I want to start this post clarifying that a perfume base is not the same as a perfume fragrance. Generally, perfumers will use perfume bases in their work, but will not use fragrances. Fragrances are full perfumes you can buy to make, for example, soaps and candles. You can even find famous perfume clone fragances for these purposes. Perfume bases, however, are very different and are created to be part of a perfume compound, rather than a finished perfume.

In a recent post, I wrote at length about the use of your own perfume bases for perfume creation, as opposed to buying bases made by resellers.  I want to expand further on the subject, since perfume bases are generally often used in perfume creation and one eventually will use bases created by someone else.   I have, however, written about the chances one takes when using someone else’s base.  A reseller can sell you a wonderful base, but if the company goes out of business or discontinues that particular base, you’ll be out of luck. Remember that once you use a perfume base in your creation, you will be at the mercy of whomever created it. Unless, that is, you have the formula.    

However, this is less an issue with bases from larger, more established perfume houses.  This is why I generally will recommend creating your own bases and/or, if you need bases done by someone else, purchasing those made by the large perfume houses like Firmenich, Givaudan, Symrise, Robertet, etc., which have been around for a very long time and will most likely be around for quite some time still. Not to say that the bases large perfume houses offer today will be around ten years from now, and if so, with the same formulation.  However, if you consider many of the bases they offer today are ones that have been around for decades, I’d say it is a safe bet that the base you use in your perfume today will be around for much longer than you’ll ever need.  An aside, as I mentioned above, is the subject of reformulation.  Perfume bases are victim to reformulation much like regular perfumes are, and this is even more a reason to create your own bases when possible. As I write this, gorgeous floralizing perfume materials like Lyral and Lilial are facing extinction. But, as it sometimes happens when materials are no longer allowed in commercial perfumery, you can still use them in your own niche perfumes, and both Lyral and Lilial may be just the case.

Creating your own bases is an amazing learning experience, but you will eventually use bases created by perfumery houses. It is unavoidable.  A popular base like Givaudan’s Sampaquita has been around for decades and is widely used. A century ago, perfumes relied heavily on bases.  De Laire bases, for example, were a staple in many vintage perfumes.  Some well-known De Laire bases are Mousse de Saxe, Bouvardia, Ambre 83 and Poivre Forte, among others.   These bases formed the building blocks of famous perfumes such as Chanel 19, Guerlain’s Mitsouko, Caron’s Nuit de Noël and dozens of others.  It is interesting to note that De Laire’s bases, albeit reformulated, are now part of perfume house Symrise.

Other popular bases were Roure Jasmin, various Opoponax bases, Ambreine, Miel and Dianthine.  In the book The Formulation and Preparation of Cosmetics, Fragrances and Flavors by Louis Appell, which I recommend for those getting started, the author recreates many of these bases in his own style.  For example, his base Ambrene 50 recreates Ambrene Samuelson, Ambra 10 for Ambrarome, Rose 10 is a basic Rose D’Orient, and Jasmine 50 is his replacement for Roure Jasmin. All his bases are vintage. However, the beauty of vintage bases cannot be overstated and vintage perfume creation is a building block in anyone’s perfume learning.

Here is an example of Louis Appell’s Ambrene 10 Base. It is a beautiful base you can incorporate into many perfumes, especially florals. Looking at this base you can see it is a Chypre oriented base, containing the classic Chypre building blocks of Bergamot, Patchouli and Musk, but leaving out the Oakmoss, traditionally found in a true Chypre. This base can be incorporated into a perfume of any family, not just a Chypre-type perfume.

Louis Appell’s Ambrene 10 Base

15.00orange oil
15.00lemon oil c.p. furo coumarin reduced
10.00celery seed oil 10%
150.00bergamot oil bergaptene reduced
30.00lavender oil
50.00cardamom seed oil 10%
50.00linalyl acetate
10.00geranium oil bourbon
65.00phenethyl alcohol
5.00para-anisaldehyde
25.00alpha-ionone
75.00castoreum tincture 10%
50.00labdanum resinoid
20.00tolu balsam resinoid
40.00patchouli oil
25.00sandalwood oil
40.00vetiver oil haiti
80.00coumarin
10.00beta-naphthyl methyl ketone
10.00musk ambrette replacer
25.00musk xylol replacer
30.00vanillin
10.00cassie 10
160.00DIPG
1000.00Total

Perfume bases form part of one’s perfumery journey.  As you progress in your practice, you will eventually build a solid library of bases that you can use over and over in many of your creations.  I have various types of rose, jasmine, orange blossom and other bases that I use, depending on need.  Not all roses smell the same, and so not all rose bases will either.  Some are sweeter, some more fruity, some slightly spicier.  There are also many other important bases, like Amber bases, or fruit bases like Blackberry, or herbaceous like new mown hay or Heather.  All these bases have a place in perfumery, from trace amounts to sometimes even half the entire perfume, or even more. A base can be the building structure of your perfume, or simply used to impart a ‘note’ such as Hyacinth, Peach or Muguet.  In modern perfumery, you can hear of notes varying from a basic ‘Wisteria’ note to a crazy ‘Apple Martini.’  Various aroma materials and bases are used to create these. The irony is that oftentimes, if you saw a perfume formula that contains Lily of the Valley, you’ll see many materials listed…except for Lily of the Valley! Because some flowers and plants do not yield an essential oil or absolute, or if they do these can be prohibitively expensive, perfumers have devised recreations. But sometimes even an affordable oil like Lavender can be recreated, for scent consistency. Still, I doubt you’ll ever find an essential oil for ‘Apple Martini,’ so a base awaits!

As you become more familiar with perfumery and perfume materials, you will find there are some materials you use often. To simplify your work, bases come in handy. If you create a floral perfume that you feel should sit on a base of soft, alluring musks, a White Musk Base would work. Or you can create a musk base with a more ‘animalic’ bent. You can create Amber, citrus, Aldehyde or countless other bases in much the same way. The choices are limitless.

In the end, a perfume can be as creative as you like, or as simple as a formula of 10 materials. What’s important is that whatever elements you choose, these will blend well together to create a harmonious blend.  Much like in music, many instruments work together to enhance each other and create a beautiful melody.  So do aroma materials blend together to create a perfume that works well from first spray to hours of drydown.  Perfume bases can be a great aid in your mission.

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