Hello At Home Science! While your Junior Chemist gung ho-ness is adorable, the optimistic belief that you might recreate a complex perfume with a dab of this and a drop of that reminds me of the kid who tries to build a moon rocket and ends up blowing himself to kingdom come.
I was trying to find a dupe for Clive Christian No. 1 for men -- a rather daunting and dead-end task, as it turned out. My next thought was to replicate the scent myself (secretly, I was more interested in taking matters into my own hands).
Surely I could find all of these fragrances in pure form: bergamot, lime, Sicilian mandarin, cardamom, nutmeg, thyme, lily of the valley, rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, heliotrope, cedarwood, sandalwood, vetiver, ambery woods and vanilla.
I went on a search and I found different suppliers who had essential, pure oils. I also found several powdered versions and some in other forms...though I am too much of an amateur to even consider this route.
My initial discoveries have prompted me to look into the formulation of fragrances a bit deeper. I was wondering if you think it would be possible for an average person like myself to go about recreating the No. 1 scent piece by piece? I have a reference scent: a small sample of No. 1.
Realizing that there is alcohol, water, etc. in any fragrance, I was wondering if you had any input on my dreadful circumstance. If I am in way over my head, please tell me. If you think it may prove a fruitful venture, I may move forward. Any suggestions are welcomed!
At Home Science
Not that you'll blow yourself up, but whatever you mix together will never smell like No. 1. In fact, it might smell like No. 2 (that was a doo-doo joke, there). It would be the equivalent of trying to make a fine wine by stamping in a bucket of grapes in your backyard.
It's a popular misconception that the ingredients list supplied in the PR info is the actual perfume's recipe. It's not. It's what Mr. Christian, Mr. Ford, Mr. Mugler, et all hope you'll experience from the blend of aroma chemicals and processed natural essences in their fragrances.
Many of the raw ingredients used in mass-produced perfumes are proprietary molecules created by the big flavors and fragrances firms. That mandarin, lily of the valley, heliotrope, etc. may well be patented chemicals that you wouldn't be able to get your hands on, anyway.
But reading between the lines (well, between the parenthesis in your second sentence), I gather that you're building up a head of creative steam to play around and see what you come up with on your own.
It's really hard to make a perfume, and really really hard to make one that smells halfway decent. I have a friend who's been working on her own line of fragrances for a couple of years. She's self-taught, and there were plenty of misses before the hits started to become anything more than sporadic. And her scents are simple, pleasing blends of 4 to 8 different ingredients, nothing operatic like those Clive Christian perfumes.
But it's always fun to create, and when it comes to making fragrances, even the “misses” help refine your nose and your taste. Working with raw perfume ingredients is a wonderful way to train your olfactory memory and to appreciate everyday smells in the world around us.
If you are interested in learning more about perfume materials and the nuts and bolts of creating fragrances, there are lots of great books out there. I'm reading two at the moment that I can wholeheartedly recommend: Essence and Alchemy by Mandy Aftel and Artisan Perfumery by Alec Lawless. Both authors are highly-regarded natural perfumers: Aftel's line is Aftelier Perfumes and Lawless' is Essentially Me.
Each of their books focus on natural perfumery with a minimum of synthetics (none in the case of Aftel), and they will get you thinking about the creative process of making fragrances. I've learned a lot from both authors' clarity and thoroughness when it comes to their olfactory descriptions of raw materials. They're also good on how different ingredients work together to shape and shade a perfume.
Essence and Alchemy goes into more depth on the history, culture and spiritual attributes of perfume, and Artisan Perfumery is strong on the logistics of sourcing ingredients and offers a no-BS “you can do it!” accessibility for the novice fume blender. Both books discuss home perfume-making with suggested recipes and ratios.
Happy experimenting -- and try not to blow yourself up!