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  1. #1
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    Default How to Self-Educate a Nose

    To address the frustration of often having no clue whatsoever what I'm smelling in my samples, I've decided to be proactive and teach myself. [Not being one for courses anymore.] How did you train your nose? Any suggestions? Here's my plan:

    Collect perfume ingredients in vials and, working with 20 or so at a time:

    1) smell them all, looking at the labels
    2) Blindfolded, randomly smell and try to identify 5
    3) Peek and re-smell misses
    4) Blindfolded, re-smell same 5
    5) repeat step 4 until all are correctly identified
    6) move to another 5 bottles and repeat steps 2-5
    7) repeat steps 2-5 for entire group
    8) repeat steps 6-7 until all 20 are correctly identified

    This is the recall method of memorization applied to smell. Theoretically, it ought to work, but I won't know for sure until I try. Here's my starting list. I plan to add about 60 more and slowly work until I can ID them all. Assumedly, this will help me ID them in combination. What do you think?

    Allspice
    Ambroxan (Ambergris molecules)
    Bergamot
    Black Pepper
    Cardamom
    Cassis
    Cinnamon
    Civet
    Clove
    Coriander
    Coumarin (component of Tonka bean, smells like new mown hay)
    Cumin
    Frankincense
    Galaxolide (clean, fresh air musk - "avg concentration in fine fragrance is highest of all raw materials;" recognized it on first sniff)
    Galbanum (green/wood)
    Jasmine Absolute
    Musk Ketone (one of the last nitro musks, similar to Musk Tonquin, important component in original Chanel No 5, used 13% in L'Air Du Temps)
    Rose Absolute
    Rosemary
    Sandalwood
    Vetiver
    Last edited by ScentFan; 2nd January 2014 at 04:52 AM. Reason: bold perfumes

  2. #2

    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    I think it's a great idea and plan and look forward to your results!

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  3. #3
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    If it works for you then keep doing it..
    I don't find it important to know all ingredients..
    Some are easier than others but after years of sampling you will know what you like/dislike.

    I will never be a fan of clove/civet/tubersose or heavy leather infused scents

  4. #4
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    Thanks, Tony T and hednic.

    First random 5 blindfolded:

    Ambroxan - guessed sandalwood
    Civet - guessed Musk ketone
    Cardamom - correctly guessed
    Coriander - wrong, can't remember what I guessed
    Jasmine Absolute - guessed rose!

    Sheesh! Lot of work to do. Guesses could have been affected by sniffing all 21 immediately before this. Trying again in the morning.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    There's a thread here that may be worth a read
    http://www.basenotes.net/threads/183...de-amp-Summary

  6. #6
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    How exactly are you doing this? Are you collecting oil extracts of each ingredient, raw materials of them? I'd love to try the same process.

  7. #7

    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    I think that is really a very good idea. I myself don't have a need to smell everything in a scent, but know it is important at least to have an idea of what one is smelling, and that can be helpful when looking for a fragrance, what we like and what we don't. On the other hand, there is an impressive interview by Kate Puckrick and Avery... can't recall his name, in which he explains how we don't/can't smell everything in a scent, not even the best noses. That's why the perfume industry doesn't register a pattent for their creations, so nobody would change it a little bit and say it is a new scent. Nor, I suppose, one can say that it is a copy, let's say between GIT and Cool Water, or OS and Mb Individuel. that's why usually I don't trust review that mentions every single note released by the company for a scent. Also, we must all know how sometimes we don't smell a familiar scent in the same way, some days it is just wonderful, others only so-so. How one day a particular note seems so strong and fresh, next time we wear it it would be another note altogether.

    Overall, education IS always a good thing, always. It helps us to better understand what we like the most in life.
    Last edited by prosperonline; 2nd January 2014 at 11:18 AM.

  8. #8

    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    I love your idea. I've been meaning to try something similar. I'm interested to hear how it works for you.

  9. #9

    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    I've always wanted to do this, but I've never wanted to shell out the large sum of money a proper perfumers kit costs, so I just try and learn from sampling what I own. I find looking the scent up on Fragrantica and concentrating on trying to smell what people say is most common in the scent helps. That's how I realized I dislike tuberose for example.
    Fragrance blog returning in May 2014!: http://moteperfumery.blogspot.com/

  10. #10

    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    What you need to do is to start identifying aromachemicals, so polysantol for sandalwood and damascones for roses, etc

  11. #11

    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    That sounds like a very good idea ScentFan! I would be interested to hear how that works for you. I may consider such an undertaking myself this year.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    There's a shop where they mix bath products called 'Bath Junkies'. It has a great display of essential oils you can snort to your heart's content. You can Google it to find one near you. Sadly the closest one to me is 4 hour's away in Kansas City. Oh well. You can also hang out in the hippie shop where they sell incense and see if you can sniff some of the oils there. I have a pretty good memory for scent so I learned this way. I also had the pleasure of being included in some DIY experiments done with a friend who had ordered some oils.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    Agree, kumquat - they need to be learned & repetitive sniffing does that for me too!

  14. #14
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    Quote Originally Posted by lpp View Post
    There's a thread here that may be worth a read
    http://www.basenotes.net/threads/183...de-amp-Summary
    Thanks much, Ipp!

    Quote Originally Posted by RoyalDuder View Post
    How exactly are you doing this? Are you collecting oil extracts of each ingredient, raw materials of them? I'd love to try the same process.
    Hi, RoyalDuder. Collecting raw materials for spices I have in the kitchen and oil extracts for the rest. Some are in my Perfumery Notes Kit, but I'm ordering others. I found they're inexpensive for a small amount.


    Quote Originally Posted by prosperonline View Post
    I think that is really a very good idea. I myself don't have a need to smell everything in a scent, but know it is important at least to have an idea of what one is smelling, and that can be helpful when looking for a fragrance, what we like and what we don't. On the other hand, there is an impressive interview by Kate Puckrick and Avery... can't recall his name, in which he explains how we don't/can't smell everything in a scent, not even the best noses. That's why the perfume industry doesn't register a pattent for their creations, so nobody would change it a little bit and say it is a new scent. Nor, I suppose, one can say that it is a copy, let's say between GIT and Cool Water, or OS and Mb Individuel. that's why usually I don't trust review that mentions every single note released by the company for a scent. Also, we must all know how sometimes we don't smell a familiar scent in the same way, some days it is just wonderful, others only so-so. How one day a particular note seems so strong and fresh, next time we wear it it would be another note altogether.

    Overall, education IS always a good thing, always. It helps us to better understand what we like the most in life.
    I know I won't be able to smell it all, but I'm keen on better identifying what I can. Will look up the interview. Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Oproust View Post
    I love your idea. I've been meaning to try something similar. I'm interested to hear how it works for you.
    Thanks. Will report.

    Quote Originally Posted by OctaVariuM View Post
    I've always wanted to do this, but I've never wanted to shell out the large sum of money a proper perfumers kit costs, so I just try and learn from sampling what I own. I find looking the scent up on Fragrantica and concentrating on trying to smell what people say is most common in the scent helps. That's how I realized I dislike tuberose for example.
    Yes, that's what I've been doing, using Fragrantica and house websites trying to detect what people say is there. I'm pretty sure I don't like tuberose, too! Have a sample coming.Then I'll know for sure.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaern View Post
    What you need to do is to start identifying aromachemicals, so polysantol for sandalwood and damascones for roses, etc
    I do have some in my kit. At least I think they're aromachemicals.

    Quote Originally Posted by dougczar View Post
    That sounds like a very good idea ScentFan! I would be interested to hear how that works for you. I may consider such an undertaking myself this year.
    I'll soon know if this looks promising. Bombed on my first try, but it's possible I'd over-sniffed.

    Quote Originally Posted by kumquat View Post
    There's a shop where they mix bath products called 'Bath Junkies'....
    Thanks for the suggestion, kumquat.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    Blind Sniff 2 of First 5

    Jasmine Grandiflorum Absolute - guessed civet
    Cardamom - right
    Ambroxan - guessed coriander
    Coriander - right
    Civet - right

    Blind Sniff 3 of First 5

    Civet - guessed Jasmine Grandiflorum Absolute
    Ambroxan - guessed Jasmine
    Cardamom - right
    Jasmine - right
    Coriander - right

  16. #16

    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    A classic technique:

    1. Record, in writing, your impressions as you sniff the scent strip. The mind, hand and eye coordination helps lock in the information.
    2. Associate each scent with a time/place/ or person. That is building your Scent Memory, and makes it easier to recall.

    HTH.
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  17. #17
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    A discovery. I wondered if I keep getting Amoxan (Ambergris), Civet, and Jasmine Absolute wrong because they are similar. Decided to smell them one after the other, then try again. Turns out I could detect their differences clearly at first, but after a couple of sniffs of each, I couldn't. I became anosmic to their differences, if that makes sense. Can anybody explain this?


    Quote Originally Posted by Natural_Juice View Post
    A classic technique:

    1. Record, in writing, your impressions as you sniff the scent strip. The mind, hand and eye coordination helps lock in the information.
    2. Associate each scent with a time/place/ or person. That is building your Scent Memory, and makes it easier to recall.

    HTH.
    Thanks! Great suggestion.
    Last edited by ScentFan; 4th January 2014 at 12:04 AM.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    Sounds like nasal fatigue. I'd lay low for a bit. Have some snacks and a drink.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  19. #19
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    Quote Originally Posted by kumquat View Post
    Sounds like nasal fatigue. I'd lay low for a bit. Have some snacks and a drink.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

    Taking your advice. I've also been sneezing more than usual. Wonder if there's a cumulative effect to sniffing something you're sensitive to.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    Quote Originally Posted by ScentFan View Post
    A discovery. I wondered if I keep getting Amoxan (Ambergris), Civet, and Jasmine Absolute wrong because they are similar. Decided to smell them one after the other, then try again. Turns out I could detect their differences clearly at first, but after a couple of sniffs of each, I couldn't. I became anosmic to their differences, if that makes sense. Can anybody explain this?

    Thanks! Great suggestion.
    Maybe try learning one at a time for a while? That way, the differences should be easier to spot.
    In any case, if you have them on strips, you can go back & check out changes, etc.

    Hope you're not getting a cold, Scentfan!

    kumquat has a good point - and if it's not an enjoyable part of the interest the benefit is perhaps questionable anyway!
    Last edited by lpp; 4th January 2014 at 08:53 AM.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    This sounds like so much fun! People dont really think theyll do so bad as the usually do on blind tests, perfumistas excluded I guess.
    I have a friend who is a professor in scents relation to memory. He wet on a tv show and did a blind test quite similar.. quite humorous how hard is was to pin the scents down

  22. #22
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    Agree, plus they keep finding interesting new ingredients to confuse us with!

  23. #23
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    It's beautiful how you're going about it, it's very easy to smell when separated from a blend and when it's blended and just a minute percentage of specific note is concocted blend is that leads some not to detect sometimes that specific note....and sometimes there are occasions with season veterans as well that will detect a specific note or will detect something that might not be at all in the composition but because of the blend it transform itself to a distinctive scent that has nothing to do with notes posted by perfumer.....is it that they're not divulging every note to protect recipe, could be....an in IMHO I believe this is so.....and that not counting subjectivity of what a particular scent exudes at times and some noses are oblivious to certain notes or offended by others, that my smell like pee or done animalistic note that I might detect and intake differently.....great start though......Cheerios
    "Thank GOD for the nose, for without it we would not be enjoying these beautiful created Scents"

  24. #24
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    The advertised 'notes' and 'accords' are marketing speak quite often - 'lush green accord', 'green botanics', 'belladonna', 'dewy greens', 'precious woods', or my favourite so far after a quick flip through the Directory -
    'waterfall accord'

  25. #25
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    Couldn't sleep, so back to educating my nose.

    Blind Sniff 4 of First 5
    Civet - right
    Cardamom - right
    Jasmine - guessed Ambroxan
    Coriander - right
    Ambroxan - right by default

    Blind Sniff 5 of First 5
    Civet - right
    Ambroxan - guess Jasmine grandiflorum
    Jasmine - right by default
    Cardamom - right
    Coriander - right by default

    Sniffing Jasmine and Ambroxan one after the other to ID the difference. [Coffee Beans]

    Blind Sniff 6 of First 5
    Ambroxan - guess Jasmine grandiflorum
    Civet - right
    Jasmine - right by default
    Cardamom - right
    Coriander - right by default

    Blind Sniff 7 of First 5
    Cardamom - right
    Ambroxan - guess Jasmine grandiflorum
    Jasmine - right by default
    Civet - right
    Coriander - right by default

    Totally Blind Sniff of Second 5
    Frankinsence - guessed Allspice
    Galbanum - guessed vetiver
    Galaxolide - guessed Bergamot
    Rosemary - right
    Cloves - guessed Allspice

    Blind Sniff 2 of Second 5
    Cloves - right
    Galbanum - guessed Rosemary
    Frankinsence - right
    Galaxolide - no guess
    Rosemary - no guess

    Now I'll try for sleep! Waterfall accord? Hysterical, Ipp. Thanks, magnus and lotta. No spectacular progress so far, but I'm going to keep plugging.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    Good luck, ScentFan - there are worse alleged 'notes' but we won't mention them

  27. #27
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    I've always meant to do this but never get around to it, ScentFan - great initiative!

    I'm one that believes that coffee beans don't do anything for olfactory fatigue. They are just another sharp smell that can seem jarring, but that smell does nothing to reset your sense of smell. It's the brain shutting out certain signals when they are read too much - it becomes background noise and our brains focus on what's new. The only thing that resets it is time during which your receptors are not reading that molecule.

    This can mess with your perception of natural extracts because they contain many molecules, and some molecules are present in many naturals. If you get fatigued by a molecule in one oil and then smell another that also contains it, you will perceive the second differently.

    I suggest spending some time with each one, taking quick sniffs and then setting it aside. As was suggested before, think about what you smelled and record your thoughts about it. Do this repeatedly with the same one until you feel you know it. Repeat for several others. Then test yourself - again with quick sniffs. You just want to get a hint of the scent - not sniff the blotter deeply for extended periods of time. Olfactory fatigue can set in in seconds with some molecules!
    - - - - - - - - - - - - -

  28. #28
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    Also, when testing yourself, sniff all of them and record your guesses before checking any of them to eliminate narrowing down your choices.
    - - - - - - - - - - - - -

  29. #29

    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    I like to sniff more challenging fragrances to slowly mature my nose.

  30. #30
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    Hi, rubegon! Great to see your avatar again. Wonderful suggestions. Thank you! You know, I honestly do think coffee beans help and that's from personal experience. I've tested it over and over. Somehow the beans actually do refresh my otherwise fatigued nose. I looked it up and found this article and similar others. Wish I could find the research it's based on: "Influence of Smelling Coffee on Olfactory Habituation" by Noam Sobel at Berkely Hmm, betting it was discussed around here. Will search the threads. Meanwhile, I'm following your advice. Will use this thread as my notebook.

    Quote Originally Posted by TMAdidas View Post
    I like to sniff more challenging fragrances to slowly mature my nose.
    Yes I've done exactly this for three months and it's been great. Now I want to see what studying individual notes can add.
    Last edited by ScentFan; 8th January 2014 at 04:14 AM.

  31. #31
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    Yeah - I've been away for a while with the holidays and life, etc. I'll get back into it soon. :-)

    On the coffe bean - I didn't know there had been any research on it. That was interesting to know. I tried to find the source article but didn't have any luck. I think I've heard that it doesn't help from the writings of a perfumer, but can't recall where. My impression is that perfumers don't use any strong scents as "palate cleansers", but I'm really not sure if this is correct. If it works for you, go with it.

    Note that the quote from the article said that perception of the perfume scent was that it was more intense after smelling coffee beans, but that the perfume smelled "similarly pleasant". It may be that olfactory fatigue distorts a scent because fatigue affects some molecules more than others, and coffee beans just "turn up the volume" without resetting the fatigue.

    I'm just armchair speculating though, so I could be completely wrong! If it works for you, stick with it.

    I'll be watching to see how this goes - I think you'll learn a lot much faster this way!
    - - - - - - - - - - - - -

  32. #32

    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    What I suggest might not even be a safe recommendation. You might find it completely absurd, and for all I know it might just be sacriledge to the professionals.

    But from my personal experience, if you really want to get to know a molecule, you gotta taste it too. Keep in mind that you may very well make yourself hate it for doing so, but you will certainly know it better.

    If you did do this, I would think that you would have to be absolutely sure that you're not poisoning yourself first. Also, you should probably sample individual ingredients on completely different days.

    Am I crazy?

  33. #33

    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    Quote Originally Posted by The Ol' Factory View Post
    What I suggest might not even be a safe recommendation. You might find it completely absurd, and for all I know it might just be sacriledge to the professionals.

    But from my personal experience, if you really want to get to know a molecule, you gotta taste it too. Keep in mind that you may very well make yourself hate it for doing so, but you will certainly know it better.

    If you did do this, I would think that you would have to be absolutely sure that you're not poisoning yourself first. Also, you should probably sample individual ingredients on completely different days.

    Am I crazy?
    Not crazy, this is how I developed my palate for food. Coming from a family of chefs I have learnt that we have two means of odor compounds reaching the ofactory neurons. Through the nose as we inhale (orthonasal stimulation) and when we eat (retronasal stimulation) where odor travels through the internal nares located in the mouth. If you hold your nose while swallowing something unpleasant (don’t ask too many food dares in my family) you can still smell the odor once you let go of your nose as the odor molecules that are still floating around in your mouth can travel up through your internal nares and can stimulate the olfactory neurons. I would assume this would work for ingredients used in perfume as well, poisoning considerations aside.

    In short for most dishes if I close my eyes and concentrate on tasting and smelling the food I can usually pick out a majority if not all the ingredients used to make the dish and also the method in which the ingredients were cooked to render different distinct flavours. What can I say I love my food.
    We live only to discover beauty. All else is a form of waiting. ~Kahlil Gibran

  34. #34
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    Hi ScentFan,

    As a caveat, I should say that I'm (quite obviously) not a perfumer, so take what I say with a large pinch of coumarin. But from doing something similar, here are my suggestions:


    • Go slow. Put one material on a blotter and stick with it till you can no longer smell it or a week passes (tip of hat to David Ruskin here). Some materials may persist for days or even weeks weeks without changing too much smell-wise. Other materials oxidise quite quickly and with that their scent changes dramatically. Familiarise yourself with the material's course.
    • That you're confusing Jasmine with Ambroxan and Galaxolide suggests to me that you're experiencing severe olfactory fatigue. Again, slow down and don't overwhelm yourself.
    • Ditch the coffee beans. If you really must smell something, then smell yourself (really). But better to take a proper break, leave the room where you're testing stuff, get some fresh air.
    • You may like to make a spreadsheet / database type thing. Sounds anal, but I find it really useful. My entry for each material includes: proprietary name; scientific name; organoleptics lifted from Good Scents Company; my own impressions; perfumes I know to contain the material in clearly detectable amounts; sundry information, e.g. use of material in constructing particular accords etc.; references to material in books and articles.


    Have fun !

  35. #35
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    Default Re: How to Self-Educate a Nose

    Thanks, gandhajala!

    Mr. Ruskin's method has the benefit of being tried & tested (by professionals), so it's really worth considering, Scentfan.

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