the K26 kit be augmented or replaced with Kaffir Lime Leaf Oil? To make this decision I have to be familiar with the scent -- and behavior -- of Kaffir Lime Leaf Oil, which means I have to have some on hand and have to do some testing with it.

    So too it goes with each note in the formula.

    It's NOT a matter of adding more and more aroma materials to the formula. It's more like carpentry where, after putting some wood together to make, say, a bookcase, you then take sand paper and sand the sharp edges and corners until all is smooth and beautiful.

    This is where I go from my "approved" sketch. Sanding down those sharp edges -- those smells that stand out a bit too much, that are still a bit awkward and not quite right.

    So I work at smoothing them out, revising the list of materials, drawing from a larger number, working more and more toward the final beauty I am seeking.

    Building perfume is not just about the materials you need on hand. It's about having quite a few materials on hand that you might not use -- now -- but can store in your mind memory bank for future possibilities.

    And just collecting these "extra" materials and enjoying them for themselves, whether you ever use them or not, can give you much pleasure.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Spinning off a second perfume from a primary project

    I've been writing about a perfume I worked on last summer that didn't quite come together. It was close but didn't ring the bell for me although some of the trials were interesting.
    I had written that perhaps one of these trials might become a second perfume and now that has happened.

    I've written a bit about this second project elsewhere. It involves a multi-media presentation -- sculpture, music, perfume -- and, while I was starting up again on this first project which I'll call "Tokyo" for now, one of the trials that was not quite right for "Tokyo" was very on target for the second perfume, "Confusion II," which is also the title of the sculpture which inspired it.

    Three are two lessons in all this. The first lesson is that there are an infinite number of beautiful smells we come across or create and each of them can be called perfume. The magic isn't in getting A beautiful smell; the magic happens where you get THE beautiful smell you've imagined and have struggled to bring to life out of various aroma materials.

    Then, beyond the initial scent, whether it is "A" scent or "THE" scent, there is the need for technical skills that allow you to create a well crafted scent, regardless of whether it is the scent you were looking for or a spin off from your primary project.

    The second lesson is that in working on one perfume your nose and your notes store up a library of ideas which can be put to use for other projects.

    Developing a perfume is a learning process, regardless of how experienced the perfumer may be, and the lessons learned become tools for future work.

    "Confusion II" is almost finished but I'm still a bit short of what I want for "Tokyo" -- so I'll keep working, and I WILL get it, the way I want it!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

"Perhaps a separate project"

    I wrote recently about staying on track with your perfume vision and not being put off course by the chance event that you produced a "nice" smell that wasn't the smell you were seeking.

    Don't discard that nice smell! Just separate it out from the project on hand. Perhaps at some time in the future it can become a project of its own.

    The wonder of perfumery is that, as you work, so many doors open. It's a little like doing a Google search where one interesting piece of information leads you to another. How easy it is to become distracted!

    So, as I said in the first article, it is essential to stay focused, to stay on topic, to stay the course of developing the perfume you set out to develop.

    But these other happy smells, set them aside. Let them become part of your "idea" library. At some time on the future you might recall a particular one and, FLASH, realize that it is the perfect starting point for a NEW project.

    And then, if it becomes a new project, give it the same focus and intensity you gave the original project from which it was rejected.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Time ... it takes time.

    Some things take time. If you want to make perfume, yourself, you must understand this and learn to be patient, even when you're in a rush to get on with it.

    It takes time for aroma materials to blend. More time than we want to wait in many cases. Commercial fragrance production plants have ways to speed up the process, but this may not result in the best perfume possible.

    How long does it take materials to blend? To ripen? To change from what they were when you mixed them to what they might ultimately become? In truth the mixture that had already "changed" in an hour might still be "changing" for up to a year or more. Ask yourself why is it that wines and whiskeys are aged. Chemical activity continues to go on and on, in spire of our wanting the job to be finished.

    In blending perfume we learn to be practical without being hasty. We discover that the scent of our blend after 24 hours is not the same as the scent after a week. But how long should we wait before calling the job "done"?

    I've lately been experimenting with fermentation. The demonstration can be dramatic. Start the fermentation process and plug your bottle with a cork. In the morning your cork will be missing -- shot off by the pressure of gas that has been released.

    Do this day after day. In perhaps a MONTH the fermentation will be complete. All the available glucose has been converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide (the gas whose pressure has been blowing the cork out of the bottle.) At this point you can safely cap the bottle and it won't explode. But the chemistry within the bottle will continue. Now it is your decision as to how long you will let it continue to age -- and blend -- before declaring it "finished." The limit you set is likely to be far short of the ultimate limit nature has set.

    Thus it is with perfume. On the one hand patience is required. Bottle your juice too quickly and it will play tricks on you. What you deliver to your customers may be quite different than what you put into the bottle -- for better or for worse.

    So yes, there is a commercial decision to be made. The decision as to how long to let your mixture blend before putting it to use.

    How long must it sit before it is practical to call it finished? That is a decision you must make for yourself, by testing, testing, and testing some more to see how time -- blending time -- is affecting your perfume.

    Only through this repeated testing -- and patience -- can you be reasonably assured that you are delivering, to your customer, the product you intended.



Saturday, July 13, 2013

Testing, Testing and More Testing

    I'm working on a new perfume. It is being developed according to a visual plan -- matching notes to visual themes. There were about eight pieces of visual information but thus far I have only worked on accords for three of them. One was not at all successful but two offered hope. Thus, in an effort to move forward, I made a blend of these two accords to see what might come of it and, after a few tweaks and twiddles, I arrived at a very small vial of what seemed like a nice compound. Liking what I had made, I scaled up a bit. Then, still feeling confident, I mixed my compound with alcohol -- about 10% in 90% alcohol -- and let it sit a bit.

    The first sniffing of a test blotter, after a night or so of sitting, was bland and did not seem at all to represent the visual image that had led to this particular formula. Several days later, another test on a test blotter revealed a great deal more. One note, that originally seemed to me quite suppressed, now dominated. This note was important to my visual image but was not intended to be dominant. (In fact it is a difficult material to work with but exciting when you get it right.)

    Now, because of this repeated testing, I am taking two steps backward. Rather than removing the offending element I will remove, one by one, several of the surrounding elements and then, perhaps, strengthen one or two others, to get it back on theme.

    Now here's the important point. Making perfume can be a random act or it can be deliberate. If you think of perfume making as an art, it can only be deliberate. This means that just creating a nice smell won't do it. This means that testing is essential. You can only test if you have an intention. And if simply making a nice smell is what you are testing for, that's nice. But perfumery can be so much more.

    Testing for the "so much more" means testing each of your mixtures -- your trials -- against your stated, in this case visual, goal.

    So the fact that what I've done so far might be "nice" counts for nothing. The standard is my visual image. And what I've done so far falls short in that -- although it passed successfully through several levels of testing -- it failed as it approached the finish line. The "finished" (and now NOT "finished") perfume.

    It is frustrating to fail when you feel you are so close to the finish line but if you desire to impose some standard upon your work -- to have your work represent YOUR vision (for better or for worse!) -- you must continue to test, test, and test some more -- and be willing to step backward and analyze when your test results show you have taken a wrong turn. Then start up again toward YOUR visual goal.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Definitions: Could you translate one of these popular themes into a perfume?

* A muddy mountain bike on a foggy trail.

* A web golden retriever with a Frisbee in her mouth.

* A soccer ball in midair as it scores a goal.

    Yes, we can imagine these smells but, to translate them into perfumes? Where do we start? How do we do it? It's not like we are going to start with a bottle of some existing fragrance oil. We have to make that oil, element by element. We have to build our perfume from the appropriate building blocks. We need real life examples to guide us. We need definitions.

    Perfumery involves translating words into smells. We think, for the most part, in words. When we think of a new perfume we want to make, we define it -- in our heads -- in terms of common words and visual images and visual images can be defined in words.

    To make perfume, those words must be translated into smells, defined by smells.

    So what we need is a scent alphabet, a scent vocabulary, and a scent dictionary. Then we can translate an idea for a perfumes into a formula for that perfume -- and notice, without the formula we cannot make the perfume. You can't put a mountain bike (or a golden retriever) into a mixing pot. You have to reduce it (or her) -- the smell you want -- to a formula, and this means you have to define "mountain bike" or "wet golden retriever" in words that specify aroma materials in precise amounts. Once you learn to do this perfume making becomes incredibly exciting because all of the worlds around you -- both the physical and the mental -- become your palate for new perfumes.

You could spend a lifetime learning ... or --

    A professional perfumer spends a lifetime learning  these definitions. That is what makes creativity flow -- ideas become perfumes because the perfumer knows how that which is born in words can be translated into a formula for a fragrance.

    But what about you? Or me? While our interest in perfume creation may be intense, the amount of time we devote to learning the use of hundreds of aroma materials is likely to be limited. Sure, we become quite familiar with the handful that we use most often, but we're not quite ready -- yet -- to create that "wet golden retriever" perfume because, while we think we know what it might smell like, our thoughts are still words and these words are not yet defined by precise combinations of aroma materials.

A table of definitions

    The Perfumer's Workbook includes a table of definitions -- over 450 words and images (given in words) translated into aroma mixtures which you or I can mix -- and smell.

    Think of it. 450 precise mixtures that define 450 words and word images. What an incredible starting point for fragrance creation! Think of what happens by using two words together -- over 20,000 fragrance definitions. Or three words together -- over 91 million definitions! Think how many perfumes -- perhaps now only dreams in your head -- you could make from this simple but precise table of definitions.

    The Perfumer's Workbook serves many functions. Some are quite advanced, others simple. The formulas given in The Perfumer's Workbook table of definitions use only 26 aroma materials -- even for all 91 million 3-word definitions.

    Both The Perfumer's Workbook and the 26 defining aroma materials are part of the PerfumersWorld Foundation Course. It's a pretty strong way to get started developing your own perfumes. It opens up an unlimited world of scents to you.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It's time to make your own perfume!

    So you want your own perfume? And you want it now? OK, you can have it. It will cost you some money (but not very much) and you'll have to do some work (but not very much) so if you are serious, let's get at it. Here's how.

    There's a fellow who stands ready to make your perfume for you, starting with a sample for your approval. The cost, to you, of getting this sample sent to you in the mail is about what it will cost him for postage.

    But here's the hitch (you knew it was coming!) He can't make a sample for you until you provide him with a formula. Yes, a formula. That's a recipe for a perfume listing the ingredients to be used and the correct quantity of each ingredient.

    If you're a perfumer already, you understand what I'm talking about. You understand that developing a perfume involves developing a formula. It's like a blueprint. It tells the manufacturing company how to make it. So for you, if you have your own formula, perhaps all you would need to get it made by this fellow would be a little standardizing, so that you both are on the same page on precisely what materials should be used and their precise quantities. He can help you with this and you might be quite pleased by what you learn in the process.

    But if you're not a perfumer and all this is completely new to you, what can you do? Don't despair. Let me walk you through it.

    First, since it's your perfume -- your idea -- your creation -- you must have a pretty good idea in mind as to what it should be. Your problem is that you don't know how to put your idea into a formula that the manufacture can work with. But don't despair. He has developed a tool for you, a tool that will translate your perfume idea into a formula that he (or anyone else in the industry) can work with. It's called The Perfumer's Workbook.

    The Perfumer's Workbook is a computer program for fragrance design and formula creation that runs on any desktop, laptop, or tablet computer, Windows or Mac. It prompts you with a number of questions and then queries a database of many hundreds of aroma materials -- even "all naturals" if you desire -- to produce a working formula, a professional perfume formula you can take anywhere to have made for you. But this person I am telling you about is probably the only one who will make a sample of your formula and send it to you all for around the cost of postage. Of course if you like what you have designed and the way it was made for you, he'll be happy if you ask him to make more. But that's up to you.

    The Perfumer's Workbook is not free but the cost, considering the language gap it will bridge for you, is very, very affordable. You can obtain it as an instant digital download. That means you could be ordering your first perfume sample just two hours from now.

    P.S. -- If you are already a serious perfume developer, The Perfumer's Workbook can help you in many ways. Read more about its other features here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Reducing it to a formula

    A formula is what allows you to make more of what you liked the first time and avoid repeating mistakes.

    A formula is a recipe but it is different than a cookbook recipe in one fundamental. A perfume formula can be used to project the COST of the formula. In perfume production, cost is important.

    To write a formula from which costs can be projected, you need to reduce all ingredients in the formula to the same unit of measurement. For example, in a current project with four ingredients, one is sold by the gallon, one by the pound, and two are labeled in both grams and ounces. Each is priced by the container in which it is sold. This leaves us first with the decision one what unit to go with and then with the mathematics needed to reduce each ingredient to a common unit for both mixing and pricing.

    Here I've gone for grams so I must now do the following calculations --

    ** For the two ingredients with contents listed in grams I have to calculate the PRICE PER GRAM for each. I'm making only a small batch of my product and one of the ingredients is very inexpensive so pricing in grams is appropriate. If I was producing larger quantity I probably would have gone with kilos as my weight/cost standard.

    ** For the ingredient sold by the pound, it was necessary to first convert pounds to grams and then do the math to calculate the price per gram. This was quite straight forward.

    ** Finally there was the task of converting gallons -- a liquid measure -- to grams, a measurement of weight. You do this by weighing out a sample of the liquid to get the gram weight for the volume you weighed. Then you calculate the grams per gallon. If your equipment allowed you to weigh a full gallon at one time you wouldn't need to make the second calculation. With gallons converted to grams, you can calculate the price of the liquid per gram.

    ** Once you have done your "price per gram" calculations, you can write your formula in grams AND project the materials cost for any quantity you chose to make. If your cost/gram for certain materials is reduced by bulk purchases you'll have to make the necessary adjustments.

    ** A cookbook recipe details not only the ingredients but the process of blending them. Perfume formulas don't usually require these extended instructions. My four-ingredient product involved flavoring (it was a beverage) and thus, as an aside, I had to write out how an herb was blended with spring water, the length of time the water was boiled, and the filtering out of the herbal residue. This was a bit like detailing the production process of a particular batch of an essential oil.

    At the completion of the project, after a month or so of aging, the product will be filtered again to remove another residue. Then additional aging will take place.

    The project itself involved making mead, an ancient, alcoholic beverage. The ingredients are honey and water. A bit of yeast thrown in gets the honey fermenting. The herb was used for additional flavoring (what will be my "secret" recipe.)

    Note that the flavor and fragrance industries have long been one. Some prominent F&F houses got their start in the 19th century by developing flavorings for beer and candy. Fine fragrances came later.

    The mead project was suggested by a beekeeper friend who converts some of his honey to mead. He also flavors his mead with various herbs and spices and, upon tasting a sample, I felt compelled to try making mead -- plus flavoring -- on my own.

    My first small (400 ml) batch, fermenting and aging now, cost about $4.50 to produce. All ingredients were purchased at the local supermarket. Some say baker's yeast is a poor choice for making wine or mead but it is so easily available and inexpensive that it seemed like a good starting point.

    Spring water, well water, or distilled water should be used. Tap water may contain chlorine and fluoride. These are undesirable for mead making.

    I used a local, "all natural" honey. In other words, pure honey with no additives. And note, ALL honey is "organic." That's the only kind of honey bees know how to make!

    Proportions? About one part honey to four parts water -- by volume -- not weight. So here we go "converting" our formula into another unit of measurement.

    P.S. -- When you're making perfume or cologne, you always run into this issue. The fragrance oil and its ingredients are generally sold by weight -- kilos or pounds. But the alcohol, water, and fragrance oil you use to mix your finished perfume is measured in volume -- liters or gallons.

    Learning how to make conversions is part of learning perfumery.

    For conversion assistance you can use the conversion tool at

    To write your formula AND get the cost for any quantity, use The Perfumer's Workbook.

    A warning note: fermentation produces gas. If you're making a fermented beverage, don't seal the container. In a day or two the pressure from the gas will easily blow a cork off the top of a bottle. If you use a screw on closure, the pressure can break the bottle. I've been using a bit of plastic wrap with a small hole punched in it to let the gas out.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A database of aroma materials

    I've started to write a number of web pages concerning The Perfumer's Workbook fragrance creation software and, if you're actively creating perfume, you should know about this software whether or not it's something you decide to use to assist your own creative process.

    If you are just getting started with perfume creation, the Workbook makes you aware of the many aroma materials that exist out there that are being used daily by professional perfumers.

    If you've been working with perfume for some time, you might be more interested in the tools available to you in the Workbook -- tools that suggest tweaks for your perfumes, to give them more balance, or more complexity, or greater tenacity.

    So far on my website I've just touched on the installed database of over 600 aroma materials. The database can be edited and updated by you, the user, and, if you keep it up to date, the tools offered in the Workbook give you some fascinating visual pictures of what you have created, how others might view (or smell) it and -- one of the most interesting features (which I have not yet written about ), how your perfume changes its aroma characteristics while it is slowly (or quickly) evaporating. If you've ever had trouble with your perfume failing to "last," this tools can help you understand why. And using it can give you insight into what you might do the next time around to get better results.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Beeswax, Brown for Toxic

    When I mentioned to a friend I needed some beeswax to make a line of solid perfumes, he gave me several pounds of golden colored beeswax -- and a few pounds of dark brown beeswax, all from his own hives.

    When bees make wax, it's for their own purposes. They known and care nothing of the fragrance and cosmetics industry. So beeswax, straight from the hive, contains a small amount of what, to us, are impurities. Thus, for us, before it can go into our products, we have to do a bit of cleanup.

    There are a few chemical treatments you can give beeswax to make it look nicer, lighter, more uniform. But for my solid perfumes I just melt it and run it through a wire mesh kitchen strainer, double lined with (food grade) cheesecloth.

    Naturally I started my solid perfume line using the beautiful golden colored wax. But when I came to Toxic, a man's fragrance, it occurred to me that this might be a good time to test the dark brown beeswax.

    Authorities on beeswax relegate the dark brown wax, generally older than the light, golden, to industrial use, as a lubricant. But, after a cleanup, the wax itself looked fine, differing from the other only in color and, perhaps, having somewhat less of a honey aroma to it -- and for perfume, a base with no aroma is good.

    So my Toxic Solid Perfume for men -- Whoops! Men! (Let's not call it "perfume.") Start again. My Toxic Solid Fragrance for men was made using dark brown -- all natural -- beeswax. There you have it.

PS -- For "Toxic," the typical men's fragrance description, "cologne," just doesn't seem to fit.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Perfumer's Workbook, Screen Shots

The Perfumer's Workbook is a fragrance creation computer program that has many of the features you might expect to find at a major F&F house with the difference being a very affordable price for the work alone, independent perfumer. Thanks to an arrangement with PerfumersWorld, we are now offering the latest version of this software (32 & 64-bit Windows and Mac) at our website.

But whether or not this is something you might buy, if you are a designer of perfume, a perfumer, a composer, it is well worth your while to study the features of this software as, in the long run, its modest cost could save you a good deal of time and energy ... and save you from wasting valuable (costly) aroma materials.

So I've started a series of articles on The Perfumer's Workbook demonstrating its screens and features. Today I posted a (second) screen shot of the installed database. The featured aroma material on this screen shot was Aldehyde C-10, a material many are already familiar with, at least in name. The screen shot shown (I call it "View 1") gives some information on Aldehyde C-10, its common uses, and materials that it blends well with. Also there is a usage range, the amounts of Aldehyde C-10 that might typically go into a fine fragrance (although this is subject to revising by the use of your own nose.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Using A Computer To (Help) Design Your New Perfume

    I've been working with the new, Mac/Windows version of The Perfumer's Workbook. this is a computer program that both records formulas and assists in the design of new perfumes and the fine tuning of your existing formulas. This "fine tuning" can include adjusting your formula for balance, or complexity, or cost (by suggesting less expensive or more expensive aroma materials that will yield pretty much the same odor result.)

    I'm a strong believer in the nose as the ultimate tool for creating perfume. But here's the problem. A full-time, professional perfumer spends a lot of time smelling until he or she is intimately familiar with hundreds of aroma materials. It's like a doctor's ability to reel off the names of health conditions and  medications that the patient can't pronounce.

    So the full-time professional perfumer is a bit ahead of most of us in his or her knowledge of aroma materials. But this does not mean that others of us cannot have good noses -- we can. And it does not mean that the rest of us cannot produce some wonderfully beautiful perfumes -- we can. But when, as a part-time perfumer, you have a chance to get a leg up, to bridge part of the gap between your knowledge of aroma materials and the knowledge of full-time professionals, why pass it up? That's why I am such an enthusiastic endorser of The Perfumer's Workbook, created by (full-time) perfumer Steve Dowthwaite.

    Working now to explore the latest version of this software, which can be purchased for immediate download, I'm writing articles on the various features of this fragrance creation tool and posting them on my own website. I'm also posting a series of articles here, at this blog, which summarize some of the features of this software.

    This tool was created for both beginners and advanced amateurs and, even in this "student" version (the professional version is more complex ... and a good deal more expensive!) the software has been used on more than one occasion by industry professionals.

    These articles are an introduction. If you have an older computer you can explore this software by downloading an older (free) version from PerfumersWorld

Monday, February 25, 2013

Turn your favorite formula into a solid perfume

    Two issues got me started on solid perfume. First, I wanted to offer inexpensive samples of my regular fragrances. The alternatives were a small spray vial or a solid perfume.

    The spray vials I use for sampling are great but they're glass and can break when dropped. Additionally, the "fill" is about 2 ml so they generally get used up in a week or less if someone is experimenting with the fragrance.

    A solid perfume may cost a bit more to produce but even a small solid perfume can last for weeks, or even months. A dab provides a nice, long lasting fragrance. Each use consumes very little of the perfume.

    So, from a consumer's point of view, the solid perfume can be a better deal. More usage for the money. But there's another point in favor of the solid perfume and this resolves that second issue -- shipping.

    My glass spray samples are easy enough to ship but, being liquid inside of glass, they have to be wrapped with some care. And, from a public relations point of view, their small size is unimpressive when the package is opened.

    For the solid perfumes, you can just pop them into a padded bag and put them in the mail. The postage (here in the USA) is quite affordable. Even postage for an international order won't break the bank.

    For more about how I put my solid perfumes together, read Formulas and line extensions.

    But there's more to this plan. However you slice it, shipping is a significant cost for the buyer. But, as these solid perfumes are LIGHT, a buyer can sample a number of different fragrances in a single order without bumping up the shipping charge.

    On top of that, there are discounts, discounts for buying more than a single solid fragrance. And the way the shopping cart is set up, the customer can get the same discounts regardless of whether they are ordering more than one of the same fragrance or one of each of several different fragrances.

    I invite you to look over the strategies I've used as you might find them helpful in your own perfume business.

    My solid perfume sampler and the strategy described here can be found at my website.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

(Permanent) Notebooks Are Essential

    If you are serious about making (serious) perfume, your first item of business is to set up a permanent notebook in which ALL of your formulas, ALL of your trials, will be recorded methodically.

    This fact of life was brought home to me vividly the other day when I started work on some solid perfumes I was developing for low cost samples of my regular fragrances. I wanted to use the original compounds without the alcohol having been added and discovered I was OUT OF STOCK on several compounds. I would have to make more. Fine. No problem. I'll go to my notebook and retrieve the formulas. Yes, I found (most) of what I was looking for, but it should have been easier.

    Before I go into my own record keeping, which now spans quite a number of years, let me review what is needed in those records when you come back to a formula after an absence.

    First of all, you need a list of the materials you've used in your formula. And you have to identify those materials VERY PRECISELY. This means the vendor's full name and item number for that material, and the date on which it was purchased. The point is that you want to be able to go back to that same vendor and order, by item number, that same item.

    Date can help you, especially when ordering a natural material such as an essential oil as these are subject to annual variations due to weather and soil conditions. Before you make use of a new order of a natural, use your nose to check it for variance from your original. And remember, natural materials tend to have a limited shelf life.

    Next, you need to record the QUANTITY used for each material in your formula. If you, like me, make your trials and formulas using dropper bottles, you know your accuracy will not be precise. Don't let this discourage you. What I do is develop a formula using dropper bottles, measuring out drops, half-drops (running a little material down the side of a toothpick), and tiny fractions of drops (by dipping a clear toothpick first into the aroma material and then swirling it around in my mixing pot).

    I work with drops because it's simple and my nose isn't well enough trained to spot the (small) differences in the batches that are mixed this way. Also, because it typically takes me many trials to come up with the winning formula, I would go broke using larger quantities of raw materials during the development stage, particularly when I'm using some costly natural materials.

    To go from "formula by drops" to production formula, it's necessary to convert these drops into grams. This requires a scale (an electronic balance that will read to two or three decimal places) and multiplying your "drops" formula by some number that will increase the volume of the compound you are producing to the point where you can have confidence that the gram measurements will be accurate.

    Typically I'll multiply my "drops" by five or ten and them, using the dropper bottles and scale, produce this slightly larger batch of the formula on the scale, recoding now the weight of each material added. When I'm finished I now have the formula converted to grams.

    For production I'll go one step farther. I'll convert the grams to percentages. The whole formula will be 100 percent and now, knowing what percentage each material will be, I can work backwards from the quantity (weight) I want to produce and write out the required weight of each of my materials.

    Finally, your notebook should clearly identify which of your trials is the FINISHED VERSION of your fragrance.

    When I am developing a fragrance I use codes for each trial. Usually these are based on pages from my notebook. Even when I think I'm finished, that I've found what I'm looking for, I may continue to test and so the SELECTED formula is not necessarily the last formula in the sequence of tests.

    So it's important to mark your selected version, the version of the formula that you are putting into production, with the NAME you have given the fragrance or some similar designation so you can accurately match the fragrance you are selling with its precise formula.

    Personally I keep a bound notebook for recording the many versions of my formulas as they are being developed. I have been known to abbreviate the names of raw materials, thinking the vendor and precise designation will be embedded in my brain forever. This can cause grief when, five years later, I'm only 85 percent sure that I've interpreted the name, item number, and source of the raw materials correctly.

    With time, the number of my notebooks has grown. At times I'm working here in the USA but in the summer I'll be in Canada and I drag along a lot of notebooks and sometimes, during the summer, write formulas in a new notebook which can be misplaced upon my return to the USA. So sometimes I have to hunt (too much!) for a formula that should be at my fingertips.

If you like digital

    Regardless of all these physical notebooks, which are often a quick way to enter trial after trial, when I get seriously near to my final result or when I reach my final result, I transfer my data to the computer using The Perfumer's Workbook, a neat piece of fragrance development software from PerfumersWorld. You can read more about it here.

    And those solid perfume samplers ... if you're interested, you'll find them among the products advertised here.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Market Research -- How Much Marketing Money Do You Need?

(This article continues a series started with "Conduct Some Market Research" )

How much will it cost you to sell your perfume? How much money will you need to make sales? Good questions.

On the one side you have many eyes in the sky perfume creators who believe their perfume is so great that word of mouth alone will make the necessary sales. No promotional money required.

On the other side you have the reality that it could be that no amount of money spent on advertising will sell a single bottle of your perfume. (The more you don't believe this, the more likely it will happen to you!)

We generally go into advertising with a budget. The budget falls into two parts -- the initial test and the rollout. The test is conducted on the smallest practical scale, to see what the odds of success will be. If you are careful, and if you test on the smallest practical scale possible (yet statistically significant, but this is another issue), if you get crunched in your first promotion, you'll still be financially alive and able to try again.

Unfortunately the first time out can be a time of learning lessons and if you put all your money into that first promotion, you'll have no money left to exploit the knowledge you have gained. It happens all too often.

One figure to be aware of is your profit potential on each bottle of perfume you're selling. Say the store (retail) price will be $40, the store pays you $20 (your wholesale price) and it costs you $7.50 to produce each bottle. Within these numbers you MUST be able to sell your perfume without spending more than $12.50 a bottle on promotion (and administrative overhead) and even at just $12.50 you will be left with zero profit.

In other words, if a store has 50 bottles of your fragrance, the MOST you can spend to promote the sale of those 50 bottles will be something short of $625. So if your local radio station offers to do a $1,000 campaign for you, that campaign had better sell 80 bottles of your perfume (and it might not)!) because if it doesn't, you are going to lose money. And if the ad fails to make the required sales the first time out, repeating it will only increase your loss.

In truth it's easier to create a perfume than it is to sell it. The more of a personal following you have, the more you pave the way for perfume sales. But to go out cold, with nothing but what you consider a good perfume, is a very tough, close to impossible proposition.

Build Demand!

The time to build demand is, of course, BEFORE you release your perfume. Then there can be some first day excitement, some first week sales. But how, you ask, do you build demand? This is a question you need to ask -- and answer -- before you begin to spend money creating a perfume.

Don't be naive. Look at all the perfumes on the market. You don't think they got there just because they were good perfumes -- and yours will be just as good (or even better!)?

But those perfumes got there because the marketer had a following -- either as an entertainer (Taylor Swift, Beyonce), or as a fashion designer (Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein), or as a major cosmetics company (Estee Lauder, L'Oreal). And they fought to create their followings.

Perhaps your desire is simply to sell a good fragrance of your own. Fine. But what are you going to do to draw people to you to the point where they will march into a store and put down money for your perfume -- or spend money at your website?

Unless you have a cost effective plan to sell your perfume, the more money you pump into your project, the more money you will lose.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Market Research -- Your Cost Per Bottle

(This article is a continuation of the series started in "Conduct Some Market Research")

What will it cost you to produce the fragrance for which they will pay you the amount calculated in
Market Research -- #3 "What Price Will They Pay?"

If you're not aware of all that goes into producing a ttle of perfume, I urge you to (purchase) and study the "Perfume Developer's Checklist."  You might be amazed at the number of decisions to be made and options which exist, all of which influence your cost.

The real issue of cost is that of PROFIT. The point of being in the perfume business is to make money. (And yes, I admire those who create their own fragrances simply for the love of fragrance and for those people "costs" are simply an issue of whether or not they can afford the materials they want to use, with no expectation of ever getting the money back.) But as a business, you have to think profit. And your thinking will start with the proposed retail price for your fragrance. Then it goes like this.

Stores and others who agree to carry your perfume are likely to offer you from 40 to about 60 percent per bottle on your proposed retail price. Thus for your $50 retail bottle you can expect to get only $25 and perhaps a bit less, thanks to the retailer's policies in dealing with vendors.

That $25 now has to cover your costs of producing the ready-to-sell product, your budget for advertising and promoting your perfume, and miscellaneous administrative overhead connected with the project. What's left is your profit.

You now see that it is important to think clearly when producing your perfume. You cannot afford waste. You cannot afford many bells and whistles that routinely go with major brand offerings.

The smaller the quantity you are producing, the more cost savings you will need to achieve as your costs for each component will be considerably higher than what it might be if you were buying in larger quantities.

I've written about these issues in "Creating Your Own Perfume With A 1700 Percent Markup!" and still recommend it as a practical guide if you are planning to make any investment in perfume. What you can do on a $2,000 budget is far more limited than what you can do on a $50,000 budget. To make your perfume profitable you must "design" your perfume around components that are cost effective in your particular volume.

In general, if you expect to make money on your perfume you will probably want to pay no more than about $7.50 per bottle. $3.50 per bottle could give you a better fighting chance.

If you find yourself facing costs of $10 per bottle or more -- perhaps with someone telling you your perfume will sell for $100 or more which it probably will not -- beware!

And above all, where possible, test your marketing concept on a small scale before you get in over your head.

By the way. One cost saving technique -- used by very large marketers -- is to produce the individual elements that go into a perfume in larger, more cost effective quantities, but bottling smaller quantities as required.

Say you are getting your best price by ordering materials in quantities of 10,00. So you only bottle 2,000 bottles. In case sales don't meet your expectations, you have now saved 8,000 bottles worth of alcohol and water, production cost for assembly of those 8,000 bottles, and, while you may have to write off 8,000 unused boxes, your 8,000 bottles and sprays will still fetch something from a liquidator.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Market Research -- #3 "What Price Will They Pay?"

(This is a continuation of a series of articles that started with "Conduct Some Market Research")

So now we're up to having established that you have developed enough of a following to market your perfume. Now the question is, "how much will your followers be willing to pay?"

New retailers have misconceptions about pricing and tend to think they need a formula to set their retail price. More sophisticated marketers conduct price tests to see what the market will bear and what price will be the most profitable for them. The goal in setting a price is to reap the greatest profit for your perfume. But finding that price may only come with many experiments and much fine tuning.

Your first step is to get a handle on what potential customers will be willing to pay. How do you determine this? Simply by looking at what they are paying for your competitors' fragrances.

This won't give you one single price. It will give you a range of prices. When deciding who your competitors are, it's important to select individuals or companies that are actually making sales. Not every fragrance out there is selling!

But suppose, after looking around at retail shops and Internet sellers, you determine that, for a 1.7 fluid ounce bottle of EDP, EDT or whatever, your competitors are changing from $35 to around $65.

This would be a pretty wide range but you'll also see that most of the fragrances you hope to compete with will be grouped around a single price, perhaps something in the $45 to $55 range.

Now it's up to you to do some strategic thinking. You have to ask yourself how your fragrance will fit into this market. Will your fragrance be better known than the others and therefore perhaps able to fetch a slightly higher price? Or, as an unknown, should you make your fragrance more affordable?

A lot depends on your knowledge of the people you are trying to sell to. The better you know them and their shopping habits, the better chance you have of selecting an acceptable (and profitable!) retail price.

When in doubt, go with the popular crowd. If it's your first time out, understand that you have a lot to learn. But storing up a knowledge base of real life experience in retailing your perfume can be exactly what you need to ultimately be a solid success.



Market Research -- What Evidence Do You Have That They Will Buy Your Perfume?

(This article continues thoughts from "Conduct Some Market Research")

At this point you've determined, in some way ("Market Research -- How Large A Following Do You Have?"), the approximate size of your "following" -- your market -- those people who, potentially, might buy perfume from you. But how many of them WILL buy perfume from you? How many of them buy perfume at all?

While we know the ansewr will not be 100 percent and we hope it will not be zero, lacking data we may tend to become overly hopeful.

What happens if only one percent, or three percent, of these people buy your prefume? Will it still be profitable? Or do you need 50 percent or more to buy from you? (Risky!) But how can you fairly judge how many will buy?

Here's where the more sophisticated -- and cautious -- marketers have the advantage. They will devise a relatively inexpensive TEST that will give them some feedback as to the propensity of this market to purchase their perfume.

Alternatively, a marketer -- you, perhaps -- might consider producing only a small amount of your perfume and trying to sell it in a small but focused segment of this market -- say three retail stores, somewhat geographically separated, each catering to a somewhat different consumer demographic.

Setting this up is not easy but the ultimate question is, are you doing a single hit and run promotion (to make gobs of money in a hurry) or are you thinking long range, in which case accurate marketing data will be an enormous help to you.

Without An Accurate Estimate Of Likely Sales ...

It costs money to produce perfume. True, many of the costs go down as your production rises. But if you produce fragrance you can't sell, you wipe out your profits.

So knowing HOW MUCH perfume to produce is important. Don't get carried away by what others are doing. Perhaps you can sell 50 bottles of perfume profitably -- if you only produce 50 to 100 bottles. But if you produce 10,000, you're going to get smashed.

This is where good data -- from market research -- helps to make your perfume promotion profitable.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Market Research -- How Large A Following Do You Have?

I ask this question a lot. When people tell me they want to launch their own perfume -- or, more boldly, their own perfume line.

If somebody isn't sure what I mean, I go on to ask, "Are you a singer?", "Are you a designer?" What do you do that you have achieved a following?

In most cases the inquirer is none of the above so my next question is, "How do you intend to SELL your perfume?" -- Embarrassed silence!

But this is important. Celebrities can have a multi-million dollar signature scent because they are celebrities. The definition of "celebrity" could be "someone with a large following." It is this large following that entices fragrance marketing companies (not the celebrities themselves!) to invest millions in a "signature scent" for the celebrity.

But are you a celebrity? Do you have followers?

OK, so you're not a celebrity. But you may have a following. People follow this blog. People visit my websites. I have a following and my web stats and visitor feedback can help me number that following.

Now what about you? Perhaps you or a friend have a retail store. Retail stores have traffic, and buyers. Could these be a following that would work for you?

Perhaps you have a blog, or followers on Twitter. Would they be interested in your perfume?

What? No Followers?

It's not the end but it points to a need for some more difficult market research. First you have to ask yourself, "where am I going to sell my perfume?" and this will probably lead you to making a list of retail stores or other venues that might take your perfume on some sort of terms, possibly on consignment. But now you have to hit the streets -- and the phones -- and talk to these people to see how realistic your expectations are. How many will let you sell your perfume in their stores? What do they think are the odds for your success?

Building A Following

If you are fortunate enough to find some stores that are willing to take your perfume, it's time to go to work. Remember, it's the stores that have the following, not you. So getting your perfume into stores may do little or nothing for actual sales. What you need to do is to develop some sort of promotional campaign to drive people into stores specifically to buy your perfume. While this falls under the "marketing " category, it's important for you to assess your marketing capabilities and try to get some realistic sense of how many people your marketing dollars -- your actual financial resources -- will be able to drive into stores.

Now, if you have been realistic, you have some idea of how large your following will be.

(This article is a continuation of a series that started with "Conduct Some Market Research.")

"Conduct Some Market Research"

From time to time I browse through websites purporting to teach readers how to make perfume -- usually in just 7 Steps and in well under 1,000 words. Pretty amazing.

But one piece of advice caught my eye the other day. The writer advised the potential perfume maker to "conduct some market research."

Marketers spending $30 million plus to launch a new fragrance could be expected to immerse themselves in market research before signing the deals that set all systems to "Go!" These marketers have the advantage of close releationships with advertising agencies that can either provide market research or direct the marketer to a reputable source.

But I'm guessing this involves expenditures of well over $100,000, possibly over $1 million. The reader of a (free) "How To Make Your Own Perfume" article will not be spending this kind of money. And, as to "conduct some market research," they wlil be left to their own devices, probably without a clue.

This is too bad as this pre-perfume making market research is likely to be the very element that determines whether your project will be a financial success or a financial drain. Why? Because before you start to spend money developing your perfume, there are some important questions which you need answers  -- and these answers will, or at least should, be found through intelligent market research.

Note that I said "intelligent," not expensive. In fact, you can do some very worthwhile -- intelligent -- market research on your own, spending no more than the cost of a few bottles of you perfume.

Five essential questions --

#1 How large a following do you have?

#2 What evidence do you have that they will buy a perfume (or cologne) at all and, in particular, from you?

#3 If there is evidence that they will buy a perfume from you, what will they be willing to pay?

#4 What will it cost you, per bottle, to produce the fragrance for which they will pay this amount?

#5 How much promotional money will be needed to sell a bottle of your perfume or cologne?

This is a bare bones outline for your market research. Let me catch my breath and I'll write more.