Trying to figure out what aroma chemicals smell like: Potion Royal Black.

If you don’t want to spend money buying aroma chemicals just to get a sense of what these smell like, your other option is to find a scent that apparently is loaded with a specific one. This is easy to do with dihydromrycenol, which has been used in large amounts in many “masculines,” Wings for Men by GBH being one example. Cool Water for Men is another, though with that one you might get distracted by other notes. A less common one is cashmeran or cashmere wood. One reviewer has claimed that Potion Royal Black is loaded with it, and I was able to obtain a bottle in a swap. The notes listed for it are:

Top notes are bergamot, pimento and incense; middle notes are rose, leather and tobacco; base notes are cashmere wood, musk and guaiac wood.

Correlating what I smell in PRB with other scents that have been said to contain large mounts, I have a strong sense that the reviewer is correct here. A striking aspect to PRB is how “perfumey” it is, which for me means, among other things, that it has a tenacious quality that never seems to let up, change over time, or allow other notes to break away from it, even for a moment. It’s there for hours and keeps coming at you, so to speak. It doesn’t smell “bad” to me but it doesn’t really smell “natural” to me either, other than if compared to natural gas. It dominates the other notes that are supposed to be present, which may be another reason why it feels “perfumey” to me. It’s almost like the other notes are swimming in a vat of this aroma chemical.

Reading the list of notes, you might think you are getting a niche scent for a great price, but it seems the idea here was to showcase cashmeran. What is the point of doing such a thing? My guess is that this was meant to create a sense of “masculine elegance,” as some have phrased it. What that means to me is that it’s more for other people rather than the wearer. It might smell great if someone walked by me wearing it, but it doesn’t seem to provide the kind of olfactory experience I find most enjoyable.

On the other hand, there is certainly something to be said for unique compositions. I’ve found that sometimes I need to wear a scent like this a few times before the dominant aroma chemical (s) seems to recede into the background and then some of the other notes can be enjoyed. I think that at this point, dihydromyrcenol and hedione don’t bother me much even if they are used in relatively large amounts. However, the key seems to be that perception that these are “background” elements. And that may be the biggest problem with such aroma chemicals, that is, I can never know when this will happen and when it won’t. If my overall sensitivity is low, then I’m usually willing to give such a scent a chance, whereas when it is high I’ve found it’s best to avoid these. My “last ditch effort” with such scents is to decant them into a dab vial and use them for layering purposes, though of course swapping or selling is a possibility.

UPDATE: I wore it a second time and then wrote up this review on Fragrantica.com:

First time I wore it there was a strong “chemical” quality, though not a “chemical soup.” Instead, it smelled like some natural-smelling notes were swimming in a sea of aroma chemicals. The second wearing was better, as I was able to tone down that chemical quality, probably just “olfactory familiarity,” as one person called this apparent phenomenon. In any case, PRB smells more “expensive”/niche-like that I thought it would, but you have to like the floral note here, which I do. Now I can’t say this is going to displace some of the rose-oriented vintage scents in my rotation, but at least this is one I won’t dismiss. It’s worth wearing at least a couple more times, to see how much I enjoy it, but I can see how some would say that the vintage rose/masculines have nothing to fear from something like PRB. On the other hand it has more “transparency” than the vintage greats of this type, so that may be a strong argument in its favor, depending upon what you’re seeking.

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