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  1. #1

    Default Single notes: the fools we are

    Have you ever asked yourself a simple question: what is a single note? Most of us probably have the answer before we even think about it: something you smelt before and recognize easily - lemon, bazil, clover, rose. So we're learn these "single notes" and use them as our foundation to explan other scents - when asked to review a new fragrance, we'd reply "top notes of bergamont with some sea foam, middle notes of clover etc." Right?

    I say it's nonsense and it's about time we throw it out of the window and turn things upside down!

    Consider the chemical composition of a well known "single note" - lemon: a-pinene, camphene, b-pinene, sabinene, myrcene, a-terpinene, linalool, b-bisabolene, limonene, trans-a-bergamotene, nerol and neral. How's that medley for a single note? Each of these constituents have a distinct odor and deserve to be known as true single notes.

    Take linalool, a very common compound found in lavender and other floral matter. Why don't we designate it as a single note and base our perception on it? This would indeed complicate matters somewhat: lavender would be described as containing 3 notes: linalool, linalyl and a touch of camphor. But isn't it so much more accurate and makes more sense?

    xilonic

  2. #2

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    But only makes the learning curve all that much more steep. I try to review impressionistically when I review. Just to avoid the sort of exactness problem you cite.
    --Chris
    That girl, that bottle, that mattress and me.

  3. #3
    Serpent
    Guest

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    ¿Que?

  4. #4

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are


    If we're fools, then so are the perfumers who work with these complex odorants and use the single note system of designations as a way of explaining to themselves and to others what they're trying to achieve. Your question is a little too excited with the new knowledge you've acquired. Perfumers have since the turn of the century understood that modern perfumery is part chemistry, part natural ingredients, and part invention, and that the note system is an approximation of describing the nature specific smells and even abstract smells they're trying to achieve with their formulations. The wonder of it all is that such achievements and the descriptive terms used to articulate them--like metaphors in language--can so vividly represent the original and the real and even the unreal. I don't share your excited cynicism and self-abasement. Sorry.

    scentemental


    Last edited by scentemental; 20th August 2006 at 04:45 AM.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    That was stimulating to think about. Another conundrum of the state of things. I wouldn't disagree with the logic. It would be a more accurate way of listing the notes. But it's certainly not the most efficient.

    For anyone short of an organic chemist, making heads or tails of any of these chemical medleys would be nigh impossible. It's nice when designers are specific of the notes character. Instead of just saying "lemon" as a top note. Rather saying "Sicilian lemon" if that's more true to what the designer intended, so much the better. But going beyond real world representations of notes in respect to the layman is a gesture that removes the art from the science.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    xilonic, it all depends on at what level of abstraction you want to talk.

    People would rather request a lemon or orange juice at a bar, rather than a "a-pinene, camphene, b-pinene, sabinene, myrcene, a-terpinene, linalool, b-bisabolene, limonene, trans-a-bergamotene, nerol and neral" juice - the latter I gather would be much more cool to say if at a chemists/scientists conference or gathering.

    The analogy holds true for fragrances as well. Most of us would rather talk and discuss at a higher level of abstraction ("a lemon note"), but perfumers (who are mainly chemists or hold chemistry degrees) might be insterested in the constituent elements of those notes.
    -

  7. #7

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    Oh wow Zztop, you're a neighbor! I'm in Gardendale..hehehe. Too cool.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    I'd say that trying to isolate the actual pure scent of a single note is like trying to isolate the actual pure definition of a word in any language. A language's words only mean what they mean because people on a whole agree to their meaning. If asked, every single person's definition of a given word would be different due to their experience of that word or concept, but since there is a system of language in place it would be very similar.
    I'd say that the same goes for fragrance notes. We use these notes as a guide, or language, to describe a fragrance. If you want to get technical, the method of science also relies on a language, and it's precision does not exempt it from the rules of languages.
    What we are trying to do here is basically use a language to describe a feeling that we get from fragrance. Fragrance or smell itself is a huge and powerful human sense. Language of definition allows us to have the general or even pretty precise idea of what it could smell like, but no pyramid diagram or word description can ever match actually smelling it, or how you personally will relate to it! This is what's so awesome about fragrances!

  9. #9

    Cool Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    Quote Originally Posted by FragranceFan255
    Oh wow Zztop, you're a neighbor! I'm in Gardendale..hehehe. Too cool.
    Go UAB Southside !
    -

  10. #10

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    Quote Originally Posted by LushLife
    I'd say that trying to isolate the actual pure scent of a single note is like trying to isolate the actual pure definition of a word in any language. A language's words only mean what they mean because people on a whole agree to their meaning. If asked, every single person's definition of a given word would be different due to their experience of that word or concept, but since there is a system of language in place it would be very similar.
    I'd say that the same goes for fragrance notes. We use these notes as a guide, or language, to describe a fragrance. If you want to get technical, the method of science also relies on a language, and it's precision does not exempt it from the rules of languages.
    What we are trying to do here is basically use a language to describe a feeling that we get from fragrance. Fragrance or smell itself is a huge and powerful human sense. Language of definition allows us to have the general or even pretty precise idea of what it could smell like, but no pyramid diagram or word description can ever match actually smelling it, or how you personally will relate to it! This is what's so awesome about fragrances!
    Great post LushLife!
    My Current Top 5: Terre d'Hermès | Terre de Bois by Miller Harris | Isfarkand by Ormonde Jayne | Brit for Men by Burberry | Grapefruit by Jo Malone

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  11. #11

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    Such scientific terminology could never capture the spirit and soul of the scent. Words evoke emotions, ideas and concepts. Jargon are merely sterile, impotent representations of the thing itself.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    poster is making a very important point, brilliant really. it has so much to do with why different associations cross different peoples' minds in scenting.

    where he crosses the line is in suggesting that the usual way of describing a scent is "nonsense". THAT is absurd. Even if people do totally contradict each other routinely.

    HOWEVER, it does seem that there could be some degree of "nonsense reduction" in one's knowing more about the irreducible elements of fragrance.

    I'm sure the master perfumers are more interested in reading the fine print on the back of the bottle than they are in the info that reaches consumers regarding "notes". Knowledge of acoustics never hurt any great musician and in the case of making perfumes, I imagine that more than just about any other art forms, a knowledge of the science is... of the essence (pun intended yuck yuck).

    but it's too bad the poster took this "let's sweep everything away" tack putting the responders in an ornery almost xenophobic space and kind of justifiably but really wrongly I think.

    it's unfortunate that the chemical names don't have some more descriptive, or even poetic equivalent. too bad they have not been names the way we named the planets or the chemical elements for that matter.

    I think it would be fantastic to know that if you were to order a drink at an engineer's convention and you said "hold the b-bisabolene and give me extra camphene" if you also knew that that meant turning orange juice into tomato juice or something.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    Quote Originally Posted by supermarky
    I'm sure the master perfumers are more interested in reading the fine print on the back of the bottle than they are in the info that reaches consumers regarding "notes".
    I doubt perfumers like Mandy Aftel, Ayala Sender or Moondeva do that. Until we can precisely quantify the structure of the human soul in precise mathematical formula, i prefer to keep perfumery as an art rather than an absolute science.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    I'm with Supermarky on this one. I also liked the link with language.

    Think of camphene or linalool as an individual 's' or 'w'. By themselves, they are meaningless. They only acquire meaning when combined into a word, such as 'sweet'. But that doesn't mean that 'sweet' isn't built up of the sounds 's', 'w', 'ee' and 't'.
    'Sweet' is the note, 's' and 'w' are the chemical component parts that make it up.

    You can build even higher structures: a 'sweet-tooth' is built up of two words, but in an abstract way: a sweet-tooth is not a kind of tooth, nor is it something or someone who's actually 'sweet' him/herself. The concept sweet-tooth has a more complex relationship to its component parts, but that doesn't mean it isn't made up of them - or on a more microscopic level, of 's', 'w', 'ee', 't', 't', 'oo', and 'th'.
    'Sweet-tooth' would be an 'accord', then, yes?

    Anyway, the level of abstraction at which you want to talk about this depends on your goals, I guess. To a phonetician, like me, talking about individual sounds [=chemical components] is very relevant. To most people, words [=notes] are the smallest units of language with any interest - they use them to convey meaning.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    The original perfumers worked with botanicals and a limited number of animal substances. Of course, these are complex in chemical and olfactory terms, but the combination of them in each botanical is unique and a miracle of nature. And, I submit, we tend to continue to think in terms of the natural botanical units of fragrance

    Some of the individual aromatic elements of botanicals also exist as single (or preponderant, and therefore recognizably characteristic) notes of particular natural botanicals. In that case, i think linalool coud rank along with jasmine, as an aroma characterizing a particular natural botanical.

    Generally, I feel we shouldn't get too far from the roots of the perfumer's art, even as it becomes increasingly informed by science and the arts of the laboratory,

    A rose is a rose, for all that: a Bulgarian rose, a rose de mai, a damask rose, a tea rose. Isn't nature wonderful enough in her variety? Do we have to constantly pull her masterpieces apart? I think they are organic in both senses of the word.
    Yr good bud,

    JaimeB

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  16. #16

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    Its probably technically the correct way to think about it, but in reality none of us are going to start talking like "hey I really like the 2-synthywonky-n-hyperablonymethylfrosti in the vanilla note in Habit Rouge."

    Personally I'm fascinated by the scientific side of it, but without that sort of background it is pretty impossible to discuss frags of that detail. But noses might and so might Luca Turin.
    K
    In rotation: Greenbriar (new), Silver Mountain Water, Dunhill for Men (1934), Acqua di Parma Colonia, Habit Rouge EDC, Ho Hang, B*Men, Agua Brava

  17. #17

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    "Martha, my ventral tegmental area and my caudate nucleus are almost dripping with vasopressin! When I'm with you, my Dehydroepiandrosterone levels are nearly 3 times baseline levels!

    In addition, your presence causes me to produce the finest sorts of Phenethylamines and endorphins... Your Androsterone causes my Norepinephrine to rise like like the basal metabolic rate of an aeropalynologist with hay fever! I don't have the words to express the effects of our limerent love on the amount of dopamine secreted by my adrenal glands and other nervous tissues!

    By the way, what is that perfume you're wearing? It smells like baking or sugar or something mixed with some kind of flower."




    -ben
    Nihil Obstat Ben


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  18. #18

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    Quote Originally Posted by greyhueofdoubt
    "Martha, my ventral tegmental area and my caudate nucleus are almost dripping with vasopressin! When I'm with you, my Dehydroepiandrosterone levels are nearly 3 times baseline levels!

    In addition, your presence causes me to produce the finest sorts of Phenethylamines and endorphins... Your Androsterone causes my Norepinephrine to rise like like the basal metabolic rate of an aeropalynologist with hay fever! I don't have the words to express the effects of our limerent love on the amount of dopamine secreted by my adrenal glands and other nervous tissues!

    By the way, what is that perfume you're wearing? It smells like baking or sugar or something mixed with some kind of flower."
    -ben
    Yes, my point exactly!

  19. #19

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    Quote Originally Posted by xilonic
    Have you ever asked yourself a simple question: what is a single note? Most of us probably have the answer before we even think about it: something you smelt before and recognize easily - lemon, bazil, clover, rose. So we're learn these "single notes" and use them as our foundation to explan other scents - when asked to review a new fragrance, we'd reply "top notes of bergamont with some sea foam, middle notes of clover etc." Right?

    I say it's nonsense and it's about time we throw it out of the window and turn things upside down!

    Consider the chemical composition of a well known "single note" - lemon: a-pinene, camphene, b-pinene, sabinene, myrcene, a-terpinene, linalool, b-bisabolene, limonene, trans-a-bergamotene, nerol and neral. How's that medley for a single note? Each of these constituents have a distinct odor and deserve to be known as true single notes.

    Take linalool, a very common compound found in lavender and other floral matter. Why don't we designate it as a single note and base our perception on it? This would indeed complicate matters somewhat: lavender would be described as containing 3 notes: linalool, linalyl and a touch of camphor. But isn't it so much more accurate and makes more sense?

    xilonic
    because no one smells linalool anywhere in this world other than from a bottle of linalool, but we smell lemon lavender etc all the time.

  20. #20

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    We are such fools!
    Are you not entertained??? Is this not why you are here??

  21. #21

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    Most of us have no idea what separate molecules smell like and not much chance to find out. I can detect coumarin and quinoline in a fragrance, but that's about it.

    What I don't put put much weight upon is scent pyramids and the notes listed by the manufacturer. I don't recall Ebony having any perticular smell for instance.

    Edit: Ok, I didn't see this topic had gone on for three pages. Not much added with my little post I'm afraid. Hey-ho.

  22. #22

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    Natural esential oils with more or less complex chemical composition, aromatic chemical products ex natural or synthetic also with complex isomer composition, creation bases like Lily of the valley, Gardenia, Honeysuckle, Fressia... Fantasie bases like leather, woods, spices, exotics fruits....

    Are the composition elements that the perfumer knows in terms of odor and blend results. He use his elements collection like a "palette" to compoud accords and parfums.

    The chemical compositions in differents colours in a painting "palette" is the same.

  23. #23

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    Quote Originally Posted by greyhueofdoubt
    "Martha, my ventral tegmental area and my caudate nucleus are almost dripping with vasopressin! When I'm with you, my Dehydroepiandrosterone levels are nearly 3 times baseline levels!

    In addition, your presence causes me to produce the finest sorts of Phenethylamines and endorphins... Your Androsterone causes my Norepinephrine to rise like like the basal metabolic rate of an aeropalynologist with hay fever! I don't have the words to express the effects of our limerent love on the amount of dopamine secreted by my adrenal glands and other nervous tissues!

    By the way, what is that perfume you're wearing? It smells like baking or sugar or something mixed with some kind of flower."

    -ben
    LOL... !

    I'll give you a 10, ben.

    « L'odeur de rose, faible, grâce au vent léger d'été qui passe, se mêle aux parfums qu'elle a mis.»
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  24. #24

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    Quote Originally Posted by xilonic
    I say it's nonsense and it's about time we throw it out of the window and turn things upside down!

    Take linalool, a very common compound found in lavender and other floral matter. Why don't we designate it as a single note and base our perception on it? This would indeed complicate matters somewhat: lavender would be described as containing 3 notes: linalool, linalyl and a touch of camphor. But isn't it so much more accurate and makes more sense?
    xilonic
    It sounds like you're essentially saying that we should all increase our chemistry acumen, and that we should allow you to define our terms for describing a fragrance based on your approach being the most correct one. OK, I'll concede, you're a scientist and smarter than we are!

    As a musician, I could propose that everybody should describe music something like this: "Based on my perfect pitch, I know that the song is in F# minor. The tune's main motive is a descending 8-note theme. The harmony modulates in the eighth bar to a Phrygian cadence in the subdominant key, wherein the initial theme appears truncated in retrograde order. The first theme is then restated in staccato bursts in the dominant key with metric changes, and finally the beginning section is recapitulated in bar 48". So much better and more precise that "dude, it's trip-hop with an Arabic-sounding thing in the middle, and it rocks!", but everyone would be scratching their head or falling asleep.

    In a perfect world I suppose we could all be conversant in everyone else's technical jargon, but different people have different backgrounds and strengths. Part of the fun here is hearing a wide variety of views, otherwise, no forum needed, just a technical manual.

  25. #25

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    Quote Originally Posted by xilonic
    we'd

    Don't you mean "we would"... ?

  26. #26

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    There are actually more notes added in a perfume than listed on the pyramid description. Also, the notes description is use for marketing purposes - lifestyle magazine readers aren't chemistry geeks, they wouldn't want a perfume review with all the technical details.

    Although, it would be good to have all the natural and synthetic ingredients listed on the back of the bottle like they did with food. Sooner or later this will be compulsory I think, consumers need to know whats in their perfume.

  27. #27

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    Quote Originally Posted by eau_de_amour
    There are actually more notes added in a perfume than listed on the pyramid description. Also, the notes description is use for marketing purposes - lifestyle magazine readers aren't chemistry geeks, they wouldn't want a perfume review with all the technical details.

    Although, it would be good to have all the natural and synthetic ingredients listed on the back of the bottle like they did with food. Sooner or later this will be compulsory I think, consumers need to know whats in their perfume.

    Many perfumes coming out of Europe do have many (if not most) of the substances listed on the back. The reason for that is related to health concerns, but I suppose you could use the list to come up with some idea of the fragrance's characteristic. I've found, however, that the ingredient lists are almost identical among disparate scents- this is because only some of the ingredients have to be listed, and those tend to be very commong ingredients.
    Nihil Obstat Ben


    My Wardrobe

  28. #28

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    Quote Originally Posted by greyhueofdoubt
    Many perfumes coming out of Europe do have many (if not most) of the substances listed on the back. The reason for that is related to health concerns, but I suppose you could use the list to come up with some idea of the fragrance's characteristic. I've found, however, that the ingredient lists are almost identical among disparate scents- this is because only some of the ingredients have to be listed, and those tend to be very commong ingredients.
    I have never seen a perfume listing their ingredients besides the shower gel and deodorant. Which perfume has it listed?

  29. #29

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    Quote Originally Posted by eau_de_amour
    I have never seen a perfume listing their ingredients besides the shower gel and deodorant. Which perfume has it listed?
    They all do, I believe they're obliged to give a full INCI declaration. To give you an example: Purple Water by Asprey lists

    SD alcohol 39-c, water, fragrance, limonene, linalool, ethylhexyl, methoxycinnamate, ethylhexyl salicylate, butylphenyl methylpropional, citral, geraniol, butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane, hydroxycitronellal, citronellol, eugenol, benzyl alcohol.

    Now repeat quickly 10 times
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  30. #30

    Default Re: Single notes: the fools we are

    Quote Originally Posted by Cognoscento
    It sounds like you're essentially saying that we should all increase our chemistry acumen, and that we should allow you to define our terms for describing a fragrance based on your approach being the most correct one. OK, I'll concede, you're a scientist and smarter than we are!

    As a musician, I could propose that everybody should describe music something like this: "Based on my perfect pitch, I know that the song is in F# minor. The tune's main motive is a descending 8-note theme. The harmony modulates in the eighth bar to a Phrygian cadence in the subdominant key, wherein the initial theme appears truncated in retrograde order. The first theme is then restated in staccato bursts in the dominant key with metric changes, and finally the beginning section is recapitulated in bar 48". So much better and more precise that "dude, it's trip-hop with an Arabic-sounding thing in the middle, and it rocks!", but everyone would be scratching their head or falling asleep.

    In a perfect world I suppose we could all be conversant in everyone else's technical jargon, but different people have different backgrounds and strengths. Part of the fun here is hearing a wide variety of views, otherwise, no forum needed, just a technical manual.

    good post my friend!
    "Don’t try to be original. Be simple. Be good technically, and if there is something in you, it will come out. ” - Henri Matisse.

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