9/8/16

My Vintage Kouros Got Stronger - Again!




This is not the first time it's happened, and I'm sure it won't be the last. As you may recall, I wrote a post on September 7th of last year, in which I talked about an older bottle of Kouros that I had acquired. The bottle was full and unused. Its performance was unexpected:

"Imagine my surprise when I found that my pre-L'Oreal vintage smelled surprisingly smooth, mild, and tame in comparison to my 2009 and 2011 vintages. Instead of a monster, I got a mellow, super-smooth, relatively low-sillage fragrance that resembles a restrained seventies barbershop splash more than an intense eighties powerhouse."

Well, that was a year ago. Last September I wore Kouros every single day without deviation, and by the end of the month had only an inch of fragrance left. Fully aware that Kouros ages and intensifies, I packed up that inch and didn't touch it again until this week. Since Kouros is only worn one month out of the year, I forgot I had so little. I gave myself the traditional three small squirts and went to work.

I rarely worry about offending my coworkers with my scent, but by the time I arrived at my job I was worried I'd be sent home. It wasn't "loud." It was pounding.

What happened? I'm not sure what exactly transpires with this particular scent. Kouros is an oddity in that it takes dozens of musk molecules and somehow channels their shrill, stinky-freshness into a civilized and legible form, like fireflies carefully ushered into a jar. The result is a fragrance that smells bawdy but smart. I always know when I'm wearing too much because the interplay of incense, musk, lavender, and honey lingers in my nose. Likewise, I can tell that I've dosed it correctly when it disappears and occasionally wafts. Last year this particular bottle was potent enough to sense for roughly six of the eight hours in my workday, but was never too strong, and frequently not strong enough.

I suspect that the air in the bottle "oxidized" and partially evaporated some of the perfume, causing just enough water and alcohol reduction to concentrate my small pond of Kouros and make it twice as potent as it was twelve months ago. There is no evidence for the notion that fragrances get stronger the more you smell them, but there is plenty of evidence in the scientific community that our sense of fragrances can diminish with repeated exposure to them. So far no scientist has come forward to explain why I might perceive the same sample of Kouros as being stronger this year than it was last year, or whether my perception is real or illusory, but I invite one to comment here.

As it stands now, with three half sprays doing the job of eight from a year ago (I actually had to refresh this scent last year to make it through longer days), I'm going to go ahead and say that no, this isn't my imagination. My Kouros got stronger - much stronger. And that's a good thing, especially with less than an ounce left until I'm spritzing fumes.


13 comments:

  1. Same thing happened to bottles of Bellagio and Crave I had.
    The Crave still smelled like, well, Crave, so I got rid of it. But it turned into a beast.
    The Bellagio not only intensified, but improved too

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    1. It's something I've read about online for years and when it started happening to me with Green Irish Tweed, Grey Flannel, and Kouros, I realized there is validity to it. Your account just adds to the intrigue - btw, how is Bellagio?

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    2. It's not really anything noteworthy, but it's pleasant. The citrus note is pretty well done, and the vetiver is discernible as a vetiver note. I get a little pepper out of it too. The rest is kind of a mishmash of notes, but not bad by any means.
      I'm not sure if a new bottle will smell that good though. I originally bought it around 12 years ago, and I didn't know enough about scents to know what I was smelling

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    3. Sounds like it's worth trying - I happen to know where to find it. Thanks for your impressions!

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  2. I'm really glad you brought this up. I've noticed the same thing with Eau Sauvage (by no means a beast, but after 11 months of occasional use, downright tenacious for what it is, lasting 8-10 hours) and Yatagan (the musk basenotes seemed disappointingly sheer and short-lived when I first got it last Christmas, but are now rather fleshy and inescapable.) Eau Sauvage IS a scent I associate with olfactory fatigue for sure, but I've gone through about three bottles now and definitely sense a pattern each time I pick up a bottle in May that I had shelved in late September.

    I recently posted a thread asking folks if they've noticed anything like this from Guerlain Vetiver and replies were rather thin on the ground. Is this looked on by some as a superstition or something? I'm particularly curious about the GV because I love the scent, but find it to be fairly fleeting. There's a lot of weird anecdotes an assertions vis a vis the old GV cologne, the 80's 'gold cap' EDT, the frosty bottle and the 2011 reformulation, and I'm trying to figure out how much of it can be put down to aging bottles. Any thoughts on this one? I've heard about vetivers aging well, somewhere...

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    1. By "aging well" I'll have to assume that the vetiver fragrances generally stay "fresh" and rarely get stale, rather than any perceptible strengthening taking place. As to whether fragrance gets stronger with age, there are divided opinions on this topic. Many feel as I do and believe that at least some fragrances do strengthen after partial use. However, many believe this to be an olfactory illusion with no scientific merit.

      As to why you received so few helpful responses on the boards, I can at least partially explain your situation. You must understand the ramifications of what you're asking as it pertains to folks who staunchly believe that vintage fragrances are unerringly good and reformulations are always bad. If there is truth to the theory that certain fragrances (particularly classics) strengthen, then you can reasonably deduce that it's possible a supposedly crappy reformulation of something isn't really so crappy after all, and is in fact negligibly changed from its older formula; you have only to wait a few years for your newer bottle to "age" and gradually become more and more like the vintage. Which in turn would mean the vintages are themselves changing with every passing year into things well past their prime.

      Vintage enthusiasts largely hate the aging theory for these reasons, as they shoot a few gaping holes into their philosophy. The more useful narrative for them is one which favors static, unmoving formulas as comprising 99% of what's out there. That people like you, me, and Levantine have experiences that run counter to their beliefs doesn't amuse them in the least - we and the dozens of others who have stopped to share these aging experiences in forums over the years must all be "wrong."

      Which would be fine except for one little detail: we're not.

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  3. Well, one argument for the theory that perfume ingredients do age might be to aggregate the kinds of language used to describe vintage fragrances: 'smoother', 'rounder', 'richer' and 'fuller' are all usual suspects; considered alongside the observation you made awhile back (which I thoroughly support) that older fragrances sometimes resemble 'blurry watercolour' versions of themselves, these descriptions bear out (though in the case of denser things like your Kouros, maybe it's gouache, not watercolour). It also makes sense when we consider that many traditional top notes are inexpensive naturally-derrived materials (limonene, linalool, geraniol, etc.) that are apt to soften up and fade out quickly over time, resulting in a less 'fresh' and by default, darker (maybe perceptually 'deeper') overall scent profile. As for vetiver, given how complex a material it seems to be (a bit citric, a bit grassy, a bit nutty, a bit rooty, a little anisic, etc.), I wonder if vintage vetivers seem earthier rather than fresher with time. Tough to say... I do have a nice bottle of Vintage Polo Green (about thirteen years old) that still has a very grassy vetiver note indeed.

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    1. Yes, these descriptions are typically found whenever people write about vintage fragrances. The thinking is that vintage hails from times when perfumers used superior materials and more naturals in their unencumbered formulas. Thus these old perfumes smell richer, more dynamic, more natural.

      The problem with this is that despite IFRA regulations that restrict the excessive usage of certain allergens, perfumers still use many of the same ingredients of yesteryear, and now have the added advantage of a multitude of excellent synthetic chemicals that were previously unavailable. The current formula for Guerlain's Mitsouko is proof that incredibly beautiful compositions still exist, and so far every reformulated classic I've bought has smelled fine, with the exception of the very latest iteration of Cool Water. In that case the problem seems to be not a case of reformulation, but of shrewd sleight of hand - Coty swapped out the older EDT formula for the deodorant formula, which is probably significantly cheaper. So now the EDT of Cool Water smells exactly like the spray deodorant. Which is a shitty thing for Coty to do. Strangely enough they haven't touched their own Aspen formula, which has remained exactly the same since the 90s.

      So the point is that people get huffy about reformulations because they feel the politics of our day have closed off the avenues perfumers used to have at their disposal, when in fact those avenues have simply been rerouted. Have you smelled Givenchy's Xeryus reformulation, which was reissued several years ago? It's in my collection. It's very interesting - it smells very similar to Karl Lagerfeld's vintage Photo from decades ago. Compositionally the two fragrances are 98% the same, almost identical.

      Yet surprisingly enough, the vintage smells fuzzy and flat, with not nearly as much dynamism and note separation as the much newer Xeryus. Givenchy's formula is perfectly balanced, quite complex, lasts 15 hrs, and is even detectable after a shower, and guess what? No moss of any kind in the formula, while the weaker and duller Photo does contain oakmoss. So what gives?

      Current Mitsouko contains a semi-synthetic oakmoss and also smells very woody and mossy. Good things can and do happen all the time. Having an open mind gives me the pleasure of enjoying reformulations, a pleasure vintage enthusiasts often miss out on, which is a shame.

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  4. I can't recall where I read it but some say that taking of the cap and sprayer and leaving the bottle for a amount of time like that would make the the content stronger. I didn't really buy into that at first but maybe there's more to it after all.

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    1. I don't buy that either but what I think does happen in some instances is the air drawn into the bottle through the stem after repeated usage somehow accumulates pockets of air that interact with the perfume. Also some bottles are poorly made and not exactly vacuum tight, which is why I think Creeds age, as most of mine have. Orange Spice started out all soft and short-lived. Four years later it was a monster.

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    2. That sounds indeed like the most logical explanation.
      I went looking on the nets for a possible explanation and found this rather informative page which debunks some of the myths regarding perfume: http://colognoisseur.com/category/perfume-mythbusters/

      It also reminded me that I do have to go to the Osmotheque at some point to have a feel what the classics really smell like.

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  5. Yes to that. I had a big bottle of Pour un Homme de Caron on my bedside table the other evening, and I could smell it persistently, so something was escaping. That bottle from last Father's Day, a 6.7 ouncer now about half-full (I'm an optimist), has definitely gotten just a bit stronger.

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  6. I totally agree .I have a number of vintage kouros 80s bottles .I have a Paris set of 3 x 30 ml travel refill s that fit a metal kouros sprayer. They are plastic and I am sure some evaporation has occurred as each has the same amount 3/4 full & each smell so strong & last 24 hrs + & so much stronger than any of my 80 a Paris bottles. Likewise my 8 eau de sport kouros & my Cochran grey flannel smell stronger & better than last year

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