My blog post perfume oil vs perfume diluted with alcohol is the post with the most views. In fact it is responsible for the bulk of my blog views everyday. The search terms also highlight the fact that the whole topic leaves many people perplexed. Understandably there are many rules around purchasing high proof alcohol for safety reasons and taxation purposes and then there is the whole headache around shipping. Hopefully that particular blog entry does clarify things for people coming to my blog looking for information around diluting perfume materials.
I have been using 190 proof neutral grape alcohol to dilute my alcohol based eau de parfums. With the move from Tasmania to NSW I had the headache around transporting my bulk supply of alcohol. It was all becoming a complete pain and sadly the easiest thing to do was to get a company that deals with the disposal of chemicals to take it off my hands. That meant I had to reapply for a permit from the Australian Taxation Office which takes up to 4 weeks to process and then you have to order and wait for the delivery of your alcohol. In order to get the renewal you have to provide a record to the ATO of what you have done with the previous lot of alcohol.
As there are always choices I spent a bit of time pondering what would be the best choice for my next bulk alcohol purchase. They were:
190 proof neutral grape alcohol as before – needs a permit
190 proof neutral cane alcohol – needs a permit
190 proof standard grade cane alcohol (organic) – needs a permit
190 proof denatured neutral cane alcohol (Perfumery grade 95PGF4)- no permit required
I also contacted many distilleries to see if they could make a bespoke 190 proof alcohol for me – sadly most could not with the equipment that they had and those that could had a 200L minimum!
I was interested in knowing whether my customers would prefer my perfumes being in an organic alcohol. Surprisingly, no they weren’t! The feedback I received was to choose what ever alcohol does not interfere with the aroma of my beautiful perfumes. Reading on the internet revealed that a number of overseas perfumers were unhappy with their organic standard grade cane alcohol – primarily because when they diluted individual ingredients in the alcohol there was a sweetness to the alcohol that interfered with them being able to smell and get to know the perfume material they had diluted – pretty important if you want to understand the odour profile of your ingredient, especially new ones you have not smelt before!
So, I decided to speak to the lab staff from the Australian chemical supply company. The lovely chap confirmed that yes their organic cane alcohol did have a slight sweet smell to it because it was standard grade. This meant that it had higher levels of volatile impurities. The neutral cane alcohol however had lower levels of volatile impurities compared to their organic cane alcohol which results in improved odour and taste. Furthermore, their organic cane alcohol was actually imported. So, all in all the organic sugar cane alcohol was adding up to be a no go for me, despite the fact that I could have then marketed my perfumes as at least 80% organic – simply referring to the alcohol component only not my actual aromatic perfume ingredients.
Whilst I was waiting for my permit I decided that I desperately needed to purchase some alcohol so that I could continue with my work. I purchased the denatured cane alcohol which is exactly the same as their neutral cane alcohol but denatured with 0.25% tertiary butyl alcohol making it non-potable. The great thing is that because it requires no permit I also don’t have to keep records accounting for it’s use. This is actually going to be a big plus for when I run workshops. It would just be another bit of annoying record keeping that I now don’t have to be concerned with.
I have had my permit approved so when the supply of my current alcohol runs low I will most likely go back to purchasing the neutral grape alcohol – simply because I have the permit, despite the annoying record keeping that comes along with it! It is also half the price of the denatured alcohol!
Can you please tell me, as someone who makes reed diffusers and would be purchasing, storing and using this alcohol in small quantities in my family home, is it safe? Is it safe to keep in my study and blend with essential oil on the kitchen bench? Would it be safe sitting in glass bottles (blended in the final product) in sun at markets? Would it be safe to be breathing in the air in the room with the scent it’s diffusing, if that makes sense? For example if I make a reed diffuser with it and put said reed diffuser in my bedroom am I likely to get any repiratory irritation after being in the room for a while? So many questions. I’m hoping your experience can offer some insight.
Hi Bree, I have no experience with reed diffusers so I don’t think I can confidently answer any of your questions. What I can say is that Perfumers alcohol is 190 proof and as such is highly flammable. It is not something you would want to have just lying around in your house. If you are planning on using it, you need to thoroughly read the material safety data sheet that would come with the product that outlines everything regarding the safe use and storage. If you are making reed diffusers to sell, I would also be careful around how you store the finished product. I would not recommend having the product sitting in the sun at markets. In terms of respiratory problems from breathing in, I don’t know from a reed diffuser application. Perfumers alcohol is widely used in perfumes where the small amount of alcohol dispensed onto the skin quickly evaporates leaving behind the aromatics. Some people do have issues with the alcohol component of perfumes which is why perfume oils have become popular. Since this blog post I no longer utilise alcohol. I had a chemical disposal company dispose of my alcohol. I personally prefer to work with oil only at this time. Sorry I can’t be of any assistance in answering your questions. The MSDS will be your best source of information as well as to talk to the supplier of your alcohol.
Thankyou. You’ve been a great help actually and just helped me to reinforce my decision to keep clear of using alcohol and just stick with oil instead. I do have a number of people ask me whether I use alcohol in my blends so I know it’s a concern for some, but also I think I’d feel uncomfortable selling a product to be used in homes that’s so potentially dangerous. Also I couldn’t send them by air anywhere, so no Express Post. Thanks, I’ll stick with the oil only. Cheers. ☺
Hi Bree, great to hear that you’ve been able to make a decision best for your circumstances x
Hello. My name is Derek and I’m looking to create my own natural perfumes. I bought grape alcohol and I am a novice so I know very little about how to properly use grape alcohol. I tried to mix an essential oil mixture along with the grape alcohol but they did not emulsify well. Do you have any suggestions, an article, or ratios that you can point me to? Also what other ways can I use grape alcohol?
Hi Derek, sorry about the very delayed reply – I haven’t been manning this site for some time! You’ve probably already worked things out but I personally never had any problems with diluting essential oils in grape alcohol – there may have only been a few natural ingredients that were unable to be effectively dissolved in alcohol and instead required an oil to dilute. Are you certain you had 100% pure essential oils and that they weren’t already mixed with some other ingredient? If you purchased your essential oils from a reputable supplier eg, eden botanicals, they often give information on their site about how to dilute tricky ingredients. I would also filter my perfume after allowing it to “age” for awhile.