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Thursday, 7 June 2012

A method for blending

In this post I’m setting out the way in which I go about making a blend - including how to dilute the materials first to facilitate blending.

This is because these are two questions I get asked by people starting out in making their own perfumes quite often.
First I dilute all my ingredients in ethanol to 10% or in a few cases less (there are notes on the individual ingredients on the post suggesting a starter kit where I think you need to dilute more).

This means you are going to need lots of bottles to make the dilutions in - I use standard 30ml or 50ml amber or cobalt blue bottles to protect the mixture from the light. For details of other things you are likely to find useful have a look at my post on Starting Equipment.  To make the dilution you need to follow this procedure: 

Dilution

With ethanol the specific gravity is 0.8, which means you can get about 25 grams into a 30ml bottle, 40grams in a 50ml bottle.

So, to get a 10% solution of your essential oils you first put the 30ml bottle it's going into on the scales (or balance if you prefer) and tare it (so that the display shows 0 with the empty bottle on), then add 2.5grams of your essential oil - don't tare again - top up to 25 grams with ethanol and hey presto! If you find you've put in a little under the 2.5 grams, adjust the amount of ethanol such that you end up with exactly 10 times as much in total, keeping in mind that the bottle will be full at about 25 grams or so, so you don’t want to put in too much of the oil you are diluting.

The process for aroma chemicals and absolutes is exactly the same and of course this process will work when you are dealing with solids just as well as with liquids - the degree of dilution you'll need will vary, but for most I would go with 10%. Exceptions are things like Vanillin (1%) Synthetic Civet (0.1%) and so on. Don’t forget that if you buy an aroma chemical already diluted, e.g. vanillin at 10% in propylene glycol if you dilute it down to 10%, you'll actually have 1% vanillin in a mix of PG and ethanol.

Having done that, you now have nice, easy, mobile liquids to work with in every case. 


Blending
Before I start blending I make a list of the materials I plan to use and the proportions of each I think will work - this can be guesswork to begin with but over time you’ll get good at anticipating what will work and how much you’ll need, depending on the effect you are seeking.

I then blend using the requisite number of drops of each of the materials I want to work with - weighing each as it goes into the blending bottle, taring between items and making a note of the exact weight that went in and at what dilution. This means that I can replicate the blend later if it turns out to be good, or alter it later if it does not.

I normally build a fragrance in three stages - first blending the base notes together, then the middle notes and finally the top notes. I sometimes do this all in one blending bottle, sometimes in three separate ones and then mix the three elements together later. Either way works but when you’ve made the final blend give it a good shake and then let it sit for at least a day, preferably a week before you evaluate the scent you’ve made as it will change over time - usually getting better.

Producing the Fragrance
Once you have the blend in the proportions you want, you might want to alter the concentration - either increasing it to become and EdP or Parfum strength or reducing it to a typical cologne or EdT strength.

I use a spreadsheet, available for download here, to help me get from one to the other. To make the spreadsheet work you’ll need to record the exact concentration and weight of everything in your sample blend first, then adjust up by adding some items at 100% or 50% for example, until you get the total concentration you are looking for. Adjusting down is simpler - just add ethanol at the top of of the spreadsheet until you have the concentration you want. [in the spreadsheet the teal coloured fields are user-entered numbers, the other calculated from those. The formula provided is a published cologne formula, which is included to illustrate how it works]

The point about blending at 10% (ish) is that it’s easy to work with and evaluate. Production of the final product can be at whatever concentration you like (subject to compliance).

15 comments:

  1. In light of the fact that virtually everyone who has downloaded my spreadsheet has ended up one way or another coming back to me for explanation of how to use it, I concluded it must be the spreadsheet that was confusing. So I've added a whole lot of explanatory comments on columns and individual cells to help make it clear what's supposed to be happening and how you are supposed to use it.

    Hopefully this should help answer most questions but if not, please let me know!

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  2. Thank you for the spreadsheet!

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  3. The spreadsheet is an INVALUABLE tool for DIYers... as is this blog. Chris, you deserve a statue.

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  4. Thanks for the comments both, I'm glad to know you're finding it useful.

    I think I'd rather you waited until after I'm gone for the statue though!

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  5. Don't you waste your ethanol if you experiment a alot? I've just started to experiment with perfumery and I crate many accords that I throw them away, almost each day. If I had to dilute my oils my variable costs would increase dramatically, I believe. The truth is, I don't have yet ingredients like vanillin or castoreum which require dilution. Don't you think it's better to experiment with undiluted ingredients until you're pleased with your formula, and then dilute them to create the perfume?

    Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge

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  6. Hi Chris,

    I'm new to perfuming and I belong to the yahoo perfume group. that's how I came upon your website. I really like your spreadsheet but need some assistance.

    for the Proportions I am entering (column D)....How is it measured? Grams? Some of your notes say that traditionally some perfumes are made to add up to 1000....In grams?? What adds up to 1000? What are the calculations I am not understanding. Please help.

    thanks-- carlita

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  7. Thanks for the comments both:
    Achilleas: in general the ethanol I'm using is a fraction of the cost of the ingredients I'm diluting with it, so it is cheaper to experiment with diluted ingredients. More to the point it is also easier to be accurate with them. If you find working with undiluted ingredients is better for you, that's just fine, there isn't a wrong answer here.

    Carlita: the proportions are just proportions - there are no units - think of those numbers as a percentage if that helps. They are normally made to add up to 1000 because that's convenient when thinking about the percentages 1=0.1% but that's a hangover from the days before spreadsheets made calculating percentages so easy: it does not matter what it adds up to, the formula will still work.

    It may help to think of the numbers in the formula column as the number of drops you put in when you first make an experimental blend: this spreadsheet scales that up to whatever amount you want to make.

    Hope that helps.

    Chris

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  8. I'm sorry if this answer has already been answered on your site: do you know of good essential oil to carrier oil ratios for someone starting in perfumery, and not wanting to use alcohol? I hope to make my own perfume with just EO's and fractionated coconut oil, but no matter where I look online I cannot find a definitive answer, or I find a couple that are completely different (so I thought I would ask you, as you are a pro :D). Thank you so much for taking the time to read this!!

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  9. Dear Chris,
    Thanks for this blog! It really is a big help for me. I was wondering about something concerning the dilution. If I dilute all of my chemicals at 10% or even less, how can I make a perfume with 10-20% aroma compounds?
    The second question I have is regarding the ethanol usage. If I just start adding drops, won't they evaporate relatively quickly, thus leaving me with very little perfume?

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  10. Sorry to take so long to respond Ashesela K, there are no definitive ratios as it really depends on the effect you want and the particular fragrance, however, as a guide I would say you should aim for 20% fragrance to 80% FCO - higher than I'd recommend in alcohol since oil tends to reduce the diffusion of the fragrance.

    jsprpl
    Glad you're finding the blog useful: that's the whole idea after all. If you dilute absolutely everything then of course you can't make a stronger fragrance. What I do is keep diluted materials to work with when I'm designing a fragrance, but pure materials to use when making up production amounts. If you use the spreadsheet you can download here (or something like it) it is easy to ensure that the proportions stay the same, even if you use a mixture of diluted and concentrated ingredients.

    On evaporation, when I'm doing test blends I use a either a very small vial (for the early trails) or a narrow necked flask (once I'm making a larger amount for user-testing) and evaporation isn't a problem for the time these are in use - usually a few hours - if you are going to leave your blend it is essential that you close the vial or transfer it into a closed container though, otherwise you will end up with all the alcohol and most of the top notes evaporating away.

    Hope that helps,

    Chris

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  11. Sorry to take so long to respond Ashesela K, there are no definitive ratios as it really depends on the effect you want and the particular fragrance, however, as a guide I would say you should aim for 20% fragrance to 80% FCO - higher than I'd recommend in alcohol since oil tends to reduce the diffusion of the fragrance.

    jsprpl
    Glad you're finding the blog useful: that's the whole idea after all. If you dilute absolutely everything then of course you can't make a stronger fragrance. What I do is keep diluted materials to work with when I'm designing a fragrance, but pure materials to use when making up production amounts. If you use the spreadsheet you can download here (or something like it) it is easy to ensure that the proportions stay the same, even if you use a mixture of diluted and concentrated ingredients.

    On evaporation, when I'm doing test blends I use a either a very small vial (for the early trails) or a narrow necked flask (once I'm making a larger amount for user-testing) and evaporation isn't a problem for the time these are in use - usually a few hours - if you are going to leave your blend it is essential that you close the vial or transfer it into a closed container though, otherwise you will end up with all the alcohol and most of the top notes evaporating away.

    Hope that helps,

    Chris

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  12. Dear Chris,

    Thanks for the swift reply. That just about answers all of the questions I had! I'll definitely try out that spreadsheet of yours. Once again thanks for maintaining this blog, it's really helpful and a lot of fun to read.

    Regards,
    Jasper

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  13. Dear Chris Bartlett, good morning!
    I am Brazilian and I am interested in perfumery, acquire various goods to begin to make them as your page (Pell Wall) and would love your help.Started a Ozonico / marine, with such items:
    1. Veramoss - 6 drops;
    2. Cedramber - 2 drops;
    3. Tonalide - 2 drops;
    4. Hedione - 8 drops and
    5. Ultrazur - 2 drops
    I think in a Ozonico / marine for the 2nd half, because here in Brazil will be spring / summer, however I do not know what else to do, I want an exit melon / watermelon or citrus, so I ask your help to make 100 mL (with alcohol cereal, DPG, how to calculate?).
    All my goods were diluted in 10%, except for the Ethyl Vanillin, Castoreum, Melonal that are 1% (depending on your page).
    Also, if possible to respond to my email: robertoscalone.f @ terra.com.br
    Already thanking, hugging.
    Roberto Scalone Filho – São Paulo - Brazil

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  14. Dear Chris;

    I am trying to create Accords a la Jean Carles and he mentions a material called Ambergris 162B , I dont think its being produced under the same name and I find confusing information at the good scents company site. Do you know any product that is similar to it?
    Any help will be much appreciated.
    Thank you- Gus

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  15. Hello Gus,
    I’m afraid I’m not sure exactly what Ambergris 162B smelt like ... however one base designed to replace Ambergris is still made from that time and that is Fixateur so you might try that. It’s also possible that the 162B might have contained a small amount of Ambrinol - though it’s very early for that it’s possible - that material gives a very accurate reproduction of the scent of natural ambergris when blended with something like Ambrofix (though at that time only the racemic form was known, the leavo form has greater impact). I hope that’s of some help. Chris

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