The shortest lived fragrances tend to come from the “foody” family. The lightness of their molecules causes them to evaporate very quickly and so they vanish pretty rapidly, as a general rule. They are made from wonderful and delicate topnotes which often capture the fragrance of a confection with uncanny accuracy. Their fleeting nature makes you want to reapply and sometimes you even deaden your nose by going after them too hard. Exceptions to this rule are popcorn-y, dark burnt sugar/caramel fragrances, and breadlike accords.
Citrus scents are also fleeting. Citrus perfumes are normally anchored with sharp musks or tea musks which do hold them down for a while (though you are left with mostly musk or tea after about 45 minutes). These are very pleasant, close to the skin scents, usually associated with being well bred, and unisex.
On the other end of the spectrum, the orientals are strong and long lasting. Usually they are made with dark brown materials and they are the heavier molecules which stick around almost indefinitely. Patchouli, vetiver, real musk (which is illegal in the US), ambergris (also illegal), and labdenum are some of the popular components of good orientals. Myrrh, frankincense,clove and cinnamon all add to the broadcast and longevity. A good oriental doused on a silk scarf can stay detectable for years if put away from air circulation. The paisley shawls brought back from India in the 1800’s would continue to smell like patchouli long after they were unpacked and worn! And Josephine famously smeared the walls of Malmaison with musk (real civet musk) to scent the house and it has been detected even to this day!
Florals are quite the middle ground here. Flower fragrances are usually seen as being middle notes and they last at least an hour. There are exceptions to the rule and modern synthetic flower smells often have far more staying power than the real extract. So, expect to have to reapply your floral blends over the course of the day.
Finally, the modern “aquatics” which were so popular in the 90s and insinuated themselves into the families of perfumes. They generally have good staying power but I have been surprised at how quickly their top and middle notes disappear, almost as if the aquatic base alone were causing any other part of the blend to flee. Sharper musks and synthetic ambergris are favorite anchors of the modern aquatic.
When you see the word “clean” know that this is a blend of huge staying power. Here are the modern sporty musks and they stand up to all forms of sweat and stink and keep on putting out their relentlessly clean and soapy fragrance for what seems practically forever! These are great (when used sparingly) in the gym and in any place where you are going to be close for a long time. Please note again, that the word ‘sparingly’ is the most important word in that last thought!
Some fruit fragrances are long long term strong broadcasters. Raspberry is almost eternal! However, I find pineapple and orange fleeting along with cherry (often a close cousin to almond which is also short lived).
I hope that you enjoyed this little essay on perfume. Please be sure that you have signed up to get the Possets Blog when it comes out. The topics are varied but always interesting. I often talk about perfume and try to give you some information which is hard to come by.