The Process of Parfum Making Using Luxe Wild Raw Botanicals
“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”
― Nikola Tesla
I create from my scent garden and wild landscape. I use a palette of all organic and wild crafted essences. Simplified what works best for me is an infusion tincturing process that I liken to wine making. The process takes weeks, months and years hence the added defining what vintage the parfum is from.
Patience is one necessary ingredient along with freedom of expression and creativity.
Advice I always give to new perfumers: there are no mistakes. Everything is an arc of learning and beautiful even if it isnt exactly as you might have intended.
Nature's intelligence is a core value for my practice of listening, feeling and smelling.
I create parfums now as scent journeys that evoke the neuroscience of memories that can help our emotional lives to be happier. Landscape parfums captured can be a mini vacation for our busy lives.
Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts on the art of perfume.
Designing SLOW SCENTS by Infusion/Tincturing:
History: How I Became a Master Perfumer
-My interest in making perfume began as a problem to solve. In my early youth I loved wandering through the Ohio Midwest woodlands after school, before dinner, to discover the mysteries of the forest floor. These delicate wildflowers hardly lasted beyond dinner, wilting almost immediately. I was trying to figure a way to preserve the actual flowers, their scents, and beauty. Flowers are sexy, so are their aromas. I am naturally drawn to flowers that open the heart.
I have created a large collection of landscape scent memories, teach private classes, one on one and a perfume camp where I share how to make perfumes that have a special neuroscience aspect. I have a scent garden that features soliflore bestselling herbs and flowers.
Tools of the Trade
-32 ounce Crystal Waterford Pitcher, wide mouth
-Creamer Crystal Waterford, small
-No. 4 Unbleached Coffee Filters
-Mason Jars with closure
-Mortar & Pestle
-Organic Perfumers Alcohol
-Garden of Scented Plants, Flowers, and a Wild Landscape
-Clean CottonTowels, Cotton Flat Round Make Up Removers and Puffy Round Balls, Q Tip Swabs, Paper Towels
-Set of Small French Knives for cutting blossoms to prep
-Table of Stainless Steel Top, to work on
-Small bottles for your pour later
-Notebook to hold stories, recipes
-Formula pages designed to break down by date, story of procedure
-Formula Pages designed for date, size, top, heart and base note
-Wooden Boxes for holding Botanical Ingredients
-Lab Coat with Pockets to protect your clothing while working
Scent Journey by Season/Landscape
-Select a home landscape that you would love to create a scent memory from
-Select a season to highlight, the one you are in now works nicely, and as the process continues over time, you can layer in flowers from several seasons to capture a year in the life, if you like.
-Scents can help our brains to create new memories and draw upon older cherished memories. As we age, these types of usages for scents may help us to retain our memories much like a photo album can do. Imagine your walk thru memory lane of a film, from your life accompanied by a set of scent memory landscape parfums designed to trigger your brain to recreate the memories, and flush them out thus creating a fuller picture of your time, your vacation, that special moment. I design bridal parfums that the bride can have as a memory of the special moment based on the flowers she selects for her special day, or a historical garden as a placeholder for the place where memories were made. All these scents are designed to be inhaled, and to give you an emotional amplification of good feelings, happiness, love, as all of the essences of the plants we work with vibrate like musical notes on a higher scale, thus making our moods better. I call it an emotional uptick. It occurs within 3 seconds talking to your brain, through all your cells very quickly. I like to be then returned to a neutral palette to navigate through my world. The scent memory can be recreated again when needed. I do sometimes design a parfum to have a longer sillage but mostly I am designing for that neuroscience hit that creates a pure moment of memory recognition or trigger.
Design by Intent
-Listen quietly while in nature’s intelligence to a whisper of creative inspiration. What scent memory do you wish to create? Once you have an idea think how the current seasonal flowering supports your idea. Build a perfume design idea around current seasonal flowering. I have been focused on creating scent memories from landscapes for many years now to buoy our brain neurons as we remember and also create new memories.
-If you are stuck, think of your happiest memories as a child. Summers at the Beach? Meadow? Forest? These are my go to places that help me create collections that trigger my happy memories.
-Once you have your design in mind, now is time to map out what flowers and plants you would have an interest in including in your perfume.
Harvesting the flowers & Botanical Ingredients
-Get yourself a classic Flower Identification Book for your area if you are wildcrafting so that you not only stay safe by not touching poisonous plants, and not using them in your perfume, but also you use sustainable practices and keep the rare plants in the landscape. With distillation you use many more plants for the essential oil but in tincturing we use less plant material at a time. I like the way this process echoes the whisper of the scent of the plant without over harvesting.
-Most flowers must be picked after morning dew has dried but before the nectar has been lost to bees, or sun evaporation. 11am is a good time to shoot for. Any time of the day is good, too, for different results. Experimentation or necessity is the mother of invention. I work with all fruits, flowers, leaves, roots, rhizomes and seeds for wonderful results. I encourage perfumers to try new things.
-When harvesting I use a flat open basket that allows the flowers to lay flat and not get crushed, which could create a dampness or beginning to mold. I bring them back to my studio for further preparation using Mortar & Pestle, and Dental Tools.
Maceration by Mortar & Pestle Using Dental Tools
-Back at your studio on the stainless steel table top where you can get things cleared, cleaned easily and stains won’t be a problem, cull through the blossoms and plants that you have harvested. I am thinking apples this time of year, and creating a wild orchard parfum that will take over six months of infusion/tincturing and filtration, add ons to create the desired end result that will mature over the years much like wine. I will address each of these ideas below.
-Cut the fruits, blossoms into small pieces that you can macerate in a mortar pestle so that you can begin the process of releasing the essences of the plant material. Scrape the material with your dental tool knife into your 32 ounce pitcher of organic perfumer’s alcohol. Stir. Repeat again, and fill in your botanicals into the pitcher. Stir. Pour your entire ingredient into a mason jar that can be sealed well to avoid evaporation. Set on a special shelf w a date on your notebook so you know when to filter.
Infusion & Tincturing
-Infusion & Tincturing requires many filtrations, and this requires days or weeks for each one, usually.
-Patience is your best practice. I commonly allow for the first round of one day to up to six weeks. I stir and shake as we go thru the days, and weeks. I also make sure the botanical ingredients do not take up that much space as to absorb all the liquid of the alcohol. I check to make sure there is no mold developing every few days, and shake, stir each time I go past the area, where I keep the perfumes. You will note colour changes in the perfume as the plant material is alchemically changed, synergized.
Timeline for Filtration
-After about a day or up to six weeks I use a coffee filter over the 32 ounce Waterford crystal pitcher and gently slowly pour the ingredients over the filter. I squeeze out the coffee filter at the end and molecularize the wet tincture into my hands/skin. I let it breathe so the alcohol lifts off and the botanical impression remains. This is your first echo and should be recorded in your perfume journal.
Patience and the Zen Practice of Observation and Response
-The first echo will often have a whisper of the scent of the essential oil but be nothing more than a faint drift of the plant. For instance, I am working on a Spanish lavender tincture now, and the colour is golden after the first tincture for six weeks, while it turned green after the second round, with a group of different lavender plants. The echo is something you should celebrate, and record your olfactory scent memory impressions. There is a weak foundation for your process, and perfume.
-After this process we do a second round of harvesting and cutting and infusing.
Stirred AND Shaken
-I like to molecularize the plants into the synergized mixture upon the next infusion. So this is basically the invitation to quantumize the already six weeks result w the newly cut flowers, roots, etc. Design direction should be noted here, examined, amplified, continued, and deepened. This means that if you are doing a soliflore or single note parfum continue and see how the next phase deepens the scent profile.
-Again, I stir w dental knives on a daily or every few days and apply the wet scent to the back of my hand, allow the perfumer’s alcohol to evaporate and smell how things are developing. It is a very slow process but the echo begins to develop over the weeks, and months. I like long long time frames because it works for me. You can play around with shorter time frames to speed up the process.
Comparison to Wine Making
-Wine Making is a process that takes time, just like this process. Each batch you make is completely different based on the variance of weather factors which influence soil, and seasonal blooming cycles. This means that each small batch you create is a vintage, and should be labeled so that you know what year you made this batch. I like creating small hand made parfums. Each iteration of the same basic recipe will smell unique. This adds value to your work as a perfumer, and maintains a collectability status for your creations much as wine is collectable based on years, weather, and seasonal success.
Tips for Evaluating the Scent Journey
-So, as you continue design process, you can add notes into your original design and find a fork in the road where you may decide to change direction, amplify your original idea or suppress some of the results with augmentation by add ons of your perfumer’s organ using earlier vertical or horizontal accords made by you for design process, or absolutes, essential oils, waxes, etc. You are the designer.
The Add Ons
-At some point in your design cycle, usually after two to four rounds of six weeks you can start to smell the echo expanding into something more like a parfum. At that point you may want to enhance it by adding some essences from your perfumer’s organ. This is the time to make those choices. You can select a 4 ounce pour of your base to play around with, add on, and wait for the completion of the maturation process.
-Make copious notes in this part of the process, so you can circle back to recreate this recipe again. Although it may never be exact you can get it pretty close with good notes. This is a best practice to document the process.
The Quiet Maturation Cycle
-During this part of the process I check the formulation often as to how the formula smells on my skin. Never smell a parfum directly nose into bottle. ALL you will get is the alcohol. Instead I use glass apothecary stock bottles that have a glass stopper in them, that fit nicely sealing the bottle. I use the stopper as I shake perfume to molecularize and draw the wet stopper across the back of my hand. I rub my skin so the alcohol evaporates and then I smell my hand. I pull my hand away and give myself a few breaths, then smell again. I repeat this as the dry down cycle begins, to check how the scent is 5 minutes in, 10 minutes in, 30 minutes in. The echo will begin to extend during this quiet maturation process. The scent profile will be alive and deepening now.
-Once you have your impressions at this point, you can decide to add on again, to amplify certain aspects. You might do that by continuing the tincturing process again, or by adding on again with your perfumer’s organ. Make changes slowly, subtly so you can always grow into the scent profile. You can not erase, so additive is the way to grow slowly. This is a slow art of scent, and will reward you if you are creating a brain neuroscience alchemy scent designed to echo back and create new memories while enhancing the older memories as a foundation to build upon.
-Finally you come to a date when you feel the perfume is ready. I usually circle back again for a few more weeks, just to be sure, as the synergy continues, alchemizing the scent for years. Like wine, the scent continues to age with time changing how it smells.
-You can pour off a 5ml sample into a roll on bottle, and carry it around with you to test it during your days and nights. A 15ml mister bottle can be used to spray and molecularize also so you can get a different experience.
After the Pour
-After the pour, you start to evaluate by experience. You may send samples to friends for evaluation. Once you are sure that this scent profile is ready, then you can distribute by way of bottling., selling, distributing. Just know that the scent profile will continue to change over time like a wine does, growing better and better with age. Enjoy.
Perfume Camp and Private Consultations
-If you are curious about exploring this process of perfume making in a private or class workshop please get in touch. I have created small group workshops based seasonally called Perfume Camp where working as a group from design to creation, each person takes home a perfume starter to continue to grow and filter, design and make.
-Private Consultations are more in depth and available throughout the year at Libby’s Ocean Side Perfume Studio in the wilderness in Davenport along the Central Coast of California about 75 miles south of San Francisco and 11 miles north of Santa Cruz.
-Foraged raw ingredients, infused and tinctured ingredients available upon subscription. Libbypatterson.com for more information, blog posts, and schedule, online store.
For a Draw I offer a trio of 5ml pours of my current favs, my go to must haves.
-PUMA which features the berries of the Slowcoast from Swanton Farm and the wildflowers of the spring and summer seasons when the berries were ripe.
-ARTICHOKE EARTH which features a top note of lemon verbena, and mid heart notes of rose and artichoke concrete with a musky dry down that is mixed with baked earth.
-BIG SUR which is a favorite with a lot of my clients. It smells like terraced gardens of fruit trees overlooking the Pacific ocean mixed with perilla, and herbs. Completely a mediterrean delight that is the heart of Big Sur.
Master Perfumer, Photographer, Painter, Entrepreneur, Designer