6/20/15

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire



Let's say you're in the market for your very first Creed perfume.

You're a careful buyer, so you carefully peruse fragrance forums, mostly on basenotes, because after all, basenotes is where the OCD patients with a Creed habit are hanging out, discussing "counterfeit Creeds," "batch variations," "quality control," "lot numbers," and that strangest of strange things, the "Creed Bloom" effect, otherwise known as "maceration." Actually, "Creed Bloom" addresses the perfume after it has finished its chemical maceration process in a production facility, been bottled, and sent on its way. You see, people occasionally mention that their Creed smelled weak upon delivery, but after a few weeks or months became significantly stronger, and more complex.

You're ready to accept that there's something to this, especially if you're a VERY careful buyer, the type who likes to parse every single line of text ever written about something before pulling the trigger on it. But then you start to seek another opinion, a divergent view, and you read this. Uh-oh. Seems like a well framed counterpoint to the other claims of Creeds growing stronger with time. What to believe?

In that blog post, the author discusses a claim about an Amouage perfume, not a Creed, but it's simply the point from which he pivots into a general view about all post-bottling perfume maceration claims. Since Creed is the company eliciting the most commentary about this, you're concerned that your first bottle's performance may be a bit confusing. Perhaps even disappointing. You're about to drop the better part of two hundred dollars on this thing. You want to know that it's going to smell amazing, not weak, hollow, fleeting. With this issue in mind, how do you approach Creed?

I can't convince you, or anyone else for that matter, that Creeds and other high-end niche perfumes age in the bottle. Your nose will tell you things that I simply can't. The blogger linked above asks for scientific evidence, and speculates that professionals would laugh at the claims of certain fragrances growing stronger and better after use, yet his credibility is just as thin, if not thinner than anyone else's: he claims that out of roughly one hundred vintages in his collection, he has never smelled a single one "turning," i.e., "spoiling," which suggest that he's either genuinely incapable of detecting true structural and compositional defects in old perfumes, or simply lying.

This raises a second question. If Creeds age and improve, wouldn't that put them at odds with the argument that perfumes degrade and lose their luster as they reach their "vintage" status? Not at all. One of the finer points about this, something which the poor fellow cited above never seemed able to grasp, is that some perfumes, especially Creeds, but also older YSL scents, reach a maturation "peak" after a few months (in my experience, anywhere from a year to eighteen months), a point at which their strength and complexity seems optimal, and a condition that only lasts another ten months or so before very subtly beginning to lose its promise. Once the scent has peaked and begun its downhill course, the maceration has officially ended, and the degradation has begun.

In Creed's case, my theory for why this happens centers on one simple aspect - poor bottle design. Every Millesime I've owned has had a minor leak around the atomizer base during use, including bottles purchased from the Creed Boutique. (The one exception is a 2013 bottle I bought from Fragrancenet that featured Creed's "new and improved" atomizer design, which I've read has since been discontinued.) With the original atomizer design, I depress the sprayer, and oh, no! Dribbles of perfume run across the face of the bottle, and down my wrist. Perfume is getting out, and air is getting in. Not enough perfume to panic and send the thing back, but enough to make you wonder why Creed can't hermetically seal the darned things. The person who had a similar "blooming" effect happen with their Amouage scent might also have a bottle with a very small hole somewhere around the atomizer, or perhaps that particular bottle is letting air in through the hose. I had a bottle of Kouros that I would guess this was happening to. It never leaked, yet over time the fragrance got more and more potent. Something tells me the vacuum was breached. By the very end, and after five years of use, it was all bombastic musk and honey, and little else. Come to think of it, that poor old Kouros might as well have been vintage Lapidus Pour Homme at that point, not something any presumably balanced and well-blended scent should be.

With every Creed I've owned, this has been the case. I currently own two bottles of GIT, one from 2012 and one from 2013, and the older bottle is very, very slightly "off," but still quite wearable, while the newer bottle is right in its prime, and will likely never get any better. If I were to hold on to it, I'd surely notice within a year that the top notes and mid section have weakened and gone a bit off-balance, just like the other bottle, but I'll have used it up before then. In GIT, the musk note seems to get unnecessarily funky and leaden over time, but you'd never guess that could happen with a new bottle, which in most cases will smell light, crisp, citrusy, green, and remarkably fresh.

You don't have to take my word for it. There are credible comments about this to be found here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and last but not least, here. The "Official Green Irish Tweed Thread" is a good read, because if you peruse its dozens of pages, you're bound to find member after member commenting on the "Creed Bloom" effect with that scent. These corroborating accounts were found in less than ten minutes, a simple search on Google. If you really want to find many people corroborating my experience, search for less than fifteen minutes. You'll see that several veteran basenoters and Fragranticans have had the same thing happen to them. Their scent starts out weak. They use it, then forget about it for a while, then come back to it, and surprise!

Their fragrance got stronger.

It seems to be a really, really, really and truly random and strange thing to fabricate, or imagine, or be mistaken about.

But who cares? Those who scoff at this are simply not experiencing something that others are experiencing, and enjoying. Whether that experience is real or not is something I'll leave up to you, but as the saying goes, "Where there's smoke, there's fire."




5 comments:

  1. Ummmm......well, yes, sort of.
    My 1st degree was in organic chemistry.
    The 3 mortal enemies of perfumes are light, heat, & air.
    Any sort of citrus, aldehydes, or floral top notes in a perfume are especially volatile & are the 1st to dissipate over time or even turn rancid.
    Floral & aldehydic ketones are prone to degrading to musty & acetone like scents (often described as a mouldy breath sort of a smell, not good.)
    Musks, resins (myrrh, frankincense, labdanum etc.), & most essential oils can deepen & intensify over time - which may or may not be good.
    If Creed truly does use mostly 'natural products' in their scents that would account for variation right there. Depending on annual weather & terroir variations no plant or animal is going to have EXACTLY the same chemical composition every year- that's just the way nature works.
    If you have a leak in your bottle the perfume will evaporate naturally & of course the scent (oils) will become more concentrated & thus 'potent' in smell.

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    1. This is fascinating, Bibi. Creed does use a certain amount of naturals, a bit more than average, and I guess YSL used to as well. Too bad there are people out there that don't believe this can occur! Do you have any chemical publications that might shed more light on this? I'd love to read them if you do!

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    2. Oh gosh.
      I could wax on for ages & probably bore you to tears talking about O chem.
      Most of the research on the 'terroir' & it's affects on natural products have to do with the wine & food industry & marijuana. My academic knowledge in O chem is primarily pharmacology although perfume, food & wine are my hobbies which also coincide with O chem.
      I was looking for an interview I read years ago with Alberto Morillas. I never found it but he was talking about the stockpiles of natural perfume ingredients he maintains from different regions & years. Jasmine is one such ingredient he mentioned which can vary as well as some years there might be shortages thereof- Jasmine is quite susceptible to cold, an early frost or drop in temperature can damage or destroy an entire year's crop.

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  2. There's an interview up on Frgrantica with Hervé Fretay, the Global Director of Naturals and Fragrance Ingredient Marketing at Givaudan. He speaks a bit to the importance of 'terroir' in natural fragrance products-
    "We have some signature materials. For example, we have an exclusive quality of mint from Morocco, called Mint Nanah (nanah means mint in Arabic). This mint is the signature of the most recent masculine fine fragrances created by Givaudan like Montblanc Legend or Prada Luna Rossa.
    In the terms of innovation for naturals you could work on the terroir like for wine, because every plant can be grown in different countries (the difference is known for so many plants, from grapes to rose, and from vetiver to mint). Or you can work in terms of technology, as you know: you could fractionate the oils, you could do a CO2 extraction …"
    http://www.fragrantica.com/news/What-Fragrances-Are-Made-of-Givaudan-Part-3-6861.html

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    1. Thanks, I'll take a look at that article. The variables of materials seems endless, but I know that naturals are the most volatile (generally) and synthetics tend to play the same tune for much longer periods of time. What is interesting though is that even the more synthetic compositions in my collection, like Joint PH, smell "stale" and somewhat unstable, despite being comprised of fewer naturals, so I guess even synthetics can lose their balance, given enough time sitting in less than ideal conditions.

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