Wednesday, 11 August 2010

An experiment - Making Perfume

I was researching bath and beauty recipes when i stumbled upon a very simple recipe for making flower perfume. I was a bit suspicious of it as it seemed far to simple to work properly and used only water whereas i know from my vast knowledge of perfumerie (watching Perfume: story of a murderer once) you generally need oil for it to work, however the recipe said it would only last a month so i figured that the water might work for that short amount of time. Also i really wanted it to work because i have been desperate for years for a Buddlea (or Butterfly Bush) perfume. To me there is nothing nicer than the smell of Buddlea and i have been so happy on the recent mild summers night walking up my drive smelling the amazing wafts of the Buddlea scent that pass over me, or just grabbing the nearest flower and huffing it's great honeyish goodness. Anyway i have searched thoroughly (or googled it) and i cannot find anyone who makes a Buddlea perfume, essential oil, fragrance oil or anything similar so it seems my only resort is to make my own.
So here is the recipe i followed.

Step 1: Gather your flowers. You want about a cupful. 
(I am using Buddlea obviously but it should work with any flowers you like)

Step 2:  Chop your flowers up a bit.
(As buddlea flowers are so small i only did it a bit, if you're using something with big petals you'll probably want to chop it up small)

Step 3: Line a bowl with a piece of muslin, you need part of the fabric to hang over the bowls edges. Pop your flowers into the fabric lined bowl and add about a cup and a half of water. Make sure the flowers are covered in water. Cover and leave overnight.
(I didn't have any muslin so i just used a tea towel, works fine but may stain your towel so don't use a nice one!) 

Step 4: In the morning pull the muslin full of flowers out gently, squeezing it into the bowl.
(at this point everything was looking good, the water smelled a LOT like Buddlea flowers)

Step 5: Put the flower-water into a stainless steel pan and simmer until it's very reduced and only about a teaspoon of liquid remains
(i was a bit frightened so i simmered it very gently. It took about 10 minutes to be reduced as much as it should be)

Step 5: Done! Pop your perfume in a container.
(Proper perfume containers should be coloured brown or blue or something to stop the light hurting it, but as this was only meant to last a month anyway i figured it didn't matter)

So did it work? 

... No :(

It was all going so well until it came to cooking the water. While i stirred it often and only simmered gently (so I know it didn't burn) the nice gently scented water at the beginning morphed into something that smelled of peppermint tea in the end :( 
I don't know if i did something wrong or the recipe just doesn't work very well or Buddlea doesn't want to make proper perfume (which would make sense seeing as noone makes it).
But anyway it was a fun thing to try! I felt like a little kid again making potions :)

Now i've found another recipe online that uses oil and sounds more 'proper'. Unfortunately the flowers of the Buddlea Bushes in my garden are drying up so it will have to wait until next year.
Oh well!
If anyone else decides to try this (it is fun!) tell me how it goes. Or has anyone successfully made a perfume before?


  1. Neat! Thanks for sharing with us.

  2. I used to do rose perfume when I was younger, I'd buy an old bottle from a car-boot and then give it to my Mum for Mothers Day.
    Every bloody year :p
    It only ever lasted a few weeks but it was lovely and soft. I'll go and dig out the recipe, as I don't think it required heating...

    I really want to try buddlea perfume now!

  3. cool!! Maybe istead of the boiling water bit, just turn it into a body spray?

  4. I believe that is the same flower we call lilac in the states. You may have some luck searching for a lilac fragrance.

  5. Damn! Those flowers look like they smell heaven, it would have been brilliant if it had worked! Another way is to use vodka instead of water, and don't heat it, just pack lots of flowers into some vodka and let it sit in a dark place for a week or more, then strain. But oil is good too! Good luck!

  6. Words could never accurately describe my love for David Bowie.

    You look great!

  7. Oh an interesting fact about buddlea,

    My friend who is in her 60's and grew up in Wartime Bristol says that one of the first things to grow in and around the bombed sites was buddlea so it became know as 'bombsite buddlea'

  8. Try putting it in a bottle of %40+ vodka and keeping it out of the light for a few weeks. My mum used to do it with rose petals and it smelled quite nicely for a long time.

  9. Is that similar to Lilac? If it is I know why this did not work Lilac can simply NOT be made into perfume, I forget the sciency reason why but there is something it does not contain that other flowers do. So all lilac perfumes out there are synthetic.

  10. Butterfly bush is not Lilac. It may be in the lilac family but is not a lilac. I have had and currently have a butterfly bush, Lilac's are much larger and do not bloom all season.


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