Perfume alchemy; the secrets to unlock your authentic scent

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Your authentic scent will have a personal story at the heart of the perfume. A fragrance is the most personal thing one can wear and although our sense of smell is one of the most powerful senses we have, it works on a very subjective level. Our choice of scents for perfume is so personal. This is because scents have associations with memories, feelings, colours and texture.

A fragrance is the most personal thing one can wear

Creating your own perfume can be a wonderful holistic and affirming process. At New Forest Aromatics you can enjoy a personal perfume consultation. Part of creating a bespoke fragrance is understanding what the client wants. When a client comes for a consultation, initially it can be difficult to communicate what they would like. Like colours, scents are quite hard to put into language. People often find it difficult to describe and communicate what it is they are smelling in a way that others can understand. Our sense of smell is instinctual, emotional, subjective and something we are aware of from an early age – way before our vocabulary develops. So at the beginning of the consultation, we need to help the client clarify what sort of scent they are aiming for, by asking lots of questions.

This is why we always start with a short questionnaire. Take recent client Rebecca as an example. When we asked Rebecca what sort of perfume she likes to wear she said she’d like citrus scents and vanilla; scents she described as fresh. Rebecca is already a big fan of our organic Hand Wash with Hampshire Mint, Lime & Lemongrass, and the Revive and Warm Hug Candles. When we asked her how she’d like her perfume to make her feel, she described a wide range of emotions. She wanted to feel more focused, energised, uplifted but also grounded and relaxed!


Organic Hand Wash – Hampshire Mint, Lime & Lemongrass

The personal perfume consultation; unlocking your authentic scent

To help unlock your authentic scent we use over 100 essential oils at the start of the consultation. At the start of Rebecca’s journey she expected to be drawn to vanilla, rose, lavender and citrus fruits. The key to achieving a successful perfume requires a balanced aroma of top, middle and base notes. So when we start with the oils, they are grouped into these three sections.

Perfume alchemy; the secrets to unlock your authentic scent - Personal perfume consultation

The notes in a fragrance evaporate with the skin’s heat. Top, middle and base notes have different levels of volatility. So they diffuse at different speeds rather than all at the same time. As this happens, the fragrance reveals different notes to the wearer. The first notes, top notes, that you can smell are the most volatile and can fade away quickly. Once they’re gone, something else seeps through and takes its place; the medium notes. until later when you reach the last layer of notes, base notes that linger for hours longer.

During the personal perfume consultation, we begin with the top notes.

Top notes:

Smelling technique - wafting!

These oils are the first impression of the perfume. These notes usually, but not always come from fruits. The general properties of these oils are uplifting, stimulating and clearing. Used in perfumes to add bursts of sparkle and freshness to a fragrance. This note has the shortest life in comparison to the other notes as it can last from five minutes to two hours.

Some examples of top notes include:

  • Lemon
  • Grapefruit
  • Lime
  • Citronella
  • Bergamot
  • Eucalyptus
  • Peppermint
  • Tea Tree

At New Forest Aromatics we begin by demonstrating the best smelling technique to sample the essential oils. It’s best to pass the bottle gently backwards and forwards through the air under your nose. (Better known as wafting!)

Rebecca ended up dismissing a lot of the scents she thought she liked. She was surprised to find she chose orange, lemongrass and coriander. The lemongrass reminded her of relaxing spa days! Lemongrass can reduce sore, tight muscles so it is often used in massage oil. Orange and lemongrass are both known for their energising properties and reducing depression. Coriander is similar and helps with clarity and purifying the blood.

Top Notes in perfume



Middle Notes

The middle notes are the main scent of the perfume. These are the notes that give the perfume fragrance its character and intensity. These notes begin to arrive and develop more slowly and will remain on the skin for up to three hours.

Examples include:

  • Chamomile
  • Geranium
  • Rose
  • Ginger
  • Jasmine
  • Cardamom

Smell is linked to memory

Rebecca expected to love the rose and lavender in this group of medium note oils. One essential oil that drew Rebecca in from this group was geranium. Geranium is quite a nurturing scent. This was further enhanced for Rebecca as the scent drew memories of her Gran who loved to grow Geraniums. This demonstrates the power of scent to evoke memories.

Smell is so intimately linked to memory, the olfactory bulb is the part of the brain that processes smell and connects the nose directly to the base of the brain. The olfactory bulb then has direct connections to two brain areas that are strongly implicated in emotion and memory: the amygdala and hippocampus. The amygdala is the region of the brain responsible for storing emotional memories. Inbuilt odour memory will vary from one person to the next because of differences in conditional learning. Scents can become associated with a particular experience, person, or period in time.

In her personal perfume consultation, Rebecca found the middle note essential oils hard to choose from. To her surprise in narrowing the section, she ended up dismissing both Rose and Lavender. Stranger to her still she found herself selecting black pepper and nutmeg. The biggest scent pulling Rebecca in was Jasmine. Jasmine has a deep, heady fragrance. For many years aromatherapists have used Jasmine for relaxation, easing stress and depression. Also, Jasmine is well known for its aphrodisiac qualities! Another oil Rebecca found enticing was Blue Yarrow. Calming to the mind and senses, this oil can be beneficial during times of transition. More oils making it through Rebecca’s selection were Ylang-ylang and Alpine Lavender.

Middle notes of perfume fragrance

Base notes:

Base notes are the materials smelled in the dry-down of the fragrance – the dry-down is what’s left on the skin. These notes ground and balance the perfume fragrance. These notes will last for hours on the skin and even days on clothing. Because they are heavier oils, with heavier molecules, they are slow to evaporate. They tend to be grounding, relaxing and warming and tend to come from woods, roots and resins.

Examples include:

  • Cedarwood
  • Frankincense
  • Myrrh
  • Sandalwood
  • Vanilla
  • Fir

Rebecca anticipated a lack of attraction with many of the base notes. Yet, ended up dismissing vanilla for Ho Wood, Sandalwood, cedar, cypress and copaiba.

Base Notes in Perfume Fragrances

harmony of notes togetherPerfume alchemy – Blending the scents together

Making a perfume is not as simple as blending together all your favourite oils. Musical terminology in perfumery is used as a metaphor for how a fragrance comes together. The notes are the indicators and descriptors of individual smells in any perfume. But the notes, like an orchestra, need to come together to make a harmony of aromas.

For this section of the perfume consultation, we use tester strips to smell how the oils will work (or not!) together. It is easier to smell if they will harmonise and if some scents overpower others. This can give indications of the best ratios to use for blending. Again these are passed gently backwards and forwards through the air under your nose. By using the strips you can combine the notes together to smell if they compliment each other.

When Rebecca combined her notes together the first response was it’s a happy smell”.  After a bit of tweaking to stop the Jasmine from being so overpowering, we finally had Rebecca’s blend. The personal and unique blend is then mixed with alcohol.

Alcohol in perfume helps break down perfume ingredients. It helps merge oils and aromatic materials together. Alcohol helps diffuse and lift perfumes notes. Much like a bar, at New Forest Aromatics we have to have a license to store and use the alcohol. The alcohol we use is denatured (to make it undrinkable).

A small amount of New Forest Spring Water is also added to soften the effect of the alcohol on the skin. The final product is decanted into a 50ml perfume bottle, ready for Rebecca to take home. When we asked her what she’d call her perfume after some thought, Rebecca answered;

” ‘Boundless Bliss’…… It’s such a happy scent. The smell makes me feel stronger, self-confident, energised and uplifted. Yet there is something comforting, soothing or self-compassionate about it! It’s completely personal. I have a fragrance that is uniquely mine, that no-one else has or will ever have: my own perfect authentic scent!”

Perfume alchemy; the secrets to unlock your authentic scent with New Forest Aromatics


At New Forest Aromatics we can help anyone create their perfect perfume fragrance. Your perfume is your aromatic message to the world. Perfume can say so much about who you are and can help you to enhance the qualities you want to express. So join us at one of our natural perfumery workshops to receive expert guidance to create your scent. Or book a personal perfume consultation to create and unlock your authentic scent.


Return to Nepal

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1iiiFor my second visit I came to finalise the products with both the suppliers and the hotel. So I was back to crazy Kathmandu with my dear friend Jo (my self-proclaimed international PA), to navigate city streets. I also met with a Nepali spa company in to discuss treatment plans using Pavilion Signature products.

On this trip I also came across paper soap… I was so excited when I first saw these, guest soap has always bothered me from a sustainable point of view, one or two washes with the bar of guest soap and it is thrown away – what a waste.

2iiiThis paper soap uses sustainable Nepali Lokta paper impregnated with off cuts of retail soaps – available in the Pavilions boutique shop. These small pieces of paper can be used to lather and clean your hands – and all that is left is a tiny ball of biodegradable paper that can be disposed of and will biodegrade easily. These are also ideal to use when trekking to save water, room in your pack and lessen the environmental impact.

3iiiI showed this paper soap to the Pavilion’s new General Manager, Rajiv Shrestha, who agreed it would be a fabulous addition to guest room range.

Then Jo and I flew on to the beautiful Pokhara and back to the Pavilions Himalaya Resort.

Insuba and I made up a new batch of guest products onsite ready for their first guests – the hotel was due to open June.

I have also sourced natural and organic shampoo and conditioner which have been imported from the UK from a fabulous local supplier HERB UK (Lymington) using wonderful natural and organic ingredients and no nasties of course.

We finished this wonderful trip with a two day trek into the mountain with my Nepali ‘nephew’ Ashok and his father, my old friend Parshu. It was so inspiring to be up in the mountain air and to see some of the trees and plants used in signature products.


Three weeks later devastating earthquake hit Nepal. Thankfully all of my friends and colleagues were ok and the resort wasn’t damaged but construction stopped as the all the workers, hotel management and Douglas’s charity down tools and their day jobs to help with the relief effort.

At this end, feeling helpless but desperately concerned for the people of Nepal, we raised funds for the charity and encouraged friends, family and customers to donate money to Douglas’s charity, and sister charity, the UK based,

We have been overwhelmed and delighted by everyone’s concern, generosity and donations…. and they are still coming… Jo’s kids’ school – Walhampton recently raised and amazing £1200, which will go towards rebuilding schools and home in the mountain villages around Pokhara.


I am pleased to say that Pavilions Himalaya officially opened in November 2015 and has had rave reviews! I has been a very rewarding project to be involved in and I wish them every success.

The Nepal economy relies heavily on tourism – Please spread the word – ‘Nepal is open for business,’ this unique country is well worth a visit!
I hope in the future that we will be able to source everything in Nepal for all of their product ranges – and that I will go back again, have a treatment in the spa and stay in one of their stunning villas, sip a cocktail and look out once again at the stunning views, watch this space…..

From Insuba and Douglas Maclagan – Owners of Pavilions Himalaya

“The Pavilions Himalayas is a unique resort nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, just outside Pokhara, the gateway to the Annapurna and Manasalu mountain ranges. The natural beauty and its elements, the calm and peace of the area is something rarely found on earth. For us at the Pavilions, it is a must for our guests to experience this in all we do and come to a state of full refreshment and relaxation. To achieve this, we asked Debbie at New Forest Aromatics to create something special to achieve this and to invigorate the senses and well-being of our guests at The Pavilions.

Debbie made two trips out to Nepal to work with us and to teach us how to select & use local herbs, flowers and plants to create local smells and fragrances for our products. It was an amazing experience to have rhododendron in our essential oils and shower gels for example. A unique smell but all from our neighbourhood and surrounding areas. The hand and body lotions are also produced on site, and our guests love them. Another unique product is the special natural paper soap only produced for our resort in Nepal. One drop of water on the tiny paper soap and it makes a wonderful lather to clean your hands with a beautiful fragrance and softness to your hands.

Working with Debbie was not only fun, but New Forest Aromatics (NFA) really have left something very special behind for us and our guests. The comments of the effort we have put into the detail of our in-room amenities has been superb, and which is another factor that pushes The Pavilions Himalayas amongst the very best destinations to visit in Nepal and Asia. There is no doubt that NFA has helped The Pavilions Himalayas and its architect, Alex Shrestha to be nominated one of four finalists for the AHDA 2016 (Asian Hotel Design Awards:

Many thanks Debbie and all at New Forest Aromatics for providing us a superb service and unique products!


Creating Pavilions Himalaya Signature Scent

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1iiAll of the essential oils used are from plants grown in Nepal

RHODODENDRON – the national flower of Nepal had to be included in our signature range. Its mountain blooms in Spring are stunning. Its essential oil has a sweet, floral, green, earthy scent and it is known in Nepal for its spiritually balancing and harmonising qualities. For the body it is soothing to tired and achy muscles and joints.

HIMALAYAN FIR – green, woody and fresh, like breathing in that beautiful mountain air

MOUNTAIN JUNIPER – clearing, uplifting and revitalising

MOUNTAIN CEDAR –a calming and fortifying scent

LEMONGRASS – synonymous with both Nepali cuisine and natural medicine. Citrus zing, wonderful natural bug repellent and digestive, I knew it had to go in to various products.

SUGANDHARA KOKILA– a type of cinnamon berry that grows in the mountains, this wonderful oil has a warming, spiciness, which reminded me of the scent of dal baht and Nepali chutneys that complement the food so well. A fabulous analgesic oil to relieve muscle pain, inflammation and to stimulate circulation, great after sports or trekking the mountains.

CORNMINT- Grows abundantly in Nepal – adds a cool minty freshness.

BASIL – Uplifting, refreshing and clearing

This blend is a wonderful tonic for massage after trekking the Himalayas.

It includes essential oils of mountain eucalyptus and juniper, plus ginger and sugandhara kokila to warm and relieve tired muscles and joints and improve circulation.

Sugandhara Kokila – This mountain berry is a fabulous analgesic oil to relieve muscle pain, inflammation and to stimulate circulation, great after sports or trekking the mountains.

A harmonising and meditative blend to soothe both mind and body.

It includes spikenard, palmarosa, chamomile and cedar.

Spikenard – also known as jatamansi is a traditional mountain herb used in Ayurvedic treatments. The essential oil comes from its root and is deeply grounding. meditative and soothes anxieties and stress.

Palmarosa– is a rosy scented grass that relieves anxiety and tension, soothing, healing and regenerating to the skin, body and mind.

I created this scent using known local insect repellent plants to deter mosquitoes including lemongrass, mint, eucalyptus and zanthoxylum.

3iiZanthoxylum – The essential oil is extracted from the berries of this native shrub, known for its analgesic and bug repelling properties – a great addition to any mosquito repelling blend.

The Bugs Away scent is great in candles and body oil and is especially useful at sundown when mosquitos are most active!

The base oil for the Pavilions spa massage oils is a combination of Apricot and the native Dhatelo oils which come from trees and shrubs that grow throughout Nepal. Dhatelo oil comes from the seeds of a mountain shrub and is regenerating and moisturising for the skin.

Pavilions Himalaya also asked me if I could source natural candles – not paraffin of course! I have only made soya and beeswax candles previously, but was so excited when I discovered that Himalayan Biotrade could source Chiuri butter (from the nut of a native tree) to make candles. They combine this with beeswax and Pavilions Signature and Bugs Away blends to make totally natural, eco candles scented candles.

4iiThese candles are made in little terracotta pots – which are also refillable.

Pavilions Himalaya – First visit to Nepal

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1iMy trip to Nepal at the beginning of June 2014 was fantastic. Arriving at Tribhuvan airport in Kathmandu is a bit of a culture shock, At Heathrow I had left behind WIFI, high tech security clearance, modern cars and sealed roads. But, I instantly fell in love with this colourful, chaotic city of modern, unfinished construction and ancient crumbling buildings, seemingly no road signs or street names and warm friendly smiles from the locals.

I hit the ground running and had a busy few days in the crazy streets of Kathmandu meeting suppliers and producers with Pavilions owner Douglas Maclagan. I was so excited to be given samples of some beautiful new essential oils, butters, oils and waxes, plus Nepali paper packaging, which are being used to develop products for the hotel. My nose started twitching with the possibilities!2i

Next I took a small plane to Pokhara to visit the 5* Eco resort hotel – Pavilions Himalaya which was still under construction. Wow – it is such a stunning location in a lush valley with green hills and the white capped Annapurna Mountains in the distance.
The site is a working organic farm with goats, buffalo, chickens, rice paddies, fruit trees, corn and gourd. I walked the whole site with Douglas and landscape gardener Muni to discuss various fragrant plants that will also be planted onsite to be used in both the kitchens and the spa (and as natural bug repellents). Jasmine, rose, lemongrass, frangipani, palmarosa, marigold, coriander, basil; a great introduction to the resort under construction.

Designing their signature scent whilst in Nepal, was my first challenge – to create a scent that encapsulated the essence of Nepal, the world famous Himalaya Mountains, the lush green countryside, the spicy aromatic aromas of the food and the tropical lower country.
I also showed Insuba how to make up their bespoke shower gel, hand wash and hand lotion, blending in our organic bases with their own pure spring water. ….
Pavilions also asked me to create three blends for their spa treatments and to sell in their hotel boutique shop. I created’ After Trek ‘ and ‘Relaxation Blends’ for weary travellers after trekking in the mountains and a natural bug repellent aroma for guest to use to deter the evening mossies.

Pavilions Himalaya Resort Consultancy Project

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1I have travelled widely and have been to Nepal several times over the years, trekking the Annapurna mountains, visiting friends and getting to know a little of the special land.

Pavilions Himalaya approached me in 2014 to design their signature range of products for their eco resort, which was still under construction.
Pavilions Himalaya is the brainchild of Douglas and Insuba Maclagan. Their vision was to build a 5 star eco resort on their organic farm in the foothills of the Himalayas, just outside Nepal’s second city of Pokhara. Their intention was to build a eco resort that was truly sustainable, providing guests organic food from the farm and local area, using new technologies to build beautiful insulated villas and a clubhouse that require no air conditioning, capture grey water from the showers and basins to flush the loos and storing waste from the loos and farm animals in underground tanks to make bio-gas for the hotel kitchens Solar panels on the clubhouse roof provide electricity for the resort, meaning that they can be off-grid too. 2

The hotel also provides employment for local people and the profits from the hotel will help to sustain Douglas’s charity supporting vulnerable children and women in Nepal to access their rights and improve their lives. What a wonderful project to be involved in…

My brief was to source and design high quality, totally natural, biodegradable toiletries for their guest rooms and the hotel spa that could, if at all possible, come from ingredients grown in Nepal and to be manufactured locally. Well I like a challenge!
Firstly, I researched essential (aromatic) oils, vegetable oils and butters that are grown in Nepal. I discovered that because of the diverse terrain plus variance in altitude and climate from the high mountain forests to the sub-tropical valley terrain in the south in this stunning country, Nepal grows and produces quite a range of both aromatic plants and vegetable ingredients that can be used in spa and guest products.
Next I found a few suppliers in Nepal, particularly the wonderful HBT in Kathmandu that support poor, rural communities to grow, harvest and produce plants, giving them a much needed income and really embodying the Pavilions ethos of sustainability and ethical benefit to Nepal. It was time to go out to Nepal meet with suppliers and to go to Pavilions Himalaya to see for myself how to move this project forward.