Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Mathmatics of Mixing Perfumery

A lot of folks see me mixing perfumery very quickly and wonder, what's
the magic. Well, the magic is math... followed by guidance from my nose and my clients noses.

Here's how it works. There are three notes in every perfumery blend called, Top, Middle, and Bottom Notes.

There are no hard and fast rules about which essential oils belongs in each group. But, there are some common sense guidelines.

Top Notes are the most volatile meaning they have light, bright scents that jump out the the bottle quickly.  They form the immediate impression of the scent.  A classic Top Note would be Lemon Essential Oil. Other very light scents which can be top notes include Grapefruit, Teatree, Bergamot and Cypress.

Middle Notes are not as cut and dry. Some common middle notes would be Lavender, Rosemary,  Thyme or others that are not very light, but not very deep. These will comprise the bulk of our blend. Here's where it gets tricky. Oils like Sweet & Blood Orange, Geranium, or Palma Rosa are light enough to be a top in some blends, but if someone wants a lighter perfume they could be used as a middle note since they are not amongst the very lightest of oils.

Bottom Notes are very deep and heavy. They hold down the lighter oils and help them keep their staying power. A classic bottom note would be something like Patchouli. It is so deep it really can be nothing but a bottom note in blends or else it would take over. But wood notes like Cedarwood, Rosewood and Sandalwood are deep enough to be bottom notes in lighter blend, but are light enough to be middle notes in deeper blends.

There is a forth group which I like to call Accent Notes: These are generally spices like Clove, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg or Black Pepper. Just a drop or two of these can add a bit of spicy mystery to blends.

Now, when I am choosing essential oils to make a perfume I take into consideration what kind of mood we want to evoke and which scents we are most attracted to. So let's say someone wants to relax, I would have them smell all the relaxing oils in each group which would include citruses, florals, a few herbs, some woods, and some resins. I let them choose as many as they like. If they don't pick enough for the 3 notes, I guide them towards oils which will smell good and offer some balance to what they already like.

Once we have the oils chosen, I pick out which are the tops, middle and bottom of the blend. So as an example. For a relaxing perfume someone may have picked out: Mandarin, Lavender, Roman
Chamomile, Rose, Geranium and Ylang Ylang.

 I could split these in different ways according to the rules above. For example I could put Geranium as a middle or top; I could put Ylang Ylang as a Middle or Bottom. But, Let's say my client has a preference toward lighter scents, here's how I would group them.

Top: Mandarin and Roman Chamomile

Middle: Lavender, Geranium,

Bottom: Rose, Ylang Ylang

Now how much I put of each in the bottle depends on what size the bottle is. Let's say I am making a 1/4 ounce of perfume.

Well, I actually counted drops and there is about 300 drops in 1/4 ounce. Half of this will be filled with Alcohol leaving 150 drops for essential oils.  Now, not all drops are exactly the same size so you might have 140 or 160 drops to fill to half, but this at least gives you a ball park range.

Here's the Math

I know a good blend will generally contain about 50% middle notes or about 75 drops in our example. But, I want to be conservative and add less, because you can always add more, but you can never take it out once it is in the bottle. So I will start will 50 drops. If my client does not prefer one oil strongly over the other I would add

25 drops Lavender
25 Drops Geranium

Next I like to put the top note in and I start with about 1/2 or the amount I used for the middle note or in this case 25 drops. So I can add 12 drops of each the Mandarin and Roman Chamomile, but let's say the client loves the Mandarin, so I'll do

16 drops Mandarin
9 drops Chamomile

Now for the Bottoms. Rose and Ylang Ylang. We want the least drops of this group. Here we might want to keep an eye on cost as Rose is significantly more expensive than most Ylang Ylang varieties; and not much Rose is needed to make it's presence known.. I would start with no more than 10 drops as we can always add more. So let's try.

2 drops Rose
8 drops Ylang Ylang

So now we have 85 drops in the bottle and need to add about 65 more. Does the client like it exactly as it is or does she want it lighter, deeper, more floral, more citrus. If the client is like WOW nothing could be more perfect then it is back to the math. We have 57% made and need 43% more.

So Starting with our first oil Lavender, we have 25 drops divide that by the 85 drops we have in the bottle and you will see Lavender is 29.4% of the blend. We need 65 more drops. 29.4% of 65 is 19.11 drops, so we will add 19 more drops of Lavender

Here is the math copied from a spreadsheet so you can see it:

Essential Oil Drops Already in Divided by 85
65 drops left times the percentage 
 Round the #

25  Lavender 0.294117647 65 19.11765

25  Geranium 0.294117647 65 19.11765

16  Mandarin 0.188235294 65 12.23529

9 Chamomile 0.105882353 65 6.882353

2 Rose 0.023529412 65 1.529412

8 Ylang Ylang 0.094117647 65 6.117647

total drops 85

Now, do I take the time to build a spreadsheet when I am mixing. Of course not. I do the math rough in my head. I
say, oh I need a little less than half of what I have. I might not get the drops exact like in the spreadsheet but close enough that we get the same basic layering of our Top, Middle & Bottom Notes. However, doing the math in a spreadsheet or by hand is a good way to get comfortable and natural with the numbers so you can do it in your head.

Let's say the client  wants some adjustments in the scent after our first 85 drops I would fill the bottle in a more intuitive way, but keeping the math in mind. Now sometimes it is as easy as pumping up the rose a couple of drops and then figuring out what percentage you have left and do the math again as above.

But, let's say she wants more Lavender, we add 10 drops, she likes it, but, wants another drop of rose, and a few more drops of ylang ylang. We smell again. She wants it a little lighter so we add some a little more mandarin and chamomile. We smell it again and woot, it is perfect. Okay, so add the drops you added to you list above. For instance under Lavender cross out 25 and put 35 because you added ten. Do this with all the oils you just added. So Now Your List will look more like this.

35 Lavender
25 Geranium
20 Mandarin
12 Chamomile
3 Rose
11 Ylang Ylang

 So we now have 106 drops (or about 70%) in the bottle and 44 (or about 30%) left to add to 150. And then do the Math again and it will look like this:

Drops Already Essential Oil Drops Divided by 106 44 drops left times the percentage    Round
35  Lavender 0.330188679 44 14.5283   15
25  Geranium 0.235849057 44 10.37736   10
20  Mandarin 0.188679245 44 8.301887   8
12 Chamomile 0.113207547 44 4.981132   5
3 Rose 0.028301887 44 1.245283   1
11 Ylang Ylang 0.103773585 44 4.566038   5
total drops 106 1 44         44

So by the end you should have about 150 drops in your bottle (a few more or less is no big deal). And then fill your bottle with an unscented alcohol. I used to use Vodka in the past and it worked well, I recommend it for beginner mixers. I just started using a 190 proof sugar cane alcohol which is harder to get and to be honest, it does not differ that much from the vodka.

Put your cap on and shake well. You may put a reducer in the top on the bottle so you can get one drop out at a time or just dab a small amount on your wrist, neck or in your hair.

The scent will change during the time it is on your skin - When you first put it on you will get a jump of top notes and then a linger of middle notes with just a hint of very long lasting bottom notes at the end. The notes rise up over each other, like musical notes and give you a symphony of scent.

It is art, but it is an art guided by simple Mathematics.

If you are confused after reading this, I don't blame you. But, the more you mix the more natural it becomes. I can easily estimate how many drops is 25 or 50 without having to count, just by looking at how full my dropper is. Not sure what smells good with what? Well, did you know how to make your own  tasty recipes when you started cooking or after some years of practice, with an improvisation here and a dash of herb or spice there. It gets easy and natural with practice.

That's how I do it. If you would like to learn more or get a customized scent mixed for you. Please check out www.khealing.com or email me at Cher@khealing.com

I'm in the midst of planning many summer events. Check out whats going on in June and July by clicking on the event. For those who don't use Facebook see the sections below to learn more about the Holistic Hair Care Class on June, 22nd and the Summer Spa Party on July 12th.
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Saturday, July 12th, Summer Spa Party, 1-4pm, Kameleon Healing Workshop in Allston

Sunday, July 29th,  Cooling, Cleaning, and Repelling Pests with Essential Oils, 1-4pm, Kameleon Healing Workshop in Allston

Saturday, August 2nd, Aromatherapy for Restorative Yoga and Reiki, 1-3:30pm,
 Sanctuary for Yoga and Reiki in Watertown.

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Cher@khealing.com with any questions.

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