The “bliss point” and the “fuzz point” in scents.

I recently learned of a notion in the food industry called the bliss point. The idea is perhaps best understood by the slogan (for some sort of chip type food, I think), “I bet you can’t eat just one.” The purpose is, obviously, to make as much profit on food sales as possible. In the world of commercially-available scents, by contrast, what I’ve found is that it’s common for a scent to seem to attain the olfactory equivalent of the bliss point, but only for a small number of wearings. Then, if worn too frequently, it may actually become irritating if outright nauseating !

This phenomenon also occurs with food too, it seems, but food researchers working for the industry seem to have found ways to “fix” it. If you are interested n the details, I suggest you read the story in the New York Times, which is currently online at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

In particular, there is this statement:

The military has long been in a peculiar bind when it comes to food: how to get soldiers to eat more rations when they are in the field. They know that over time, soldiers would gradually find their meals-ready-to-eat so boring that they would toss them away, half-eaten, and not get all the calories they needed. But what was causing this M.R.E.-fatigue was a mystery. “So I started asking soldiers how frequently they would like to eat this or that, trying to figure out which products they would find boring,” Moskowitz said. The answers he got were inconsistent. “They liked flavorful foods like turkey tetrazzini, but only at first; they quickly grew tired of them. On the other hand, mundane foods like white bread would never get them too excited, but they could eat lots and lots of it without feeling they’d had enough.”

With scent companies, it seems these days that their “MO” is to hook a person in with a compelling idea, then reformulate it or sell the license to a company that will turn it into a fuzzy mess. In my opinion, Dior Homme was reformulated to be more appealing to the masses, who prefer a smoother gourmand, though I think I may like this version better personally because the drydown seems to be a bit more dynamic (I still have to test it out before I will feel comfortable saying this in more conclusive terms). Two examples of scents that had quite a bit of “bite” to them, and were embraced by the masses, are Grey Flannel and Cool Water (for men). Both of these are now quite different, denser, fuzzier, and smoother. What may be lost when this is done, however, includes naturalness, note separation, distinctness, richness, and depth.

Basically, scents that were clearly aficionado material may be “dumbed down” so that they become little more than “nice smells.” The other days I tested new Cool Water (by Coty) against and older version by Lancaster. The Lancaster version was crisp and clear, with richness and depth. The candy-like quality was “cut” by other notes, though I personally find this composition to be too busy, with note clashes that are unpleasant. The new one is just one blob of a dense, fuzzy, muted candy-like smell, though I wouldn’t be surprised if “Joe Average”” (or “Joe Blow,” as some like to say) preferred it to the Lancaster version.

So, my point of all this is that it seems that for those who don’t study scents, the fuzz point is just fine, perhaps preferable. For me, it’s usually the case that the opening feels unbalanced if not outright unpleasant, but the drydown is where things “come together” and a bliss point is attained. One example is Acteur by example, which was recently discussed on a thread at basenotes.net. I decided to wear it to see if my thoughts had changed, since I find that wearing certain kinds of scents makes other kinds seem different than they did in past wearings. Sure enough, Acteur now felt overwhelming at first, with astringent, headache-inducing geranium at full volume, so to speak.

However, that only lasted a bit over an hour, roughly, and then an excellent (and very dry) spicy/woody element emerged, coming to dominate within two hours or so. It reached a true bliss point for me. I don’t have enough knowledge of the craft of perfumery to know if such strong opening make such wonderful drydowns possible, but what I do know is if I hadn’t learned how to largely avoid top notes I would have lost interest in scents long ago. Top notes may indeed generate a bliss point (I felt this with Jacomo Rouge, for example), but the duration is not long enough to supply what I’m seeking, which i realized (after about a year of dabbling with scents) is a bliss point that lasts for hours.

By contrast, may new formulations seem to quickly go to the fuzz point (whether or not they ever reach the bliss point) and then slowly dissipate over a several hour period. As I said in my post here about Acqua di Gio, getting everything right with scents seems to be quite difficult. To me AdG may not do anything very well, but that is not necessary to reach the bliss point. One simply needs to avoid doing any one thing (or more) obviously wrong, and by wrong see my last post about what I consider to be aficionado scents. Undeniably, others who study scents may have different preferences. I think the reason why I have come to appreciate certain scents is that I tend to sit in one spot for long periods of time. I can wear a button down shirt (and I don’t wear anything underneath that) and the scent really comes right up in wafts all day long.

When I don’t sit in one spot for long periods of time, however, I don’t appreciate all the nuances, and perhaps a fuzz point scent would be just fine, though some of them are so irritating at the outset that I doubt that would be the case for all of them. If you are a newbie, I suggest trying what I did, which was to blow on the area you spray while trying not to breathe in too much of the top notes. Do this with scents that have high quality scent, because the idea here is to find a bliss point with the drydown, and if the ingredients (especially of the drydown) are poor quality achieving a bliss point experience may not be possible. Of course, none of this is necessarily applicable if you wear scents for other people. In those cases, i advise asking as many people as possible what they think of a scent you think will please or impress others.

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