How Do I Use Perfumer’s Alcohol?

When starting out in perfumery and learning about the raw materials used it is easiest to work with blends made in alcohol,before moving on to other mediums.  Many natural perfumers who have started out via the aromatherapy route often create fragrances in an oil base which makes many materials extremely difficult to work with.  

The alcohol used in perfumery is Cosmetic Grade Denatured Ethanol (or trade specific) 96% which in the UK cannot be obtained without a license from HMRC – which if you are serious about making your own perfume it is wise and fairly simple to apply for. 

A few suppliers have managed to get around this issue by adding other materials to the alcohol and selling it as “perfumers base” or “perfumers alcohol” rather than denatured ethanol.  The legality of buying perfume grade alcohol will vary in all countries so please check with your local authorities.

In the UK you can buy from or

Because of the high proof required to dilute many perfumery materials vodka is not suitable. 

Other unsuitable alcohols include Isopropyl alcohol and methanol – please do not use these for your perfumes.

What’s the difference between an eau de parfum and an eau de toilette?

There is no official guide to how strong a perfume should be to fit in the category of EDT or EDP , it really depends on the fragrance and the materials used.  

In many commercial fragrance ranges you will notice that the fragrance differs slightly between the two not just in strength.  The reason for this is that a perfume formula must comply with safety regulations before it is allowed to be sold to consumers. In the E.U these regulations are getting very strict and many fragrances contain materials that are only allowed at lower levels. This means if a company wants to create a stronger variant they may have to adjust the formula so that when they increase the percentage of fragrance compound in the product it does not go over the legal limit.

The following is a general guide to the levels of fragrance concentrate found in alcohol based perfumes (the rest will be perfumers alcohol and water)

  • Eau de Cologne – 3-5%
  • Eau de Toilette – 4-8%
  • Eau de Parfum – 8-15%
  • Parfum/Extrait Parfum – 15-30%

Should I add water to my finished perfume?

This is a question that comes up a lot on perfume making forums. 

Some self taught perfumers say no you shouldn’t add water, but when I learned how to make perfume samples for clients in the applications lab at International Flavours and Fragrances (IFF GB Ltd) 5-10% (or more) deionised water was also added after the perfumers alcohol. The purpose is to soften the effects of the alcohol on skin and also to give the scent more lift – this is something we go into in more depth in The Artisan Perfumery Mastermind

Always use distilled or deionised water  The amount of water depends on the materials you use and adding too much can cause clouding in the fragrance.  The other thing to note that can cause clouding is high quantities of some natural materials.  This can be remedied by stirring in some bentonite clay and chilling your fragrance overnight. 

The next day pour through a professional filter paper and you will have a clear product. It is essential to choose the correct filter paper as you want it to be absorbent enough to remove the clay particles. The fragrance will need to sit for a period of a few days to a few weeks to allow the fragrance materials to macerate with the alcohol before it is ready to use.


If you want some practical help to make your own perfume check my COURSES page for the latest perfumery class dates.

Want to make your own perfume?

In the Create Your Own Perfume Starter Guide, you’re shown exactly where to buy the best perfumery materials & equipment PLUS the essential steps to get started with making your own scent.