How are scents made?

In the past people often mixed their own potions using home methods, creating their own aromatherapy products. Many homes had a still room where essences were steeped out of flowers and herbs.

The essence of perfume making is simple. The trick is to put certain essential oils together, creating a smell that you like.

A perfume is made up of base notes (the smell stays the longest on your skin), middle notes (the smell stays second longest), and top notes (the smell of the oil that evaporates first and is most obvious on first acquaintance). Because the oils evaporate at different rates, the perfume may smell different as time passes. The list below shows some of the various essential oils according to their base, middle and top notes.

Base notes

cedar wood, cinnamon, patchouli, sandalwood, vanilla

Middle notes

clove, geranium, lemongrass, bottle nutmeg, neroli, ylang-ylang

Top notes

bergamot, lavender, lemon, lime, neroli

Bridge oils

vanilla, lavender (add a few drops to join base, middle and top notes together)

To make a simple perfume at home, mix at least 25 drops of essential oils divided evenly between base, middle and top notes. Start with the base notes, then middle, then top, smelling as you go. Then mix in a few drops of the bridge oil. Add about 2½ ounces of alcohol, shake for a few minutes, then let the mixture sit for 48 hours minimum (or up to 6 weeks, as the longer it sits, the stronger the aroma). Finally, add about 2 tablespoons of spring water, stir, then pour through a coffee filter and put it in a bottle.

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