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  1. #1

    Default Two Quick Technical Questions

    So - a little background so y'all know where I'm coming from with this. I'm really into wine. Really. Not only do I sell it professionally, but I love the stuff. I take notes on every wine that I taste, and I'm getting close to 6,000 tasting notes in about six years of doing this. I know that descriptors are different for each person - language is a tricky thing at times, but I've fallen in love with scent recently, and would like to know more about how to evaluate the stuff so I can contribute more to this forum.

    My questions then are two.

    First: How should I evaluate a scent? In wine, you look at color (the rim and the core of the wine), the nose (with and without swirling), the palate (texture, flavors) and finish (length, changes, summary). Is there a similar standard I could use to help me be complete and concise as I'm starting out? A quick and dirty checklist?

    Second: Finding good definitions for common wine aromas is pretty easy - you can walk through the grocery store and smell and taste plums, apples, pears, bananas, cloves, vanilla, etc. But civet, guiac wood, amber and vetiver? Is there a reference of scents where I could get a basic array of descriptors under my belt? I'd imagine it would be hard to pin down what constitutes 'amber', as most scents will have it in accord with other notes, and not knowing one from the other would make it difficult to pick something specific out.

    Thanks,

    Zachary

  2. #2

    Default Re: Two Quick Technical Questions

    Great questions, Zachary. Too bad it's late at night my time--I'm not able to think well enough to think of an answer. Maybe tomorrow. I hope others will weigh in before I have a chance too. There are ways but none as easy or available as walking through the grocery store.

    Too bad for sure!
    --Chris
    That girl, that bottle, that mattress and me.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Two Quick Technical Questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Zachary
    So - a little background so y'all know where I'm coming from with this. I'm really into wine. Really. Not only do I sell it professionally, but I love the stuff. I take notes on every wine that I taste, and I'm getting close to 6,000 tasting notes in about six years of doing this. I know that descriptors are different for each person - language is a tricky thing at times, but I've fallen in love with scent recently, and would like to know more about how to evaluate the stuff so I can contribute more to this forum.

    My questions then are two.

    First: How should I evaluate a scent? In wine, you look at color (the rim and the core of the wine), the nose (with and without swirling), the palate (texture, flavors) and finish (length, changes, summary). Is there a similar standard I could use to help me be complete and concise as I'm starting out? A quick and dirty checklist?

    Second: Finding good definitions for common wine aromas is pretty easy - you can walk through the grocery store and smell and taste plums, apples, pears, bananas, cloves, vanilla, etc. But civet, guiac wood, amber and vetiver? Is there a reference of scents where I could get a basic array of descriptors under my belt? I'd imagine it would be hard to pin down what constitutes 'amber', as most scents will have it in accord with other notes, and not knowing one from the other would make it difficult to pick something specific out.

    Thanks,

    Zachary
    Zachary,
    Good questions.

    Re Q1: I think it might be difficult to determine what you might use in evaluating a frag until you've smelled a lot of frags, and sometimes lived with the frags for a while. It does seem to require some expertise which comes over time, kind of like connoiseurship in wine, cigars, brandy (and perhaps womens shoes but I'll leave that for the women to decide. ) Still, there might be some useful things to know in evaluating a frag as you get into it:
    1. Overall composition of the frag (i.e. Oriental, Chypre, Woody, Citric, Aquatic, Fougere, etc)
    2. Duration (how long does it last on your skin)
    3. Siliage (how far does it project from your skin - usually a difficult question to answer)
    4. Prominent notes (if you can pick them out, figuring out what the notes are takes time)
    5. Linear or non-linear? (Does the frag change over time? It would be non-linear. Does it seem to stay the same on your skin all day? Then it would be linear.)
    6. Do you like the frag and why or why not? (I'd consider what it is that you like about the frag (i.e. it smells like freshly mown grass) or what you don't like about the frag (i.e. it smells like an ashtray) )
    7. Compare the frag with other frags. (this is what I tend to do a lot, and it helps develop your "nose for notes" as there will be some common notes between some frags. It also helps to look at the pyramids when comparing them. Take a look at the one on basenotes and the one on osmoz.com (use their "encyclopedia") for pyramids... I'm sure there are other places)

    I'd take a look at the "tribute to classical fragrances" thread to see how milamber and some others took a semi-systematic approach to reviewing frags: http://community.basenotes.net/showt...ribute+classic

    Re Q2: You might sniff some essential oils to get an idea of what they smell like, but sometimes even then they don't smell the same as you might find in frags, but that is the best start I can think of.
    You might think that frags with names like "vetiver" or "sandalwood" or "whatever note" would smell like that note, but they can be wildly different interpretations of that note... i.e. Guerlain Vetiver smells nothing like L'Occitane Vetiver and Arden Sandalwood does not smell like Caswell Massey Sandalwood... Usually there are a lot of other notes floating around.

    Beyond sniffing essential oils (which only goes so far), I'd suggest comparing different fragrances and using the pyramids as guidance. Keep in mind that the pyramids are not perfect and you might pick out notes which are not listed in the pyramids! It takes time but can be rewarding.

    I think since you're already good at sniffing wines, this would give you a head start in the world of sniffing fragrances, as your sniffer might be attuned to picking up nuances whereas a total newcomer to sniffing might be more inclined (as I did) to simply categorizing something as "spicy", "soapy", "disgusting", "watery", etc.

    Have fun!
    K
    MisterK / Vicomte de K / K
    Ephemeral Top 5: YSL PH HC, Worth PH, Equipage, Monsieur Rochas HC, Acqua di Gio

  4. #4

    Default Re: Two Quick Technical Questions

    First of all, welcome aboard Zachary!!!
    Very nice introduction indeed!!!
    I find myself to be pretty a wines and smells amateur so I can understand your point of view.
    Like for wines, for scents is important to understnd the "bouquet" that composes the smell of the juice. The most important difference is that the smell of wine comes from the juice itself and you don't need it to be longlasting as you enjoy it while you drink it.
    To a perfume is required it to be longlasting, to have not only topnotes(the ones that appear just applied the juice) but to develop and stay for a long time. Hence there's the need of making the smell made of several layers revealing sheet by sheet during the time.
    Like for wines though there are notes more volatile and less volatile and more structured smells or more plain ones.
    So for evaluating a scent it's important to look at:
    1) overall impression and sensations it transmits (I usually close my eyes and try to imagine scenes that the juice transmit on me) this is a more subjective judgement, more emotional but after all you judge a scent also basing on what it transmits to you nah?
    2) analisys of the composition: topnotes, heartnotes and basenotes, their quality (synthetical or quite natural smell), their texture (crisp, powdery...) their balance (too prominent notes that overcome on a faint base? too loud base on faint topnotes? any too prominent note? etc...)
    3) Projection: how much the juice project the smell around you? how good is the sillage (the trail of perfume you leave around you)? There are some juices that are very good but stay very close to the skin for example. Here is again a personal thing as many people like louder scents while others prefer their smellies to be more "discrete"
    4) Staying power: the amount of time the perfume lasts on your skin (even close to it) in order to be detectable.
    5) The style of the composition: some are simple but of an amazing beauty, some are baroque and enchanting, other are redundatly heavy and boring or simple, flat and meaningless.

    About the terminology for describing scents and notes you can unleash your fantasy, and keeping analogies from the word of colours, foods, architecture, etc... And about detecting notes like vetiver etc... well, many of them are basically notes you can pic around you and not only foods but also flowers (roses, geranium, lilies, etc), herbs(basil, rosemary, lavender etc...), woods (hazelnut, oak,...). Many other are maybe hard to find so as suggests MisterK smellign pure essential oils can be a good source for them. You can also try to understand them basing on smelling juices supposed to have a certain predominant note (i.e. vetiver).
    Hope you'll enjoy the community and let us be part of the game. wishing you lots of fun!

  5. #5

    Default Re: Two Quick Technical Questions

    I'm going to give you a sideways answer. Rather than address your question on note associations, I'll give you tips on testing/evaluating.

    The best time to test is midafternoon. Your sense of smell is sharpest then.

    Have the fragrance sprayed on your skin. Spend a few hours in a warm place and note how the fragrance develops (top to heart to base).

    Beware of olfactory fatigue. You may stop being able to smell a fragrance you are wearing. To properly assess longevity and sillage, you should have a reliable person to ask. Olfactory fatigue also means to not try to sample too many things in one sitting.

    There was a discussion recently where it was mentioned that a saline nasal spray might be an effective way to 'cleanse the palate' of the nose as it were, similar to rinsing the mouth with water at beverage tastings (yeah, wine tastings to you, but I did the same thing at a Johnny Walker whiskey event last night). Since I've already come across news that saline sprays can be very effective in preventing colds, I've just acquired some and will be experimenting.

    Hope this helps
    Dan

  6. #6

    Default Re: Two Quick Technical Questions

    Thanks for the quick advice, everyone - It's nice to know that y'all are polite and helpful. I'll keep your suggestions in mind and try to read up on a more disciplined approach to this. In the mean time, I think I'll post a note on Bel Ami from Hermes, one of my favorite scents, over on the Men's side.

    Thanks,

    Zachary

  7. #7

    Default Re: Two Quick Technical Questions

    just want to add that i've noticed my appreciation for wines (and ability to pick out notes) has improved since i've been getting into frags, and vice versa -- they are mutually conducive hobbies
    baald

    Buy my extra scents - mainly niche - over 50 items (tiny bottles)

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