It is no secret that the pride of my fragrance collection is not any of my flacons of various vaulted Creeds. Nor is it my crystal bottle of Shiseido White Rose Natural, brought back from Japan by my loving wife, on a special fragrance mission. Nor is it my rare bottle of Kenzo UFO, that fragrance kept carefully in both the cool and the dark, refrigerated for many of its years, hiding its bizarre modern-art bottle, just to preserve its mind-bending ozonic odor.
No, my friends. The centerpiece of my collection is one of the first 400 bottles of a fragrance which took newsrooms by orange storm – that being Cheeteau, the celebrity fragrance of one Chester Cheetah.
I could give you the cheesy history of this cheesier fragrance as a dry summary of facts, but I prefer to entertain you with this lovely video.
The launch of Cheeteau in late March of 2014 included a chance for members of “the people” like me to snag a bottle, and – lucky boy that I am – I snagged one. The “lot number”, for lack of a better description, is the date of manufacture – 031814 (March 18, 2014).
I don’t remember if the deal was finalized on Twitter or on a Frito-Lay website, but the promised free bottle came in the mail, stuffed into a plain manila envelope, along with the “relaxing Chester” PR image you see above.
I quickly realized that the fragrance was one of those things which sound wearable in principle, but prove to be anything BUT, when the opportunity arises. You almost certainly do NOT want your clothes to smell like this. Thus, the fragrance sat for 8 long years, in a dark drawer, behind a bunch of neglected minis, and next to the dregs of a 1-ounce mega-mini bottle of Abercrombie & Fitch Fierce, in the original, tacky, “six-pack of abs” packaging.
Yes, how daft of me to treat the pride of my collection in such a cavalier way. Thankfully, my wife never found it, and thus never “borrowed” it, as she surely would have drained the bottle.
Indeed, I can’t help but notice that Cheeteau’s bottle resembles that of my wife’s beloved Chanel No. 5 L’Eau, improved by a precious thin aluminium cap, in the famed le decant style, instead of mere glass. Le Lion had best watch out. Le Guépard is on the prowl.
So – let’s get down to business. How does it smell?
VERDICT: Sex in a grocery store.
Now, when I say that, you may remember something like THIS:
WELLLLL – Cheeteau is different. As in a different section of the store – or maybe even in the back area, where the stinky cheeses are stored. And maybe a little less “PG” on the imagery.
Let’s start off with the fact that this fragrance smells “like” Cheetos, but to the discerning nose of either a Cheetophile or a perfumista, or in my case BOTH, it is NOT a strict match for ANY of the edible variations on Cheetos.
In that category, I include the familiar Cheetos Puffs, the more modern, and denser, Cheetos Crunchy, and even one of my favorites, Chester’s Puffcorn. All of which I have available for comparison as I write.
The fact that Cheeteau isn’t a strict reproduction of any form of Cheetos is actually a good thing. The smell of pure Cheetos in a bowl, or even Cheeto crumbs on fingers, is not all that interesting. In contrast, Cheeteau is VERY interesting.
For starters, Cheeteau has some of the smell of an actual perfume. In fact, the very first whiff is the one that will catch you off guard, because you may think “Hey, this smells like a fragrance from Macy’s. This stuff is going to be in my comfort zone.”
A definite “maybe” to that thought.
The brief impression that this might be a real fragrance, is likely the work of citrus and ethyl maltol, as well as some typical basenotes.
You are initially presented with something that begins to smell like a feminine gourmand. That lasts between a half a second and two seconds.
To quote my dear wife:
First it smells like perfume. Then it smells like food. It’s not very good.
Please. Don’t let that one perspective throw you off. This is niche fragrance. We expect a little weirdness.
Or maybe even…..
What happens right away is that the cheese starts to come through, but – HUGE shock – it’s actually very good cheese, and very nuanced. The cheese is not alone.
Indeed, what I smell is very much like the “gourmet” section of better grocery stores. I smell CHEESE – good cheese – I smell MEATS – quality processed meats – I smell BREAD – good stuff with real crust on it – I smell the BAKERY – I smell the DELI – I smell COOL, FRESH, and RECIRCULATED AIR – and last but not least, I smell some kind of perfume struggling to get out.
It’s a very ambient smell – with the different recognizable scents having much more “note separation” than mere “sniff the Cheetos crust on my fingertips” or “bury my face in the bag.”
Like I said – sex in a grocery store. Just add James Bond or a Bond girl, smiling at you from the deli counter. The rest is up to you.
Yeah. It’s Cheetos.
Cheeteau is not actually a bad fragrance, and oddly, it gets better and better as time goes on. It seems to improve faster on skin than on paper. Paper stays cheesy, but skin gets bready.
On my skin, it actually gets pretty good after an hour or so, turning into a bready gourmand akin to Jeux de Peau.
However – WORD OF WARNING – the cheese never goes away. But if you’re a FOOL for asiago cheese bagels like me, this scent is actually a reasonable, if weird, gourmand.
So – should you go out and buy a bottle of Cheeteau?
In my opinion, this fragrance is ONLY worth pursuing if:
you’re a collector of oddball fragrances
you have an industry connection to manufacture of Cheetos
you’re a fan of every possible kind of gourmand, and you crave novelty
you need inspiration to write a script about sex in a supermarket
That’s it. In fact, if you never smell this, you’re not missing out on much. Put away all thoughts of FOMO on this sucker. You don’t need it. You need to sniff Jeux de Peau.
Because THAT ONE is sex in a bed and breakfast.
And after sex, if you can’t have good coffee and a cinnamon roll, eat some Cheetos. It’s better than a smoke.
I didn’t smell it very much, and I didn’t smell it for very long, but this morning, for the first time since some time before Thanksgiving, I actually smelled – in a faint but definite way – my Bleu de Chanel EdT.
My doctor has found my recovery from COVID (presumably delta) rather remarkable, and definitely atypical. Still, my sense of smell was completely lost.
I had lost my sense of taste, to a large degree, DURING this latest bout, but not for long. For a while, I felt no desire to eat or drink, with things either tasting strange (such as pure water) or not at all (just about everything else). However, as my fever vanished, around days 5-7, I was able to definitely sense TASTE as a separate sense, because the nuances of SMELL were utterly gone.
Thus, I could taste sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and “savory” on different parts of my tongue, and very noticeably. However, these were all very one-dimensional. “Savory” was definitely my favorite, followed by salty, sweet, sour and bitter.
It was certainly enough to get me to eat again. Combined with “mouthfeel”, and relief of hunger, food was enjoyable.
This matched what I had learned from a friend of mine, who suffered permanent anosmia in his youth. He loves to go to restaurants, and loves good food, but he does not experience much difference BETWEEN foods – not like most of us. Having vague memories of smell, he understands what he’s missing, but he simply doesn’t miss it that much, because he has essentially become a gourmet of what he DOES sense. He has to be careful around things like gasoline, which he cannot smell at all – he knows that he can’t sense the presence of even overwhelming vapors of things. Stinky cheeses, on the other hand, may be mild or flavorful in a taste sense, but cannot bother him by their smell.
Well, let’s talk about cheese. I got some cottage cheese as part of my “recovery groceries”, and while it was not as enjoyable as before, I found that I could add way too much salt and pepper and enjoy the spices as “salty” and “savory”. The “mild chalky taste” of fresh cottage cheese, however, wasn’t really there.
Last night, I had a bit of the same treat, but this time – WOW – I could have sworn I could actually taste MORE than just “salty” and “something”. I was tasting pepper AS pepper, and even something from the cottage cheese itself.
That meant SMELL was likely working again.
So – today, I decided to put on some fragrance, just to make sure I wasn’t stinking. I was ALMOST sure that I could smell my Bleu de Chanel deodorant stick, but when I sprayed on the EdT, I actually GOT the main accord. Not strongly, but enough that it was unmistakable.
Where this goes, I don’t know. But it’s probably someplace good.
In fact, I’ve got to run. I need to report my Scent of the Day!
I never thought I would make a post with a bizarro-world title like this one, but then, these are interesting times.
Ultimately, this is a post about Anosmia. I decided to do it here, rather than on Basenotes, because on Basenotes I can only tell you some of the truth. Here, I can tell you as much truth as I want.
If I tell you about some of those things on Basenotes, what I tell you will very likely be removed as “misinformation”. I could “tempt the dragon”, as it were, and try to see what I could slip past censorship on BN, but I tire of such games.
I choose not to take part in a world of censorship. Those who choose to go along with censorship, or worse yet to help enforce it, may be my friends, but they’re now “on the other side”.
I wish them well in what is to come.
So now – let’s get down to the business at hand.
The last fragrance that I registered as my “Scent Of The Day” – oddly at 11:26 AM on 11/26/2021 – was Aramis Havana. It is also the last fragrance that I distinctly smelled, before losing my sense of smell, yet again, to a coronavirus.
I can definitely say that this last case of anosmia was due to “COVID-19” as defined by “the authorities”, because multiple tests that THEY approved (more or less) say that it was. Beyond THAT, the science of the tests (some of which I ran myself) is personally convincing to me. SO – put another way – the medical establishment and I agree that I just had COVID-19.
Now – one of the real beauties of having this very well-confirmed case of COVID-19 in November 2021 is that it was almost exactly the same as whatever disease I had in January of 2020. In that case, I not only lost my sense of smell – I lost a very noticeable amount of lung function.
Sadly, my January 2020 case preceded the existence of both PCR and antigen tests, and even antibody testing was called “negative” (no value stated), when that became available to me, six months later. I was thus unable to “prove the patently obvious” in a world that demands even a bad test output over the soundest logic. Nevertheless, when one has a viral disease that matches the symptom checklist down to every last item, AND it leaves one with classic permanent damage matching the alleged new villain, it’s not exactly rocket science to make a simple clinical diagnosis like doctors have made for thousands of years.
If I was convinced BEFORE that the earlier case was COVID, I am now ten times as certain. With my “refresher”, I no longer have any doubt.
NOW – here is where things begin to get tricky.
I’m now pretty much over this latest bout of COVID-19. My fever has been gone for two days, and I’m fairly certain that the virus is gone, too. I will be testing that, too, shortly. But I’m essentially back to normal.
Other than the fact that – well – I cannot smell a damn thing.
I can hold a stinky bottle of juice right up to my nose, and I get NOTHING. At all. I can try to IMAGINE smelling something, and I can almost do it, but if I’m honest, which I am, then I call it what it is – indistinguishable from imagination. “Placebo effect notes.”
I can taste the basic tastes, such as salty, sweet, bitter and savory. I have a sense of capsaicins. I can enjoy “mouthfeel”. However, “flavor” as we normally know it – which depends on smell – is GONE, GONE, GONE.
And here’s where things get REALLY tricky.
Part of the reason I pulled through this “second” bout so admirably, is that I had a lot of TOOLS this time, which I lacked the first time.
The scientific literature is filled with excellent results indicating how to manage, limit, and otherwise TREAT COVID-19. Any scientist worth their OWN salt – any scientist who does not need an “authority” to interpret the literature for them – can read this stuff and come to logical conclusions.
There are many such scientists now, but you don’t see us unless you go looking for us. We practice “old school science” where we are not censored.
As a normal scientist, the way science was practiced until recently, I had my own views on whose work impressed me, and whose did not. Adding all my readings and opinions together, I came to an understanding of which drugs, therapies, and treatments worked – to what exact (or variable) degrees they worked, and even more importantly, WHY they worked – or did not work.
Based on well-considered thinking, and acquisition of all the necessary items, I was extremely well-prepared to treat myself, reacting to symptomatic observations as quickly as needed.
One of my tools was a drug now being studied in NIH-authorized clinical trials, and by independent doctors and researchers all over the planet.
The results which have poured in are excellent. They’re not miraculous, by any means, but still – the therapeutic margin on this drug is so huge, it allows a rather weak antiviral effect to be exploited with almost no risk to the patient.
And yet – BIZARRELY – talk about this drug is “forbidden” by media, social media, and even “news organizations”.
Doctors who talk about this drug are having their licenses threatened. Indeed, these same doctors cannot even question the efficacy of masks without having their licenses threatened.
Most cynical of all, my even SAYING any of this is regarded as “misinformation”.
“Nobody is being threatened! You can’t say that! It’s misinformation!”
Are you starting to sense a problem here? I sure hope you are.
Anyway, the bottom line is that I can’t smell fragrance anymore.
Based on my prior experience with COVID-19, it may be months – even up to 18 months – before I can smell again. At least, to where I can smell things and engage in meaningful conversation about what I’m smelling.
On the BRIGHT SIDE, until then, I won’t be able to smell gunpowder, burning buildings, jet fuel, dead bodies, smoldering tires, and all the other smells that are rapidly approaching.
It’s quite nice to see Basenotes (that would be https://basenotes.net) finally getting the makeover Grant has wanted to do for so many years. I’ve helped alpha and beta test the new site (that would be https://basenotes.com), and it is quite nice. I love the new shade of nearly fluorescent green that is replacing “old Basenotes green”. I didn’t save a copy of the updated site logo, but just on modernity of the bottle, it gets applause from me.
Here is “old green”:
The exact color varies, but it’s generally a flat, cooked-vegetable kind of green. The darkness or lightness varies a bit, but it’s never a really vibrant green.
The new green, in contrast, is shinier – more “emerald” than “old jade”.
It’s actually a bit brighter, shinier, and more day-glo than the old “Polo green”, but this may give you at least some idea of what it’s like.
Anyway, here is the deal. We are now locked out of BN while Grant transfers data to the new site. Many people on the site are quite nervous. Basenotes will likely be down for 48 hours or more.
Note that Strathmore Watercolor Paper 140 lb was recommended.
I decided to indulge the latter fancy as well, during a trip to the art store with my dear wife.
HOWEVER, free to choose any paper of my liking, I opted for STIFFER stuff, because I cannot stand weak, floppy, soy-boy blotters, that remind me of my own manly manliness on a bad day. However, I didn’t want the blotter manliness of, let us say, the “isoquinoline crowd”, who likely smell of Viagra, whatever that may smell like, and don’t require that extreme pleasure in life known as ladies.
Thus, <royal>WE</royal> chose Strathmore Mixed Media paper, 400 Series | Best, 184 lb
Sorry that this image is just the cover of the pad, but that is probably the most useful, as that is what you shop for. The paper itself is white like the background of the next image.
Now, as you can see by my affinity for the pleasant brown of my TPMs, I’m not hung up on the color of my mouillettes, other than to note that you NEED some in white, because those are excellent for detecting the STAINING which happens with some juices. I don’t always care about that, except typically for comprehensive reviews or use on clothing.
Likewise, not all papers are BLEACHED to the extent of white paper, and may thus retain pleasant but interfering natural odors, although I have never found this theoretical problem to show up in practice with expensive papers.
Yes, I sniff random paper. Surely I don’t have to explain this to perfumistae!
Thus, feel free to pick a pleasant mouillette color of your choice.
Size is also a consideration, and there are MANY sizes available.
I chose 6 inch by 8 inch, with the intent of creating 6-inch mouillettes. Indeed, I have found that length SO perfect, that I am now grabbing these homemade art paper mouillettes in preference to both commercial and my TP specials.
I’m too lazy to upload a picture of these art paper mouillettes right now, but they are easily described.
I have found that I no longer enjoy my highly tapered mouillettes with the fat handles and thin blades. I am much more pleased by a simple, thin (tall) trapezoidal shape, having a roughly 1/2-inch (12 mm) base width, a 1/4-inch (6 mm) tip width, and a straight, long cut between them.
Imagine the following, but roughly 12 sun long, and then take that whole thing and scale it down by half, and then switch units to inches – so the ends are 1/2 inch and 1/4 inch, and the length 6 inches.
Note that I snagged this trapezoid from a rather interesting WordPress blog, doing Japanese modeling of historical objects. Fascinating stuff.
The resulting mouillettes – of which I get about 20 per sheet of media paper – are absolutely unique. If you do a web search on “trapezoidal perfume smelling strips”, you will find everything BUT a long, thin trapezoidal shape. All the commercial ones are either simple rectangular, or try to do some kind of fancy taper, but none are the obvious simplicity of a simple constant taper of a long trapezoid.
Technically, if you snip a rectangular sheet of paper into long, thin, trapezoidal mouillettes, as evenly as possible, what you will get are two right trapezoids at the ends, and isosceles trapezoids in between.
This image illustrates the difference.
The yellow strips here are roughly double-wides of the mouillettes I’m making. You can see some subtle right angles on the left-hand yellow strip and the white strip on the right – those are the right trapezoids you are forced to make on the ends, but to be honest, it’s hardly noticeable, as you can see here.
Your mind may symmetrize them automatically to isosceles (left-right symmetrical, here), and indeed this is an excellent visualization of a phenomenon in perfume, in which our minds try to neaten things up a bit, sometimes, and perceive what we expect or hope to see, rather than the reality that is close. Or, likewise, the right trapezoids may just bug the hell out of you. MISTER MONK.
This seeing or not seeing of differences that may or may not be there is the same general phenomenon as when we smell a perfume on a man, and smell it differently than when we smell the same fragrance on a woman. It’s not skin chemistry – it’s psychology of perception. Often, when you recognize the fragrance, the illusion of difference is broken, and you realize that Bulgari Black is Bulgari Black.
Anyway, back to moillettes. I’m trying to be freer with the things, but I have to admit that my old stinginess is hard to get rid of sometimes. I don’t use ANY of my mouillettes as much or as often as I should.
One benefit I am finding, however, is that I’m also stingy with throwing them out. They hang around, no pun intended, hanging over edges of flat surfaces, FOREVER. This is giving me real insight into who is doing good bases, and who is not. Certain Guerlains, and certain scents from Bath & Body Works, last forever, in excellent shape. Props to Aqua Allegoria Flora Nymphea, Gingham, Azzaro Wanted Girl, and damn near anything by Thierry Mugler.
One more point. Toilet paper core paper is often notoriously hard to mark with a pen, because the paper is surface treated in some fashion that prevents adhesion. A ballpoint pen can be impossible to use on that paper.
In contrast, mixed media paper in a six inch length is simply perfect. Easy to mark, easy to pick up, easy to hang over an edge without touching the surface with fragrance. They retain fragrance very well. The 184-lb weight (300 g/m2) is very sturdy but not stiff. The strips “pick up” nicely. TP moillettes pick up a bit more nicely as far as studiness, but their length is not optimal, IMO.
Thus, I continue to explore the mouillette radical abundance paradigm.
To half-quote the signature of a fellow Baesnoter, “sniffing more” is a good thing.
The natural woody component Made from perfectly natural scrap Gave an unearthly but natural smell And naturally got the synthetic rap
I love Akigalawood® on salad and eggs. I think I love it in WINE most of all. But once I realized that rotundone is the geosmin of woody fruits and berries, I have no faith that all these beautiful peppery red wines I love didn’t get a little “shake, shake, shake” by some “Winestein” who figured out how to turn every average wine into a contender.
I am slowly learning not to care. Humans are natural. And they leave an incredible scent trail wherever they go. Sit back and enjoy the ride.
So by now you’re curious – hopefully.
I got curious about Akigalawood® from the moment I read the name, but I didn’t get curious enough to dig for the “molecular truth” until I wore L’Homme Lacoste and read that it contained that “mysterious” component.
Akigalawood® did NOT take the perfume world by storm – but it has been steadily appearing in more and more perfumes since roughly 2015.
In doing so, Akigalawood® has been accused by perfumistas, as one might expect, of being the “next norlimbanol”. But when it was finally accused of actually BEING norlimbanol, I decided that I had to find out if it was true.
And it may actually be true, in a way, but it’s complicated. Because “akigalawood” the smelled and labeled note is not the same thing as Akigalawood® the captive.
Let me explain that.
One of my favorite accords – “guaiac wood” – which was identified by a combination of sniffing, reading, and basic logic, for numerous perfumes – turns out to actually be a combination of guaiac wood oil and norlimbanol. It might as well be called “impression of guaiac wood” or something like that.
I don’t remember who clued me in on this, or which fragrance we were discussing, but it explained why the accord smells both different from and better than pure guaiac wood “oil” (a wax at room temperature), which I had bought for both comparison and home experimentation.
Are you starting to see why they use norlimbanol?
I remember the first time I smelled somebody’s pure norlimbanol at WPC 2012. The stuff smelled “woody”, but quite far from any kind of actual “wood” I was recognizing in fragrance.
Nor did it smell – to me – like it did to Chandler Burr.
Norlimbanol is one of the most amazing scents around, a genius molecule that should be worth its weight in gold; Norlimbanol gives you, quite simply, the smell of extreme dryness, absolute desiccation, and if you smell it, you’ll understand that instantly—the molecule is, by itself, a multi-sensory Disney ride.
To me, norlimbanol smelled like some kind of wood putty. Not dry – not wet – not even like wood. It almost smelled like something one might apply to wood. An oil. A putty. A preservative.
But to the perfumer’s nose, there must have been quite a bit of possibility. I remember standing next to several entranced perfumers, sniffing the same thing on their own moillettes, and they were mesmerized – literally zoned out.
So, it may very well be that what most of us are smelling as akigalawood, the note, actually DOES contain norlimbanol – along with Akigalawood®, the Givaudan captive component.
Fair enough. But what’s in the captive that is actually for sale?
For one thing (it’s a mixture), it contains THE SPICE.
The “spice” of wood, spices, pepper, wine, patchouli, and many other things.
This is rotundone – a very powerful and important natural scent molecule that imparts a beautiful peppery note to damn near everything, including red wine, and both white and black pepper.
I also strongly suspect that this stuff is in aged, old, oxidized patchouli oil, which has one of the most magical smells of anything I own.
Yes – you read that correctly. “Akigalawood” is related to “agarwood”. Presumably it is responsible for the peppery aspects of a good oud.
Fascinatingly, rotundone is what gives peppery aspects to certain wines. The paper where this was discovered in 2012 is an excellent place to find out more about rotundone in wine, but if you do a web search, you will find even more, because the “winiacs” have been all over the topic.
But for me, the kicker is that this substance is the finishing touch on both white and black pepper. I am an absolute pepper fiend – I cannot get enough of the stuff. At the border between wood and spice – whether that be freshly, coarsely ground black pepper on a salad – running some reddish oak boards through a saw – or a beautiful fragrance like Poivre Samarcande by Hermès – I am in one of my greatest magic moments with any kind of really woody pepper or peppery wood.
“A massive, beautiful oak tree once grew in front of my house, blocking our view of the Mediterranean. Eventually, it grew ill and was felled. The peppery, musky, slightly smoky scent of cut wood etched itself on my memory. The soul of the old oak, mixed with pepper, lives on in this fragrance. The name Samarcande is a homage to the city through which spice caravans once passed on their way from East to West.”
Of course, one cannot read Ellena’s description of his olfactory inspiration for Poivre Samarcande, and not see the parallel of that diseased old oak to the origin of agarwood.
Now – this is precisely the point where most people are reminded of natural processes, and the contrast of those complex aromas with (more or less) unimolecular scents – such as the one made famous by Jean-Claude Ellena, in both Poivre Samarcande and Terre d’Hermès – specifically, Iso E Super®.
Whether or not Iso E Super® is ever found naturally, consider two similar molecules that are – ambroxan and now rotundone.
“Yeah, so you’re talking about some synthetically made natural component. Those all smell very unnatural because they’re just one molecule.”
I hope that you are now seeing the downside of radical abundance. We have figured out the key odorants of great “natural smells”, and yet these natural molecules, in isolation, can smell decidedly unnatural.
Or take norlimbanol, which many regard as very synthetic, like Iso E Super®.
These are two mirror image isomers (“enantiomers”) of norlimbanol. Now compare it to ambroxan.
It helps to have a bit of organic chemistry to see this, but if you take that ambroxan molecule and make three snips of bonds in the exact right places, breaking two rings and lopping off that “CH3” (methyl group) on the right, while flipping UP the CH3 at the bottom when you snip the ring to its right, you get one of the norlimbanol isomers.
In other words, the norlimbanol molecule is deeply related to the natural product ambroxan, which powers ambergris.
It’s kinda cool, but our very natural sense of smell dictates that even the synthetic smells we like, tend to be structurally very similar to natural smells we like, for the vast majority of odorants. Nitro compounds seem to be a fun exception.
But back to Akigalawood®, the captive. This is actually a more “natural” substance than you may think.
The name “Akigalawood” was trademarked by Givaudan on May 28, 2012, and the trademark expires on that date in 2022.
Fragrantica describes it thusly:
Odor profile: A synthetic molecule reminiscent of patchouli with a hint of pepper and fine agarwood.
The manufacturer, Givaudan, describes it this way:
“The mission of the Ingredients Centre of Excellence in Zurich, Switzerland is to employ enzymes to develop new fragrance ingredients, and it was within this context that the Biosciences team recently created Akigalawood®, where an enzyme known as laccase was used to transform a natural starting material into a new natural and captive perfume compound. Akigalawood® has recently been commercialised in a leading men’s fragrance for the Brazilian market. This novel material has a profile similar to that of patchouli, combined with vibrant spicy aspects of pepper and noble agarwood facets. This enzymatic process, which only requires mild processing with salt and water, is also a far more environmentally friendly way to develop new raw materials for fragrance use.”
This same page goes on to describe the manufacture.
This first success originates from a new approach that Boris and his team initiated, where enzymes are used to transform leftover residues and easily accessible natural feedstocks into valuable perfumery ingredients.” Boris states why Akigalawood® has such a successful and innovative profile: “Akigalawood®, which is now a Givaudan registered trademark, represents an exciting new addition to our perfumers’ palettes, in particular because it consists of various powerful and elegant molecules that are otherwise not accessible to the perfumers. Creating new ingredients through bioscience approaches is an excellent expansion to traditional chemistry and also has environmental benefits whenever we manage to make use of a former ‘waste’ product within our supply chain.”
Section 3.1 of the paper starts off with the Givaudan work. The reaction scheme cited above has this caption:
Fig. 1 Oxidation of an α-guaiene rich olefinic fraction with a laccase-mediator system. The olefinic fraction is treated with the Denilite® II S laccase (Novozymes) resulting in the oxidation of oil-resident olefins to the corresponding alcohols, ketones or epoxide.
Reference 11 takes us to a World Patent Application:
WO2012001018 – 1-HYDROXY-OCTAHYDROAZULENES AS FRAGRANCES
Alpha guaiene is the key starting material that leads to rotundone.
A description of the preferred patchouli fraction is provided:
Instead of using patchouli oil as a starting material one may use a light fraction of patchouli oil. By “light fraction of patchouli oil” is meant in the present context the volatile fraction obtained by distillation of patchouli oil that contains the sesquiterpenic olefins of the oil. In one embodiment the light fraction is enriched in a-guaiene and/or a-bulnesene. In another embodiment the light fraction of the patchouli oil is essentially free of patchouli alcohol (CAS 5986-55-0). By “essentially free” is meant a patchouli oil fraction comprising less than 2% patchouli alcohol, preferably less than 1% by weight based on the used fraction.
The fraction of patchouli oil essentially free of patchouli alcohol is preferably used because patchouli alcohol is of high perfumery interest when taken alone.
To be of commercial interest for the production of compounds of formula (I) as defined above the patchouli oil comprises at least 0.05 weight % (e.g. at least 0.1 to about 1 weight %) of a-guaiene and/or α-bulnesene based on the used fraction. Preferably, at least one of the two compounds is present in amounts up to about 50 weight % or even higher, e.g. the patchouli oil or a light fraction thereof comprises about 15 – 70% by weight of α-bulnesene based on the used fraction, or e.g. the patchouli oil or a light fraction thereof comprises about 15 – 50% by weight of α-guaiene based on the used fraction.
Description of starting patchouli fraction
Several examples of the preparation of the invention mixture are given – this is probably the best and most typical.
Example 3: mixture of (1R,3S,5R,8S)- / (1 S,3S,5R8S)-3,8-dimethyl-5-(prop-1-en-2-yl)-1 ,2,3,4,5,6,7,8-octahydroazulen-1 -ol and rotundone from an olefinic mixture containing a-guaiene
Composition (%w/w) of the starting olefinic mixture according to GC-MS analysis : δ- elemene (0.3), β-patchoulene (5.6), β-elemene (3), cycloseychellene (1.75), β-caryophyllene (7), α-guaiene (27), a-patchoulene (10), seychellene (14), δ-patchoulene (5.5), γ-patchoulene (0.45), α-humulene (1), aciphyllene (4), α-bulnesene (18).
A mixture of alpha-guaiene rich olefinic fraction (200 g), 1M KH2PO4/K2HPO4 pH 7.5 buffer solution (200 ml), DeniLite® II S laccase (20 g; from Novozymes), and water (1600 ml) was stirred vigorously while a slow flow of air was bubbled through the sintered glass end of a gas introduction tube, and heated at 40°C for 46 hours. Air-bubbling was stopped and NaOH (20 g, 0.5 mol) was added into the mixture that was heated to reflux under vigorous stirring and N2-bubbling for 9.5 h while the colour of the mixture turned from yellow to brown The resulting mixture was cooled to 25°, poured into H2O (750 ml), and extracted twice with MTBE (750 and 350 ml). The joined organic phases were washed twice with H2O (250 ml) and once with aqueous saturated NaCl solution (250 ml), and dried with MgSO4. Filtration and evaporation of the solvent led to 188 g of crude material. Short-path distillation led to 55.5 g (28 % yield based on 200 g olefinic mixture) of olfactorily pure material (fractions 8-15, 104-153°C/0.10 mbar, oil bath temperature 125-175°C).
GC-analysis: 7.0% caryophyllene oxide, 2.9% (1R,3S,5R ,8S)-3,8-dimethyl-5-(prop-1-en-2-yl)-1, 2,3,4,5,6, 7,8-octahydroazulen-1-ol, 3.1% (1 S,3S,5R,8S)-epimer, 4.2% β-patchoulenone, 7.2% rotundone, 0.3% α-bulnesenone, 0.5% (1R ,3S,3aS,5R)-3,8-dimethyl-5-(prop-1-en-2-yl)-1 ,2,3,3a,4,5,6,7-octahydroazulen-1-ol (compound of formula I), 0.9% (1 S,3S,3aS,5R)-3,8-dimethyl-5-(prop-1-en-2-yl)-1 ,2,3,3a,4,5,6,7-octahydroazulen-1-ol (compound of formula I).
Odour description of the mixture (fraction 8-15): woody, floral, tobacco, reminiscent of some aspects of patchouli and pepper.
Example 3 – Laccase oxidation of a light patchouli olefin fraction
The product of example 3 was then used in a fragrance composition at a rate of 60/900, giving this result.
The addition of the mixture obtained according to the procedure described in Example 3 imparts to the perfume composition, on the one hand a woody, balsamic, peppery note reminding of some cedar aspects of patchouli and of some tobacco-like aspects of agarwood and on the other hand a floral, rosy note reminding of dried leaves. Moreover, the addition of the mixture of Example 3 boosts the bergamot-coumarine accord thus enhancing the diffusion, volume and trail of the whole fragrance.
Effect of adding the invention mixture (presumably Akigalawood or similar) to a perfume
Thus, I am fairly certain that Akigalawood® is a rotundone-containing mixture of reaction products as described in both the patent and the reaction diagram of the journal article.
Akigalawood® can thus be described as “a mixture of patchouli olefins oxidized to corresponding alcohols and ketones, including rotundone”.
These are either natural products, or a spitting distance away. And as a mixture, derived from a natural mixture, Akigalawood® has all the advantages of a natural mixture, in terms of smelling “natural” due to complexity.
Thus, it is no surprise that Akigalawood® has been described as woody, peppery, and patchouli-like.
As a lover of patchouli, I’m happy that Givaudan made this stuff, and I hope this starts a trend, leading back to more “natural-smelling” fragrances.
Not so much for myself, but for my fellow perfumistae who are put off by “synthetic” smells.
A toast to Givaudan, for “taking out the trash”, and turning it into beautiful fragrance!
Just in case that evasive title doesn’t convey the full idiocy of this post, allow me to spell it out in plain old English:
Make Your Own Surprisingly Awesome Perfume Smelling Strips From Toilet Paper Cores
Yeah. You read that right. This is absolutely crazy, but it’s TRUE AF.
Now, I can’t actually take full credit for this “invention”, which must be given to a real character who I refer to by the name of Hillbilly Cologniac. Let’s just say that, next to Hillbilly Cologniac, anyone who would go by the nickname of Redneck Perfumisto is “sophisticated”. HBC, not to be confused with his grand nemesis HRC, is so “prepper” that he regards “preppers” as late to the game. Living his entire life around the premise that World War VI already happened, HBC is awash with odd residues of his version of “radical abundance”, and – yes – toilet paper cores would be one of them. It turns out that test papers for things like radioactive iodine and nerve gas are a thing as well, and – WELL – make your own test papers.
Clearly, this way of dealing with the lower end of the fall of civilization is easily adapted to the upper end.
Although – to be honest here – if you’re a normal person, you just plan ahead and buy enough of those damn perfume smelling things – what do the French call them? – ah, yes – mouillettes – which is basically pronounced “MUY-ETTES” – and you never have this problem. However, if you’re like ME, then you’re intermittently too lazy, too cheap, and/or too distracted to have enough mouillettes on hand and distributed properly in your abode.
Here are some very typical but somewhat medium-grade mouillettes.
You can buy these online at a variety of places. One place which has these and many more products you might need, is Accessories For Fragrances.
Now, if you’re a person with some measure of class, taste and means, and you run out of these things, and you don’t have time to have scent strips airlifted to your castle, then you MERELY grab some of your favorite watercolor paper from the studio and SNIP-SNIP-SNIP you have your emergency mouillettes.
Note that Strathmore Watercolor Paper 140 lb is recommended.
I really have no excuse not to do this, either. My dear wife has watercolor paper. Either that or sketching paper. Almost the same thing. I think I may have even bought it for her. But yes – I’m too lazy for even that level of planning. I would have to FIND where she put the paper, which is undoubtedly in the most obscure place possible, deep in that cauldron of artistic mayhem known as her studio. No. That kind of a hunt is remarkably similar to “chores”.
So if you’re like me, then you are looking for scent strips, you have to “freshen up”, and a moment of borrowed vintage inspiration strikes.
But let’s back up.
One of my first experiments used coffee filters that my wife didn’t like and wanted to throw away. I needed scent strips, whereas she had been complaining about the coffee filters, and wished to get through them faster so she could try different ones. So I helped her out.
Indeed, this happened through several styles of coffee filters.
As you can see, these strips tend to be short, off-sided quasi-rectangular, and overly flimsy.
Coffee filter-derived perfume smelling strips actually work pretty well for differentiating fragrances, and they are also very annoying, for the exact same reason – they tend to evaporate quickly.
Thus, these home-made strips blow through a scent’s progression very fast, and if two fragrances are not the same, it shows up very quickly and very obviously.
Of course, if you’re not comparing two fragrances, but rather analyzing one fragrance in depth, then moving through the scent quickly may not be all that useful.
Personally, however, the real deal-breaker for me is the flimsiness. These thin strips don’t hang over an edge very well, and sniffing them is almost like waving a flag. Thus, I was “on the prowl” for something better.
When I first tried using toilet paper cores, I was immediately pleased that the resulting scent strips were thick enough to make the old problem of laying down the scent strip moot.
However, they also looked a lot like my old coffee filter scent strips. “Quadrilaterals” – if I was lucky. Most were flattened hexagons.
Nevertheless, I was QUITE pleased with the performance. Fragrances seem to last forever – and I’m NOT just talking base notes. I’m talking topnotes and heart. They literally last for days. Topnotes still disappear first, but WAY LATER. It’s basically the same thing you see with normal mouillettes, just s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d – o-u-t – i-n – t-i-m-e.
My second core gave even better results.
These were starting to look like actual professional mouillettes. I got 14 of them from a single core, which I found fairly impressive. On the third core, I got 13 with a bit of waste from failure to match a terminal “down tester” to the backside of the initial “up tester”.
On later cores, going for slightly thinner testers, I got 17 and 18 testers each.
It took me almost exactly 6 minutes to cut up a core into testers – I’m sure others could do much better.
SO – now let’s get down to why you’re likely here – explicit instructions.
I could show you pictures, but that would attract riff-raff, and we can’t have that, so to preserve some level of sophistication here, y’all will have to follow along with my written word.
Core in hand, using scissors, make a single cut along the axis of the cylinder, JUST SHORT OF HALFWAY. You want to leave between 5% and 10% uncut in the middle.
Make a second cut, parallel to this one, the width of a tester HANDLE away from it.
Make a third cut, the width of a tester TIP, away from the second cut.
Make a fourth cut, the width of a tester HANDLE, away from the third cut.
Repeat this pattern until you run out of core.
Flip the core, find a cut “handle” on the cut end
Cut a tester TIP to almost meet that handle, but go JUST SHORT OF HALFWAY.
Repeat that pattern, cutting tips and handles to match the other end.
I find it easiest to cut tips to match handles – the handles on the second end just work out.
When finished, you will have a “furry” toilet paper core. Be amazed! Corigami!
Make diagonal snips to complete your testers, which will fall like rain.
If your testers did not perfectly match, you may have some extra. Save or discard.
That’s it. You have your “emergency” testers.
And just in case you thought I must be completely crazy to do this….
I think it’s clear that I disappeared from fragrance for a while. I think I’m still gone from it, in some respects. But despite that, I felt a need to do something with fragrance tonight. So here I am.
I started wearing fragrance again some time after I recovered (as much as that can happen) from COVID-19. Returning to daily fragrance wear happened rather slowly. I had to learn to wear fragrance again – to tolerate it – just like I had to learn to breathe again.
I was going to tell you about that part, but I found that I could not do it without a lot of bitterness and anger, so please forgive me if I just skip it for now.
Fragrance is part of returning to normal for me. And that’s something I want to do. So I’m just going to do that.
I think this is the first time I’ve worn Spicebomb this year – definitely recently. I think about the smell of Spicebomb all the time, and sometimes it’s confusing whether I’m remembering the fragrance, or remembering remembering the fragrance.
That’s a sign of familiarity. I’m familiar with Spicebomb. It’s like an old friend. And wearing Spicebomb is, for me, like saying very loudly “FALL IS HERE!”
I’m not sure if I originally got a gift set and deo, or a gift set and aftershave, but I now have four items – fragrance, shampoo/body wash, aftershave balm, and deo stick. I usually try to wear them all, when I’m “up for Spicebomb“.
The deo is reliable, strong, consistent with the EDT, and lasts. The shampoo is good and THICK, and the fragrance lingers. The aftershave balm is too thin and watery for me – it smells great and lasts, but the runny white milk of it doesn’t seem very “Spicebomb“, so it’s a bit of a tactile fail. Stiffen that shit up, amigos!
The EDT, of course, is brilliant as far as I’m concerned.
One of the things I absolutely love about Spicebomb is a note, or maybe a set of notes, that many people don’t smell. I would describe them as “girly, candy, and plastic”, and in many ways they are essential homage to Flowerbomb. Yes, the spicy and typically masculine parts of Spicebomb are very enjoyable, but the synthetic candy-cane swipe from the modern fruity floral feminines that Basenoters love to hate – THAT is what gives Spicebomb a kind of modern attitude that never gets old.
Some of my urge to wear Spicebomb recently was likely the result of this unlikely fragrance.
I am not kidding you – the “Bag-a-Bug 2” reformulation of Spectracide’s Japanese beetle lure is one of the best unisex clove rose perfumes out there. It’s abstract, niche, serious, and surprisingly addictive.
Once you read the list of ingredients – which is a lot more revealing than most fragrances on the market – it’s clear WHY this stuff is so good. In addition to a tiny amount of surprisingly recognizable beetle pheromone, which adds a very discernible and cigar-like touch of “bag full of Japanese beetles having bug sex” skank to the lure, the remaining ingredients are essentially cloves and roses.
Japanese Beetle Pheromone
The rose is coming in here as a fruity ester of 2-phenylethanol, which alcohol is, for me, the most typifying component of rose. Throw in the ever-so-essential funky citric floral of geraniol, and the uber-clove of eugenol, and this very fake flower isn’t just attractive to little metallic green beetles – it’s enjoyable to picky perfumistos who have a deep desire to get back into fragrance.
I have tried some of my stronger rose fragrances post-COVID, and they’ve been a bit of a turn-off. But this wear of Spicebomb has been inspiring. It’s not exactly rose, and it’s not exactly cloves, and it’s not exactly what I was smelling, coming from the Japanese beetle trap.
But it’s exactly what I needed.
Have a great week, people. This one is looking up already!
In the process of explaining how I ended up buying what is probably one of the most well-known yet less commonly owned fragrances in my collection, it is my hope to do all of the following:
(1) Give readers a half-way decent review of the fragrance – Galop d’Hermès.
(2) Explain the allure of THE BOTTLE in this instance, to those who cannot understand “bottle buys”
(3) Demystify the house of Hermès, just a bit, for those who are “new to the brand”
(4) Shed some limited sunlight on the topics of rose and leather scents in general
(5) Encourage men having psychological difficulty “crossing the aisle” to wear marketed feminine fragrances, by providing some brutally honest, non-PC talk about the benefits, the risks, the joys, and the laughs.
Because YES – fragrances do have gender – it says so right on the bottle – and yes – it makes a difference – and yes – sometimes wearing fragrances that members of THE TARGET GENDER actually LIKE THEMSELVES is one of the dirtiest tricks in the little black book of mmm-mmm-mmm.
And with an explanation of THAT, we will get started.
I have a policy about buying fragrances when I’m shopping with my wife. If my WIFE wants me to buy a particular fragrance – and we are talking about the same wife that thinks I have WAY too many fragrances – then I don’t ask questions – I simply BUY IT.
Fragrances that YOU like, and that your “significant other” likes, and that your “significant other” likes on you – these are too few and far between. Just buy the damn stuff, and don’t ask questions.
I once had the experience of watching a college-aged woman – stunningly beautiful, mind you – nearly begging her muscle-bound boyfriend, while fragrance-shopping for him in Sephora, to let her buy him Dior Homme. It was cringeworthy to the point of pain to watch this guy simply NOT taking the hint.
One needs to bear in mind that Dior Homme has always been considered by some to be a bit “girly” because of a slightly cosmetic iris accord that many likened to lipstick. Many women love to wear Dior Homme themselves. The somewhat unisex nature of Dior Homme is not a big deal now, but it was back then. There were a few guys who simply couldn’t go there. However, most guys could, and the fragrance was quite popular. My wife likes it, too, by the way, although on ME, not on HER.
What I have found is that there are basically three kinds of fragrances my wife likes on me:
(1) man-gendered fragrances that smell good to her (there are not that many)
(2) man-gendered fragrances that make me smell fresh and clean (there are many)
(3) women’s fragrances that smell good to her and that she thinks are “almost for men” or “should have been for men” (surprisingly many)
It’s interesting that my wife sometimes thinks masculines “should have been” feminine and vice versa. My suspicion is that these are what we perfumistae would otherwise describe to each other as “unisex”, but my wife simply doesn’t have this concept in her highly gendered and somewhat authoritarian fragrance worldview.
That’s OK – I simply transform fragrances from her worldview to mine and vice versa.
So – where were we? Ah, yes. Galop d’ Hermès.
Back when Galop d’Hermès was introduced, I very quickly figured out that the bottle was supposed to be a stirrup, because “horsey stuff” is a thing at the House of Redneck. My wife doesn’t have any Hermès stirrups, but the ones she does have, that go with her non-Hermès French saddle, really look a lot like them.
While I’m not a rider, or at least not much of one, I’m an enabler of my wife’s Euro-style riding hobby. I built her a kind of “hobby horse” to store and display her saddle and other gear, and I routinely accompany her to the “maison équestre” to help her pick things out. I bought her an Hermès saddle pad, and helped her find the right saddle, steering her to a French model not only for sinister Francophilic reasons, but because I know her taste better than she does, and I act towards it when she wanders too far into “trying things” or “not caring” in ways that I know will ultimately make her unhappy.
I’m her “guardian motorcycle rider“. I understand these things, but from a slightly different perspective.
Anyway, Hermès stirrups are sleek, modern, metallic, and I love them. While I would not go so far as to describe myself as a stirrup fetishist, I would not argue with the description of Hermès stirrups as sexy, in an Hermès way. My fellow Hermèsophiles know exactly what I’m saying.
Hermès design and aesthetics are centered around an idea which seems extra-snobbish to some, but is actually rather profound to those of us who think life is too short to enjoy all the beauty that “___” has left for us to behold. One might describe it as “everyday is actually very special – let Hermès help you luxurify your daily life in that way”. Now you may not think that a 1000-euro selfie stick is the way to do that, but SOMEBODY does – right?
Sorry, just kidding. Without looking at the catalog, I can tell you that there is no such thing. There is an Hermès drone for taking selfies, but it’s not “real Hermès” – it’s some Canadian company scamming on the name.
So no. Just no.
However, Hermès has a beautiful man’s ring that looks every bit like some little hex nut that affixes your bathroom plumbing to the bottom of a toilet tank, and I want it badly.
But again, just kidding about the toilet stuff. That particular nut was superseded by hand-tightened plastic a LONG time ago.
THAT RING is a combination of the winky side of Hermès, along with their very wonderful way of taking inspiration from all sorts of things and “keeping it fresh”. Their Toolbox fashion jewelry series is actually quite nice, very subversive for a “handy” guy like me, and while my octagonal silver ring from Tiffany & Co. is somewhat similar, it is unwearable while using tools, so the stainless steel Hermès ring is still very tempting.
No – the real Hermès is daily luxury, daily art, daily lifestyle, and an insistence that there is a smooth continuum of these things which none of us has to abandon – ever. Ralph Lauren is very much like that, and a whole lot cheaper at the mass market end, so obviously I’m a huge fan. But when I really want to get my design-in-daily-life jones on, and pay a little extra for cutting-edge edge, Hermès is the stuff.
So Hermès stirrups. BECAUSE Hermès.
Now, my belaboring of all this stuff about the Hermès aesthetic has more of a point than merely explaining my love for the stirrupy bottle, or making jokes about selfie sticks. If you don’t believe ME that Galop d’Hermès is decidedly “Hermès” in that “omnipresent art and utilitarian luxury” way, then you can believe perfumer Christine Nagel, in an interview HERE:
“I’m seduced by Hermès’ femininity,” Nagel continues to explain, “it’s very interesting because it is bold, elegant, and based on tactile strength. You really need to go to an Hermès store to see it but, if you wear a piece of Hermès, it gives you an allure, a certain look. The Hermès woman has elegance and panache, but also this feeling of well-being because the textures are comfortable, well chosen. They are clothes that you wear every day; as Pierre-Alexis Dumas says, “we support women in their daily lives. We don’t do eveningwear, we make clothes to wear day-to-day.” It’s different – and these are all values that I try to place in my perfumes.”
-perfumer Christine Nagel, via Olivia Singer in AnOther Magazine
The point profoundly impacts what kind of fragrance we’re talking about here, and almost certainly why I’m wearing it. Galop d’Hermès doesn’t smell “little black dress”, and it doesn’t smell “evening gown”. It smells like a lady or gentleman out riding, shopping, driving, or dining elegantly but casually the day before the night.
Rose is an interesting floral component. It used to “be” more masculine than it is now, just like iris used to “be” more feminine than it is now. Thus, STYLISTIC TIME helps to gender rose just a bit, adding onto whatever component algebra adds up to “masculine” or “feminine” in the sniffer’s mind.
Perfume component gender is historically dynamic – it’s culturally fluid – and I would argue that it’s that way because to a large extent it’s storybook – it’s associative and it’s social. Some might even say unreal. IMO, marketing gender is based upon some set of real, deep, cultural if not anthropological gender preferences at the component level, but it’s also quite clear that working artistic component “gender” is largely “historically and socially associative” BEYOND those deeper preferences.
In the case of Galop d’Hermès, viewed from our own perfume culture at larger scale, the style is modern, and that brings the rose slightly toward the feminine, while the primary LEATHER component works toward a masculine character. The fruity component (quince) works with the rose to lean feminine, but there is a definite smoky character, from whatever source it comes from, which brings things back toward masculinity.
Note, of course, that there are counterexamples to ALL of these fluffy generalizations – c’est le parfum.
Overall, Galop d’Hermès ends up in what I would call “guy-wearable feminine territory”. Mostly women are going to want this one, but guys who like rose fragrances can easily get away with it, and not smell like they’re wearing an obviously “feminine-marketed” fragrance.
Galop d’Hermès smells more fancythan it does female. Among us perfumistae, it’s unisex.
In the same way that Etro Manrose is a guy-leaning unisex rose that is perfectly wearable by women, Galop d’Hermès is a femme-leaning unisex rose that is perfectly wearable by men.
Thus, when my wife first smelled Galop d’Hermès, she had no idea if it was a designated masculine or feminine, and I wasn’t really telling her. Neither was the Hermès associate, who – in order to sell an Hermès feminine to a man – mentioned that old canard about perfume smelling differently on men’s and women’s skin. In the case of Galop d’Hermès, men’s skin allegedly brings out the leather, while women’s skin brings out the rose.
Technically, this difference is true, but the reason is purely psychological. Allow me to explain how this works.
Men’s and women’s skins are basically the same. Although men and women do tend to apply perfumes differently, as long as they are applied on skin of the same level of cleanliness, oiliness, and enzymatic activity, the fragrances will experience roughly the same environments. Oily, dry, wet, cool, hot, dirty and clean skin all behave somewhat differently, but oily man skin and oily woman skin of the same oiliness, temperature, humidity, and biological activity are pretty much identical.
However, SMELL is incredibly psychological. Just TELLING people something about a fragrance CHANGES what they will sense by the time their BRAIN figures it out. Indeed, just telling somebody that a fragrance smells LIKE something will change the way they smell it.
And GENDER of the WEARER tells people something. A very BIG something. Thus, when people smell a fragrance ON a person, they will SMELL IT DIFFERENTLY, depending on the gender of the wearer, as they LOOK FOR ASSOCIATIONS.
Once people recognize a scent on themselves or others, it is possible to recognize the fragrance, independent of who is wearing it. But even then, it will smell differently to people, KNOWING the gender of the wearer, and there is NOTHING that can be done to change this, absent a determined mental EFFORT to null out gender associations, which is – quite frankly – extremely difficult.
One of the reasons that I love Galop d’Hermès is the fact that – ON me and TO me – it smells more like a leathery, fruity, sweet and smoky rose fragrance, than it smells like any kind of leather fragrance.
It smells a bit like a Manrose flanker, or an Hermès analog of Gucci Guilty Absolute Pour Femme – another guy-wearable leathery rose fragrance.
I don’t particularly like leather fragrances, other than a few that have strong citrus and nutmeg aspects, which I particularly enjoy. Coach Leatherware No. 01 and the old Tiffany For Men are my idea of what a real leather fragrance for men should smell like. Hermès Bel Ami would be a STRONG masculine leather. For women, any version of Cuir Fill In The Blank will do.
Everything else is something else to my nose. For instance, the wonderful HermèsKelly Calèche strikes me as a leathery floral, not a floral leather. Maybe to some that’s nonsense, but to me, it says that KellyCalèche is primarily a floral scent – NOT a leather fragrance. Despite what everybody else – even Hermès – seems to think.
Translating this to Galop d’Hermès means that – TO ME – the fragrance is mostly a rose scent, and leather is a modifier.
Now – something very interesting about Galop d’Hermès, which I credit to the Hermès salesperson. There REALLY IS a balance to the leather and the rose, and that balance is well within the range of human fragrance psychology. I have proven this to myself by smelling Galop d’Hermès as EITHER a rose fragrance OR a leather fragrance, mere seconds apart. Concentrating on one or the other, I can repeatedly smell it primarily as either a rose fragrance (which is somewhat “female-side unisex”) or as a leather fragrance (which is more on the masculine side of unisex).
This is an ability which I highly recommend cultivating in oneself. It’s a bit like the knowledge that it’s perfectly OK to move around a statue in a museum and examine it from different perspectives.
Because I am much more of a rose person than a leather person, my dominant perception of Galop d’Hermès is that it is a rose fragrance. Nevertheless, my thinking is that “leather people” are going to love this one, because they will very likely experience it as a floral leather.
An excellent comparison fragrance for Galop d’Hermès is Jean-Claude Ellena’s Hermèssence Rose Ikebana, which I believe was used by Christine Nagel as a kind of “house reference” in making sure that Galop d’Hermès stayed “on message” as an exemplary Hermès fragrance, and perhaps even as a nod to Jean-Claude.
Hermès alleges (at least, in my blurb that came with the fragrance) that the primary pairing of components in Rose Ikebana is rose and rhubarb, but my wife is having none of THAT idea. She has an unerring nose for tea, and the moment she smelled Rose Ikebana, she called out “matcha” – Japanese powdered green tea. Hermès does admit elsewhere to some kind of tea component in this one, I believe. Certainly, IMO, the rhubarb note here is far less obvious than the same note in HermèsEau de Rhubarbe Écarlate, also by Christine Nagel. But beyond this point of contention, we know that good Jean-Claude LOVED to put his tea notes into everything, BUT that he also felt the whole industry was conspiring against him in this endeavor, mostly through a kind of shortsightedness about how much people LOVE tea fragrances done right. So forgive me if I half-suspect that our boy JCE pulled a fast one, sandbagging the prominence of his tea notes in Rose Ikebana for the ad copy. If not that, then perhaps it was decided that an identified tea note was simply TOO stereotypical for the marketing, and thus the marketing concentrated on a less “Asia stereotypical” note to go along with rose.
No matter what, consider this all background for the idea that Galop d’Hermès is much more obviously feminine than Rose Ikebana, despite that fact that Galop d’Hermès sports a leather jacket and Rose Ikebana serves tea.
Suede. Whatever. I don’t get picky about the difference, personally, although I admit that there IS a difference, and that it’s useful as a descriptor.
Galop is a more noticeable and nose-catching scent than most of Jean-Claude’s works. A side-by-side comparison with Rose Ikebana quickly demonstrates the relatively extroverted nature of Galop in comparison.
However I should also note the extreme prevalence among my fellow Basenotes comrades of a kind of anosmia to Galop. This has been mentioned many times by Basenoters and other perfumistae – so much so, that it’s clearly NOT people’s imaginations. I have encountered it myself.
In my experience, the way to “get over” this anosmia is to wear a really good dousing of Galop at least once – maybe three sprays (or more) to the body, under the clothes, getting some ON the clothes, and one spray on each hand. Before this experience is over, you’ll be smelling just how pervasive, radiant, and omnipresent Galop actually is.
I will attempt to explain why this works.
Galop demonstrates a certain property that was first showed to me by Basenoter DULLAH years ago for Creed Windsor (later to be known as Royal Mayfair) – the preservation of the rose note by applying to clothing instead of skin. Presumably skin has some kind of temperature, enzymatic, or absorbency property which shifts the balance of rose fragrances away from components that make rose notes prominent and easily identifiable. By simply applying some of the fragrance to clothing, a long-lasting and readily identifiable rose note is obtained.
Secondly, applying fragrances to the back of the hands or the wrists is an old trick for overcoming olfactory fatigue, as it provides a condition of maximally changing concentrations AT the wearer’s nose. Strong airborne concentrations of the components will come and go, thereby overcoming the olfactory fatigue of certain components which we experience, and which can be almost indistinguishable from complete anosmia for them.
Lastly, it seems true to me that many people are hampered in first encountering any fragrance, by imposing a kind of expectation upon its performance – that it “should” only take a certain number of sprays to smell it strongly and richly. What I say to that is remove all doubt. Spray PLENTY of it, and you will smell it PLENTY GOOD.
So combine ENOUGH SPRAYS – including ON CLOTHING and AWAY FROM THE NOSE, and you will be guaranteed to learn what a fragrance actually smells like.
I have used this same technique very successfully to “learn to smell” many individual fragrances, including Bleu de Chanel EDT.
Once one CAN smell Galop, one sees that it is not really a “clubbing” scent, in the LOUD and ATTENTION-GRABBING and ALL-CAPS WAY. But in the same way that Christine Nagel’s Eau Intense Vetiver flanker of Terre d’Hermès has more oomph than the original, Galopd’Hermès is a much more striking scent than Rose Ikebana. Galop is, as others have noted, a return to certain “old Hermès” olfactory values, from Jean-Claude’s life-long love affair with transparency, while still remembering much of Ellena’s legacy and influence.
One of the joys of Galop, in that respect, is that it’s not just a mixture of rose and leather. It’s not just a floral – and a leathery floral – it’s also a fruity floral. In fact, I find ALL of the following aspects present:
The fruity aspect of Galop is restrained, so it never seems like a “typical” fruity floral. The sweet aspect is likewise very light, so it never seems even remotely cotton-candyish or juvenile. The sour aspect merely modifies the fruitiness at a level comparable to the sweetness, giving the fruity aspect a mature complexity. Ditto for the spiciness and the woodiness, in terms of improving the rose note.
The waxiness – less of a note than a kind of omnipresence – is reminiscent of a certain aspect of Slumberhouse Zahd. Yes – THAT was a weird one. The waxy redness of Zahd is not as strong in Galop, but it’s there.
There is an opening floral freshness which is very enjoyable. While the freshness loses its obviousness, it remains as a kind of brightness, keeping the rose from ever becoming dark or dirty.
There is one point about Galop d’Hermès, which I find somewhat humorous, in terms of identifiable aroma chemicals. I could have sworn that I was smelling Givenchy Play Intense in my bedroom and bathroom, and could not understand where it was coming from, until I realized that I was picking up something in the base of Galop, now permeating our house due to my heavy wear of the stuff lately. Play Intense is one I have not owned in years, having swapped it for the regular Givenchy Play in a kind of “the grass is always greener on the other side” move. I often wish that I still had my bottle of Play Intense.
The note I detected from Play Intense is something which may or may not be “coffee wood” or “amyris wood”. Whatever it is, that note shows up, with perfect aroma chemical clarity, in several other fragrances, including Paco Rabanne 1 Million and Donald Trump Empire.
So yes, the idea that Galop d’Hermès and Donald Trump Empire have a very distinctive but subtle note in common is a fun little factoid.
Another fragrance worth closer comparison is the previously mentioned Gucci Guilty Absolute Pour Femme. This is an outstanding yet somewhat unconventional (IMO) berry rose fragrance with patchouli and woods. It is STRONG STUFF – a real demonstration of the genius of the new head of Gucci, Alessandro Michele, who corralled perfumer Alberto Morillas into getting WAY out of the box, and demonstrating HIS genius.
And, of course, this fragrance is EXTREMELY unlike anything by Hermès, particularly Hermès in the Ellena phase. Nevertheless, as a kind of man-friendly femme rose, GGAPF is worth a closer look.
Where Gucci Guilty Absolute Pour Femme (hereafter GGAPF) relies on a combination of excessive diesel-like petrol leather and woody ambers to defeminize the very significant berry and rose, Galop uses a much cleaner and sleeker leather, which only has to work against a fraction of the fruitiness found in GGAPF. The Gucci is also much louder in the base, drying down to a very strong woody scent, nearly comparable in intensity to the beginnings of Galop.
Just like me, my wife finds it difficult if not impossible to call either one of this pair better than the other. Both of these scents are lovable in their own way, and can easily reside in the same collection without any feeling of duplication. And yet they are both “I’m a guy and I want to really scratch my rose itch today” options. They FEEL similar, even though they SMELL very different.
Perhaps it’s all just the amazing versatility of rose.
And thus we are brought, via a blatantly STOLEN header image, looking for “rose + Galop”, to its source – a wonderful interview with Christine Nagel, in an Australian web magazine called “Gritty Pretty” which I have never heard of until now.
I urge you to read this great interview. In it, one hears many of the same “talking points” from other interviews with Christine Nagel, about Hermès in general, and Galop in particular, but there is much more information here, about Nagel’s personal relationship with Hermès, and about what she was thinking with Galop.
Major kudos to author Eleanor Pendleton (who incidentally has two Jasmine awards!) for an awesome interview!
Finally, as promised, I want to deal very straightforwardly with the whole issue of men wearing “marketed feminines”, and to some extent, the reverse – women wearing men’s fragrances.
Women wearing men’s fragrances is quite common, yet you don’t really hear much about it, except on perfume boards. This is actually the secret of the whole thing – don’t talk about it, don’t worry about it. It’s not that women are NOT AT ALL self-conscious about wearing men’s fragrances – they are simply LESS self-conscious about it. They smell something they like, and that they think suits them, they wear it. However, if you are an astute student of psychology, and observe women talking about wearing men’s fragrances, you will sense that they are NOT totally unconcerned with what others will think about it. Au contraire, they are generally fashion-fluent on whether said fragrance will be a good thing or not to their life audience. They simply realize that there is a whole lot more “getting away with it” than men believe, and act quite casually within that knowledge. THEY KNOW THEIR LIMITS.
So that is my advice. Know your limits, and have fun within them.
In my opinion, if wearing a fragrance makes you feel nervous, self-conscious, or uncomfortable in any way, then you should NOT be wearing it. What’s the point? Fragrance should make you feel good! Preferably, in my opinion, it should make a lot of other people feel good, too, although there are many wonderful people who are absolutely unconcerned with what others think about their fragrance choices or levels of wear. Whatever! It’s your life – make choices and LIVE WITH THE RESULT. Change your choices if you don’t like the result.
Personally, I LOVE people who stink up elevators HUGELY with their perfume, and I LOVE people who gasp and cough in mock death when the people of the first type get off the elevator. BRING ME DRAMA! BRING ME VARIETY! Vive la différence!
Have I encouraged you yet? No? Let’s go for some more.
I have friends who think perfume absolutely must be worn at homeopathic levels in all public places, and I have friends who put on EXTRA perfume for funerals because the deceased loved their fragrance. I have to laugh at the latter, because the STIFFS are actually us still-living idiots who worry about not offending each other, when the DEAD GUY is proven to be the mensch by the lady who honors him by wearing her typically excessive fragrance for somebody who tolerated it gladly, and now can’t even smell it – or so WE ASSUME.
Yeah, think about THAT ONE.
So now that I’ve elbowed you HARD with some paradoxical reality, consider the reality of wearing fragrances that – statistically – the other gender LIKES ENOUGH to want to smell all the time. In some ways, it’s not a bad idea. This is why I love to drag my wife along when fragrance shopping, and USE HER to help pick out fragrances. Either that, or I bring samples home and test them on her. That way she never has to know if it’s “pour homme” or “pour femme” until she has already rendered some judgment about whether she would like to smell it on me.
Now, the fact that I may be wearing a “pour femme” that my wife likes on me, does NOT mean I will never offend anybody else with such a fragrance. The fact is, there are people who will be offended by ANY FRAGRANCE that you wear.
However, more likely than offense, are humorous mistakes.
In a demonstration of just how associative and gender-ludicrous fragrance actually is, I was once seated at a lunch table at work, wearing a labeled pour homme (Dior Eau Sauvage Parfum), when one of my friends at our table – who apparently assumed that the new fragrance he was smelling could not possibly be coming from any of us, but simply had to be coming from one of the ladies – began turning his head and scouting for said hot mama. For the remainder of the meal he kept looking around for some mythical babe from down in Marketing, when it was just this poker-faced dude at the table, marveling at the fact that his MEN’S fragrance did indeed smell like it COULD WELL BE coming from a C-level looker in a tight skirt, “doing lunch in the café” as they sometimes did.
Indeed, unisex fave TDC Sel de Vétiver, which my wife thinks smells like men’s hair tonic (she dislikes it quite a bit), had a similar effect in the elevator, when two women each assumed it was THE OTHER wearing the awesome new fragrance. However, in the interest of fairness, I have to mention that SdV was also – TWICE – mistaken for fresh paint when worn to meetings at work. C’est la niche! And I have to admit that fresh paint IS unisex, so they got that much right.
The most negative reaction I ever got from ANY fragrance was at a rest stop in familiar hillbilly country, when two good-old-boys took some kind of objection to allegedly unisex HermèsUn Jardin Après la Mousson. Although it did not occur to me at the time, these two may have been looking for some kind of action other than fisticuffs, since (to be completely blunt about it) the psychology of closeted homosexuality in that part of the country is complicated, but the locations (such as rest stops, lover’s lanes, and bars) are not. Nevertheless, there is still a greater likelihood, IMO, that they simply thought my fragrance was a bit too fancy, feminine, or unpleasant. Either way, I knew better than to pay them any mind.
Ain’t no foolin’ a boy who the land took a likin’ to! *wink*
Perhaps the most interesting and direct response I ever got to wearing a labeled feminine, was when I helped a young lady who was driving alone, and who stopped to get directions from me, out in front of my place. She could not suppress a delighted chuckle when she suddenly realized that I was wearing Chanel No. 5 (Eau Première, to be exact). I smiled and laughed with her, and that was it. We just continued the conversation, although perhaps a bit more relaxed, if anything.
And then there was that middle-aged woman who I caught wearing Terre d’Hermès in her summer dress at an outdoor art exhibit. Why can’t TdH smell that great on ME? Why can’t I forget this woman, or that moment – craning my neck just a bit, and then wandering around that area, trying to pick up more sillage? If only she had worn something more forgettable, I would not be pestered with these memories.
So far, no explicit reactions from anybody about Galop d’Hermès, although I HAVE caught a few people “leaning in”.
Women, to be more precise.
To wrap up this review, I take you all back to BASENOTES, with a list of links where Galop d’Hermès is being discussed.
I can leave you in no better hands than those of my fellow perfumistae.
I view the health of public discourse by an interesting metric. Can I make a good-natured joke about Donald Trump in the fragrance world – one with deep knowing humor on many levels to all sides – and only minimally offend people? We almost found out on Basenotes, when an old Trump thread was bumped, and a few joking posts were made. As I will be retiring soon (officially) as a mod, I decided to celebrate with a little pre-retirement edginess. I served one up, and remik got it! His response (some people just get improv) left me with a softball that I could not swing at right away, due to a trip to the art store, before the thread was closed. SAD!
Well, that’s why we have blogs. Or pre-presidential Twitter accounts. Here you go. Plus a nod to my old world relatives, from a time that remembered how to be smart and funny and think differently but get along anyway. Well, more or less. And to somebody who my dearly departed mother loved, who carried an echo of that blessed and cursed era. kovfefe.