On Aging Computers And Perfumes (Updated)

This post is a heads-up to my regular readers. Unfortunately my computer crapped out on me earlier this month, about a week after posting the tobacco piece, and for a few weeks at least my content will be written on my iPad (which lacks a proper keyboard), so posts will be short, sweet, Luca Turin-like, and probably a little less frequent until I get a new machine. It's not a surprising development for me because the computer was ten years old, downright ancient in computer years, which I think are similar to dog years, at least as far as Acer laptops are concerned.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to decide if I want to get something new or just refurbish the old, and haven't made up my mind yet. Don't worry, this blog will stay alive, and will pick up steam again when the technology is updated, but until then you can expect a bit of a slowdown. Oh, and no images, either. I can't get the iPad to cooperate with blogger and post images. Total bummer. Please bear with me.

Anyway, I wanted to post my thoughts - my updated thoughts - on maceration, and what claims about maceration mean in the community these days. There's currently a fifteen page thread on Basenotes about a new indie perfume brand, with several members complaining that the fragrances aren't strong enough, and are therefore a bit of a ripoff. This prompted other members to discuss the merits of an oft-disputed subject: in-bottle maceration, or "aging."

People dispute that perfume can age in its bottle, and some have come up with bizarre theories about the idea. At least one person has offered the Russian logic argument that perfumes will seem to get stronger because our "sensitivities" will be enhanced as they're exposed to something over time, but every scientifically researched article about this (that I've read) says the exact opposite is true. Why do people feel that something as simple as a few aroma chemicals "meshing" over time is so far-fetched?

My guess is that this is not something that is easy to accept if you hold certain rigid opinions about perfume, and interestingly this topic encompasses a very broad orthodoxy. But I notice that only one kind of person acts threatened by the bottle maceration theory - the vintage enthusiast.

If you don't believe that mathematical time can exert a meaningful force upon volatile mixtures of natural and unnatural chemicals, then you're the perfect candidate for loving vintage perfume while unconditionally disliking their newer, reformulated counterparts.

This kind of person would claim that perfume can last a century buried at the bottom of the sea without spoiling, and in the same breath say that new fragrances, reformulated items they've only tried once or twice out of brand-new bottles, are cheap and unworthy. They're comfortable with the idea that the stuff in the ancient bottle hasn't changed, and that the stuff in the new bottle won't change.

This kind of person would be, I would guess, the sort of individual that has faith in mystical things, like the Jesus story. The Problem of Evil would be a foreign concept to him. But at least he's consistent.

Update (7/28/16):

In a humorously convoluted effort to "prove a negative" and convince his readers that perfumes can't become stronger in their bottles over time, the B Man has lectured everyone on the scientific method, saying with characteristic aplomb that:

"Turning to 'modern perfumery,' there are some interesting claims that exist in the online community. One is that some of these olfactory concoctions (in sealed bottles), created by professional perfumers and almost always highly synthetic, could change in less than a year's time and become much stronger, yet still smell the same! In this instance, it's a scientific claim, as all the variables can be measured."

Because our friend is the master of straw man arguments, I'll bypass the irrelevant excercise of attempting to use the scientific method to support this foregone conclusion. Does anyone doubt that alcohol and water evaporate much faster than certain oils and aroma chemicals? Is there any question that leaving, say, a bottle of balsamic vinegar slightly open would result in its liquids gradually reducing to a concentration of its solids (leaving a very strong and pungent salad dressing behind)? In the year 2016, do we need more scientific analysis of the different ways that fluids of varying densities, viscosities, and chemical volatilities might evaporate to understand that an air leak in a perfume bottle may, over a span of several months at least, lead to a reduction in fluid, and a slight increase in oil concentration?

Not in the least. Of course this happens, and of course it isn't an issue in "highly synthetic" perfumes, because such products rarely have any oils in their formulas. To my knowledge, this in-bottle maceration phenomenon occurs more frequently in Creeds, which are typically not highly synthetic, and in older fragrances that contain measurable quantities of base oils, like oakmoss and sandalwood. Things like Kouros and Grey Flannel have been known to "reduce" as their bottles are used. You will find many anecdotal accounts of this on the boards. The men who comment on them are not wrong.

To suggest that we need the scientific method to exact answers on this issue is like saying evaporation itself is just a theory. What I'd be interested in seeing from scientists are experiments on whether people who continually use straw man arguments lack a key part of their cerebral cortex that the rest of us naturally possess, and should thus be considered candidates for broader psychological testing.


  1. So vintage perfumistas would tout that wine can age to something divine or spoil to vinegar but perfume can't? Utter piffle.
    Get a new computer Mr Ross, I love my 6 yr old iMac.


Thank you for your comment. It will be visible after approval by the moderator.