Clearing up some confusion about “development” that few mention.

This is one of those really “basic” questions that nonetheless often result in conflicting responses. A good example can be found on a recent Basenotes.net thread entitled, “Do scents with three distinct stages exist?” The author began the thread with this post:

Seems out of the 80 or so colognes that I own, I can’t think of a single one that has three distinct stages of top-middle-base. Sure, I’ve got ones that change quite a bit from beginning to dry down…but none that have 3 completely different personalities.

Do these kind of fragrances exist? I’m thinking traits like these must be very rare in designer scents…perhaps I have to venture into niche territory to experience this phenomena?

This kind of question is often met with a response suggesting that “note pyramids” are largely a work of fiction, though that’s not necessarily helpful here. Here, the person demonstrates a lack of knowledge overall, because niche scents are less and not more likely to possess at least three distinct stages of development. Leaving that aside, however, I would question the point of distinct stages, or at least the pleasantness of these kinds of scents. I find them to be rather irritating, actually, the best example in my experience being Dioressence (I don’t remember which formulation it was). On that BN thread, my response was:

If you can register the top notes, it’s very common for a scent to have an “opening,” as I call it, that lasts perhaps an hour, and then a drydown after that which lasts at least a few hours. It sounds like the OP means opening, drydown, and far drydown, as I would call it. That is common too, but many don’t seem to detect the far drydown at all, or call it a weak skin scent at that point.

For me, the most enjoyable scents are ones that possess complexity all the way through (though I’m not saying I like all complex scents, that’s for sure). In my favorite scents, there is a kind of relaxing that occurs; that is, the scent is intense for a while (beyond the top notes) but then seems to loosen up and allow for maximum dynamism. So, it’s not really about notes changing as it is about the overall presentation that changes. It certainly may be that a note or two are largely gone, but the scent feels the same, so to speak. Interestingly, in some of my favorite scents, such as Egoist Cologne Concentree and Jacomo for Men, I get very little at first but then they seem to get stronger and stronger.

I’m not being critical of that person who asked about three distinct stages, but rather I think it’s a good “departure point” for addressing this notion. For example, would you like a scent that smells quite “green” for an hour to two, with clear oakmoss and vetiver, but then abruptly changes into an “oriental” base, with clear amber, spice, and patchouli, without a trace of the green elements? It’s certainly fine to like this presentation; I just find it irritating, as I’d rather wear one or the other and have that quality last for five hours if not considerably more. I don’t really understand it in a social context nor an “artistic” one. How is artistic to have such distinct stages? Now if a scent possessed a green quality for several hours and then went into an oriental base for several more, that might help those who are going on a date after a day’s work, but otherwise it seems like a bit of a gimmick, though certainly it will have its fans. I’d like to hear what readers think of such scents. Don’t be shy !

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1 Comment

Filed under The basics.

One response to “Clearing up some confusion about “development” that few mention.

  1. Brielle

    I agree with you as the thought of three distinct stages are not as clear cut as one would hope. i personally think of scent, a good one that is, as being similar to a painting by Seurat. There are different stages to a scent as there are different stages of perception to viewing a Seurat. Many small details blended together that grow more unique and come forth as we pay attention, or slightly become less aware as the mood may be, and therefore other aspects come forth and surprise us. i never thought of the “scent pyramid” as being literal, nor being linear. More an abstract map of what we may find.

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