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  1. #1
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    Default What makes a perfume a perfume?

    Just curious about how one could define a perfume, and where do you draw the line between accord, fragrance oil, and perfume? Are there particular ingredients or combinations of ingredients that define a perfume or give it that characteristic perfume smell? I know I am going by the law ofaverages here since many can interpret a perfume or fragrance as simple as one or a few ingredients, I think a perfume leans in the more complex direction, and where accords/fragrance oils are lacking the full spectrum of notes found in most perfumes with top middle and base notes.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: What makes a perfume a perfume?

    These are some metrics by which to think about what makes these different products:

    Skill of the Perfumer,
    Intention of use of the product,
    Perception of the product by critics and customers,
    Marketing

    Using complexity alone as the measure, many of Elena's Hermes perfumes don't meet my own criteria to qualify.
    But these other metrics make those same scents qualify as Perfumes.
    Paul Kiler
    PK Perfumes
    http://www.PKPERFUMES.com
    In addition to Our own PK line, we make Custom Bespoke Perfumes, perfumes for Entrepreneurs needing scents for perfumes or products, Custom Wedding Perfumes, and even Special Event Perfumes.

  3. #3

    Default Re: What makes a perfume a perfume?

    For anything (just about) people experientially develop categories for things they perceive. A home cooked meal might for example be perceived as Indian food, as Chines food, as Mexican food etc or as nothing in particular. Maybe not if even lacking only the first two.

    So for example what people would characterize in 1850 as "perfume" rather than some other category was quite different than the 20th Century or now, and I suspect but cannot know that much of what is considered perfume now would not have been considered such when going back enough years.

    On your question more specifically, for me it's perception rather than rules but surely complexity and balance are involved. There certainly are no required ingredients, though arguably there could be required categories. I am not sure I would ever perceive a fragrance having none of musk, floral, and wood as being perfume for example.

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    Default Re: What makes a perfume a perfume?

    So what I gleaned from what you're saying Bill is that a perfume must contain at the very least a set of middle notes consisting of at least three different categories such as wood floral and musk as the minimum criteria for a perfume?

  5. #5

    Default Re: What makes a perfume a perfume?

    Quote Originally Posted by chyprefresh View Post
    Just curious about how one could define a perfume, and where do you draw the line between accord, fragrance oil, and perfume?
    An accord is made to smell like one particular thing, usually a natural, or reminiscent of some particular trait that is perceived among naturals.
    Fragrance oils are generally, in my mind at least, lower quality than perfumes, will generally try to make use of cheaper ingredients that can be used in bulk, when large amounts of smell are desired but the cost has to be kept reasonable. Typically or often used in things other than perfumes, like room sprays, candle fragrances.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: What makes a perfume a perfume?

    Quote Originally Posted by chyprefresh View Post
    So what I gleaned from what you're saying Bill is that a perfume must contain at the very least a set of middle notes consisting of at least three different categories such as wood floral and musk as the minimum criteria for a perfume?
    I don't agree they "must" have floral, wood and musk. I think Bill is saying that "for him" it does, which is totally legit. But a perfume is anything that smells. If you wear patchouli oil, that's a perfume. It is sophisticated? No, but now we are parsing quality tiers of perfume. That's a different question that "what is a perfume." Did ancient Egyptians make perfume? Yes. Would it sell today? Not over Sauvage, but its still a perfume. Also, an attar usually has no musk, just 75% sandalwood and the rest rose/jasmine/other florals and maybe some saffron and other spices. But no musk, and it is still a perfume.

    So in your own statement you ask what is a perfume, but then you say for you, it's a more complex perfume. So that is your definition, which is fine. But again different than the big picture PERFUME.

    Do you think a Paris Hilton fragrance is a perfume? I do. But if you ask me to rate its qualities then I would say it sucks. I also think Le Labo sucks but it is definitely perfume. And this is just my opinion, of course. And I think there are a couple of really well-made Britney Spears perfumes, although the materials are dirt cheap... the formula is good.

    Parker's breakdown of fragrance oils is pretty much how I think of them. You can't get down to $1 an ounce without using the cheapest materials and diluting with DPG until its cheap. Hopefully nobody thinks that a jasmine or lotus fragrance oil contains the real absolute. A $300 bottle of fine fragrance better, or I feel they are ripping me off. Tom Ford charges a fortune and some of his stuff smells good, but they are very inexpensively made if you look at a GCMS. (Just like his clothes, super expensive but not made like it).

    And how I think of an accord is that it is a specific blend of materials. A note is more abstract and also a marketing thing. "This perfume contains solar notes." That is a fantasy note. An orchid note is also fantasy since orchids have no worthwhile absolutes or oils. But an Orchid accord is a tangible thing based on a blend of materials, maybe salicylates traditionally. But the note is fantasy.
    Andrew Hugg, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF (retired)

  7. #7

    Default Re: What makes a perfume a perfume?

    Exactly. "For me" I suspect pretty strongly that if a fragrance contained none of musk, floral, and wood then as a consequence of my experiences I would not experience such a fragrance as being in the perfume category. I very much believe perceiving things as being in manmade broad categories as coming from one's experiences.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: What makes a perfume a perfume?

    Yeah I agree with Bill in that a perfume has to have a level of complexity to the extent that it's characteristic. I don't think getting into the 'nitty gritty' details is necessary but it's interesting.
    Thanks all for your input.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: What makes a perfume a perfume?

    I believe it is a perception, joy is not complex to my nose, it is one long very pleasant aroma, but it is a perfume. The smell of chai, is complex but if you make perfume of it , to me you smell like chai. The cheap drugstore perfumes can or cannot have a identifiable smell, and they are perfume, but I perceive them as cheap. We have languages that are much more evolved for our other senses, and we have definitions of the recreations that illicit a reaction from those senses : recreating traffic sounds or bird song by themselves would never be considered “music” but if incorporated into more sounds it fit the bill.
    I believe it is literally what We are doing here: the perfume houses are to us what chain restaurants are to cooking, they only innovate for profit.
    My definition of a perfume is an aroma that holds its integrity long enough for people to perceive it and form a response.
    One could wear some acs or eos as perfumes, they fit the bill for me,but as I have done that many a time, it doesn’t satisfy. So just as just put up my favorite colors, or a photo of my daughter fatigues me even though the in concept they should fit the ill. Any artist smart enough knows that there has to be a certain complexity, or the execution has to to be timed or performed w perfection or dexterity. It can also be cultural: the Japanese love and value simple perfection that has a well placed “flaw” in for instance pottery( which they have wooden boxes made for, and they take it out only to show off, and pay huge amounts of money for).
    But one has to get the scent to the audience in order to get people to perceive and hopefully appreciate as well. So stable is a plus.

    There are clothes that are functional, and clothes that are works of art, clothes that fit beautifully even though they are inxpensive.
    Art on the walls can be anything that hangs.

    A perfume can be a perfect smoke note, maybe I can’t wear it all the time, but if it suits my mood or need, I will be glad to have. My signature perfume might blare away or be ever changing and close to my skin. Why limit?
    I think it needs to stay together long enough to function as an aroma. Since I am making mine: it has to please me or fit my intent.
    I am happy for the contest because it gives me an opportunity to compare contrast my perceptions directly w another, and not people who do not have insights and language that pertains.




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