Suspend for this blog post only everything I’ve told you about the nasty chemicals in perfumes because I’m now going to tell you about the time that I designed my own fragrance at the Molinard Perfume Museum in Grasse, France. If you’re ever in the area I recommend the experience. For €27 and a half hour of your time you can do it too! You work one on one with a fragrance consultant who helps you through the process.
Step 1 – choose your base note. This is the scent that’s going to stay on your skin the longest well after the top and middle notes have disappeared (in that order) so it’s really important that you like it. I had the option of selecting from about 15-18 “essences” some of which were clear base notes, some of which could be either base or middle note depending on the other essences they could be combined with. I thought initially that cypress was the winning base note but then when I combined cypress with the other 3 essences I had selected (I was allowed a max of 4 essences) I decided to swap it out for an essence called “marine.” Ironically marine smells nothing like the ocean (because the real ocean smells gross, especially at low tide) but it’s that scent which is in any product that is branded as relating to the sea or summer. Although it’s a synthetic scent, I absolutely adore it because it reminds me of summers in Maine, not because of the real beach but because I associate it with summer and summer smells.
Step 2 – choose your middle note. For this one I selected an essence called cotton. I’d be curious to know if I were to actually pick fresh cotton from a field whether it would smell like what I was smelling from the bottle. I would describe the scent as fresh or clean, like 3,000 count Egyptian cotton sheets that you want to dive into. It’s not a strong smell, in fact I had to really inhale deeply from the cap of the cotton essence to get a good smell, and even then it was difficult. Therefore I would also call it a subtle essence. Since there are 3 notes in a fragrance (top, middle, bottom) and I was allowed 4 essences, I also chose an essence to put grape in the blend called. Grape can be a middle or top note depending on what it’s combined with. I was pleasantly surprised that grape even had a smell since the fruit itself doesn’t smell like much. It is slightly sweet and fruity but not overly so.
Step 3 – choose your top note. For this one I chose a note called “yuzu”. Yuzu is a mysterious citrus fruit from East Asia which if you believe Wikipedia is a cross between a sour mandarin and ichang papeda. It’s smell is like an exotic citrus, absolutely delicious, I love it.
Step 4 – combine your essences. End result – I love it!!! My fragrance consultant helped me put the right amount of each essence into the 30ml bottle. I’m not going to give you the break down because I’m thinking of manufacturing the fragrance and calling it “Aqua di Caterina.” I’m joking of course because firstly when I floated the idea to my fragrance consultant she was very clear that this would not be kosher with Molinard and secondly as much as I love my fragrance I don’t flatter myself that it could possibly compete with the commercial perfume market. Any of your favorite perfumes- Dior, Channel, etc have hundreds of different essences in their blends. This is why companies are allowed to hide a myriad of chemicals behind the ingredient name “fragrance.” If they were forced to label of the chemicals in their blend, the ingredient list wouldn’t fit on the box and then it would be very easy for competitors to rip off their products.
Anywho, I was told my little simple fragrance blend is 15% essences (which could make it either an eau de parfum or a parfum depending on your scale), and the rest water and alcohol. Although it’s a simple blend and therefore not too many different synthetic chemicals in it, I’m still taking precautions and spraying it on my clothes instead of directly on my skin. It was a really fun experience and did get me thinking more about blending my essential oils just for the pure enjoyment of smelling pretty things. If you’d like to have stab at creating your own perfume from essential oils, read here.