My Kid Could Do That!

chemistry-set Guest Post by Musette

Does there come a time in every perfume lover’s life when s/he takes a look/sniff at the vast array of scents out there and thinks, at least for a minute “Heck, I could probably do this myself!”??

Hmm… here’s what happened when a computer program and I did just that. Sorta.

Let’s start off by saying JCE sure ain’t shaking in his slippers just yet, though I did give it my best shot!  I ‘designed’ a perfume, “Veiled Empress”, courtesy of Germany’s My Parfuem website.   My Parfuem is an online DIY perfumer that allows you to choose pre-set bases with names like Female/Male Exotic and Female/Male Flower, etc. and add ingredients from there.  The online creation is structured via a zoomy pie chart, with each ingredient broken down by type (floral/fresh ‘n fruity/spicy) – you can add as few or as many as you desire.  The cost is 29 euros, with an additional 10 euros shipping to the U.S.

Sounds good so far?  Ehhh… not quite. At least not for me.   Let’s get back to the basics, which is the bases.  The components are not listed, dangit, so you’re kinda working blind, to say the least.  I don’t have a clue what Female Exotic is, though the pie chart has really pretty colors (I am a sucker for pastel pie charts and as you add more ingredients the chart colors zoom up and down; I swear, I’d still be fooling around with the chart but I have a Job, even if I do need to Get a Life!).  My first inclination was to play it safe and go with a straight fruity-floral but c’mon – where’s the fun in that?  At least try something a leetle different, right?

So I started with the Female Exotic base.  I figured hey, it’s got two words that should make sense in a perfume – let’s see where this goes. I was banking on it smelling either like Shalimar or a drag queen (or both).

Olivia?  You can go take a nap, honey.  Your crown is safe.  I ended up mixing in the dark, like a lunatic, akin to adding Cadmium red to something you pray is chrome yellow, but could be viridian.  I really could’ve used some info on that base composition.  One gal’s ‘exotic’….and all that.

The site also gives you no idea what’s going on with the ‘fume as you’re adding or subtracting ingredients.  It would’ve been great to know if I was steering my boat into heavy floral waters or was I heading towards a spice market .  Or if there’s any cure for my overuse of metaphor.

One of the goals was to  figure out how this would work in general terms so I split my already scattered mind into two segments – one: a regular person who just wants a perfume to smell nice and the other: the perfumista wannabe, trying to figure out which notes would be required to support other notes (I can only claim ‘wannabe’ status, sorry!)

Here is the composition, described as “bloomy-exotic”

Veiled Empress

1x Ambergris     2x YlangYlang

3xJasmine          3xCedarwood

1xTangerine       1x Musk

2xBergamot        2x Fresh Grass

3xLotV               2xNeroli

What I got smells like a powderbomb with a touch of spice jumping around and a whole lotta sillage.  The base is still an unwelcome mystery – it has a generic ‘blarrg’ smell (to mangle Lee’s description) that makes it smell like 90% of what you can find at any mid-level dept store.   I think it could actually have had a fighting chance to be something much better, had I been aware of what’s in the base. And if the base were better quality.  But at EU29 ….I dunno.  It’s okaaay.   It’s the sort of thing you would give as a gift, if the giftee weren’t really focused on perfume and just wanted the cachet of creating their own personal scent.  [March butting in – you can give a gift certificate for the site, they’re clearly selling the idea of this being a fun thing  to receive as a gift.]

And that would’ve been the end of it but I decided to do a bit of research with this – I took it on a road trip, blind-testing it across a wide spectrum.  I covered different socio-economic groups including:

  • 2 Really Wealthy Women , head-to-toe Hermes, blowin’ out the Platinum card like there’s no tomorrow
  • 2 Regular Gals who shop at Wal-Mart and wear things like Charlie because it’s inexpensive, you get a lot of it and it smells nice
  • 2 Regular Mid-level Gals who shop at Kohl’s but will drop a bundle on something they like, be it perfume or jewelry.
  • 2 Regular-Upscale Women who wear things like Gucci because “it smells expensive”
  • 1 visiting perfumista
  • 2 high-end perfume SAs (male/female)
  • 2 regular guys
  • March
  • Nava
  • Lee (who may not have received my sample yet)

(descriptions are just to give you an idea of the type of folks I blind-tested this on, ‘cuz it gets really weird from there)

And, for giggles and snorts, I matched it against my latest love, PG Drama Nuui on everyone but March, Nava and Lee.  Blind test, remember.  Just opinion shopping.

So how’d it go? VE ate Drama Nuui’s lunch! Sucker punch!!!

Of those 11 folks who tried it:  only THREE preferred DN over Veiled Empress. One of the SAs chose VE as their “you are stuck on a deserted island with only one of these scents to get you through your days” – the other chose DN but it was a close call – lots of consideration.  Huh.

The perfumista chose DN but didn’t absolutely hate VE

One guy (El O) chose DN (VE made him sneeze)

Both RMLGals hated both VE and DN.   (I’m not diagramming this – they’re just out!)

Regarding Veiled Empress I got things like ‘it smells powdery and fresh’ (that was a positive, even though I stunk up our tiny post office so bad with that blind test the Postmaster came out of the back and ran me out of there!), VE got “rich, older lady,” “nice,” “I would wear this a lot,” and one “where can I buy it?”  Our postlady actually JUMPED BACK from the Nuui.  Shriek!!!  The other lady just looked stunned and confused at the Glory What Is Drama Nuui.

Wackos.  Don’t they know that Drama Nuui is Da BOMB?  Bomb-o-licious?

It is on my planet.  Swear!

I will let Nava and March speak for themselves.  They are not included in my highly precise research data.

I’m STUNNED that folks chose this over Drama Nuui.  Which means that for all my argifyin’ about what My Parfuem should do (and I still think they should outline what elements are in the bases) they may be onto something.  I don’t think this is for rabid perfumistas, unless they get more info into the program, break down the base components and describe what is happening to the composition as you add/subtract ingredients.  If they ever decide to implement those elements into the program this would be a fun, interesting gift to give someone who is interested in perfume in general and likes the idea of creating their own.  But for everybody else, it could be just the ticket to personal  perfume heaven….?

  • Vidalicious says:

    I’ve always imagined myself semi-clad, lashed to the front of a massive ship, nose sniffing the breezy salty air…!

  • carter says:

    Anita, I love that you explored, created and then surveyed this whole dealie but I have no interest in experimentation my own self.

    Because I yam a Princess.

  • Natalie says:

    Oooh, I want to play mad scientist with YOU! I love your experiment, your field research, and this entire post… Might be kind of fun to get all your guinea pigs in a room and concoct a focus-group-driven scent next…

  • Olfacta says:

    I was one of those geeky kids with chemistry set and “microscope” — we don’t change all that much — a few months ago I ordered the “Notes” kit from Perfumer’s Apprentice. It has about 100 4 ml vials of various aromachemicals and naturals. It’s really designed to help one identify notes, but they can be mixed to produce fragrances. I’ve also used some essential oils I had around and also tried concocting customized versions of existing (mostly mass-market) EDT’s.

    It’s possible to make some very nice scents with these ( pretty standard) ingredients, which include a handful of musks, Ambroxan, civetone, habanolide, linalool, rose, jasmine, etc. The problem with these for me is the same problem I have with all fragrances — they don’t last. But these really don’t. Ten minutes maybe, even after I’ve mixed in some unscented oil to try to “fix” them.

    But this isn’t really a perfume-making kit; I imagine that these substances are pretty diluted. I think this same company offers different kits that are designed to actually make your own scents, and the essences are labeled as to exactly what they are; she offers real tincture of ambergris, too. One of these days…

  • Lee says:

    Veiled Empress is leagues above Spring fever in terms of likeability. All I’m sayin’.

  • Linda says:

    What a fabulous post — this sounds like mad fun! I have actually gone the get-a-real-lab route but there’s something really appealing about painting blind, as you so vividly describe it… I am tempted to go play.

  • Sweet Sue says:

    Let me know when you come up with “Unveiled Empress.”

  • Masha says:

    Ah, Musette, the stories my family and friends (ie: victims) could tell….I’ll never forget when my youngest son answered our phone and said, “No, mom can’t come to the phone right now. She’s down in her lab, sniffing stuff.”

  • Louise says:

    This post so strongly reminds me of a special event in my childhood. It’s titled in various ways…The Day Mom Got Really Pissed…The Day We Lost Our Eyebrows….Cool, Look at All the Firemen….

    My big bro and I did loads of chemistry experiments. It was a fabulous bonding time, but it all went so very wrong one day. I don’t believe any Female Exotic was involved, though my brother was about 12, and you never know about those young boys.

    This sounds like loads of fun, and something of a success, to boot.I have only mixed essential oils, preferring Rose, dark Musk and Ambers, but the results have been pleasant and not offensive.

    I’m with you, I think Drama is so well-done, though it doesn’t love me ;(

    Lovely to see you here, Musette!

    • mals86 says:

      Great, now I have coffee splatters all over my screen. “The Day We Lost Our Eyebrows”? I can see it now… and just made a mental note to either keep my boys away from chemistry kits, or to at least send them out to the farm shop to play.

      On second thought, the farm shop is full of combustible items. Isn’t it odd how boys together will get into things they’d never do on their own? Is there sort of a Critical Mass of Boy-dom that adds up to Trouble?

      • Shelley says:

        Hey, Mals…
        Just wanted to have a little fun and say that in my world, if it’s the right (wrong) boy, critical mass for Trouble = 1. 😉

    • Musette says:

      Louise, my precious! You LOST YOUR EYEBROWS?

      some serious blowin’-up must’ve happened, eh?


      Mine was The Day I Stuck the Oil Gage in the Battery cable port (by accident). ow.

      I sincerely hope DN loves me, as I wear it a lot. Nobody’s thrown up or turned green or any of that stuff, so I think I’m safe. But few (okay NONE) say “wow! you smell terrific!”



    • carter says:

      I lost my eyebrows, too! Well, maybe not *lost*…*shaved off* would be a more accurate way to describe what happened…

  • March says:

    Anita — I still think DNuui is not *the* most accessible scent for someone who has not spent time wandering in the Alternate Universe of niche perfumery. I find it a little bit of rough road (sorry! also I just typed rough toad, which is sort of funny.) I wonder if you’d trotted out a sample of Paris Hilton, how VE would have stacked up. Or even something smothering like Fracas that is still fundamentally familiar as a “perfumey” floral, if that makes any sense? DNuui is more of a caviar/oyster scent to me.

    I think your selection of notes was a good one, and their fleshing out what’s in the base would be really helpful. It was fun participating in your experiment!

    • Musette says:

      You know, when you first noted the ‘weird’ factor inherent in Drama Nuui I was confused – but as I wear it more I can understand why it has a somewhat limited accessibility. There’s a neon razor in that jasmine bouquet, which is what delights me – but not everybody likes neon-green razors.

      A rough toad? LOL! Not too far from the truth – there’s a little something toady in there as well – those blue/green/black toads.

      Poor Drama. Well, Joe and I will give it all the love we can!


      ps. totally get what you’re saying about Fracas. Love or hate it, it smells like what we’re used to in ‘perfume’.

      • Shelley says:

        Okay, do you two think that PdN Temps d’une Fete is something that could be seen as accessible a little earlier on the path to Drama Nuui? Because that’s kind of what I get out of it…TdF therefore becomes a no-brainer, can wear it during the day to anything scent for me, and Drama Nuui is for when I want more…well…drama. 🙂

        • Musette says:

          I’m still waiting to smell that 😀

          but! according to your nose it is way more accessible than DN, which could be a Good Thing. I’m wearing DN now and there is something in it that catches in the throat (which is why I like it but may be why folks recoil)

          I holla’d yesterday – holla back!


    • Gretchen says:

      A bit of a rough toad! That phrase will be in my personal lexicon from now on. So many situations can be aptly described as a bit of a r. t. . .

  • London says:

    At the beginning of my perfume obsession I did a similar thing at a site called Perfume Lab with similarly cheap results (though since it was cheap, that was fair enough. I had fun doing it so I wasn’t complaining). I attempted to make a green perfume with a warm base (disaster) and a woody oriental (at least recognisable as such though I wouldn’t wear it). There is no unexplained pre-made base here so you may prefer it. I should say that when I did it, you could buy the perfume in a 10ml size so you could afford to make more mistakes. Looks like they have a DIY kit as well now which they didn’t before.

  • Nava says:

    Veiled Empress was a pleasant enough floral, and I totally see how someone with shall we say, “limited” fragrance experience would like it. On the other hand, I am dying to smell Drama Nuui now since I love just about every scent PG has put out.

    My experiment did not fare as well as dear Musette’s; I used the same Female Exotic base and wound up with a concoction that veered off into a realm that wasn’t fit for public consumption. I was aiming for something in the neighborhood of an earthy, spicy gourmand and instead I got a big ‘ol mess. Granted, I took a mad scientist approach (think Gene Wilder as Dr. Frankenstein in Mel Brooks’ classic “Young Frankenstein” when he looks up from his grandfather’s diary with wide crazy eyes and shouts, “IT…COULD…WORK!!!”). Sadly for me, it did not.

    The lesson I take away from this experience is to not go anywhere near the chemistry set. There’s a reason why Olivia Giacobetti and Jean Claude Ellena are so talented, and if everyone could do it, we would. I am perfectly content to leave the heavy lifting to those who can manage it without seriously injuring themselves.

    I agree with March about this being a highly original gift idea, as opposed to, say, airfare and hotel accomodations for the running of the bulls in Pamplona, but the words “caveat emptor” could not be more perfect.

    In order to make this a more user friendly endeavor, My Parfuem should definitely identify what’s in their bases because, if you don’t have a solid foundation, you’re setting yourself up for epic failure.

    • Tania says:

      But perfumers can try their creation at each stage, and tweak it til it’s just right. Until the interwebs have smellovision, you’re never going to have that advanatge with this method! I bet quite a few people using it will end up with a perfume that could double as a chemical weapon. Lack of feedback + cheap ingredients = you’re lucky if it’s at all wearable.
      Do they have suggested ‘recipes’? I must take a look.

  • Tania says:

    Hmmm. The Body Shop has something like that in their stores, with their brightly-coloured little bottles. But since they all smell Body Shop cheap, it doesn’t work very well!

    This could be interesting. Or it could end up with a hot mess. Anybody here ever been to one of those Mongolian Barbecue restaurants where you choose your own ingredients and sauces, and the chef stirfries it for you? Not great….

    • Musette says:

      Tania –

      That’s the fundamental issue with My P, I think (my opinion) the base smells cheap (I’m assuming it’s the base – unlike DIY kits this one is done via the Internets so you won’t know how it smells until it arrives at your door).

      But see, that’s what so interesting about this: like the Body Shop which probably sells bajillions of self-concoted scents, my composition appealed to a wide range of folks who either like/don’t mind/ are used to that level of quality. And Veiled Empress smells like a whole lot of things currently on the market, which probably added to the attraction. Drama Nuui, for all its neon beauty, does not.


      • Tania says:

        I think you’re right. I’ve been spoiled by the good stuff (MUST try Drama Nuui!) so I’m bored by the mundane smellalikes. But clearly there’s a huge market for them, and a lot of people who think they smell just fine. Tastes only mature if the user is adventurous about what they try.

    • Shelley says:

      I have one of those Body Shop kits, and you are right–any results are seriously impaired by the quality of the ingredients you begin with. I’m hanging on to it, waiting for some curious teenager who might have fun with it to come along and love it.

      • Tania says:

        I didn’t buy one, because I sniffed the individual scents and decided they were not good (something they have in common with other Body Shop scents. And yet, I always sniff their new ones, just in case they finally get it right). But yes, an experimenting teen might well enjoy playing with a set. It might be the start of a lifelong addiction/interest…. which could end up costing her/him a lot of money….. Oh, wait….. 😉

  • That sounds exactly like the blind tests I conduct with friends just for the fun of it, the results are often unexpected! So it didn’t surprise me to see you found out something along the same lines. People like what is familiar.
    Good on you to be so diversified to!! It was amusing reading the reactions.

    As to the business model they’re building, they’re probably tapping the vast market of budding perfume auteurs who want something to their specification. The ingredients must be run of the mill stuff, a little Ambroxan, a little Galaxolide, that sort of thing (for the price, it’s all well). Which proves something else too 🙂

  • Jarvis says:

    haha, what a hilarious and fun experiment! I agree with March, I love your research methods. Now I want to here what Nava, March, and Lee think of VE…

    • March says:

      Jarvis, I probably should have stuck my reaction to VE in the post when I put it up, but I’ll just paste it in here, from my email to Musette:

      “Okay, report on VE. Maintaining an open mind and thinking of this as some random anonymous scent you sent me that could be anything from Guerlain or CVS — the first thing I’d say is, I have smelled waaaaaaay worse, and I’m talking samples from niche retailers that I think, you have got to be kidding me. VE smells sort of generic to me — not weird/interesting enough to be niche, but a little more interesting than Macy’s. What I’m not getting in the way of department-store swill is, while it is relatively sweet, it’s missing that gourmand edge you get that I find slightly nauseating, that World’s Biggest Cupcake thing so many of the girls seem interested in now.

      I would not describe it as sexy. The top is fruity, sweet, cherry cough syrup, but not unbearably so. I wouldn’t buy it and I wouldn’t wear it, but I’m not sitting here wanting to go scrub it off either. The top held on for the longest time — I had no sense of any sort of “development” in the traditional sense, but I’m not sure how much development you get from, say, Mariah Carey M or MJ Daisy either. I think they’re pretty static, in my memory.

      After about half an hour, the cherry drops off and I’m left with a fairly generic floral musk that has a hint of spice (pepper?) It’s a tiny bit armpitty on me, but as you know from me that’s not a complaint 🙂 Again, I’m not being wowed by its brilliance or prowess, but I’m not looking for the handsoap either. I’d say my only criticism of it (and it might be nose fatigue) is it doesn’t seem particularly long lasting. On my skin, scents are ridiculous, they last forever. And this is there but getting a little wan, frankly, after three hours.”

  • Masha says:

    I love your research methods! I agree, they should be more explicit about their bases. Still, this sounded like a fun experiment. To have a more fully perfumista DIY experience, a perfume-building kit might be next for you??? There are some fun ones out there, or you can make your own. I love enabling nascent DIYers, I think you’re ready to go for it….

    • Aubrey says:

      Masha, are there any perfume-building kits that you would recommend? That sounds right up my alley. In fact, I’m really tempted to add this european site to my Bday wish list. I’m sure I’d make a stinker, but it sounds like fun!

      • Musette says:

        Aubrey –

        You might as well – now that you know what to expect you will be better prepared to create something that appeals to your taste. I wasn’t expecting to create Mitsouko and had I stuck with the florals I would’ve probably had a way more wearable scent – but the process wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting.

        Good luck!


      • Masha says:

        Linda at Perfumer’s Apprentice (I think it’s in Santa Cruz, CA, makes some great kits, and could help you put together a customized one. She sells naturals and synthetics in small amounts, and the vials and beakers and all that good stuff. I’ve been buying aromachemicals from her for a year or so, and she’s been great. I’d love to visit her shop, where you can sit and smell and create all day! Sounds like perfumista nirvana. Has anyone been there? What’s it like?

    • Musette says:


      I did this as a blog experiment. I would never have thought of this in a million years, having NO interest or competency in perfumery (creation of, I should say). In fact, I don’t even know what 80% of the notes are in stuff I love (I have Very Wonky Sinuses). I’m more than happy to just spritz and be happy! That’s why I did this: in many ways I’m more of a Regular Gal when it comes to perfume, even though my tastes are Alternative Universally >-)

      But it sounds like you do and if you do this I want to hear (and smell) all about it!


  • Joe says:

    Bwahahaha! I love it. Except with all those notes you listed, I don’t see where “powderbomb” comes from? The base? I’d love to compare those same ratios of notes on a “female flower” or “male green” base (but I don’t have 39 euro worth of curiosity!).

    I find the whole concept kind of interesting and I wonder how it’s doing as a business model.

    And once again, you are so right about one thing, Anita: DN IS DA BOMB! I can’t fathom the lady with the stunned and confused face. Some people just don’t recognize good even if it’s right under their noses.

    • Musette says:

      You and Me, baby. You and Me. On a boat together, sailing down the River Yum!

      And Carter. Can’t forget Carter. I already proposed and she accepted.

      Perfume Threesome! With the Shoe Shrine.


      ps. what is it about La Nuui that is so polarizing? First time I sniffed it I fell HARD – but you and I seem to be in the minority…

      • Shelley says:

        Ahem!!! 😉

      • Joe says:

        I don’t know why it would be polarizing unless you just plain HATE JASMINE, and then it’s a “well, duh.”

        I find it a hyper-realistic, delicious but not too sweet jasmine. I don’t get any of the absinthe or whatever other people talk about in it though. So yeah, polygamy, baybee.

        • March says:

          Joe, it’s weird. I love jasmine, but there’s something in DN that does not love me at all. I should go look up the notes and try to figure out what it is.

          • Musette says:

            I’ll betcha you don’t like that little laser ‘catch’ thing – I wish to Floyd I knew what that was – it’s not the jasmine, exactly, as I have lots of jasmine scents and none of them have that lasery-green thing going on. I really like DN going on – after awhile it settles down and some musk comes in – then it’s not so interesting…


      • carter says:

        Well, I’m glad you remembered, but I am still waiting on the ring 😉

      • carter says:

        The Nuui Shoes Shrine

        • Musette says:

          I just got that play on words!LOL!

          …erm, you were doing a play on a news/shoe shine weren’t you? (asks, nervously). If not, I will be so embarrassed!