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  1. #1

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    Default How to identify the different Notes?

    [Apologies if this has been already covered, a Search in the forums did not bring up anything in the title]

    As a novice scent enthusiast, I am wondering if there are any suggestions/methods for learning how to distinguish all the notes you read about in descriptions of the different products?

    I can generally tell one or two, from the initial top notes, to the lingering heart or base notes, but not all.

    Would it help to smell each "Note" individually, so I could learn what the symphony of scents is comprised of? For example, how can I tell if there is "bergamot, labdanum or vetiver?"

    A specific example could be the Comme des Garcons Series 3: Incense - Avignon. The desription lists: "Roman chamomile, cistus oil, elemi, incense, vanilla, patchouli, palisander, ambrette seeds." All my lame nose can determine is the "incense" notes, which also reminds me of wood. What the heck is cistus oil or palisander?

    Thank you for all suggestions,

    Fred

  2. #2
    hedonist222's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to identify the different Notes?

    For one thing you need to be familiar with the ingredient/note to identify it.

    I can easily distinguish vetiver from bergamot. For example, I know what roses smell like but cannot segregate Syrian Rose from Turkish Rose yet.

    Also keep in mind that some notes appear later on in the diffusion process. the saffron in Tuscan Leather makes its apperance several hours into the perfume whereas it is the first note in Oud Wood.

  3. #3
    blackened's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to identify the different Notes?

    firstable ,just starting to identify a few notes , only the prominents , like that gradually
    my current top five (always in transition)

    Dior Eau Noire
    HdP 1725 Casanova
    eau de gloire parfum d'empire
    Dia man Amouage
    comme des garçons man 2

  4. #4

    Default Re: How to identify the different Notes?

    You can buy a kit from the Perfumer's Apprentice site. Or you can just correlate note pyramids with what you smell, and over time you will "wire" your brain to understand, though keep in mind that not all note pyramids are accurate. Also, if you buy frags that are similar, that is not going to help as much as buying different frags, especially at first. Another "trick" is to avoid top notes and concentrate on the base notes. Otherwise, it might seem like many frags only last half an hour or so.

  5. #5

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    Default Re: How to identify the different Notes?

    Thank you for all the comments, especially the Perfumer's Apprentice recommendation. They have a notes kit online for $95, so I will save up for that.

    The link is:

    http://shop.perfumersapprentice.com/...onal-kits.aspx

    Now let's hope I have a discerning nose!

  6. #6

    Default Re: How to identify the different Notes?

    The notes in a perfume are usually so well blended that probably only the experts can truly distinguish specific ones. I can recognize only the most prominent ones in a fragrance. I have purchased over the years essential oils of plants, and knowing how these smell in isolation may help somewhat, but I've also found that essential (non-synthentic) oils are not always a good indication of how a note will smell in a perfume.

    Here is a very interesting article that I came across on Bois de Jasmin (I am not affiliated with the blog with any way, and I hope it's okay to post here). Well, it might have explained why, when I sniff Serge Lutens A la Nuit, I am reminded of lily of the valley.

    http://boisdejasmin.typepad.com/_/20...d-reality.html

  7. #7

    Default Re: How to identify the different Notes?

    The notes in a perfume are usually so well blended that probably only the experts can truly distinguish specific ones. I can recognize only the most prominent ones in a fragrance. I have purchased over the years essential oils of plants, and knowing how these smell in isolation may help somewhat, but I've also found that essential (non-synthentic) oils are not always a good indication of how a note will smell in a perfume.

    Here is a very interesting article that I came across on Bois de Jasmin (I am not affiliated with the blog in any way, and I hope it's okay to post here). At any rate, it might have explained why, when I sniff Serge Lutens A la Nuit, I am reminded of lily of the valley.

    http://boisdejasmin.typepad.com/_/20...d-reality.html

  8. #8

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    Default Re: How to identify the different Notes?

    In addition, more often that not, notes descriptions are lies, that is, they list notes that are not contained in the formula. After all, most notes are synthetics that do not smell like any particular natural substance. In combination, they may, but of course, the company can say what it wants. Or the note is there, but in tiny amounts. Or be totally covered by other notes.

    Luca Turin is especially funny in pointing out such lies (eg. "The Le Labo school of misdirection", the hundreds of fake "gardenias", and so on).

    cacio

  9. #9
    bluesoul's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to identify the different Notes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fred360 View Post
    [Apologies if this has been already covered, a Search in the forums did not bring up anything in the title]

    As a novice scent enthusiast, I am wondering if there are any suggestions/methods for learning how to distinguish all the notes you read about in descriptions of the different products?

    I can generally tell one or two, from the initial top notes, to the lingering heart or base notes, but not all.

    Would it help to smell each "Note" individually, so I could learn what the symphony of scents is comprised of? For example, how can I tell if there is "bergamot, labdanum or vetiver?"

    A specific example could be the Comme des Garcons Series 3: Incense - Avignon. The desription lists: "Roman chamomile, cistus oil, elemi, incense, vanilla, patchouli, palisander, ambrette seeds." All my lame nose can determine is the "incense" notes, which also reminds me of wood. What the heck is cistus oil or palisander?

    Thank you for all suggestions,

    Fred
    To answer your question at the end, palisander is a Brazilian rosewood. Cistus oil comes from a rock rose, depending on how the oil is extracted it can be known as cistus or labdanum.

    Anyway, the best way to learn notes (aside from smelling great fragrances and getting a feel for picking it apart) is to get some essential oils and smell them by themselves. Perfumer's apprentice is great for aromachemicals, but for EOs I use www.nandaoils.com as they sell small, 5mL bottles for the cheapest prices around.
    Twitter - @DanielTharp
    DanielTharp.com has additional reviews and commentary.
    Always be content with what you have, never be content with what you are.

  10. #10
    Master-Classter's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to identify the different Notes?

    1. understand that what they list on the box may be marketing and not accurately reflect what's really inside. They might be describing accords rather then specific notes.
    2. The concentrations/emphasis can really vary, so it might say there's sandalwood in the base, but it's there becuase it sounds impressive or it helps ground the rest of the notes and you couldn't really smell it specifically.
    3. not all X's smell the same, so a 'rose' might have 100 different versions/takes on it.

    my advice is to do what i did, which is to build a wardrobe based on olifactory groups. So pick say Vetiver, and then go buy samples of 10 different vetivers and smell them all over and over again until you can pick out what vetiver smells like and all the different twists that the companies put on it. Then I picked my favorite 2-3 and bought bottles and kept the rest of the samples for reference.
    The Perfumed court also probably sells these sets but i jsut did it on my own through research and swapping or getting samples from stores.

    another route is to go and buy an 'organ', ie a set of essential oils. this will give you a very good idea of specific notes, albeit only one version of it. also note taht as eo's are diluted into alcohol, they start to smell different.

    lastly, some of this is just sheer volume of exposure. once you're smelled rose over and over again and worn a rose centered fragrance, you'll probably start to pick out the note easily because you know exactly what it is and you know it so well.
    NEW STUFF FOR SALE - TOM FORD, Guerlain, Acqua Di Parma, Serge Lutens, Byredo, Diptyque, etc. .

    Most of the time I am very proud of the Basenotes community. Time after time I have witnessed the thoughtfulness, empathy & genuine friendship that members of this community extend to others - oldtimers & newcomers alike. There are other times, however, when egos get the upper hand and civility goes out the window. My philosophy is that I won't say anything here that I would not say if you were standing in front of me. Welcome to Basenotes, each and every one of us. ~ TwoRoads

  11. #11
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    Default Re: How to identify the different Notes?

    If it's any consolation, even the most experienced noses can only specifically distinguish a handful of separate notes in a perfume. The rest is educated guesswork based on a knowledge of accords (combinations of molecules people use to achieve certain smells), trends and the perfumer's past work. For example, a friend of mine uses peppermint and tonka to create mint chocolate, so if I smell mint chocolate from her, I know there's peppermint and tonka in there.

    If you live near a store that sells essential oils and doesn't mind you sniffing around without buying much, that's the best place to start. The Perfumer's Apprentice kit is a good one, but you can learn plenty for free. Flower gardens / intentionally scented gardens are fun and useful, too.

  12. #12

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    Default Re: How to identify the different Notes?

    Thank you for all the great suggestions and information.

    I have received the Perfumer's Apprentice kit, with 40 samples of ingredients used in perfume making. I have also realized the notes i read about may have nothing to do with the actual contents of a perfume. I've also realized that some smells are only approximated by synthetics. I often think I smell "gardenia" in a sample and this usually means that it has "lily of the valley" instead. I also read one place that gardenia is not possible to reproduce. One smell (from nature) that I think is out-of-this world is from the winter-blooming Daphne plant. I have one in my backyard (daphne odora), which is different from the Daphne created by Demeter.

    But I digress. I am hoping to educate my nose so I'll be able to describe them with a single word or sentence. For example, I really like Profumi di Palantaria's Maestrale. What I remember from it is the scent of pencil-shavings. I guess I like the woods category.

  13. #13
    Master-Classter's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to identify the different Notes?

    sometimes the ability to describe something isn't as much about listing off the notes, but rather accurately capturing the feel, place, time, etc of it. Luca Turin/Tania Sanchez's guide has those two word descriptions that tend to make people nod their heads and snap their fingers as what they're smelling suddenly 'clicks' into place. Like when I read that aldehydes smelled like a snuffed out candle. I couldn't place it and he did that for me.
    NEW STUFF FOR SALE - TOM FORD, Guerlain, Acqua Di Parma, Serge Lutens, Byredo, Diptyque, etc. .

    Most of the time I am very proud of the Basenotes community. Time after time I have witnessed the thoughtfulness, empathy & genuine friendship that members of this community extend to others - oldtimers & newcomers alike. There are other times, however, when egos get the upper hand and civility goes out the window. My philosophy is that I won't say anything here that I would not say if you were standing in front of me. Welcome to Basenotes, each and every one of us. ~ TwoRoads

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