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  1. #1
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    Angry Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    There you have it. The way I see it, notes are simply a guide meant to help us understand what a fragrance smells like.

    Like in wine, they are used to describe verbally a smell which is intrinsically very difficult. All wine is made of grapes, but some might taste earthy or smoky (usually when aged in oak barrels) or fruity, like berries or like plum, etc. Although all these notes can be identified in different wines, I don't believe a wine drinker would complain that his wine doesn't have real leaves or real smoke...

    In fragrance, especially in Basenotes, people seem to have a fixation with the ingredients (or with what they THINK are the ingredients) of a fragrance.

    Notes are descriptions of what it should smell like, not what it is made of. Get over it!

    The other thing that bothers me is that people call molecules "notes". A fragrance has fruity or flowery notes, not a "geranyl acetate" note.

    Discuss.
    Last edited by dilney; 19th June 2014 at 05:53 PM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    Personally speaking, notes described for a given scent never influence or deter me from buying a fragrance if I have to have it.
    Remember that while it is perfectly acceptable to criticize the content of a post - criticizing the poster is not.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    I understand where you are coming from but the average person describes a fragrance by notes to give an idea what the fragrance smells like. If we used the molecule notes, most of us would be clueless.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    Quote Originally Posted by hednic View Post
    Personally speaking, notes described for a given scent never influence or deter me from buying a fragrance if I have to have it.
    Exactly. But what I feel is even worse is that many people try to infer the ingredients, and usually they criticize a fragrance that smells perfectly fine on the basis of inferred (but not actually known) ingredients/molecules...

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    Quote Originally Posted by sjg3839 View Post
    I understand where you are coming from but the average person describes a fragrance by notes to give an idea what the fragrance smells like. If we used the molecule notes, most of us would be clueless.
    In fact I prefer the use of notes rather than ingredients. My point essentially is that if something smells good to me, what it is made of (aside from ethical and health considerations) has little importance.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    I agree with you that descriptors that use real life references are very useful. The problem is, in most cases the notes are just pure fantasy, that is, not only does the product not contain said material, but it also doesn't smell at all like it. Also, the industry is never clear about the fact that notes are just references, but it always likes to foster the assumption that the material is there in large doses.

    As for the chemical, I don't see the problem and wish I'd know more. After all, many chemicals have a distinctive smell and the information will help understand what a fragrance is about. The problem of course is that few people know how a chemical smells like.

    cacio

  7. #7

    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    I've noticed more notes lists including aromachems recently - Dries van Noten is one example but, as cacio has already mentioned, it's not hugely helpful unless one knows what the stuff smells like to start with!
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  8. #8

    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    In perfumery that use naturals heavily or try to recreate nature, ingredients are obviously useful and the guide to identify accords, traits, nuances, details, ... or just plain smells.

    The rest of the business is just using these as ideas, for marketing purposes and are far from rational thinking.
    We want a 'Niche' forum.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    Well, I don't think most of those who do inappropriate things, such as to call dihyromyrcenol a note, are going to "get over it" and stop doing that because of this post of yours, so to me that is an unrealistic expectation. I'm not sure what you mean by a fixation with ingredients. Perhaps you could supply us with at least one example. What I've seen (and written about on many occasions) are concerns with ingredient quality. This is something you can only get a sense of if you have gone to perfumery school or have a lot of experience with different scents. It is my contention that these are two different kinds of knowledge, though there are plenty of areas where they intersect, of course. Some people don't care about ingredient quality, or don't experience it, as was the case for me as a newbie. However, if you think this is a fake issue, then there are a bunch of perfumers, for starters, who would disagree with you in the strongest possible terms!

  10. #10

    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    Quote Originally Posted by dilney View Post
    The other thing that bothers me is that people call molecules "notes". A fragrance has fruity or flowery notes, not a "geranyl acetate" note.

    Discuss.
    I tend to agree with you- a certain note can arise from several different odorants combined, resembling none of them.
    I slightly disagree on molecules not having "notes": I'm reading Scent and Chemistry by Ohloff, Kraft et al. and the thing that strikes me most is how many descriptors are used sometimes to define the smell of a single molecule- natural or synthetic!
    But I understand what you mean, in terms of making other understand what a fragrance smells like.
    "Your fragrance with a fume of iodine" L. Cohen

  11. #11

    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    I agree that using too much jargon does not help one communicate to a general audience. What an aroma chemical smells like is generally more helpful than its chemical name. But there are a few exceptions like ISO E Super or Calone that I think have moved into wider use, at least among aficionados, and it's hard to imagine talking about them on a perfume blog or forum without using their names.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    There are certain notes and ingredients that make a huge difference...there are some that make minimal difference. It's nice to know what's in a fragrance beforehand and while you're wearing, at least in my opinion it helps me better understand what I'm getting and how it smells before trying it...also...while trying a fragrance and having knowledge of the notes it does help pick out the notes in the life of the fragrance which is fun and actually quite important to some.
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  13. #13

    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    Oh, yes, a molecule can be a "note." You can't assume that a molecule smells simpler than a "real thing." Sometimes it does, but other times it smells more complex, like many "real things" put together.

    You should buy some samples of aroma chemicals from Perfumer's Apprentice before you make statements such as, "Notes are descriptions of what it should smell like, not what it is made of."

    And never should you make statements such as, "Get over it!" on a forum any more than I should say, "You are ignorant."

  14. #14

    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    I consider it a challenge and a way of Discerning my aptitude to gage notes and exciting at times and obviously in totality the smell exuded by blend has to appeal overall to a wearer for it to be bought, overall the bottom line is the smell in totality but as we know scents come in trilogies and first part might appeal to me but subsequent part might not and end up detesting the latter one, so pyramids IMHO through my empirical studies are helpful to a discerning nose but nevertheless I get your drift and agree that once again the totality of the scent is the bottom line factor.

    btw, I see Holland/Netherlands winning the World Cup this time and Not Brazil sorryOrange machine all the way!!!
    Last edited by magnus611; 20th June 2014 at 02:29 PM.
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  15. #15
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    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    Quote Originally Posted by Bigsly View Post
    Well, I don't think most of those who do inappropriate things, such as to call dihyromyrcenol a note, are going to "get over it" and stop doing that because of this post of yours, so to me that is an unrealistic expectation. I'm not sure what you mean by a fixation with ingredients. Perhaps you could supply us with at least one example. What I've seen (and written about on many occasions) are concerns with ingredient quality. This is something you can only get a sense of if you have gone to perfumery school or have a lot of experience with different scents. It is my contention that these are two different kinds of knowledge, though there are plenty of areas where they intersect, of course. Some people don't care about ingredient quality, or don't experience it, as was the case for me as a newbie. However, if you think this is a fake issue, then there are a bunch of perfumers, for starters, who would disagree with you in the strongest possible terms!
    Thanks for the comments Bigsly. I agree that people will not just "get over it", but my intention was more to provoke a debate than to actually expect that I would make people change their behavior by decree.

    Quote Originally Posted by purplebird7 View Post
    And never should you make statements such as, "Get over it!" on a forum any more than I should say, "You are ignorant."
    Sorry, Purplebird, I didn't mean to be offensive, just trying to create some discussion by making an extreme statement

    My point is that the notes listed by manufacturers should be interpreted as a "guide" to our interpretation of an olfactory experience. So, when a perfume lists "Tobacco" as a note, it is not necessary that it really contains Tobacco in the form of essential oils or absolute. It should be enough that people can perceive a resemblance of Tobacco. So, in that sense, I hoped that people would use "Notes" as an indicator of what fragrances smell *like*, not what they are made of.

    A single molecule can have its own distinctive scent, but calling it a "note" is not useful because you can't communicate to the vast majority of people how it will smell like. It's easier to relate to things like fruits, flowers, and other things people have experience with than to relate to a chemical compound.

    That was the spirit of my post.

    Thanks all for replying

  16. #16

    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    Let's partake in a refreshing reality check here. Of course notes are useful in describing a fragrance. If I mention patchouli, benzoin, incense, and white chocolate in describing Coromandel, I'm offering an accurate pointer to its actual smell. These aren't fantasies, however each element is actually composed, as that's what Coromandel actually smells of. Likewise if I mention citrus, cardamom, juniper, vetiver, woods in describing Declaration. I haven't named every note, and certainly I'm not giving a chemical breakdown, but these are among the right descriptors to use. One would never say Declaration smells of chocolate and rose, or any other arbitrary descriptor.

    But any of these words are just a useful means to an end. They're descriptive, and insofar as the intended audience knows what a descriptor smells like, they're useful. For many of us on Basenotes, saying a fragrance has a big dose of dihydromyrcenol is useful, as it's an aromachemical with a very distinct profile. If I were describing that portion of a composition to a broad audience, though, I'd evoke lavender, gray citrus, some woodsiness.

    Perhaps I'm an exception in that I've never taken the notes list of a perfume as being indicative of exactly what compounds the perfume contains. On the other hand, it's rare that a perfume doesn't basically evoke its official notes list, at least in broad outline. There's a reason we use the term "notes" (as one might in describing wine or whisky, for instance) and not "ingredients" in this case. We're borrowing association and at times metaphor to verbally describe an olfactive experience.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    Quote Originally Posted by onethinline View Post
    Let's partake in a refreshing reality check here. Of course notes are useful in describing a fragrance. If I mention patchouli, benzoin, incense, and white chocolate in describing Coromandel, I'm offering an accurate pointer to its actual smell. These aren't fantasies, however each element is actually composed, as that's what Coromandel actually smells of. Likewise if I mention citrus, cardamom, juniper, vetiver, woods in describing Declaration. I haven't named every note, and certainly I'm not giving a chemical breakdown, but these are among the right descriptors to use. One would never say Declaration smells of chocolate and rose, or any other arbitrary descriptor.

    But any of these words are just a useful means to an end. They're descriptive, and insofar as the intended audience knows what a descriptor smells like, they're useful. For many of us on Basenotes, saying a fragrance has a big dose of dihydromyrcenol is useful, as it's an aromachemical with a very distinct profile. If I were describing that portion of a composition to a broad audience, though, I'd evoke lavender, gray citrus, some woodsiness.

    Perhaps I'm an exception in that I've never taken the notes list of a perfume as being indicative of exactly what compounds the perfume contains. On the other hand, it's rare that a perfume doesn't basically evoke its official notes list, at least in broad outline. There's a reason we use the term "notes" (as one might in describing wine or whisky, for instance) and not "ingredients" in this case. We're borrowing association and at times metaphor to verbally describe an olfactive experience.

    Agreed. I can see that some well-known molecules (like the aforementioned Calone, ISO-E Super, dihydromyrcenol) might be useful for Basenotes members.

    So, it seems I am the one "getting over" my pre-existing beliefs

    On the other hand, I still believe that focusing on whether a "note" is present as an "ingredient" is not the most useful discussion.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    While some notes don't appeal to me as the leaders, they can be just fine as an accompaniment. So if they appear to be dominant in the ingredients list for a given fragrance I'm considering, I will pass... because I know that there's a good chance I won't care for it.

    So yes, if one discriminates to the point of avoiding a fragrance having even a small portion of it containing a note like, say patchouli, they're likely doing themselves a disservice and missing out on many fine fragrances.

    When I visited Aedes de Venustas in NYC last winter, I was asking about the presence of certain notes in a fragrance under consideration and they avoided answering, preferring to steer me towards much broader terms (floral, herbal, etc). I do see the merit in that.

    Still, if you know that you don't enjoy a particular note being prominent, it saves a lot of time being aware of it. Take rose for instance. I have enjoyed it immensely as an accompaniment. But prominent? No. No way. It comes across as too "ordinary" and other notes are drowned out. I've had my fair share of rose scented room fresheners and rosewater candies. Rose as a dominant note doesn't appeal to me and out of the dozen fragrances I've sampled that lead with it, they smell very much the same to me (ranging from $1/ml to $3/ml).

  19. #19

    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    Quote Originally Posted by dilney View Post
    So, when a perfume lists "Tobacco" as a note, it is not necessary that it really contains Tobacco in the form of essential oils or absolute. It should be enough that people can perceive a resemblance of Tobacco. So, in that sense, I hoped that people would use "Notes" as an indicator of what fragrances smell *like*, not what they are made of.
    Exactly.

    And sometimes there's no tobacco either. Not essential oil nor 'synthetic chemical'.
    It's there for SAs to say when trying to sell.

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  20. #20

    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    Quote Originally Posted by dilney View Post
    Sorry, Purplebird, I didn't mean to be offensive, just trying to create some discussion by making an extreme statement
    Apology accepted. I'm sorry I was harsh. The incidence of trolling on this forum has increased in recent years and has caused members to leave. People have learned that extremism gets attention. However, people notice courtesy, too. A polite demeanor gains respect slowly but wins in the end.

    As was wisely pointed out to me here once, written language fails to convey emotion. A member recommended that I use emoticons to "soften" my statements because I can sound robotic in my posts. If one considers these childish, there are other methods, such as adding comments: *laughs* or *rolls eyes* to a provocative statement.

    Thanks for being receptive. Considerate behavior makes Basenotes a better place to be.

  21. #21

    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    It seems to me that so many of the best perfumes and aromas are beyond mere verbal descriptives, for the most part, and, as purplebird says, ‘mere language fails to convey’ what many scents evoke within us. That’s the real magic of perfumery, and I suppose all the note comparatives are just clumsy methods of ‘triangulating’ where a scent may land in our verbal compasses.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Notes vs. Ingredients - What matters is how it smells, not what it is made of

    The idea is to find the tune.

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