Launching your own perfume. (Are you sure?)

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Do we make it look easy?

me and my perfumes

We’ve learned how to make and sell perfume, legally, complying with the EU regulations. Today two of our perfumes have been shortlisted for the UK’s fragrance awards.

It’s not easy, but we love it. Have we given the impression that it’s a complete doddle?

Every day we get calls and emails from people asking for advice on how to do it themselves, so we’ve decided to tell you how. Just not here…


How did we get here?

In five and a half years we’ve built a very small but quite interesting perfume company with a huge range of scents and a constant need to make more and more. People ask where the ideas come from. Really, the difficulty is turning off the flow. Every day, there’s something I see, touch, smell of course, hear or feel that makes me want to blend a new one.

We make them for our own range, for other brands, for private customers, for events, corporations and weddings.

Today we found out that two of our fragrances, Maxed Out and Midnight in the Palace Garden, have been shortlisted for best indie scent in the Fragrance Foundation’s 2016 Awards. We crowdfunded them last year. 131 people backed us, had the courage to pay up front for perfumes that didn’t even exist, to help us buy unusual materials, some expensive and some not, so I could create exactly what I wanted.

Maxed Out was also one of LuckyScent LA’s top scents of 2015, and Dirty Honey won the EauMG award for best small niche fragrance 2015.

crimes maxed out 100

Thanks to all of you, these perfume not only exist, they are winning things. We’re doing it again this year, by the way. You can back the Four Mysteries here.

So, mustn’t grumble. But it’s a start-up. It’s like pushing a log up hill. Let go for a moment and it could all go crashing down again.

I was discovered by Odette Toilette; she invited me to bring some perfumes to her Speakeasy Scents Scratch + Sniff. Jo Fairley was in the audience and wrote about me. Claire Hawksley from Les Senteurs was there with Nick Gilbert, who kindly talked Claire into stocking six of our fragrances.

It took 10 months before I managed to get them all legal (IFRA and EU) so we could fulfil the order. It was another two years before we worked out how to ship overseas to IndieScents and LuckyScent who also wanted to stock the range. As I’d been working for Lush (not as a perfumer though, as a writer) and they operate outside the UK perfumery establishment, I found out later that I was regarded as a maverick upstart. I probably still am. But I’m a maverick upstart with a love of regulatory compliance, with a sense of responsibility and a strong desire to get things right. (I was the kind of kid who would get very upset if I got less than 96% in a maths exam.)

The Society of Cosmetic Chemists were marvellous though. I can’t praise them highly enough; they sent me in the direction of their members who could get my perfumes through their EU regulatory hoops.

Anyway, off we went.

Now, we get calls and emails every day asking if people can pick our brains for five minutes, or just ask a quick question about launching a perfume.

I’ve had to learn how complicated it is; it’s complicated. But perhaps we don’t make it look difficult because we enjoy ourselves so much.

Here are some of the questions we’ve been asked:

  • “I’ve made a perfume that’s 20% rose absolute so I just write ‘parfum’ on the label and it’s legal isn’t it, because it’s all natural?”
  • “I read that perfume costs about £5 a bottle, so will you make me 20 bottles for £100?”
  • “How many bottles would Harrods want to buy off me in a year?”
  • “My friends say the perfume I’ve made is the nicest thing they’ve ever smelled. Now all I need is to design a bottle and get the box printed, isn’t it?”
  • “Can I have the number of the buyer at Fortnum & Mason?”
  • “IFRA’s voluntary so I can just ignore it, can’t I?”
  • “Will you make me a perfume with no chemicals in it?”
  • “How do I ship to the US?”
  • “How do you get a thousand Twitter followers?”
  • “How do you do the EU regulations?”
  • “I’ve got a bottle designed. I need 100 of them. Where do I get it made?”


We want the indies to take over the world. We want to unleash the creativity and the new ideas and to have indie scents become the norm. Strength in numbers. An alternative to the mega brands.

But we do want them to be legal, and to be safe. Just bunging a load of rose, jasmine, bergamot and oakmoss into a bottle isn’t going to cut it, not in the EU. (And if you think that not being part of the EU would help, you’re wrong. The man in charge of pushing through the last round of regs was British. Imagine the damage he could do if he didn’t have the French to argue against the next round of regulations.)

So we're going to be running a workshop/seminar/bit of a chat about it all:

The 4160Tuesdays Brain-Picking Event

The first sessions will be on 30th June and 31st July 2016, with a follow up in September.

What we'll cover:

  • Do you really want to launch a brand, or just own a fragrance?
  • DIY or use an experienced perfumer? Most indie companies don’t make their own, despite what they imply.
  • Formulating for IFRA and for EU compliance
  • Cosmetics Safety Reports, Product Information Files and the EU Portal
  • Getting what you want from a perfume company
  • Making your packaging legal
  • Distribution and shipping regulations
  • Social media, PR and marketing
  • Costings – the maths you need to know to run a perfume business
  • The reality of retail
  • Suppliers, contacts, information sources

If this is for you, get in touch. These days, thank goodness, our brains are too busy to be picked on an individual basis, but if you’d like to come over to Acton and join in, take a look at this.

If you'd like to learn online, then take a look at this.



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  1. Betty downing

    Want to start my own

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  2. Suzan Mellow

    Nice Blog, thanks for sharing your story

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  3. Michelle

    Hi we have a ladies boutique and would like to have our own perfume preferably a summer /winter fragrance is this something you could help us with or do you know who could many thanks in advance Michelle Bassett

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  4. Hello everyone and thanks for your kind words. The next rules and regs workshop is 21st & 22nd September 2017. You can find it by clicking on our home page (the shop), 2017 workshops, then Brick Walls & Flaming Hoops, to find all the info you need.

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  5. Hi there, I hope you're well. I'm hugely interested in launching a fragrance that I've created and would love this course to learn the legalities. Will it be running again soon? Warmest regards, Cat

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  6. Louise Bloor

    I'm interested in the workshop and would be grateful if you could send me details including the cost in due course. Thanks.

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  7. Ashish Mittal

    Launching your own perfume is tough as there are lot of questions people are gonna ask you and there is lot of competition. Thanks for sharing this article and the questions.

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  8. Virginia vicente

    Yes please, it'd be good to have it recorded. I am very keen on knowing more but unfortunately finishing a master dissertation over the summer and unable to go over to England. Please keep us posted

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  9. Remy

    Thank you so much for respond. I'll wait patiently :)

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  10. Sarah McCartney

    Hello Remy, yes indeed we're going to see if we can organise that. We're investigating the IT and all that. Sarah

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  11. Remy

    Is there any chance that the meetings will be recorded and then maybe posted somewhere to watch? I see myself in all those questions and I would love to discover the answers with your help. I would love to join any of the meetings, but unfortunately I already make holiday plans for those dates. Regards.

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  12. Thanks Bart. Elle, I think we might do some films and maybe the course handbook. The best way to make a compliant perfume is to move to the US. In the EU we legislate first to avoid harm. The US gives people more freedom to do damage and sue later, as far as perfume is concerned.

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  13. Elle

    Sounds lovely! I hope you'll do an online or livestream version of this seminar. I'm in the US, so of course the regulations are different, but still: so much good info!

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  14. applaud what you're doing..sharing your knowledge. to your point, people tend to see the upside, not the battle to get there. wishing you much continued success and luck...

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