The best is yet to come…

Inspired by a weekend poll that basically took place a month ago at Now Smell This I started wondering if in the vast and endless sea in which perfume swim, as if they were fish of different colors, shapes and sizes, is it still possible not to exhaust a specific fragrance note to the point when you’d scream basta! I’ve had enough! As odd as it might be the answer to that question is short and simple. And it’s a yes. YES, there are notes in perfumery that are not represented well enough. The topic is probably more complex than I can imagine but I think a solid foundation to this discussion would be to actually understand the motifs why one material is more popular than the other.

Is it because some of the flower aromas cannot be captured by any method currently available (as in case of lily of the valley, which is always just a reproduction, a blend of ingredients that perfectly mimic real flower scent)? Or maybe because some flowers are too fragile to be distilled with water and obtaining their essence is difficult (gardenia for example)? Another reason that comes to mind is a simple fact that some materials might not appear to the consumers as much as the others. No matter if any or none of these are correct I decided to share my own take.

Therefore I give you a very subjective list of things I’d be happy to smell more of.

Magnolia. This blossoming tree with its big silky petals flowers that vary in color from creamy-white to pink of different saturation (but usually pale pink) is the embodiment of spring for me. In Poland it’s not that widely spread, some people have it in their private gardens, maybe you can find some in public parks. While I see it blooming all over the place any time I go to Milan in spring. There are lots of magnolias there. Not only is the tree beautiful but the flowers also have a fine smell. Magnolias have a lemony-creamy fragrance with floral and watery nuances. Among perfumes that I tried I can recommend Atelier Cologne Sud Magnolia or Magnolia Grandiflora Michel or Sandrine, both from Australian brand Grandiflora. These fall relatively close to real thing but something’s missing.

Conifer. I always felt the affinity towards the smell of coniferous tree & how can they be used in perfumery. I especially like fir balsam which has the ability to introduce quite a few different facets into the scent. It can be either green & sappy, or have a more aromatic properties that would go deep inside my nostrils when inhaling it. Other time it can be more resinous, balmy or it can ever veer towards something mentholated. So many possibilities with just 1 ingredient. I didn’t try that many scents having this note but one that definitely stood out for me was No. 04 Reverie au Jardin by Andy Tauer – a great combination of balsam fir, lavender and earthy orris root. Memo Russian Leather wasn’t bad either although this one contained Siberian pine note.

Pink grapefruit. Many of you will probably roll their eyes reading this paragraph. Citrus is quite a big category on the perfume market right now however I have a feeling that pink grapefruit is not represented well enough. Of course there’s a bunch of fragrances listing grapefruit as one of the notes but those usually smell either really sweaty or are blended with bergamots, lemons and so on so that they don’t stand out to me. I, on the other hand, am looking for a pink grapefruit, a perfect equilibrium of bitter tartness and sweet juiciness. On a similar accord there’s also yuzu, used in perfume just a little bit more often. This one is also present in a fragrance in a rather unpleasant sweaty stench. It probably wasn’t a pink grapefruit but I liked Pomelo Paradis from Atelier Cologne.

Mimosa. Few years ago I didn’t even pay attention to this underrated flower mimosa is. It was thanks to my perfume twin Undina that I became more aware of this yellow pom-pom lookalike. Reading through her “In the Search for the Perfect Mimosa” series I decided to give it a go. Ever since then I learned to appreciate mimosa and I’m always on the lookout to try a new one. Mimosa don’t grow in Polish climate so I have never experienced how it smells in reality but I think I get the idea. The smell should be airy yet full, sweet like a pollen and a tad powdery. It has a warm feeling to it, as if those pom-pom flowers had a bit of the Sun locked inside of them. The closest perfumes that let me enjoy my own bit of mimosa are Prada Infusion de Mimosa and Brosseau Thé Poudré.

What’s your opinion on this topic? Are there any flowers, trees, fruits or other ingredients that still require some work from perfumers until you’ll be able to smell a perfume that will be an ideal rendition? Also if you agree with any of my choices and know a good perfume that you could recommend you must chime in to tell me its name, so that I can try getting a sample! Who knows, maybe the Holy Grail is already there, only waiting for me to discover it?

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11 thoughts on “The best is yet to come…

  1. I completely agree about magnolia! The pink-flowered kind with leaves that fall, not the evergreen kind with large leaves and white flowers. I’ve been looking for a fragrance that captures that lemony, creamy, floral scent, and haven’t found a great one yet.

  2. Undina says:

    Great topic, Lucas.
    I’m so surprised that mimosa isn’t blooming in Poland: it was quite ubiquitous back in Ukraine, climate of which I thought was close to yours, and I can still find mimosa even in California (while it’s too warm for linden and most lilacs).

    I’m not a believer in “the best is yet to come” in general (perfume-related or not), but I’m hopeful for some of those notes that cannot be harvested naturally: there is a chance that the progress will come up with molecules that smell exactly like those elusive flowers. Also, many naturally produced ingredients smell great but the best rose oil smells of the best rose oil and not like a rose from the bush – so maybe one day some of the flowers that are represented well these days with their naturally obtained oils, distillates and enfleurages will be created even more life-like with the chemistry? For example, I wouldn’t mind to get perfume that smells exactly as a blossoming linden tree. My couple favorites in this genre are close but not 100% what I want. As for the note that cannot be extracted at all, I really want perfume that realistically smells of Daphne Odora. You should travel to California in February to smell it, love it as I do and start working on that perfume. 😉

    • lucasai says:

      I have never seen mimosa tree here, especially the one that would be in bloom.

      I understand your approach. In fact modern chemistry is capable of doing so. By headspace capturing you can analyze what compounds a flower ‘exhales’ – for example muguet, and then in the laboratory you mix the aroma chemicals in given proportions. But yes, any plant aroma would change a bit once its picked, so a rose on the bush still smells a bit different than the one just harvested.
      I have never heard of Daphne Odora but I definitely understand your hidden invitation to come over 😉

    • Daphne odora is a wonderful scent! I grow it in my garden. I’ve recently planted two daphne hybrids (Daphne transatlantica), “Eternal Fragrance” and “Summer Ice.” Love them!

  3. hajusuuri says:

    The Body Shop has a cologne called Pink Grapefruit and I think it realistically represents…pink grapefruit! I am not “pining” for any specific natural substance as a perfume note right now but there is something to said about find the PERFECT scent – it’s so hard to come up with one since everyone’s sense of smell is different.

    I second Undina’s not so hidden call out for a realistic Daphne Odora perfume!

    • lucasai says:

      I see! The problem with Body Shop here is that it only has stores in big cities. I’ve only seen it in Warsaw.

      You got me curious about Daphne Odora

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