Tag Archives: fragrance chemist

Is a newbie “spontaneous fragrance modification” myth very common these days?

Image result for molecules

First, I’ll mention what led to my thought about a possible myth, which began with a review I posted on the Yatagan/Caron page on Fragrantica.com

I obtained a recent formulation (batch 402114), and it definitely is different from my 2010 bottle. The base is weaker and overall it seems simpler. However, that does make it more wearable for “modern sensibilities,” as they say. In this way it reminds me of my recent formulation of Kouros (as compared to vintage Kouros). It’s certainly still Yatagan (of perhaps 10 years ago), with that celery quality (which is not present in “deep vintage”), but it’s clearly less “macho.” The major “problem” for me is that I prefer deep vintage and so there’s no good reason for me to wear this.

Another reviewer, in 2012, said this about it:

…And by the way the reformulation is still quite strong and just as good, and this scent could easily become somebodies signature scent.

I respect this point of view, and my 2010 Yatagan bottle might be perceived as “better”‘ by a vast majority of people who compare it to “deep vintage,” which is fine with me.  There is nothing “bad” about the 2010 formulation, and I’m glad Caron didn’t try to “modernize” it.  The March, 2014 formulation (batch code 402114), however, does strike me as an attempt to save some money, though without tinkering too much with the composition (such as occurred with the huge cinnamon note in “modern” Z-14).  For me, deep vintage is great, whereas 2010 is unbalanced and therefore unwearable, with a bit of tweaking to the formula too.  In any case, not long after I posted that review, this one appeared:

@Bigsly: the difference of smell between a current bottle and an old one is not due to formulation differences, but to the fact that the old bottle has oxidized slightly, allowing the fragrance to develop and “open”.
If you smell your current bottle compared to one open since 10 or 20 years, it’s no surprise that the smell is slightly different, but nothing related to hypothetical reformulations. (a different batch doesn’t mean they changed anything in the formula, although here it may be possible in regard to oakmoss, because of the new 2014 IFRA regulations- but it’s not automatic).

After reading this, I added the following to my review:

Note that I disagree with Andy the Frenchy’s statement above this review and in fact consulted a fragrance chemist, who has this to say:

“This question brings up Perfumery 101 lessons about the nature of chemical composition and how smell works. At it’s very core, perfumery is about volatility, or the rate in which things evaporate. When sealed in an airtight container with compounds that extend shelf life (and inert gases are always used to make sure it it stays fresh) you’re going to get almost zero change in chemicals involved.”

Oxidation makes such concoctions smell worse not better, and can lead to skin rashes, as this abstract makes clear:

“Terpenes are widely used fragrance compounds in fine fragrances, but also in domestic and occupational products. Terpenes oxidize easily due to autoxidation on air exposure. Previous studies have shown that limonene, linalool and caryophyllene are not allergenic themselves but readily form allergenic products on air-exposure…”

The source is Contact Dermatitis. 2005 Jun;52(6):320-8.

Limonene and linalool are among the most common ingredients, so anyone who wants their fragrance oxidized has no idea what they are talking about, IMO, but perceptions can be rather odd. For example, there was a shipwreck found a few years back – it was over 100 years old! There were two perfume splash bottles in it. Non-perfumers questioned thought it smelled fine but the perfumers said it was clearly “spoiled.” Not many years ago, when I said that I had never encountered a vintage bottle that had a “spoiled” drydown, at least one blogger and a perfumer (who had an obvious conflict of interest) disagreed. If the scent has volatile top notes, especially citrus, those might be “lost” over the years, but the problem for those who claim that their fragrances got considerably stronger or the smell got better don’t seem to realize that it would mean more of the same molecules were created in that sealed bottle or new molecules were created that smelled better, which is something fragrance chemists and perfumers would already know and incorporate into their compositions! Now if you think you “reinvented the wheel” then go ahead and try to demonstrate it scientifically so that you can be the next Einstein. Today’s fragrances are nearly all or entirely synthetic, so for anything that isn’t special (and really expensive), the only change will be for the worse. Of course, to save money sometimes the formula is cheapened, as people like Luca Turin have pointed out a long time ago. In any case, you can do your own research and decide for yourself.

Then a few days later, this review appeared:

This is not a forum about perfume composition, it’s a series of reviews about Yatagan, but I’d like to address a couple of points.
– Old bottles of fragrance will undergo a process of oxidization once they are used, so Andy the Frenchy’s comment as posted is likely to be accurate in the majority of situations (assuming the majority of vintage bottles on the market have been used at least once.)
– Oxidization and its effect on odour is hardly limited to whether some terpenes become catalyzed! And…. Just because oxidization results in a perfume material become a potential irritant hardly means that it does not smell good (or even better) for it. Plenty of wonderful materials are potential irritants, as anyone can find out by googling most of the ingredients on the back of any box of perfume (IFRA regulated or not). Time to reread Paracelsus on that one.

Anyway, I post too much about things I like but now I feel guilty for not respecting the purpose of this space so I will say (about Yatagan) –

Certain fragrances seem to ‘open up’ once opened, oxidized and aged a little. Speaking anecdotally (I’m no chemist), I’d say that with some bottles I have owned, aging and intermittent usage over several months helps to produce the ‘fuller’, ’rounder’ and ‘more natural’ experience many people look for from a composition like Yatagan… If your bottle feels a bit thin, try shelving it for a little while (:

Putting aside this person’s lack of understanding of the term “composition” in this context, it seems to me that something quite odd has taken hold in the “online fragrance community,” perhaps especially among “newbies, and perhaps mostly due to claims made by the major Youtube reviewers.  That is, many seem to think that there is no such thing as a reformulation, but rather that molecules in a sealed spray bottle interact significantly with air even after just a few sprays and the composition is magically transformed into something much better or much stronger.  Fortunately there is a test to determine this, though unfortunately, it’s expensive (for us non-1% people).  However, if you want to make this kind of incredible claim, perhaps you should be willing to “put your money where your mouth is.”

In this situation, that would mean the claimant is willing to pay for a GC/MS study done by a competent technician, if that person cannot detect any significant change in either the number of molecules or the “spikes” that denote the strongest aroma chemicals on the resulting graph.  I certainly would pay if I bought a new fragrance (100 ml) from a major company (in a sealed spray bottle), had the GC/MS study done, then stored it properly for a couple months and used a quarter ounce of it, then had another GC/MS study done and the technician found that the concoction had become much stronger or had changed and smelled much different (yet had not “spoiled”).  If you are not an expert, you should either do some research and/or try to consult one, before making claims that suggest something that would violate the “laws of nature!”

Interestingly, one doesn’t hear much about all the skin rashes one would expect if these extraordinary claims were true.  One of the mysteries of chemistry is that two molecules might be very similar yet have different scents, no scent, or other properties that are quite distinct.  Or two molecules can be structured very differently yet smell quite similar.  However, this is a major area studied by people who become professional perfumers!  If what is being claimed by these apparent newbies were true, fragrance chemists and professional perfumers would know this and they would incorporate these properties into the final product.  They would certainly let the person or company employing them know that there was a simple and inexpensive procedure (that only took a few weeks or so) that could make the finished product much stronger or smell much better.  But of course this is something that would likely have become well known long ago, perhaps in the nineteenth century!


Filed under Criticizing the critics., The basics.