Friday, June 24, 2022

There's a formula behind every perfume you'll ever make. Too bad if you didn't record it.

How do YOU go about making a new perfume? Do you sketch out a plan, do you imagine a theme, or do you just plunge into it, mixing materials that seem to go together nicely? Do you find yourself creating many perfumes in small batches but never making the same perfume twice, even when everyone is asking you for it? To make more you need the formula.

There is a formula for every perfume you've ever made, even if you didn't record it. Perhaps the word "formula" is scary. Perhaps there's a fear that writing a few notes won't qualify as a formula and won't really be enough to bring the favorites you've made back to life again. But all it takes to bring a perfume of yours back to life in a new batch is incredibly simple, if you took a few important notes.

For example, say you created your fragrance using materials A, B, C, D, and E. Counting our drops, your initial formula might look something like this:

Then, if we were to assume that all the drops were of the same size (volume), we could go a step farther and produce a formula by percentages. It would look like this:

Now, to make more, you just mix the percentages. For example, to make 500 ml of your perfume oil:

When using your formula to produce more of your fragrance, you can use any unit of liquid measurement you want: milliliters, fluid ounces, liters, or even gallons. It's up to you.

If you have just made the original batch of your fragrance, nothing more need be done. But if some time has gone by, there is an issue you will have to deal with, being able to get more of the materials you used in your original batch. This brings up a second issue: keeping a record of the materials you used in your original fragrance.

If you are serious about your creative work in perfumery you will keep a very precise record of those materials including where you got them and even stock numbers. I've written a bit more about this in my book How to create an international production formula for your homemade perfume that will help you develop even more accurate formulas. The more accurate your formula is, the closer your new batch will be to your original. But it's never more complicated than just taking a few simple notes. You just want to be sure you're taking the right notes!

Thursday, June 16, 2022

The detail you can't leave out when you're writing your formula

Anyone who makes perfume, even the most skilled and successful professional, has those times when he or she wants to experiment, just like a pure hobbyist. It generally starts with an idea. Then some aroma materials are chosen and the mixing and experimenting begins. Sometimes nothing comes of it but sometimes the result is pure magic. Can the magic be repeated? Can what has been done be done again? It all comes down to the formula.

Having the formula should allow you to produce more of that "bingo" fragrance you just created. For the professional it would rarely be a problem. But what about you? To produce more of the same, not only do you need the formula, you need the exact same aroma materials you used in your original batch. Can you get them? This is where the hobby perfumer so often gets stuck.

The issues:

To get more of the same materials you have to know exactly what they were; then you have to be able to obtain more. The first issue is the precise identity of what you used. Did you keep a full and complete record including vendor and vendor's stock number? Bergamot essential oil? Pure Bergamot or a Bergamot blend (the label should show). And whose Bergamot did you use? It makes a difference.

Can your source supply more of exactly what you used the first time? Does your source still sell it or have they switched to a substitute? Have they simply dropped it from their line leaving you to search for a substitute from another vendor?

Then there's the scenario where you were really careless in recording your materials and find something which seems to carry the same name but when you open the bottle and sniff, it turns out to be nothing like what you expected. (I have had this experience and it's a real wake-up call to keep better records.)

If you can't obtain more of something that went into your fragrance, that's the end of it. Finished. There will never be more. You can hope to come up with sometime inspired by the memory of that magical fragrance but it will never be the same.

Consider your sources before you buy your materials. Seek out vendors who are likely to offer continuity, vendors who understand the needs of serious perfume makers. And remember, if you are experimenting, developing a new perfume, you may run out of one or more materials you are using before you get it right. I have. If, at that point, you can't get more, your whole project is in the toilet.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Unexpected problem developing formula led to new book

 The last six weeks have been busy, busy, busy. While working on the revised version of Rough Day, I ran into a situation that I wanted to write about. It dealt with the high cost of a particular ingredient that happened to make up a large percentage of the formula. The new Rough Day did get finished. I've been using it and my wife approves. I just now produced labels and bottled more of it. In spite of the cost of the "juice," I've decided to use 2-ounce bottles with spray pumps. I have the bottles and pumps on hand.  
You might wonder why, when I was so excited about this "new, improved, (and more expensive)" version of Rough Day I've taken so long to get back to it. A little glitch in developing the master formula, which I started to write about in a blog, has become an important chapter (Chapter 5: Sometimes complications arise and drops become a problem) in a book I stopped to write, design and photograph. The book was published last week and is now available on Amazon so I am free to get back to keeping in touch with followers.
 
The issue that caused me to stop everything and write a short book or "guide" involves measurements for developing a master formula. The formula for the new Rough Day, Rough Day 2022, like all my other formulas, was first developed with drops from dropper bottles. From this "drops" formula, using an electronic balance I could develop a formula in percentages of weight, which would allow me to scale up my formula to any weight required. This is a lot more practical than counting out thousands of drops.
 
In my original "drops" formula, some materials were used in a single drop. A single drop was too light for me to weigh accurately so I would multiply the drops of all the materials by twenty. Now I could accurately weight the drops for each material an then calculate the percentage of the formula represented by that weight. (Together the percentages of the weights of all the materials would total 100.)
 
Ordinarily all this is simple. I weigh the drops, I calculate the percentages and I have my formula and, with that formula, I can make any amount of my perfume oil I want. And, because the formula is in percentages, the units I'm using can be any weight measurement: grams, ounces, kilos, pounds. With a few steps more I can convert my formula by weight to a formula by volume: milliliters, fluid ounces, liters, or gallons. All very straight forward.
 
With the new Rough Day a situation arose. Two materials were used in very small quantities and one material was used in a large quantity (many, many drops.) To weigh the drops accurately I would have had to multiply the smallest by a minimum of 20, which would have given me enough to weigh accurately. That would not have been a problem. But what about the one material that called for a lot of drops? I would have been counting out well over 1000 drops.
 
Maybe I could have done it but what if I lost count which, for me, would be pretty easy to do. Then I would have to start EVERYTHING all over again. Worse still, the material with the largest number of drops was the most expensive. In fact, it cost more per gram than almost any material I have ever used. I couldn't see risking a screw-up with this expensive material.
 
So I used another method to develop my formula for the new Rough Day. It is not one I would recommend unless you have a good nose but I trusted my nose and used this alternative to make a small batch. My nose told me I was slightly off from what I wanted so I adjusted the result AND adjusted my formula to reflect what I had done. All worked out fine. By now you've probably guessed that I was working with volumes rather than weights. None of my expensive material was wasted.
 
When you write a formula for your perfume in either percentages of weight or in percentages of volume, your nose becomes very important. Your nose is the tool by which you decide when your formula has nailed it or whether adjustments are still required.
 
If what I've just written leaves you with any confusion, just write me a comment below and I'll try to clarity. Meanwhile, thank you for reading this!
 
-- Phil

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

If the scent is good, bottle it!

But you can't bottle your fragrance if you don't have bottles on hand!

Being able to purchase the bottles you want, in the quantity you want, at the price you want is an ongoing issue for anyone involved in creating perfume on a modest scale. As a minimum you need two kinds of bottles, ones for the distribution of your fragrances (perfume bottles) and ones for the production of your scents (utility bottles). If you make fragrances for both women and for men you might want to give them different bottles. This means you'll need three different types of bottles and you'll want to keep at least a small supply of each of them on hand.

About a month ago as I was finishing up my revised version of Rough Day I stopped to review the inventory I had on hand. I wanted to check my supply of 16 ounce and 32 ounce amber Boston rounds that I use when producing fragrances. I was shocked, yes shocked to discover the vendor I had used for years was out of stock of both sizes and could not say when more would be available.

When I publish books on perfume development I highlight materials and services I've used but rather than list them on an appendix page, I direct readers to the "Vendors" pages of my Perfume Projects website. Why? Because the books, once printed, can't be changed, but they continue to be sold, traded, and used as a resource long after some of these vendors have gone out of business or have stopped supplying the product or service that would have gotten them a listing. On a web page, in a minute or two, I can add or delete vendors as their circumstances change. In the case of amber Boston round bottles I have added several new vendors that, at this time, appear to be well stocked.

When I checked my bottle supply I found I did have on hand those utility bottles I needed so I haven't yet tried one of the new vendors. And I have received an email from the vendor I used for many years reporting that some new bottles are on their way. As to perfume bottles for both men's and women's fragrances, I have large stocks on hand of the styles I use most frequently. Once I have used a particular bottle for a particular fragrance I want continuity for that bottle design. All of this is a warning.

Once you have developed a fragrance that pleases you, you want to show it around and see what others think. This means you need to have bottles on hand, perhaps just a dozen; perhaps more. The bottles you use when you are first sharing your fragrance don't have to be the same bottles you might use if you were going ahead with your project and producing 1,000 or even 10,000 bottles. I like to keep on hand at least a few dozen simple bottles with screw on sprays for womens fragrances and a similar quantity of sprinkler neck bottles (no spray) for mens fragrances. This way, when I have a fragrance I want to test on a friends and others, I have the bottles on hand. I don't have to worry about whether a vendor will have them in stock at the time I need them and I don't have to worry about shipping times and shipping delays.

When a scent is good, I want to bottles it... now!

Monday, February 7, 2022

By Camel or FedEx, aromatics still travel globally

Last Christmas I was involved in some Bible studies that touched on the birth of Jesus and the story of the three kings, or "magi", from the East bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. I had a bit of frankincense from Somalia on hand and about two drops of myrrh. When I smelled the myrrh it stuck me that this indeed was the missing ingredient for a perfume I was trying to reformulate. Myrrh became a major ingredient in this fragrance, the new version of Rough Day. Myrrh became the heart.

Two notes about the Bible story. One, myrrh was, at the time of Jesus' birth, rare and expensive. Two, the kings or magi seem to have arrived on the scene several years after Jesus' birth. These points have been ringing bells with me.

First, myrrh is still quite expensive, about $3,000 per kilo of myrrh essential oil from my source. And travel time? Here's what happened when I placed an order of myrrh from the orient.

First I want to note that it was shipped FedEx and not by camel. But the routing made me wonder what route the kings had taken to find Jesus and whether they may have wandered around the Middle East and even parts of Africa before arriving in Bethlehem of Judea.

My shipment of myrrh was delivered to FedEx in Bangkok but it didn't go directly from Bangkok to the U.S. FedEx hub in Memphis. From Bangkok it traveled north in Thailand to the Samutprakarn FedEx World Service Center where it seems to have spent three days before being passed on to the FedEx Asia Pacific hub in Guangzhou, China, where it spent a day before being passed on the FedEx hub in Anchorage, Alaska. Then, by 5 AM the next morning it had bounced backward to the FedEx North Pacific hub at Sennan-shi, Japan. By that evening it was back in Alaska but quickly sent on to Memphis, Tennessee and from there immediately sent to Newburgh, New York and put out for delivery to me in Walden that same morning having traveled through four countries in ten days.

The adventures of the myrrh was a reminder that the fragrance and spice business has always been global. Before the days of sailing ships rare spices and aromatics traveled from Asia by camel. As a young man the Prophet Mohammed got his start in the trade. Later European nations developed nautical trade routes to Asia to bring back spices and aromatics. Today it's FedEx and DHL but the geography remains global. Today the fragrance industry conducts research explorations for new aroma materials all over the world in addition to developing new fragrance molecules in the laboratory.

When I get my new fragrance together I'll make announcements for it via my PGLightyears website which, potentially, will be seen by people all over the world. After all these centuries perfume remains a global business.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Don't fall into the "essential oil" trap

"Natural" can be good but it can also be dangerous!

It's not about "natural vs. synthetic." It's not about allergic reactions. It's not about animal welfare and unkind treatment to civet cats and musk deer. This is about cost, the cost of certain essential oils.

I've been working on a remake of an existing fragrance (Rough Day). The formula calls for both natural and synthetic materials. Two thirds of the ingredients are essential oils. All but one of them are quite affordable but that one that is not so affordable is essential to the formula. It is the heart of the formula and there is no synthetic substitute for it. An ounce of this fragrance is going to be quite expensive.

I want feedback on this fragrance so I have to produce it. But what format should I select? Could I use it to make a solid perfume? For a solid perfume I would only need a small amount of fragrance oil for each unit produced. Or should I fill a few inexpensive sampler vials? I have some good ones, with sprays, on hand.

One solution not far from my original plan would be to use 1/4 ounce bottles rather than 1-ounce bottles I had planned to use. I can get some nice 1/4 ounce bottles and sprays to match but neither the bottles nor the sprays are available in small quantities. I would have to buy the bottles by the case and then sprays by a much larger quantity than I want. I may just make up a handful of nice 1-ounce bottles and give them to a few people as a gift, to see how they react. If I was plugged into the social media thing I would give them to a few "influencers" and hope for a shout-out. This is something you might consider.

This project has turned into a financially risky proposition and this was not my intention, so here is my warning to you. Study your budget before you start to formulate your fragrance. All the best selling commercial fragrances start with a very strictly fixed budget. Then it is up to the perfumer to meet the requirements of the project and do it within these budgetary constrictions. This means when looking for a scent certain ideas are out. Cost prohibits them. In my case had I started with the budget I never would have gone down the paths I went down. If my nose was leading me in the direction of an expensive essential oil, I would have simply said, "No, that's not a viable solution." As it is I'm pleased with the scent but, due to the costs involved and the way I'll have to price it in whatever format I select, this is not likely to be a money maker. Too bad.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Can you afford to produce the great fragrance you just made?

I was ready to go into production with the "revised" version of Rough Day, the fragrance that had been lacking in personality. Now I had a formula. Now I had a solution. Now I had to order supplies for a production batch or send the formula out to be made for me by someone else. Now I suddenly realized what Rough Day is going to cost to produce.

I have mentioned previously that the "new" Rough Day would make use of Myrrh — lots of it. When I purchased the supply for my tests I bought just enough, because of the cost. From my source, a kilo runs about $3,000. That's enough to give pause.

Now let's look at the problem. I want to produce a batch of the new Rough Day without making any substitutions. Possible solutions? I can plow ahead and invest more money than was my intention. That would be fine if I knew I could sell out at the price I would need to make the deal profitable. Originally I had thought to price the new Rough Day at $45 for a 50 ml bottle, and maybe run a special, limited offer at $35, to get some feedback on the revised formula. But now, confronting the production costs, a bottle will have to sell for from $85 to about $115. This puts it in a whole different market.

Then, as to the bottle. I have a supply of 50 ml sprinkler neck bottles that I favor for men's fragrances. But the new Rough Day could be equally enjoyed by woman as well as men. But at the higher price, and thinking of women, a more elegant bottle is called for. And it should have a spray. That will add even more to the production cost. This now becomes a whole new marketing adventure.

How should I address this new situation? I'll start by scaling back my production goal and make a smaller batch which I'll use for some marketing tests. I may buy some new bottles that will be more elegant than the bottles I have on hand. I'll try some old tricks. Then I'll watch what results come in. If the new Rough Day starts to gain traction, I'll make a larger investment, "take it to the next level." But unless it proves a runaway success (which would be very rare, even for the best of fragrances), I'll take it "up" in measured steps. This is the plan.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

It's not a pyramid. It's not "one of each." You have to know what to leave out.

When you've got it right, stop. Forget what your formula looks like. Your goal is not to match some academic standard of perfumery. Don't try to match your formula against the classic pyramid of top note, middle note, and base. Don't try to include aroma materials from each of these categories in your perfume to make it "right." If you've nailed the scent, that's it. Stop. I'm telling you this out of current personal experience.

If you've been following my messages you'll know that I've been working to reformat a fragrance called Rough Day. It had no personality. I was

determined to give it one, a personality that would harmonize with the vision behind it. Have you ever had a rough day? Would you like to come home at the end of that day and find a scent that commiserates with you? A scent that tells you that, really,l everything is all right? In my case I found the scent I was looking for but it didn't match any template for fragrance design. It was just "right."

Perfume is about the nose, about emotion. The worst sin you can commit with perfume is to overwork it, to go beyond the point where it's giving you all that you wanted but you feel compelled to keep tinkering and tinkering until you've killed its heart and its personality is lost. What could have been great is now nothing. No one will notice it and soon you will not notice it either.

You can get tricked. I almost got tricked. I had something I liked but couldn't believe this was really it. It seemed too simple. It must need more (I foolishly reasoned.) and so I tinkered and tinkered, adding and taking away this and that. But each time I tinkered I lost the heart, the personality, the individuality. Only after several weeks of small trials and adjustments did I come to the conclusion: "leave it alone." Stick with what worked and forget trying to make it more complex because someone made up a rule.

So I've stopped. In a few days I'll go into production and produce a small batch. I'm a little nervous. What will happen when I test it with a little alcohol and perhaps some water? But these will be small tests, to see what combination of fragrance oil, alcohol and water will be, in my eyes, the most pleasing. Likely none of these combinations will be "bad" but hopefully one will stand out as being the best.

One more point that I want to discuss with you: cost. But I'll share that conversation in my next message.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Have you given your perfume the right personality? (for your target audience)

I've been struggling for about a month to reformulate Rough Day, a fragrance of mine that was lacking in personality. I had tried taking it in several directions but each try was a failure. Each new personality I gave it was wrong. I didn't have a clear vision of what I wanted and thus could not fix the problem. I was experiencing a perfumer's version of writer's block. I needed an idea but was coming up with nothing.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas my wife and I were involved in a church study group focused on the birth of Jesus. Whether you're Christian or not you may be familiar with the story of three kings from the East bringing gifts to the baby Jesus: gold, frankincense and myrrh. I had a small bottle of frankincense and a few drops of myrrh on hand so I sniffed them to get in the spirit of the Nativity story. The myrrh caught my attention.

Historically, myrrh has been associated with sadness and preparations for burial. Both the odor and the story seemed to fit Rough Day perfectly. With only two drops on hand, I sent off for a new supply.

Myrrh has a mild but somewhat unusual aroma. Since it's not a strong odorant I'll take care not to smother its aroma with the other materials I'll be using but I'm confident I'm now on the right track. I'll tell you more about this when I'm closer to what I want.

Meanwhile I have another scent adventure to report. My wife and I had driven down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to spend Christmas with the kids and grand kids. To put us up, my 12-year-old granddaughter relinquished her bedroom for the better part of a week. On the drive back to Walden I thought I would thank her by sending her a bottle of perfume. I had some nice bottles with gold trimmed caps and press-on sprays and I thought I'd fill one with one of my own fragrances but put her name on the label, in pink. Besides making the label (I have a supply of sticker paper for this), all I had to do was select a fragrance.

Certain of the fragrances I had on hand were not, in my opinion, age appropriate for a 12-year-old: too pronounced an aroma; too unique. I wanted something with a mild aroma and just a subtle character, something that a young person might enjoy -- or at least not gag at. Manama was too rosy; Summer Air was too clove. Several others were just too bland. It became a runoff between Mimosa and $timeout.

But Mimosa is a strange and exotic scent. Too much for a young person. On the other hand, $timeout looked good... and the more I sampled it, the better it looked for this project. Although not my personal favorite, it is a pretty decent perfume. And it has personality.

This brings me to another point. Not only will a good perfume have personality, it will have a personality that is right for the audience for which it was created. Of all my fragrances, my favorite for personal use is Xotic followed by Blackberry. These are not fragrances most wives would buy for their husbands but my wife finds both quite pleasant on me. Her favorites are Summer Air and Manama, fragrances, perhaps too strong for most American women. For my granddaughter I wanted an easy-to-live-with, non-controversial fragrance she could show off to her friends without embarrassment, whether she decides to use it herself or not.

Perfume should be enjoyed. Selecting the right fragrance for the right person is important. When you have a few scents to select from it's easier. And when none of your scents seem quite right for a particular person, you have a gap in your inventory. This can give you inspiration for new fragrance... to fill that gap.