Creating perfume with dropper bottles

notebook page

Shown above: Page from my notebook showing original formula in drops, drops of the original formula multiplied by ten, and the weight of these drops in grams. Also shown is the weight of the bottle in which they were combined ("tare") and the checkmarks made when counting out by groups of 50 drops.

Mixing and weighing can put you to sleep!

mixing pot

A new mixing pot like this one is used for each new trial.

May 21, 2020 — I weighted out the formula for my new perfume. I had finalized the formula in a small, plastic mixing pot. The contents of that mixing pot were 87 drops of aroma materials from seven dropper bottles. Simple. I was pleased with the results so I was ready for the next step which I am describing here.

I needed to make a larger batch for two reasons. First, to be sure I would still be in love with this fragrance as it headed toward a production batch. Second, I had to weigh my ingredients and an 87 drop batch was too small to give me any accuracy. By weighing my ingredients I could calculate the percentages of the formula, by weight, that each ingredient represented. Then, when making my larger batch, I could add each material to the mixture by the required weight rather than having to "drip drop drip" materials from dropper bottles. Follow me as I explain the process.

To start, I multiplied by ten the number of drops of each of my raw materials. This brought the formula up to 870 drops. From experience I know that this volume would be contained in a bottle of 1-fluid ounce capacity, a very standard size bottle for a finished perfume.

I cleared away my desktop and set up my electronic balance, being sure to level it. The model I use has a built-in bubble level and, when each of the four adjustable legs are in correct position, the bubble is centered in the level.

To start the weighing out process, I zero the balance so it reads "0.000," and then I weigh the bottle I'm using to contain the formula. This is called the "tare" weight. I record it in my notebook, Now I begin weighing out the aroma materials. Before weighing each material I zero the balance so that the weight shown will be just for that material. When I've added the required number of drops of each material, I wait for the readout to freeze and indicate that it is showing the correct weight (in grams, to three decimal points but accurate only to two).

in balance

When the "balance beam" icon appears above the "power" icon, the display has stopped moving and the correct weight is now being displayed.

I then record this weight in my notebook. Then I'm on to the next ingredient: zero the balance, drop, drop, drop from a dropper bottle, read the weight and record it in my notebook. I go through this for all seven ingredients of this particular formula.

But here's where it gets dicey

eyedropper

Eyedropper, from dropper bottle

Squeezing out drops from what is, in essence, an eyedropper, can be tedious. It's not bad for the small quantities, for the original batch when for two ingredients the drops numbered just five each and where the most plentiful ingredient, just 25 drops. But multiply that by ten as I did. Now your lowest quantity is 50 drops and the largest, 250. Seems simple enough — until you have to do it. My eyes start to glaze over by drop number 107. My attention starts to wander by drop 205. I begin to wonder if I've lost count. Did the drops I just squeezed out bring me to 40... or was it 60? Am I falling asleep?

For items with 100 or more drops I do them in groups of 50, making a check mark on scrap paper each time I've done another 50. (You can see my checkmarks on the photo at the top of this page.) But I have to remember to make that mark for each batch, otherwise I'll be way off. It's good to take a break between ingredients but I don't dare. I'm afraid if I don't keep going, I might knock over the bottle, or the scale might go dead, or I'll be interrupted and lose my concentration — so I just keep going.

Confirmation needed

I hate to do this but I always do it. Since I could have made a counting error, I'll wait a day or two and do it over again, with another bottle. Then I'll compare the results. If they're close, all is fine. If they're seriously off on one ingredient, I'll do a third bottle. The process can seem painfully boring but it's part of what needs to be done.

Work with care

When you are squeezing out drops from your eyedroppers, try to get the same size drop each time. The rubber bulb should be in good condition to give you good control. But sometimes your fingers get tired and, without meaning to do it, you squeeze out two drops where you only wanted one. Worse still, you squeeze out a drop and a half. Then what?

A high degree of concentration is required. This is a downfall for me. My mind tends to wander and I have to force myself to focus, to get "clean" drops and to count them properly.

Be sure, when you start counting out drops, that you have enough material for the project. It can be very frustrating (and expensive!) to get half way through the last item — and then run out of that material. Then you can't finish what you started. If you can't get more of what you need quickly (and usually you can't!) you may have wasted all of that you've used. Now you may need more of all the materials you're using, not just one.

Accuracy

Developing a fragrance with dropper bottles lacks the precision you would find at a major fragrance house. Careful as you might try to be, your drops won't be 100 percent uniform. Your weights will be close but will not have the precision achieved with an electronic balance costing $20,000 rather than $200.

But ask yourself, is your nose sensitive enough to know the difference? My nose isn't bad but it's not that good. And, face it, your finished fragrance is what it is. If people like it, isn't that enough? While the "dropper bottle technique" may be crude by industry standards, it gives people like you and myself a very good, practical way to create our own fragrances – commercial fragrances – if that is our goal. Customers won't judge us by how our results were achieved but simply by the results – the fragrance – we did achieve.

For supplies used in the development of this fragrance, visit the Vendors section of this website.

Now available: "Creating your own perfume from dropper bottles: Methods, mechanics, and mathematics"

Instant download in pdf format — $9.99

Also available in a soft cover edition from Amazon.or read more about this book.

Photo of Phil Goutell
Philip Goutell's Signature

Philip Goutell
Lightyears, Inc.