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Thread: Indole-ge me

  1. #1
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    Default Indole-ge me

    A very serious discussion turned up on the 'Burr gives Fracas 5 stars' thread on indoles and their smell, their comparisons to the smell of feces, etc. Since many of us are new to smelling florals with indolic properties, it can be a little confusing to interpret what we're smelling without explaining ourselves in words that might scare (or confuse) other Basenoters.

    I think there's a lot to learn about this subject (me included) and so I'm going to start off with a short lesson I learned from Luca Turin in Perfumes The Guide.

    I bumped into this passage, while perusing the book randomly last night - he mentions indoles in the review of Olene by Diptyque (which BTW I've never smelled - but the review is enticing me to try it).

    Quote from page 267: 'One of the many difficulties that nature has strewn in the path of perfumers is the vexed problem of indole. Indole is a small molecule made up of a hexagonal ring and a pentagonal ring fused together and containing nitrogen. It and its kissing cousin skatole are breakdown products of the digestion of food and are therefore found in feces. They are also found in large amounts in white flowers such as jasmine, ylang, etc possibly to attend to the eclectic tastes of pollinating insects. In the textbooks, their odor is described as, 'fecal, floral in dilution', which is nonsense: they smell like shit when in shit and like flowers when in flowers. By itself indole smells like ink and mothballs; skatole smells like bad teeth and that wonderful tripe sausage called andouilette. What, you ask, is the problem? If you measure the amount of indole in, say, jasmine oil and make up a synthetic mix with the same amount of the pure stuff, it will smell of mothballs whereas the natural one doesn't. Why? Nobody knows. But that is the main reason why white-flower reconstitutions seldom have the back-of-the-throat rasp of the real thing. Perfumers put in as much indole as they dare, but usually stop short of the full dose.'

    As I mentioned on the Fracas thread, I have had tuberose flower stems in my house and I have a gardenia bush in my front yard. The flowers at their fullest bloom, usually at night, are incredibly noxious yet...just beautiful. I think all of my encounters with white floral fragrances is closely linked to my desire to replicate that 'experience' with a true natural indolic white flower.

    Any other indole floral lovers out there!?
    Last edited by mikeperez23; 4th June 2009 at 06:16 AM.
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    My grandparents had a huge, thick, round bush that bloomed these bulbous white flowers. It was beautiful to look at but I kid you not, it was full of indole. If you picked a flower with your hand, it would smell like you had no toilet paper and used your hand instead. It was that potent. They told me the name of the bush but I have long since forgotten.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    I don't know if I have ever noticed this. My parent's and my grandma's houses have a huge amount of flowers around. My mother got her green thumb from her mother. I have never noticed indole in white flowers though. I even stop to smell them all the time. Maybe I just didn't realize what I was smelling.

    What would you say is the difference between the indole fecal smell and the civet fecal smell. I believe that civet is much more powerful and doesn't have the floral component, but are they in some way related?

  4. #4

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Civet is a musk produced in the musk oil gland in big cats and *has* the fecal smell. Indole is the actual chemical in poo that has the fecal oder.
    Last edited by Scentologist; 20th May 2008 at 05:26 AM.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeperez23 View Post
    Any other indole floral lovers out there!?
    Yes, yes, and YES!

    How on earth did I miss that passage? I was probably racing ahead to the reviews. I've tried that nasty andouilette sausage, the only thing in France that I found inedible. It truly reeks and tastes like shit (I think). I wouldn't equate a lovely jasmine or gardenia blossom with it. Thank God there's something incredibly magical enough about the flowers that they transcend the sum of their parts. I know what you mean about the living blossoms - they are intoxicating, addictive, narcotic. A good perfume is a wonderful thing, but it can never truly replicate the aroma of the living plant.

    About civet, I'm getting it in Jicky, which I love, but is this "real" civet? Isn't that illegal now? Or is it a synthetized civet? Why would one synthetize poo scent, when there must be plenty of lab-reated bases to ground a scent. I also don't get the fecal smell in florals, though I can see it somewhat in civet. I just think it's not that big of a deal, though. The smell is not that strong. It smells like perfume, not like shite.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    The easiest way to learn of Indoles is the smell Lutens' A La Nuit. Many jasmin fragrances have an indolic quality to them, but this one trumps them all.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by sofresh View Post
    The easiest way to learn of Indoles is the smell Lutens' A La Nuit. Many jasmin fragrances have an indolic quality to them, but this one trumps them all.
    I happen to agree sofresh, however Turin mentions Olene by Diptyque as being the more indole prominent. I have not smelled it, but now I want to.
    "One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple"

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  8. #8

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeperez23 View Post
    I happen to agree sofresh, however Turin mentions Olene by Diptyque as being the more indole prominent. I have not smelled it, but now I want to.
    My curiosity has not been peaked too....will hunt this down and give word.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeperez23 View Post
    I happen to agree sofresh, however Turin mentions Olene by Diptyque as being the more indole prominent. I have not smelled it, but now I want to.
    My curiosity has not been peaked too....will hunt this down and give word.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    What would you say is the difference between the indole fecal smell and the civet fecal smell. I believe that civet is much more powerful and doesn't have the floral component, but are they in some way related?
    As Turin mentioned, Civet gets its fecal smell from skatole (methyl indole). And again as Turin mentioned, Indole itself smells much more like mothballs than it smells fecal.

    Pure indole is available as a 10% solution from Perfumer's Apprentice:
    http://store.perfumersapprentice.com/arhz.html
    They also have a synethetic Civet base from Givaudan:
    http://store.perfumersapprentice.com/bebaco.html
    Last edited by dcampen; 20th May 2008 at 03:39 PM.
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  11. #11

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Indoles are often confused with skatoles. Skatoles are another chemical produced in the digestive tract. I believe that they are responsible for the true bad smell in human waste.
    Surprisingly, skatole is often used in flavoring vanilla ice cream.
    That said, indoles have the smell of sweetness turning to rot. The smell of something a little too ripe. The smell of a human being in its natural state. The smell that Grenouille lacked in perfume.
    Before aquatics took over, most fragrances had some kind of rot going on in them, be it musks, civets, tree mosses, castoreums and indoles.
    It's a way of restoring nature back to our bodies. Sort of like the way after shampoo conditioners work - restoring some of the natural oils that make one's hair more attractive.
    Last edited by Kevin Guyer; 20th May 2008 at 03:52 PM.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    man! we have so many LT's right here in BN... interesting stuff.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    The white floral indole is a fave of mine! I'm completely jealous that Mike has a gardenia bush of his very own. You know Mike, you've just created a stampede for Olene!!!

    Seriously, I think the indolic nature of Lutens' A La Nuit is what I am addicted to...I believe indoles are what gives an authentic floral frag it's raw and fresh edge ~ and that's why I'm joining the herd to find Diptyque's creation!

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by Ruggles View Post
    That said, indoles have the smell of sweetness turning to rot. The smell of something a little too ripe.
    I smell this 'sweet turning to rot' in Black Orchid by Tom Ford and of course, Nuit Noire by Mona di Orio.
    "One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple"

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  15. #15

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeperez23 View Post
    I smell this 'sweet turning to rot' in Black Orchid by Tom Ford and of course, Nuit Noire by Mona di Orio.
    You should try then Joy, specially the perfume Mike, it's pure rose and indolic jasmine at the n-th power.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeperez23 View Post
    I smell this 'sweet turning to rot' in Black Orchid by Tom Ford and of course, Nuit Noire by Mona di Orio.
    I wish I could get that skank smell from Black Orchid, but on me it stays, as LT put it, cucumber and chocolate. I imagine that dumping a nice dose of civet in this one would help get rid of that watery, clean as a cucumber note.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    I did notice that on the dry down of some fragrances (Fleur de Male, Cristalle, Fracas, Carnal Flower) there is a "spent & wilting flower" smell that makes itself felt as the scent progresses, I suppose this is the role of indolic compounds in the oils. Its what makes the dry down fun for me in those fragrances and in no way resembles poop to my nose! Its that overripe rot smell for sure!

    As I said in another topic, I do think people overemphasize the natural "off" smells in florals and other notes in fragrances (for instance people talk about "BO smell" when they smell some spices, especially cumin.) - I always supposed this was because the complexity introduced by these "off" odors make the fragrance have a great complex structure and thereby steps back a couple of steps from becoming cloying or candylike?
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  18. #18

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    No mention of urine-like smells. How are they created synthetically?

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    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by Magnifiscent View Post
    You should try then Joy, specially the perfume Mike, it's pure rose and indolic jasmine at the n-th power.
    Joy parfum has been on my To Test list for quite a while. I will most likely have to order some from The Perfumed Court, since when I encounter it in stores rarely do I see an open tester for the parfum, it's mostly the EdT.

    Thanks for the confirmation that I should try it Magnifiscent!
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  20. #20

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by Bigsly View Post
    No mention of urine-like smells. How are they created synthetically?
    phenols.

  21. #21

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by Bigsly View Post
    No mention of urine-like smells. How are they created synthetically?
    Black current bud has been called the cat urine note.

  22. #22

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeperez23 View Post
    Joy parfum has been on my To Test list for quite a while. I will most likely have to order some from The Perfumed Court, since when I encounter it in stores rarely do I see an open tester for the parfum, it's mostly the EdT.

    Thanks for the confirmation that I should try it Magnifiscent!
    Thats what I had to do - and it is a perfume you owe it to yourself to try. It really gives perspective on other florals as well due to its richness and complexity,
    ===
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  23. #23
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    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by Ruggles View Post
    Black current bud has been called the cat urine note.
    Beeswax absolute also has a kind of pee-like smell. Cf. Turin's review of Serge Lutens Miel de Bois, which features this honey-like note. BTW, I love Miel de Bois; Turin can howl all he wants. One person remarked to me that MdB smelled "like urinal cakes."

    Have you ever heard the term "honey-wagon" for a truck that empties septic tanks? There may be a connection here. Honey does have a slight odor of decomposition, though not quite like skatole or indole. It is, after all, a specialized form of bee sputum (read: "spit"); but then, milk is a specialized form of sweat. All the things we didn't (and didn't want to) know!

    Bye the bye, the term "skatole" is derived from a Greek word which means, to put it bluntly, "shit." Saint Paul writes in one of his epistles that he counts the world "as so much shit" compared to the knowledge of salvation. Yes, that's the literal translation; many English versions translate the word as "rubbish;" one translation, a little more honest, comes closer with "manure."
    Last edited by JaimeB; 20th May 2008 at 07:33 PM.
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  24. #24

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Beeswax absolute also has a kind of pee-like smell. Cf. Turin's review of Serge Lutens Miel de Bois, which features this honey-like note. BTW, I love Miel de Bois; Turin can howl all he wants. One person remarked to me that MdB smelled "like urinal cakes."

    Have you ever heard the term "honey-wagon" for a truck that empties septic tanks? There may be a connection here. Honey does have a slight odor of decomposition, though not quite like skatole or indole.
    This is likely from phenylacetic acid and its esters.
    http://www.bojensen.net/EssentialOil...03.htm#Beeswax
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  25. #25

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by dcampen View Post
    This is likely from phenylacetic acid and its esters.
    http://www.bojensen.net/EssentialOil...03.htm#Beeswax
    Wow, thanks for this wonderful essential oils/chemistry link.

  26. #26

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Yes, I've heard the same thing about the black currant bud. I didn't get a strong indole scent from Fracas. I need to revisit this I guess

  27. #27

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by 55karl View Post
    Yes, I've heard the same thing about the black currant bud. I didn't get a strong indole scent from Fracas. I need to revisit this I guess
    Black currant smells like taking a leak after drinking five raspberry mochas. definitely has an almost coffee-like bitterness.

  28. #28

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by sofresh View Post
    The easiest way to learn of Indoles is the smell Lutens' A La Nuit. Many jasmin fragrances have an indolic quality to them, but this one trumps them all.
    Norma Kamali Jazmn is (to me) stronger, by far.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    I stepped out of my house tonight to go out, and the scent of the gardenia bush in my front yard hit me across the face - the bush is about 12 feet away from the front door, but the smell...well it's oily, pervasive, almost lemony in it's sharpness. Extremely indolic. Quite an incredible smell.

    ((sniffing))
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  30. #30

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeperez23 View Post
    I smell this 'sweet turning to rot' in Black Orchid by Tom Ford and of course, Nuit Noire by Mona di Orio.
    I got the same experience form Black Orchid.

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    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by Ruggles View Post
    Wow, thanks for this wonderful essential oils/chemistry link.
    No kidding - that's an awesome site! This should be on the syllabus for Purplebird's note identification project starting up over on Female Fragrance Discussion.

    Indole pops out all over on that site. Neroli, lilac, jasmine. Thanks, dcampen!

  32. #32

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Since indole&skatole are the molecules in natural smell of flowers, perfumers just use it amongst other 5-10 molecules to recreate the scent of Jasmine or other flowers. Like a quality sign for some people who does not know perfumery chemistry...

    But it seems to me like that little girl who love a garlic scent telling `I love garlic, `cause it smells like a good spicy sausages!`

    I love slightly rotten scent I met in Jicky, in Ungaro II, in Mouchoir de Monsieur, etc.

    Funny fact:
    Salvador Dali in his bio mentioned that he was going to defecate only with a blooming jasmineflower guirlandes in his ears. So - do the doings with genius style!
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  33. #33

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    I adore you all folks, great posts!
    JaimeB, moon_fish, you made my day!

  34. #34

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Wow, thanks a bunch! Now I cannot get past the urinal feature in Royal Delight or the elephant stable note in Musc Ravageur anymore
    Looking to swap/buy/receive for free () the following samples/decants:
    Indult Tihota & Rve en Cuir
    Chant d'Aromes extrait
    Vetiver pour Elle (5ml decant)


    Selling/swapping:
    Versace The Dreamer 50ml (1.7oz) BNIB
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  35. #35

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by dcampen View Post
    This is likely from phenylacetic acid and its esters.
    http://www.bojensen.net/EssentialOil...03.htm#Beeswax
    Great site man, thanks!

    O, and I take skatole (methyl indole) from civit over indole from flowers any day. The latter reminds me of death, civit on the other hand has a very vital vibe to it.

    I think I mentioned it before in another discussion, but floral indole can ruin a fragrance for me like almost nothing else.
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  36. #36

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Neroli has indoles and is the most used natural in perfumery, but its indolic quality (or quantity? Dunno, ask a chemist) is softer and more integrated than that of jasmine.
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  37. #37

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Isn't blackcurrant indolic as well ?
    -

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    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeperez23 View Post
    Joy parfum has been on my To Test list for quite a while. I will most likely have to order some from The Perfumed Court, since when I encounter it in stores rarely do I see an open tester for the parfum, it's mostly the EdT.

    Thanks for the confirmation that I should try it Magnifiscent!
    I finally bought a bottle of vintage Joy parfum. Wow - indoles-a-go-go!!
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    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Mike - have you smelled Michael Storer Stephanie? It's supposed to approximate the headspace of the gardenia. I have a sample, and it does have a very earthy, moist quality, along with the floral notes. (And I have to admit that it struck me as something straight out of the neighborhood nursery's greenhouse.) I'm wondering if that earthy aspect is part of the indole thing. I hate to admit this as a chemist, but I've never smelled indole or skatole. I have a buddy who smelled skatole, and he vouched for the standard description.

    PS Jaime - Love the St. Paul quote. If I were to make a component-based analogy, it would be that the world - in all its beauty - is merely so much skatole compared to the perfumer's palette of the full universe and beyond.
    * * * *

  40. #40

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeperez23 View Post
    I finally bought a bottle of vintage Joy parfum. Wow - indoles-a-go-go!!

  41. #41

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    I've since tested Olene and didn't find it all that indolic???

  42. #42

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    I first learned of indoles years ago when I was researching one of my favorite aromas, that of Ylang Ylang. I soon learned most of my favorite smells were deemed to be indole heavy.
    I don't know what that says abot me but when I see a great discussion of frags that feature indoles, I am taking notes!

  43. #43

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Great resurrection of a thread! I've since smelled Olene by Diptyque and it is extremely indole prominent! I also believe Nani by Saffron James is less sweet and about twice as indolic! The skatole smell, to my nose, seems to reside within LeLabo's Jasmin 17 - at least that's how I percieve it.

    Sometimes an indolic note is very discreet, and comes across as what I call "fleshy".
    Last edited by ubuandibeme; 4th June 2009 at 04:12 PM.

  44. #44

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    I cannot say I could identify indoles separately from the subsection of "indolic white florals" but I do love that ripe-rotten quality that some heavy florals have. Interestingly, Velvet Gardenia has a separate quality from that that I can't name but do NOT like at all... I wonder if it's an indole or something else.

    Right now I'm Miami and hopign I can hunt down some tropical flowers to sniff.

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    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    Quote Originally Posted by Redneck Perfumisto View Post
    Mike - have you smelled Michael Storer Stephanie? It's supposed to approximate the headspace of the gardenia. I have a sample, and it does have a very earthy, moist quality, along with the floral notes. (And I have to admit that it struck me as something straight out of the neighborhood nursery's greenhouse.) I'm wondering if that earthy aspect is part of the indole thing. I hate to admit this as a chemist, but I've never smelled indole or skatole. I have a buddy who smelled skatole, and he vouched for the standard description.
    No I haven't - thanks for the heads up.

    What I really am interested in smelling is gardenia butter. When I am in New York this summer, I will stop by Enfleurage and smell it (which I believe is right around the corner from Aedes).
    "One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple"

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  46. #46

    Default Re: Indole-ge me

    I think I do love indole. After reading this info:

    Jasmine, lilac, honeysuckle, gardenia, and orange flower share the presence of indole. Those are all notes that I like..with the exception of gardenia. Though, I do like the intoxicating aspect of gardenias..not necessarily the flower scent..maybe I have a thing with indole. But, I don't like my scents to have poop or pee, however. I read that indoles are not necessarily fecal anyway but rather like moth balls. Though, with dilution, the moth ball note goes away and then possesses a floral quality. When jasmine is described as animalic, it is not the indolic notes that give it that quality, but rather other compounds reminiscent of horses. It turns out that jasmine and horse sweat share some of the same molecules.

    Very interesting. So, when I smelled Jasmal..I didn't like it cause of the strong, cat pee note. But that wasn't the indole, rather perhaps the 'horse sweat' molecules coming out more?
    "One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want." Proverbs.

  47. #47
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    I am in love with white tropical flowers. They probably contain indole, but their scents are always a blend of many compounds so it will be difficult to point out one only. The scents are meant to attract night moths so we are lucky to be on the same scent-lenghts as the moths.

    Since I now live in the tropics, I am very happy to have frangipani/Plumeria and tree-jasmine/Millingtonia i the garden. I wanted to grow tuberose as well, but it is considered a funeral plant here, so not popular with my partner.

    Anyway, my opinion is that there are no better fragrances for the tropics than these white flower based scents. They fit perfectly!

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