One Thousand Scents

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Reader Anita writes regarding yesterday's post about my strange new dysosmia:

So sorry this is happening to you! I sincerely hope it gets better soon, if only because I selfishly enjoy your reviews. :)

I've never worn Poison but always admired it on others, so I swapped for a bottle on MUA not long ago. There is a horrid grape Koolade note on me that I really can't stand. Maybe it's been reformulated?

The whole nose thing is more of an annoyance than anything else. I think it's like getting cataracts or something, except I'm just going to have to live with it. I can still smell things; it's just that they're changed, sometimes. Even someone walking past me wearing the wrong perfume can send that scent element up my nose, and then that's it for a while--it's almost all I can smell. But it's not always there, fortunately, and some of my favourite new scents and old standbys are still unaltered by this new scent universe I'm forced to inhabit.

As for Poison, I would imagine it's been reformulated over the years; virtually everything is, sooner or later, it seems, as ingredients become expensive or medically suspect. This is nothing new: lots of the original synthetic musks are no longer considered safe for human use, and nobody uses unadulterated bergamot because it can stain your skin brown if exposed to sunlight.

A lot of people find that vivid purple-fruit note in Poison objectionable. It was never particularly overwhelming on me; it sat primarily in the top notes and was very pleasant. Mostly I got a sweet, spicy, ambery concoction that worked really well on my skin (which thrives on dark oriental scents, though I have very pale skin, which supposedly--ridiculously--is thought to mean you can't wear dark scents but must stick to fresh ones). At least I used to get that scent from it: now there's that note. The aspect of Poison that you (and others) think of as grape Kool-Aid is from an aroma-chemical called beta damascone, which (theoretically, and not to you) smells of blackberries, honey, and warm oriental notes. (Poison actually uses an offshoot of beta damscone called Damascenone, which supposedly smells of roses, grapes, plums, and sugared raspberries.) Beta damascone was a mainstay of mid- to late-eighties perfumery, and it's also found in large quantities in Montana Parfum D'elle, which I also must write about some day.

Unfortunately, the only version of Poison still on the market is the EDT, which is the least wonderful of the three versions they launched. There was at the outset an Esprit de Parfum which was richer and lusher, and a few years later came an Eau de Cologne which was brilliant--fresh and light, with the essential character of the scent remaining while the heavy, potentially cloying aspects were minimized. They're both long gone, though you can buy the Esprit online at some stores. You probably wouldn't, not without trying it first, but it really was a better scent than the EDT.

It's worth remembering how extraordinarily subjective the sense of smell is. Luca Turin loved Paco Rabanne's La Nuit, but it's one of only two scents in living memory that actually made me recoil from the tester (the other was Lancome's Miracle). One man's must-have is another woman's get-away-from-me.

Recently I reviewed the newest Creed Scent, Virgin Island Water. To my nose, it has a synthetic aspect to the top of it which pretty much wrecks it, but others--many others, I think--don't get that, as one anonymous poster noted:

I didn't smell any Play-Doh notes. The top notes smell like coconut and pineapple on me. The whole drydown retains the same tropical / piƱa colada feel.

See? There you go. And I don't get that fakey grape note in Poison, whereas many others do. Just read the reviews over on Makeup Alley some time. So much hatred! ("Poison reminds me of sickly-sweet grape cough syrup with overly ripe, semi-rotting sweet berries.") So much love! ("The Grapes of Wrath...I agree, Poison has a very grapey, wine-like quality...I am a convert.")


  • You know, I have a similar issue with Creed's top notes. I read your review of VIW and it made me think of Love in Black and Green Irish Tweed. The former attacks my nostrils with a monstrous synthetic iris, and the latter dumps a bucket of synthetic verbena, and something similar to calone. Bulgarian Tea Rose smells profoundly of rubbing alcohol for about ten seconds on the outset, too. They need to reconsider their approach with their fragrance intros over at Creed.

    By Blogger Bryan Ross, at 6:29 PM  

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