Petitgrain-Neroli Solid Perfume

Bitter orange

Bitter Orange by Kamil Porembiński

This all began because my daughter loves the word Neroli and asked me to make her a “Roli” solid perfume. I do not recommend you make this perfume, quite honestly – because the opening can only be described as “green compost monster!” Argh! But, I’m recording it because mistakes are the best way to learn. The rest of the perfume is fine if not spectacular, but oh my – the terrible top notes. Blech. I blame the orange blossom absolute that I have.

Louisiana - Slidell: Dr. Wagner's Honey Island Swamp Tours - El Guapo

My orange blossom absolute is actually a swamp thing.

Raw Materials*

  • 8 ml Jojoba oil
  • 1/2 heaping teaspoon grated beeswax
  • 10 drops Petitgrain essential oil
  • 16 drops Neroli essential oil
  • 8 drops Orange Blossom absolute <– Warning: Too much OB. Reduce next time and/or use diff OB material.
  • 4 drops Jasmine Grandiflorum absolute
  • 7 drops Tonka Bean Absolute 30%

Equipment

  • Box grater (for grating beeswax)
  • Measuring spoons (for beeswax)
  • 80 ml lab casserole (for melting beeswax)
  • 10 ml graduated beaker or cylinder
  • Glass eyedroppers (1 per essence)
  • Small glass of alcohol for cleaning eye droppers (place them in it upright after use)
  • Stirring rod
  • Hot plate (can also use stovetop burner)
  • ½ oz tin (for storing perfume)
  • Paper towels

Steps

  1. Cover your work surface with paper towels.
  2. Add the Jojoba oil to the graduated beaker.
  3. Next, add the essential oils. Begin with the base notes and work your way up to the lightest notes: Tonka, Jasmine, OB, Petitgrain, Neroli. Smell after each addition to experience how the blend is evolving. Use a separate dropper for each oil.
  4. When you are done with an eye dropper, place it in the glass of alcohol, and pump it a few times to clean it, and leave it sitting full of alcohol. This prevents cross contamination.
  5. Measure out the grated beeswax into the lab casserole. Hold the lab casserole over the burner until the wax melts.
  6. Quickly pour the essential oil blend into the liquid wax. Working over the heat, stir the blend into the wax for about 10 seconds until it’s a smooth mixture.
  7. Finally, pour the molten perfume into the ½ oz tin, cap it, and leave it alone for 15 minutes to solidify. Finis!

How did it work? How does it smell?
This one isn’t perfect. I adapted the recipe from the Ambrosial Neroli recipe on White Lotus Aromatics. The formula may not be to blame – I tinkered with the ratios and put it into a solid. Perhaps the original formula is better? Certainly top notes like Petitgrain and Neroli would thrive much better in an alcohol base! Anyhow – here’s the issue with this perfume – I don’t like the Orange Blossom Absolute that I have. I have tried to like it, even thought I loved it at first – but it has a seriously dank, green top note that is a horror (at least to me) for the first minute or so of the blend. Yeck. Once it goes, this perfume isn’t too shabby! But the “green compost monster” phase really needs a tweak. Next, there is a nice moment of Petitgrain/Neroli brightness – but I know better than to put that into a solid! Solids eat top notes. The fact that these survive at all is frankly miraculous. The jasmine sweetens things up prettily. And the Tonka…the tonka is delicate, rich, gorgeous, and tenacious all at once. It has a hay-like bright & fresh quality. It ends up connecting to the jasmine, and so in the dry down this has a light jasmine-y vibe with a little tonka spice which reminds me of…aftershave? I think Tonka is used in a lot of traditionally masculine blends (Fougeres?), so I’ve got a funny masculine association with this. Tenacity could be better. Overall, it’s an odd little thing – and my 5 year old is NOT A FAN.

Oh well.

And the stinking orange blossom! That stuff is a monster. I need to figure out how to work with this material more successfully. Or just chuck it. It wasn’t cheap, though. It’s supposed to be very nice stuff so I’m confused by how much I hate it.

Notes on Notes

  • Petitgrain Bigarade, C. Aurantium var. amara, Paraguay, Organic, White Lotus Aromatics – Green, sharp, fresh cologne
  • Jasmine Grandiflorum Absolute, India, Eden Botanicals – Jasmine, white floral, SWEET, smooth, round, narcotic
  • Orange Blossom Absolute – Fine, Eden Botanicals – Floral, sweet/tart, green & astringent but also honeyed, Honeysuckle, UGH – there is a note to this that is sharp, edge-y, and dank – like vegetable rot
  • Neroli, France, Eden Botanicals – Floral, green, sharp, fresh, ephemeral, cologne, unisex, delicate, pretty
  • Tonka Bean Absolute 30%, Dipteryx Odorata, French extract, Organic, White Lotus Aromatics – Vanillic, new baby doll smell, honeyed, sweet, slightly boozy?, slightly spicy, happy, fresh, hay-like
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Comparative Study: Neroli and Orange Blossom

Oranges In Hiding

Oranges in Hiding by Tim Samoff

The Bitter Orange Tree, Citrus aurantium var. amara, gives us so many fragrant gifts: Neroli, Petitgrain, Bitter Orange essential oil, and Orange Blossom Absolute. To my mind, it’s a tree of wonders.

I needed to select a Neroli oil for a recent project, and so bought the Neroli & Orange Blossom Sampler Pack from Eden Botanicals. Convenient! Here are my notes.

  • Neroli, Egypt – A very earthy Neroli. It still has the fresh, green, crisp, sharp character of the scent – there’s no mistaking it – but there is a heaviness here. Not the lush heaviness of the indolic flower, but rootier with a little smoke – more like Vetiver. Also a powdery quality, almost like Orris. How unusual for Neroli! As it drys down, something about this makes my head go, “wet dog.” Ha! Wonder why? On closer sniff, it’s a note of intense green-orange bitterness. Foliage. But I still can’t shake the “wet dog” association.
  • Neroli, Egypt, Organic – At first, almost indistinguishable from the first one. Same rooty/earthy quality, more complex but far less intense.
  • Neroli, Morocco, Organic – Sharp, green, fresh, with a bitter top note – straight-up, classic Neroli. Reminiscent of Petitgrain, but lighter and more floral. Overall strong, bold character for a Neroli with excellent tenacity for this material. Nicely unisex. A touch of lime. All-around winner!
  • Neroli Extra, Tunisia – Another classic Neroli. Prettier, more floral than the Moroccan. Soft, delicate, by comparison. As it warms on the skin it becomes much sweeter. Pretty with a sprinkle of sultry. Another winner!
  • Neroli, France – Ah, this one makes me sigh and flutter my eyelids! Most delicate creature of all, ethereal and fairy-like, but still with that classic Neroli sharp/green/dry/bitter profile. It’s sweeter than most, but not as sweet as the Tunisian. It might be fun to blend the two for the perfect femme Neroli note? Drawback: Extremely fleeting. But so pretty and innocent!

Now for the orange blossom…

  • Orange Blossom Absolute, Egypt – Dark green viscous liquid. Yea gods – NO, I do not like this. Dark green, and at first smells green, dank, musky and of vegetable rot to me. As it dries out, it lightens a bit and smells heavy and spicy. Others have waxed poetic about its sensual quality. It is likely that I need to smell this very diluted – then perhaps I’d have a better appreciation for its character. Sniffed straight up, however, it makes me want to run for the hills! My body vibrates with, “NO!” I keep sniffing anyway, trying to understand it, but this one is tough for me to love. That said, I think this might blend beautifully with Sandalwood or other woody/spicy notes. Okay, as this warms up, it’s growing on me. Strikes me as a masculine, powerful, spicy, and sensual floral. Not my style, but an intriguing and powerful note. Okay fine, I’m fascinated. What IS this stuff?! So complex. There’s another weird, almost herbal-leathery facet happening here. Never once have I thought “floral.” This might smell amazing on a man. Spice, spice, and more spice. And sweet leather. Wow! DARK SEXY ORANGE BLOSSOM.
  • Orange Blossom Absolute – Fine, Morocco – Eek! Double the price of the first one, but this is the one I bought blind, unsniffed, before getting the sampler pack. Lesson learned. Dark amber-orange viscous liquid. Again with a nasty green rotten vegetable top note, though not as instantaneously off-putting as the Egyptian. I have experimented with this one in a couple of perfume blends, and I find that the green note lingers, and goes “tobacco-y” in compositions, at least to my nose. This is one reason it works so well in the Orange Blossom-Tobacco solid perfume. As it dries down, it becomes a very rich green-white floral note. The rotten compost nasties linger too long for my taste. Again, this stuff is so powerful I probably should be smelling it diluted. Maybe I just don’t know how to work with it properly, and it can only be used in trace amounts. Or maybe next time I should buy the Egyptian? I try and try to like this but am disappointed. Tenacious stuff though, I’ll grant it that.
  • Orange Blossom Organic Extract – Spicy food. What on earth? This has a pungent, earthy, spicy aroma that makes me think of some Asian dish that I can’t quite put my finger on. Very warm and deep. Cooked / stewed citrus vibe. Smoky? The material itself is viscous dark brown liquid. No harsh green notes! The organic extraction method (no hexane) means it’s safe for therapeutic uses and even food. The tenacity on this is pretty incredible, and several hours later it’s morphed into something animalic, rich and musky. Weird. Wonderful.

Orange-Jasmine-Lavender Solid Perfume

Jasmine flower

Jasmine flower by Martin Snopek. Rabyne, Central Bohemian Region, Czech Republic

In Mandy Aftel’s book, Fragrant, she calls this perfume simply “Jasmine,” but it’s more of a lovely dance between Jasmine and Lavender Concrete, while the Blood Orange also adds a delicious and plush fruity top note.

Here’s what you need to create Orange-Jasmine-Lavender solid perfume:

Raw Materials*

  • Jojoba oil
  • Grated beeswax
  • Jasmine Grandiflorum absolute
  • Jasmine Sambac absolute
  • Blood Orange essential oil
  • Lavender concrete

*Out of courtesy to the author, I’m leaving off the amounts of each raw material. You can find them in her book.

Equipment

  • Box grater (for grating beeswax)
  • Measuring spoons (for beeswax)
  • 80 ml lab casserole (for melting beeswax)
  • 10 ml graduated beaker or cylinder
  • Glass eyedroppers (1 per essence)
  • Small glass of alcohol for cleaning eye droppers (place them in it upright after use)
  • Stirring rod
  • Hot plate (can also use stovetop burner)
  • ½ oz tin (for storing perfume)
  • Paper towels

Steps

  1. Cover your work surface with paper towels.
  2. Add the Jojoba oil to the graduated beaker.
  3. Next, measure out the lavender concrete into the beaker of oil. Aftel’s recipe calls for the lavender concrete in grams, because it is typically a paste. The version I have is liquid, so I added drops until they equaled the required weight. I found that 6 drops matched the gram weight she specified.
  4. Then add both kinds of jasmine, and finally the blood orange. Smell after each addition to experience how the blend is evolving.
  5. When you are done with an eye dropper, place it in the glass of alcohol, and pump it a few times to clean it, and leave it sitting full of alcohol. This prevents cross contamination.
  6. Measure out the grated beeswax into the lab casserole. Hold the lab casserole over the burner until the wax melts.
  7. Quickly pour the essential oil blend into the liquid wax. Working over the heat, stir the blend into the wax for about 10 seconds until it’s a smooth mixture.
  8. Finally, pour the molten perfume into the ½ oz tin, cap it, and leave it alone for 15 minutes to solidify. Finis!

How did it work? How does it smell?
The blood orange top note is gorgeous! This is a full-bodied, voluptuous orange – and it pairs well with jasmine. I can see why Mandy picked it rather than a thinner or more bitter citrus note (wild orange, bitter orange, etc.). It enhances the rich, fruity, and sweet qualities of the jasmine and this is my favorite phase of the perfume. The two types of jasmine produce a more complex effect, capitalizing on both the lush, rounded sweetness of the Grandiflorum and the greener, fresher, spicier quality of the Sambac. The Lavender concrete provides a soft, herbaceous and green base for everything and is fore-grounded more in the dry down; it’s slightly “soapy” in Mandy’s words, and I have to agree. The Lavender concrete is perfectly fine, but I don’t looooove it the way I love Lavender absolute, which is more floral, so I can’t help but wonder what this would smell like with the absolute instead of the concrete. Better? Or less interesting because less contrast?

I also have to wonder how different my own blend might smell simply due to different natural materials. I contacted Mandy about the Lavender Concrete issue (mine is liquid, her recipe calls for a solid) – and she said her own was a paste which is why she used the weight-based measurements, so she was unsure how mine would compare. I managed to source two concretes – one from Liberty Naturals and one from Samara Botane – but BOTH were liquid. So who knows, maybe it’s just how this year’s harvest behaved? Both companies noted that the consistency of this material could vary. I would love to smell Mandy’s composition and this one side-by-side to discover the difference.

Notes on Notes

  • Jasmine Grandiflorum Absolute, India, Eden Botanicals – Jasmine, white floral, SWEET, smooth, round, narcotic
  • Jasmine Sambac Absolute, India, Eden Botanicals – GREEN, spicy. Smells surprisingly different from the Grandiflorum. Harder to find the flower. Sweet in its own right, but it’s harder to smell the sweetness after being beaten senseless by the Grandiflorum.
  • Blood Orange EO, Italy, Eden Botanicals – Tart/Sour Citrus; “more” than Bergamot. More body. More heft. Less ephemeral. Tart like a grapefruit, but still sweet with a juicier, orangier character.
  • Lavender Concrete, Lavandula Officinalis, France, Liberty Naturals – herbaceous, green, soft

In Search of the Perfect Bubble Bath

Bubble Bath

Bubble Bath by Quan Ha

I love all things that smell divine, and that includes a good bubble bath. With two small children, we take a LOT of bubble baths at my house, so I thought it’d be fun to make a deliciously scented one that was good-for-us, too. How hard could it be?

No Effort: Buy It
The effortless way is just to buy the stuff. Some good brands that use eco-friendly and baby-safe ingredients are:

Custom Scent Bubble Bath (Easy-Mode DIY)
But what if you want a custom scent? Well, there’s an easy DIY way to make your own aromatherapy bath:

  1. Use an unscented gentle, eco-friendly kids’ bubble bath (we use California Baby)
  2. For babies and children, mix 6 drops of your favorite essential oils* per 1 oz of bubble bath (for adults, you can safely use 25 drops a.k.a. 1/4 tsp per 1 oz of bubble bath)
  3. Add 1/2 to 1 tsp** bubble bath to running water as tub fills – and voila! – a scented bath with no harsh chemicals and delightful foam!

*Some of the best and safest essential oils for children are lavender, tangerine, mandarin, neroli, frankincense, petitgrain, and Roman chamomile. Source: Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art.
**You can add more bubble bath for more foam, just be aware that with babies and kids – 1/2 to 1 tsp is the recommended amount to keep the essential oil exposure low. Same source as above.

True DIY Bubble Bath
But what if you really want to make your own eco/kid-friendly bubble bath from scratch? The above brands cost a fortune, and you just don’t get the same “I made it myself!” satisfaction from using a pre-made bottle. I bounced around Google and Pinterest and the usual natural/crafty blog suspects, and every bubble bath recipe seemed to be a variation on the Castile soap + vegetable glycerin formula. Some with water, some without. Some with sugar or salt, some without. Some with more or less vegetable glycerin. Hunh.

Crunchy Betty offers two well-thought out bubble bath recipes, so I thought I’d give them a whirl this weekend.

The Castile Soap + Vegetable Glycerin Recipe
This one promised the most bubbles, so I thought I’d try it first. I’ll save you the suspense: in our hard water, the bubbles fizzled out almost immediately. BOO! Bubble disappointment! But, to be fair, Betty totally warned us. That said, the vegetable glycerin (harmless stuff, btw) left our skin feeling soft and silky smooth, and the bath smelled yummy too!

Here’s what you need to make ~5 ounces of not-very-bubbly bath:

Ingredients

Steps

  1. Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Transfer to a jar with a lid.
  3. Let sit 24 hours before using.
  4. Pour ~1/4 cup (2 oz) into running bath water.

This recipe makes enough for ~2-3 baths. Stores up to 3 mos (supposedly, I have not tested this) in a cool, dark cabinet.

Okay, so what about the second option? By this point, I’d dropped all expectation of bubbles. This was another easy recipe that came together in a snap. It smells yummy and makes your skin feel delicious – but, no bubbles.

Creamy Honey Bath (also from Crunchy Betty)
This makes ~7-8 ounces of bath mixture, enough for ~1-2 baths. Store in a cool, dark cabinet and (supposedly) it will keep for 3 mos.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup sweet almond oil
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup Castile soap
  • 3 teaspoons pure Vanilla extract (get the kind with no added sugar or artificial flavors)
  • 5 drops essential oils (you can use Vanilla or something else)

Steps

  1. Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Transfer to a jar with a lid.
  3. Pour 1/2 to entire amount into running bath water.

So…now what? I still have not fulfilled my quest to find the perfect DIY bubble bath recipe. Now, some might say that the problem is surfactants – the chemicals that create a nice lather – and that these harsh things are just not what a person with common sense would want in the tub.

And I’d agree, except…a little sleuthing of ingredients revealed that California Baby, Honest Company, and 100% Pure all use gentle/plant-based surfactants that seem like the sorts of stuff I’d want to use!

So now I just need to find a recipe with a combo of those ingredients and figure out where to source them. With the exception of saponified coconut oil, I suspect they are not as easy to get. So, the search continues! Do you have an all-natural bubble bath recipe that actually makes bubbles? If so, I’d love to know!

How to Dilute Perfume Materials

Ah, perfume making! It’s so romantic, so poetic…so FULL OF MATH.

Why dilute?
Perfumers often need to dilute their materials to 20%, 10%, or sometimes even 1% or .5% or more before adding them to a blend. This serves a number of purposes – from wasting less material while blending to making it easier to work with trace amounts of strong-smelling materials.

What material to use as a diluting agent?
Typically, you’ll want to dilute in perfumer’s alcohol. You should dilute in whatever medium you would be working in – so if you are making oil-based perfumes, dilute in oil. Some people prefer to dilute in Dipropylene Glycol (DPG), which is a common odorless solvent that is completely soluble in water, alcohol, and some oils – and it also is a humectant (attracts water) and has fixative properties. A strictly all-natural perfumer will not want to use DPG since it is a synthetic, but if you’re concerned about safety, don’t be. According to the Environmental Working Group, DPG is safe / very low risk.

Use Weight/Weight Dilutions
An important consideration is that when professionals are talking about dilutions in the perfume industry, they are talking about diluting by weight rather than by volume. So assume all dilutions on any materials you purchase or for any formulas are listed in weight/weight.

Creating a Dilution from Materials at 100% Concentration
Creating a dilution from 100% pure raw material is relatively straightforward.  In the chart below are the ratios in generic “parts” – this would work for drops, ml, grams, etc. as long as you keep the units of measure consistent – but as I mentioned, most professional perfumers work by weight (grams) – so let’s assume this is grams.

If you don’t want to do the math, here is a weight/weight dilution calculator.

You can also check out this nice tutorial on dilutions and blending from Chris of Pell Wall Perfumes. He gives a very thorough step-by-step approach.

Aroma Material Dilutant Total Parts Percent Dilution
1 1 2 50%
1 2 3 33%
1 3 4 25%
1 4 5 20%
1 9 10 10%
1 19 20 5%
1 99 100 1%
1 199 200 ½%

Creating a Dilution from Materials at Different Concentrations
What if you want to do something a little more complicated? For example, I have a bottle of Benzoin Absolute pre-diluted to 50%.  I have a perfume formula that calls for Benzoin at 20% dilution.  How do I dilute a 50% solution to 20%? (These are the questions that make former English majors clutch their heads in agony and wish they’d paid a little more attention in Chemistry lab.)

Well, it turns out there’s a relatively straightforward formula for this: C1V1=C2V2.  C=Concentration and V=Volume. Now, I don’t want to do this by volume – I want to do it by weight. If I wanted to be super accurate, I should probably take into account molecular weight. But since the amounts I’m dealing with are relatively low and I don’t need to be that insanely accurate, I’m not going to worry about molecular weight. (Also, if a chemistry person is reading this and wants to explain how to do this absolutely properly, I’m all ears! Please comment!)

Okay! So let’s figure this out. How do we dilute a 50% solution to a 20% solution? I’m about to do some math. If, like me, math makes your head hurt – you can skip the pain and go use this handy-dandy dilution calculator.

But hey, if you want to see how the math works, here goes. I already know my concentrations. All I have to decide is what final weight I’d like to end up with. For kicks, let’s decide on 5 grams final weight.  So!  Here’s how it would work out:

C1W1=C2W2

    • C1 = 50% = .5
    • W1 (the weight of the 50% solution to add) = unknown
    • C2 = 20% = .2
    • W2 = 5 grams

.5(W1)=.2*5g
.5(W1)=1g
W1=2g

So, okay – now I know that I need 2 grams of my starting 50% solution, and I want to end up with a final weight of 5 grams. So 5 grams – 2 grams = 3 grams. Which means I need to add 3 grams of my diluting agent (alcohol) to 2 grams of the 50% material to get 5 grams of 20% material. Or…

Starting % Ending % How many grams First solution? How many grams diluting agent to add? How many grams final solution?
50% 20% 2g 3g 5g

That’s it! Do you have a better method for calculating dilutions? If so, please comment! I’d love to hear from you.