You haven’t found that signature perfume. And like many of us, you’ve possibly tried what has appealed to you at the mall or come to you as a loving present. You’ve liked a few along the way, but haven’t committed to any. Here’s a revelation: It isn’t all that hard to blend your own perfumes.
Perfume-making stands at the crossroads of art and apothecary. Beyond the basic procedural instructions and the precise note-taking involved, it’s all rather freewheeling. Most simple perfumes are a mixture of essential oils, a base oil, alcohol and distilled water; the strength of the perfume depends on the ratio in which these ingredients are mixed. And what makes one perfume different from another is the nature of the essential oils used.
Photograps by THINKSTOCK
Part of the fun in creating your own fragrance is being able to experiment and make one that is yours alone. This might take a while, so make notes on everything you do, including the exact quantities used. Remember that a single drop of an essential oil can change the smell of the perfume completely.
The anatomy of a perfume
Since Perfumers’ Alcohol can be hard to find in most cities, go with vodka (this writer uses Smirnoff) in these recipes. Before you start, test a drop of each ingredient on your skin to make sure you aren’t allergic to any of them.
You can buy essential oils (or cheaper, synthetic fragrance oils) online or in attar shops in your city. One of the best places in India to shop for olfactory delights is Gulab Singh Johrimal (www.gulabsinghjohrimal.com) in old Delhi, a 195-year-old historical store which stocks over 50 kinds of essential oils and fragrance oils, base oils, and elegant glass bottles to blend and store perfumes in. Prices vary vastly: A 5ml bottle of bergamot oil is Rs 36, while rose, one of the most expensive, is Rs 2,250.
Essential oils are used as base notes, middle notes and top notes. Remember to buy some of each kind to have a well-rounded perfume.
Base notes: Cedar wood, cinnamon, patchouli, sandalwood and vanilla.
Middle notes: Clove, geranium, lemon grass, nutmeg, ylang-ylang.
Top notes: Bergamot, lavender, lemon, lime, jasmine.
Bridge notes: Vanilla, lavender.
You also use essential oils to make scented bath or massage oils: Add a few drops of jasmine or a combination of sandalwood and vetiver in a base of sesame oil for a fragrant, natural moisturizer.
How to blend
To make your perfume, you need at least 25 drops of essential oils divided evenly between base, middle and top notes. Start by pouring out 15ml of a base oil, such as jojoba or sweet almond oil, into a glass bottle. Then add the essential oils—first the base, then the middle and then the top notes (add a few drops to tie the base, middle and top notes together). To this, add 75ml of alcohol and shake for a few minutes.
Let this mix stand undisturbed for at least 48 hours. Then add 2 tbsp of distilled water. This is where your nose takes over.
Like wine, perfume needs to stand and mature before it reaches perfection. Let it stand for at least three weeks in a cool, dark place. You can take a whiff occasionally, and when you think it has reached where you want it to be (the smell will change every day), filter it through a coffee filter or fine muslin cloth to remove the oil sediments and bottle it. Take notes at every step so you know how to recreate your signature perfume if you find this to be “the one”. You can read up on the constituent notes of the perfumes you have liked on
websites such as www.basenotes.net for hints.
HERE ARE SOME EASY ONES TO START WITH:
A sensual women’sperfume, all floral power
Base notes: 4 drops of sandalwood, 3 drops of patchouli
Middle notes: 7 drops of ylang-ylang
Top notes: 3 drops of bergamot, 4 drops of jasmine
Bridge notes: A few drops of vanilla, as required
A fresh, woody-citrus men’s scent
Base notes:8 drops cedar wood
Middle notes: 6 drops lemon grass
Top notes: 6 drops lime, 2 drops bergamot
Bridge notes: A few drops of lavender, as required.
23. UNBOTTLE BEAUTY
As easy as it is to buy jars of creams laden with promise off the shelves, spending time in the kitchen and over books to understand skin types and seasons, and study the benefits of herbs, might be something you’d want to take up in 2012. The beauty industry is full of instances of people who went on to build a business out of their kitchen trials.
The late Anita Roddick of The Body Shop started out by filling bottles with her home-made creams and selling them to friends and neighbours. Sometime in the late 1980s, The Body Shop had become an international brand built on fair and ethical trade.
More recently and closer home, Mira Kulkarni launched Forest Essentials, with which she transformed the 6,000-year-old elaborate Ayurvedic beauty rituals into utilitarian ubtans (powders) and creams. Growing up in Tehri Garhwal in Uttarakhand, Kulkarni was amid exotic Himalayan flora—which continues to be her inspiration. Cold-pressed oils, organic plant extracts, steam-distilled essential oils—Kulkarni revived traditional ingredients, set up plants in villages and used local labour to build Forest Essentials. “Our brand works because you get fresh, pure ingredients without the bother of having to do the tiresome preparation yourself,” says Kulkarni. A few years ago, the international beauty giant Estée Lauder took a minority stake in her company—offering branding and distribution know-how while retaining the manual-intensive method of production.
So if you’ve been nursing your grandmother’s hibiscus hair oil recipe, now is the time to explore. Thirty-one-year-old Shaffali Miglani, a New York-based entrepreneur, did just that. “By the time I was 14, I was self-studying skincare,” says Miglani. Two years ago, Miglani started her own line of beauty products, Shaffali Skincare, which sells primarily in yoga centres and spas in New York and Los Angeles. The prices start at $30 (around Rs 1,600).
More importantly, Miglani believes it’s the process of creating these creams and the rituals with which you apply them that makes all the difference. “I like to do the cycle of steaming, cleansing, applying a mask and moisturizing once every week. It’s my time for myself. I put on some relaxing music, I meditate, I pause,” she says.
Avocado and Honey Face Mask
Miglani gives us the recipe for her avocado, honey and turmeric moisturizing face mask.
Avocado is rich in vitamins A, D and E, and honey has the ability to retain skin moisture, and has antibacterial and antioxidant properties (as does turmeric). This mask is particularly suited for mature skin.
1/2 cup fresh avocado
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp turmeric
Mash the avocado into a creamy pulp in a bowl, and then stir in the honey and turmeric. Apply on the face and leave for 10 minutes. Rinse with a cool washcloth.
24. LEARN HOT TO DRAPE A SARI CREATIVELY
The urban Indian woman is often reluctant to wear a sari, save for special occasions, because she thinks Western garments and salwar-kameez are faster on the go. Rta Kapur Chishti (author of Saris—Tradition and Beyond, Roli Books, 2010) says the only reason women think it takes too long to wear a sari is because they have stopped wearing it. “It takes as long to set yourself up in a sari as it takes to wear anything else. Besides, Indian women forget that our bodies are not really structured for Western garments. From knees, ankles, backsides to bosoms, shoulders and arms, those garments require a different structure. But the sari, it can be worn in numerous ways to suit any workday or any silhouette you favour,” says Chishti.
The Sari Gown. Images Courtesy ‘Saris—Tradition and Beyond
Thumb through the book or attend Chishti’s New Delhi-based The Sari School (K-42, Jangpura Extension, 41823927) to learn more than 108 ways to drape a sari. After getting the hang of four-five styles, you will realize that a sari can serve the function you want.
THE SARI GOWN
You will need: A 9-yard sari in a heavy silk weave. Avoid saris with stiff borders or weaves.
1. Bring the inner-end piece around the waist clockwise and tie a knot at the front or on the right side.
2. Bring out the end-piece around the waist anticlockwise and throw over the left shoulder until thigh-length.
3. Make pleats of the remaining loose portion facing right.
4. Roll the pleats outwards and secure by wrapping over the innermost layer.
5. Bring up the lower borders at the two extremes.
6. Bring to the centre-back waist from either side and tuck in.
You will need:A 6- to 9-yard sari in a cotton weave.
1. Leave 1.5m (half a metre if you are using a 6-yard sari) from the inner-end piece, wrap around the waist and tie a knot at the centre-front waist.
2. Bring the left inner-end portion to the back between the legs.
3. Make pleats of the pulled portion at the back.
4. Tuck in the gathered pleats at the centre-back.
5. Make pleats of the front free end-piece lying at the right side.
6. Pleat the outer end-piece and bring anti-clockwise under the tucked and gathered pleats at the back to the front at the right waist.
7. Throw the outer end- piece over the left shoulder.
25. TAKE A SARI PILGRIMAGE
Visit a different city every two months and collect a sari indigenous to the area. Try to pick true classics with traditional motifs. Visit Kanchipuram for a Kanchi silk sari, but definitely avoid the wedding season so you don’t get stuck in the silk equivalent of a fish market. Also, add a Banarasi sari from Varanasi, a Muga silk sari from Assam, a Kerala cotton sari with pure zari from Thiruvananthapuram and a Bandhani sari from Jodhpur. Visit Andhra Pradesh for a Pochampally, and Uttar Pradesh for a Tanchoi sari. At the end of the year, you will have saris and memories to last you a lifetime.
26. START OUT WITH CLAY
Getting down and dirty was never as rewarding as moulding that first clay pot. A functional art form beyond compare, pottery exposes you to the magical pliancy of earth. Let your imagination run riot on clay as it swirls around on the pottery wheel transforming into earthenware, stoneware or buttery smooth porcelain. Starting from the wheel to the firing kiln and the eventual glazing, the entire procedure is as challenging as it is soothing. And even the misshapen pieces could make for personalized gifts for friends. Most cities have beginners’ courses. Delhi Blue Pottery Trust (www.delhibluepotterytrust.com) offers a six-month pottery course; two classes per week for Rs 8,000. In Mumbai, there’s Mitty (www .potterymitty.com) a pottery studio in Versova, Andheri West, offering different courses in the art. For details, email firstname.lastname@example.org