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  1. #1

    Default How do I learn to detect individual notes in a fragrance?

    I am sure that this has already been asked but I cannot seem to locate the thread. I am not great with forums, seriously, I almost started this post with Dear,.

    As I read through the different descriptions of fragrances I realized that there are different ways for people to describe what they smell. Some tend to describe smells as what it reminds them of while others tend to describe a fragrance as separate notes which are further separated into categories. For example, while D'Zing may smell to one like a stack of boots it may smell like sweet and animalic notes to another. I am one of the people who can't pick out a specific note to save my life and I hate it. I smell something and I can only describe it in generalities. Something either smells woody, spicy, fresh, or citrusy. I feel like I am missing something important, like I'm reading a book in a language I don't quite understand. I believe this seriously hinders my ability to enjoy the fragrances I own.

    Any tips?

    Thanks for the time.

  2. #2

    Default Re: How do I learn to detect individual notes in a fragrance?

    Hi ASchell90,

    I don't know much about fragrances, so I was wondering this, too.

    You could try doing what Gary Vaynerchuk did/does. His dad had a wine store. When Gary was younger his had owned a wine store. Gary wanted to know how to recognize the flavors in wine, so he practiced eating and smelling those flavors.

    So if someone in a wine magazine said a wine had the taste of dirt in it, then Gary would try dirt. If someone said it tasted like cherries, then he would try cherries.

    Here is a video where he shows what he did/does:

    http://tv.winelibrary.com/2006/12/15...d-episode-148/


    Also, maybe you can buy very small samples of individual scents and practice smelling them.

  3. #3

    Default Re: How do I learn to detect individual notes in a fragrance?

    Quote Originally Posted by ASchell90 View Post
    I am sure that this has already been asked but I cannot seem to locate the thread. I am not great with forums, seriously, I almost started this post with Dear,.
    haha thats hilarious - its ok
    You'll become acquainted with time.

    Quote Originally Posted by ASchell90 View Post

    As I read through the different descriptions of fragrances I realized that there are different ways for people to describe what they smell. Some tend to describe smells as what it reminds them of while others tend to describe a fragrance as separate notes which are further separated into categories. For example, while D'Zing may smell to one like a stack of boots it may smell like sweet and animalic notes to another. I am one of the people who can't pick out a specific note to save my life and I hate it. I smell something and I can only describe it in generalities. Something either smells woody, spicy, fresh, or citrusy. I feel like I am missing something important, like I'm reading a book in a language I don't quite understand. I believe this seriously hinders my ability to enjoy the fragrances I own.

    Any tips?

    Thanks for the time.

    Can you differentiate between milk, dark and white chocolate?
    You can probably because you are aware of how each type tastes.

    Therefore you need to find a way to sample each scent/note on its own.

    I know exactly what ginger, iris, jasmine, rose ( & bulgarian rose), cardamom, saffron, pink pepper , champaca and many others smell like.

    Most of the flowers, herbs and spices mentioned above are very very commonly used here in the middle east for either cooking or in fragrances. So I grew up smelling and eating the notes. I learned about pink pepper and champaca on a trip to China.

    So you need to get familiar with the essence of each scent to be able to distinguish each note in a certain perfume.

    I for example do not detect each scent as I still need to develop my olfactory skills in certain scents like silver birch and need to taste bergamot fruit to differentiate between it and lemon.


    Also, keep in mind that a certain perfume will have several several notes to it but these notes do not arise or become known at the same time. Check out my mini-review on Chene in a thread I started a couple of days ago. The smokey wood scent and sap only emerged 4 or 5 hours after spraying.

    This throws me off sometimes too, ill spray a perfume and immediately read the ingredients but not capture them all because either:

    a) my nose is not trained enough in certain scents
    b) i am not skilled at filtering out a single scent in complex fragrances
    c) the note is only prevalent towards the dry-down phase after spraying

  4. #4

    Default Re: How do I learn to detect individual notes in a fragrance?

    Woow I know exactly how you feel. Im awful with forums...and im awful with identifying notes. But, I have found a few ways to solve the issue of identifying notes...a small and not always effective way, but nonetheless a start. Anyway this is what I do. Think of musk, everyone knows what it smells like and it seems to be a common note in a lot of fragrances. So when smelling a cologne of some sort, think if you can smell any musk in it, and if so you have a musk note. But lets say you dont know what musk smells like, just go to a store llike Wal-Mark and find a musk cologne and smell it. Now you know the smell of musk and should be able to identify it. But what if its a strange note, something like sandal wood?.....honestly idk what that smells like. SO this is my idea, I am going to read reviews about fragrances that have sandalwood notes (at least 3 or 4), then go out and find those fragrances in stores, and smell them. If they all for some reason smell similar, i guess that would be because of the sandal wood note. So its like a combo of reading reviews of fragrances with a certain note, then smelling them to seek out similarities, thus finding a note. Now keep in mind, i don't know if these are valid or effective methods, but it sounds good to me. So maybe give it a go. =)

  5. #5

    Default Re: How do I learn to detect individual notes in a fragrance?

    That would be awesome to have a basic kit with say 3-5 of each category on the smell wheel per se that you could order as a kit, either on sealed papers or even tiny ml bottles.

    Also I was wondering if there is any type of "notes" database out there of any type. I had this idea the other day that there are quite a few colognes that I love and would like to know the notes and plop them into "said database" and it would look up other scents in that range or closest to them based on top , heart or base notes depending on what you want. I am probably asking too much but if there IS one, please hook me up! lol

    I am also a noob at describing what I smell in competent basenote terms.
    “Perfume is like cocktails without the hangover, like chocolate without the calories, like an affair without tears, like a vacation from which you never have to come back.”

  6. #6

    Default Re: How do I learn to detect individual notes in a fragrance?

    The wine library is funny and had some great points. And corruptedSanity's points about spices are very appropriate. Even with food I have trouble distinguishing flavors though. I can spot thyme and rosemary but beyond that and I'm lost.

    What I do, which hasn't really worked yet, is similar to vivid's idea. I find a note or type of frag I like. I buy a ton of samples of that type and then smell them all and hope I find some commonality among them. It hasn't really worked for me yet. (Except I do know what sandalwood smells like because my dad uses sandalwood soap.)

    Overall I think Quiptos has the right idea. Where is that guy selling the "Teach Yourself Fragrances" Kit? There is obviously a market for it and I know somebody has the capabilities.

  7. #7

    Default Re: How do I learn to detect individual notes in a fragrance?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quiptos View Post
    That would be awesome to have a basic kit with say 3-5 of each category on the smell wheel per se that you could order as a kit, either on sealed papers or even tiny ml bottles.
    The Perfumed Court sells sample packs based on fragrance notes. They are fairly expensive, but I have ordered quite a few samples from them since getting into the hobby recently.

    http://theperfumedcourt.com/Categori...ance-Note.aspx

  8. #8

    Default Re: How do I learn to detect individual notes in a fragrance?

    Just a quick update here, I found a link with a notes directory that also sells the essential oils for each note so u can smell the notes...sooo check it out

    http://www.fragrantica.com/parfumeur/


    (sorry if guidelines dont like hotlinking, but im only trying to help)

  9. #9

    Default Re: How do I learn to detect individual notes in a fragrance?

    I'm a beginner but take a sniff Bulgari Black when you can, and tell me you can't smell the rubber

  10. #10

    Default Re: How do I learn to detect individual notes in a fragrance?

    I am just learning as well to differentiate between between notes, I am a bog fan of woods
    John
    Fragrance Reviews & Splits on YouTube
    Http://www.YouTube.com/user/itmllc

  11. #11

    Default Re: How do I learn to detect individual notes in a fragrance?

    Quote Originally Posted by Inscentz View Post
    I am a bog fan of woods
    Yeah me too, LOL




    unusonusonronald Cruzag
    Last edited by juminosy; 30th October 2010 at 08:09 AM.

  12. #12

    Default Re: How do I learn to detect individual notes in a fragrance?

    Wow - the Fragrantica list is amazing. The list of flowers is intimidating; I couldn't tell you the difference between a rose and a lily to save my life. I have looked at the perfumed court but unfortunately they are a bit expensive. The sets they have are neat but out of my price range at the moment.

  13. #13

    Default Re: How do I learn to detect individual notes in a fragrance?

    One way to start learning natural scents without any financial layout is simply to go to a store that has testers of essential oils and sniff them. You can learn a lot that way. Another way is to go to a garden center and smell the leaves and flowers of plants that are used in perfume-making. Smelling synthetic perfumes is a bit different because the synthetic versions of things may not be the same as the natural scents, and may differ considerably from one manufacturer to another. Also, many synthetic accords are purely "fantasy" scents that have very little to do with real-world odors. Don't worry if you can't find a name for every note that you smell in perfume, don't worry if you don't detect everything in the manufacturer's notes, and trust your nose if you detect a scent that's not listed. Happy sniffing!
    Blog: www.perfumenw.blogspot.com
    Website: Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfumes http://orchidscents.com.

  14. #14

    Default Re: How do I learn to detect individual notes in a fragrance?

    I think that is a wonderful idea, because I have drawn the same conclusion! I love perfumes, both simple and compex, and I would really love to try to sart writing some reviews on some of my favorites. However, I can't pick out any damn notes other than vanillas! So I am trying your reading reviews and trying samples echnique. A great place to try some compex fragrances that have reviews available are at thepurfumedcourt.com, which sells decants. Also, if you have ever heard of demeter fragrance pick-me-up colognes, they offer many "single note" type frags, though I only now own leather and jasmine, and hear that some are not true-to-reality.

  15. #15

    Default Re: How do I learn to detect individual notes in a fragrance?

    Great ideas here - specifically the one about essential oils, though be mindful that a huge number of straight forward chemical inventions or chemical analogues of nature are used in perfume production

    My advice, which is purely based on personal experience, would be to use the perfume pyramids provided on websites such as this when comparing fragrances and, with blotters (the card samplers available in store) or your wrists, start out with fragrances using first very different and then very similar notes. In this way you should be able to recognise how scents are differentiated and then what they have in common.

    This will help you in identifying the major notes. In particular there are certain very prominent notes that are fairly easy to recognise - leather, cedar, benzoin, vanilla, aldehyde, lavender, rose and jasmine are some examples. Getting to know these through smelling numerous fragrances differentially and to identify commonality should fairly quickly allow you to 'get' these.

    When you feel confident with 'major notes' then I would return to those similar fragrances that have a few notes that separate them - see if you can try and sift those notes out from the big guns above and you will be on the road to developing a note vocabulary.

    I should say I lay no claim to be an expert or to any great originality: differentiation and similarity are how we all learn to distinguish colours, musical notes and style and -surprisingly to a much lesser extent - taste.

    The key here is that whilst we may have forgotten how tricky it was to grasp colours when we were a child, this is a process that required great fortitude and effort from our young minds - so it is with developing our sense of smell. Equally, whereas very few of us will have no sense of smell there is a huge spectrum between those who can pick out the very slightest note amongst an avalanche of aldehydes and the bulk who with prompting can colour by numbers. Matisse at one end the most of the rest of us somewhere towards the other.

    Equally I always try to remember that those people who can wear their learning rather heavily, reeling off enormous lists of notes often have either something to prove or have lost the wood for the trees, and fail to experience the joy of perfume which has as much to do with memory, resonance and emotion as it is with olafactory analysis.

    Have a great smelling day.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: How do I learn to detect individual notes in a fragrance?

    Quote Originally Posted by Assiduosity View Post
    My advice, which is purely based on personal experience, would be to use the perfume pyramids provided on websites such as this when comparing fragrances and, with blotters (the card samplers available in store) or your wrists, start out with fragrances using first very different and then very similar notes.
    Good advice.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: How do I learn to detect individual notes in a fragrance?

    There is a thread below called "NotePad- An Exploration of Single Notes" that may be helpful. It has been for me because it explains what different notes smell like and such.
    I'm not OLD...I'm VINTAGE!

  18. #18

    Default Re: How do I learn to detect individual notes in a fragrance?

    Hello again All

    Just a quick add on to my response above.

    You might also find it useful to compare some female-marketed fragrances (on blotters if you don't want to try them on yourself) as some major notes in these perfumes such as rose, iris, violet and vanilla also appear in male marketed scents but generally in a more supporting role. By learning to recognise them where they are right to the front of the composition it should be easier to locate them when they are more in the background.

    For a lot more on female scents and their composition and those that are a bit more 'male friendly' and therefore more likely to contain elements in common with 'male' fragrances check out the thread 'what female scents are deadlier on the male?'

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