Guest Author - Shanda Lynn Markham
Scent blending is one of the more creative aspects of candle making. Whether you want to attempt to copy the scent of a certain candle, or create a scent uniquely yours, understanding the basics of scents will allow you to be more successful.
Scents were traditionally mixed according to a pyramid of top notes, middle notes and base notes, the top of the pyramid being the top notes and the base being the base notes. For many years, this pyramid was strictly adhered to. In more recent years, the pyramid has gone out the window and anything is fair game. Top notes are the first scent that you pick up when smelling a fragrance. They dissipate quickly and usually consist of citrus or ginger based scents. The general rule of thumb is to use 20-40% of top notes in your scent. Middle notes are mellower and emerge within 30 minutes to 1 hour. The middle note helps to mask the first unpleasant scents of the base note and is usually used in a 40-80% ratio in your scent. The middle note is the heart of the scent. Some middle note scents are lavender and rose. Base notes generally begin to emerge after 30 minutes. These are the stronger scents, and by themselves are usually not that pleasant. The base note brings depth to the scent and is the main theme of the scent. Base notes are used in a 10-25% ration in your scent. Base notes are often comprised of musk and vertive type scents.
The following is a list of scents based on their scent note placement. Some scents can be a part of two notes.
Top notes: Anise, Basil, Bergamot, Cinnamon, Clary Sage, Coriander, Eucalyptus, Grapefruit, Hyssop, Lemon, Lemongrass, Manderin, Tangerine, Verbena, Orange, Peppermint, Sage, Spearmint, Thyme, and Lime.
Middle Notes: Bay, Black Pepper, Cardamom, Chamomile, Carrot Seed, Clary Sage, Cypress, Fennel, Germanium, Ho Leaf, Ho Wood, Hyssop, Juniper, Lavender, Marjoram, Melissa, Myrtle, Nutmeg, Palm Rose, Pine, Parsley, Scotch Pine, Rose, Rose Geranium, Rosewood, Tobacco, Ylang Ylang, and Yarrow.
Base Notes: Balsam, Cedar wood, Cinnamon, Clove, Frankincense, Ginger, Myrrh, Oak Moss, Patchouli, Rose, Rosewood, Sandalwood, Valerian, Vanilla, Vertive, Ylang Ylang, Angelica Root, Peru Balsam, and Beeswax.
When creating your own scents it is best to start with small amounts of your scents. Place a drop of each scent on a separate cotton ball. You can use any amount of drops based on the scent you are attempting to create. Place the cotton balls in a sealable container. You will want to allow the scents to “mingle” for up to 24 hours. You will want to smell the blend in the following intervals: 1 minute, 5 minutes, 1 hour, 8 hours and 24 hours. At this time, you can then tweak the amount of drops you are using, add different scents, etc. After each addition you will want to observe the above mentioned intervals for scent testing. Yes, scent blending can be time consuming, but it well worth that well balanced scent. Always keep a log of where your scent was purchased from, the name, amount used and notes on each of your scent tests.
With that being said, I feel it is important to cover some basics on purchased fragrance oils for scent blending. Many scents are already blended to create the respected scent. Just because the scent is named “Jasmine” does not mean it is strictly jasmine extract. It may be a blend of several different scents to create the creators impression of Jasmine. For example, there is a candle on the market that is very popular with the scent name Bird of Paradise. It smells like Strawberries and Cream. Having lived in Hawaii for 3 years, I never smelled a Bird of Paradise flower that smelled of strawberries! Also be aware that even though manufacturers list some of the scents involved, it is by far not all of them. A candle that is purported to smell of wild ivy, roses, and a gentle summer breeze may well include 100 other scents. Just like Coke or the Colonel does not release their secret ingredients, neither will any perfume, bath oil, candle, etc. include the full list of all scents involved.