Ask the Perfumer Aug 18 2013 – Reader’s Choice

by | Aug 18, 2013 | Anya's Garden Perfumes | 9 comments

No theme this week, everyone, because I’m so busy with perfume, students, the Guild, and working on the Perfume From Your Garden book, I figure it’s just a reader’s choice on the questions this week.

So, ask about anything that puzzles you about perfumery, and I’ll try to help.  In the meantime, go over to the book website and sign up for the newsletter. We’ll be having giveaways to randomly selected subscribers as we get closer to publication.  Also come join the part on the Facebook page, because there are daily posts, photos, teasers, crowdsourcing on ideas and much more.  We’ll be hosting giveaways there also, so by liking at both sites, you’ll double your chances of winning a copy of Perfume From Your Garden!


  1. Evelyn

    Hi Anya,

    Have you already addressed the issue of potential allergies and/or sensitivities to natural perfumes?

    Greets, Evelyn

  2. leathermountain

    Hi Anya!
    I’m working on my opening activity for my Fragrant Chemistry course, and this is what I’ve got so far:

    We’ll use oil, water, and alcohol as carrier materials. We’ll also use various mixtures of the three.

    First, we’ll just observe each carrier, and each mixture. When I tried this at home, a bunch of interesting questions came up about the bubbles you see when you swirl some of the mixtures.

    Then, we’ll predict which would make the best carrier material for a very simple perfume. Then we’ll begin to test the predictions by adding a drop of essential oil to each carrier.

    We’ll smell our mixtures, and also make blotters, and dip and smell the blotters over several hours and days.

    I have three questions for you:
    1. My canola oil smells terrible. What would be the cheapest and most accessible oil that has a minimal (and more pleasant) smell, that could plausibly be used for a homemade perfume? And where do you suggest buying it?

    2. I used bergamot essential oil for my first run-through, and it smells almost the same in water, alcohol, and a mixture of water and alcohol. I have two theories about why this happens: First, it seems very insoluble in water, so we may be getting almost pure essential oil on the blotter from the water mixture. And second, I believe it is a top note, in other words, the main aromatic components are extremely volatile, so alcohol isn’t going to hurry them along and water can’t hold them back. So, I’m looking for a different essential oil for this activity. It also needs to be likable and inexpensive. Can you please suggest either an oil or a very very simple blend for this particular exercise? The goal is to get students wondering about how and why water, oil, and alcohol would produce different-smelling mixtures.

    3. Is there any other carrier material you think I should include in this activity?

    Thank you so so so so much!

    All the best,

    • Anya

      Hi Annie:

      Why are you mixing the carriers? This is usually not done. Bubbles are merely air bubbles in pure material, don’t know about the mixes.

      Most use fractionated coconut oil, don’t know the cost.
      All EOs are insoluble in water, not just bergamot.
      I can’t think of another carrier.

      Good luck!

      • leathermountain

        Hi Anya,
        Great question! Thank you.

        I thought of mixing the carriers for two reasons: First, it makes for a more open-ended investigation, where the students have more decisions to make that may affect the outcome in unexpected ways. Second, the mixtures look funny, and act funny, and that’s the kind of thing that tends to spark good questions. But, you’re making me think we might do better to try the carriers unmixed first. Then, based on our observations, we could predict what might happen if we mix them, and if that seems like a good idea or not. (And, if we’ve gotten the ball rolling nicely by then, we could also skip the mixing of carriers and move right into a student-designed experiment.)

        I’ve been wondering about fractionated coconut oil! I will definitely get some and check it out. Do you happen to know why perfumers use this particular oil? Thank you for the nudge in that direction.

        Of course, it makes sense that essential oils are water-insoluble! That was silly of me. As I understand the usual method of producing essential oils, the raw materials are distilled with steam or water, and the distillate is captured. The distillate spontaneously separates into layers, usually with the essential oil floating on top of the hydrosol, because the components of the essential oil are insoluble in water, and usually less dense than water. Sorry for not thinking that through all the way before I posted.

        I am hoping you can still help me with base notes. I’ve been rereading Essence and Alchemy, especially the chapter on base notes, and I’ve made an observation: I have almost no base notes in my personal collection of EOs. Why? Well, probably because I smell the bottle in the store and buy the ones that smell nice. These are (theoretically) undiluted materials, and many base notes don’t “smell nice” to my inexperienced nose/mind. This seems to be part of Aftel’s message about base notes.

        However, I believe I need base notes, and certainly heart notes, for my activity. Students will be quick to dismiss a more challenging material as smelling ‘nasty.’ I know this from teaching culinary science classes. And it is crucial that they enjoy the opening activity at a visceral level. I can begin to present challenges to their olfactory palates only later, once they buy in to the concept of the class.

        So, which base and heart notes would you suggest? Which are most universally appreciated by absolute novices? And from that list, which are most affordable? (I love my sandalwood oil, for example, but I don’t see a way to fit it into the budget.)

        Thank you again, so much.

        All the best,

  3. Dianna Pierce

    Hi Anya, I have a very hard time getting the alochol to evaporate from the essential oil that I make. With my Rose and Irish it took almost a year with the id slightly ajar on the bottle! How do I get this to speed up?
    Inner Sanctuary of Healing

    • Anya

      Hi Dianna:

      I’m confused – how do you make your EOs? They’re distilled, and there’s no alcohol. Are you making tinctures? Please give me a step-by-step description and materials and tools used.



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