Make Your Own Floral Perfume

All you need are fresh flowers along with some simple supplies to blend your own signature fragrance.

| July/August 1976


Create your own signature perfume with flower petals and simple ingredients.


Click on the Image Gallery for referenced figures.

Far from being an arcane art, enfleurage—a centuries-old method of making perfume—is something that nearly anyone can do at home right now! It's easy, it's inexpensive, and (as folks who've tried it know) it's "just plain fun"! Maxine McClain tells you how.

Believe it or not, I know a technique by which you can make an infinite variety of exotic, sweet-smelling perfumes using little more than [1] fresh flowers from the garden, [2] ordinary rubbing alcohol, and [3] a hunk of beef suet The technique—which has been known to French perfume houses for centuries-is called enfleurage.  

You've no doubt noticed how animal fats (butter, lard, suet, etc.) tend to absorb odors from any and all nearby strong-smelling substances. Well, it's this very property which makes enfleurage possible ... and which perfume houses use to advantage in the manufacture of their sweet-scented goods.

This is how enfleurage is carried out in the fields of southern France: Freshly plucked flower petals are layered onto large panes of fat-coated glass, and the sheets are loaded into wooden frames called chassis. Each chassis full of fat, glass, and flower petals is next scaled airtight for several days . . . during which time the lard "soaks up" fragrances from the heavily scented flowers. The old petals are then taken out of the chassis and replaced by fresh blossoms, the frames are resealed, and the process is allowed to continue for a few more days. This procedure is repeated again and again, until finally the fats have absorbed all the fragrance they can hold.

At this point, the aromatic fat—which is called pomade—is scraped from the glass, collected, and put through various solvent extraction steps designed to remove the fragrance and bottle it. The deodorized fats are then recycled and used again in the enfleurage process.

4/3/2016 5:53:19 PM

I read somewhere that Vitamin E oil can be used as a scentless fixative. Can you confirm this to be true?

fun chiat chan
3/22/2013 6:11:14 AM

The other two ways to derive floral absolute is hexane+ethanol and the modern CO2 extraction.

fun chiat chan
3/22/2013 6:08:07 AM

For making a flower absolute oil, ethyl alcohol (ethanol) is used then a floral absolute can be derived by a slight variation of activity described in article above. Skip the step on adding fixative oil because later you would want the ethanol to completely evaporate. Place the fragrant fat and pure ethyl alcohol into freezer, the fat will solidify as sediment. The liquid layer is mixture of petal/flower constituents and alcohol. If rubbing alcohol grade is used, then the absolute is not as pure as ethanol. Find a way to evaporate the alcohol, what remains is the flower absolute. (I am keen but I have not tried this before)

rachel _2
4/8/2009 10:46:03 AM

The process is slow and fascinating and the results are worth it, particularly if you want to capture the scent of flowers you've grown in your garden. If you are in a hurry, you can just go out buy concretes or absolutes or EOs, but be prepared to part with substantial sums and what you get may not be very like those flower you've grown.

ane* walsh
11/25/2008 2:10:33 PM

It is still very difficult...

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