Old Time Perfume Recipes And Ideas

This progressive and aggressive age, it is a singular fact that the art of the perfumer has not fundamentally changed, and it is greatly to be doubted if our oils and pomades today excel the precious ointments of Araby the blest, hundreds of years back. We still are obliged to catch the odor of a bloom in fat, and to distill our choicest perfumes from these heavily flower-impregnated “pomades” as they are termed.

These are the oils which were well called “precious” in the days of Moses, and the science of their composition was taught by the High Priests to the Egyptian scholars. Indeed the Bible and its commentaries contain numerous rules for the making of perfumes, and an essential to every form of purification was the burning of a prescribed quantity of precious oils and incense.

At one time the Roman Church made so great a use of perfumes in the various ceremonials, that she had large tracts of land in Syria and other Oriental provinces expressly for the cultivation of flowers for oils.

We are forever being told of our extravagance in these days of the degringolade, but there is always a precedent in history. What should we think today of a king who would expend the year’s growth in blossoms for the funeral of his wife? Nero did this at the death of his wife Poppaea.

As I have said, the only way to permanently hold a flower odor is to imprison it in fat. Once caught in oil or suet, you ‘may keep it captive until you choose to re lease it through distillation and expansion. Extracts will evaporate, and are not reliable.

If you will study any of the list of odors advertised by the great perfuming houses of France, you will indeed find an embarras de richesse in the fifty or sixty extracts or essences offered you. Every flower is represented, and dozens of proper and invented names are added to swell the number of delicate perfumes from which the purchaser may select.

It is a well-known fact, however, that there are only six or eight flowers which yield oils, and that the perfumer must make combinations from these to imitate the odors of all other flowers. This may be properly called the artistic side of perfumery. The French perfumer excels in this delicate part of the science, studying similarities and affinities and shades as the artist does the colors of his skies, or the blending of his materials in the blush of the rose.

If you are going, to endeavor to distill your own perfumes, I should recommend that you purchase your pomade or essential oil from a first-class importing house. The essential oils or pomades are very costly, but you will bear in mind that an ounce of pomade of first quality will make at least sixteen ounces of very strong extract.

The method is simple enough. Suppose you purchase, for example, one ounce of oil of roses. Take one pint of pure alcohol-above proof-mix the oil of roses with it in a clean bottle. Place the bottle in a vessel of hot water until the contents acquire a temperature of about 85° Fahrenheit. Then cork the bottle quite close ; shake it briskly until the liquid is cold. You will have a most delicious and very strong odor as a result, which will improve with age just as good wine does. A few drops of this perfume will be all you can, with good taste, use at a time. If you wish, however, to make a pomade from the natural flower you certainly can succeed; but it requires a good deal of skill, infinite patience and some utensils, and, inasmuch as pomades are the despair of many would-be perfumers, I do not advise their manufacture by the amateur, although I give a formula.

You will have to purchase from a dealer in perfumers’ supplies a series of shallow, iron frames, adapted for piling on each other, and fitting close together. A piece of white, spongy, cotton cloth is stretched upon each, and is then freely moistened with oil of almonds, olives or ben. On the cloth is then laid a thin layer of the freshly-plucked flowers, and each frame, as thus covered, is placed on a preceding one, until a compact pile of them is raised. In twenty-four to thirty hours the flowers are replaced by fresh ones; and this is repeated every day, or every other day, until seven or eight different lots of flowers have been consumed, or the oil has become sufficiently charged with their odor. The cotton cloths are then carefully collected and submitted to powerful pressure, and the “expressed oil” which flows from them is placed aside in corked bottles or jars, to settle. After some time it becomes perfectly clear, and is then ready to be decanted into other bottles, and kept for distilling.

The best flowers for the above purpose in America are violet, honeysuckle, tuberose, jonquil, jasmine, narcissus, orange flowers and myrtle blossoms.

An exquisite essence of rose may be made as follows:


Take of petals of roses (fresh) 3 pounds (avoirdupois) ; and rectified spirits (90 per cent.) 5 imperial quarts ; digest the petals (picked to pieces) in the spirits for 24 hours, then distill to dryness by the heat of a water bath. Digest the distillate (product of distillation) on a fresh quantity of rose petals, and redistill as before ; and repeat the whole process of maceration and distillation a third, fourth, fifth and sixth time, or oftener, the last time observing to conduct the distillation rapidly, and to draw over only 1 gallon, which is the essence, delicately and delightfully fragrant. It improves by age. The product of the above recipe is very superior.

The most successful odors are, in the language of the perfumer, “bouquets,” that is to say, made up of a combination. Frangipani, for example, is made up of half-a-dozen odors, and the handkerchief extract known as ” Peau d’Espagne” is composed of frangipani and patchouly, halfand-half. The greatest care should be taken in making bouquets or you will waste a lot of expensive materials and get only a most offensive result.

Some odors, as my instructor once said to me, are like musical sounds-they harmonize and produce a beautiful compound; others are antagonistic, and you can get nothing but discord from their combination.

In making a bouquet of flower odors, it is sometimes apparently impossible to get any defined result until what is called a ” binder” is used, then the whole is caught and the result will be in the hands of a skillful artist, delicious indeed. My old instructor in Paris long ago explained all this to us in a most delightful way. “The flower odors,” he would say, ” are of an exquisitely delicate texture, like the finest paper of the leaves of a dainty love story; each leaf represents a breath of perfume; they will all fly away or get confused and hopelessly entangled without a binding. So we bind the flower odors with a stronger substance-musk, which is taken from the deer-or ambergris, which comes from the whale just as the bookbinder holds the leaves of the tender story, which would be lost if left unfettered, with a leather or paper strong enough to fasten all together.”

It is a curious fact that the inorganic world has never yet, properly speaking, yielded a single perfume. The few perfumes such as musk, ambergris and civet, which are obtained from the animal kingdom, are not of themselves agreeable. They are extremely necessary in holding and sustaining flower odors, but alone they are not at all to be compared to the perfume of any one of many flowers.

Lavender water is a delicate and essentially cleanly odor, delicious for the bath, and preferred by many to bay rum or Florida water. I give formulas for all three to choose from.


Take 2 ounces (avoirdupois) finest oil of lavender (Mitcham); essence of musk (finest), 1 imperial fluid ounce ; essence of ambergris (finest) and oil of bergamot (recent), of each 1/2 ounce ; rectified spirits (90 per cent. scentless), I gallon ; mix by agitation.


Take 2 drachms each of the oils of lavender, bergamot and lemon; 1 drachm each of tincture of turmeric and oil of neroli ; 30 drops oil of balm and 10 drops oil of roses. Mix the above with two pints of deodorized alcohol.


Take 2 pounds of leaves of the myrtus acris, 1/2 pound cardamons, 2 ounces cassia, 11, ounces cloves and 9 quarts rum. Distill 1 1/2 gallons. Bay rum may be colored with tincture of saffron or with a mixture of equal parts caramel and tincture turmeric.

The perfume of the violet is so delicate that I have known women who used it in some form every step of the toilet-bath, cosmetics, sachets, all redolent of the lovely blue flower, and yet were never overpoweringly fragant, which is really to be, in my opinion, most offensively vulgar. I should always select violet or the most delicate heliotrope for a personal perfume. It is in far better taste for a woman to use but one odor at a time that is to say, to use violet, if that be her choice, for her handkerchief extract, toilet water, sachets, etc., and not to mix this perfume with Peau d’Espagne or White Rose.

Speaking of Peau d’Espagne reminds me of the vogue accorded leather odors a few years since. I remember one woman who had Russian leather sewed in the crown of her bonnets and an inner sole made of the precious stuff for her dancing shoes.

Peau d’Espagne is much more agreeable and enduring than simple Russian leather. It is made of the same pelt, but is cured in sugar and musk. The real Peau d’Espagne is to be procured only from one firm in Europe, and is very expensive-one dozen little squares costing ten dollars. It has the advantage of retaining its delicate fragrance for a long, long time. Sachet powders for perfuming sachets are readily made at home. The most fastidious woman frequently confines herself to the perfumes from dry powders of this nature, and considers a liquid extract too pronounced and consequently vulgar.

Flannel heavily impregnated with perfume may now be obtained in Europe. This flannel is cut in small bits and distributed among one’s belongings, giving all a delicious and delicate odor. The sachets are now made of all sizes and suitable for every article of dress as well as for closets, wardrobes and bureau drawers. A closet sachet is really an entire lining for the closet of wadded silk into which a quantity of the sweet-scented powder has been introduced. A corset sachet is the other extreme in size, and is but a tiny scrap of silk and cotton wool, fragrant with violet or heliotrope, and measuring but an inch in width and perhaps two in length.

It is sewed inside the corset. Sachets for dress skirts and bodices are made of a proper length and form for the garment they are to impregnate with perfume. As soon, as the skirt and bodice of the fashionable woman have been brushed and repaired after wearing, the sachets are fastened inside the bodice and skirt and left to perform their fragrant mission until my lady elects to wear them again.

Many women are quite expert in making sachet powders from the flowers; others fail disastrously and succeed only in obtaining a half-decayed odor which is far from agreeable. The secret is in the combination and in using a “binder” which develops and holds the flower odors in a bouquet. You cannot fail to make a delicious sachet powder if you take a little pains, and carefully follow the directions here given. It is as well, unless you are very skillful, not to try experiments.

Rose leaves and petals of other flowers should be thoroughly dried for sachet powders. Take care not to let them gather mold in the process.

You will require a basis for your sachet powder. I prefer orris myself, but the reindeer moss, carefully picked over, dried and pulverized, is a favorite with many. Here is a delicious sachet powder:


Powdered florentine orris….8 ounces. Rose leaves (air dried)….10 ounces. Musk in powder….20 grains. Lavender flowers….2 ounces. Civet….10 grains.

Mix well and keep closely corked until you wish to use for the sachets.


Powdered orris….1 pound. Powdered bergamot peel….1 ounce. Powdered acacia….4 ounce. Musk….20 grains.

Orris alone is much used as a sachet powder it is always far better to add a little musk to it, as the musk holds the perfume.

The odor from the orris root is greatly affected by many fastidious French women, and it is quite a common practice to throw an orris root necklace into the final water used in washing the linen of the Parisienne elegante.

It is said that one French woman, upon being reproached by her confessor for her extravagance in this direction, replied that if she were going to perdition she intended to go smelling of orris, and she said she thought even his Satanic Majesty would find it pleasanter than sulphur. Heliotrope sachet powder is delicate and lasting. I really feel bound to say here that there is no sachet powder and no perfume once placed in contact with the air which can, as many women insist various powders soon as, to use a pudding, we shall and at the same the odor and it fragrance.

Logically, you and odors do, “last forever.” Just as vulgarism, we can eat and keep our be able to set free a delicious odor time hold it captive. Heat expands passes away, dying in delicious can no more keep the perfume than you can both keep a chocolate drop and eat it too. Lock them both in a box, and you are their master.

You would never think of railing against the chocolate drop that disappears when eaten, but who has not heard the complaint against the perfumes that were perfectly delicious, you know, but did not last.

Many women enjoy the perfume of incense, or sweetscented pastilles. The incense of the church is composed as follows:

INCENSEP: Olibanum (true)….7 ounces. Gum benzoin….2 ounces.

Mix and add Cascarilla ….1 ounce. Burn in a censer or on a hot plate.


Dissolve 4 ounce niter in 1/2 pint water; mix this with 1/2 pound willow charcoal and dry it thoroughly in a warm place. When the nitrated charcoal is perfectly dry, pour upon it a mixture of 1/2 drachm each of the attars of thyme, caraway, rose, lavender, cloves and santal ; then stir in 6 ounces benzoic acid (flowers of benzoin) ; mix thoroughly through a sieve, then beat in a mortar, with sufficient mucilage to bind together. Make into pastilles and dry.

The competition in colognes has been keen for years and years. At the time of the last Paris exposition a certain well-known trade magazine offered as a prize for the best formula competition open to chemists and perfumers of all countries-a trip to Paris, with hotel accommodations in that city for eight days and return, all first class, to the person who should send the best sample bottle of cologne with formula. There were 219 competitors.

The samples were carefully tested by a jury of eminent perfumers, and the following formula received the coveted award:

COLOGNE WATER: Essence of bergamot….8 grammes. Essence of citron….4 grammes. Essence of neroli….20 drops. Essence of origan ….5 drops. Essence of romarin ….20 drops. Orange flower water….30 grammes. Triple distilled alcohol….578 cubes.

The following are the formulas of the most popular and the highest-priced smelling-salts to be purchased.

LAVENDER SMELLING-SALTS: Carbonate of ammonia (cut in squares)….8 ounces. Oil of lavender (Mitcham)….1/2 ounce. Oil of bergamot….1/2 ounce. Oil of cloves….1 fluid ounce. Oil of cassia 1/2 fluid ounce. Mix and rub the oils well together.Put the squares of ammonia into your smelling bottle. Pour enough of the mixture over the salts to scantily cover them.

ROSE SMELLING-SALTS Oil of bergamot….2 fluid ounces. Oil of verbena….1/2 ounce. Attar of roses….2 drachms.

Mix and pour over squares of carbonate of ammonia as above.

There is very little true violet extract upon the market, as the oil is so difficult to obtain, and tons of violet waters and extracts are annually manufactured which have not a drop of real violet extract in them, but are made of orris root. Fictitious extract of violet is easily made at home.


Take of florentine orris root ( coarsely powdered), one and one-half pounds ; rectified spirits, one imperial quart ; let it stand for a fortnight. If possible, the orris root should be put under powerful pressure to obtain the full amount of perfume which it contains. It must be filtered several times. Filtering paper is easily obtained at a druggists.

PERFUMES There is no such thing as heliotrope odor made from the flower. All so-called heliotrope extracts and waters are produced from the vanilla bean as a basis.

Potpourri of rose leaves may be prepared according to the following directions : Gather the rose petals early in the day, as soon as the dew is dried from them. When half a peck is collected, pack down in a jar or bowl, with alternate layers of fine table salt. Cover the vessel with a top or plate that fits closely. Every twentyfour hours remove the cover from the jar and stir the contents up well from the bottom. This should be done each day for a week, at the end of which time three ounces of allspice may be added. Mix and stir the mass each morning for three days more, adding every day a quarter of an ounce each of allspice and ground cinnamon. Turn the potpourri into the ornamental jar in which it is to be kept, and stir into it the following ingredients, all coarsely powdered : One ounce each of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, orange peel, lemon peel, anise seed and root. To the mixture may now be added six grains of oil of rose geranium, of lavender, rosemary and any other essential oil that is liked. The potpourri must be allowed to stand for a month to ripen after it is made.Except when the jar is opened to allow the odor to perfume the house, it must always be kept tightly closed.


Some of us, in these days of artificial musk and suffocating rose, who have stifled in theater and have been overcome in cable cars and restaurants by the heaviness, have fervently wished the promiscuous use of these powerful, enervating and sometimes nauseating odors, might be restricted to the boudoirs and drawing rooms whose queens elect to vulgarize all their surroundings by this and kindred extravagance.

Fastidious women (with here and there an exception) are as delicately refined in their selection of sweet odors as in every other personal appointment. A high-bred woman does not associate herself with musk or patchouly. She may select the most delicate of violet extracts, and so assimilate her personality with the flower as always to recall it, or her linen may be fragrant with the faintest odor of florentine orris. The shadow of the clear pungent lavender may precede her, but the most sensitive and refined women shrink intuitively from the odors that attract the parvenu.

Few people outside the scientific world know the hygienic value as well as the danger lurking in flower scents. The effect of musk, rose saffron and almond flowers is al most hypnotic to some sensitive organizations. To others the heavy odors are like strains of sensuous music and in their results the reverse of elevating. Hysteria is inevitably aggravated and frequently caused by the odor of musk, and the use of this perfume should be forbidden delicate girls and woman.

On the other hand, the effect of the odors yielded by the balsams of Peru and Mecca, benzoin tolu, cascarilla and cinnamon are tonic and invigorating. The perfumes possessing real antiseptic qualities are numerous, and it is an acknowledged fact that until the Egyptians abandoned the practice of purifying the houses of the sick and embalming the dead by the use of aromatic and resinous gums, such as storax, myrrh, cedar, origanum, etc., the terrible pestilence never laid the Nile country waste.

It is said that the following aromatic essences will kill bacteria germs in typhoid: Clove, verveine, thyme, sandal, cedar, ceylon, cinnamon, camomile, anise; and lavender water, according to Monin, the great French hygienist, will, if used freely by the attendants, greatly lessen the danger of contracting contagious maladies.