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  1. #1

    Default The Perception of Scent

    A rose by any other name will still smell as sweet? I'm afraid Shakespear got that wrong when it comes to fragrances. Fragrances can actually smell very different from one person to another. Our olfactory acumen or ability to detect scent varies due to many different reasons:

    1. The Nose.
    The nose itself is really a very complex tool for gathering and perceiving scent molecules. For a theory of how it does this, read "The Emperor of Scent". Add to this, different people have different levels of scent perception. The highest level attainable is possibly, that of a pregnant woman. Furthermore, certain habits like glue sniffing or cigar smoking lowers the ability to detect scent. Exposure to certain odours like coffee beans for example, is like pushing a reset button to the nose. So if you're thinking of smuggling drugs, pack them in coffee beans.

    2. The Environment.
    A scent will smell different according to when you spritz it. Spraying in summer will cause the scent to bloom more and reveal more of itself, hence the tendency for heavy scents to seem cloying in hot weather. Wearing a scent to a club of heavy smokers is going to drastically change the smell of the scent. Nothing clings more readily than cigarette smoke!

    3. The Method of Application.
    This has been exhaustively discussed in basenotes. Everyone has a special method of application that he/she uses. I'll just mention a few, to be thorough. If you tend to spray on your hands and rub them over your chin, you're gonna "bruise" the scent and rub more of your own epithelials into the scent. Spritzing on a spot especially the pulse points will cause the scent to evaporate faster (theoretically). The walkthrough method disperses the scent molecules over a bigger area and mutes the scent somewhat. 6-8 spritzes will smell different from 1-2 spritzes, at least sillage-wise.

    4. The Juice.
    The scent will change over time. Some call this deterioration, but i've personally encountered many different types of "deterioration". Some lose their topnotes, some get a stronger midnotes and some just turn putrid. So, when a person says a scent smells fruity and you don't agree because it smells powdery to you, take this into consideration.
    Some houses which i will not mention, that uses natural ingredients will also suffer from batch inconsistencies. This has largely been eliminated by the modern use of synthetics which are more stable and easily replicable.

    Is it then no wonder that we all have very differing perceptions of a scent? So many factors need to be aligned for me to smell what you smell. [smiley=wink.gif]

  2. #2

    Default Re: The Perception of Scent

    It seems that for some of us, at least, perception changes frequently. Sometimes, I'll try a scent, and dislike it. I may try it again a couple months later and find that I really like it, only to dislike it again at a later date.
    I own a few scents now that I hated at first try. One of them is now among my favorites.

  3. #3

    Default Re: The Perception of Scent

    Thanks Rick, i forgot 2 more factors that affect our perception of scent.

    5. Psychological
    Human beings are complex creatures. While some may be creatures of habit, most crave the new and associated newness with improvement. Mood determines our perception to a great extent. When i'm happy, i tend to go for a certain type of scent. Similarly, some scents are there as "pick-me-ups". Why then do we go back to an older acquisition or even repurchase something we've offloaded some time ago? Well, the connection between scent and memory/emotions is very strong. I suppose it has something to do with the feeling of longing or even filling an empty void that we never knew existed.

    6. Skin Chemistry
    Our skin itself is not an odourless scent strip. The scent when sprayed using whatever method will mix with the pheromes that we naturally produce as part of our own animalic attraction mechanism and this changes the scent. Sometimes subltly, sometimes dramatically. Imagine wearing Amen if you have a sweet pheromone odour. I feel a musky, bitter pheromone mixes well with Amen. Furthermore, oily skin retains the scent better while dry skin only makes the scent evaporate faster. Hence the use of lotions to extend the life of the scent.

  4. #4

    Default Re: The Perception of Scent

    I disected a brain last week. It was interesting to see the olfactory bulb and olfactory tract and see how it all ties in. You have fissures behind your orbital (eye) region call ethmoid sinuses. It is through these pathways that the scent travels. The scent is picked up by receptors and scent by motor nerons which is an electrical impulse originating at the dendrites traveing down the myelin sheath (schwann cells) encased axon via sodium and potassim pumps to the.....blah.....blah....blah.......where the brain translates the perception....blah blah...... Did I loose scope of the thread?

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jun 2005

    Default Re: The Perception of Scent

    The myelin sheaths are irrelevant! They merely provide insulation.... and you haven't touched on the topic yet [smiley=lolk.gif]

  6. #6

    Default Re: The Perception of Scent

    Some random reactions:

    Interesting observations given that the average fragrance consumer does not take into account any of these factors when making a purchase. We've probably all been at a fragrance counter and seen person after person grab the usual Armani, CK or RL without even sniffing it, or make a quick spritz on a card or wrist, take a quick whiff before the juice is dry, and immediately make a decision whether to buy or put it back on the shelf.

    The reasons why most people buy fragrance seemingly have little to do with enjoyment or appreciation of fragrances themselves. People are brainwashed by marketing hype into associating the NAME of a fragrance with a certain visual and/or verbal image that is attractive to them. The actual SMELL is irrelevant. Many fragrance consumers are also paranoid about smelling bad or looking for the illusory magic love (and/or seduction) potion. Therefore what sells is what is marketed best and manages to become a "safe" choice in the mind of the consumer by virtue of name and image recognition.

    The fact that the fragrance industry is actually successful, despite the fact that so many of its consumers seem ignorant about and alienated from the actual product is a tribute to the power of marketing. But I also think it is a tribute the power of fragrance itself. After all, people presumably will not continue to buy and wear products that they don't enjoy and that don't engender positive reactions from others. *I guess this is not too different from any industry or art form, where the majority of output will be blandly conformist, the broad market prefers it that way, and the small minority or enthusiasts constantly complains that its devotion and carefully developed taste is *never recognized, rewarded or satisfied.

    Not that this is what Milamber's original post was doing. I got a little sidetracked from the topic. I quite agree with his observations, but I do find it interesting that these are things that fragrance enthusiasts pay attention to, but the mainstream of fragrance consumers don't.

    Just because it happened to you doesn't make it interesting.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

    My sales thread:

    Wanted: YSL Nu EdP

  7. #7

    Default Re: The Perception of Scent

    EXCELLENT writeup, Milabmer. Excellent. I always enjoy your contributions here!

  8. #8

    Default Re: The Perception of Scent

    Thanks spirit, it's good to be appreciated and makes all the effort worthwhile. [smiley=smiley.gif]

    Steve has made an astute observation and allows me to fill in more voids in my write-up.

    7. Marketing Hype
    It is undoubtedly true that marketing plays a major role in the fragrance industry. That fact that the companies are willing to pour in millions to market a product that hasn't seen the light of day is proof of its efficacy. Advertisements serve as the lure to hook newbies who are blissfully unaware of the derivitives after derivitives being churned for their consumption. It becomes a choice of either Scent A or Scent B or Scent C, which all have more or less the same theme. A-Men or B-Men. 212 or 212 Ice. It can be difficult but we have to break through the trappings of advertisements. I've not bought a single scent yet because i find the ads irresistable, but then i know what to look for. The uninformed does not. They are easily misled by the chimera of a holy grail scent.

    8. The perception of the new
    Related to marketing hype, is the perception that anything new is definitely better than the old. I'm afraid fragrances are not cars or computers. They don't become obsolete, just out of fashion and even then, who decides what is fashionable these days. Confidence is the key. The classics hold hidden treasures that when worn today, out of its time, becomes something new in itself. "They just don't make em' like they used to" is a truism that can be made into a positive instead of a mere lament of old times forgotten. My secret weapons include many classics from the exquisite jasmine scented Monsieur Carven, to the sillage par excellent Caron 3rd Man. Tell me how many today still have DK Fuel or Ungaro I in their arsenal. Very few people indeed and those who do have them can understand what the rest are missing out on right? Part of the fun is the searching for these rare gems and the rest is in owning and wearing them with pride. Pride, not hubris and why not pride when you have a slice of perfumery tradition in your possession.

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