The importance of a formula
and a production "fail"

While perfume creation can be spontaneous and freewheeling, without a thought to recording what you are doing. But, if you want to duplicate your creation, having the formula is essential.

You can create a nice smelling fragrance by mixing together a little of this and a little of that, you can share it with your friends and win their praise, you can consider yourself an authentic perfume creator, but if you want to create more of it — more of the exact same fragrance — you can't do it unless you carefully annotated how you made your fragrance. In short, to produce more of the same you need a formula.

In a series of YouTube videos I demonstrated the use of a formula I had created in the production of a new perfume. The formula had been developed using dropper bottles — "equipment" easily available to anyone aspiring to create their own perfume — and then this formula was rewritten in grams with the aid of an electronic balance (a modest expense for the aspiring perfumer).

Once my "by drops" formula had been converted to a "grams" formula, the percentage of the formula of each ingredient could be calculated. Using these percentages, the fragrance could now be produced in any desired quantity, large or small.

When producing finished perfume that involves mixing the fragrance oil with alcohol and water, it is helpful to know the weight of the fragrance oil per liter — or gram, or ounce, or gallon — so that we can calculate how much oil we must produce to produce a particular volume of finished, ready to bottle and sell, perfume.

All this is pretty simple yet while shooting the video showing these stops I made an error that, in effect, canceled the formula and made the fragrance I had bottled non-repeatable because I no longer knew the percentages of the ingredients I had bottled. I had created a nice smelling fragrance which now lacked a formula. Here's what happened.

I was producing 900 ml of finished fragrance. This called for 135 ml of my fragrance oil — from my formula — to be mixed with 688.5 ml of 200 proof alcohol and 76.5 ml of de-ionized water. This was all being done in front of the camera.

If you follow the video, you'll see at the 2:26 minute mark that I have produced the required 135 ml of oil. Next the video shows the oil being poured into a Pyrex measuring cup followed by the water and alcohol. All was fine up to this point.

The next shot was of me using a funnel to pour the perfectly good 900 ml of finished fragrance into a quart bottle. A quart (32 ounce) bottle easily holds 900 ml of liquid but a pint (16 ounce) bottle does not. Somehow it was a pint bottle that found its way under my funnel as I poured. The result can be seen in this "fail" video, an outtake from the "official" video.

So the first and most obvious problem was that I spilled some fragrance. Annoying but not a total disaster. After all, this was production on a small scale. And I still had the 16 ounce (473 ml) bottle filled with my fragrance. So what's the issue?

A fragrance without a formula

OK, here's the big problem. When I filled, and overfilled, the 16 ounce bottle, the fragrance was not yet blended. That means I now have no way of knowing the "oil to alcohol to water" ratio and, even more important, how much of each aroma material in the oil ended up in the 16 ounce bottle.

From the video you can see that the oil was at the bottom of the measuring cup with water next followed by alcohol and, you can see, that, as soon as the alcohol was added, the three elements started to blend but the blending was far from complete. In fact, my plan was to allow 30 days or more for the components to blend and to shake the bottle vigorously several times during those first few days.

So, sadly, what I have in my 16 ounce bottle is NOT the fragrance called for by my formula and whether anyone likes what I have or not, I cannot produce another batch of that exact same fragrance since I don't know its composition. The 16 ounces — 473 ml — is all there will ever be.

Sure, I could call it a "Limited Edition" (which it is!) and bottle about 15 bottles for sale, and I may do just that, but I'll have to give it its own name and story and, for 15 bottles, even at $45 each, is it worth the effort?

The message that should stick with you:

Formulas are important. They are the tool that allows you to keep producing and selling more and more of a particular fragrance.

When you create a fragrance,record what goes into it. Record how much of each ingredient you have used. Record the sources of those ingredients so that you can get more of the same when necessary.

All that record keeping can be trying when you're just experimenting, just fooling around, but what if you suddenly find yourself with a great fragrance? Think how frustrated you'll be if you never bothered to record how you made it!

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Philip Goutell
Lightyears, Inc.

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