From Garden To Bottle

By Chelle Cordero

February 23, 2016 5 min read

Growing your own signature fragrance is easy. If you have a garden -- or even just a pot of flowers -- a square of cheesecloth, a small saucepan and an airtight bottle, you can make an expensive-smelling perfume for pennies. And even if you don't grow your own flowers, you can buy a bouquet, use the fragrant flowers you want and then set the perfume bottle in the remaining bouquet as a romantic and thoughtful gift.

Choose your favorite fragrance -- or the favorite fragrance of a gift recipient. Some popular floral scents include rose, lilac, jasmine, flowering plum, magnolia and orange blossom. Any pleasantly fragrant flower combination will do. To make the perfume, separate the petals from the flower bud -- you'll need about 1.5 cups of slightly chopped petals. Make sure not to include any leaves or stems, as those can breed bacteria. Depending on your preference, you can add a savory spice such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, vanilla bean or lemon peel to the mix -- the only limits are your imagination and sense of smell.

Bundle the petals and/or spices in a cheesecloth square. Place the cheesecloth bundle in a bowl with the ends overlapping the sides. Pour 2 cups of distilled water over the petals, making sure the petals are covered by the water, and then cover the bowl. Let the petals soak in the water overnight. The next morning, pick the cheesecloth and petals out of the bowl by the corners and squeeze the liquid out of the cheesecloth over a small pot. Set the pot over a very low flame to simmer until the liquid is reduced to about 1.5 teaspoons. Let the liquid cool, pour it into a small clean jar and close tightly. The perfume will last for about a month if kept in a cool, dark place.

There are also woodsy scents you can use for men's cologne. Some more masculine floral and spice scent ideas include: iris, lavender, sage, bergamot, tuberose, clove and cardamom. Mix and match these scents for a unique and masculine cologne.

Up for a challenge? This do-it-yourself project takes months to go from petals to perfume. The extraction process, called "enfleurage," began in French perfume houses. But not to worry -- this technique costs far less than designer French perfume. To make perfume through enfleurage, you'll need purified animal fat, flowers, powdered alum, pairs of matching bowls, a strainer, rubbing alcohol and oil of cedar or sandalwood to use as a fixative. Don't pick the flowers until you are ready to start the extraction.

Place beef suet or lard into a large pot with a teaspoon of alum and enough water to cover the fat. Boil for 45 minutes, adding water periodically to make sure the fat stays covered. Be careful not to burn the suet. Let the mixture cool until a layer of fat rises to the surface. Then, skim the grease and set it aside in a bowl. Repeat this process with the remaining fat and continue adding grease to the bowl until you have an odorless fatty mixture.

Allow the grease to cool and settle to the consistency of thick honey. Pour it into half of the bowls until they are about 1/2 inch deep. Refrigerate the bowls until the grease solidifies, scouring the tops of each grease mound with a knife before they completely harden. This hardened ointment is called a "pomade." Pick fresh flowers from the garden at their peak of fragrance (usually after blooming). Mix varieties of flowers and/or spices as desired. Separate the fragrant petals onto a sheet of wax paper Sprinkle the petals over the hardened pomade to a depth of about 2 inches.

Take an empty matching bowl, turn it over and cover each filled bowl; seal the edges with tape so that the stacked containers remain airtight. Set the paired bowls to the side for a couple of days. After a few days, unwrap the tape and replace the petals with fresh ones. Do this a few times until the pomade is thoroughly scented.

Chop the pomade into small pieces and put the pieces into small glass bottles. Fill the bottles with alcohol, seal and store for three months, shaking them gently every few days. Strain the scented alcohol into clean bottles and add a few drops of a fixative for each 1/2 cup of perfume.


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