First Impressions: The Perfumer's Apprentice


In the past month or so I've started playing around with perfumery materials, starting "at the bottom" with fragrance oils from Rustic Escentuals. I deliberately did this knowing that these oils aren't really ideal for perfumes, but I wanted to get a sense of the differences between candle and soap fragrance oils, better fragrance oils and blends, and real essential oils, absolutes, Co2s, and aroma chemicals. This is my highly unscientific and fumbling attempt, and I admit it hasn't been easy, but it has been educational!

I put in an order to The Perfumer's Apprentice on August 13th for a variety of products as well as some roll on bottles and pipettes. My order shipped the next day and I received it on August 17th, all the way from California to Ohio. Excellent TAT! Everything was packaged securely-no leaks or bottle breakage. I like how clean and clear the labeling is for everything-it looks very professional, and, I don't know, lab-like? Like I need a white coat and some beakers and some funny plastic goggles to handle these materials. And they are serious, undiluted business, so that's not too far from the truth- they are potent so handle with care!

I bought three fragrance oils, which are very affordable at 3.50 for 15 ml. Whereas Rustic Escentuals fragrance oils were mostly stand-alone blends that probably work best in soaps and candles, these are single notes that ring more clear and authentic to me. It's hard to explain, but while a lot of the RE scents were really nice, some VERY nice indeed, they do have a sort of "soap and candle" vibe to them, but the PA scents seem more true to life and something I could wear on my skin- more perfumey, basically. The black tea and peony fragrance oils smell pretty much like their namesakes, but the dirt I found to be more impressionistic-quite warm and earthy and complex- not exactly dirt though.

I also bought a variety of pre-made accords, some of which have formulas linked, which is handy for knowing which aroma chemicals compose the blend. I also got some real rosewood,  galbanum and guaiacwood, as well as an aroma chemical, Iso E Super. This is everything I got:

Peony Fragrance Oil
Black Tea Fragrance Oil
Dirt Fragrance Oil
Iso E Super
Green Leaf Accord
Bois des Landes (woodland) essence
Marine and Ozone Accord
Honey (miel) essence
White Musk Key Accord
Galbanum (Turkey)
Guaiacwood (Paraguay)

The accords are all lovely- standouts include  Bois des Landes which is just this wonderful blend of forest elements- I get coniferous notes and greens, very fresh and deep and woodsy, but not too Christmas-y. The honey essence is actually more of a floral scent than I expected. It reminds me of the honey note that I think I've encountered in Sweet Anthem's scents, it's difficult to quantify how, exactly. But I just know it's not the super sweet, almost brown sugary honey layering note that I've tried from Alkemia. The Green Leaf accord is a punch in the face of bright, biting, almost peppery fresh leaves- it's the kind of green that Darling Clandestine is known for. I'm probably reaching for frames of reference here- I don't know what notes different indies use, of course- just the vibe that these are giving me.

Iso E Super is a large molecule aroma chemical- because of this some people may have trouble smelling it on cold sniff, but it's a pretty popular element in modern perfumes. It's kind of a "behind the scenes" ingredient that adds a diffusive, beautiful, cloud-like aura to scents. I can smell it clearly, however. It has a smooth, soft vanilla and cedar-woodsy scent. It does have a modern feel to it, like something you might smell pumped into certain popular young adult clothing stores. Try not to hold this against it, however, it's quite nice. If you want to spend a hefty chunk of change, you can smell it featured in Molecule 01, or, you know, you can just get some from PA and dilute it to no more than 21.4%, and have you own blend.

Galbanum is pretty much the most intensely real dirt scent I've ever smelled. It is precisely the scent of digging with bare hands into wet dirt and pulling out green things, roots and all. It's pungent, fresh, and earthy- pretty amazing stuff. Scents like this highlight for me the big difference between the genuine article and crafting fragrance oils. The latter certainly has a useful place, but the real thing just oozes potency and quality. They aren't ready to wear and need dilution at times to reveal their true nature, but the potential for greatness is obvious.

Guaiacwood befuddled me at first. It wasn't readily apparent to me when I bought it that guaiacwood is actually a semi-solid paste, and this kind of freaked me out when I saw the top of my vial had these fuzzy white thread things in it. I wrote a worried email to PA and someone got back to me within a couple hours assuring me that crystallization for this material is normal (not mold!) and that I can gently heat to melt. So I used a double boiler to melt the contents, then diluted a portion of it to 10% in fractionated coconut oil in a separate vial for future use. It has a fascinating smoky scent, almost BBQ but not quite. Definitely savory and woodsy- I can imagine lots of uses for this! 

don't be alarmed!

I also bought some 5ml roller ball bottles and mini pipettes, which seem to be of good quality. I'm doing this by drops right now but maybe someday I'll get a digital scale so I can be more precise.

I highly recommend trying Perfumer's Apprentice if you are interested in DIY fragrance, or just want to get your hands on materials to learn more about them and appreciate them in your favorite scents. I was very happy with the TAT, packaging, the customer service I received from my proudct question, and the quality is outstanding. Prices are very reasonable, fragrance oils are all $3.50 for 15 ml, and the other items have a variety of sizes/price points, but there are plenty of accords, aroma chemicals, and even essential oils that start at around $3.00 for 4 ml. I am already plotting another order with some autumnal sounding ingredients so I can dabble with some gourmands and earthy fall scents!

If you have any questions about these please leave me a comment!

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  1. I've been thinking about dabbling recently too but haven't really known where/how to get started. Thanks for this! Do you have a process for mixing or writing down what you've used where? Are you going for any particular types of fragrances or really just experimenting with what you feel like on a particular day?

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  3. Thanks for commenting! I haven't had time to do a lot of experimenting yet, but what I did was make a spreadsheet with all the ingredients I bought- with columns for a scent description, if it is a base, heart, or top note, any safety restrictions or instructions for usage, what notes it pairs well with, etc. I gleaned that info from the product listings (Eden Botanicals' website has really comprehensive descriptions for their notes). This just helps me keep track of what I have to work with.

    I don't have a digital scale yet so I just started blending by drops. I also have a notebook for blending- writing down how much of everything I use and any adjustments. For a five ml oil bottle, I used about 1 ml of the fragrance blend, and 4 mls of fractionated coconut oil. My scents are a little weak so I would probably up the concentrate to 30% of the bottle in the future, depending on what notes I use. For thinner oils, I've found that about 50 drops = 1 ml. Thicker or more viscous oils would require less drops to equal 1 ml. So for the concentrate, I went with about 50% base notes (24 drops), 20% heart notes (14 drops), and 25% top notes (12 drops), but that can be tweaked of course. You generally want more base note as that's what gives your scent longevity.

    Some people just dilute all their oils prior to blending, THEN mix them together. But for me, my supply is limited, so I don't want to paint myself in a corner and have all my materials pre-diluted to a certain percentage when I might want it stronger for one blend, and weaker for another, so I make the concentrate first, THEN dilute it to get the final product. There are a few ingredients I have that are so potent that I did pre-dilute, and if they get diluted twice they will still be plenty strong- guaiacwood, seaweed absolute, and pink lotus namely. But you can do it either way. I'm probably forgetting a lot but hope this gets you started!


Please leave me comments if anything strikes your fancy or if you have any helpful suggestions. Remember, I'm no expert and am just sharing my truth. Hopefully you will find something useful to take with you!

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