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  1. #1

    Default Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    When I smell a fragrance, I just smell a scent. Literally, I cant really differentiate any particular notes most of the time.

    Things like lemon or if a fragrance is generally 'spicey' but when I read peoples reviews of fragrances, it baffles me how people can pick out the individual notes.

    Is this something your nose is either good at or not or can your sense of smell improve over time?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    When you become familiar with a note in one fragrance you will be able to detect it in other scents. This comes in time when you have gotten your nose around a good few scents.

    A good way to train is to go to the fragrantica website and see the breakdown of notes on the reviews section of a particular frag you have. Then see if you can detect some of the notes listed by smelling your fragrance, eventually you will be able to seperate certain notes from others.

  3. #3
    hednic's Avatar
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    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    My nose is not that good at differentiating notes and I've been at this hobby for decades.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    Good advice, makes sense really.

    Ill go ahead and try that, thanks

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    I wish I could detect individual notes like some people do. I believe Jack Hunter's advice is very good about reading up on the notes for fragrances you already own. I'm going to employ that technique and see how it goes. Thanks.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Hunter View Post

    A good way to train is to go to the fragrantica website and see the breakdown of notes on the reviews section of a particular frag you have. Then see if you can detect some of the notes listed by smelling your fragrance, eventually you will be able to seperate certain notes from others.
    Thanks for the tip.
    "If you enjoy the fragrance of a rose, you must accept the thorns which it bears."
    -Isaac Hayes

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Hunter View Post
    When you become familiar with a note in one fragrance you will be able to detect it in other scents. This comes in time when you have gotten your nose around a good few scents.

    A good way to train is to go to the fragrantica website and see the breakdown of notes on the reviews section of a particular frag you have. Then see if you can detect some of the notes listed by smelling your fragrance, eventually you will be able to seperate certain notes from others.

    this is what i do
    1. Dior Homme Original
    2. Musc Ravaguer
    3. Portrait of a Lady
    4. Noir de Noir
    5. L Instant Guerlain pour Homme Extreme
    6. New Haarlem
    7. Pure Coffee
    8. Blu Mediterraneo Sicilian Almond
    9. Rose 31
    10. Spiritueuse Double Vanille

  8. #8
    Dependent rubegon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    You could buy a set of samples of perfume components and practice sniffing them. Here:

    http://shop.perfumersapprentice.com/...notes-kit.aspx

    Its a kit of 40 notes in diluted, ready-to-sniff form, including both naturals and comonly-used synthetics.

    I understand that perfumers in training do this for a long time to learn the notes. Olfactory flash cards.
    Last edited by rubegon; 15th September 2012 at 05:15 AM.
    - - - - - - - - - - - - -

  9. #9

    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    Buy a kit like Rubegon mentioned. When you test a fragrance, look up the note pyramids, use test strips, let the fragrance settle for a minute before you smell it, take small short whiffs, don't put your nose right up to the strip, and use coffee beans in between fragrances.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    Definitely takes time. Most people don't read the note breakdown then see if they can pick out the notes then compare. After a while you can pick different scents out. Just like eating something that you can pick out certain spices and ingredients.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    Interesting, thanks guys.

    Another thing that I dont get which may be difficult for me to explain is that it seems some fragrances are liked by many on here; ie the same ones, like Guerlain L'Instant, YSL La Nuit, Terre D'Hermes, Aventus, Dior Homme, Encre Noir etc to name a few. I must be missing something. Maybe its just that these are really good scents to the trained nose or that they are just simply nice smelling fragrances hence lots of people like them.

    I dont think Im doing a great job of explaining what I mean. What Im struggling with a bit is that Ive smelled a few of these and whilst some are nice, others I just dont get why theyre so common and Im not sure if its just simply that I dont like some of the popular ones or if Im just not getting something that other people are. As in what is the reason theyre so generally liked?

    Hope that makes at least some sense? :/

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    Another way to learn to recognise a lot of notes is to go & sniff some essential oils. This has helped me a lot.

    Also, take a look at the "Notepad" section on basenotes, which has a lot of useful descriptions of individual notes.
    "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.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Hunter View Post
    When you become familiar with a note in one fragrance you will be able to detect it in other scents. This comes in time when you have gotten your nose around a good few scents.

    A good way to train is to go to the fragrantica website and see the breakdown of notes on the reviews section of a particular frag you have. Then see if you can detect some of the notes listed by smelling your fragrance, eventually you will be able to seperate certain notes from others.
    +2. This is how my nose slowly improves

  14. #14

    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    Another easy way to recognize notes is to do some training with wild plants, herbs, flowers, fruit and spices, the ones you have in your garden, fridge or you can easily find at your grocer's.. (I recently bought some tonka beans and now, apart from making delicious desserts with them, I would spot it immediately!)

    Basically, I smell everything and try to recall the scent.

    I think that with some application, in a relatively short time (I've been doing it since a couple of years) you'll be able to detect an increasing number of notes
    "Your fragrance with a fume of iodine" L. Cohen

  15. #15

    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    I haven't learned much about detecting notes over time, even if I purchased dozens and tested further hundreds of various scents, yet my skills to separate, track down, determine a not has not been much improved, sharpened by my fragrance hobby.

    Yet, when a note is strong, simple and obvious (citrus, rose, herbs, lavender etc.) it occasionally happens to me to even be able to tell it apart.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    There are a few factors are work here.

    Firstly some people have a superior capacity to detect odours than others. There is something of a bell-curve, but then one in every X number of people will quality as a super taster/smeller. This is pre-determined, like being over seven feet tall, if you're not you're not. End of story, and most people aren’t.

    Even so there are things you can do to ensure your nose is at its best, and to ensure you don't prejudice your senses. Habits like smoking will tend to reduce your sense of smell (but then again some famous noses were smokers so go figure) and ambient smells can be a problem as well. It's best to have a room set aside where you can do your sampling and sniffing which is clean and devoid of anything overly aromatic. Bear in mind that there are probably many smells in your home which you're simply numb too. When you walk into a strangers home though you'll notice odours. Things like carpet, rugs, bookshelves, and so on. The bathroom and kitchen are both no-nos. Ideally a room to test things in would have a tiled floor which has been freshly swept and recently mopped, with the surfaces dusted (use a wet rag or the dust will simply be thrown into the air) if you only have a carpeted room vacuum it thoroughly and frequently.

    Another thing you need to consider is that while your nose does the smelling what you get from that smell, what you make of it, whether you like it, etc. This is all your brain. So if you have an environment where you smell make sure there is nothing which will distract you mentally or prejudice your opinions. Make sure you're relaxed and not in a rush to do something else.

    The simplest things can prejudice your opinion. Even the colour of the bottle. Especially when you over-reach yourself. So know your limits. If a fragrance is beyond you it's very easy for your imagination and expectations to fill in the gaps.

    I should find you a video where a woman had a fragrance made from her own body odour and sweat, and it was taken to a collection of fragrance lovers. The results were, in the main, truly embarrassing. I think two people managed to identify it as 'some kind of funk,', while others seemed to be pulling notes out of thin air and stating with absolute certainty that they could detect them.

    Really deconstructing a fragrance can take a great deal of time and effort. I've been surrounded by perfumes for my entire life, and have been collecting for two decades, and there are only a handful of scents I can really deconstruct with total confidence - ones I've been wearing for years and years. Of course I'm not saying that this is as good as it gets. I just know my limits. Hopefully your limits will continue to roll back as your appreciation and grasp of fragrance grows until you realize your full potential, but it's worth bearing in mind that they do exist, and trying to draw a bead on them.

    Moreover some fragrances are blended more seamlessly than others, and will present you with a greater challenge, as can more complex fragrances.

    Suggestions about smelling essential oils are worth considering. I worked with these for about a decade, and now I'm generally able to pick them up as fragrant notes assuming they're not too artificial, and buying a kit will also be a boon. However I would counsel against reading note listings; this will colour your expectations. You should jot down your own idea of the pyramid if you can, even if it simply reads like, 'bergamot, lemon, unknown, rose, unknown, unknown, sandalwood, unknown.' and then look at the listing and see where you went wrong. Never underestimate how strongly the power of suggestion can influence your senses.

    That's my advice. I know I'm not an expert, but for someone who doesn't have the best nose (as I know I do not) I think it is worth considering at least some of these points.

    Finally remember that what you're trying to improve is not your ability to smell, but your ability to analyze and take stock of what you smell. Aside from things like quitting smoking and removing ambient odours there is not much that can be done to improve your nose.

    - - - Updated - - -

    There are a few factors are work here.

    Firstly some people have a superior capacity to detect odours than others. There is something of a bell-curve, but then one in every X number of people will quality as a super taster/smeller. This is pre-determined, like being over seven feet tall, if you're not you're not. End of story, and most people arenít.

    Even so there are things you can do to ensure your nose is at its best, and to ensure you don't prejudice your senses. Habits like smoking will tend to reduce your sense of smell (but then again some famous noses were smokers so go figure) and ambient smells can be a problem as well. It's best to have a room set aside where you can do your sampling and sniffing which is clean and devoid of anything overly aromatic. Bear in mind that there are probably many smells in your home which you're simply numb too. When you walk into a strangers home though you'll notice odours. Things like carpet, rugs, bookshelves, and so on. The bathroom and kitchen are both no-nos. Ideally a room to test things in would have a tiled floor which has been freshly swept and recently mopped, with the surfaces dusted (use a wet rag or the dust will simply be thrown into the air) if you only have a carpeted room vacuum it thoroughly and frequently.

    Another thing you need to consider is that while your nose does the smelling what you get from that smell, what you make of it, whether you like it, etc. This is all your brain. So if you have an environment where you smell make sure there is nothing which will distract you mentally or prejudice your opinions. Make sure you're relaxed and not in a rush to do something else.

    The simplest things can prejudice your opinion. Even the colour of the bottle. Especially when you over-reach yourself. So know your limits. If a fragrance is beyond you it's very easy for your imagination and expectations to fill in the gaps.

    I should find you a video where a woman had a fragrance made from her own body odour and sweat, and it was taken to a collection of fragrance lovers. The results were, in the main, truly embarrassing. I think two people managed to identify it as 'some kind of funk,', while others seemed to be pulling notes out of thin air and stating with absolute certainty that they could detect them.

    Really deconstructing a fragrance can take a great deal of time and effort. I've been surrounded by perfumes for my entire life, and have been collecting for two decades, and there are only a handful of scents I can really deconstruct with total confidence - ones I've been wearing for years and years. Of course I'm not saying that this is as good as it gets. I just know my limits. Hopefully your limits will continue to roll back as your appreciation and grasp of fragrance grows until you realize your full potential, but it's worth bearing in mind that they do exist, and trying to draw a bead on them.

    Moreover some fragrances are blended more seamlessly than others, and will present you with a greater challenge, as can more complex fragrances.

    Suggestions about smelling essential oils are worth considering. I worked with these for about a decade, and now I'm generally able to pick them up as fragrant notes assuming they're not too artificial, and buying a kit will also be a boon. However I would counsel against reading note listings; this will colour your expectations. You should jot down your own idea of the pyramid if you can, even if it simply reads like, 'bergamot, lemon, unknown, rose, unknown, unknown, sandalwood, unknown.' and then look at the listing and see where you went wrong. Never underestimate how strongly the power of suggestion can influence your senses.

    That's my advice. I know I'm not an expert, but for someone who doesn't have the best nose (as I know I do not) I think it is worth considering at least some of these points.

    Finally remember that what you're trying to improve is not your ability to smell, but your ability to analyze and take stock of what you smell. Aside from things like quitting smoking and removing ambient odours there is not much that can be done to improve your nose.

    - - - Updated - - -

    There are a few factors are work here.

    Firstly some people have a superior capacity to detect odours than others. There is something of a bell-curve, but then one in every X number of people will quality as a super taster/smeller. This is pre-determined, like being over seven feet tall, if you're not you're not. End of story, and most people arenít.

    Even so there are things you can do to ensure your nose is at its best, and to ensure you don't prejudice your senses. Habits like smoking will tend to reduce your sense of smell (but then again some famous noses were smokers so go figure) and ambient smells can be a problem as well. It's best to have a room set aside where you can do your sampling and sniffing which is clean and devoid of anything overly aromatic. Bear in mind that there are probably many smells in your home which you're simply numb too. When you walk into a strangers home though you'll notice odours. Things like carpet, rugs, bookshelves, and so on. The bathroom and kitchen are both no-nos. Ideally a room to test things in would have a tiled floor which has been freshly swept and recently mopped, with the surfaces dusted (use a wet rag or the dust will simply be thrown into the air) if you only have a carpeted room vacuum it thoroughly and frequently.

    Another thing you need to consider is that while your nose does the smelling what you get from that smell, what you make of it, whether you like it, etc. This is all your brain. So if you have an environment where you smell make sure there is nothing which will distract you mentally or prejudice your opinions. Make sure you're relaxed and not in a rush to do something else.

    The simplest things can prejudice your opinion. Even the colour of the bottle. Especially when you over-reach yourself. So know your limits. If a fragrance is beyond you it's very easy for your imagination and expectations to fill in the gaps.

    I should find you a video where a woman had a fragrance made from her own body odour and sweat, and it was taken to a collection of fragrance lovers. The results were, in the main, truly embarrassing. I think two people managed to identify it as 'some kind of funk,', while others seemed to be pulling notes out of thin air and stating with absolute certainty that they could detect them.

    Really deconstructing a fragrance can take a great deal of time and effort. I've been surrounded by perfumes for my entire life, and have been collecting for two decades, and there are only a handful of scents I can really deconstruct with total confidence - ones I've been wearing for years and years. Of course I'm not saying that this is as good as it gets. I just know my limits. Hopefully your limits will continue to roll back as your appreciation and grasp of fragrance grows until you realize your full potential, but it's worth bearing in mind that they do exist, and trying to draw a bead on them.

    Moreover some fragrances are blended more seamlessly than others, and will present you with a greater challenge, as can more complex fragrances.

    Suggestions about smelling essential oils are worth considering. I worked with these for about a decade, and now I'm generally able to pick them up as fragrant notes assuming they're not too artificial, and buying a kit will also be a boon. However I would counsel against reading note listings; this will colour your expectations. You should jot down your own idea of the pyramid if you can, even if it simply reads like, 'bergamot, lemon, unknown, rose, unknown, unknown, sandalwood, unknown.' and then look at the listing and see where you went wrong. Never underestimate how strongly the power of suggestion can influence your senses.

    That's my advice. I know I'm not an expert, but for someone who doesn't have the best nose (as I know I do not) I think it is worth considering at least some of these points.

    Finally remember that what you're trying to improve is not your ability to smell, but your ability to analyze and take stock of what you smell. Aside from things like quitting smoking and removing ambient odours there is not much that can be done to improve your nose.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    I can only pinpoint a note if it is something I am extremely fond of.
    For example, I can usually tell if a fragrance as Tonka Bean, Patchouli, or Vanilla.

  18. #18
    Basenotes Junkie
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    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    Smell lots and lots of fragrances. Study their notes on fragrantica and compare. You can also find essential oils of certain notes at health food stores so that you can learn to recognize them. Vetiver, lavender, patchouli, bergamont, sandalwood, and amber are easy to detect once you've smelled them isolated.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    And remember perfume names can be misnomers. I'm looking at you Patchouli 24, Oud 27, Purple Patchouli, Mona di Orio's Oud...to name a few.

    for swap/sale:





  20. #20

    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    I'm beginning to be able to detect a few, but I have a long way to go. I like to study out the notes when I get a frag and then I seem to be able to detect a few. It's fun to try, but I don't know if I'll ever be able to detect all that many.

  21. #21

    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    Another tip: the Dyptique Candles range provides scents based mainly on a single note, very useful to get accustomed with more uncommon notes...
    "Your fragrance with a fume of iodine" L. Cohen

  22. #22

    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    I was awful at understanding notes back in 2007 but I kept working at it. I wrote up some blog posts about it so you might want to take a look at them.

  23. #23

    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    i think at first people just perceive 'a smell', then comes 'getting notes', being able to dissect, and then comes the appreciation of shape and structure, which is kind of full circle.

  24. #24
    Dependent fragranceman88's Avatar
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    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    I put it down the same as taste. When you are a child, you get given food to eat, you don't know what it is yet but you know it's good. As you get older you begin to recognise tastes and can pick them out of the food you are eating. So it's the same with the nose I think

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    I'd echo what many above have said. I'm also new to this hobby, but in about 8 months, I've seen a noticable improvement in my ability to recognize notes and categorize scents.

    One thing I've not seen suggested (though I admit to scrolling quick) is sampling 2 perfumes at one time, of slightly different scents. For instance, if you put two perfumes on your body (in different places of course) that are both dry/light woody scents, you can possibly start to tell the differences in scent and match that up against differences in the note pyramids. This has helped me a bit with my sampling addiction.

  26. #26

    Default Re: Detecting notes etc - something that you learn over time?

    Quote Originally Posted by 1ntense View Post
    When I smell a fragrance, I just smell a scent. Literally, I cant really differentiate any particular notes most of the time.

    Things like lemon or if a fragrance is generally 'spicey' but when I read peoples reviews of fragrances, it baffles me how people can pick out the individual notes.

    Is this something your nose is either good at or not or can your sense of smell improve over time?
    Yes you learn what things smell like over time. That seems kind of obvious, jackass.

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