This DIY Perfume Absolute is Totally Worth the Wait

This method can be used to make perfume concentrates from any plant you want!
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This method can be used to make perfume concentrates from any plant you want!

People often seek out absolutes for custom blending, DIY projects, or using straight. I like them because you can really get moody with your day-to-day perfume application. 

Finding a truly high-quality perfume absolute for use is a difficult endeavor. You never know what you are getting unless you purchase from a reputable source, and they are usually expensive. The least-common notes in store-bought perfumes seem to be the priciest absolutes, which makes total sense. My favorites are tobacco and patchouli, which usually run at least 60 bucks a pop. 

Luckily, a raw tobacco leaf is generally easy to come by if you visit a smoke shop, and it costs only a couple bucks—a steal! It’s usually called fronto or fanta and used for rolling things to burn for rituals or for smoking. (Try wrapping some sage next time you smudge—it’s fun.) 

Count the alcohol you use to extract the scent and this is an extremely cheap DIY. Bonus fun: the dried patchouli that my mum harvested from her garden for me over the summer. This ish smells 10,000 times better than any stick of incense or head shop; after all, it's the real thing!

Fronto and patchouli.

Fronto and patchouli.

The catch (isn’t there always one?) is that it takes time, but little effort, to make. Back last year, we made tincture, and this is a very similar process.

What you need: A mortar and pestle or coffee grinder, cheap vodka, jars, and a knife

What you need: A mortar and pestle or coffee grinder, cheap vodka, jars, and a knife

Chop or grind your raw material and put it in a clean jar.

Chop chop!

Chop chop!

Or you can grind it!

Or you can grind it!

Funnel into a clean jar.

Cutting on a paper plate has its benefits

Cutting on a paper plate has its benefits

Top with cheap vodka just when plant material is covered.

Not for to drink.

Not for to drink.

Shake daily for at least six weeks. (Yes, six weeks.)

Shake your booty every day, too, whydontcha?

Shake your booty every day, too, whydontcha?

Mine are still soaking, but here's the finishing instructions.

After desired soaking time, strain off plant material with a fine mesh strainer, allow to strain slowly, squeeze out at the end, and discard the plant matter.

Strain, strain, strain, señora.

Strain, strain, strain, señora.

You can use this straight as a lightly scented perfume, but to get the concentrated aromatic resins, you’ll need to take an extra step by evaporating the alcohol mostly off.

Replace the cap of the mason jar with a paper towel to allow evaporation but keep debris out.

You can also use cheesecloth for this.

You can also use cheesecloth for this.

When the liquid is mostly gone, you’ll have an oily, sticky resinous material. You can mix oil in directly and store, or use tiny amounts of the concentrate in DIY recipes like solid perfume, body butters—anything you can dream up.

This method can be used to make perfume concentrates from any plant you want to, though most plants should be in dried form, as the volatile organic compounds have started to concentrate. Try with flower petals, barks, spices, etc. I feel like doing a cardamom version next!

  • Who else experiments with DIY perfumes?
  • Anyone love a fresh patchouli plant as much as I do? 

Photos: Maria Penaloza