Discern Scent Notes to Blend a Lasting EO Fragrance
By Caryn Gehlmann
“What’s that amazing scent you’re wearing?” Do you ever get that question? With essential oils, you can create your very own custom scent that is as one-of-a-kind as you are! However, the challenge is getting your essential oil scent to last. You may create a lovely blend but an hour later you can hardly smell it.
A perfumer, affectionately called a NOSE, is someone who creates perfumes and fragrances. This person relies on scent notes, also called aroma notes or fragrance notes, to compose a harmonious fragrance or perfume. You can learn to do the same with essential oil blends, but first, let’s consider…
Why do essential oil fragrances fade?
Many people are used to artificial fragrances that linger, often for days or even weeks on clothing. There is a clear difference between essential odor intensity and artificial fragrance. Essential oil molecules evaporate quicker because they are volatile and natural; synthetic molecules are heavy and hang around.
They may not last quite as long, but for most of us, using natural essential oils instead of perfume is worthwhile. For one thing, many fragrances, including those that are advertised as “natural,” in reality are artificially created in a lab and often include synthetics, pesticides, or other harmful substances. By using essential oils don’t forget you’re also benefiting from their unique pharmacological effect, such as antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, rejuvenating, calming, etc. In fact, you can still be benefiting from the essential oil molecules even after the scent has evaporated!
What can you do to get your natural essential oil aroma to last longer?
I’m going to share a few blending secrets with you to help you understand the chemistry behind creating your own essential oil perfume. What is an essential oil blend? Essential oil blends are combinations of single essential oils, blended together for their synergy and, in this case, for their long-lasting scent.
Most essential oils can be categorized into three scent notes (there’s that #3 again!) top, middle, or base notes. Scent notes describe the volatility or rate at which the essential oil evaporates. Some oils fall in between scent notes and are classed as ‘top to middle’ or ‘base to middle’. Understanding the different characteristics of scent notes will help you make a long-lasting blend.
Top scent notes
- Evaporate quickly, they are the first scents that you will smell, and then they quickly dissipate.
- Many are derived from the top of a plant, like citrus.
- They often have a fresh, uplifting aroma.
- The first impression they create will usually last about 30 minutes.
- They generally constitute about 5 to 20% of your blend.
Top aroma note options: grapefruit, orange, tangerine, lemongrass, lime, mandarin. (Although they’re technically top notes, I find lime and lemongrass have a hefty intensity, so when blending I tend to use them as a middle or base note.)
Middle scent notes
- Create the body of the blend, used to “round out” “bring together”; if a blend smells “spikey” usually a middle note will bring it all together.
- Generally speaking, middle notes come from the middle of the plant — such as leaves or needles
- The scent unfolds after application anywhere from a few moments to three hours.
- Middle notes usually make up 50 to 80% of a blend.
Base scent notes
- Are deep, warm, and help make the blends last longer by adding a fixative quality.
- Most come from woods, resins, and gums with properties that are sedating and used to promote relaxation.
- Staying power dominates even several hours after application.
- It takes the proper proportion of a base note to give a blend depth and intensity. When used sparingly and mixed with middle and top notes, most base notes are quite pleasant, but when used alone or allowed to dominate in a formula they can be overpowering (think of the lingering and pungent aroma of patchouli, vetiver or sandalwood).
It’s fun to experiment with your own DIY blends, I would love to hear what you come up with on our customer feedback page. But if you want to start with a tried and true, long-lasting essential oil recipe here’s one of my favorites:
e3 Harmony Blend
1 Tablespoon (300 drops) of Fractionated Coconut Oil*
10 – 13 drops of Orange (top note)
5 – 8 drops of Tangerine (top note)
9 – 13 drops of Lavender (middle note)
3 – 5 drops of Ylang Ylang (middle to base note)
3 – 6 drops of Patchouli (base note)
Mix together and store in a small, glass bottle with a cap. Apply a drop to pulse points, such as the inner elbows, behind the knees, behind the ears, or on the underside of wrists.
*As a general rule use anywhere between 10% dilution (100 drops of carrier oil to 10 drops total EO) to 15% dilution (100 drops of carrier oil to 15 drops total EO). Please note that one teaspoon is approximately 100 drops. The difference in the concentration of oils will impact the fragrance. Eau de parfum and pure perfume have a higher concentration of oils, while eau de toilette and eau de cologne have a lower concentration.
Learning to distinguish scent notes takes time and practice. If you’ve purchased one of our e3 blends, why not have fun with this exercise:
- Read the list of essential oils in the e3 blend.
- Put 3 drops on a cotton ball and sniff the essential oil blend.
- Try to distinguish the scent of each individual oil.
- What scent note does each oil have? (Refer to our list above.)
- Wait a few minutes and sniff again.
- Can you discern how the scent note of each oil is playing its part in the composition?
We just scratched the surface on blending essential oils. Would you like more tips? Make sure you download our free ebook Listen to Your Nose — An Introduction to Aromatherapy. Get tips, recipes, and a coupon for your next order!