Sunday, July 11, 2010
It’s been a hot, miserable, steamy week here in New Jersey and testing perfumes on sweaty skin is pointless. The weather finally eased up enough to let me evaluate all eleven submissions—two per forearm. Sorry this took so long.
I’m always astonished at how different a scent can smell on blotter versus on skin—my skin at least. I have what French perfumers bluntly call “bad skin”; it doesn’t reflect back what they regards as the formula’s true impression.
Tough beans. It’s what I’ve got so I’m going with it. Here are my on-skin impressions arranged in the same batting order as the blotter impressions:
Adam Gottschalk – Lord’s Jester / Dionysus
Fresh: Initially chocolaty
Drydown: A vinyl-like note sticks out
Alexandra Balahoutis – Strange Invisible Perfumes / Temple of Musk
Fresh: Burst of grapefruit which vanishes quickly
Drydown: Residual is a soft santal note.
Ambrosia Jones – Perfume by Nature / Craving
Fresh: Sweet & fruity; like a dessert wine
Anya McCoy – Anya’s Garden Perfumes / Kewdra
Fresh: Musky, white chocolate.
Drydown: Powdery, sweet.
Charna Ethier – Providence Perfumes / Musk Nouveau
Fresh: Warm, patchouli-incense.
Drydown: Similar; good staying power.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz – DSH Perfumes / Musk eau natural
Fresh: Briefly green
Drydown: Brown spices; clove-like.
Elise Pearlstine – Belly Flower Perfumes / Verdigris
Fresh: Sweet, honey-like.
Jane Cate – A Wing and a Prayer Perfumes / Tallulah B.
Fresh: Warm, spicy.
JoAnne Bassett – JoAnne Bassett Perfumes / Sensual Embrace
Fresh: Very green
Drydown: Green gives way to a pleasant balsamic impression
Lisa Fong – Artemisia Perfume / Drifting Sparks
Fresh: Singular soapy impression; reminiscent of Cashmere Bouquet
Drydown: Same; good staying power; linear.
Nicholas Jennings – Sharini Parfums Naturels / Graines de Paradis
Fresh: Softly herbal; indistinct.
Skin vs Blotter: Some submissions gave consistent impressions on blotter and skin. Charna Ethier’s Musk Nouveau was warm and incense-like in both tests. It was also relatively linear, i.e., it kept the same impression from fresh to drydown.
Other submissions remained true to their blotter impressions, but with a twist. For example, Adam’s Gottschalk’s Dionysus retained a chocolate-like fresh impression in both, but on my skin developed an odd note that dominated the drydown. In Alexandra Balahoutis’ Temple of Musk, what smelled like distinct vine-like green and lemon notes on blotter produced a nice grapefruit impression on skin. (Now I get it!)
The unusual fresh blotter impression of JoAnne Bassett’s Sensual Embrace (“sharp, effervescent Play-Doh”) was replaced on skin by a green note. Skin and blotter both dried down to a warm, balsamic impression. The lovely sweet floral note of Lisa Fong’s Drifting Sparks on the fresh blotter were lost on my skin; it went straight to a soapy impression that dominated the drydown as well. Likewise, the spicy astringency of Nicholas Jennings’ Graines de Paradis so evident on blotter was swallowed up entirely on my skin. (Of course your mileage may vary . . .)
Differences between skin and blotter are not unique to the all-natural ingredients of this design competition; they are a constant issue in commercial, synthetic-included perfumery as well. Perfumes are composed on blotter and tested on skin; sometimes the differing outcomes are not easily explained. It’s why we do a lot of consumer testing before submitting something to a client.
Musk as a Design Theme: I’ve already admitted that I’m not the best judge of musk. (I can’t smell truffles, so I never pay for them!) With a couple of exceptions, most of the submissions stayed within plausible distance of a musk theme. For the Guild’s next competition, I’d suggest going with a wearer-relevant theme: “something light for summer” or “a sensual winter’s night.”
I’d also suggest a smaller competition. Eleven perfumes is a lot of territory to cover blogging-wise (pant, pant); and it’s probably asking a lot of readers to follow all eleven on ten different blogs.