Everything to Know About Perfumers Alcohol

What is "Perfumers Alcohol"?

Perfumers alcohol is any volatile carrying agent used to topically deliver essential oils or other aromatic compounds onto the skin.  Alcohol's high evaporative rate (volatility) and superior solvent properties make it a preferred carrying agent for perfumers. 

Will any alcohol work for perfume?

Well, no, not all alcohols are created equally.  The term "alcohol" on a package or online listing doesn't alone guarantee purity of recipe, strength, or safety for skin application.  Perfumers should always read the full description of the alcohol product to understand what is, or is not, blended into the alcohol.  Look for the words below to understand more about the perfumers alcohol base you are using.

  • ABV - Alcohol by Volume, represented as a percentage. 
  • 200 Proof - A term representing 100% ABV and 0% water.     
  • Ethyl Alcohol - Also goes by "Ethanol", this is the alcohol generally regarded as the safest for extended contact with the skin.  Ethyl alcohol should make up the majority (>70%) of most all perfume and cologne recipe components.
  • CDA 12A - Completely Denatured Alcohol formula 12A containing the additives methanol and isopropyl alcohol.
  • Denatured - A term representing the addition of additives to the alcohol, primary to inhibit consumption.
  • SDA 40B - Specially Denatured Alcohol formula 40b containing the additives Tert-Butyl Alcohol and Denatonium Benzoate.
  • SDA 3C - Specially Denatured Alcohol formula 3C containing the additive isopropyl alcohol.
  • Undenatured - Also "non-denatured", this term means "no additives" or just pure ethyl alcohol.

Read More: Understanding Perfumers Alcohol Terms and Vocabulary.

woman evaluating perfumer's alcohol labels for ingredients and additives

What makes a good perfumers alcohol?

Never use methanol or isopropyl alcohol for making perfume.  A good perfumers alcohol will be a base of ethyl alcohol and exhibit the following properties and characteristics:


  • Miscibility refers to two or more substances’ ability to completely mix together to create a homogenous mixture.
  • Ethyl alcohol and SDA40b denatured alcohol are highly miscible with fragrance oils and water.
  • Adding water to 200 proof perfumers alcohol will create a solution with a new ABV.  Fragrance oils that are miscible at 200 proof (100%ABV) may not be as miscible at a lower proof, which can result in foggy perfume or settling of the fragrance oil at the bottom of the perfume.


  • Volatility refers to a substance’s ability to vaporize. 
  • Ethyl alcohol found in food grade ethanol or SDA 40B denatured alcohol are both naturally volatile (evaporates easily, but not instantly). 
  • Volatility changes as the concentration of alcohol decreases from added water or fragrance oils.

Shelf Life

  • Perfumers alcohol that has not yet been diluted with fragrance oils, does not expire.  
  • Adding fragrance oils or water to your perfume may alter the shelf life of your final perfume recipe, every fragrance oil is different there is no steadfast rule to offer here other than be aware a change may occur.
  • Store unused perfumers alcohol at full strength or blended with water in the original bottle it was shipped in.
  • Store finished perfume in a cool dark place, out of direct sun light, away from children and pets, and always with the cap tightly sealed.
  • Atomizers and misters may not be as airtight as they look, they may be more susceptible to loss due to temperature changes of the liquid. 

Base Aroma

  • Perfumers alcohol base should have a "sensation" of alcohol, but should not "smell" of anything specific.
  • Food grade alcohols made from different raw ingredient bases have different aromas, even at 200 proof, and perfumers should understand the differences presented by each before buying discount organic cane alcohol.  What to do: Read the descriptive profiles of alcohol distilled from Cane, Grape, Corn, & Wheat here.
  • Denaturants, depending on their source or specific origins, may contribute their own aroma/odor to the base alcohol and should be considered.

What is the best alcohol for perfume making?

With out a doubt, pure ethyl alcohol is the best alcohol for perfume making recipes.  Ethyl alcohol (ethanol) is miscible with fragrance oils, highly volatile for scent dispersion, easily diluted with water to modify the evaporative properties, naturally sourced from sustainable ingredients, has a proven track record for known side effects and body interactions.  Pure ethyl alcohol distilled from corn exhibits the most neutral aroma profile when compared to cane or grape.  200 proof ethyl alcohol has an indefinite shelf life, it does not expire if kept in a tightly sealed bottle.

Denatured vs Pure Alcohol for Perfumers

Denatured alcohol for perfumers in the form of SDA 40b is popular and widespread from commercial processors to first-time hobbyists.  The specially denatured alcohol formula 40b contains the additives tert-Butyl alcohol and denatonium benzoate.  Most commercial perfumes are made with SDA40b alcohol, however these additives do nothing to enhance the effect or performance of the perfume recipe.  These toxic additives are included in SDA40b alcohol solely to in inhibit consumption of the perfumers alcohol.  While generally regarded as safe for occasional use as perfume, there is new emerging evidence examining the side effects of denatonium benzoate exposure from denatured alcohol use.

If denaturants are toxic, why use them at all?

Because of the reduced cost of denatured ethyl alcohol vs tax-paid undenatured ethyl alcohol, denatured blends like SDA40b are used throughout the commercial perfume making industry.  

Many perfumers have grown accustomed to using denatured alcohol for their perfume recipes and are unaware of the potential harms that a better, more pure alternative exists in food grade ethyl alcohol.

Does Certified Organic Matter for Perfume?

The alcohol base of your perfume can finally match the quality standards of your fragrance oils.  Finally, there are options and choices for perfumers that are best for our body and planet.  Any product offered as USDA Certified Organic must meet strict quality and chain of custody requirements.  If you are offering an organic perfume, cologne, or body product, sourcing USDA certified organic alcohol is key to maintaining your product's complete organic certification.  If a product is labeled as denatured, it is unlikely to be granted USDA organic and may affect your ability to label your final product as "organic".

How to Buy Pure, Perfumers Alcohol Online

Perfume doesn't benefit from toxic additives, and your skin doesn't either. 

Zero additives, Culinary Solvent is simply pure ethyl alcohol that's perfect for perfume.  Say "good bye" to toxic additives in SDA40b and discover the benefits of using pure Perfumers Alcohol by Culinary Solvent.



Additional Resources

  • García-Valenzuela JA, Baez-Gaxiola MR. Comments on the Risks From Exposure to Denatonium Benzoate (Bitrex®): Denatured Alcohol Disinfection and Pandemic Times. International Journal of Toxicology. 2021;40(5):475-477. doi:10.1177/10915818211038498

    About Food Grade Ethanol, for Perfumers.

    Pure ethyl alcohol is incredibly versatile, learn more about this amazing molecule that perfect for perfume and so much more.

    Learn More

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    How to buy pure Perfumers Alcohol from CulinarySolvent.com

    Click the "Buy" link in the top menu or view our step-by-step guide on how to buy perfumers alcohol online.

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    Perfumers Alcohol FAQs

    Due to its neutral profile, coupled with clean evaporative properties and zero toxic additives, we recommend Culinary Solvent 200 Proof (100% ABV) Food Grade Alcohol for your next perfume making project.

    Rubbing alcohol, which uses isopropyl alcohol, is not suitable for perfumery. It has a strong smell and can be harsh on the skin. Additionally, the added water content in rubbing alcohol can interfere with the perfumes. Therefore, it is advised to avoid using rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol in perfumery.

    Everclear, a brand of high-proof grain alcohol, can be used in perfumery as a substitute for Trade Specific Denatured Alcohol (TSDA), especially for beginners who may have difficulty obtaining TSDA. However, vodka, with its lower alcohol content (typically around 40%), is not suitable for perfumery as it does not meet the desired high-proof requirement of 95%+ alcohol content.

    Witch hazel is not a suitable substitute for alcohol in perfume making, despite some information found online suggesting otherwise. It is advised to ignore such information entirely. As for methanol, it is a different alcohol altogether and should never be considered for use in perfumes due to its extreme toxicity and high skin absorption rate.

    When it comes to perfumery, the distinction between grain alcohol and organic grain alcohol is not significant. What matters is that the alcohol used is cosmetics grade and not diluted. Whether the alcohol is derived from fermented grains or organically grown source material does not affect its suitability for perfumery.

    Denatured alcohol is considered unfit for human consumption due to the addition of poison or bad tasting chemicals. There are various denaturants used, so it is not recommended to use something labeled solely as 'denatured alcohol' as it may contain toxic substances. However, cosmetic grade Trade Specific Denatured Alcohol (TSDA), specifically SD-40b, is widely used and recommended for perfumery.

    Yes.  Food Grade Ethanol refers to pure ethyl alcohol, identical to what's used in SDA 40B denatured alcohol blends but devoid of any harmful additives. It's completely safe for consumption and topical use, making it the superior choice for creating perfumes.