7/3/15

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire - Part II


What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.

Contrary to the belief held by some that perfumes cannot grow stronger with age, current opinions about Kouros suggest that things do change. In this thread, we see some supportive anecdotes about the thirty-five year-old masterpiece:
"I sprayed one spray, and there was just the tiniest hint of Kouros to my nose, and then minutes later I couldn't smell anything. I put on another [spray]. I got up to four sprays, and for a short time I would get the faintest nod of Kouros, but then a talc or body powder scent would dominate . . . I was very disappointed. Over the next couple wearings, the fragrance seemed to be stronger, and resemble [vintage] Kouros more. It also lasted longer. I have worn the fragrance four or five times now this summer, and this scent has done a 180. Yesterday I did yard work, and before I started, I sprayed one spray to the center of my chest from a couple inches away. My skin was clean, and I had not put any fragrance on. I mowed and edged the lawn, trimmed and pruned trees, and the scent was going strong the whole time while perspiring, over the smell of the mower and trimmer. Later, after showering, I could still smell the scent. I just wanted to let people know if they purchased the white bottle like myself, and feel let down by the smell, to give it some time. The top didn't change much, but the mid and base notes are Kouros."
For those who don't know, the "white bottle" that the author refers to is the latest formula, which is packaged in a bottle that lacks the chrome trim. This account mirrors my experience with YSL scents, which funnily enough was one of the brands I mentioned in Part I of this post. It's been happening a bit with Jazz (clear glass bottle version), and it has happened time and again with Kouros. There were two responses to the comment quoted above, with the more substantial reply quite interesting (it also compares Kouros to Terre d'Hermes):
"Tried and worn the first time, I recalled it being a Terre d'Hermes smell alike; nowadays the juice in the bottle I have smells different. The 'aged' one in my wardrobe improved significantly, the citric notes are more prominent, and the metallic / woody notes (synthetic feeling) became more subdued, almost imperceptible. It is a gentler TdH, far less complex, but more enjoyable. As to others, I noticed they acquire something in common with vintage scents, a character that could be described as dense. I wonder if, in their efforts to improve rotation, companies are not giving blends any time for settling."
It's possible. Also possible is that the synthetics and naturals are separating at a higher rate in current formulas. My theory has always been that when air gets into a bottle, the alcohol and some of the synthetics evaporate very slowly out, leaving behind a richer concentration of both quality synthetics and natural ingredients, in turn making the remaining liquid more potent. This is not "alchemy," it's just a simple theory based on what little I know about chemistry.

My theory was confirmed the other day by a commenter responding to Part I of this post:
"My 1st degree is in organic chemistry . . . Musks, resins (myrrh, frankincense, labdanum etc.), & most essential oils can deepen & intensify over time - which may or may not be good. 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."

And there it is, folks. An organic chemistry major confirms my suspicions. But why is this not enough for some people to accept? I suspect that any resistance to this idea is founded more on discrediting me than anything else (I have some enemies in the perfume world, unfortunately), but their contrarian stance does them little good, because logic and chemistry are not on their side here. Fragrances that are highly synthetic change very little. Ocean Rain is a good example of this. My bottle is at least twenty-five years old. It had been used two or three times prior to my purchasing it, because I could see it wasn't 100% full when I took it out of the box. The tiniest amount of air had gotten in there and was left to mix with the chemicals of Ocean Rain's formula for up to two and a half decades. Potentially a very long time.

Yet Ocean Rain smells fresh, well balanced, and complete. Its citric fruit notes are luminescent, its musky florals are coherent, and its beachy driftwood drydown is clear. Ocean Rain was a relatively cheap fragrance when it was released, and it is likely a very, very cheap formula. My guess is that there were little to no natural materials used in it. Therefore, the likelihood that natural oils could separate from the synthetics and become concentrated with time are virtually nonexistent. The result is a synthetic mix of low-volatility chemicals that smell the same today as they did when they were bottled.

Kouros is a perfume that makes good use of synthetics, but I've always detected a considerable degree of natural materials in its formula. There are some natural floral and wood oils that seem to react with oxygen. I'm not saying these are "high quality" naturals, as there are certainly no Grade-A sandalwood or rose oils in the mix. I'm simply saying that inexpensive naturals are used to bolster the effect of the synthetics, but these naturals react to air, and grow stronger, making the heart and base notes of the fragrance stronger with time.



5 comments:

  1. The evaporation is something I also suspected. I bought a bottle of CK Crave anf Bellagio Uomo like 10 years ago. They were weak, had awful longevity and sillage, and smelled pretty crappy, even to my untrained nose. I still have both bottles. The Crave, while still smelling insanely synthetic, is a powerhouse now and I use it as a beater fragrance. The Bellagio one still smells synthetic, but it smells a lot more classy and natural now, and lasts for 8+ hours.

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    1. Not an uncommon experience. My bottle of 2013 EA Grey Flannel was very timid for the first year of use. Today the fragrance is almost as strong as my late 90s French Fragrances bottle. I'm also noticing a "dregs effect" that occurs, i.e., a strengthening of the last 25 ml of fragrance in an otherwise used-up 100 ml bottle. Sure, it's in a vacuum, but a weak one. There has to be at least 5 or 10% air in there, which mixes and "sits" on the remaining fluid, oxidizing it further. Let that last bit sit long enough (four or five months) and then spray. With some frags, like Paco Rabanne PH and Cool Water, turn into serious beasts!

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    2. Hello Bryan , sorry I can't seem to be able to send the photos of the GF on here

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  2. You do know that Terre d'Hermes is a little over 50% Iso E Super?
    Iso E Super is what gives TdH that warm, woodsy, 'skin' note people find 'sexy' or comforting.
    IES is a bit odd- when diluted it smells stronger, at full strength it's barely perceptible. Apparently IES is one of those molecules that likes to stick to it's own kind. When it's oily molecules are separated by a diluent like alcohol they fly off & stick to your scent receptors instead of remaining in a greasy glob.
    IES costs about $48 for a half liter, everything else in HdT is cheap also (cedar, orange, black pepper, vetiver). Amazing that TdH costs so danged much (oh but it is HERMES!!!) but not so amazing that Yardley can copy it so well for about $20 in their Citrus & Wood cologne.
    There are all sorts of secrets & tricks to the trade of perfumery that are not well known.
    A bit about 'aging' & scents-
    I was born & raised in Sonoma & had a large rose garden while growing up. One of our filthy rich vineyard owning movie producer neighbors had a gorgeous copper antique alembic still. Being the budding O chemists we thought we were, the son of the aforementioned FRVON & I decided we would fire up that alembic still & make our own 'artisanal' rose oil from the roses in my garden. So we read up a bit in a Bulgarian book on distilling fragrance from roses. We went out at the crack of dawn (like the book advised) & picked rose petals galore, & added them to water from our local spring in the still. We heated that rose water combo to the precise temperature specified by the Bulgarian tome & fractionated off our product. Unfortunately our 'artisanal' rose oil smelled only vaguely of roses but largely of ASPARAGUS. WTH? Did we do something wrong? Back to the O chem stacks at UC Berkeley ( his was before the internet & yes, I am that old) & we happened upon a poorly translated Arabic perfuming text which stated that rose oil must be aged in a cool dark place before it 'blooms' from green-ness into it's full rosiness. So yes indeed, we let it stand bottled in a dark cupboard in a cool wine cellar (owned by FRVON of course) for 6 months & ET VOILA we had a gorgeously scented slightly citrusy rose oil instead of asparagus goo. PW's Tea Rose has captured of a bit that aspargus-y 'green rose' perfectly- look for it the next time you wear it.
    Ok I've rambled enough for today.

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    1. Never noticed any asparagus in Tea Rose, but then again I wasn't looking for it. Sounds like you needed to put the oil through its own little maceration process in order to smell the benefits. But further into this comes the question of why certain perfumes continue to "macerate" even after they're bottled and shelved. With Creed, the answer seems to be that they use more naturals than the average producer, and they happen to have faulty bottles, which creates the perfect scenario for continued maceration. But other brands use fewer naturals and have more air-tight bottles (like YSL), yet the same thing occurs. How this happens up to five years after the bottle was purchased is still a bit of a mystery to me.

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