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Make Your Own Fragrance

Mad-scientist up a signature scent.

I met my friend Lindsay during our freshman year of college, and one of the first gifts she gave me was a bottle of Anna Riva oil that she’d gotten at a pagan store in her hometown. It was called Black Cat, supposedly brought good luck, and smelled ancient and mystical, like the clove cigarettes I used to smoke. So began my obsession with fragrance oils and weird perfumes that smell like a specific thing, like the ones made by Demeter. (Rain. Orchid. Rain and Orchid together, OMG.)

One day, when Lindsay and I were scouring pagan/New Age stores for incense and Anna Riva-type oils, a crafty idea was born. There was a money-drawing oil that we both loved the scent of (and who doesn’t want to draw more money?), and it sat next to a pamphlet that disclosed and explained all the ingredients—patchouli, cedar, cinnamon, ginger, a tiger’s eye gemstone (for wealth and abundance), and some shredded U.S. currency because “it takes money to make money.”

“I bet we could make something like this ourselves,” Lindsay said, and we went home, consulted the internet and my collection of Wiccan books, and did just that. And now I’m going to tell you how to do the same!

You’ll need:

  • Herbs that smell good or have desired magical properties (more on this later)
  • A carrier oil, such as jojoba or almond. (I prefer jojoba, because even though it’s more expensive, it doesn’t have its own scent. Almond oil will add a sort of nutty, food-like smell to you mixture, which you might like. The cheapest place I’ve found jojoba oil so far has been Trader Joe’s.)
  • Glass jars—one for each herb you want to make an oil with. The half-pint Ball jars for canning and pickling work well. Smaller is better. You can reuse smaller perfume bottles if you want, but be warned that your oil will more than likely take on some of that old scent. Do NOT use anything that contained pickles. Trust me.
  • One large pot and tongs
  • At least one eyedropper
  • Perfume bottles like these or these
  • Labels/stickers
  • Stones or gem chips (optional)
  • Cheesecloth (optional)

1. Pick out your herbs or other ingredients. If you are going the basic route, hit up a grocery store with a nice herb/spice section, like Whole Foods. Cloves, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, lavender, and orange peel are relatively easy to find, and they all smell great. Clove, cinnamon, and orange can be combined to create a perfect fall scent. Vanilla is great on its own, or combined with just about anything, and lavender is relaxing. I wear it by itself when I’m feeling stressed.

If you are interested in making oils that smell good and have properties like protection, luck, and romantic attraction, you will want to check out a book like Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, or do a lot of Googling and cross-checking at pagan sites like Teen Witch to make sure you have a general consensus of what a particular plant or herb represents. If at all possible, you will want to smell things in person, though. Our greatest find was angelica root, an herb for protection, which has a gorgeous floral, vanilla scent to it, and mixes really well with just about everything. Even if you aren’t looking to make oils with specialized properties, it can be good to check out a shop with a large herb/plant selection, because that’s where you’ll be able to find things like jasmine and patchouli, which are both classic fragrances.

2. In a large pot, bring a lot of water to a boil—enough to submerge your jars. Immerse your glass jars and their lids in the boiling water for about five minutes to sanitize them. Use tongs to get the jars and lids in and out of the water.

3. Remove jars and let them cool. Boil the pot of water again. While it’s boiling, wash your hands thoroughly, so nothing on your fingers contaminates your jar or your oil.

4. Once the jars are cool enough to safely touch, put your herbs in. I recommend doing one herb per jar, so you have a pure sense of each fragrance.

5. Cover the herb with the carrier oil. You’ll want to submerge the herbs completely, so the exact amount will vary. More-absorbent herbs might need a bit more oil. Be sure to label the jar’s lid so you won’t forget what’s in there.

5. With the lids closed, place the jars back in boiling water for 10 minutes. Let them sit in the pan until the water cools.

6. Remove your jars from the water, and put them in a sunny space for three days. Lindsay and I did this in the summer, so we took them outside, but in other seasons, use the window that gets the most sun for the longest period of time.

7. Store the jars somewhere cool and dark for two to three weeks. The more patient you are, the stronger the scents will be.

8. Bust open those jars and start sniffing! This is where you get to be a mad scientist and decide what goes with what. Using your eyedropper, extract the oils and combine them in your perfume bottle. Like that clove smell the most? Use twice as much of it as your cinnamon. I’ve combined up to six different herbs in a bottle. It’s totally up to you, because you are designing your own signature scent. You’ll want to use the dropper to stir up the oils once combined—I recommend using multiple eyedroppers, but if you have only one, rinse thoroughly between extractions.

Now, if you are super picky about not having herbal bits in your fragrance oils, you can use a cheesecloth to strain out the herbs. (Put the cheesecloth over the mouth of the jar and pour the oil into another jar.) Personally, I leave the herbs in, because I don’t use all of the oil in the mixing phase, and I keep the leftovers in my basement to get even stronger-smelling.

You can add gemstones and crystals for magical properties, or just to pretty up your bottle. Unless you are using large bottles, you’ll have to find gemstone chips, which might be available at your local New Age store, or an online bead store like this one.

10. Label your bottles. You might want to take notes to remind you what each scent smells like. Feel free to give them cool names, too. After reading online that myrrh, cardamom, and cinnamon were herbs that the ancient Egyptians used in their musks, we combined those and called the resulting fragrance (drumroll please) Ancient Egypt. (I know you can do better.)

You should know that your oil is not going to be as strong or long-lasting as a store-bought perfume, but it’s yours and yours alone, so wear it with pride! ♦

35 Comments

  • onewithahippiesmile November 9th, 2012 3:07 PM

    amazing! definetely gonna try it with my crazy witchy best friend!

  • vintagewhimsy November 9th, 2012 3:12 PM

    I am so doing this!! I always loved experimenting and mixing perfumes and scents together as a child!

    http://vintagereverie.wordpress.com

  • DreamBoat November 9th, 2012 3:27 PM

    STEPHANIE, THIS IS GENIUS!
    Totally going to do this and wear something witchy so I feel like ~Stevie Nicks~

    THANK YOU ROOKIE <3

    http://psychedelicdaisy.blogspot.com

  • Abby November 9th, 2012 3:27 PM

    SOOO COOOLLL…..

  • TAUA November 9th, 2012 3:40 PM

    Dude, this is how I will spend y days fro now on. I wonder if olive oil will work… going to give it a try right now

    • Stephanie November 9th, 2012 5:34 PM

      Olive oil doesn’t work because it goes bad too fast unfortunately. Jojoba and almond are really the best options and Jojoba is the cleanest in terms of scent.

      • justbouton November 9th, 2012 6:36 PM

        You can make salve with olive oil and beeswax, but it’s a little more complicated.

        Great article– this is a really cool idea!

  • Pashupati November 9th, 2012 3:40 PM

    I once read a magazine about making perfumes and it seemed way more difficult! Thanks!

  • raggedyanarchy November 9th, 2012 3:51 PM

    THIS IS CRAZY-COOL! Perfume scents always seem a little too chemical-y to me, so maybe this will work out cooler. Plus, I heard somewhere that vanilla repels mosquitoes and it hasn’t failed me yet, so it’d be cool to have an actual personal scent that ALSO WARDS OFF BUGS.
    Also it’s just cool to have your own little personal smell that can’t be bought from the store.
    Totally doing this!

  • Eryn November 9th, 2012 4:40 PM

    This is AWESOME I can’t wait to try it.

    http://fashionfledge.blogspot.ca/

  • jenaimarley November 9th, 2012 4:50 PM

    THIS IS AWESOME!
    <3

    My mum is a massage therapist and makes all her own oils/lotions so I've started experimenting with different flavors. My favorite is shea butter with almond and peppermint extracts.

    • Stephanie November 9th, 2012 5:35 PM

      Oooh that sounds lovely. I’d love to make my own lotions too!

  • redblueblueberry November 9th, 2012 6:22 PM

    This is so great!!! I love how natural and earthy they are. Thank you!

  • Sparkie November 9th, 2012 6:30 PM

    Oh my gosh this is fabulous, I am so trying this !

  • Kayayaya November 9th, 2012 6:37 PM

    i’m actually wiccan and i’ve been trying to find a way to make oils and such for my spells and ritual and i’m so happy you posted this. thanks so much, stephanie!

  • ivoire November 9th, 2012 8:22 PM

    oh wow the diy’s this month are so greaaaat!
    love this.

  • yourenotfunny November 9th, 2012 9:21 PM

    Man, where I work we can’t even sell the essential oils on our shelves, so they just sit there, taking up space. As loyal as I am to Cannabis Santal, this sounds like a lot of fun!

  • Juli November 9th, 2012 9:53 PM

    I remember when I was in…grade 7, my best friend and I were having a garage sale and we decided we needed to make a signature fragrance to sell at the event. We juiced a strawberry, added vanilla extract, water, and probably hairspray or something else and put it all in a transparent blue plastic dollar store spray bottle and decorated it with Teen Vogue magazine pictures. $2. And you know what? Someone bought it.

  • decemberbaby November 9th, 2012 10:15 PM

    THIS IS GOING TO BE SO MUCH FUN.

  • .Gabi. November 10th, 2012 2:31 AM

    This is SO excellent.

  • streaked lights November 10th, 2012 2:46 AM

    Wow, this is brilliant! I really had no idea it would be this easy to make perfumes. I’m thinking… a vanilla/strawberry/mint?

    http://www.anooshadraws.blogspot.com

  • Mary the freak November 10th, 2012 3:31 AM

    This iis so gorgeous! Such an amazing idea!
    Eep I am so looking forward to playing and being the mad scientist….
    will definitely try that,

    http://birdiewearsatie.blogspot.com/

  • erica84 November 10th, 2012 3:55 AM

    This is so cool! I wanted to make my own scent for ages and this is the perfect way!

    http://gimme-brainz.tumblr.com/

  • a-anti-anticapitalista November 10th, 2012 10:10 AM

    I love thiiis. Ever since I fell in love with black phoenix alchemy lab I’ve wanted to do this. By the way, anyone who wants some ideas should check http://www.blackphoenixalchemylab.com/
    they are awesome.

  • Blythe November 10th, 2012 12:33 PM

    I’m allergic to perfume, so maybe if I try making some this way, I won’t be! (Both my skin and my nose are allergic.)

  • ElleEstJolie November 10th, 2012 12:41 PM

    Weekend Project! Super excited :)

    http://whenllifegaveuslemlons.blogspot.com/

  • MaddieMae November 10th, 2012 3:38 PM

    This sounds like so much fun! Do you think I could use passion tea teabag?

  • Latenightrage November 11th, 2012 1:50 AM

    has anyone tried incorporating the oil into soap kits? i imagine it would work, but it may not be strong enough?

    working in a tea shop = plans for earl grey deliciousness!

  • Josefina November 11th, 2012 8:32 AM

    OMG, this will make me feel like Jean Baptiste Grenouille but without the murder bit!

  • SuzieVanilla November 12th, 2012 8:25 AM

    wow, thank you thank you thank you for this great article.
    I am currently boiling my ingredients in the water ;)
    I didn’t know it’s so easy to make an own fragrance! And I am always seeking for alternatives for expensive/or animal testing/ or synthetic smelling beauty lines!

  • darksideoftherainbow November 12th, 2012 4:45 PM

    now i just want to stay home everyday and do this. i can’t wait to buy my supplies and get started!! thank you so much!!

  • Space Witch November 12th, 2012 11:19 PM

    This is cool! I learned from experience when I was younger that just soaking flowers in water will smell terrible once they die and start to rot, haha.

  • StrawberryTwist January 16th, 2013 9:57 AM

    This is a fantastic idea! :) when I was younger, I used to “make” my own lotion/scents by mixing other products together. I love this because it is so natural and it smells delicious!

  • Cutesycreator aka Monica January 16th, 2013 12:58 PM

    I’m extremely excited to do this! It sounds so simple and fun, and I bet they smell amazing!

    • Cutesycreator aka Monica January 16th, 2013 1:00 PM

      PS – THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR INTRODUCING ME TO DEMETER. The specific-ness of their fragrances pleases me greatly.