[TUTORIAL] Making Perfume Accords Using Essential Oils

todras

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This is going to be a very basic tutorial for people that want to learn a little more about perfumery for the purposes of making perfumes for their shaving soaps or such like. I make no secret that I have 'skin in the game' with AP Reserve and obviously I will not be giving any of my secrets away.

I smell a lot of 'artisan' soaps and aftershaves too and to be fair a majority of them are just bloody terrible, they mean well and often use great Essential Oils but they are a complete dogs breakfast when it comes to the design and composition of the fragrance they use.

So Accords...An accord is simply 2 or more oils that when mixed in a ratio forms something harmonious that is greater than the sum of it's parts. It is not mixing two oils and strongly smelling one or the other once mixed, or smelling two mixed oils that are bloody horrific, no. An accord reflects an ideal olfactory balance and they are beautiful.

We might make an accord with all the base-notes, then one for the heart notes and then one for the top notes or we might just make one for the base notes and work up our design from there using only one base-accord and the rest individual oils for the heart and top. We record everything keeping exact records of what we mixed and how.

Measurement
I use two pairs of fairly expensive scales to weigh out my materials, but for the purposes of this explanation guide I am going to use ml (milliliters) to keep it simple therefore I will be using 1ml plastic pipettes to accurately measure the oils.

Just so people know - Using volume in perfumery is inaccurate, you need to weigh materials if you get serious using digital scales that run to 3 decimal places, the scales are calibrated every time using an ideal weight.

It is very important that all your measurements are accurate, an error in measurement renders any accord you create completely useless as you will never be able to recreate it with any accuracy. Get a notebook and record what you do - write down the numbers, label all the bottles and keep notes.


I buy these at 5000 a time, they are single use pipettes you can buy packets of 10 or 100 etc from ebay and many other places. They are around $4-$5 for a packet of 20 or so, maybe cheaper.

They are called single use pipettes as you never use the same one twice, it introduces contamination, inaccuracy and errors. When you are making an accord, if you make a mistake the whole effort is a complete waste of time as the odds of reproducing the accord are infinitesimal as you don't know the exact quantity of material.

Don't use the same bloody pipettes twice, you can almost be certain you will bugger things up!

In this example I am using 15ml brown boston bottles as when I formulate for AP Reserve I make 12.5ml solutions. It is much cheaper for most people to use the 5ml brown boston bottles (.35cents each) or even the small plastic perfumers vials from ebay etc.

Dilution
When I am formulating accords to use in a fragrance, it often takes a lot of trial and error to get something that smells just right so rather than waste expensive oils needlessly I take the Essential Oils and dilute them to 10% strength (you can also dilute them to 1% strength if you prefer or they are expensive).

The point is you know exactly what concentration you are working with so when you get the right accord you can just multiply it out to make larger batches and reproduce it countless times.

I dilute my oils when I am making accords because oils are expensive and so are trials, but I also do this as diluting the Essential Oils makes them much easier to smell and appreciate when I am testing out what 2 oils work well together.

There are a number of Essential oils you simply must dilute in order to smell them as they will eventually be, smelling them in pure form is misleading and of little use as they are so concentrated. This is a very important point, try not to forget it.

The bottles in this guide are all empty, they are for visual aids only. You will notice they are labelled, always label every bottle you use prior to experimenting and always use clean bottles. Do not reuse bottles for making accords and do not reuse pipettes - you will get nowhere.

Sandalwood and Oakmoss are for examples only. I have never worked up an accord using just Sandalwood and Oakmoss.

Who knows though, Sandalwood and Oakmoss may be fantastic if you hit the right combination!


On the Left 10ml of Sandalwood Essential Oil with 90ml of Alcohol
On the Right 10ml of Oakmoss with 90ml of Alcohol

These are in 10% dilution, if you wanted to do 1% you would simply add 1ml of oil to 99ml of alcohol.

An example of making a Base-note Accord
I will be making a very, very simple base-note accord but the principal is used for all of the accords you can imagine, base notes, heart notes and top notes. You don't have to use accords for the whole fragrance, but you can if you want and are skilful enough to make it work.

Just because you have 3 different accords (base, heart and top) it does not necessarily follow they will work together when mixed, please don't make the mistake of thinking it's automatic!



We use ratios when making accords, I will give a 5 bottle example for simplicity but I tend to work with 8 or 12 these days. We label 5 bottles as follows....

You can work in drops (bit tricky sometimes) 1/2 ml or whatever, to keep it simple I will be using whole milliliters for this tutorial.

The numbers below represent the 5 individual bottles, each bottle has a different ratio of Sandalwood to Oakmoss....

Sandalwood 9 8 7 6 5
Oakmoss 1 2 3 4 5



Bottle 1 on the left has 9ml of Sandalwood and 1 ml of Oakmoss
Bottle 2 on the right has 8ml of Sandalwood and 2ml of Oakmoss

We repeat this for the 5 bottles using the ratios given above, we can reverse the percentages if we like or even increase the number however this does introduce complications I am not going to cover in this tutorial. The 5 bottle accord method is comprehensive, and can and does produce great accords.

When we have made up our 5 bottles using the ratios provided, we give them a good shake and then we rest them for 72hours in a nice cool dark place.

The mixtures must rest, there is no way out and no speeding the process up. You can smell them once they have been shaken and mixed, but they will change over 72hours. If you pick one straight away you have the potential to lose something really incredible because you didn't wait....


Watch out Guerlain! I hope you are ready CREED! Bottle number 4 is pure olfactory devastation!!!!!11111

After 72 hours we take our bottles out and uncap each one in turn and smell (if we have perfumers papers we use these to smell) but the nose alone is a great guide. We smell all 5 and we pick the one that we like, we are designing a base-note here so we want a uniform smell that is different to both of the parts individually as this is the key to an accord.

If you can smell a spiky note, or a prominent note then you do not have an accord. You are smelling for pure harmony and something different than the two oils you have used. Don't mistake something different as an accord, no harmony = no accord.

Good luck :)
 

todras

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Extremely informative, certainly also a lesson in 'saving money' too... nobody wants to dump 30ml of eo into a beaker to discover that birch tar and pineapple don't really work together.
No Andy, no they don't... or say (hypothetically) Strawberry and Fir Balsam <cough>

Seriously though, if anyone dabbles with Birch Tar or Cade make sure you get the rectified extraction - about the same price anyway. Un-rectified Birch and Cade is loaded with a fairly nasty irritant that is a potent carcinogen and is IFRA banned.
 

Kaeckerut

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Great post @todras and I hope it does lead to great smelling soaps... even if my wallet doesn't.

When we have made up our 5 bottles using the ratios provided, we give them a good shake and then we rest them for 72hours in a nice cool dark place.
Extremely informative, certainly also a lesson in 'saving money' too... nobody wants to dump 30ml of eo into a beaker to discover that birch tar and pineapple don't really work together.
Pineapple and Birch Tar... were you trying to make vintage Aventus @SchoolForAnts ? ;)
I remember a common thing with Aventus was people complaining about the strength and being told to leave it for a couple months to allow it macerate further in the bottle.

Time seems to be as important for perfumery as the ingredients used. I found this post on another forum. Source: https://www.fredericmalle.com/customer-service-about-our-products
DO YOU MACERATE YOUR PERFUMES BEFORE BOTTLING THEM?
Of course we do, as one should! Like wines, perfumes have to age in large containers to come into their own. This is even truer if one uses lots of natural ingredients or lots of rich base notes. (An Eau de Cologne requires less maceration than heavy Chypres, for instance).

Every “classic” used to be macerated for a period between 4 and 8 weeks. Some mass-market companies eliminated this practice in the 80’s, to increase money flow. Once we are done developing a perfume, we always decide on an aging protocol for it with its author. Some perfumers favor long maturation (aging the perfume concentrate before mixing it with alcohol), others prefer long maceration (aging the finished solution).

Portrait of a Lady, for instance, matured for 2 weeks and macerated for 4- a 6-week aging process in total. When working with fresh lab samples, one notices that they are much less powerful, less beautiful, and often less stable, than properly aged products. Time and mass are critical. As a rule of thumb, we find that one must manufacture a minimum of 5 Kg of concentrate at a time to get the extra body needed in a perfume.
 

todras

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Time seems to be as important for perfumery as the ingredients used. I found this post on another forum.
That article is a shot at the big perfume houses and it is quite correct too in what it is suggesting.

Maturation and Maceration are super critical and they becoming a thing of the past, letting a perfume base mature for 4 weeks then waiting another 8 weeks for it to macerate is very costly for large production companies. In many cases it is much easier for them to add certain compounds to mask any 'rough' edges in a fragrance at a certain time point and bottle it up. This is one of the reasons certain 'batches' of certain popular big name fragrances are better and desired over others aside from the issue of material or compound variance.

Niche perfumers and small production houses like myself operate on a scale where we can afford to mature for 4-8 weeks then macerate for 12-16 weeks. It is still costly, but we do not have the production imperative that dictates rushing it out the door for an immediate financial return. My EDP's (that I sell) are macerated for around 12-16 weeks (Matured for 8 weeks) and you will find this time frame is fairly normal for niche/small batch perfumers if you ask them.

If anyone is wondering what works effectively on a small scale:
Mature the perfume base for a minimum 3 weeks. Keep it in a cool dark place, shake it occasionally if you wish or leave it to do it's thing and please, make sure it's stored in a clean and sealed Boston bottle as close to the volume of what you are storing. i.e do not store 100mls of perfume oil in a 1 liter bottle.

Macerate the diluted solution for minimum 6 weeks. i.e the aftershave, EDT, EDP etc.
 

todras

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Extremely informative, certainly also a lesson in 'saving money' too... nobody wants to dump 30ml of eo into a beaker to discover that birch tar and pineapple don't really work together.
It's definitely about saving money but the real gold to be had is that working with dilutions lets you as a designer really get to know the character of the EO's. At full strength they are a whole different beast than when diluted, most of them are almost unknowable as they flood you so quickly.

If you are working on something new (an accord, or even a whole fragrance) diluting is super important for good design, the changes of the fragrance of a single EO when you dilute to 50% 20% 10% and 1% are enormous as many of the oils react with the DPG or alcohol and undergo structural change. The best way to appreciate it is to do 3 small dilutions of a potent oil (10mls is fine), do one at 50% one at 20% and one at 1%, ensure they are all mixed with your solvent and let them rest for 24hrs then smell each one in turn (depending on your oil obviously) you will get 3 similar but noticeably different fragrances from the same oil. Some designs will benefit from the oils being used at 20% while others might require 50% or even 1% in the final formulation.

Cade or Birch Tar is an excellent example to do the dilutions with, when I use it I always work at 10% or more usually 1%.
 

Snooze

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Great post @todras - thank you. I guess two people can also smell the same accord and interpret it differently i.e. love it, hate it or just "meh". It must be difficult to interpret what the "market" wants the scent to smell like. Then there are the male / female scent preferences (e.g. with the animal musks you mentioned previously).

Just makes me even more impressed with the art of perfumery that you guys do ! (y)
 

todras

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guess two people can also smell the same accord and interpret it differently i.e. love it, hate it or just "meh".
This next bit is going to sound awfully pretentious :pompous:

I should have explained the concept of Accords in more depth, they are traditionally in perfumery more than likeability or pleasure but rather a recognition of harmony - the theater of accords in a classical and traditional sense is only for perfumers (those rich enough or experienced enough to learn perfumery) so the concept of different interpretation i.e love it or hate it is irrelevant through this lens. A customer or consumer of perfume would never be asked to comment on or evaluate the beauty of an accord, fellow perfumers would allow other perfumers to experience them for their professional opinion or they may be recognised within the industry as accomplished/eminent. Perfumers hold the opinion that someone without the training and nose would be considered inherently ignorant to meaningfully comment on a mere component of an overall design.

It must be difficult to interpret what the "market" wants the scent to smell like.
Oh gosh yes!

There are 2 main categories of gents who wear and use perfume - the $40-$90 Chemist Warehouse EDT set and the $170-$400 EDP set with the occasional $500+ crowd. In the first two classes I am competing or in the market against the very latest captives made by the leading commercial noses in the world - highly diffuse uber sillage fragrance explosion type fragrances - the real 'mic drop' stuff ($40-$90) then the mid tier masterpieces ($170 to $400) with the latter being completely deserving of their price point and simply impeccable, grand and beautiful designs.

Then there are the male / female scent preferences (e.g. with the animal musks you mentioned previously)
That is in the same sphere as the market question, in relation to the musk's what we do is we use several or even more in the same composition depending on the direction and feeling we want to give our design. For instance in 'Fresca' I have 6 different chemical types of musk (an accord) and 2 natural musk's which contain several compounds themselves. It is quite rare to use a singular musk as they rarely encompass the feeling you are aiming for. The musk's are also used for their specific effects on certain middle and top notes not related to fixitive properties, so say a certain musk may make a top note or middle note sweeter, or gentler or it may transform it into something unique and completely novel (horizontal accords). The latest musk's (of which there are around 70 commonly used) are very expensive for this reason depending on the composition.

Just makes me even more impressed with the art of perfumery that you guys do !
Well I am quite impressed as the depth of your question and the thought that you have given it, and I do know you enjoy the finer things in life when it comes to fragrances too :)

Fascinating! Thanks, @todras !
In your case Tom as a chemist, approach 'accords' as the concept of effecting a chemical reaction by increasing or decreasing compounds that have a known interaction effect and bam! you understand accords in their entirety. I have no where near the understanding of Chemistry to do this (or the math) so I line up bottles, measure quantities of compounds and use my nose.
 

Snooze

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This next bit is going to sound awfully pretentious :pompous:

I should have explained the concept of Accords in more depth, they are traditionally in perfumery more than likeability or pleasure but rather a recognition of harmony - the theater of accords in a classical and traditional sense is only for perfumers (those rich enough or experienced enough to learn perfumery) so the concept of different interpretation i.e love it or hate it is irrelevant through this lens. A customer or consumer of perfume would never be asked to comment on or evaluate the beauty of an accord, fellow perfumers would allow other perfumers to experience them for their professional opinion or they may be recognised within the industry as accomplished/eminent. Perfumers hold the opinion that someone without the training and nose would be considered inherently ignorant to meaningfully comment on a mere component of an overall design.



Oh gosh yes!

There are 2 main categories of gents who wear and use perfume - the $40-$90 Chemist Warehouse EDT set and the $170-$400 EDP set with the occasional $500+ crowd. In the first two classes I am competing or in the market against the very latest captives made by the leading commercial noses in the world - highly diffuse uber sillage fragrance explosion type fragrances - the real 'mic drop' stuff ($40-$90) then the mid tier masterpieces ($170 to $400) with the latter being completely deserving of their price point and simply impeccable, grand and beautiful designs.



That is in the same sphere as the market question, in relation to the musk's what we do is we use several or even more in the same composition depending on the direction and feeling we want to give our design. For instance in 'Fresca' I have 6 different chemical types of musk (an accord) and 2 natural musk's which contain several compounds themselves. It is quite rare to use a singular musk as they rarely encompass the feeling you are aiming for. The musk's are also used for their specific effects on certain middle and top notes not related to fixitive properties, so say a certain musk may make a top note or middle note sweeter, or gentler or it may transform it into something unique and completely novel (horizontal accords). The latest musk's (of which there are around 70 commonly used) are very expensive for this reason depending on the composition.



Well I am quite impressed as the depth of your question and the thought that you have given it, and I do know you enjoy the finer things in life when it comes to fragrances too :)



In your case Tom as a chemist, approach 'accords' as the concept of effecting a chemical reaction by increasing or decreasing compounds that have a known interaction effect and bam! you understand accords in their entirety. I have no where near the understanding of Chemistry to do this (or the math) so I line up bottles, measure quantities of compounds and use my nose.
Thanks @todras - so an "accord" is an absolute thing really - it either works or it doesn't.?
 

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Intriguing reading.
Thank you for taking the time to share this with us @todras it is appreciated and furthers appreciation of what exactly it is you bring to the table :)
 

UKSteve

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@todras

I’ll see if I can articulate this so it makes sense.
The way in which a fragrance presents itself in different products can be very different.
In this game generally it’s, soap/cream - aftershave/balm - EDT/EDP.
As a producer and retailer of all of the above, when designing that fragrance, how do you approach it? The complexity and evaporation curve are much more difficult to express in a soap, it’s much more of an instant gratification product that with many just gets drowned out immediately by an aftershave and a edt/edc/edp.
Do you design with the aftershave and EdP at the forefront or the soap?

Reason for the Q? I think Will dropped the ball with Promises and forgot he actually sells shaving soap, because on it’s own I personally believe it’s poor, in combination with the aftershave it’s so so much better.
 
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