by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner.
Did you know there’s a job title out there called, “The Nose?”
Noses are Master Perfumers who work in the billion dollar fragrance industry. Not only do Noses have exceptional olfactory discernment, they’re also artists and chemists and they create aromas and fragrances that the rest of us will resonate with on a very deep, emotional level.
Let me give you an example of how perfumery works.
I had my first brush with the science behind the perfume back in the early 1980’s from a Bloomingdale’s Perfume Spritzer. Calvin Klein’s Obsession perfume had just been launched and the Sales Lady described the perfume as having four distinct “scent stories” to its life when sprayed and worn on the body.
Initially, you get a really strong and bright blast of everything. Then, as the citrus layers (or top notes) fade and float away in the early minutes, a slightly deeper floral scent emerges. The floral tones (or middle notes) then give way into a more exotic layer of fragrance (more middle notes) and then after a few hours of prominence, the exotic notes give way to a more subtle, deeper, and woodsier scent. In other words, at the end of the day, you’re left with mostly base notes.
The next time you smell a really complex fragrance, think about the Nose who composed it because all along, they were thinking about you!
Perhaps you’d like to do the same. Does telling stories with aromas sound like a career for you?
If you’d like to see if you have a knack for aromatherapy and try your hand at being a Nose, start with creating your own essential oil blends. The goal of blending essential oils is to create an aroma which becomes greater than the sum of its individual parts, and this fusion is called, “Synergy.”
Synergy is wow! Synergy brings all of the healing properties of each essential oil to a whole new level. It’s off the charts!
In my online store, cruisingintowellness.com, I sell many different, high quality essential oils that you can play with. But which ones do you start with first?
As a spa professional who has been using therapeutic essential oils for almost 20 years, I recommend starting your collection of essential oils with familiar scents. Think about your favourite flowers, or soaps, or the flavour combinations that you like when eating certain family recipes. What you already like will give you clues.
Also, each essential oil belongs to a scent family. Once you have a few ideas, consider essential oils that may be related. I personally like to group essential oils by whether they warm me up or cool me down.
Warming Scent Families
- Citrus: Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Lemongrass, Lime, Mandarin, Orange, Petigrain, Tangerine.
- Spicy: Bay, Black Pepper, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Clove, Juniper Berry, Nutmeg.
- Tropical, Exotic: Ginger, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Lemon, Lemongrass, Line, Mandarin, Myrrh, Orange, Palmarosa, Tangerine, Vanilla, Ylang Ylang.
- Floral, Rose: Clary Sage, Coriander, Geranium, Jasmine, Neroli, Palmarosa, Petitgrain, Rose, Rosewood, Ylang Ylang.
- Sweet, Mellow: Benzoin, Cardamom, Mandarin, Myrrh, Spearmint, Ylang Ylang.
Cooling Scent Families
- Minty: Cajeput, Eucalyptus, Ginger, Peppermint, Spearmint
- Mediterranean, Herb: Basil, Chamomile, Dill, Lavender, Lemon, Marjoram, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme
- Woodsy: Cedarwood, Cypress, Fir, Juniper Berry, Peppermint, Pine, Rosewood, Sandalwood, Spearmint, Thyme
- Earthy, Nutty: Benzoin, Frankincense, Myrrh, Patchouli, Tea Tree, Vetiver
- Fresh, Aquatic: Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Citriodora, Ginger, Grapefruit, Lavender, Lemon, Peppermint, Rosemary, Spearmint.
- Liquorice: Anise, Basil, Fennel, Star Anise
Top Notes, Middle Notes, and Base Notes
When reading my story about Obsession, you may have noticed my references to Top Notes, Middle Notes, and Base Notes. Knowing which essential oil is considered a Top Note, Middle Note or Base Note is another way to blend essential oils for optimum potency.
Blending perfume is like composing harmonious chords in music and you can learn to tune your nose (like a Nose!) and like you would your ears and hearing to recognize sharps, flats, perfect pitch, and harmony.
To further the musical analogy, a well-tuned (or balanced) perfume usually includes a Top, Middle, and Base note in its recipe. Notes are categories that loosely reflect the endurance and evaporation rates of essential oils.
The science of how this works is inexact though because each essential oil is made up of many compounds which evaporate (or try to escape) at different rates, so a single oil like Jasmine, can spread across the board into all “note” categories, depending on how it’s used. Plus, the behaviour of the essential oil will also be influenced by its shelf age, weather conditions during the growing season, production quality, how it’s combined with other ingredients, and even your own mood.
Arguably, you’ll never smell the exact same scent twice. Still, it’s useful to know how to build fragrance blends while keeping notes in mind.
- Top Notes are the light, bright, fresh, stimulating, and immediately-noticed aromas. Scent vanishes within hours and has low endurance. Try Basil, Bay, Bergamot, Eucalyptus, Fennel, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lemongrass, Peppermint, Petitgrain, Pine, Spearmint, or Tangerine.
- Middle Notes are the heart, the body, the dominant character of the blend. Scent lasts 24-60 hours. Try Black Pepper, Cardamon, Chamomile, Clary Sage, Cypress, Geranium, Jasmine, Juniper Berry, Lavender, Marjoram, Neroli, Palmarosa, Rose, Rosemary, Thyme, or Ylang Ylang.
- Base Notes are the sedative and calming anchor notes used to fix (set or preserve) the blend. Scent lasts from 60 hours to 6 to 7 days and has high endurance. Try Benzoin, Cedarwood, Frankincense, Ginger, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Tea Tree, Vanilla, or Vetiver.
To get an idea of how certain essential oils will perform together, do a paper strip test.
- First, have some coffee beans nearby so you can clear your nasal palette between aromas.
- Have several (10-12) testing steps pre-cut from sheets of paper about the width of your finger and the length of your hand.
- Carefully, place a drop of your essential oil on one end of one strip and write down the name of the essential oil on the paper.
- Repeat with more essential oils on separate strips.
- Then, arrange the strips into a fan and wave them in front of your nose. This works much better than sniffing from bottles.
- If you like the combination, go ahead and make a full-sized version.
Also, get into the habit of keeping a journal to record your recipes and impressions. When you sniff your new essential oil blends, make a note of what comes to mind.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the scent like?
- Is the scent sweet, floral, citrus, woodsy? or
- Is the scent earthy, mossy, smoky, herbaceous, minty? or
- Is the scent free, medicinal, dry, heavy, light, exotic?
- Do you like the essence?
- What memories do these scents conjure up?
- What else can you observe?
- What would you change next time?
and write down your thoughts. You’ll love looking through your old notes as you make progress in your knowledge!
So that’s a peak into the world of perfumery and creating your own synergistic essential oil blends!
I originally wrote this information in my book, How to Throw a Home Spa Pajama Party the Homespunspa Way in 2006. If you’d like some home spa recipes and get a copy of my book, please email me and place your order.
Also, let me know if you’d like to buy some essential oils from my online store, cruisingintowellness.com.
Let your creative imagination soar! I’d love to hear about your synergistic blends in the comments!
About the Author
Maria Koropecky is a Spa Therapist and Writer who specializes in relaxation and wellness. Maria is currently accepting wellness blogging opportunities so contact Maria today to make arrangements for your blog.