Taming The {Perfume} Notes {Scented Thoughts}


Today, I was planning to propose a review of Serge Lutens Encens et Lavande followed the next day by the latest Sonia Rykiel Belle en Rykiel as they both offer a central incense and lavender accord. It amused me to no end to read that the perfumer for Belle En Rykiel had told his customer that this accord had never been done before. We can also have a pious thought for Guerlain Jicky and see it as an illustrious predecessor of that main never-done-before accord. I will however have to postpone this project for the next coming days, hopefully starting tomorrow. Instead, I wanted to share some thoughts with you about an upcoming reflection theme for the blog......

There are perfume notes that I feel I need to tame (without a whip please). I need to be more on top of them, if you will (see for illustration image of The Taming of The Shrew with Richard Burton/Petruchio in the role of a beautiful, difficult, almost indomitable masculine tuberose it seems).

These perfume notes are often perceived to be powerful, replete with personality, offer asperities, and can create two extremes in a sensation, oscillating between revulsion and seduction. Here I have in mind currently and more specifically, incense and tuberose. Maybe aldehydes. Grape, I'm afraid. Certainly rose despite its classic usage in perfumery. We can all see that there are difficult aspects to a rose scent. The natural liquorishey character of the Bulgarian rose absolute I have for example is nothing short of nauseating. These natural asperities are treated differently in different perfume compositions. These perceived difficulties create an urge in me in the long run to better understand these interesting, not-so-pretty notes. On the other hand, I must say that, for example, I have no problem with civet despite the presence of Skatol in it. There is certainly a subjective part to this quest. But I think also some objectivity to it. Folklore is full of allusions to the dangerous smell of tuberose. Aldehydes being more recent, we won't see them illustrated as much in literature, not to mention proverbs. The ancient incense may feel at times too close to the divine, to the point of losing its human touch.

One could argue of course that it is rather meaningless to pinpoint a perfume note and focus on it as a source of greater or lower expectations as what really counts is the way a note is treated within the whole perfume context. The notes I want to tame however, I believe do exist, and are often perceived as more difficult notes not just by me, but by a good majority of perfume wearers. It started with an idea on writing a post or a series of posts on "Taming The Tuberose", but then I saw there were other notes that to me were not immediately transparent and easy. The second note that came to my mind when I thought of taming a note was incense. I will start with a 2-day look at incense and lavender. I will add other incense perfume reviews in the future together with reflections on this note (and others), but not necessarily in unbroken sequential order because I prefer to keep a more flexible schedule. You will know however that I am asking myself these questions.

If you care to comment, please feel free to tell us what notes you think you need to tame yourself? Or would you rather use another expression to describe your relationship to these trickier notes? Do you think it is more dependent upon biography, culture, or some of their natural properties? Do you think there are difficult vs. easy perfume notes?

Have a good day! 

Photo is from faculty.fairfield.edu 

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3 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. Brilliant idea, M.-H.
    Your first choices are excellent (and I remember chuckling at the comment the perfumer made to Nathalie Rykiel, as reported by you in a previous thread... Quelle prétention!) Tuberose and rose are notoriously difficult (can do the first, not the second, so far). Aldehydes took some breaking in, perhaps because they smell "perfume-y" - one has to un-learn their old-fashioned connotations.
    Jasmine is one you haven't mentioned, that I, personally, find rather difficult to tame: the absolute sometimes lends a gasoline-type fume to a blend.
    But my most untame-able shrew is the haughty, icy iris.
    All of these divas can absolutely crush a composition once you become too aware of them. I'm very interested in the strategies employed by perfumers to bring them to sing with other notes, and I'm very much looking forward to your reflections, as always.

  2. Thank you D. I will do that more from the standpoint of a smeller than a perfumer though:)

  3. Hello, Marie-Helene. I' ve searched for the sequel of the subject you opened here, but didn't find anything. Such a pity.

    Incense and tuberose, along with spices, are the most compatible scents that my skin loves. I cannot tame citruses, not even the prettiest neroli essential oil, leather or tea notes. Actually, my view on perfume is that it should compliment the skin, not give the impression of 2 separate entities "me + a scent", no matter how beautiful the "disparate" scent.


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