Small Measures: Homemade Eau de Perfume

We all know how powerful scents are in terms of memory. Who among us hasn’t caught a whiff of pumpkin pie and recalled our beloved grandmother, or a Fraser fir tree and thought of happy holidays long passed? The smell of tomato leaves can instantly transport us to the summertime tomato sandwiches of our childhood, while the aroma of freshly baked croissants takes us back to a bakery we once frequented. For those interested in the science of how smell and memory are in a perpetual dance, check out this link. In short, add a scent to the mix and you’re pretty much guaranteed memories for life.

My upbringing was characterized by very specific fragrances. To me, my youth will always smell like my mother’s signature scents, either Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps or Calvin Klein’s Eternity, my father’s Chanel for Men and my maternal grandmother’s Youth Dew by Estée Lauder. Those fragrances comfort me beyond description, even though they don’t speak to me for my own personal use. As a woman who is interested in making things and who has a profound love of natural scents (I’m always burning candles and incense and essential oils at home), I thought I’d try creating a signature scent of my own. Today I’m happy to share with you the results of my sleuthing. With a few simple ingredients, you’ll be whipping up bespoke blends of your own, creating enduring olfactory memories for years to come. — Ashley English

The full post continues after the jump . . .

To build your own fragrance, it’s essential to first understand the way they’re structured. Using either essential oils or fragrance oils (which may be synthetically or naturally derived), distinct scents are created by blending top, middle and base notes. These “notes” are essentially three different levels of scent, each with varying rates of evaporation.

Top notes are those scents you first notice, but they are also the most volatile oils, dispersing and disappearing the fastest. Middle notes are the moderators, linking the top and base notes together, determining which sort of fragrance family a scent becomes — earthy, floral, spicy, woodsy, etc. Lastly, base notes, or fixatives, impart the longest, fullest scent and are sourced from balsams, roots, resins and woods. An ideal ratio to aim for when creating custom blends is one containing 30% top notes, 50% middle notes and 20% base notes. Here are a few examples of scents from each note:

  • Base: Cedarwood, Cypress, Ginger, Patchouli, Pine, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Vetiver
  • Middle: Black Pepper, Cardamom, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Clove, Fir Needle, Jasmine, Juniper, Lemongrass, Neroli, Nutmeg, Rose, Rosewood, Ylang-Ylang
  • Top: Basil, Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lavender, Lemon, Lime, Mint, Neroli, Rosemary, Sweet Orange


This list is hardly comprehensive. There are so many scents, each falling into different note categories. To see what note classification a specific scent falls into, check out this helpful link on Aroma Web. If you have a commercially prepared fragrance you particularly love, check out this link to see what notes are used, and then experiment with re-creating it.

Owing to their different rates of evaporation, it stands to reason that a perfume’s fragrance will change over time. The more it is exposed to light and air, the more quickly it will deteriorate, which is why proper storage is essential. Here are several suggestions for maintaining the integrity and quality of your essential oils and fragrance blends:

  • Store your fragrances and essential oils in dark-colored bottles out of direct sunlight.
  • Put the cap back on the oils as soon as you’ve removed the drops needed. Heat, light, oxygen and moisture will compromise their quality and cause them to degrade.
  • If you are prone to skin sensitivity, test a small amount of your blend on your forearm for allergic reactions before using it liberally.
  • Essential oils are highly concentrated and some can burn the skin if applied directly, so always use a carrier oil such as jojoba, sweet almond or grape seed.
  • Always use glass or ceramic vessels when mixing and blending oils.
  • If stored properly, essential oils will retain their integrity for one year once opened.

Now, let’s get down to brass tacks and start mixing your custom eau de perfume!

The Goods

  • 2 Tablespoons carrier oil, such as jojoba, sweet almond or grape seed oil
  • 6 Tablespoons good quality vodka (I like Rain)
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons distilled or spring water (not tap water, though)
  • coffee filter
  • funnel
  • essential oils for blending (you’ll need separate oils for base, middle and top notes, totaling around 30 drops)
  • two dark-colored glass bottles, one for curing, one for storing (you don’t need both right away, though)
  • decorative perfume bottle, for gifting (optional)

The Deal

1. Begin by cleaning the bottles, either in your hottest setting in the dishwasher or with hot, soapy water.

2. Place the bottles on a rimmed baking pan and dry in an oven set to 110ºC. Remove from the oven once they are completely dry. Put a lid on one of the bottles (the one you’ll be using for storing) and set it aside until you’ll need it, which will be anywhere from 48 hours to 6 weeks later.

3. Place the carrier oil into one of the bottles.

4. Next, add the essential oils in the following order: the base notes, the middle notes and finally the top notes. The number of drops used for each note is up to you, so it’s time to play! Just remember the ideal ratio of 30% top, 50% middle and 20% base notes. Shoot for around 30 drops total given the amount of carrier oil and vodka called for here.

5. Add the vodka. Place the lid atop the bottle and shake it vigorously for several minutes.

6. Allow the bottle to sit for 48 hours to 6 weeks. The scent will change over time, becoming strongest around 6 weeks.

7. Check it regularly, and once you’re happy with it, add 2 tablespoons of spring water to the blend.

8. Give the bottle a good shake for one minute. Place a coffee filter into a funnel and transfer the contents from the curing bottle to the other bottle, which will become the storing bottle. Label your blend.

9. Your eau de perfume is now ready to wear. If you’d like to gift it, put some in a decorative bottle. Be sure to advise the recipient, however, to keep it out of direct heat or sunlight. Ideally, though, the best place for storing your creation is in a dark-colored bottle.

Here are three blends that I’ve created and just love:

Midnight Garden

  • 6 drops cedarwood oil
  • 15 drops clove oil
  • 9 drops lavender oil


Siren Song

  • 7 drops sandalwood oil
  • 14 drops rose oil
  • 9 drops bergamot oil


Brighter Day

  • 7 drops pine oil
  • 14 drops lemongrass oil
  • 9 drops orange oil

What about you? Have any experiences mixing custom scents you’d like to share, or particularly powerful olfactory-based memories you recall with clarity? I’d love to hear about them. Otherwise, bespoke fragrances are fantastic concoctions for gifting or for making a little special sumpin’ sumpin’ for yourself. Either way, gifted or kept, fragrances will stay with you long after the scent wanes.

Photos and styling by Jen Altman.

  1. perfumes says:

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    regardless, slowly morphs into a slightly serious
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  2. Dan S. says:

    I really like these recipes. However I wonder if the % of EO to carrier/alcohol/water mix is way to low to be considered perfume. Other sites insist, in order to make a perfume, about 25% of the volume of the perfume container should be essential oil.

  3. karen says:


    Love your website and recipies. I am about to start having a go at making perfumes, and will try out your recipies above.
    I would really like to make a perfume similar to calandre by paco rabanne which I used to wear years ago. I wondered if anyone has tried to make a similar perfume, and have a recipie for it.

  4. kay says:

    I’m going to save myself some money and clean out some empty beer bottles for curing and storage…

  5. pam longworth says:

    how can I replicate ,a product by puig that is no longer made. estivalia , lait de beaute hydratant. is it possible to have this made . many thanks pam

  6. Leanne Boy says:

    I adore Rive Gauche and cannot obtain it. Cud u help with its composition.
    Also Masumi by Coty.

  7. Karen McCabe says:

    I would really like to make a perfume similar to calandre by paco rabanne which I used to wear years ago, and also coco chanel. I wondered if anyone has tried to make a similar perfumes, and have a formulation for either of them.

  8. Amanda says:

    This helped me tremendously! I’ve wanted to learn how to make perfume for as long as I could remember but didn’t want to do it until I knew exactly how to. I feel like I could actually make this without messing it all up now!

  9. Tina says:

    Great post! Thanks for sharing I would love to know where you got those adorable bottles from! I have been looking for bottles like these for years.

  10. Kim says:

    If you want to replicate a perfume try googling it and you should find the info you need. For example googling YSL Paris took me to a perfume site and the info:

    Heart notes; Rose, Lime Blossom, Ylang Ylang, Violet, Lily, Orris, Jasmine
    Top notes; Cassia, Hawthorn, Hyacinth, Bergamot, Geranium, Orange Blossom
    Base notes; Oakmoss, Heliotrope, Cedar, Iris, Sandalwood, Amber, Musk
    Scent: Floral

    Wouldn’t like to try replicate that personally but you get the idea :)

  11. Kim says:

    I followed your recipe and the scent is wonderful. However, the vodka & water did not emulsify with the oils. What should I do? Thanks.

  12. asif says:

    thanks alot..
    i much encouraged reading these recipes and love to make it my own.

  13. jean says:

    Jojoba oil = non polar
    Alcohol = polar
    you can’t mix it. so, there is something wrong in here.

  14. Kim says:

    An easier way is to make a perfume oil. All you need is a carrier oil like almond or jojoba & then you just add your essential oils to the carrier oil. The bonus with this is you don’t need to wait to use it, you can use it right away & there is no need to filter it. Another bonus is you only need a drop behind each ear & each wrist & the scent of perfume oils lasts a lot longer than a perfume. I make one using sandalwood, patchouli & ylang-ylang & sometimes I also add frankincense. They also make for a very relaxing soak in the tub & when you are done your whole body is scented.

    1. Evelyn says:

      I would love to make my own perfume, it sounds like it would smell wonderful! I am wondering, how much of the carrier oil do you mix with the essential oils, and how many drops of each essential oils do you add?

  15. Rina says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I am going to try and make some for Christmas!

  16. oswelda says:

    This is so amazing would make a lovely gift! What would you say would be best for a man in his 20s? Any of the recipies you posted or anything else? Would love to make my boyfriend something

  17. karou says:

    hi, do you think vanilla-jasmine-peppermint as base-middle-top would make a great combination? also, what do you suggest will blend well with vanilla when used as a base note? thank you so much, this post is wonderful, as well as your blog <3

  18. Shelia says:

    The beauty salon I go to sells Pink Sugar body oil. I would love to make my own oils. Have no idea what the ‘pink’ is in the Pink Sugar. Do you have any ideas?

  19. Chloe says:

    I was just wondering if the Vodka leaves a strong scent in the perfume

    1. Paula says:

      Hello, vodka will not leave an oder in the perfume. I believe the alcohol is used for a keep the oils from separating.

  20. Shannan says:

    Would really love to know where you got that beautiful bottle from? I found the image on Pinterest a while ago and am just in love with the bottle. I am a perfumer from Australia.

  21. Sarah says:

    The one thing missing here IMHO might be the mention of an emulsifier to help mix the oils (nonpolar) with the water and alcohol (polar).

    The polar and the nonpolar are physical chemistry terms, but it really just means that water and oil don’t naturally mix.

    Ananda Apothecary (whom I love personally) sell Polysorbate 20, or “Tween” as an emulsifier… other places must carry it too. You use as many drops as you do essential oil — or you can use much less if you’re willing to do a little shaking.

    I loved the careful description of all the steps here, and the general beauty and solemnity of the presentation.

  22. mary isikhuemen says:

    I want start making perfume for selling how do I start? What do I need?

  23. gopal says:

    i want start making perfume for selling how do i start ? please send as a calculation for making eau de perfume i need 6hrs lasting in oud fragrance please send me a making procidure

  24. gopal says:

    i want make in 100ml bottel please give a calculation for aqua, alcohol and perfume mixing method please send me a calculation 100 ml glass bottel, how much aqua, fragrance oil and alcohol for 100ml perfume pls. send me a calculation method

  25. Donna Lowrance says:

    I just want to make one tiny bottle of perfume in a 10 ml bottle. What ratios of essential oils and carriers would I use for just this tiny amount?

  26. Lauren says:

    I made this recipe a couple years ago, and the carrier oil, water, and alcohol never mixed. Having the carrier oil in with the alcohol is unnecessary I believe. One may either mix EOs with a carrier oil to make an oil based perfume, or mix EOs with alcohol to make an Eau de Parfum or Eau de Toilette–but not the three together it seems.

    I’ve yet to read any other perfume recipe that requires the addition of a carrier oil to an EO/Alcohol mix, and I looked for a long time after I used this recipe to see if there were any other suggestions to try to get these ingredients to mix together–but nada.

    If it works for someone else, then great! I just don’t think that the addition of the carrier oil is necessary. If you took it out you’d have a lovely little EDP or EDT without the extra step!


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