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  1. #1

    Default What notes are considered sharp, harsh or bitter?

    In my search for new & different fragrances I seem to be turned off by certain notes I can't always identify. Sharp, bitter notes don't work well on me as they never seem to mellow out. I also shy away from scents with green notes as they seem harsh. Are they all like that or just certain ones? I like spicy scents too, but some not so much. Are there any particular offenders for me to be wary of?

  2. #2

    Default Re: What notes are considered sharp, harsh or bitter?

    Sometimes, the sharp bitter notes are some type of synthetics variously described as "woody ambers" (and which of course are not ambers at all). they are especially common in mainstream masculines, especially those called "sports". A special offender is Light blue man, which combines sharp woody ambers with swampy marines. As perfume critic Luca Turin wrote, plague and cholera at the same time.

    The intensely green note usually comes from galbanum. It is particularly evident in Chanel Cristalle, so if you smell that and strongly dislike it, you can assume that's a no-no material for you. Galbanum features prominently in many old perfumes, including so called green chypres. That said, within the category there's a big difference in the amount of greenness, with many being quite soft (for instance, Tiare by Ormonde Jayne).

    Finally, some leather material can be very sharp and bitter. But many leathers are quite smooth and soft, like suede, so, again, you cannot generalize. Bandit has both a strong galbanum note and a bitter leather; it is among my top two or three favorite perfumes. But perhaps you won't find the appeal then.

    If you happen near an Estee Lauder counter, you can test a couple of things for like/dislike: Private Collection for galbanum-green, and Azuree for a leather that's neither too strong (a la Bandit) nor too smooth (a la Chanel Cuir de Russie).

    cacio

  3. #3

    Default Re: What notes are considered sharp, harsh or bitter?

    Thanks for your reply Cacio! I think you may be on target with the galbanum. While I adore Chanel Cuir de Russie, Bandit is pure skank to me. Light Blue also repels me but I'm thinking that the apple note is not my thing either.

    I've focused so much on discovering what notes appeal to me that I never considered the ones that just don't. Equally important I think in finding those scents we can't do without!

    P.S. I'm a long-time former Washingtonian.

  4. #4

    Default Re: What notes are considered sharp, harsh or bitter?

    Vetiver.

  5. #5
    teardrop's Avatar
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    Default Re: What notes are considered sharp, harsh or bitter?

    l agree with cacio on the galbanum note. lt usually comes off as very harsh & bitter on me, unless it's done with a very light hand. Cristalle & No.19 are therefore a complete no-no for me.
    "What is this secret connection between the soul, and sea, clouds and perfumes? The soul itself appears to be sea, cloud and perfume..." - from Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis.

  6. #6
    hednic's Avatar
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    Default Re: What notes are considered sharp, harsh or bitter?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Hunter View Post
    Vetiver.
    This.

  7. #7

    Default Re: What notes are considered sharp, harsh or bitter?

    Grapefruit. Some synthetic citric notes too.

    I don't find Vetiver to bitter. The South American species can be rendered sharp when paired with resins and cedar but in essence(literally - I mean essential oil), it's rooty not bitter.

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  8. #8

    Default Re: What notes are considered sharp, harsh or bitter?

    Thanks for all the responses. I think I have some answers...& I'm learning!

    It seems that all of the scents I find unwearable have either vetiver or galbanum in their composition - if not both. Yet some of my favorite perfumes have a touch of them. Their predominance or combination with other notes must be the key for me.

    I've also found that tuberose is really skank on me, but that's a whole nother discussion!

  9. #9

    Default Re: What notes are considered sharp, harsh or bitter?

    For vetiver, you can check Vetiver Extraordinaire in the Malle line. Probably the highest concentation of this material. If vetiver is a no, you should dislike this. But, as hedonist was saying, there are different types of vetiver.

    As for tub, you'll need to explore JAR Eclair then. But tubereuse criminelle will work too. Not to mention JAR Jardenia (not a tuberose, but a realistically skanky gardenia).

    cacio

  10. #10

    Default Re: What notes are considered sharp, harsh or bitter?

    Quote Originally Posted by cacio View Post
    For vetiver, you can check Vetiver Extraordinaire in the Malle line. Probably the highest concentation of this material. If vetiver is a no, you should dislike this. But, as hedonist was saying, there are different types of vetiver.

    As for tub, you'll need to explore JAR Eclair then. But tubereuse criminelle will work too. Not to mention JAR Jardenia (not a tuberose, but a realistically skanky gardenia).

    cacio
    Will have to go investigate the vetiver scents. Thanks. It'll be my first time testing a perfume to see if I hate it, but the rationale makes perfect sense.
    The tuberose comment is based on my reactions to Fracas & Carnal Flower. I had hoped to love both of these but they were just awful on me. Maybe it was a different note they have in common, but I detected a rotten smell.

  11. #11

    Default Re: What notes are considered sharp, harsh or bitter?

    Tuberose does have a rotten note, often compared to decaying meat. This note is relatively weak in Fracas, so if you don't like it, then tuberose is another no flower for you. The note reaches its full glory in Eclair. I regrettably did not detect it in the synthetic tuberose from hell, Amarige.

    cacio

  12. #12

    Default Re: What notes are considered sharp, harsh or bitter?

    Quote Originally Posted by cacio View Post
    Sometimes, the sharp bitter notes are some type of synthetics variously described as "woody ambers" (and which of course are not ambers at all). they are especially common in mainstream masculines, especially those called "sports". A special offender is Light blue man, which combines sharp woody ambers with swampy marines. As perfume critic Luca Turin wrote, plague and cholera at the same time.

    The intensely green note usually comes from galbanum. It is particularly evident in Chanel Cristalle, so if you smell that and strongly dislike it, you can assume that's a no-no material for you. Galbanum features prominently in many old perfumes, including so called green chypres. That said, within the category there's a big difference in the amount of greenness, with many being quite soft (for instance, Tiare by Ormonde Jayne).

    Finally, some leather material can be very sharp and bitter. But many leathers are quite smooth and soft, like suede, so, again, you cannot generalize. Bandit has both a strong galbanum note and a bitter leather; it is among my top two or three favorite perfumes. But perhaps you won't find the appeal then.

    If you happen near an Estee Lauder counter, you can test a couple of things for like/dislike: Private Collection for galbanum-green, and Azuree for a leather that's neither too strong (a la Bandit) nor too smooth (a la Chanel Cuir de Russie).

    cacio
    What he says. I'll add that, unfortunately, woody ambers are taking over in niche as well. Many brands such as Montale, Amouage and Serge Lutens are using several types of woody amber (Norlimbanol and Iso above all). It can smell velvety if properly dosed but, most of the time, it has an annoying tendency to become sharp and overwhelming to the point to kill almost everything else in the composition.

    As for harsh, I find that some white florals (expecially orange blossoms) can sometime smell harsh....Again, it always depends on how the ingredient is handled and contextualized.


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