Is it true that ...? Myths and realities of the world of perfume". The idea of this series of meetings, organized and led by Maria Grazia Fornasier (founder of Mouillettes &Co., Italian partner of Cinquiéme Sens) with my cooperation, was born from the feeling that the Web and other media allow us to share a lot of perfume-related info, but somehow myths and mistakes seem recurring also due to rough translation, slang, poor use of the dictionary, and this is likely to bring blunders which the reader often takes for good. Sharing correct information and sweeping away outdated assumptions allows on one hand to facilitate the conversation on perfume issues (thus broadening the focus and attention around fragrances), and secondly to create a shared awareness that makes possible to appreciate fragrances as cultural objects. So we invited people via Esxence and Mouillettes &Co. websites and this Blog, to ask questions, share curiosities and doubts, to have them explained in a clear and articulate way.
The first questions have merged into a single, more comprehensive one:
What fragrance attracts men/women? The answer may be unique? And, as far as dating is concerned, pheromones do really help?
The answer involves the evaluation of both social and personal factors (such as memories and emotions), therefore it’s something completely unpredictable. For example, I’m uncomfortable when the air smells of roses, while my husband feels attracted by it. But we both are seduced by powdery scents, which remind us of the talcum powder we used when we were babies, the pampering, care and delicacy. A Singaporean will be happy to approach smells that are repulsive to us, and viceversa he/she will find unapproachable smells we feel attracted to.
It’s impossible to determine with certainty what will appeal to those you are meeting, so it's better to wear something that makes you feel all right, at ease, so that you and your personality will stand out, not your perfume.
As for human pheromones, however, it hasn’t yet been isolated and reproduced, then we don’t know exactly what form it has (while we know bees and some other animals’). So it’s hard to evaluate something we don’t actually know. Probably pheromone-enhanced Cologne are effective in this: you know you’re wearing something that increases your sex appeal, and this makes you more confident, relaxed and therefore more attractive.
Once, my friend Alessandro sent me a small vial with a Pheromone Cologne without telling me what it was, just asking me to make my husband wear it. After three nights, he called me to ask if the evenings had had romantic implications, and because the result was not so significant, he realized that perhaps, what is important is how your skin smells, with or without pheromone help.
I recently read in a magazine, "The star of the fragrance is the exotic Purple Rose..." and a few pages further: "Central theme of the bouquet is the note of Black Muguet..." But do all these strange raw materials exist in reality?
Confusion about the ingredients of a perfume is due to the fact that the formula of a scent and the olfactory pyramid you use to describe it are two different things, and when a magazine reports the olfactory pyramid, it’s reporting impressions, not ingredients! The purpose of the pyramid is to provide an idea of how the juice will smell like, it is only a creation of the Brand’s press office, made purposely to help journalists get an idea of the notes. The formula, however, is the set of 20-50-80-200 raw materials that, put together the right way, result in that perfume. No pyramid will report faithfully the list of raw materials included in the formula, because linalyl acetate, isoesuper, hedione, rhodinol, rose, ionone alpha, vetiveryl acetate, galaxolide, habanolide, celestolide, ambrettolide, may actually give an idea of the perfume only to those who are familiar with these notes, while if you read "red rose, purple mountain violet, precious woods, clean laundry", you may get the overall idea of perfume. So, if you read "Black lily-of-the-valley" don’t think there’s a raw material extracted from a new type of flower whose existence you had never suspected, but that the perfume features a lily-of-the-valley accord, with an interpretation a little bit dark, shadowy, mysterious, of this flower which is usually associated with the idea of light and spring.
Without a proper terminology, understanding differences is a hard task
1 - Chypre and powdery (“cipriate” in Italian sounds similar)
Chypre is a family of well-defined scents characterized by the brilliance of the opening notes (Bergamot), an intense floral and elegant heart (Jasmine, Rose) and a woody base whose shady character (patchouli, oakmoss, cisto-labdanum) contrasts excitingly with the opening. Chypre is a typical family of the classical perfumery, which in Italy is more successful than in other countries, precisely because it gives feelings of Mediterranean macchia, freshness, theatricality, amplitude, refinement and freedom. But unfortunately, the limitation in the use of certain raw materials it is changing the composition, with effects not always up to the name.
Cipriato/poudrèe /powdery /talc does not define a family, but a characteristic of the perfume. Orris, eliotropin, tonka bean, coumarin are all materials whose presence in a formula gives a powdery, comfortable, quality to a perfume.
2- Moss and Musk (in Italian the word “muschio” is used for both)
Oakmoss is extracted from the botanical species of Evernia Prunastri, a lichen (a cross between mushroom and algae, that has left the marine environment). It grows on tree trunks and despite its name not only on oaks. Lichens are collected in winter and spring, before leaf growth. The smell of oakmoss concrete is relatively complex, involving more than 80 substances! The chemistry is not yet able to reproduce such a cocktail! It is a pity, because this raw material is subjected to IFRA restrictions and must be replaced with other notes.
Animal musk is extracted from sexual glands of musk deer, and today is hardly used anymore. White musks are isolated, that is natural musk extracted from the deer was analyzed and only a few molecules were isolated and reproduced in the lab.
- Cedar and cedar wood
We distinguish between the citrus (Citrus Medica), whose essential oil is extracted from the peel of the fruit, and Cedarwood (Cedrus libani), beautiful and imposing tree, already used in the construction of the first Temple of Jerusalem (976 BC); its bark provides one of the finest raw materials used in perfumery. (continues)