A smiling woman holding a pipette filled with candle fragrance oil.} Source: Pexels

How to Test Fragrance Oils (Tips from a Pro Perfumer)

7 mins read

You’ve just cracked open a fresh bottle of fragrance oil and the scent hits you like a train. But before you decide it’s the best thing since sliced bread or toss it aside, remember this: judging a fragrance straight from the bottle can lead you astray.

In candle craft, the real magic happens when the fragrance blends with the wax. And our expert perfumer insists that the true essence of a scent only emerges when used as intended. So, if you’re basing your decisions on that first whiff, you might be missing out on a real gem.

Let’s explore why those initial sniffs can be so misleading and how to properly test your fragrance oils so they perform beautifully in your candles. It’s time to give those scents the fair trial they deserve!

Testing fragrance oils—why it’s so important

Ever opened a bottle of fragrance oil, taken a whiff, and thought, "what on earth is that?". Take it from us, it’s a common experience for candle makers. But here’s the reality: judging a scent straight from the bottle can be completely misleading. 

When you sniff a fragrance in its pure, concentrated form, you're getting an unbalanced, overly potent hit that doesn’t represent the final product. It’s like tasting raw garlic and expecting it to be just as delicious as when it’s roasted. 

The real magic happens when that fragrance mixes with its intended base—wax, soap or whatever you’re creating. This is where the true scent profile emerges, mellowing and transforming into something far more pleasing to the nose.

Why does this matter? Because without proper testing, you might ditch a potential bestseller just because it doesn’t smell great out of the bottle. Testing a small batch—like a wax melt or using a test strip—gives you the real picture. It shows you how the fragrance will perform in your final product, revealing its true character and depth.

So, don’t be hasty. Give your fragrances the chance to show off by testing them properly. In candle making, it’s the blend that counts, not the initial bottle sniff.

Here’s what our perfumer had to say on the matter… 

Our expert perfumer has seen all kinds of fragrance testing mishaps. One of the biggest pitfalls? It’s exactly what we’ve already covered: judging a fragrance straight out of the bottle. It's a rookie mistake that can lead to some seriously misguided decisions.

The perfumer shared an anecdote about an ingredient that perfectly illustrates this point:

“We use an ingredient that, in its neat format, smells of cat pee. It's so powerful that it can be nauseating,” they explained. “But with the right expertise and the correct parts, it transforms into a beautiful, juicy sweet blackcurrant note within the fragrance. Yes, really.”

This example highlights the importance of giving fragrances a fair trial in their intended base. What might initially smell off-putting can blend into something wonderfully complex and appealing when used properly. The initial harshness of a raw ingredient often mellows and harmonises with other elements, creating a scent that’s far more than the sum of its parts.

The perfumer also pointed out that many synthetic or chemical notes you might detect straight from the bottle are actually signs of high-quality, concentrated ingredients. These potent components need to be diluted and balanced within the final product to truly shine through.

So, before you write off a fragrance because of that first whiff, remember this advice from our perfumer. Proper testing is needed to see how a scent will perform so that your final product is something your customers will love. Don’t let first impressions keep you from discovering your next signature scent. 

<span style="font-weight: 400;" data-mce-style="font-weight: 400;" data-mce-fragment="1">Alt text: A smiling woman taking a candle fragrance oil out of a box.} Source: </span><a href="https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-white-dress-shirt-holding-a-box-of-essential-oils-6707157/" data-mce-href="https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-white-dress-shirt-holding-a-box-of-essential-oils-6707157/" data-mce-fragment="1"><span style="font-weight: 400;" data-mce-style="font-weight: 400;" data-mce-fragment="1">Pexels</span></a>

How to test fragrance oils 

Testing fragrances correctly is the secret to unlocking their true potential. Here’s how to evaluate your fragrance oils and make sure they’re perfect for your collection:

Using smelling strips

Smelling strips, or scent strips, are a great tool for the initial fragrance evaluation. Here’s how to use them:

  1. Start with clean, unused-smelling strips. Avoid touching the part that will be dipped into the fragrance to prevent contamination.
  2. Dip the end of the strip into the fragrance oil. Let it sit for a few seconds to absorb a small amount of the oil.
  3. Wave the strip gently in the air for a few moments to allow the initial alcohol or solvent notes to evaporate. This helps reveal the true scent.
  4. Hold the strip a few inches from your nose and take a gentle sniff. This will give you a better sense of the fragrance without the overpowering hit from the bottle.

Smelling strips are useful for getting a quick sense of how a fragrance might develop, but it’s still not the final word on how the scent will perform in your product.

Making a small wax melt

For a more thorough test, creating a small wax melt can show you how the fragrance behaves when mixed with wax:

  1. Start by melting a small amount of wax (about 50 grams) in a heat-safe container. Use a double boiler to avoid overheating.
  2. Once the wax is fully melted, remove it from heat and add the fragrance oil at the recommended concentration (usually between 6-10%). Stir thoroughly to ensure even distribution.
  3. Pour the mixture into a small mould or container. Allow it to cool and harden completely.
  4. Once the wax melt is ready, pop it in your wax melt burner and observe the scent throw and how the fragrance evolves as it burns.

This method allows you to experience the fragrance in a context much closer to the final product, giving you a true representation of its performance.

Other testing methods

Besides smelling strips and wax melts, there are several other ways to test your fragrances:


Mix the fragrance oil with a base liquid (like a carrier oil) and use it in a reed diffuser. This helps you understand the scent’s throw and longevity in a different medium.


Create a room spray by diluting the fragrance oil in water or alcohol. This can give you an idea of how the scent disperses in the air and how long it lasts.


Incorporate the fragrance oil into a small batch of soap to see how it interacts with different ingredients and how it holds up through the saponification process.

Each of these methods provides valuable insights into different aspects of the fragrance’s performance, helping you make well-informed decisions for your products.

The bottom line: Thoroughly testing your fragrances using these techniques means that your final products will deliver the best possible experience to your customers. And who knows? Perhaps that initial whiff will turn into your next sell-out scent!

Practical tips for effective fragrance testing

Now, imagine this: You’ve poured your heart into a batch of candles, tweaking scents to ensure they’re more juicy blackberry than cat pee. But something’s off—too faint, too strong, or just not right. Proper fragrance testing can transform your candles into customer favourites. Here are some quick tips:

  1. Kick things off with small batches to save on costs and avoid waste. This way, you can test multiple fragrances without overcommitting.
  2. Use the same wax type, wick size, and fragrance concentration for all your tests. This ensures you’re evaluating the scent, not variances in materials. From here, you can adjust the wick size and fragrance concentration depending on your initial testing results.
  3. Don’t trust your memory—label each sample with the fragrance name, concentration, wax type, and date. This makes it easy to track what works and what doesn’t.
  4. Patience pays off. Let your wax melt or candle cure for at least 10 to 14 days before testing. This gives the fragrance time to fully integrate with the wax, revealing its true character.
  5. Put your candles through their paces in different settings. Test them in small and large rooms, with and without drafts, to see how the scent performs under various conditions.
  6. Don’t rely solely on your own sniffer. Get feedback from a small group of trusted testers. Different noses pick up different notes, providing a well-rounded view of the fragrance’s performance.
  7. If possible, compare your fragrance with similar ones on the market. Understanding how your scent stacks up against the competition can provide valuable insights that help you fine-tune your product.
  8. Keep a testing journal to jot down your observations, feedback from testers, and any tweaks you make. This will be invaluable for refining your fragrances and replicating successful blends.

Follow these further testing tips so your final product will consistently blow your customers away.

<span style="font-weight: 400;" data-mce-style="font-weight: 400;" data-mce-fragment="1">Alt text: A smiling woman, looking accomplished, having found the perfect fragrance oil.} Source: </span><a href="https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-white-long-sleeve-shirt-holding-an-essential-oil-bottle-6706863/" data-mce-href="https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-white-long-sleeve-shirt-holding-an-essential-oil-bottle-6706863/" data-mce-fragment="1"><span style="font-weight: 400;" data-mce-style="font-weight: 400;" data-mce-fragment="1">Pexels</span></a>

Takeaways about testing fragrance oils

So, what have we learned from our expert perfumer? Testing your fragrances properly isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s essential for making candles (or any product for that matter) that customers will love and buy again. Here’s a quick recap of why taking the time to test your scents can make a world of difference:

  1. Don’t judge by the bottle; initial impressions can be VERY misleading.

  2. Use testing methods to reveal the true character of a fragrance.

  3. Follow consistent testing practices when making your products.

The above testing methods allow you to hone in on your fragrances’ potential to create products that are truly scent-sational. Give these tips a go and share your experiences with us—we’d love to hear which fragrances made a dramatic transformation in your candle craft.

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