Perfume FAQ, Part 3

Part 3 of the Perfume FAQ for common questions that keep coming up regarding perfume. I collect these questions from common misconceptions and queries I get regarding fragrances.  If you have a perfume related question, please leave a comment.

Q. What is the best perfume in the world?
A. No perfume is widely recognized as “the best”. Labeling a perfume as the best would be like labeling a color as the best. It’s too subjective, there’s too much variety, and everyone has a different opinion. There are classifications for most widely known perfume (Chanel No. 5) and best in class for the year according to certain organizations (FiFi Awards). Then there’s recognition for things that veer away from the fragrance itself such as world’s most expensive packaging (here’s lookin’ at you, Clive Christian). But as for best perfume in the world? Can’t be done. What’s the best depends entirely on you when it comes to this one.

Q. What are some nice perfumes that are inexpensive?
A. Enjoying fragrances doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby. If you like chasing brand names or niche lines, you will punch a hole through your wallet sooner or later. But if you just want to enjoy some nice, inexpensive, scents then check out Victoria’s Secret ($10-70), Bath and Body Works ($10-40), Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab ($17.50-25), The Body Shop ($20-40) and the huge variety of celebuscents that can often be purchased from discounters (like FragranceX) for much less than at a department store. Reputable discounters are good for some designer brands though you shouldn’t expect too much of a discount when you’re dealing with designers like Chanel or niche lines like Creed. Wal*Mart also usually sells legitimate fragrances for a bit cheaper than a department store would. If you know what you’re doing and are confident, then eBay can have a lot of good fragrance deals. And if you want to hook yourself up with some vintage perfumes, estate sales can sometimes yield excellent results and of course, the aforementioned eBay for vintages is always an option.

Q. Is there a difference between a counterfeit fragrance and a designer impostor fragrance?
A. Yes. Counterfeits are fragrances that are manufactured to look like and mimic the appearance of a real designer perfume. It is  illegal to sell, trade or deal in fake or counterfeit fragrances. Many counterfeit fragrances contain poor  quality materials, volatile materials, watered down perfume, and sometimes harmful ingredients. A designer impostor fragrance is a fragrance produced by a company to mimic the smell of a designer perfume. Many times these impostor scents get a few of the predominant notes right but miss when it comes to the rest. This often results in a less complex imitation of the original fragrance and some perfume lovers prefer this. The perfumes marketed as designer impostors are not counterfeits as they are clearly marked as impostors and not as the “real” thing. The designs of the packaging are also not at all supposed to resemble the designs of the real fragrances to further avoid confusion (and lawsuits). Because perfume recipes are kept secret (for the time being anyway) these impostor scents may get close to mimicking the smell of a perfume but rarely get the entirety of the real fragrance correct. Many people confuse these two terms but it’s important to note that there is a difference. You can read up more on Parfums de Coeur, the leading impostor fragrance producer, and how they conduct their business at JiffyNotes >>

Q. What’s the difference between essential oil, fragrance oil, perfume oil and carrier oil?
A. Loaded question. Essential oils are raw materials extracted directly from the plants they were derived from through a variety of extraction methods including distillation, enfleurage, and other techniques. Essential oils are volatile and potent making most of them inappropriate and sometimes even dangerous for straight use on the skin. Essential oils should be carefully diluted in a carrier oil prior to use. If you do plan on using essential oils on yourself, make sure you read up on them very well first because as innocent as many people like to think essential oils are, improper use  by someone inexperienced can result in injury. Fragrance oils are a mixture of natural and synthetic components that produce a specific scent. Scents from fragrance oils can be composed of entirely natural materials or entirely synthetic materials. Often, it is a mixture of natural and synthetic. Sometimes fragrance oils can be made to mimic a natural scent like vanilla or iris. Sometimes fragrance oils can smell like something abstract like aqua or ozone. Fragrance oils, like essential oils need to be researched prior to use. There are fragrance oils made for cosmetic use and those that are not. There are also fragrance oils that need dilution and some that do not. Make sure you know what you are buying and doing before  putting anything on your skin. A perfume oil is a mixture of fragrant oils to create a scent. Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab is one such company that blends essential oils and fragrance oils to produce perfume oils. Carrier oils are oils that are used to dilute perfume, fragrance, and essential oils. Oftentimes these carrier oils have very little aroma or no aroma at all. Jojoba oil and sweet almond oil are two such examples of carrier oils.

Q. I keep seeing people and websites that claim that perfume is dangerous to your health. Are any of these claims true?
A. Perfume has been associated with some contact dermatitis (allergens coming in contact with the skin) and general allergies such as sneezing, stuffy nose, and trouble breathing. It is true that fragrance ingredients always come under fire for potential danger but they are regulated and restricted on a rather rigorous scale. A perfumista can tell anybody about the deaths of many great fragrances and reformulations that destroyed classic scents that had to happen because a component was found to be dangerous or concerning. What people who read online about perfumes and the supposed numerous dangers of fragrances need to understand that this issue is not a simple matter of “I saw it online and it sounds convincing so it must be true”. There is a key element to online research that I feel a lot of people are missing when they choose to believe claims they read on a website. I don’t believe you should or would trust me 100%. After all, where’s my scientific research? Aren’t I some disembodied voice with a website too? And I am but an independent blogger who just happens to like smelling things. I  have no scientific credentials either. What I want you to take away from this rambling is my request for you to study the sources of where your information comes from prior to outright believing it. I am not imploring you to believe me or take my words for truth. I am imploring you to deeply research a subject from credible sources before deciding on a stance and this goes for everything you read about, not just perfume. If the website you’re on does not provide a solid scientific or medical background to its claims that fully backs up what it’s trying to say, do you really want to trust that it’s telling you the whole story? “Safety advocates” have an agenda too. Please keep that in mind.

Q. Does civet really come from a cat’s butt?
A. Almost as good as the “deer butt” question from Part 2. Civet is a musk taken from the rear region of a curious little creature by the same name. Despite popular belief, a civet is not actually a cat. It’s more of a mongoose, really. Civet notes used in modern perfumery are usually synthetic. However, some modern perfumes will still use natural civet as farming and harvesting of these animals is still going on.

Q. How do I check the ingredients of a perfume?
A. You can’t. I always find it a little off when well-meaning individuals with concerns over ingredients suggest to consumers that they should “check the ingredients” of a fragrance. It makes me ask myself if these well-meaning folks have tried to do the same before suggesting it to others. You simply can’t check all the ingredients of a perfume with the present regulations because perfume formulations are jealously guarded by the manufacturers who produce them. The list of ingredients on the back of a box of perfume lists the base that the fragrance was diluted in–not what the fragrance is composed of. The actual fragrant oils and components are kept secret to prevent the copying of the fragrance recipe. The notes list that comes out with  most perfumes is also not a definitive list of ingredients. Sometimes the notes mean absolutely nothing, oftentimes there are more components in a scent than the notes list would indicate, sometimes notes listed aren’t even present in the perfume itself. Notes lists are used to give the consumer an idea of what they should be smelling. They are not ingredients lists. Also you will be very lucky if you contact a perfume manufacturer requesting a full ingredients list and actually get one. Pretty much the only way for the average person to find out exactly what’s in a perfume is to perform a gas chromatography analysis–something highly expensive, complicated, exclusive, and far more trouble than most people would care to go through.

Got any questions not addressed in this FAQ? Please leave a comment.

Agonist The Infidels

Agonist has recently come out with a new perfume which spurred the memory of this perfume and it’s crazy abstract bottle. So I dug out my sampler vial and gave her a sniff.

Agonist Infidels

The Infidels by Agonist

In Bottle: Dark, earthy blackcurrant note. The blackcurrant is the most prominent smell I’m getting so far from The Infidels.

Applied: Yep blackcurrant. Not the sweet berries or tea-like blackcurrants, but this earthy, dark jammy blackcurrant note that’s very rich and dense. That currant note is an ever-present entity during the entire fragrance as The Infidels digs into the mid-stage with a slight showing of florals that helps with that earthiness. It’s not particularly interesting in the mid-stage but the end game is a bit better, as The Infidels takes it blackcurrant and plays in a touch of lavender with a woody, green patchouli and warm amber. Very interesting fragrance, though is the juice worth its price? I’m going to have to say that while this stuff smells interesting, it isn’t the best or even anywhere near my top fragrances. So to me, no, it’s not worth the price.

Extra: Priced at $495 for 1.7oz, The Infidels is quite a bit out of reach of most people’s budgets. This is one of those fragrances that have been priced so beyond affordability and practicality that it lands in Clive Christian territory, and that’s a double-edged sword. You can, however, bite the bullet and purchase the glass art bottle for $495 and get the subsequent refills for a–all things considered–reasonable $90 for 50ml.

Design: The design for this bottle is polarizing. There are people who think it’s a beautiful piece of abstract glass art and other people who just can’t figure out what it’s supposed to be. And some people who look at it and simply think it’s hideous. I’m a member of the, “Oooh! Glass art!” crowd. Agonist’s bottle is probably most of the price of the juice as it’s truly a beautiful, misunderstood, piece of artwork. It’s unlike any other perfume bottle I’ve seen out there, it’s strange, it’s compelling, it’s dramatic with the contrast between the redness and black and clear glass. It’s got that crazy application stick too that you don’t see much of. Everything about this bottle speaks of daring, dangerous, and blood. The fragrance isn’t shouting that stuff but the packaging certainly is and I appreciate this thing for the artistic merit of it and the boundaries it pushes in traditional and contemporary bottle design. This bottle is like the high fashion runway. You don’t have to understand it to appreciate it.

Fragrance Family: Fruity Earthy

Notes: Blackcurrant, green cumin, bergamot, magnolia, tonka, lavender, patchouli, amber, labdanum.

Let’s not kid ourselves, the major reason to own this perfume is for the bottle. The juice inside is pleasant enough but it’s second fiddle to the packaging.

Reviewed in This Post: The Infidels, 2010, Eau de  Parfum.