The “get some air in the bottle” myth and variable perceptions.


Over at Fragrantica.com, a review of Caron’s Third Man contained this passage:

…I tried this fragrance a couple of times and just couldn’t get past the “sweet wax” impression and decided I would get rid of it. I very much enjoy Caron Pour Un Homme (vintage) and the only thing I detect similar between it and Le 3rd is the lavender. CPuH is much more gentle and understated and softened by the vanilla. But a friend of mine became quite animated about my giving it more time. “Don’t give up on it–it’s a masterpiece, just give it time!”

So I did…

And I gradually changed my mind. I don’t know if it’s something to do with “olfactory familiarity” or simply air getting into the bottle to let it tone down a little (maybe both), but I’m warming up to it more. It’s in my “like” category and may just make it to “love” one of these days.

First of all, I never perceived a “sweet wax” quality to vintage or recent formulation, and I find Caron Pour un Homme (“CPuH”) to be quite harsh, especially in the more recent formulation, but also for vintage. Thus, I am not trying to suggest that this is a person whose opinion I hold in high regard (nor would I want anyone to think I hold his/her opinions in low regard). Instead, I cited this passage because it seems to reveal a great divide in the way people who think about such things come down. For example, the FromPyrgos blog author has spoken about using up a significant percentage of at least one Creed bottle (sealed spray) because it would allow air to change the scent into something clearly more pleasant.

Now for all I now there is a possibility of this for highly volatile chemicals that generate most of the top notes experience for some scents, but to me it is entirely illogical as a general notion. The reason for my conclusion is that I have acquired so many bottles since early 2008 that I have experience with all kinds of situations. I have mostly swapped for bottles that were used once by the person, and then used once by me. In some cases I initially really disliked the scent but months later decided to give it another chance. And some of those times I found the scent to be considerably more pleasant. In other cases, however, a scent I thought I’d always want to have in the rotation became harsh or irritating (I usually don’t wear the same scent within a two or three month period, if not longer).

This has happened over and over again, and I think I have a good idea about the kinds of things to be concerned about if I get a chance to at least spray a bottle once, but many of my acquisitions are “blind buys” or swaps. And I think the reviewer cited above made a good suggestion when he/she said that “olfactory familiarity” was at work. My guess is that this is similar to how many of us acquire a taste for food items that we previously disliked. If getting air into a bottle, perhaps after 5 ml or more was used up,were a major factor, I think I would have noticed. Instead, I’ve experienced this with only a spray or two missing from a bottle, and if anyone wants to claim that makes a huge difference, go ahead – I have only so much interest in debunking ridiculous ideas (though it’s certainly possible that a scent might change over the first few months presumably because the company didn’t do a good job of letting it macerate long enough, in rare instances).

My contention is that the kinds of perceptual differences can be so vast from one wearing to another that chemical reactions simply cannot account for this. The scientific state of the art with perfumery is such that this is rarely if ever an issue with the usual techniques used to create them. On Basenotes.net, there was a recent thread in which the first post contained this:

On some days, certain notes pop their heads up more so than others. I find this interesting, and I really enjoy it.

Aventus is one of the culprits. Some days, like today, the vanilla stands out and is quite noticeable even in the opening, but most days I get no vanilla at all.

GIT is the same way. Some days it’s just green, green, green. Other days, not as much.

Any of your fragrances do this for you?

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/399761-Sometimes-fragrances-smell-different

Several people responded, all of whom (at the time of this writing) agreed with this sentiment, except for “HankHarvey,” who I believe to be the FromPyrgos author. In the past this author has claimed something along the lines that scents are “objective.” I pointed out that for some reason this might be his perception, so it’s his reality, but clearly it is not the overall reality, because we are talking about perceptions here, and you can’t tell others what they are perceiving, though of course there are some people in the world who think they can do such things. In the psychology community, this is often called “gaslighting” (based upon what occurred in a very old film called “Gaslight”), meaning that a person might say something like, “no, I never yelled at you, but you yelled at me many times,” even if the opposite is true. I’ve had one person do this to me (a relative) and found it to have both irritating and amusing qualities. I wonder how many of the people who do this do it on purpose. In any case, one person’s perceptions can’t be “objective.” That is the realm of science (though science is concerned with theories, at best) or technology (such as if you were to fly a plane around the earth to verify that it is spherical).

NOTE: A good example of variable perceptions (in this case between those who have studied scents and those who have not) was documented recently when perfume bottles that were a century and a half old were opened:

…The smell of the fragrance was overwhelming of rotten citrus with some notes of hydrogen sulfide (commonly known as rotten eggs).

The perfumers characterized the smell as unpleasant however to the amateur nose of the archaeological researchers the smell was characterized as surprisingly citrus, grapefruity, and inoffensive.

http://www.cafleurebon.com/150-year-old-lost-fragrance-found-in-a-shipwreck-piesse-lubin-perfume-rescued-off-the-coast-of-bermuda/

NOTE #2: In the past the FromPyrgos author seems to have put quite a bit of weight behind the responses to threads such as the BN one cited above. However, in this case, do any of us believe he will admit that it’s likely that most people who become “fragrance hobbyists” (if not all-out aficionados) can experience quite a bit of variance when they wear a scent at least several times?

UPDATE: After publishing I went to the thread and counted 15 who agreed with the thread starter and one who agreed with “HankHarvey.” That person, “hednic,” is someone I may have alluded to in a previous post. He claims to have perhaps thousands of scents, which means he is either a liar (which I doubt) or else there is no way he could remember what the scent smelled liked during his previous wearing – it would have occurred years earlier! Moreover, he talks about his acquisitions, which appear to be a couple of hundred a year if not more. Not only does this seem to be another “exception proving the rule” situation, but hednic seems to be terrible at detecting notes and has admitted that on more than one occasion. Someone who has thousands of bottles but can’t seem to detect more than perhaps a few notes (not necessarily most of the time) may indeed think that a scent he smelled a few years (or more) earlier doesn’t seem to have changed – to him it may all be an olfactory blur !

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