Perfume alchemy; the secrets to unlock your authentic scent

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.


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