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  1. #1
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    Default Sixteen questions and answers on scents by Chandler Burr (Part 1 of 2)

    Back on the basenotesemergency board, I posted an article titled 'Eau-La-La' in the May 2007 issue of O magazine (Oprah Winfrey's magazine) by Chandler Burr (NY Times perfume critic) with sixteen (16) questions and answers on fragrances. The article was written in an educational 'Fragrance 101' style, rather than Mr. Burr's normal 'critique' columns. It was interesting to read some things I already knew, read new stuff (that I agreed and disagreed with) and hear other Basenoters comments.

    I decided to copy & paste the article over here on the Main Boards - here in the Just Starting Out area - since this is NOT a mens/womens fragrance subject, it's both.

    In the old board, I posted 2 questions per post, but that took a LOT of time. This time I'm gonna post 2 different threads with half the article on each.

    As I said in the last thread: 'Let's not turn this into a I-hate-Chandler Burr-thread. Lets focus on the Questions and Answers. Or better yet - how would YOU have answered the questions below?

    Enjoy!

    Mike

    __________________________________________________ ____

    1. When you're fragrance shopping, is it better to use those paper testers or your own skin?

    There's nothing wrong with blotters for browsing (but make sure you dont touch the blotter to your nose; getting the fragrance on your skin will adulterate all other scents). Don't inhale steadily over it; lean into it, get the scent and then move it away for a second. Repeat this several times. Wait a few moments between different scents. I dont use those ubiquitous coffee beans to clear my scent palate - they're just another smell that will fatigue the nose. Once you find a few fragrances youre ready to get serious about you must try them on your skin. You can ask for a sample vial to take home; apply the fragrance in the morning, wear it all day, reapply in the afternoon, and perhaps at night. You're finding out how it performs, how you feel about it at every hour (and in every mood). Repeat the next day. Then if you like it, buy it.

    2. What are top, middle and bottom notes?

    It's all about molecular weight. A perfume freshly sprayed on your arm is like a box of balloons at different sizes thats just been opened. The balloons lift off from your skin; the first ones that zip up and hit your nose are the top notes, the smallest and lightest (citruses, powdery scents or light florals). And then they're gone. Next to come off your skin are the middle notes, the medium-weight molecules (heavier florals most often). The last to lift off (and they cling to your skin) are the base notes, the heaviest (smokes and leathers).

    3. What's the difference between parfum and eau de toilette?

    Parfum and eau de toilette are simply different concentrations of the raw perfume - called 'concentrate' or 'oil' by the industry - in an alcohol solution. There's a loose rule of thumb: Perfume is 20 percent concentrate, eau is 10 percent, but the actual percentages can vary quite a bit. As to whether they smell different: It depends. Sometimes they smell identical - and sometimes you're able to discern a notable qualitative variation. There's no science to it (or rather, there may be, but its extremely arcane). Try both and see which works for you - and your budget (the parfums are often twice as costly, if not more).

    4. Is it better to spritz or dab, and which method applies more scent?

    You're asking two questions, and I'm really glad you asked the second. The first - spritz or dab - is simple: doesn't matter. At all. I don't care what the fanatics tell you.

    But as for the other - I suspect companies use spray heads because they want to sell more perfume. With the average spray, as much as 50 percent of your precious juice is winding up on the carpet. If that bugs you, as much as it does me, toss the spray head.

    5. Does fragrance have a shelf life?

    Absolutely yes: Perfumes go bad – they ‘turn,’ as the French say - and bizarrely enough, I find that even if you have no idea what the perfume is supposed to smell like (and even if its something as strange as a few of the Comme des Garcons perfumes), you can smell that ‘off’ quality instantly. A perfume’s life depends hugely on how you store it. Worst enemy? Light. Second worst? Heat. People tell me all of the time, ‘I keep my scents on the windowsill because I like how they look when the sunlight hits them.’ Great, but: Sunlight is destroying your perfume just as it destroys your skin. Because people do dumb things like this, fragrance companies try to help them out by putting sun-filtering molecules in perfume. They’ll prolong a fragrance’s life, as will an opaque bottle (like the Tom Ford Black Orchid flask or the black glass of Fracas). But if you care about your Gucci Envy, you’ll store it in a dark, cool place. And if you’re really serious, there’s only one place for it: the fridge. Just take over one of the vegetable crispers. A pound of carrots costs $1.57; your 100 milliliters of Envy ran you $85.

    6. Do scents need time before they fully blossom, or are they at their best immediately after you spray them?

    In the perfume section of a department store in Japan, you’ll see something very strange. The Japanese dislike the way perfume changes over time, so they spray blotters at the beginning of the day, anchor the blotters under their respective perfume bottles, and by the time the store has opened, the top notes are gone and the perfume has settled down to its main story. That’s what customers smell. But I think there’s no right time to smell a perfume. After five seconds, you’ll get the top notes; after five hours, you’ll get the heart. If the perfume is good, both smell great.

    7. How can I make scents last on me?

    Ah, the fundamental question. You’ve found your true loves and now you just want them to stay. One faithfully spends the whole day with you, the other callously slips away before you even reach the office. Here’s the bad news: There’s nothing you can do to prolong scent on your skin. It all depends on what the French call la persistence of the fragrance. A lot of the lighter citruses, flowers, and gentler woody scents are going to float away much faster than the heavier smoke, leather and animalic ones. The rule is: pretty is fleeting; heavy sticks around. Take the utterly genius Hermes Ambre Narguile. Here’s a perfume of such luscious perfection, you want to melt into it as if it were an expert beurre caramel. Ambre Narguile will not only dance all evening with the one that brung it, it’ll take you all the way home, too. But Fresh’s new Sugar Lychee? You get half an hour of the ethereal, carbonated, fruity astringent loveliness – and then it’s outta there. But it’s a hell of a half hour. So keep the Hermes in the crisper, but put Fresh in your bag and reapply periodically.

    8. How often do I need to reapply?

    As often as you need to keep the smell at perfect pitch. Hermes’s 2003 Un Jardin en Mediterranee, one of the most insanely wonderful light scents in the world, disappears quickly, like almost all light perfumes. Reapply every 45 minutes. With Guerlain’s 1929 Liu, a perfume of almost impossible glamour, you apply at 7:30pm and when the limousine drops you off at 5 A.M., the last faint lovely traces are still on your arms.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Sixteen questions and answers on scents by Chandler Burr (Part 1 of 2)

    Very good idea Mike!

    Thanks for bringing the QA's over from the Emergency Board.
    I enjoyed reading them there (with all the members' comments) & I know that they will be great, for anybody that hasn't had the chance yet, to read, especially any new members.
    Beauty is an ecstasy; it is as simple as hunger. There is really nothing to be said about it. It is like the perfume of a rose: you can smell it and that is all. W.SOMERSET MAUGHAM

  3. #3

    Default Re: Sixteen questions and answers on scents by Chandler Burr (Part 1 of 2)

    thanks Mike! Very informative!
    I'm simplifying my life. For Sale Thread (some niche, some designer):
    http://community.basenotes.net/showthread.php?t=222407

  4. #4

    Default Re: Sixteen questions and answers on scents by Chandler Burr (Part 1 of 2)

    Printing out to take with me to work. Thank you for posting!
    Renee
    "Like a lobster with a pearl in its claw, the beet held the jasmine firmly without crushing or obscuring it. Beet lifted jasmine, the way a bullnecked partner lifts a ballerina, and the pair came on stage on citron's fluty cue. As if jasmine were a collection of beautiful paintings, beet hung it in the galleries of the nose, insured it against fire or theft, threw a party to celebrate it. Citron mailed the invitations." Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins p. 189

    What I am loving right now: Shalimar vintage extrait, Chanel Bois des Iles, Chanel no. 22, Le Labo Iris 39, Guerlain Iris Ganache

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Sixteen questions and answers on scents by Chandler Burr (Part 1 of 2)

    You're welcome, all.

    The question about reapplying makes perfect sense here in the Miami summertime. Almost all of my fragrances are 'disappearing' in the humidity these past few weeks. I find bringing a little 'decant' of my favorite scent, helps immensely in enjoying my frags throughout the day.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Sixteen questions and answers on scents by Chandler Burr (Part 1 of 2)

    It was great, thanks Mike, I especially liked the example with the balloons in the second question... they just made everything so clear. hehe =)

  7. #7

    Default Re: Sixteen questions and answers on scents by Chandler Burr (Part 1 of 2)

    This Chandler Burr person probably knows a lot about fragrances. However, I found myself disagreeing with some of it....i dunno i think everyone has their own beliefs based on their own experiences.. it makes sense to store your perfume and eau de parfum in the fridge right?? i am confused about that because i have heard that only colognes and body splashes should be kept in the fridge because a perfume is too "fragile" or something. i just keep mine at room temp in my panty drawer and it suits me fine.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Sixteen questions and answers on scents by Chandler Burr (Part 1 of 2)

    Quote Originally Posted by kate13 View Post
    This Chandler Burr person probably knows a lot about fragrances. However, I found myself disagreeing with some of it....i dunno i think everyone has their own beliefs based on their own experiences.. it makes sense to store your perfume and eau de parfum in the fridge right?? i am confused about that because i have heard that only colognes and body splashes should be kept in the fridge because a perfume is too "fragile" or something. i just keep mine at room temp in my panty drawer and it suits me fine.
    Storing your fragrances in a cool, dark place should be just fine. If I owned a vintage bottle of some special scent, that is discontinued and I would want to make sure it lasted, then (and only then) would I ever store it in my fridge.

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