Why Do Perfumes Change? It Used To Be So Wonderful, But Now…

a ladyEveryone who is a scent lover has had the experience of having an affair with a perfume and somehow losing touch with it. You bob along for months and years and then all of a sudden, it strikes you that you have not had a bottle of Perfume X and you would really like to renew your dalliance with said fragrance. You order it online or go to the store and buy it all wrapped up, no need to sample it…thanks, you know what it smells like.

BUT THEN the unthinkable happens. You put it on and…and …and…it’s not the same! That is actually a cardinal sin in the perfuming world. Lack of consistency means that you have either lost the formula, you are too lazy/drunk/stupid to do it correctly every time, your ingredients have changed and you don’t have the nerve to tell your clients because you know they will never buy it again, or you decide that one of the ingredients is too expen$ive to go into a perfume which you have been selling for 30 years and only 50 old ladies buy it and you can change something about it to a cheaper component and get away with it. Finally, tastes might change and you might be trying to keep up with the times by adding some of the popular notes to an old war horse.

Of course, there is also “bait and switch” to thank for a perfume shift. I was an unhappy victim of that routine when I first smelled KL by Karl Lagerfeld. It was glorious, it was beautiful, it was the sun drenched jasmine of the Mediterranean coast in June. I only had a small sample of about 1 ml but I immediately rushed out for more. What a disappointment. The “real” KL smelled like Opium/Cinnabar. The jasmine was gone, the charm fizzled. It was just greed and the conviction that no one would notice.

If you are careful, and you are the perfumer then losing the formula is actually pretty tough to do. Most of us write things down and duplicate or triplicate the record so that no matter what, you will have a copy of that formula somewhere. Now there might be a few cowboys who think that they will always know the recipe by heart and find out the hard way that you can forget things, but usually the formula isn’t forgotten at all. Most of the time the stuff which goes into a new perfume is bolder, richer, and more expensive than the stuff that they put into a mature one (that is past the new new new excitement stage plus two years). So you might get some fabulous jasmine from Southern France in the first bottles of your blend, keep that in there and charge a mean price for it. As time goes on everyone’s prices rise (so it’s hard to say you are so so exclusive any more), your name brand gets a bit shopworn, and synthetics will appear which are claimed to be just as good if not better than the real thing and you use them. The formula changes, your sales drift gently downward and unless a huge resurgence of nostalgic new clients appears (highly unlikely) then your perfume is headed for retirement, only to be trotted out once every 5 years for a “special”.

Being too lazy/drunk/stupid to do it right each time normally leads to early retirement for the maker. Sometimes, if you get lucky, a big concern will buy the name and put out a bastard version of your original potion. You can continue your life as a wastrel with your new cash infusion, and the big concern will happily run that name into the ground until the last penny is made and then it dies.

Tastes also change and that can lead to some pretty awful attempts to keep up with the times. In the last 20 or so years, a classification of perfume known as “gourmand” has revolutionized perfume. Smelling like vanilla, chocolate, tomato, banana, or caramel was in vogue, and with the new notes being pumped out of the big labs, things were getting pretty foody. The house of Dior has always been known for its abstract/sharp/perfumy creations. Nothing foody about Dior, that is antithetical to Dior…if anything said Modern (as in post war modern) it is Dior. However, time marches on and Dior was agog watching the success of things like Angel by Thierry Mugler. Something had to be done. So they grabbed their flagship fragrance, the angular/cold/sharp/sandalwood splintery Miss Dior and tipped a huge blob of sweet strawberry-like goo in it, tinted the liquid pink, put it in a stupid bottle with a huge bow on it and released it as Miss Dior. Not Miss Dior Today or Miss Dior Now, no warning of what it had become. The result was like seeing Grace Kelly dressed up like Sailor Moon. Hideous.

Finally, let’s not forget the EU with their passle of regulations against all foul things chemical (some of which I am sure are based actually in science). They have single handedly forced formula changes, and never for the better (the classic Mitsouko now smells like hot asphalt). Alas, destroying the national treasure of a perfume is looked upon as collateral damage. Taunte pis.

By now you probably know that I have some very strong opinions about consistency in perfume. I want you to know that I go through no end of trouble to keep my perfumes consistent. If something has to change because an ingredient has disappeared, I tell you about it, sell the last of it and let it go. Sometimes I actually can find a perfect replacement and don’t skip a beat. But if the perfume changes, that’s it. I yank it off the list and discontinue it.

Changed perfume is one of the great disappointments of life. I really don’t want to be the author of that kind of sadness and strive mightily to keep Possets the same from batch to batch.

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring the Summer Collection for 2015 which features a brand new website and 30 perfumes for you to have fun with. Sweet sweet summer is the theme with paintings from some of the world’s most wonderful artists from around the globe. Enjoy the season at Possets!

Cityblis

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