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  1. #1

    Default How does one 'train' the nose?

    Hello everyone

    As a newbie to this community, but a long-time obsessive about perfumes, I've prided myself in the past about my nose (it's big!), and its ability to recognise certain fragrances. However. Since coming here, I've realised that actually I know very little (how the mighty fall - LOL!). So I'm asking most humbly of you experts out there, how does one recognise 'notes', and how do you know what's a basenote, a middle note and a top note (I love the musical analogies...being a musician, it works beautifully for me!), and also, how do you pick out what the ingredients are? Am I assuming people are clever and are doing it by sniff alone - but maybe I'm assigning too much skill to you, and you have lists..? I have no idea! But I'm very keen to learn more about this fascinating art, and I'm delighted to have found so many people with a similar obsession (I never knew!)

    Stoked to be here,
    Clemmie

  2. #2

    Default Re: How does one 'train' the nose?

    I've been here a long time and I'm still realizing that there are so many people here with a lot more knowledge on the subject of fragrances.

    I don't really get a chance to do this but I just smell around and test fragrances. It gives your nose "practice" and your memory a more vast selection of fragrance qualities. You'll start realizing similarities and differences based on the notes, and eventually you'll be able to name those notes you are smelling. It is practice/constant training of your nose.

    To find the different layers of fragrances you generally go by this: First 1 hour is the maximum time for the first layer, usually. Most times it's the first 15 mintues for me. You'll notice the scent changing. Then the middle notes will last for a few hours. After about 2-3 hours of wearing the scent you are in the basenotes. This is an approximation of what I experience and have heard. I hope it helps.
    Last edited by EnvYuS; 28th March 2007 at 04:46 PM.

  3. #3

    Default Re: How does one 'train' the nose?

    Quote Originally Posted by EnvYuS View Post
    I've been here a long time and I'm still realizing that there are so many people here with a lot more knowledge on the subject of fragrances.

    I don't really get a chance to do this but I just smell around and test fragrances. It gives your nose "practice" and your memory a more vast selection of fragrance qualities. You'll start realizing similarities and differences based on the notes, and eventually you'll be able to name those notes you are smelling.
    I think the biggest shock I've got since coming here is finding out how many people are real experts out there. And all this time I thought I knew quite a bit. Actually, I know sod all! I just know what I like, and some things are easily recognisable. I found myself arguing with the woman in the department store where my daughter and I were trying Serge Lutens fragrances, because she insisted something I was smelling didn't have vanilla in it, and then when I got home and looked it up...sure enough, there it was. So some things I really do know...others I'm a complete novice. But what a fab place to be! All that wonderful sniffing and learning to be had!

    Thanks for the reply,
    Clemmie

  4. #4

    Default Re: How does one 'train' the nose?

    This is the perfect time for me to become a member instead of lurking in the shadows. This conversation is something I've been wondering about for awhile, and there are some very helpful people around to ask.

    Where do these pyramids come from; that is, is there some official place where the true ingredients are listed or is this intuited by experience?

  5. #5

    Default Re: How does one 'train' the nose?

    Those pyramids are often times wrong. They are not the all knowing note catalog system. They can give a pretty accurate representation of the scent but don't trust them fully. Use them and then your own nose to build from one another until you have the scent figured out.

  6. #6

    Default Re: How does one 'train' the nose?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bunny View Post
    This is the perfect time for me to become a member instead of lurking in the shadows. This conversation is something I've been wondering about for awhile, and there are some very helpful people around to ask.

    Where do these pyramids come from; that is, is there some official place where the true ingredients are listed or is this intuited by experience?
    Hello Bunny! Nice to be among other newbies here! And what a good question! :-)

    Clemmie
    "I don't know the key to success,
    but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."
    Bill Cosby

  7. #7

    Default Re: How does one 'train' the nose?

    Quote Originally Posted by EnvYuS View Post

    I don't really get a chance to do this but I just smell around and test fragrances. It gives your nose "practice" and your memory a more vast selection of fragrance qualities. You'll start realizing similarities and differences based on the notes, and eventually you'll be able to name those notes you are smelling. It is practice/constant training of your nose.

    To find the different layers of fragrances you generally go by this: First 1 hour is the maximum time for the first layer, usually. Most times it's the first 15 mintues for me. You'll notice the scent changing. Then the middle notes will last for a few hours. After about 2-3 hours of wearing the scent you are in the basenotes. This is an approximation of what I experience and have heard. I hope it helps.
    EnVyuS's comments are spot on. You will gain a greater frame of reference by testing, comparing and contrasting various fragrances.

    For a greater level of clairty in notes analysis, you can order essential oil vials off the 'net of various notes which interest you (cedar, sandalwood, oakmoss, jasmin, etc), smell them in their pure essential oil form, and then try to detect how close to the "real thing" the note in a particular fragrance is. Its an interesting nasal experience and training at the sametime.
    -

  8. #8

    Default Re: How does one 'train' the nose?

    Welcome to the newbies and please dive right in!

    The best way to train one's nose is single note fragrances, when you start realizing and understanding that the plain old vanilla/sandalwood/lily of the valley/rose etc. can smell differently depending on the "nose" behind the fragrance, other components used in a perfume, and different surroundings. I agree that essential oils might be of help, as well as ordering 5-6 samples of scents claiming to share the same note so that you can "parallel park" them, sniff and compare yourself!

  9. #9

    Default Re: How does one 'train' the nose?

    Thank you for these great replies. Where are some good places on the net to find these supplies - essential oils and packs of one note?

  10. #10

    Default Re: How does one 'train' the nose?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bunny View Post
    Thank you for these great replies. Where are some good places on the net to find these supplies - essential oils and packs of one note?
    Eden Botanicals is a good place (I have ordered from them, and they also pack in EO samples with your order):

    http://www.edenbotanicals.com/
    -

  11. #11

    Default Re: How does one 'train' the nose?

    I'm also very new to this business of thinking about composition but I do agree that simply smelling things and free associating about composition is really helpful over time. You notice, for instance, that although Czech & Speake #88 is really different from The Dreamer in most ways it shares a topnote, and by wearing one on each wrist for a day you get clearer about the differences and similarities. With some help from note pyramids, a helpful sales assistant or two, and some loitering around the essential oils section of an organic grocery store, you start to figure out the particulars. It's either lilly or grape Koolaid, by the way. It's slow going but a wonderfully thoughtful, sensuous enterprise. Not Koolaid, I mean, but smelling stuff. Particular formulas are trade secrets, of course, although you can get access to traditional blends on the net and in books. Looking at traditional formulas is a good way to learn which notes are typically paired to form certain accords. Many accords are repeated with variations.

    The single most helpful experience I've had was going to an aroma therapy shop and having them mix a perfume to my specs. A really good local one here in Baltimore is called SoBotanical but I imagine there are such people in many places if you cast around. I worked with a young woman (sigh) who knew a great deal, was very patient, and had a couple hundred oils and vials of...goop...on her shelves. She put things on scent strips for about an hour before she started mixing. She let me smell side-by-side the same materials from different sources and extracted with different methods, which turns out to make a huge difference with naturals. In particular the variety of vetivers and lavenders was really striking. It revealed a whole new layer of complexity to the perfumer's art that I had no idea about.

    It's also been interesting to smell the perfume as it's aged over a couple months. The topnotes have settled down and the basenotes, vetiver and sandalwood and oakmoss, have come forward in the mix. She also let me take the scent strips home. I wish I'd taken more care to label things. The whole experience cost about $30. Really helpful and fun. Plus the *sigh* part. The actual product is humblingly mediocre, which again is sort of helpful to discover. This is no reflection on her skill; their in-house compositions are really nice. I was more interested in trying things than in being sure of the product. It also occurs to me that an aromatherapy shop gives you access to traditional perfume ingredients that are no longer used in commercial frags because of the new industry guidelines.

    The generous and knowledgable fellow sniffers at Basenotes have been wonderfully generous. People are very generous with decants and often include interesting samples along with even very small purchases. Happy smelling and all the best to you!
    Last edited by Strollyourlobster; 30th March 2007 at 01:17 AM.

  12. #12

    Default Re: How does one 'train' the nose?

    Hi, again, Clemmie!

    I have a very simple approach you can try. Look up the ingredients on a few scents you would like to test. Write them down or print them out, then head to the shop. When you smell the fragrance, see if you can pick up the individual notes. If you can't pick them out that way because you are unfamiliar with what they are, you might need to look a few of them up. Many common perfume ingredients have multiple names, ex. Pikaki is also called Hawaiian Jasmine; Myrrh is also called Oppoponax. ETC. If you need to start small and start recognizing what Jasmine actually smells like, etc., you can try your local Body Shop for single note oils.

    Hope this helps!
    And he whose soul is flat -- the sky
    Will cave in on him by and by.

    —from "Renascence" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

  13. #13

    Default Re: How does one 'train' the nose?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kotori View Post
    Hi, again, Clemmie!

    I have a very simple approach you can try. Look up the ingredients on a few scents you would like to test. Write them down or print them out, then head to the shop. When you smell the fragrance, see if you can pick up the individual notes. If you can't pick them out that way because you are unfamiliar with what they are, you might need to look a few of them up. Many common perfume ingredients have multiple names, ex. Pikaki is also called Hawaiian Jasmine; Myrrh is also called Oppoponax. ETC. If you need to start small and start recognizing what Jasmine actually smells like, etc., you can try your local Body Shop for single note oils.

    Hope this helps!
    Everything helps - and I adore Jasmine, so that's an easy bit of 'homework' to do! :-)

    I like this approach. As you say, it's simple, and simple is me all over.

    Colleague of mine was telling me yesterday that she gives her perfume away because people buy it for her and she doesn't always like it. As this story developed, she told me she was given a bottle of Lallique in a crystal bottle, and she gave it to a charity shop. She described the bottle to me, and I looked it up and was shocked to discover that these crystal bottles are special editions, one for each year (hers was 1996 or 97), and they cost HUNDREDS! I told her this morning and watched her face go all pale...

    I guess it's true that ignorance is bliss, eh? ;-)

    Clemmie
    "I don't know the key to success,
    but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."
    Bill Cosby

  14. #14

    Default Re: How does one 'train' the nose?

    Hi Clemmie
    I'm in the same boat as you. I've been perfume obsessed for as long as I can remember, and only just recently decided to really educate myself - hence my signing up on basenotes!
    Check out the wiki page on Perfume, if you haven't already.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfume
    Now it sounds like it'll be really basic, but I thought it was a pretty informative read. In section 2 it explains the Fragrance Notes, which I found really interesting.
    **Also, it does list Basenotes in it's links section.. ;-)

  15. #15

    Default Re: How does one 'train' the nose?

    Quote Originally Posted by Clemmie View Post
    Everything helps - and I adore Jasmine, so that's an easy bit of 'homework' to do! :-)

    I like this approach. As you say, it's simple, and simple is me all over.

    Colleague of mine was telling me yesterday that she gives her perfume away because people buy it for her and she doesn't always like it. As this story developed, she told me she was given a bottle of Lallique in a crystal bottle, and she gave it to a charity shop. She described the bottle to me, and I looked it up and was shocked to discover that these crystal bottles are special editions, one for each year (hers was 1996 or 97), and they cost HUNDREDS! I told her this morning and watched her face go all pale...

    I guess it's true that ignorance is bliss, eh? ;-)

    Clemmie
    Oh, no! She could have sold those bottles for a nice chunk! If you hold on to any of those bottles long enough, they can go for thousands! At least this didn't happen to her:

    http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/comm-oddi...ns_for_21.html
    And he whose soul is flat -- the sky
    Will cave in on him by and by.

    —from "Renascence" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

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