The Aroma Starter Kit

Beginning to study perfumery is daunting, especially when trying to figure out what aroma materials to purchase first. Some suppliers sell ready made kits, but I find that to be very limiting. I created my own when I started and expanded as I went along. Looking back, I think that was a wise decision. It took a little longer, but was well worth it. However, suppliers will sell ‘study kits’ to help familiarize you with perfume families and basic creation. You could try that, but as I mentioned in the Perfume Creation page, there is a better way: patience and time. As I mentioned in that page, there is a book that will give you plenty of formulas to work with as you start to experiment and as you work through those formulas, your aroma material stock will grow.

I generally suggest buying your aroma materials in 15ml sizes at first, until you know what you’ll use the most, but can also suggest which aroma-chemicals and oils you will generally need the most of. Good examples are Linalool, Bergamot, Hydroxycitronellal, Hedione, Iso E Super and Phenyl Ethyl Alcohol (often referred to simply as PEA). These are materials you use over and over again, in large amounts. Since they are not expensive, getting larger sizes, even up to 250 ml bottles, is not uncommon. Perfumers who run their own niche business even get materials by the kilogram.

Important Note: Suppliers will often sell accords, fragrances and notes/bases such as Lilac accord of a Lily of the Valley note. As discussed in my Creating page, accords are a combination of aroma-chemicals and essential oils that can then be expanded into a perfume, for example a basic Chypre Accord. A note or base is similar, except it recreates a particular scent that either has no essential oil equivalent or is too expensive to buy, such as Honeysuckle, Gardenia or Muguet. While it can be very tempting to want to jump in a buy a Gardenia note, you will realize that eventually you can make your own and you will not use the ones you bought. Use the money for aroma-chemicals and essential oils instead. The reason I stay clear of these is because they tend to be proprietary and if the seller decides to discontinue it, you’re out of luck if you used it in your perfume. I prefer to create the accords and bases myself. I know many perfumers who feel the same way. Can you imagine spending a year to develop your best perfume ever, only to find out the particular Lily note you used from a supplier is no longer available? I will not even discuss fragrances.

The following is a list of the most recommended aroma-chemicals and essential oils to buy. You can pick and choose the ones you want or need, especially if you are following the formulas from the Appell book (see my Creating page). You should really just get what you need to complete those formulas first and go from there. However, because Appell’s formulas are vintage, you will not see certain items in those formulas that figure on this list, like Iso E Super, which came into the market later but which is used quite a bit. In the Useful Links page you will find links to suppliers where you can purchase these items from. Below is a downloadable PDF with these lists for your use.

Download File

AC and EO’s List

Aroma-Chemicals

  • Aldehyde C8 – An intense citrus note for fragrance top notes.
  • Aldehyde C10 – An important component used in floral blends.
  • Aldehyde C11 – Among the most commonly used aldehydes for “aldehydic” effect.
  • Aldehyde C12 lauric – Used as top note for floral blends and for long lasting fatty notes.
  • Aldehyde C12 MNA – This product is a classic in the family of fatty aldehydes.
  • Aldehyde C14 (gamma Undecalactone) A.K.A. Peach Aldehyde.
  • Aldehyde C16 (Ethyl Methyl Phenyl Glycidate) A.K.A. Strawberry Aldehyde.
  • Aldehyde C18 (gamma Nonalactone) A.K.A. Coconut Aldehyde.
  • Allyl Amyl Glycolate – For the reinforcement of green notes and oriental type perfumes.
  • Ambrettolide – A musk whith exceptional diffusion and a fine character.
  • Ambrocenide – extremely powerful woody-ambery note.
  • Ambroxan – Ambroxan gives warmth, volume and sweetness to all fragrance types.
  • Amyl Acetate – perfect for fruit-based fragrances such as apple and pear.
  • Amyl Salicylate – Sweet herbaceous-green, slightly floral odor, extensively used in all perfume types.
  • Anisaldehyde – Main component for numerous floral accords like lilac, hawthorn, and honeysuckle.
  • Aurantiol – extensively used in a large variety of floral notes such as orange-blossom, linden-blossom and tuberose.
  • Benzaldehyde – Not easily found, Bitter Almond can be used instead. It is used in perfumery for special top note effects, and as a trace component in certain floral compositions.
  • Benzyl Acetate – the largest component in Jasmin and Gardenia fragrances, and it enters in a multitude of other floral fragrance types in smaller proportions.
  • Benzyl Salicylate – Widely used as a blender in perfumery, and generally as a mild, floral background with an effect not unlike that of Ylang-Ylang.
  • Calone – Commonly used in modern perfumery as a marine/aquatic note.
  • Cashmeran – Useful in creating spicy carnation florals, amber musk notes, orientals and wood accords.
  • Castoreum (or Replacement) – warm, animal, leather-like notes of natural castoreum and is a highly interesting note for use in chypre, tobacco, leather and fougère types.
  • Cedramber – Has a bright quality between amber and patchouli.
  • Cinnamic Aldehyde – Strong sweet, balsamic, cinnamon bark scent.
  • Cinnamyl Alcohol – Used to add a spicy sweetness to the heart of a fragrance.
  • Cis Jasmone – widely used in the creations of high quality florals like jasmine and tuberose
  • Cis-3-Hexenol – used in refreshing topnotes in delicate floral fragrance types, such as Muguet and Lilac
  • Cis-3-Hexenyl Acetate – Adds natural freshness to delicate florals
  • Citral – very useful for fresh, citrus-like notes.
  • Citronellol – Indispensable, powerful, long lasting rosy fragrance material.
  • Civet (or Replacement) – adds soft velvet, animalic and musk qualities to many perfume bouquets.
  • Coumarin – extensively used in perfumery to support herbaceous odors, Lavender, Lavandin, Rosemary, Citrus oils, Oakmoss, etc., and as a fixative in numerous types of fragrances.
  • Cyclamen Aldehyde – A favorite of mine, extensively used in perfumery for floral effects and fresh-green-floral top notes.
  • Damascone alpha – natural, diffusive, fruity, floral, not as pronounced rosy as damascenone or beta-damascone.
  • Damascone beta – My favorite of the Damascones, gives a very distinctive character to any perfume. It is particularly valuable in rose but has also interesting effects in florals, woody, herbal, aldehydic and fruity perfumes.
  • Damascone delta – A diffusive Rose note similar to alpha-damascone, but with a more striking metallic, fruity nuance.
  • Dihydromyrcenol – A 90’s perfume staple, imparts a powerful, fresh lime-like, citrusy-floral and sweet odor with little or no terpenic undertones. When you first smell this, you will immediately recognize the scent.
  • Dimetol – has a fresh natural character which is very useful in citrus, lavender, floral, woody and tobacco compositions. It can be used to great advantage for blending woody spicy accords with cologne notes.
  • Ebanol – has a very rich, natural sandalwood odor. It is powerful and intense, bringing volume and elegance to woody accords and a diffusive sandalwood effect to compositions.
  • Ethyl Butyrate – used in minute traces in perfume compositions for its warm-fruity effect in Rose and other floral bases.
  • Ethyl Linalool – used for floral bouquets and white flowers and instead of Linalool. This alcohol has been suggested for use in perfume compositions as a modifier for LinaIool with certain advantages over that material.
  • Ethyl Maltol – a very powerful ingredient normally used at high dilution for sweetening blends or in conjunction with vanilla notes to create a rich scent.
  • Ethyl Vanillin – used when the character and sweetness of vanilla is desired, without adding complexity to the blend.
  • Ethylene Brassylate – A highly tenacious musk. Powdery, sweet, floral and ambrette-like, with woody, spicy and vanilla nuances.
  • Eugenol – Strong, sweet Cloves scent, extensively used in perfume compositions, conventionally in Carnation.
  • Exaltolide – A Musk with an elegant, pleasant, sweet animal, musky note. 
  • Farnesol – Superior blender and harmonizer of floral notes. It gives delicate, fresh, green muguet note. 
  • Fixateur 505 – An Ambery scent, with Ambergris, old wood, woody, animalic notes.
  • Floralozone – An Ozonic element with a powerful, clean, green, fresh air note reminiscent of ocean breezes.
  • Florhydral – very floral, fresh, trendy, natural odour. Its great intensity and pleasant quality make it useful in all areas of perfumery. 
  • Galaxolide – One of the most commonly used Musks. It has a strong, diffusive, sweet floral, musk, clean scent.
  • Geraniol – used generally as a sweet floral material of outstanding versatility. A major part of most artificial Ylang Ylang bases, often included in creations of Peony, Sweet Pea, Magnolia, etc. etc. Used in the making of Rose based perfumes.
  • Geranyl Acetate – Used to modify and sweeten Rose, Geranium, Lavender and citrus fragrances. Widely used in floral, fruity, herbaceous, and citrus fragrances.
  • Hedione – Due to its versatility, it is almost hard to find a perfume that does not have this material in it. It develops a beautiful natural smoothness and radiance in a wide range of perfume types is an indispensable material for the perfumer. Besides its use in jasmine and its family of florals, it gives original effects in virtually all fragrance types.
  • Helional – A green-floral element, with a sweet, hay-like scent imbued with top notes of ozone. 
  • Heliotropin – Widely used in perfumery. Used in powdery accords, but also in florals, like muguet, carnation, and lilac. Give softness and creaminess.
  • Hexyl Cinnamic Aldehyde – An extremely useful aldehyde for the production of floral fragrances, especially jasmine.
  • Hydroxycitronellal – Used almost in any floral accord, but mainly in muguet and lilac. 
  • Indole – An organic compound occurring in some flower oils, such as jasmine and orange blossom. Smells almost nasty on its own, but beautiful in a fragrance.
  • Ionone Alpha – Lends a violet/berry note to fragrances, often used in rose bases. Recognised as the most floral and violet of the ionones it is nevertheless used in a surprisingly wide range of perfumes.
  • Ionone Beta – has a particularly intense freesia character, indispensable in violet compositions, and is used in all areas of perfumery.
  • Iso Bornyl Acetate – Used for fragrance formula of soaps, bath, cleaning and other household products as well as masculine fragrances due to its Pine Needle, Wood scent.
  • IsoEugenol – a widely used perfumery ingredient in carnation, spicy and other floral fragrances.
  • Iso E Super – Used to impart fullness and subtle strength to fragrances. A superb floralizer found in the majority of newer fine fragrances.
  • Kephalis – very versatile material, used as a long lasting heart/base note with a rich, warm, Woody, Ambery, Tobacco scent.
  • Lilial -used in a wide variety of compositions, recommended for floral notes such as muguet, linden-blossom and cyclamen. One of a range of synthetics used to recreate the scent of the Lily of the Valley (muguet). 
  • Limonene D – used extensively in perfume compositions as a refreshing top-note. It gives lift without giving a true Orange character, and it can therefore be used in a multitude of fragrance types, including floral types from Jasmin to Lavender “bouquets”, and in Pine, aldehydic, woody, fruity or green odors.
  • Linalool – One of the most utilized aroma-chemicals, extensively in perfume compositions of almost all types. A floral material, and originally a Lily-of-the Valley ingredient, it is now used in countless floral types, and in Oriental, Ambre, aldehydic, herbaceous and many other fragrance types. Purchase the naturalversion if possible.
  • Linalyl Acetate – a lighter, fresher alternative to Linalool, present in a large range of herbs, flowers and essential oils, and forming a significant proportion of Lavender oil. It is used for adding a fresh top-note to a fragrance.
  • Mandarin Aldehyde – A uniquely long-lasting citrus mandarin note with superior diffusion that is versatile in a wide range of fragrance types. 
  • Melonal – offers a powerful and unique note. It is effective in all types of fragrances and is invaluable in the creation of natural smelling marine and fruity-melon notes. Can lend a fresh melon note to the top or middle of fragrances.
  • Methyl Anthranilate – extensively used in many types of floral blends such as neroli and orange blossom, as well as in exotic compositions, gardenia, tuberose and jasmine. Methyl Anthranilate imparts warmth, volume and sweetness and is used in all types of perfumery.
  • Methyl Benzoate – This ester is widely used in perfume compositions and floral bases.
  • Methyl Ionone – It is used quite extensively in perfume compositions as a blender/modifier, and background note in floral or Floral and Oriental compositions. It imparts a smooth beeswax, orris, powdery, violet, woody complex, with violet nuances. Very diffusive and long lasting.
  • Methyl Iso Eugenol – Also Methyl Diantilis. A base note and a fixative in spicy and floral perfumery compositions for all purposes. 
  • Methyl Laitone – Extremely powerful and very effective in all accords where a creamy, fruity volume is required. It provides “cosmetic” body to white flower notes such as jasmine, gardenia, tuberose and ylang ylang, and to fruity accords like peach and osmanthus.
  • Methyl Pamplemousse – with its fresh bitterness, blends very well with citrus bases. It is a key ingredient in modern colognes.
  • Musk Ketone – This material is, with Ambrette and Xylol, one of the most frequently and widely used artificial musks. It is used in perfume compositions often in conjunction with Musk Ambrette as part of the fixative complex for almost any fragrance type. However, it is particularly suitable for producing the desirable “powdery” note.
  • Nectarate – voluminous fruity note encompassing the nectar of peach, tropical pineapple, with pleasant floral notes balanced within the aura of soft balsam woods. 
  • Nerol – Widely used in floral accords. Gives freshness to rose accords, but it is also used in sweet-floral fragrances and citrus notes.
  • Norlimbanol – A woody note that gives top and middle note effects in addition to its long-lasting and substantive properties.
  • Oranger Crystals – very useful in neroli/orange blossom blends. It gives pretty effects in jasmine accords and cologne. 
  • PADMA (Phenylacetaldehyde Dimethyl Acetal) – This is one of the most widely used ‘acetals’ in perfumery. Although always a minor component, it enters a multitude of fragrance types where it may lend green notes, earthy notes, floral notes, spicy notes or simply power.
  • Phenyl Ethyl Acetate – A lovely, sweet, rosy-fruity, honey-like odor. The fruity notes are mostly peachy with a pleasant leafy-green tonality. Its rosy notes are very sweet, almost towards Gardenia. Its sweetness, versatility and very low cost makes it almost universally applicable.
  • Phenyl Ethyl Alcohol (PEA) – the main component of Rose oils, obtained from rose blossom. It also occurs in Neroli, Ylang-Ylang, Carnation and Geranium oils. PEA has mild rose odour. It is used in large quantities as a fragrance material, not only for rose compositions, but for other blossom notes.
  • Phenyl Acetaldehyde – An interesting material in that is is not pleasant on its own, but beautiful in a blend. Generally used in dilution. It has a Honey, floral rose, sweet, powdery, with a slight earthy nuance scent.
  • Raspberry Ketone – used in perfume compositions, particularly in Jasmin, Gardenia, Tuberose, etc. where floral notes need fruity undertones, or where fruity notes need fixation and supporting delicate sweetness. 
  • Rose Oxide – Penetrating and very diffusive. The resemblance to Geranium appears only upon dilution of the Rose oxide, and best in a composition. The diluted material has also a Rose-like character.
  • Safraleine – has a warm and vibrant character, offering a new alternative to existing spicy odorants. Safraleine exhibits powerful leathery and tobacco facets, but its complexity also reveals characteristics of spices reminiscent of natural saffron, enriched by rose ketone-like floral aspects. 
  • Sandela – one of the classic sandalwood replacers and very widely used. Easy to use and blends very well with other sandalwood replacers. 
  • Santaliff – Powerful sandalwood odour of excellent diffusivity and high tenacity.
  • Styrallyl Acetate – a dry, intense, green, floral odour reminiscent of gardenia. It is a key ingredient in gardenia, tuberose and other flowery perfumery compositions. Styrallyl acetate is also used in many other blossom compositions, in particular, dry top notes.
  • Terpineol Alpha – One of the most commonly used of all perfume chemicals. As a basic component in Lilac perfumes and as common ingredient of Fougeres and Apple blossoms.
  • Tonalide – invaluable Musk used in all fragrance types, where its great diffusive power and fixative properties will enhance the quality of the composition.
  • Triplal – It has an extremely natural green character which blends beautifully with fruity, citrus, agrestic, floral compositions where it imparts its unique vibrant quality. It is also used to enrich and reinforce classic green notes.
  • Vanillin – Among the more common perfume materials, Vanillin is one of the most tenacious odors known. Its intense sweetness is utilized in high-cost, luxury perfumes, and it can be used in almost any type of fragrance, from woody or herbaceous to Oriental or floral. Intensely sweet and very tenacious creamy vanilla odor. (also see Ethyl Vanillin)
  • Velvione – excellent Musk used in all applications, including fine fragrance, where it adds a powdery volume and musky softness. Finds extensive use in many fragrance accords, such as delicate florals, animalic, amber, and musk fragrances.
  • Veramoss – (or Verymoss/Evernyl) – A useful material with mossy, oakmoss, woody, phenolic, earthy, persistent scent.
  • Vertenex – Generally as a blender and modifier in countless types of fragrances, from Pine to Rose, from woody to floral, it is one of the most successful perfume chemicals of the last few decades.
  • Vertofix – A warm precious wood aroma with musky undertones. Long lasting and diffusive with Woody, Cedar, Leather, Dry notes.
  • Vetiveryl Acetate – Although used in almost any type of perfume, it has its most attractive effect in Chypres and modem aldehydic perfumes. Many world-wide known, very successful fashion-perfumes owe part of their success to this item.

Essential Oils

Flowers

  • Geranium – suave, complex, fresh, sweet, green herbaceous bouquet with a delicate and balanced, fruity, minty, roseaceous undertone
  • Jasmine Absolute – the most widely used perfume ingredient that blends easily with anything. The Jasmine Essential Oil is very powerful and just a bit adds smooth elegance. 
  • Lavender Bulgarian – The fragrance of Bulgarian lavender essential oil resembles that of true French lavender, with its key agrestic and floral notes. It nevertheless has a more pronounced herbaceous dimension, with a dry facet reminiscent of hay.
  • Neroli – used in fine perfumery, as an irreplaceable in the original Eau de Cologne. Also as a top note complex of fine perfumes, to which it imparts freshness and lightness of a distinctive character.
  • Orange Flower Absolute – used in countless types of perfumes, heavy Oriental as well as light citrus colognes, chypres and ambres as well as floral bouquets, modern aldehydic fantasy blends, etc.
  • Rose Absolute Bulgaria – Mellow and suave. Altogether subtle and heady, floral rose petal profile. Sweet, deep, mellow, antique Rose aroma with a faint indole, spice and honeyed undertone; has a fresh green note that comes forth in the drydown.
  • Tuberose – in natural perfumery used in high class florals (frangipani, lilac, heliotrope, lilac, gardenia, violet) Oriental bouquets, garland perfumes, sacred essences.
  • Ylang Ylang Extra – Intensely sweet, highly floral, ethereal, with watery undertones. The ylang-ylang extra essential oil is one of the best qualities and is used in perfumery. It is the product of the first two hours of distillation.

Spice / Herbal

  • Basil – a “classic” material in the “Origan” type of perfumes and bases for several decades. In chypres, crèpe de chines and certain modern aldehydic and “green” perfume types, the oil can introduce very interesting notes.
  • Clove – Used in spicy and Carnation perfumes, also, in small dosages, for imparting richness to almost any perfume. Eugenol is oftentimes used instead.
  • Clary Sage (Asbsolute) – A beautiful scent and an excellent modifier, fixative and natural “body” for colognes, lavender fougères, chypres, ambre bases, conifer fragrances,, forest notes and even floral notes like muguet and jasmin. Useful for building woody notes, adding distinct herbal freshness to green accords, enhancing the aromatic character of lavender bases and floral blends.
  • Coriander – Used in floral compositions such as Jasmine, Lilac and Honeysuckle, also in natural perfumery it is used in spice accords, precious woods bases, culinary perfumes, high class florals, Oriental bouquets, colognes, men’s fragrances.
  • Juniper – Used for conifer accords, forest notes, amber bases, fougere, sacred perfume, incense bouquets, chypres, after-shave lotions, colognes, spice accords.
  • Rosemary – Strong, fresh, smooth yet penetrating, woody-herbaceous aroma with a somewhat minty-green back note becoming a clean, woody-balsamic body note in the drydown.
  • Thyme (Red and White) – In natural perfumery used in aromatherapy blends, apothecary perfumes, herbal accords, sacred perfumes, colognes, fougere, spice accords. Should be used in trace amounts as it its aroma is potent.

Trees & woody

  • Cedarwood Atlas and Virginian – The Atlas oil is excellent in incense fragrances and recreations of sandalwood and oud, as well as light florals of all kinds. It is used widely in perfumery for its fixative qualities, especially in floral-woody bouquets, incense perfumes, precious woods accords, forest notes. (Virginia) More Dry, oily-woody, smooth, rich yet mild and somewhat sweet and balsamic; becomes drier and sweeter in the drydown.
  • Oakmoss – extensively used in perfumery to lend body and rich natural undertones to all perfume types. It imparts richness, depth and fixation, together with it unique fragrance character, in Chypre and Fougère compositions. Oakmoss also finds applications in aldehydic, Oriental, conifer-type and woody perfumes and toilet waters for feminine or masculine use. Heavily regulated by IFRA, an IFRA compliant Oakmoss is now available, though the original is still much preferred though harder to find.
  • Vetiver Haiti and Bourbon – Unique by its sparkling citrus notes that diffuse a fresh bitterness. Earthy notes and the imposing, woody, slightly smoky warmth common to all vetivers are sweeter.  Bourbon: smoky, woody, earthier, rich. Vetiver Bourbon was the ruler by which all other Vetivers were measured, in times past. It’s what you see on old formulae. A beautiful vetiver that is very similar to (if not the same as) the vetiver in Guerlain’s famous “Vetiver”. Very clean and very elegant.
  • Patchouli light and dark – In natural perfumery it has wide application including Oriental bouquets, ayurvedic preparations, culinary perfumes, precious woods notes, fougére, chypre, resinous accords. The oils differs between the light and dark in that light is much lighter in color and the aroma less of a heavy patchouli scent.
  • Sandalwood (Mysore) – valued in sacred blends, incense perfumes, oriental bouquets, contemporary attars, chypres, fougéres and high class perfumes. Sandalwood has become extremely costly in the last 20 years, and many replacements have appeared on the market, but never quite achieving the magnificence of the true Mysore Sandalwood.

Resins

  • Benzoin Siam (Siam/Laos) – valued as a fixative in perfumery, in colognes, in alcohol for “pre-fixation” prior to preparation of colognes and lotions. Also valued for use in oriental perfumes, where it imparts its sweet balsamic notes.
  • Galbanum – This is a rich, green aroma that is often used in the making of tobacco aromas. Blends-well-with green-woody scents and a soft balsamic undertone and oriental bases.
  • Guaiacwood – Used in sacred perfumes, incense bouquets, new mown hay, Oriental perfumes, precious woods accords, earth notes, high class florals, amber essences, fougére.
  • Labdanum Absolute – Outstanding fixative. Labdanum is a key component in many chypre fragrances, as well as the amber “accord” in oriental fragrances. Invaluable in many types of fragrance especially amber, incense and chypre types it contains a material similar in odour to that present in ambergris. Several materials are commonly used alongside it, including Ambrofix, Copaiba Balsam, Hexyl Acetate, Vertofix and Vertenex.
  • Olibanum (frankincense) – Balsamic, warm and mineral, full and long lasting note, incense like. Sweet balsamic leather. Fixative. Used in incense bouquets, Oriental bouquets, resinous accord, colognes, high class florals, amber accords.
  • Opoponax absolute – In natural perfumery is used in chypre, fougere, incens ebouquets, leather bases, Oriental bouquets, forest notes, heavy-floral perfumes.
  • Tonka – Used as a non-floral sweetener for introducing warm notes in chypres, fougères, ‘new mown hay’ bases, Oriental bases, Lavender bouquets, and others.