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  1. #1
    Pollux's Avatar
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    Question "Smells cheap" - what are the notes in common?

    A question for the experts: I can't help it, everytime I have to go to the drugstore I indulge myself in a fragrance testing spree. Except for the traditional brands, in most of the products I test I can`t help noticing notes that are common to inexpensive brands.

    I can't establish standards, except for one: a pungent sensation on the upper parts of my nostrils that morphs into an itching sensation, a feeling similar to smelling bathroom or room deodorants.

    Any idea as to a compound or whatever it may cause this? In other words, are there common points / ingredients in low quality products aside of the popular "synthetic compounds"? If so, what are these?

  2. #2

    Default Re: "Smells cheap" - what are the notes in common?

    Something I'm surprised by is that most perfumes are 'artificial' and have high percentages of chemicals/aromachemicals/odorants

  3. #3

    Default Re: "Smells cheap" - what are the notes in common?

    Almost ALL perfumes on the market (with the noted exception of all-natural perfumers, some of which are members of Basenotes too!) comprise aromachemicals. Just because you see rose in the notes of a fragrance or oud or whatever doesn;t mean it contains that essence. Rose could be due to certain aldehydes, oud/aloeswood has been successfully replicated synthetically accounting for the tsunami of oud fragrances in mainstream and non-mainstream brands recently, hawthorn has been routinely replicated by benzylaldehyde since the start of the 20th century, Iso E super provides woody notes, gardenia is made via styrallyl acetate in even classical perfumery etc etc.There's no simply "this" or "that", therefore.

    The "cheap" feeling/smell has to do with poor quality ingredients sometimes (they are various grades of both natural extracts and distillations and aromachemicals, within the same "note" or ingredient) and very often (if not more!) with a rushed, poor job in composing and a lot of alcohol emerging upon first spraying (accounting for the tingly feeling you get).

  4. #4

    Default Re: "Smells cheap" - what are the notes in common?

    Guerlain practically introduced the synthetic revolution in perfumery with Jicky - yet Guerlain policy (at least before LVMH) was to maintain a ratio of 80/20 naturals/synthetics. Because naturals are irreplacable for their natural complexity, consisting of hundreds or thousands of different molecules, while synthetics are far simpler, mostly. The point is there are things only naturals can do, and others only synthetics can achieve (e.g. in terms of longevity, sparkle, diffusion). But of course a good perfume should use synthetics to enhance effects or help generate an illusion of naturalness, but the reality of many mass market frags (and a good number of niches) it that they are so cheaply and carelessly put together, that their artficiality shows at the seams,so to say. Most low-quality perfumes are entirely synthetic, but with enough skill and quality materials you can even make a pretty good 100% synthetic, such as Terre d'Hermes. As to the cheap cheap-smelling ones: I think one primary culprit is dihydromyrcenol, which C. Burr says smells like "laundry detergent spilled on an aluminum counter" - that metallic irritation I get in dozens of crappy scents. Calone is a major "aquatic" note and has been used to mindless excess as well. I never cease to be amazed at the hundred of new molecules the industry introduces only to turn out 99% redundant crap.
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  5. #5

    Default Re: "Smells cheap" - what are the notes in common?

    There is a decreased use in natural raw materials for many reasons (price, consistency, regulation, and it has been said - the lack of "know-how", etc.). I think a major problem today is the overuse of bergamot (citrus oil) bases in lieu of the respective natural raw materials.

    Cheapness does not necessarily come from synthetic raw materials. From a design point of a view, I've noticed that cheapness can come from simply a badly constructed accord even with many naturals in a composition. Discordant accords amplify the "cheapness" facet that you get.
    Last edited by scentophile; 6th December 2008 at 06:39 PM.

  6. #6

    Default Re: "Smells cheap" - what are the notes in common?

    Lousy lavender (or too much of it) is likely the culprit, especially in men's frags.

  7. #7
    kumquat's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Smells cheap" - what are the notes in common?

    The thing I've noticed is that most frags start out fine but have a bad dry-down. SJP Covet starts out very nice and ends up smelling like wet rotten hay. It's too bad because we need something green for a change. It was the same with RL Safari. I liked it at first but it ends up flat and slightly off, not rich and gorgeous. I just don't understand how they can keep selling inferior junk like this. Do people buy it and then not wear it?

  8. #8

    Default Re: "Smells cheap" - what are the notes in common?

    For me, it's not so much which notes, as how they're done... usually too loud, too harsh, too crude. It can also smell cheap if it's a badly done imitation, like a patently fake "banana" note or the like.

  9. #9

    Default Re: "Smells cheap" - what are the notes in common?

    Quote Originally Posted by scentophile View Post
    There is a decreased use in natural raw materials for many reasons (price, consistency, regulation, and it has been said - the lack of "know-how", etc.). I think a major problem today is the overuse of bergamot (citrus oil) bases in lieu of the respective natural raw materials.

    Cheapness does not necessarily come from synthetic raw materials. From a design point of a view, I've noticed that cheapness can come from simply a badly constructed accord even with many naturals in a composition. Discordant accords amplify the "cheapness" facet that you get.
    I agree. However, bergamote can blended extremely well: see the different company.

    Pure Petroleum* is probably more natural than Mugler Cologne, and yet, MC is cheap and smells good.

    As bigsly says, a lavender accord is one of the most cheapening notes. When done badly, smells Brut-kind-of cheap. Also, when perfumers rely too much on the use of calone, the perfume ends up with something associated with cheapness and synthetic materials.

    *In fact, I would argue that pure petroleum is more natural than many essential oils
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  10. #10
    Pollux's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Smells cheap" - what are the notes in common?

    Quote Originally Posted by irish View Post
    ...

    *In fact, I would argue that pure petroleum is more natural than many essential oils
    Achihro Honda, founder of Honda, mentined in his memories that when he was a young boy, he felt towards the smell of gasoline the same sensations women felt for Chanel nº 5.

    There is a print ad about this: it shows the bottle of Chanel nº 5 filled with oil and the word "OIL" written on the label.

  11. #11

    Default Re: "Smells cheap" - what are the notes in common?

    Quote Originally Posted by irish View Post
    I agree. However, bergamote can blended extremely well: see the different company.
    I meant synthetic citrus (bergamot) bases like (linalyl acetate + derivatives) to replace natural citrus .
    Last edited by scentophile; 7th December 2008 at 11:36 AM.

  12. #12

    Default Re: "Smells cheap" - what are the notes in common?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bigsly View Post
    Lousy lavender (or too much of it) is likely the culprit, especially in men's frags.
    I agree. I am very fond of Lavender Fragrances, but if not done correctly, they smell very cheap and synthetic.

  13. #13

    Default Re: "Smells cheap" - what are the notes in common?

    Could cheapness also come from association to dihydromyrcenol and maybe not so much on the quality of lavender? Being that dihydromyrcenol, which is coupled with nearly every fragrance with lavender on the market.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: "Smells cheap" - what are the notes in common?

    Well, just to round it up: there are some aromachemicals that spoil blends, like calone and dihydromyrcenol. Other factor contributing to percepction around "cheapness" (in my case, tingling in the nostrils and pungency) is poor design or poor blending of ingredients. Artificial or natural ingredients have nothing to do with the quality of fragrances.

    So, from now on I will pay attention to ingredients.

    BTW: Agua Brava's box states clearly that the alcohol used in the blend is natural organic alocohol obtained from sugar cane. The list of ingredients includes evernia prunestri (oakmoss): it seems it is not pohibited in Spain. Interesting...

  15. #15

    Default Re: "Smells cheap" - what are the notes in common?

    There was a similar discussion on Perfume of Life recently, many interesting points were brought up on this subject:
    http://perfumeoflife.com/index.php?showtopic=28358

  16. #16

    Default Re: "Smells cheap" - what are the notes in common?

    I think cheapness in smell is function of two things:

    (1) Cheap ingredients.

    (2) Low budget for development.

    I think the latter is the primary cause as not every inexpensive ingredient smells bad on its own. And one could poorly integrate a quality ingredient and ruin it.

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