Recently, I’ve come across a new claim, that of “musty top notes,” apparently a notion associated only with vintage scents. I did a google search and found that this idea goes back to at least circa 2007. I’ve never heard a “professional” make such an assertion, and I wonder what it is meant to convey. By contrast, I understand the claim about some vintage scents conveyed in this Basenotes.net review of Guess Men (1991):
The shockingly repulsive smell of hot vinyl and overheated electronics…
And I’ve come across it in at least a few, especially the “drug store favorites,” but with vintage the claim that makes more sense is that the drydown is musty, which seems to be related to a misunderstanding about what certain note combinations result in, though of course one is entitled to dislike it. However, if you don’t give scents a chance you may be missing out on quite a bit of olfactory enjoyment. For example, I gave Cool Water for Men several chances but never liked it, though I gave Carlo Corinto Rouge a second chance and I was glad I did, though it shares some major elements with Cool Water. However, CCR is simpler and there is more of a “quality” cedar base note, which supplies a slight tobacco impression, whereas CW is more of a “woody/amber” of little interest to me.
In any case, I’d like to mostly focus on this statement in this post:
Whatever you do, however, don’t rub your skin after applying perfume to “activate” the scent. All you are doing is heating it up prematurely and eliminating the top notes, effectively reducing its longevity and removing an entire facet of its overall accord. Also bear in mind that the human nose has an uncanny ability to acclimatize to scent, and that just because you can’t smell something on you, doesn’t mean others can’t. Dousing yourself so thoroughly that you reek is never a good move. Trust in subtlety; a little goes a long way.
I’ve gone beyond this and suggest that some people might want to try using a hair dryer, perhaps set on cool, to prematurely eliminate the top notes, as this author phrases it. He points out that one might not be able to smell one’s scent of the day after a while, but he seems blissfully unaware that the reason might be related to the effect of top notes! In fact, if I had not discovered this back in 2008 I might have “left the hobby” by 2009! Why he is concerned about “removing an entire fact” that only lasts a few minutes or so is puzzling, because he provides no reason, and there is nothing in the article that offers any insight into this. Sure, if you enjoy mostly top notes and don’t care about smelling the scent an hour after application, go ahead and use the approach that works best for you.
However, keep in mind that there is another olfactory world waiting to be explored a few hours after application! It’s true that for some scents, the “opening,” as I call it (meaning what lasts for anywhere from about half an hour to a couple of hours, and not fleeting top notes) lasts for quite a while but then there is hardly any drydown. In fact, I just sampled Dalimax Black and was surprised at how interesting it was at least a couple hours (a heavy wine-like quality), but then it seemed to have nearly disappeared. These are the kinds of scents I tend to avoid, though in this case I’d buy a bottle and reapply when necessary, because the opening did last longer than usual – I’m just not a fan of this idea and have others with this element that I enjoy more, such as Barolo. Being a “drydown” person means that you have the entire scent to “deconstruct” and consider (and you can easily avoid “musty top notes,” if there is such a thing). And of course you can also apply more of less, dilute it, spray to different parts of the body or even on a strip (which you can place in your breast pocket, for example), to try and get it to work for you.