Let’s Talk About It! Is Listing Fragrance Notes “Noteworthy”?

While I love poetry and storytelling and tend to wax somewhat "eloquent" when writing about fragrance, I still find the simple, dry lists of top, heart and base notes to be very helpful.  No matter how specific and technical (or vague and incomplete) these lists might be they are often a necessary jumping off point for understanding a perfume and for subsequent imaginative writing about the fragrance. Although I do make a point of smelling perfumes before referring to listed notes (in order to test my nose and to keep first impressions clean) I hate to admit that I find myself relying on unclear lists of notes to bring clarity to a review. I find these lists useful. I recently reviewed a fragrance I liked very much and was a little taken aback before smellling it when the press release admonished fragrance lovers they should not buy the perfume if they needed to know notes. In addition, more and more perfumers and Perfume Houses are shying away from revealing notes, and instead, are tending to describe their creations with "flowery" poetry and prose. The listed notes, if there are any, often remain mysterious.

The choice of technical vs. "flowery" descriptions has been an issue with me for years in regard to music. As far as teaching is concerned, the decision to go with the technical or the lyrical or a combination of the two boils down to "skillful means" – whatever works best for the individual.  But which is better in a perfume review – the technical or the descriptive or a combination of both?

Photo Copyright: Pierre Benard Osmoart  ©

For some people a list of notes might be considered nothing more than a boring, seldom accurate, parsing of a fragrance.  For others, excessive flowery descriptions are nothing more than examples of a writer's predilection for collecting and creating adjectives (just add a "y" to the end of a noun). As I am not a perfumer, I will often smell things in a fragrance that are obvious to me but not chemically present in the perfume.  I have to admit that I have been guilty of covering my gaps in olfactory knowledge with " adjective-itus"! I have struggled with the excessive use of words like: "Airy, balmy, creamy, dusty, earthy, fizzy, grassy…"and on through the alphabet! While these sorts of words can tell us something about fragrance, the "y" at the end dilutes specificity and suggests something similar to  – but not exactly like – the word it modifies. Understanding raw materials can be daunting unless you are an expert which is why Editor Elise Pearlstine, who is also a perfumer writes in-depth articles about how popular fragrance ingredients are used in perfumery. 

iso e supra molecule

Poetry and adjectives aside, I believe that part of the new reluctance to list and name fragrance notes on the part of perfumers and Houses has to do with the palette of wonderful and otherworldly aroma-chemicals that create the effects of strange fruits and flowers and accords that can only be described as un-natural and extra terrestrial. Rather than naming the exact aroma-chemicals as fragrance notes, it seems to be more consumer-friendly to describe the effect or the feelings related to the fragrance in fanciful poetry or prose.

miniature.com  ©

On the other side of this topic, does "knowing"  prejudice your choices? I have a friend that dislikes Vetiver perfumes. If she sees the word “vetiver” listed in a fragrance, she automatically passes judgement and …passes. However, when I sent her a sample of a perfume which was vetiver-centric, she asked, “What is that scent? I must buy it!”

Manchon Reef Sculpture and Photo by Jason Decaires Taylor  ©:Does this photo give you a clue to what the notes in the perfume might be?

So what do you think? Do you find the listed notes critical to your understanding of a fragrance. Would you rather the art of perfumery be reflected in eloquent writing and beautiful illustrations or do you prefer it broken down into chemical components. Is it important to understand and describe perfume by means of words, art, music and chemistry or is the olfactory sensation of the fragrance more than enough?  Do words limit or expand fragrance experience?  How does a fragance reviewer, marketer, retailer or perfumer writer make the intangible understandable.

Let's talk about it!

Gail Gross, Editor  with contributions from Michelyn Camen, Editor -in-Chief


New Perfume Review: vero.profumo. NAJA (Vero Kern) 2017 + Serpentine Smoke Draw

Meditation no. 7, 2013, photo by Laurence Demaison ©

Serpentine curls of smoke rise from pipes as the shaman chants his icaro, or sacred song over the sick. The peppery-sweet aroma of tobacco fills the night air, which is thick with the narcotic perfume of linden blossom. The Naja, or cobra, symbolizing life force, is held aloft, as flames from the fire smoke and dance in a ritual of renewal.

Vero Kern self portrait-selfie for ÇaFleureBon May7, 2017 ©

One of the most impressive launches at Esxence this year, NAJA is Vero Kern’s 10th anniversary fragrance, and the sixth in her acclaimed line of artistic, luxurious perfumes. Inspired by the snake as an emblem of the duality of the universe and its eternality, NAJA was released as a limited edition of 650 bottles. 

Rihanna, photo by Mariano Vivanco for GQ's 25th anniversary edition, 2013©

The snake occupies a powerful place in animistic cultures. For ancient Egyptians the cobra — NAJA haje – was sacred, and was used as a symbol of the pharaohs. In certain South American  shamanic  schools,  the  snake  is  the  symbol  of fusion of nature and cosmos. Tobacco (Nicotiana) is a nightshade plant used for some 8,000 years numerous cultures to create a haze of protection; to cleanse, and to impart energy.

Smoking Man, Borneo, photo National Geographic

NAJA slithers onto the skin with nectarous honey curling beside a rich, complex tobacco. Within seconds, NAJA blooms into one of most complex, rich tobacco scents I’ve ever encountered: the loamy, spicy smell of the dried leaf combining with woodsy smoke of a lit pipe and the hay-like perfume of young plants in the field. But it is the way the tobacco wraps itself around linden blossom and osmanthus that makes NAJA so compellingly beautiful.

Linden blossom, watercolor pencil drawing by Catilustre©

Osmanthus is evident in the opening moments of NAJA, its leathery apricot adding a mezzo soprano note that intones softly over the plummy hum of tobacco and honey. But nowhere is Vero Kern’s brilliance as a perfumer more evident than in the painterly way she handles linden. One of the headiest of tree flowers, linden to me has always been the smell of late spring, the drowsy, honeyed perfume of windless days that are turning sultry, when most other flowers have gone back to sleep for another year.

Robert Mapplethorpe Lisa Lyon with Snake©

Here, Ms.Kern offsets linden’s syrupy luxuriance against the pungency and black pepper-parchment smell of pipe tobacco. As the richness of the linden comes forward, the dried aspect of tobacco becomes apparent. Soon,  the aggressive aromatics of the multifaceted tobacco combine: the mulchy smell of the dried leaf, the bitter, herbaceous green of the living plant, the purple sweetness of its flowers and the resinous smoke of the pipe bowl. The two notes work in tandem: linden’s saturated redolence is held in balance by the bite of tobacco, while the linden, now joined by a sly melon note, cuts tobacco’s bitterness and smoke.

Corinne Calvert, photo by George Hurrell, 1948©

With its opulence and depth, NAJA retains echoes of the great vintage beauties Caron Tabac Blond and Molinard Habanita. It is without question one of the best tobacco scents of recent years; floral, earthy, sensual and rich, and marked by Vero Kern’s original voice and artistry. Inhale and let the spirit move you.

Lauryn Beer, Editor

Notes:Osmanthus absolute, melon, linden blossom and tobacco.

Disclaimer:  Sample provided by Vero Kern to Michelyn and Lauryn at Esxence, Milan – many thanks.  Opinions are my own.

Readers in the USA can pre-order at luckyscent.com here

Thanks to the generosity of Vero Profumo, who gave Michelyn two samples, we have a 1.5ml sprayer sample for 1 registered reader in the EU, Canada and U.S

To be eligible, please leave a comment with what appeals to you about NAJA in Lauryn’s review, where you live and if you have a favorite Vero Profumo fragrance. Draw ends 5/13/2017.

We announce the winners only on site and on our Facebook page, so Like Cafleurebon and use our RSS Feed…or your dream prize will be just spilled perfume.


Sigil Scent for Project Talisman Proteckt Winner

For ÇaFleureBon’s Project Talisman Patrick Kelly of Sigil Scent created Proteckt:  “… a resinous, smoky blend of woods, punctuated by fresh tagetes and bubbling citrus notes…. inspired by the alchemical symbol for “essence.” – Patrick Kelly

Thanks to the generosity of Patrick Kelly of Sigil Scent we have one 50 ml of Sigil Scent Proteckt ($ 90) available to one registered reader  USA. The random winner of the draw is Christina M. Please email michelyn at cafleurebon dawt com with  50 ml Sigil Scent PROTECKT as your subject and your complete mailing and phone details by 11:00 AM 5/8/2017. This is a deadline and no exceptions if you are late. Please be sure to use your email from the  comment so we know it is you. Including a note to Patrick would be appreciated in your email.

We announce the winners only on site and on our Facebook page, so Like Cafleurebon and use our RSS feed…or your dream prize will be just spilled perfume.