Scent Gourmand

sinless pleasure for the perfume glutton

Month: February 2016

“Samples” from Demeter


My Demeter goodies arrived in the post today, earlier than I’d expected. You’ve got to love FedEx! I had been searching for their liquefied and bottled rendition of chocolate chip cookies, recommended to me by a fellow chocoholic friend, but I got a little carried away on their online shop. Demeter’s true-to-real life scents are ultra affordable to begin with, but when you look at their “value sets,” the desire to spend becomes compelling. “Buy more and save, save, save!” Indeed, their perfumes sell at prices similar to some sample sizes.

You’re a sucker for marketing if you let yourself believe that old chestnut, and as I so easily agreed with the logic, I am a marketer’s dream in that respect. I did in fact end up giving a lot more money to Demeter than I would have otherwise had I not seen their wee combo sets. A typical 1 oz (about 30 ml) spray bottle of most of their fragrances costs 10 American dollars, but the price of the set I bought, including 2, 1 oz bottles and 1, 4 oz (around 120 ml) bottle cost a total of $22.50. The same items if purchased separately would have cost almost $80. And when you buy more you save on international shipping, too.

The “Virtual Cocktail Party” set to which I refer above included a large spray bottle of Gin & Tonic (which not only happens to be my favorite adult beverage, but is also my favorite of the three in the set), and two smaller bottles of Cosmopolitan Cocktail and Martini. I had heard good things about Dirt and Laundromat, so I decided to get a set of four small 15 ml splash bottles in their “Clean” package, which included Rain, Pure Soap, Laundromat, and Gin & Tonic. Wait… Gin & Tonic? Wasn’t that last item supposed to be Dirt? Oops, that must have been a wee blunder on Demeter’s part.

The bigger G&T fragrance bottle I received appeared to have been leaking quite a bit when I first handled it, and the labels appeared rather sloppily smacked onto many of the bottles, but this is not high-end perfumery here, folks, so I was not fazed. If I had been disgruntled, my pouty face would have softened quickly when I noted that the company had included in my package a 30ml bottle of a fragrance I had not ordered, Kahala Hawaiian Surf. I think this was a throw-in, and I construe this as good customer service. I had ordered a smaller plastic spray bottles of Chocolate Chip Cookie, of course, and another spray bottle their take on fig, called Fig Leaf. Both are light and great for traveling.

Pennsylvania perfume house Demeter, named after the Greek God with the same name, is known for producing fragrances with aromas and scents of nature such as soil, flowers, fruits, cakes, drinks, and other interesting smells. They have produced over 300 very literal and linear fragrances with thematic names, and the scents keep coming. They use “headspace technology,” which analyzes the air around the source of scent or odor and separates the fragrant molecules, to get some of the weirder brews, such as Gin & Tonic. Sadly, the sillage and longevity of all Demeter fragrances tends to be rather poor, and you cannot expect much complexity. To be honest, I will unlikely be keeping any of these purchases for those reasons. My intent with them was actually just to get my nose on them and pass them off as wee pressies to my students and friends. Well, OK, I might hang on to the G&T, for novelty value, if nothing else. In any case, what of these nine delectables I purchased?

Gin & Tonic

Demeter’s pitch: “End of the day slight intoxication: strong, sweet with a sweet-deep juniper finish and citrus twist. A light, crisp fragrance that is right just about any time and anywhere.” I have alluded to the fact that I love cocktails, and this one really hits this spot. It’s not exactly like the real thing, but it is fresh, soapy, boozy, bubbly and up-lifting, with some faint juniper or perhaps rosemary shining through. This is a fun, zesty day scent for warm weather.


Demeter describes this as a simple blend of Gin and Vermouth with a hint of olive. When a girlfriend gets tipsy and starts talking close to your face, this is the vibe you might get. But it’s not unpleasant, really, because she’s wearing some benign floral fragrance with cloves. In a very subtle way, this scent is actually sexy.

Cosmopolitan Cocktail

Demeter says, “True to the legendary Cosmo, this fragrance is an inviting and refreshing combination of Vodka, Cranberry Juice, a hint of Lime Juice and a touch of Cointreau. Maybe it will evoke memories of a sunset on the pier in sandals, or maybe an elegant black tie affair.” Among all the fragrances in my Demeter haul, this one scores at the bottom. It’s a sweet take on cranberry, more cloying than its drinkable counterpart.

Chocolate Chip Cookie

Demeter says this one is “a combination of light and dark chocolate, freshly baked but not too doughy. All of the flavor, none of the calories!” Yes, this is the Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe in a bottle, but it soured out and faded quickly on my skin. It’s more of a fragrance you’d wear at home to snuggle with. I see myself indulging in this when I’m on a diet, which happens every tomorrow. Chocolate lovers will naturally like this one.

Fig Leaf

This scent is described by Demeter as “fresh, fruity, subtle and true… like a sun-drenched weekend on the Mediterranean coast, refreshing and calming at the same time. Not Adam’s Fig leaf at all.” I love fig, both the fruit itself and it’s tree components, and this one did not let me down. The scent is fresh, earthy, clean, delicate, and actually evolves a wee bit on the skin, sweetening up from an initial bitter grassy to a sweet fruity – perfect for a pick me up and suitable for work. No, of course it doesn’t come close to Diptyque’s divine Philosykos, but you cannot complain much for the price.

Pure Soap

Demeter says, “Pure Soap is inspired by the scent of skin freshly scrubbed with Ivory Soap… clean skin with just a faint trace remaining of pure soap smell… almost like a memory of the soap, rather than the soap itself.” As you might expect, this one is synthetically clean, right-out-of-the-shower, and highly inoffensive, somewhat like Ivory brand soap, but definitely sweeter. Using the adjective “soapy” to describe a perfume in other contexts might be insulting, but not in this case. There is an innocent, child-like quality to this scent. It’s perfect if you want to take that squeaky clean feeling with you on your morning commute.


According to Demeter, “This is simply the freshest, cleanest scent imaginable. We don’t know if anyone can tell us why, but this may be the most comforting, comfortable scent in the Library.” This is a fresh linens sister scent to Pure Soap, also clean and fresh but with more metallic violet-y detergent and fabric softener. It opens with an astringent alcohol, perhaps vodka as it’s so clean. I’m back in my university days at the coin laundry studying for an exam.


“Step outside after the first storm after a dry spell and it invariably hits you: The sweet, fresh, powerfully evocative smell of fresh rain.” This is wet, slightly sour cucumbers with a splash of watermelon, and a dash of vodka with dried citrus peelings and dirt lying on damp pavement. Maybe a couple of flower petals are in the mix, too. It’s quite lovely – reminds me of playing outside on the driveway as a kid after a thunderstorm in very green suburbia. It’s soft and ephemeral, almost like water itself. This, as with the others in the clean collection, is a perfect example of what Demeter is good at – capturing and bottling memories.

Kahala Hawaiian Surf

When I went back to Demeter’s website to find out what the company had to say about this fresh, summery and salty scent, it was nowhere to be found, which made me wonder if it is a new release, but I’m inclined to think it may be a discontinued fragrance. It smells like an empty beer bottle stuffed with jasmine with a little coconut-free suntan lotion and soap suds squirted on top, all floating to your nose on a warm tropical breeze. I’ve not yet sniffed out Tom Ford’s Bronze Goddess, but apparently some say it is a uber cheap version of this. The scent fades fast, just as any spring break to the beach would.

You can get all Demeter fragrances through their website.

Scents & the city

This short documentary by Katharine Round introduces Roja Dove smelling in his element – London, UK (See transcribed excepts below). This brings to mind CB I Hate Perfume’s Christopher Brosius in the episode 2 of the BBC Perfume Documentary, where he is seen stiffing around the very same city trying to get a true whiff of all things quintessentially English. Clearly perfumers go to great lengths to get their creative juices flowing.

“For me scent totally defines a city, or a city can be, if you like, defined by its scent. Scent captures a place or the mood of a place. It creates it. It’s disarming, it’s alarming, it’s something totally magical.

My very first memory of perfumery is as a small boy of maybe 6 or 7 years old being kissed goodnight by my mother who was standing framed by the doorway wearing a gold lamé cocktail dress. I remember very, very distinctly the smell of her face powder, and also the smell of her scent. And I think my entire destiny started off at that point. I think when you visit anywhere, the first thing that will greet you as you step off of or out of the airport is the smell of the place you’re visiting. And I think somehow to be able to encapsulate that scent, is for me something which is wonderful.

We’re busy living in cities. We sort of have – of course have views and opinions of the city, but I think it’s rare somebody actually sits down and says, ‘What does my city say to me?'”

Why perfume packaging is important


Packaging is important in today’s perfume market because it is an industry that has thousands of new launches a year. How can a fragrance stand out among all that insanity, especially if competing with brands that have huge budgets and insane campaigns? Although I like to rant about how much it’s all about the juice and not the bottle that houses it, it would be arrogant to claim one were not swayed by appearances. First impressions of products and brands are very powerful.

People differ in their susceptibility to impulsive buying. The appeal of product packaging has the potential to trigger impulsive buying even for consumers with no intention to make a purchase. 

– Hubert et al.

When it comes to fragrance and beauty products, those first impressions are visual, and so it can indeed be all about the packaging. It could work the other way, too: Say you are at the perfume counter and the sales person sprays a smelling strip (out of your view) and gives it to you to take a sniff. You smell a fragrance and fall in love with it, knowing nothing about the brand or bottle it comes in. The sales assistant says it’s $200 and pulls out the full bottle which looks cheap with a seemingly hastily applied label. The appearance doesn’t appear to match the price. I think it’d be odd if you didn’t feel at least some degree of disappointment. Or how about if another scent is presented to you in the same manner, you again fall in love with it, and then the sales assistant says it’s $20 and pulls out a really tacky bottle that you’d be embarrassed to have on your dresser?

Well, in my case I have no dresser and I am likely to decant scent from both exquisite-looking bottles as well as shoddy-looking ones (to save on space and weight and to make my collection more portable), but I am not most people. But the fact is that if I were that person at the imagined beauty counter scenario above, I’d likely feel let down in both cases.

Especially when it comes to buying luxury products, consumers have come to expect certain criteria. With perfume, the weight of the bottle and the quality of the box are important in making customers feel that they have gotten value from their purchase. In truth, for the mass market of fragrance consumers (not scent connoisseurs), knowing whether the quality of a scent is good or not or if they even like it is not easily determined. They rely on their impressions of packaging and branding to feel confident in their purchase decisions.

Of course this has been used to great effect by many brands to sell products that are more style over substance, so savvy consumers try to train themselves to look past showy packaging, especially when it comes to niche fragrances. But even with plain packaging, bottles still need to have weight and communicate quality if the price is to be justified.

If niche lines are forgoing flash packaging, does that mean the cost is instead going into the quality of the fragrance?

Unfortunately, not necessarily. Packaging is expensive for smaller brands – even if it doesn’t look it. A small perfume producer typically has limited choice in what is actually available in a small quantity. If a company wants something custom-made then there’s also so-called tooling costs and warehousing of the pallets of bottles needed to produce a minimum run. There are a few companies that sell bottles and screen prints in small runs, but ultimately cost really depends on how many are being produced.

Once again, the perfumers with the best access to a fat wallet would seem to have upper hand. Not surprising. Do you think you swayed by packaging?

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