Scent Gourmand

sinless pleasure for the perfume glutton

Month: September 2016

Fragrance concentrations

perfume-concentrations

Below is a list of the 5 main scent concentration formats from strongest to weakest. Note that the percentage breakdown varies from source to source and I would assume also varies from fragrance to fragrance, so the percentage numbers offered here are just a guideline. The base of any perfume is the perfume essence, which is the part that produces the smell. Perfume essence could be a combination of essential oils (cedar wood, lime, sandalwood, etc.), absolutes (jasmine, rose, neroli), animal extracts (musk, ambergris, castoreum), and/or synthetic fragrance (which could be anything). The rest is filler, usually in the form of perfumer’s alcohol, water, and/or carrier oils.

The percentage of pure perfume essence does not always indicate that the quality is higher. There are many essential oils that you wouldn’t want to smell directly in even small amounts. Real musk and ambergris, for example, are very expensive and not pleasant to the nose in their pure form.  Less than a single drop of either can dramatically raise the price of a perfume and indeed probably also the quality of the overall fragrance, but you would want the effect of that single drop, not that tiny amount itself.

1) Parfum / Perfume / Extrait / Extrait de Parfum

Extrait is French for extract, and this is the strongest fragrance available, usually consisting of a 20~30% concentration (though I’ve seen reports of up for 40%) of perfume essence. This means that not only do you need to use less, but also that the fragrance lasts longer, typically for 6 hours or more, depending on factors such as your skin type. It’s interesting to note that extrait does not have the heavy sillage – meaning projection power – that fragrances with more alcohol have. Alcohol diffuses fragrance as it evaporates on skin. This is a better choice for those with sensitive skin, is oiler in consistency, and unsurprisingly is usually the most expensive (and therefore is usually sold in smaller bottles with a stopper; meant to be dabbed on, not sprayed all over).

2) Eau De Parfum (EDP)

This is lighter than pure perfume, usually with 15%~20%  concentration, but still has long-lasting characteristics, up to about 5 hours. It is less expensive than pure perfume and much more common. You shouldn’t have to or want to spray eau de parfum all over your person.

3) Eau De Toilette (EDT)

This is lighter than EDP, with no more than 10% concentration of the essence (though some have as much as 15%). It usually lasts for 2 to 4 hours, and is appropriate for warm temperatures, daytime wear, or for those who simply do not want to be overwhelmed with stronger concentrations. Users can be much more liberal with application from this concentration on.

4) Eau De Cologne (EDC or just COL for cologne)

This is lighter than EDT, often referred to just as cologne, and has a bigger dilution of fragrances with an estimated 5% concentration of perfume essence. The name is the French word for the city of Köln where a particular scent was first made – hence referred to as a water from Cologne. It usually lasts for 2 hours, and originally tended to be very light, fresh, and fruity – containing essential oils such as lemon, bergamot, orange, neroli absolute, lavender, and rosemary. Now the term is used simply to indicate a greater dilution of perfume essence, and like eau fraiche, body spray or splash below, is affordable and often marketed to a younger crowd.

Men’s cologne tends to be of a different dilution than women’s, more like an EDT. Many so-called aftershaves fits into this category, and they are lighter than men’s cologne, usually intended to cool and soothe the skin after shaving. After shave balm is an emulsion-type lotion used to provide scented moisture to freshly shaven skin.

5) Eau Fraiche

This is the most diluted of scent forms with just 1-5% concentration of essential oils. I define Body spray or splash as the same thing, but if you want to put them in a separate category, I’d say it has even less perfume essence, probably around 1%.

Samples from Zoologist

zoologist-perfumes

The mix of cute and novel animal characters dressed like refined gentlemen with sophisticated, quality packaging make this fragrance house out of Toronto delightfully eclectic. One visit to the website after finding out the brand was Canadian (Go, Canada!) brought me quickly to the check out page to purchase a sample set that was soon to be waiting for me on a visit home to Canada from Japan.

The line is very animalic (surprise, surprise) and you, too, can get on the wild side with Zoologist Perfumes. Creative director for this collection is former video game maker Victor Wong, whose infatuation with fragrance started on a trip to Quebec City where he found the scent of complimentary hotel toiletries intriguing. Hats off to him for creating an original, playful line inspired by different animals and being proudly vegan at the same time. Instead of having notes like musk, castoreum, or civet in the background, as many exquisit scents do, the line so far places those notes the center of the fragrances (without managing to use any real musk, castoreum, or civet). Interestingly, none of the perfumes come across to me as fecal or barnyardy. Perhaps due to the vegan substitutes? At the time I received my samples Zoologist (quite a while back now) there were only three scents from this newer perfume house, but now there are more.

What has proven very impressive about this house is its innovative vision of designing a brand where animals serve as the focus of inspiration – their behaviors and environments studied – the results interpreted through a detailed metaphor of scent. I feel there is great coherence with concept and content, and it should be applauded that such detail and richness in the interpretations can be achieved without touching real animalic essences – indeed sometimes without touching synthetic animalic materials! I guess it is not like there is much of a choice these days when so many natural essences, not just animalic, are being banned.

1) Rhinoceros

“Massive and stubborn, the Rhinoceros takes stock of his territory under the unrelenting sun. His weathered hide protects him from the merciless heat and eroding drum of sand in the wind, as he protects his domain.”

“Under the searing gaze of an unrelenting sun, the ornery Rhinoceros surveys his dusty territory. A tough, battered hide is his armor against the erosive onslaught of sand, whipped into a frenzy by a hot, merciless wind, as he stands strong, defending his domain.” (updated description)

Rhinoceros by perfumer Paul Kiler was launched in 2014.  Rhinoceros Eau de Parfum is an authentic leather jacket fragrance, livened up with several shots of dry and boozy rum and laced with tobacco. There is some sage and lavender chucked somewhere in the mix, and I adore the background of amber, vetiver, woods and smoke notes drifting in. The bergamot invisibly balances it out into a musky, enigmatic, and alluring accord. Many of these notes are traditionally masculine, and while I think that for my personal tastes it could do with a little more sweetening up, this is a gorgeous scent that I would definitely wear often were I to get a full bottle. I’d definitely enjoy smelling this on a man.

2) Beaver

“A river pools in the clearing of a peaceful wood. Wild flowers mingle in the undergrowth. This is where the beavers build their kingdom.”

“Beaver Eau de Parfum invites you to slip away to a cozy family lodge. A tranquil river encloses the den in its rippling embrace as it glides beneath the blossoms of lush linden trees lining the banks. The breezy aroma of the green, floral grove washes over you, just before you duck inside to be welcomed by leathery hints of musky castoreum*. As it mingles with the moist, woody note of freshly hewn timber, it strikes you just how sexy and dapper this perfume is, and you sink into it, letting yourself be enfolded in its surprising elegance.” (updated description)

Beaver launched in 2014 by Chris Bartlett. Beaver Eau de Parfum opens with a quick, 2-second breath of subtle citrus and a soft swish of fresh air carrying linden-blossoms. It then immediately trails into the suggestion of a sour, impossible-to-miss castoreum blended with iris, with faint undertones of smoke and vanilla interwoven with earth. At the end you get crisp cedar wood soaking in a warm amber bath. Interestingly, you also get this tinge of ash – not as in a cigarette ashtray smell, but as in residual campfire smoke. Very nice!

I don’t know how the perfumer pulled off that synthetic beaver musk (castoreum) as the main punch to this scent, but it wasn’t too shabby, and I found the whole composition quite earthy and even elegant. Beaver is amazingly not a stinky, skanky composition that you would expect if the contents feature prominently the likes of that glandular funk exuding from the industrious, adorable Canadian animal. Although there is a slightly raunchy, dirty vibe here, it is also a cozy, lovable one, and the scent is quite wearable. I think that’s due to the floral addition. If you like the outdoors, but at the same time like to smell sophisticated, this fragrance is for you. Although it definitely has a masculine edge, this can certainly be worn by women who like to smell deliciously musky, earthy, and redolent. I can’t help myself – must regress: Yo, babe – I smell your Beaver. It makes me want you nearer.

Even though named after a beast, this scent is not a beast-mode projector, it being a musky scent (musk lives closer to the skin). It lasted 6 or 7 hours to me when I tried it, very quiet in the last half. I think this is a mature and versatile perfume that works anytime except in perhaps extremely hot weather, but for evenings, I’d reach for something sweeter.

Note from Zoologist: “In 2016 we improved the formula by redesigning the linden-blossom top notes accord, removing the smoke and ash notes, and enhancing the base notes accord with even higher quality musks. We also introduced a light leather note, an attribute of the real castoreum musk.”

Umm, I guess I will need to get a new sample. I like the idea of an addition of leather and better musk, but the removal of the smoke? Not sure…

3) Panda

“The adorable Panda is a born charmer and a true ambassador of peace. Indigenous to the Sichuan bamboo forests, the Panda’s natural habitat is a majestic mosaic of dewy greens and enchanting aromas.”

Panda was launched in 2014 and the nose behind it is again Paul Kiler. Panda Eau de Parfum is a fresh green fragrance that combines the delightful scents of bamboo and zisu leaves (or perilla – plant from the mint family known as shiso here in Japan). The scent starts of peppery –  sichuan pepper, to be exact. Then you get osmanthus and juicy mandarins and lilies. I was expecting a light and orangey scent to pour out of Panda, and although it is light, there was not as much citrus as I had anticipated. The bamboo vibe was fresh and interesting, though, and the fragrance did not disappoint. The composition was watery, though the minerals and metals I detected gave that water a chlorinated feeling. I felt as if I were sitting in my parents garden pool and a panda nonchalantly came out of the back forest to share some unripe bamboo with me. I offered him some green tea and a mint in return.

Update:

4) Hummingbird

“From the ethereal perspective of the exquisitely adorned hummingbird, the world is an endless kaleidoscope of colourful, fragrant blooms offering up their tempting delights. An insatiable desire for sweetness propels the hummingbird as it floats from flower to flower, sampling the nectar with a gentle touch of its delicate tongue. Retreating to its lichen and moss-lined nest, it settles into the cozy cocoon and dreams of sweet ambrosia.”

Yes, I got myself a sample of this more recently via Scent Trunk. So glad for it! The nose behind Hummingbird is Shelley Waddington, and Zoologist launched the scent in 2015.  This is an extremely appropriately name scent, as what I get out of it at first whiff is a fruity floral nectar. There is honeysuckle, mimosa, lilac, and peonies dancing lightly around in the air, kicking up a pixie dust made of pear, cherry, and honey sugars. Once exhausted, the flowers float down to rest on a creamy bed of amber, musk and wood. Pretty, sophisticated, and very romantic! But the perfume does take a while to get tired. One is reminded of the strength of the Hummingbird – its powerful, precise, and incredibly fast wing movement.


Zoologist Perfumes, I look forward to sampling your newer additions: Bat, Civit, Nightingale, and Macaque! The first four have all be real winners in my book, so my expectations are high. Zoologist bottles are 60 ml (2 fl oz) in size and have a parfum concentration of 20%. They retail for $125, presumably Canadian. None of their eau de parfums contain animal products.

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