how I blend fragrance oils

I have a confession to make...this was going to be a video. In fact, I spent the better part of the day trying to film myself while explaining this process. But I was editing it all and simply boring myself with my own voice in the process! I also have a tendency to ramble (this happens a little bit when I write) but it's much easier to reign it in when I'm writing.

I am still open to filming in the future, but for today I'm going to go back inside my comfort zone and have a chat to you about how I blend fragrance oils to develop concepts for my candles.

Now I'm no Jo Malone, and sometimes I will try a fragrance oil and the fragrance gods will be shining down on me because there's absolutely nothing I need to do to change it hurrah! But being a creative individual I do love blending fragrance and essential oils to create unique fragrances for my candles.

But how do I go from concept to delivery I hear you ask? (you literally didn't ask but for the purpose of this blog lets pretend you did)

I'm going to use the example of the London Summertime scent in my blog post entitled (A note about notes) if you haven't read that yet go have a gander because I talk about some of the poetry behind building a fragrance.

Let me set the scene...You've just survived months (and I mean months) of dark winter days in London. You're missing home, you're missing the sunshine. (Believe me, I've been there, I was in that place for 5 years and I never got used to the winter) Finally, winter is over and the sun is drenching your neighbourhood. People take to the streets to mingle and socialise and are that much more friendly to one another. The streets are gleaming as after long periods of rain the flowers are singing and the birds are floating around you like something out of a Disney movie. The sound of laughter and music beckons you down the street to your local pub. You order a Prosecco or maybe a jug of Pimms and you sit out in the beer garden to soak up every last bit of Vitamin D. Everyone else has the same idea but that doesn't matter because everyone is in a fantastic mood and there's no other place you'd rather be in that moment. You wile away the day chatting to friends and strangers as the warm day slowly dissolves into night, but it doesn't end there! the night is young and you're in one of the most bustling cities in the world! London is your oyster, and you forget just for a short while just how stone-cold broke you are.

So the fragrance notes I proposed to tell this story were, Bergamot/Yuzu (its sparkling citrus and effervescence represent the light refreshing beverages you are drinking as well as the sun on your face. Cucumber/melon which is the smell of rain but also the freshness of the Pimms and the sunlight dancing on dewy blades of grass. Rose because it's England and it's a spring/summer floral and it blends so well with the other notes. And one other element I forgot to mention was the base note (or the lasting notes that linger well after these other lighter notes have evaporated) For this example I have chosen Vetiver. The earthy grass-like smell is light like fresh cut grass but also deep and lingering like those long hot summer days in London.

Fragrance can be categorized in these basic categories.

Woody (self-explanatory think woody earthy fragrances) Oakmoss, Sandalwood, Cedarwood and other resins.

Oriental: Warming and spicy, think Amber or Vanilla, Myrhh or Anise.

Floral: Jasmine, Rose, Geranium.

Fresh: Citrus, cucumber, fruits.

These categories work alongside one another to create a rounded fragrance. For instance floral and fresh often complement one another, and Oriental and woody. But there are no hard and fast rules and some fragrances have an element from each category.

So we have three chapters to create this story. Or any fragrance for that matter.

  • The top (first impression scent that quickly evaporates) In this case Yuzu and Cucumber.

  • The middle or heart note - Rose.

  • The base - the lingering body of the fragrance, the final impression - Vetiver.

Just to confuse you a little bit, all of these four fragrances have their own top, middle and base notes as well!

For instance Yuzu:

  • Top: Bergamot

  • Middle: Apricot

  • Base: Oakmoss.

As I outlined in my blog post A note about notes - notes aren't necessary ingredients in a fragrance but a road map of how that fragrance unfolds.

I made a joke about developing fragrance blends being like Xfactor in a sense and I was only half joking, as there are so many rounds of testing to get that final blend.

The first thing I like to do is select the fragrance oils I want to play around with (I smell them from the cap as it gives a more accurate impression of the scent in the bottle) Then I will literally play around with the height of each fragrance under my nose.

For instance when I put the caps together - if the yuzu scent is taking over from the other scents I will move it further away to try and balance the whole blend more. Or if the cucumber is lost then I will bring it closer to my nose. This gives me an indication of the ratios for each fragrance that I will need to use to get the desired effect.

If I am working with a more complicated blend (see my coffee scent blog) Another technique I like to use is to grab cotton tips and douse the ends in each fragrance. Then I will put them in a labelled ziplocked bag to mingle together for a few days. Then I will give it a good sniff. If there's a note that isn't working after a few days I simply remove that cotton tip (thereby removing that note) rather than starting the whole process again.

Another preliminary test I like to do is adding the oils to an oil burner to see how the aroma chemicals work together when diffused in the air. So, in this case, the yuzu was the most dominant scent so I would put less drops of that scent in the diffuser and more drops of the other scents to balance it out. You have to be careful when doing this because these oils are concentrated and will blow your head off if you add too much, so I like to add some water at this point to act as a buffer.

Now here's the real kicker (and it happened to me recently with the coffee scent) Just because a fragrance blend smells promising when diffused - or straight out of the bottle does not mean that it will have a similar effect in wax. So the next step would be to either make a very small soy candle, or a soy wax melt to put in your oil burner. Because the fragrance oil WILL likely smell different in your final product.

So once you've burnt it in your wax, then you are able to ascertain whether it's got a strong scent throw, or too light or just not tugging your memory in the direction of summertime in London maybe? There are so many different variables that will affect the final product, but I must say while some people love spending money on nice clothes or shoes or techy things. I simply love my fragrance oils. In fact, I have that many all over the house just in case I might need them in a blend one day. Going to the candle supply store for me is like a kid in a candy store, there are just so many stories to tell and so many ways to tell them.

Would you be interested in a London summertime candle?

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