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  1. #1

    Default How can we describe modern perfume in better ways?

    After 2 years of resisting the temptation I finally caved in and bought a bottle of Estee Lauder's Bronze Goddess.
    According to our own Basenotes database, the notes in this perfume are:
    Top Notes
    Coconut milk, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Vetiver, Myrrh.

    Middle Notes
    Golden amber, Juicy mandarin, Sicilian bergamot, Lemon blend, Pulpy orange .

    Base Notes
    Tiare flower, Jasmine, Magnolia petals, Orange flower buds, Fresh lavender.

    Really? Well, at best I got something I could call coconut and something 'tropical' and ambery.

    I would describe this perfume as 'entirely synthetic-smelling', but that is not a complaint. I am not good at discerning notes anyway, but I could not say this smells like it has any natural components (rose, oakmoss, bergamot, lavender... nope). It smells like a composition made in a lab of Wooderan and IsoE Super and Muskissone and Beacharome and Skinnism and it's just grand for it.

    BUT because I don't have any IsoE Super in my house and I've never wittingly smelled a Cashmeran or a Damascone, I don't have the vocabulary to be able to tell you what notes (or aromachemicals) I can detect in this perfume.

    I can see now why the perfume companies tell us massive porkies about 'notes of rose, marigold and fresia' because it becomes very difficult to describe a perfume like this without those familiar references. But I think it's doing perfumery a disservice not to be more honest about the ingredients and to develop new ways to describe and recognise notes.

    I guess this is what companies are doing with those silly-sounding descriptives like 'rice steam', 'cashmere woods' and 'pear blossom'. They can't use tradenames like Cashmeran because the general public won't have a clue what they are or what they smell like. And I have come round to the point of view that it's probably better to say 'warm skin accord' than anything else.

    However, that doesn't help us in-betweeners who are better-informed than the average non-enthusiast but not trained perfumers or industry professionals. How can we use these modern descriptions of notes in a way that works for all of us? Can we associate particular notes with particular compounds? Is it always the same 'rice steam' smell chemical?

    I've learned to smell iris purely from smelling perfumes, so there's no reason why I shouldn't learn to smell Cashmeran or IsoE Super in just the same way. It's all a matter of learning the reference points. So how do we go about incorporating these new chemicals into our group vocabulary as perfume-fans?

    And as more and more traditional aromachemicals like Jasmine and Oakmoss are removed from the pallete and replaced with synthetics, is there a benefit to all perfume-buyers to start mentioning the trademarked molecules like Cashmeran as notes in perfumes?
    "A woman who doesn't wear perfume has no future." Coco Chanel

    I'm streamlining my collection

  2. #2

    Default Re: How can we describe modern perfume in better ways?

    In total agreement here. I want to become better informed, but don't have the time or the inclination to take professional perfumery training simply to be able to describe fragrances better.

    Right now my fragrance vocabulary is about a hundred or so mostly naturalistic note descriptions - violet, immortelle, myrrh etc. I have learned many of these from smelling them on their own, but many just from the fragrances themselves. Right now I can pretty much recognize ethyl maltol, methyl salicylate, calone, and eugenol ( but couldn't tell the latter from from iso-eugenol ). I want to know what damascones and ambroxan and even the ever-accursed IsoE Super smells like. Also, additional clarification - I mean, I know Mitsouko has peach lactone, but what else has it?

  3. #3

    Default Re: How can we describe modern perfume in better ways?

    Wordie my darling, this is how I describe "Modern Perfumery".
    I open a vintage bottle of Bellodgia, then open a new bottle, then I weep.

    Before shopping all the counters, which I will do this Friday again, I put on some vintage Detchema. During the course of the day I see how uncreative these new scents seem to be. They may be fragrance, but they are not "scents". Everything has similar notes, similar chemical undertones, similar sweetness (even ones that are not sweet), to top it all off everything seems to have the same dry-down. How is this possible I ask myself, then just shake my head in disgust.

    Some fragrances that I consider "scents" are; Baghari, new yet a classic at heart; Beige de Chanel and other exclusifs (Coromandel, 31 , Bel Respiro, etc...) very well crafted, pleasing to the senses; Fragonard parfums, so simple yet so pleasant. There are others I probably will remember later, but most things smell like a laboratory gone wrong.
    I, thank goodness, am not swayed by the PR crap, nor am I influenced by the "stories" of fragrances; therefore I am not swayed to believe a landfill (or as the co. calls it 'their juice') is a delicious garden somewhere in a far away land, please. Most of these things smell like sewer water from the lower East Side, but I guess if I try hard enough to believe the...nope, I cannot do it, sewer water I say

    I fear it will only become worse, which is why I am so glad I stocked up on my classics.
    Quand on boit l'eau, il faut penser sa source

  4. #4

    Default Re: How can we describe modern perfume in better ways?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brielle87 View Post
    Wordie my darling, this is how I describe "Modern Perfumery".
    I open a vintage bottle of Bellodgia, then open a new bottle, then I weep.

    I fear it will only become worse, which is why I am so glad I stocked up on my classics.
    Oh how sad! I've been purposefully staying away from vintage formulations because I do not want to feel this way. I'm sure I'm missing out on a lot of tastiness, but there are a lot of newer issue perfumes I am stoked about, not knowing any different, so maybe as far as I'm concerned the point is moot. My Mitsouko edt is from 1987, though, so I'm sure I will be feeling the reform pang soon enough.

    Wordbird, the description from The Perfume House here in little ol' Oregon for Bal a Versailles reads "This classic,floral fragrance opens with bergamot and lemon transitioning into ylang-ylang and jasmine notes, finishing with cedar and vanilla."
    Maybe oriental, civet, & castoreum would not sell so well to the fine folks of Portland, but after I read that, I thought someone is in for a serious surprise.

    On a side note, I. love. it. (Current formulation, that is.. )

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Irvine, Orange County, CA

    Default Re: How can we describe modern perfume in better ways?

    I describe modern perfume as a natural progression, an evolution subject to whims of mass culture and media. Perhaps a bit "uninspired" according to yesterday's standards, but everything comes and goes and todays minimalism might become grandeur tomorrow. I dont lament the change, really. Older releases are considered "unique" and "full of character" because they are remembered fondly with associated memories, and because they are no longer produced. If what was in fashion in fragrance was still fashionable today, we would already be sick of it. One can only do so much with one thing. Its the same reasoning that makes people lament for the "better days" of auto's, back when they had "style" and "character" (purely subjective traits) and were made of metal. While I appreciate the artistry, I find older cars to be lacking in the automotive aspect. They are heavier, bulkier, silly looking, and cannot perform anywhere near the par that is set nowadays. Such is the same for fragrances. While I have an appreciation for a very certain few classics (like the original polo green, eternity, cool water, and several others) there is a reason they are considered classics, and few fragrances are timeless. Fragrances dont get discontinued out of spite, its because they have fallen out of favor.

    Perhaps I'm a newbie, perhaps I'm a blasphemer, or perhaps I'm just an ordinary, untrained nose, but I do not lament modern perfumery at all. I am always curious to see what new direction anything can go in, and through careful searching, have determined that there are most definitely fragrances out there that are poised, classy, of quality, and fit firmly in the modern type. We remember the 70's and 80's as classic eras for scent, but who knows what garbage came out then that never made it into the history books? The same it shall be thirty years from now.

  6. #6

    Redneck Perfumisto's Avatar
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    Feb 2008
    Spiritually, Kansas
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    Default Re: How can we describe modern perfume in better ways?

    I try to appreciate the artistry of the current era, as well as what has gone before - each time in its own way. I do wish that we were still allowed the older formulations. Perhaps someday, when freedom is valued more, the old formulas will return.

    I agree, Wordy, that more emphasis on components would be helpful, though I think that notes are still very useful. But the thing I really don't like is the way that minor, trivial, or almost non-existent notes are "played up" by marketing simply to project an image, as opposed to contributing significantly to the actual scent. The ultimate example - "woody" Hugo Boss scents. There's not a splinter of wood, or even a particle of particle board, in the damn things. They're clean/fresh scents that appeal to people who would run for their lives from a real woody like Yatagan or Rochas Lui. No - "woody" means "dude - this is a unisex air conditioner scent, but you have permission for your gf to buy it for you".

    I feel that if only "real" notes were highlighted - together with more emphasis on naming some of the more interesting synthetic components - then we would have something more meaningful to talk about. But as it stands now, Vibert's nose beats marketing propaganda any day of the week for me.
    * * * *

  7. #7

    Default Re: How can we describe modern perfume in better ways?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sunnyfunny View Post
    Oh how sad! I've been purposefully staying away from vintage formulations because I do not want to feel this way. I'm sure I'm missing out on a lot of tastiness
    Well in reference to your post; tonight I put on my Vintage Bellodgia (extrait), it is almost asphyxiation by spicy carnation, I do mean this in a good way. It is so wonderful and multi-faceted, so full of life. You can experience the evolution of the scent, it is truly just amazing. When I smell the new one I have, husband did also, it does not even smell like the same scent. Hubby darling asked, about the newer, "ach, what is this, it smells HORRIBLE?" When I told him it was the same scent just a newer version, he alluded to someone probably having lost the recipe for the original and tried to redo it. So my Sunnyfunny sweety-pie, you are kind of lucky in that aspect; you never would know the heart-break of losing an old friend.

    Bellodgia has been with me through; primary grades, high-school, university, work, my second degree in university, many boyfriends, many fiances and a husband or two; not to mention the loss of a parent, all my grandparents, and many other friends and family members.
    So you see it is more than just a "perfume'. That I should just deal with the loss of it and go find a new one is just unimaginable to me.
    It is a major part of my existence and what makes me, well "me". I may have almost 350 perfumes, maybe even more, but each one is a part of me. I am just not able to find that in any "new" fragrances, they just do not meld with me, I guess that would be the best way of describing "modern perfumery".
    Last edited by Brielle87; 16th April 2009 at 05:38 AM.
    Quand on boit l'eau, il faut penser sa source

  8. #8

    Default Re: How can we describe modern perfume in better ways?

    Brielle, I wish I had been a perfumista for longer and had tried some of those famous vintage scents, but I am glad in a way not to have to mourn their passing. I must say that I am on the verge of starting to stock up with 'classics' in case this hoohah about the IFRA banning ingredients comes to pass and I am caught without Vol de Nuit, Jicky and a stack of other glories. That would make me weep.

    Otherwise, I'm curious about how I can develop a vocabulary like yours Galam_Borong. I want to know what eugenol smells like! Maybe I should go to Givaudan and ask for a sample kit. But it also sounds as if we should employ Vibert as our own Basenotes Mass spectrometer. I'm off to look up his reivews.
    "A woman who doesn't wear perfume has no future." Coco Chanel

    I'm streamlining my collection

  9. #9

    Default Re: How can we describe modern perfume in better ways?

    Brielle: My dear, I live on the lower east side, and these days it's smelling more yuppie and less sewer water. In fact, the wonderful lower east side smells of yesteryear--knish, garlic, sausage, fresh-baked bread, garlic, curry--are mourned smells.
    But I do agree with you about the particular evocative power of Bellodgia. My beloved grandmother wore Bellodgia. I keep a box of her old white kid gloves in my closet because they still smell of vintage Bellodgia. It is, for me, a warm and loving smell.

  10. #10
    Basenotes Institution
    mikeperez23's Avatar
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    Dec 2006
    Miami, FL

    Default Re: How can we describe modern perfume in better ways?

    What a great thread Wordbird.

    I, like you, yearn to be able to decipher and name certain smells that I encounter. I think that's why I'm drawn to Burr and Turin's reviews because ever-so-often they sprinkle very technical ingredients into the descriptions of the scents...and I always love that because it's as if FINALLY someone is peeling back the skin and showing us what the real components of a scent is.

    I am sure I have see a bunch of online companies that sell aroma chemicals, in their original concentrations, to the public. Doesn't Profumo do this also (am I mistaken?)
    "You are here to enable the Divine purpose of the Universe to unfold. That is how important you are."

    -- Eckhart Tolle

  11. #11
    ECaruthers's Avatar
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    Feb 2009
    Rochester, NY
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    Default Re: How can we describe modern perfume in better ways?

    I also started this hobby because I read Burr and Turin and had no idea what most of the components they talk about smell like. Aura Cacia & Nature's Alchemy sell 1/2 oz bottles of essential oils for 5-10 $US. I'm lucky that both lines are available at my supermarket, so I just add another note every time I go shopping. To expand beyond the fruits, flowers & woods used for aromatherapy I've ordered individual components from The Perfumer's Apprentice. Check out the web site. Linda offers a huge selection.

    However, familiarity with individual notes doesn't mean I can smell Estee Lauder's Beautiful & list all the flower elements from which it's composed. I may never be able to do that if the perfume's designer has really created a seemless blend. Maybe "smells spicy," or "...fruity," or " a boquet of flowers," or "...dark and warm and lush," or "...light and bright" is actually more helpful than listing notes.

    My personal wish is that we could quote objective measures of sillage and duration. I find that most of the scents mentioned in these threads are not available at any store in Rochester. Even buying samples gets expensive, especially when the scent vanishes in 5 minutes.

  12. #12

    Default Re: How can we describe modern perfume in better ways?

    What a lovely thread!

    It's made me think that perhaps I ought to bring some little bottles of fragrance materials to the London meet.

    I'm torn about the topic: I hate the wanky, made-up crap of "cashmere woods" and so forth, but I wouldn't want to read a description that was meaningless in other ways either. You are right in pointing out that scents that are entirely synthetic no longer fit with the traditional way of describing perfumes by the "notes" of natural origin. And I'm particularly nodding my head to the comments in this thread about putting things in the description that aren't detectable in the finished product; just used to sell it.

    The solution? Uhh, well. I'd have to think about that some more. I have the advantage of living inside a bit of a bubble where we can still put lots of natural raw materials in and use real rose, real herbs, real woods... though the IFRA-stuff worries me a lot. But that's been talked about elsewhere.

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