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  1. #1

    Default What makes a fragrance smell synthetic?

    Based on many people here on BN, Le Male is probably the synthetic king of all fragrance, but what makes a fragrance smells synthetic? Is it because it is an unfamiliar scent to your nose, or is it because it smells like plastic?
    My Top 10

    1. Amouage Homage Attar
    2. Serge Lutens - Muscs Koublai Khan
    3. YSL M7
    4. Serge Lutens - Ambre Sultan
    5. Chanel Egoiste
    6. 24 Gold by Scentstory
    7. Amouage Epic Man
    8. Amouage Jubilation XXV
    9. Bond No. 9 New York Oud
    10. Serge Lutens - Chergui



    "A beautiful fragrance to the nose is like good jazz music to the ears, great food to the mouth, and Megan Fox and Jessica Alba to the eyes..."

  2. #2

    Default Re: What makes a fragrance smell synthetic?

    Sharp Plastic, when it's not supposed to be there. The only note that I know of which can naturally smell like plastic is probably almonds. But it's generally anything that doesn't feel very refined, or smells too sharp. A fragrance being synthetic is more of an impression rather than an accurate description. Personally whenever a fragrance feels harsh as it transitions through its' notes I describe it as synthetic, as opposed to being smoothly blended. Let's say a fragrance is supposed to smell like a dry cup of coffee, if it smells just like that it's not synthetic. If it smells like a sharp cleaning product plus coffee it's synthetic.

    Of course there are synthetic fragrances that smell very smooth and vice versa.

  3. #3

    Default Re: What makes a fragrance smell synthetic?

    When it does not smell like the natural ingredients we find in nature. For example if you were to smell a Rose or a Orange as nature intended then smelled a synthetic copy of low or average quality you may smell chemicals or something that is just not right. When done right though you may never know the difference.

  4. #4

    Default Re: What makes a fragrance smell synthetic?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ekove View Post
    Sharp Plastic, when it's not supposed to be there. The only note that I know of which can naturally smell like plastic is probably almonds. But it's generally anything that doesn't feel very refined, or smells too sharp. A fragrance being synthetic is more of an impression rather than an accurate description. Personally whenever a fragrance feels harsh as it transitions through its' notes I describe it as synthetic, as opposed to being smoothly blended. Let's say a fragrance is supposed to smell like a dry cup of coffee, if it smells just like that it's not synthetic. If it smells like a sharp cleaning product plus coffee it's synthetic.

    Of course there are synthetic fragrances that smell very smooth and vice versa.
    Amouage Silver and Lyric smells very sharp. Does this mean it contains synthetic ingredients? I thought Amouage contains no synthetic ingredients?
    My Top 10

    1. Amouage Homage Attar
    2. Serge Lutens - Muscs Koublai Khan
    3. YSL M7
    4. Serge Lutens - Ambre Sultan
    5. Chanel Egoiste
    6. 24 Gold by Scentstory
    7. Amouage Epic Man
    8. Amouage Jubilation XXV
    9. Bond No. 9 New York Oud
    10. Serge Lutens - Chergui



    "A beautiful fragrance to the nose is like good jazz music to the ears, great food to the mouth, and Megan Fox and Jessica Alba to the eyes..."

  5. #5
    hednic's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a fragrance smell synthetic?

    Quote Originally Posted by change1 View Post
    or is it because it smells like plastic?
    This.

  6. #6

    Default Re: What makes a fragrance smell synthetic?

    Simplicity of chemical ingredients is usually the cause. Organic molecules are usually more complex.

  7. #7

    Default Re: What makes a fragrance smell synthetic?

    Natural products are in general a mixture of hundreds of different compounds (rose for instance), therefore the smell is complex, rich and with depth, on the other hand synthetics (calone for instance) is just one simple compound so the smell is sharp and with a lack of complexity and depth and our nose then recognize it as synthetic.
    Image a painting, one made with hundreds of different colors and shades and nuances against a canvas painted entirely using just one single color.

    By the way
    Quote Originally Posted by Spoombung View Post
    Organic molecules are usually more complex.
    all components of a perfume are organic regardless they are natural or synthetic, in that regard synthetic molecules can be as complex and even more than natural molecules, it is the mixture that is complex and rich in natural notes compared with synthetic notes.
    Last edited by PerfumeCollector; 6th April 2011 at 12:02 PM.

  8. #8

    Default Re: What makes a fragrance smell synthetic?

    Quality or lack of can be the difference between something smelling synthetic or not regardless of the base constituents.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: What makes a fragrance smell synthetic?

    "Synthetic" is an often misused word in describing perfumes. There are countless perfumes with synthetic ingredients that smell like a "real thing". Take Diorissimo, for example, which smells like almost photorealistic lily of the valley but produced from synthetic ingredients. Even non-conventional perfumes, like those by CDG are made from synthetics but smell like the thing they are supposed to (i.e. Garage or Tar). There are plenty of houses that employ synthetics to great success (i.e. Etat Libre d'Orange) in which aromachemicals are used creatively to smell like actual things, even if these things are a bit weird. They may smell 'synthetic' but this is not a bad thing. On the other hand there are perfumes which employ synthetics that actually smell like aromachemicals instead of smelling like a 'real thing'. This is what's usually described as 'synthetic' but should probably be described as 'chemical smelling' (or something like that). IMHO this is typically the hallmark of a poorly or cheaply made fragrance.

  10. #10

  11. #11

    Default Re: What makes a fragrance smell synthetic?

    So an expert in perfume can sniff a fragrance and can determine if there is a synthetic note in the fragrance?
    My Top 10

    1. Amouage Homage Attar
    2. Serge Lutens - Muscs Koublai Khan
    3. YSL M7
    4. Serge Lutens - Ambre Sultan
    5. Chanel Egoiste
    6. 24 Gold by Scentstory
    7. Amouage Epic Man
    8. Amouage Jubilation XXV
    9. Bond No. 9 New York Oud
    10. Serge Lutens - Chergui



    "A beautiful fragrance to the nose is like good jazz music to the ears, great food to the mouth, and Megan Fox and Jessica Alba to the eyes..."

  12. #12
    Olfacta's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a fragrance smell synthetic?

    I can only speak for myself, but it's the smelling and wearing of essential oils, botanical essences and the high-end niche perfumes made with at least some of them that simply point out the chemical-derived essence of purely synthetic fragrances. I know, I know, the molecules are supposed to be exact replications but they're...not; they're missing something ephemeral. That being said, a scent needs some synthetics for longevity and sillage, at least on my skin; the 100% botanicals are mostly gone in 5 minutes.
    Olfacta
    also at http://olfactarama.blogspot.com
    Musings and random thoughts about the genie in the bottle

  13. #13
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    Default Re: What makes a fragrance smell synthetic?

    Quote Originally Posted by Olfacta View Post
    I can only speak for myself, but it's the smelling and wearing of essential oils, botanical essences and the high-end niche perfumes made with at least some of them that simply point out the chemical-derived essence of purely synthetic fragrances. I know, I know, the molecules are supposed to be exact replications but they're...not; they're missing something ephemeral. That being said, a scent needs some synthetics for longevity and sillage, at least on my skin; the 100% botanicals are mostly gone in 5 minutes.
    This is unfortunately true in my experience as well. Although the all-naturals by houses like Soivohle and Strange Invisible Perfumes are interesting perfumes the longevity on the skin is just awful (with a handful of exceptions, of course). As someone told me when I was a newbie: the best perfumes are those that successfully employ a blend of natural and synthetic ingredients to get the best of both.

    Quote Originally Posted by change1
    So an expert in perfume can sniff a fragrance and can determine if there is a synthetic note in the fragrance?
    I don't think you need to be an "expert" per se to identify synthetics, it's just a matter of paying attention when sampling and a bit of natural ability. You can pretty much assume there are synthetic ingredients in every perfume unless it's from one of the few houses that are explicitly natural-essences only. If you mean identifying the exact aromachemicals that are in a given perfume, this is an ability one cultivates over time and sampling experience. I've never put a lot of effort into learning the names of the aromachemicals or pre-fab aromachemical accords used by the houses but I can recognize them when I smell them. I can always smell when a perfume contains Iso-E-Super or Ambroxan but I'm not so sure of the names of the other common aromachemicals. I'm always impressed by those with a nose for identifying specific ingredients and aromachemicals.

  14. #14

    Default Re: What makes a fragrance smell synthetic?

    There's also the use of compounds such as Iso E Super. I've only learned more about this recently (and I'm still very much a learner), particularly as a result of testing Molecule 01 and it revealed what I found "synthetic" or "not quite right" in Encre Noire, Terre d'Hermès and Voyage d'Hermès among others. For me I perceive synthetic notes/compounds mainly by the way they feel in my nose/sinus. Some will even be quite irritating. One of the joys I've recently discovered with niche is that a fragrance can be very strong but feel pleasurable to the nose and not cause any irritation. Natural notes also seem to have far greater breadth and nuance where as I perceive synthetic notes as thin or flat.
    The other component to detecting "synthetics" are notes in the fragrance actually smelling like they do in nature/real life as opposed to being an approximation. Citrus is an obvious one - grab a designer fragrance with lemon and it never actually smells like real lemon.
    I hope this helps in you some way. Ultimately you just need to test and read and test and read.......

  15. #15

    Default Re: What makes a fragrance smell synthetic?

    Quote Originally Posted by change1 View Post
    Amouage Silver and Lyric smells very sharp. Does this mean it contains synthetic ingredients? I thought Amouage contains no synthetic ingredients?
    Well, you've got to keep in mind that some notes are synthetic by nature, take lemons or pepper for example. I don't know about Amouage Lyric or Silver having synthetic ingredients or not, I'm sure they do since it's very unlikely that a modern perfume does not.

    When I say sharp I mean it's sort of uncomfortable to the nose. I guess a more accurate description than sharp is, lack of complexity. Instead of having a couple of deep notes that feel smooth and well blended together, you got notes piercing through your nose almost individually.

    Now Synthetic is a really hard word to describe for me at least. It's usually assigned with being unpleasant, sharp, plasticy, flat...etc. But I assure you many quality fragrances are made of a good portion of synthetics. It's just human nature where we assign natural (aka real) to be superior to artificial or synthetic. But that is not always the case....

    Synthetic, to me, is an impression. It is not an accurate scientific descrpition. And unless you've studied perfumery/chemistry and you have been given the chance to exactly compare all the variations of say, natural rose, to all the variations of synthetic rose, I doubt you can truly tell the difference between the two. There are notes perfected in a synthetic form, and some not so much.

    Now the question this raises, if "synthetic" is a negative impression and not a factual observation, doesn't that also mean that more expensive ingredients are not necessarily better?

    Synthetic Civet smells exactly the same as real civet.
    Some prefer artificial oud to the real stuff, infact most people here have not sniffed pure natural oud and doubt they'd like it.
    However, I see a big different in Rose for example, synthetic vs natural. Low-end natural vs High-end natural.

    So, why do more expensive perfumes smell better? I mean hey oud might be the most expensive oil I've come across, but most people probably find a perfume that contains the pure stuff less pleasant than say one that has rose/saffron/amber/woods to give a false impression of oud.

    This is confusing to me. Could it be that, while ingredients play a big part, the reason more expensive perfumes smell better is due to the quality of the blending as opposed to the misleading false advertising of "all natural ingredients"?

    Or could it be the simple fact that while a natural ingredient does not necessarily smell better, it is easier to achieve complexity and smoothness with it?

    I'm just rambling now -.-

  16. #16

    Default Re: What makes a fragrance smell synthetic?

    Quote Originally Posted by PerfumeCollector View Post

    By the way all components of a perfume are organic regardless they are natural or synthetic, in that regard synthetic molecules can be as complex and even more than natural molecules, it is the mixture that is complex and rich in natural notes compared with synthetic notes.
    Thanks. Interesting...

  17. #17

    Default Re: What makes a fragrance smell synthetic?

    I can see how something that smells synthetic would be irritating, but the actual use of synthetic materials in perfumery can be genius if you ask me (i.e. Jicky, No. 5....).

    Not to mention it's cheaper than natural materials in most instances.

  18. #18

    Default Re: What makes a fragrance smell synthetic?

    When I assess a frag these days, I assume that it's nearly all synthetic. It's that small percentage that's not that may be all that is necessary to give it that "natural" quality, however. Some frags that are all synthetic may seem natural due to the number of ingredients and good composition. According to LT, 24, Faubourg was a very complicated all synthetic frag, with a huge number of ingredients. He said it was likely very difficult to get right, and that it was a kind of passing fad in perfumery. On the other hand, if you use certain naturals that aren't very expensive, you can achieve something similar, if not more "natural" smelling.

    It took me at least two years to begin to appreciate frags that seem to have more naturals, because at first I found many of them to be too harsh. Sometimes, you'll read a review where the person says the frag smells like "bug spray," insect repellent, or hair spray. In most cases, I'd guess, that perception comes from not understanding what the naturals are supposed to smell like. One also needs to give yourself time to adjust to them. On the other hand, many 100% synthetic frags are meant to "smell nice," and so don't get called bug spray or whatever. Obviously, when dealing with frags that are largely synthetic, the perception of natural or synthetic is at least partly subjective, if not mostly so. This is why it is the person who makes the claim that is most meaningful to me (judging from past reviews and posts).

    I think it was foetidus who said that it is common, in cheap frags, for the notes to be grouped together tightly (I don't remember the exact phrasing), because the ingredients were too cheap to stand up to scrutiny. I have found that many such frags have a "blob"-like quality, which becomes irritating fairly quickly. I'm not sure why, though. It may be that once you are able to "poke around" in a frag and detect the notes, the blob frags begin to smell like a chemical disinfectant, a medication, or something else that is not pleasant.
    Last edited by Bigsly; 7th April 2011 at 07:05 AM.

  19. #19

    Default Re: What makes a fragrance smell synthetic?

    If I think back to my schoolboy chemistry I come to the conclusion that there's no such thing as a 'synthetic molecule'. Atoms combine to form molecules; some molecules are just lying around the place and some we make but the ones we 'make' are absolutely identical to the ones we 'find' in nature. It's too weak a description to say that H20 in a lake is 'the same' as H20 that drips out of the exhaust of a hydrogen fueled car: they're not 'the same as each other' even, they're just H20: some here, some there; it's not 'synthetic H20' coming out of that exhaust pipe, it's just H20.

  20. #20

    Default Re: What makes a fragrance smell synthetic?

    well if the perfume smell like an unusual natural ingredient .. it's synthetic .. like le male .. it's all about vanilla .. but does natural vanilla smell like le male's ?

  21. #21
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    Default Re: What makes a fragrance smell synthetic?

    Poor construction/ blending.

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