Let’s Play “Questions”….

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the various notes with which we each struggle. Our personal bête noire, if you will. How many of us really pinpoint all the notes that really turn us off perfumes? A discussion in comments to the recent Serge Lutens’ Cuir Mauresque review and how it smelled “dirty” to some brought the issue of about animalic civet and musk to the forefront of my mind. So did a comment on another blog about lily-of-the-valley and muguet. But, while we know our greatest and most horrifying notes, the greater issue concerns the grey zones: what about those which straddle the line and where it’s all a question of their treatment in a perfume?

So, I thought it would be fun to play Questions. It’s one of my favorite games and, as a former litigator, I have my own extremely elaborate version with a complicated set of rules, but I’ll spare you what has been compared to the Spanish Inquisition and just stick to the basics. Well, as “basic” as someone massively detailed like myself can be….

This is the scenario: you’re going to a famous perfumer to order a bespoke fragrance. In preparation, he asks you to write down all the notes that you can think of and put them into six different categories. These are the categories:

  1. Notes you absolutely adore with a passion and which make you sit up just a little bit straighter when you see them on a perfume list.
  2. Notes you like.
  3. Notes you neither like or dislike. True and genuine indifference as to their appearance in a perfume.
  4. Notes that are very iffy for you unless done right, are in conjunction with other things, or are handled in a certain way. In other words, problematic notes that straddle the line between ambivalence and dislike unless something amazing happens to them.
  5. Notes that you don’t like. 
  6. Notes that you hate with the searing passion of a thousand burning suns!

Now, you might be surprised when you really think about ALL the possible notes out there and which one of the categories they would really fall under. I certainly was for a few of them. Categories #3, 4 and 5 are the ones I’m most curious about. What straddles the line and what gets pushed over into some dislike? Are there things to which that you are truly indifferent, or that you like but are hardly going to get excited over?

For those of you who post here regularly, I know some of your hardcore buttons for Category #5: patchouli for one of you; civet or musk for another; Tide and soap for a few; and, yes, lily-of-the-valley or muguet for one poor person whose dislike almost verges on trauma. (You know who you are…) And, obviously, we all hate synthetics. (Or so I hope.) I’ll also take for granted that you’ll have problems with any note that is taken to a huge, abnormal extreme.

But I’m curious about how clear-cut things are for you. When thinking of your list, consider the following general categories in order to find ingredients frequently used in perfumery: Fruit; Food; Citruses; Things in your Spice Cabinet; Gourmand; Chypre; Fougère; Oriental; Leather; Abstract scents; Alcohol. Feel free to put an asterix next to any note where you’re still not sure where it lies and explain which other category it may fall into.

So, this is my personal list, though I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few things:

1. Notes you absolutely love and adore with a passion. Essentially, notes which make you sit up just a little bit straighter when you see them on a perfume list: 

Orange blossom; orange notes in general; saffron; sandalwood; labdanum; patchouli; incense; frankincense/opoponax; resins/Siam resin/Peru Balsam/amber; and ambergris.

2. Notes you like:

Tuberose* (may be in the Love category); jasmine; gardenia* (may be in the Love category); bergamot; honey; myrrh; cloves; cardamom; nutmeg; ginger; almond; boozy rum or rum raisin; hyacinth; and grapefruit.

3. Notes you neither like nor dislike:

Tobacco leaves; tea; tarragon; vetiver; lemon; verbena; fennel/anise; ylang-ylang; osmanthus; star anise; violets; frangipani/plumeria; peppercorns (pink or black pepper); lily-of-the-valley; muguet; salt; peaches; plums* (may be iffy if too purple patchouli synthetic); apricots; earth; chocolate; vanilla; caramel; coffee; and oakmoss.

4. Notes that are questionable and iffy for you unless done right, are in conjunction with other things, or are handled in a certain way. In other words, problematic notes that straddle the line between ambivalence and actual dislike unless done well.

Geranium; rose; green galbanum; powder; orris root/iris (due to the powder issue); skanky civet; leather* (needs to be done REALLY well or it will go the Dislike category); agarwood/oud; musk; white musk* (borders on the Dislike category since it’s often so synthetic in smell); powder; black licorice; cumin; coconut; aquatic notes (this is different than salty notes); cherries; rhubarb; dust; plastic; gasoline; asphalt; medicinal camphor; curry; celery; oleander (see “powder” issues); purple (purple grape-y patchouli); and “metallic” notes.

5. Notes that you don’t like

Aldehydes; lavender; cedar; excessively peppery cypress; melon; angelica; coca-cola/root beer; sweat; butter; popcorn; horse feces (see, “leather”); urine; blood (not that I’ve smelled it yet in perfume, but I know it’s out there); and suntan oil.

6. Notes that you hate with the searing passion of a thousand burning suns!

“Clean, fresh” scents (soap; laundry detergent; fabric softener; Acqua di Gio); calone; baby powder; shampoo; hairspray; and rubbing alcohol/disinfectant.

So, what about you? Knowing what you love and hate is easy, but the shades of grey… that is much harder. As a side note, if you think it would be fun to have more of these sort of chat or discussion posts, please let me know.

64 thoughts on “Let’s Play “Questions”….

  1. Ok here`s my list:
    1. Notes I absolutely love and adore with a passion. Essentially, notes which make you sit up just a little bit straighter when you see them on a perfume list:
    Oakmoss, iris, leather, amber, benzoin, bitter orange, neroli, incense,sandalwood.

    2. Notes I like:
    Rosewood, hyacinth,oud,beeswax, labdanum, tobacco,rose,bergamot,patchouli,violet leaf,suede,cassis,fig

    3. Notes I neither like nor dislike:
    Gardenia, vanilla, lilly-of-the-valley,musk,lavender,cognac,rum,cardamom

    4. Notes that are questionable and iffy for me unless done right, are in conjunction with other things, or are handled in a certain way. In other words, problematic notes that straddle the line between ambivalence and actual dislike unless done well.
    Pepper,jasmine,coriander,nutmeg,caramel,cardamom,lemon,vetiver,petitgrain,fruity notes, tuberose

    5. Notes that I don’t like:
    Soap,licorice,cinnamon,root bear, powder,celery,melon, geranium,peach,aldehydes,aquatic notes,curry,civet

    6. Notes that I hate with the searing passion of a thousand burning suns!
    Bay leaf,metalic notes,cumin,sweat

    • Good heavens! Some surprises that I did not expect there, but it definitely helps me better understand your perfume profile and what you may need to avoid. Like, for example, Cuir Mauresque if you have issues with jasmine and flat-out don’t like civet. LOL! How interesting that you don’t like geranium. I debated if I should put it in 3 or 4, because it’s pretty close for me.

      And I had absolutely NO idea that you were an Iris man!! As for category 4, I’m surprised that your list is so short. Heh. That actually is good as it means you definitely know your tastes. Just out of curiosity, what makes cardamom iffy for you? A big LOL at cumin being in the category that you hate with the passion of a thousand burning suns!

      I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to answer, Ross. This actually helps me a lot, especially in terms of knowing what perfumes to recommend to you and which ones you would probably dislike. So, a thousand thanks and a big hug!

      • Thank you Kafka for creating this questionnaire! I actually went through my Fragrantica profile for some notes that I wasnt sure what caterory they belong. I love Iris ( Dior Homme, Dior Homme Intense, Le Labo Iris 39, Iris Silver Mist). Cardamom is a note I used to like before, but I wore Bond no 9 Brooklyn way too much back when it came out and now I`m iffy about it. Cumin just doesnt correspond with my body chemistry. And also I hate cumin in my food. Ewww…

        • Perfume notes and actual perfumes that one has totally over-dosed on would be a great question for a future post, Ross! I know my iffyness with the rose note is due almost entirely to having drowned myself in YSL’s Paris as a 13 yr old. Hands down, it is the main reason.

          So, no cumin in your food would pretty much wipe out a good portion of Middle Eastern and Indian dishes, I guess. LOL. And it certainly explains your dead silence on posts where the perfumes have cumin notes. I’m guessing that something like Absolue Pour Le Soir would be your worst nightmare come true: cumin but civet-like skank. Or does musk not smell like animalic skank to you? (You have it in your “I’m Indifferent” category.)

          P.S.– I’m struggling mightily to think of perfumes/colognes that have a major bay leaf component and I’m drawing a total blank. Which ones traumatized you with horror? 😉

          • Musk can be a little tricky to my nose. I like it in Musc Ravageur or in Urban Musk and Musk Pure but Muscs Koublai Khan I cannot stand. Im getting bay leaf in SL Arabie among other notes, but bay leaf kills it for me. Also I can detect bay leaf in Guerlains Songe d’un Bois d’Ete… 🙁

          • Ah, interesting about both notes. I haven’t smelled SL Arabie or Songe d’Un Bois d’Ete, but I do have Musc KK, so I will look for it there when I try it. Bay Leaf has a particular and happy connotation for me because one of my best friends, a super gourmet, loves Bay Leaf, buys it in gigantic bottles of 1,000, uses it in everything and even *travels* with it! I can’t see the name without immediately thinking of his discourses on the importance of Bay Leaf. LOL. 🙂

        • So you don’t like cumin Ross? I don’t like it much either. The only time it smells good on me is when I get hot and sweaty like after a heavy workout. I tried it with Rose 31 which is top heavy with spices and other stuff as well. Right after application, it smells awful, but after getting sweaty it smells so wonderful!

  2. This was fun! I seem to have a lot in the middle though because there are a lot of fragrances I adore that treat certain notes in a certain way, but in another perfume, I can’t stomach.

    I am in stupid love with: Citrus notes, iris, orange blossom, pepper (black and white), cardamom, saffron, caramel, ambergris, salty notes, musk, vanilla, incense, benzoin.

    I like/love: Tuberose, oud, myrrh, almond, rice, licorice, rose.

    I’m indifferent to: lily-of-the-valley, freesia, carnation, geranium, ylang-ylang, immortelle, rhubarb, celery, plum, galbanum, tea.

    I like/love only if it’s done well: chocolate, patchouli, vetiver leather, coffee, cumin, peach, melon, metallic notes, ozone, violets, aldehydes.

    (If those aren’t done well, I don’t hate the notes, I hate what’s been done to them)

    I don’t like . . . well, I kind of like everything so long as it is well done.

    I hate with a burning passion: butter, sour milk, plastic, sugary sweet accords, shampoo freshness, and red berries/fruit.

    • Oh, I’m SO glad you had fun! I feared it may be a few questions too many, but I can never seem to help myself when it comes to details. LOL.

      I’m always interested by how many things people have in the 4th “It Depends On How It’s Done” category because it shows how much leeway they may give to certain perfumes. But I’m utterly fascinated by where people will place more commonly thorny, difficult notes like cumin, leather or civet. Those are often deal-breakers for a lot of people, so to see it in an “It Depends” category as opposed to flat-out loathing intrigues me.

      All of this leads to another thing I wonder about: what it’s like for perfumers themselves who feel the pressure to create something original for niche lines but then have to face the dilemma of whether to use those iffy notes. The reactions to leather, civet and jasmine by THEMSELVES has suddenly given me even greater respect for Christopher Sheldrake to so audaciously combine all THREE together in one perfume, as he did with Cuir Mauresque. (Yes, that review seems to have started a lot of this. LOL).

      I totally forgot about a lot of the notes you mentioned. Ozonic (iffy for me too), rice (like), carnation (indifferent to iffy)(how could I have forgotten carnation??!), immortelle (indifferent) and sour milk (dislike). Are there really perfumes with sour milk notes? Given how far Les Secretions Magnifiques took things, I’m sure there are but I don’t know of any. Please tell me what to avoid! Heh. 🙂

      • Penhaligon’s Amaranthine has that sour milk thing going on for me. I couldn’t hack it. Had to scrub it. It smelled like my best friend when she was breast feeding her son and was too tired to shower. And I love my bestie and people love that fragrance!

  3. This is fun. More, please 🙂

    LOVE+++: iris, orris/orris butter, vanilla, benzoin, caramel, hay, fig, lemon, orange blossom, coffee, ginger, saffron, tiare, black currant, linden, honeysuckle, stewed fruits, tonka bean, most tea notes, rice,most gourmand notes

    LIKE: incense, chocolate/cocoa, pepper, birch tar, peach, pear, apple, rhubarb, aldehydes, root beer, bergamot, vetiver, tobacco, pipe tobacco, rum, berries, paper, salt, cucumber, pine, amber, patchouli, lavender, sage, rosemary, beeswax, pumpkin, tomato leaf, lily, ylang-ylang, cedar, most woodsy notes

    INDIFFERENT: oud, jasmine, smoke, galbanum, sandalwood

    IFFY: rose, tuberose, leather, magnolia, cumin

    HATE: coconut, suntan lotion, aquatic/oceanic notes, most animalic notes

    ABHOR: Lily-of-the-Valley, lily of the valley, LOTV, muguet, doll’s head, gasoline, wait, did I say Lily of the Valley?

    Not really sure how it smells so it would help to get a reference point: oakmoss, musk (I know I have many perfumes with this but don’t really know what this, in isolation, smell like), civet, geranium, heliotrope

    • Hajusuuri, I bow down before your list. Absolutely AMAZING detail and depth!! As the kids say nowadays, “You win the internet!” LOL.

      You listed a *ton* of notes that I never even thought of, like tomato leaf, paper, cucumber, pumpkin and beeswax. Bravo. What was most interesting to me was just how short your Iffy list was! Fascinating. I think we need Undina here to help us with a statistical breakdown of all this, from those who have just a few in their Iffy List to what specific ingredients show up most of all in each category. (Undina, if you see this, we should do some sort of cross-post between blogs with statistics! Your love of numbers would come SO in handy here!)

      BTW, Hajusuuri, I think you left out Lily of the Valley on your list…… *ducks and flees* I kid, I kid — THREE whole mentions of it! *grin* (Also, OT, I didn’t know you were a female until a few days ago and you mentioned something on Lucas’ site. Do you know, I always thought you were a guy?! LOL)

      I don’t know how to help you with isolating some of the scents you mentioned in a vacuum. Civet would be hard and I don’t think there are a ton of potted geranium plants all around Manhattan at this time of year. But, for oakmoss, sometimes it really, really smells like that dry, dusty lichen, moss stuff that florists put on the top of plants or flower arrangements. Lichen is a cousin to oakmoss and has the same sort of dusty, mineralized, grey pungency that a lot of manifestations of oakmoss can have. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s close enough for the purposes of trying to smell the note in isolation, especially given that few new perfumes have real oakmoss in them. If you can get your hands on vintage chypres, that would help more but obviously that’s neither easy nor would it single out oakmoss by itself.

      • I was originally going to list the order of the notes from LOVE to NO WAY but that would have taken too much time. Anyway, I left out a few notes that deserves a place in my lists:

        LIKE: gardenia, neroli, cassis, peony, carnation, pistachio, apricot, nutmeg, osmanthus, lemon vebena
        INDIFFERENT: melon, immortelle, cinnamon, freesia
        IFFY: black licorice, star anise
        HATE: metallic notes

        And funny you should mention realizing I’m female! I always thought you were a guy until your Bombay Bling post!

        • You thought I was a guy who loved Fracas and Amarige?! ROFL. How funny. What finally gave me away, the shopping comment in Bombay Bling? 😉

          I wonder what it is about immortelle that makes it such a controversial, polarising note for so many. I see a lot of references to people struggling with it when I read comments on perfumes with that ingredient. It was in a Serge Lutens or something else that I reviewed, but now I can’t recall which one it was.

          • Not the shopping… this – “For someone like myself with a nomadic upbringing and who stopped counting all the places she lived in before she was even twenty-one, Bombay somehow felt like home.”

            As to the Fracas and Amarige love…I know guys who love Carnal Flower 🙂 (It is too BIG for me … but the Hair Mist is on my To Buy List.)

            I think your next “game” should be the same categories and list the perfumes by name and perhaps limit it to the top 5 in each category. Of course I’ll be the first one to violate the Top Five for the LOVE category…

          • Ah, okay. The revelatory pronoun “she.” Hahaha.

            As for Carnal Flower….. pppshhhaw! Child’s play tuberose for one who worships at the altar of Fracas! Seriously, jokes aside, it is. All my friends who adore Fracas always find Carnal Flower to be a huge, underwhelming disappointment. If I remember correctly, one of them wrote to me a few months ago and asked, “that’s it??! What’s all the fuss about???”

            If you find me a man who loves and wears Fracas, I may have to marry him. On second thought, no. He’d probably want to steal my bottle and there is no way I’d ever let THAT happen. 😉 😀

          • I’m feeling extremely compelled to try Carnal Flower at this point. But damn, it’s so expensive, even for a sample. Debating whether or not its worth trying. After my tuberose breakthrough, I want to try any and all tuberose scents. LOL.

          • Bloody expensive for a sample. I remember I spent about $20-something on mine, last summer, and it was a huge splurge for a mere sample. I was convinced I would fall before its feet in awe. Not quite. But then, I worship at the altar of Fracas and have since I was 7 years old. LOL.

            I have to say, I’m SOOOOOOOOOOO proud of your tuberose breakthrough, as you put it so well. That really bodes well for a lot of other scents which incorporate the note. Oh, and guess what?! I noticed that my bag of goodies from Mr. Hound included Tubereuse 3 Animale from Histoires de Parfum!!! YAY! So, I will get to try it, and you can hang onto your newfound love. I’m so grateful for the thought though! And, if you hang onto it for longer, you may last another week before you end up succumbing to the eventual: a big full-bottle purchase. 😀

            I wonder what you’d think of the mentholated and slightly rubbery/gasoline opening of Serge Lutens’ Tubereuse Criminelle. Hmm……

          • Haha, well now I may need to try Fracas! I’ll trust your suggestion that Carnal Flower is not worth $20+ for a sample, or at least will wait until I see it for cheaper (if ever).

          • Well, I got a very large sample! That’s why it was so much. I was convinced I would adore it beyond all reason. I did like it. It just wasn’t overwhelming love.

          • Kevin, I suggest you go over to Perfume Posse and ask the Perfume Fairy Godmother for a sample. I bet someone will be able to fulfill it.

  4. I agree with Hajusuuri, games are fun! And these type of lists are great to have on hand when doing swaps 🙂 Here is mine:

    Love: rose, patchouli, lily, spices (as in a general blend of cinnamon, cardamon, pepper cloves), incense, sandalwood, linden blossom, pepper

    Like: oud, labdanum, oakmoss, amber, myrrh, peru balm, tobacco leaves, cloves (used with a light hand), carnation, tuberose, gardenia, ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, orange blossoms, hyasinth, peach, lemon, lime, mango, apricots, plums, black currants (and for all these fruits I only like them if they’re done well and not too sugary/dewy fresh in style), galbanum, aldehydes

    Indifferent: violet, iris, geranium, jasmine, honey, lavender, passionfruit, fir, spruce, wormwood, cedar, guaic-wood, soil, thyme, saffron, caramel, rice, chocolate, bergamot, coconut, tomato leaf, civet, hay, cinnamon, cardamon, ginger, celery, cumin, sweat

    Hmmm: vetiver, black tea, lilac, orange, vanilla (I don’t mind it blended but vanilla-centric perfumes are hard for me), rhubarb, melon, strawberries, leather, tarragon, hazelnut, marzipan, almonds, coffee, black liquorice, leather, manure,

    Dislike: freesia, peony, waterlily, green tea, chamomile, angelica, pumpkin, red apples, lemon verbena, plastic, asphalt, metallic notes

    Hate: calone, washing powder, everything rendered dewy, sugary accords (as in Flowerbomb)

    • YAY, I’m so glad someone else is having fun and wants more! Fascinating list, Sigrun, especially as you too included a number of things I hadn’t thought of, like Freesia, Peony, Waterlily, chamomile, Linden, etc. I agree with you on anything that is overly sugary. I’m not a fan either. It’s interesting how your notes reflect that tendency away from gourmands since both your Indifferent and Iffy lists have a large number of the main ingredients in such perfumes.

      I’m curious about the lemon verbena. It’s on your dislike list but lemon is on your Like list. How much does lemon verbena differ from lemon to your nose? Or, perhaps I should ask, what characteristics does lemon verbena have that renders it into a dislike? More herbaceous and slightly woody?

      • It’s a good question about the lemon verbena. I love big, ripe and sun-warmed lemons but I don’t like when lemon notes are mixed up with too much greenery as in lemon verbena and also in lemongrass (which I love when mixed in food, but not to smell on myself).

        With lemon verbena I also have another issue. I used to have a lemon verbena plant and I tried hard to use the leaves in desserts, salads, drinks etc. But I never seemed to get it right. Each and every time the food had been better without the verbena! So whenever I smell it now I think of those ruined desserts and that makes me like it even less…

        And, yes, gourmands are my most difficult perfume family. I just prefer to eat those ntoes, rather than smell of them, but it’s a group I’m learning to appreciate more and more, especially in winter 🙂

  5. Funny! Let’s play!

    1. love ♥
    iris, orris butter, vanilla, grapefruit, orange, lemon blossom, neroli, petit grain, saffron, tonka bean, clean, powdery

    2. like
    lavender, amber, bergamot, ylang-ylang, peach, apricot, oakmoss, cedar, coriander, black pepper, cardamom

    3. indifferent
    musk, cinnamon, tarragon, star anise, licorice,

    4. questionable and iffy
    oud, leather, incense, benzoin, olibanum, tea

    5. don’t like
    melon, watermelon, mimosa, grass, hay, wheat, immortelle

    6. hate
    vetiver, patchouli

    • Interesting lists, Lucas. I’m not surprised by a lot of it, except for a few things. For example, “hay” which I didn’t know you disliked or “grass.” The notes are usually done in such a dry or fresh/light way — respectively — that I would have thought you’d like them. How does immortelle translate to you to cause you difficulties? Also, I’m surprised that lavender is just in your Like list; I would have thought it would definitely be in the Love one!

      • I don’t like the green freshness of grass and that dry barn-reminding aroma.
        On me immortelle smells like dust and sand on my skin. Annick Goutal Sables for example is a no-go for me.
        I thought you’d be surprised by the place where I put lavender but not every lavender is the one I love, that’s why I ranked it down

  6. For time reasons I am opting for a slightly condensed version – is that allowed? I hope this omission of certain numbered categories doesn’t constitute contempt of court? I’d say I like most fragrance styles except twee fruity florals, aquatics, fougere, scary dirty chypres and rich orientals, especially those with heavy spice and fruit. Civet and oud are also a no-no for me in their most hardcore incarnations.

    Favourite notes are vanilla, sandalwood – any woods really, though see above re oud – saffron, ginger, rose, orange blossom, linden, jasmine, light patchouli, iris, ylang-ylang, frangipani, champaca, magnolia, gardenia, petitgrain, freesia, honey, tea, pepper, cardamom, incense and amber. Leather and tobacco are also fine in small doses. That is it really – I can take most notes – even some animalics – in moderation. : – )

    Oh, probably not lavender, licorice, basil, coumarin, grass or melon, come to think of it. And honeysuckle and hyacinth and almond must be kept in check. And clean musks. So they are probably iffy ones in your nomenclature.

    • LOL at the “contempt of court” concern. 😉 I think the key thing you wrote was “in moderation” and I suspect that is the essential aspect to all perfumes for you. That said, I’m surprised lavender isn’t your cup of tea. I don’t know why I thought you may be a lavender person. I’m most definitely NOT, so clearly, even Evil Scent Twins share some commonalities at times! 😀

      • Phew, that is a relief. We won’t be splitting a bottle of the vicious pointy sprig up the nose that is Chanel Jersey any time soon… ; – )

  7. 1. Notes you absolutely love and adore with a passion. Essentially, notes which make you sit up just a little bit straighter when you see them on a perfume list:

    Patchouli, incense, sandalwood, citrus, oakmoss, leather

    2. Notes you like:

    Bergamot, really any spice: nutmeg, cloves, ginger, pepper, etc. Tarragon/Licorice/Anise/Fennel, Tuberose (I think, based on how much I’m loving Tubereuse 3 L’Animal), Incense, wood (any kind, really)

    3. Notes you neither like nor dislike:

    Tobacco, bergamot, osmanthus

    4. Notes that are questionable and iffy for you unless done right, are in conjunction with other things, or are handled in a certain way. In other words, problematic notes that straddle the line between ambivalence and actual dislike unless done well.

    Rose, lavender, iris, civet, musk, cumin, any sort of medicinal scent, aldehydes, booze

    5. Notes that you don’t like:

    Powder, Chocolate, body odor (I guess this would be the harsh cumin…), barnyard (sorry Equipage! I thought I’d love you!), cat pee (I swear I smelled that in Enchanted Forest, otherwise I wouldn’t feel compelled to say I don’t like cat pee, because really, who does?!), most fruit scents minus citrus

    6. Notes that you hate with the searing passion of a thousand burning suns!
    I’m pretty much identical to you in this regard – soap, oceanic, cleaning supplies (which I don’t mind the smell of when I’m cleaning, but I don’t like them on me)

    I’m still working to really learn to identify notes, so this is very preliminary. I never thought I was an incense person, but I seem to gravitate toward scents that use it, so I guess I like it a lot? Honestly, I have very instinctual reactions to most things I try and it’s usually pretty binary between Like/Dislike. There are few things I find irredeemably terrible, and few I absolutely fall head over heels with. Most fall somewhere in between with varying degrees of like. I’ve liked a lot of stuff with notes I never thought I’d enjoy, so I don’t rule out anything besides “fresh” scents (citrus scents notwithstanding).

    • Oops, I realize I listed bergamot twice. I think it really belongs in the ambivalent category! I’d also add saffron to the “questionable” category for me. Sometimes I like it and sometimes it smells really soapy to me.

    • I’m so incredibly surprised that you like tuberose so much, Kevin! I don’t know why but that’s something I didn’t expect. At all!

      The cat pee in the Enchanted Forest is clearly from the cassis/black currant, which means that those notes should definitely go on your Iffy list. LOL! Cumin is obviously another. Equipage has a lot of notes that you usually like so I wonder what was in it to turn so “barnyard” on you? I just looked it up and I can’t see what would do it. It’s got the oakmoss, vetiver and spices but maybe it was the musk combined with patchouli? I haven’t smelled it in ages, and haven’t tried the sample you sent me, so I’m just guessing here.

      I think you should go through whatever you had issues with in SL’s Ambre Sultan to see if you can identify what you hated so much. I think it has Angelica and Bay Leaf in it, no? If you can compare the Knize Ten, the Ambre Sultan and maybe the Ambre Russe, maybe you can pinpoint a few notes that they have in common to determine more things that you find Iffy? Perhaps throw in a few Xerjoff’s in there too for comparison purposes?

      • I just tried Tubereuse 1, and while I don’t like it nearly as much as 3, it’s still pretty great! I was really, really shocked I didn’t love Equipage, as I was convinced I would. I wouldn’t mind giving it another try, actually, because I am convinced it was a fluke since there’s nothing I *don’t* like. Did I send you a sample? I thought I had tried it in the store, but perhaps I had a sample I sent to you. Sigh, my memory…

        I wouldn’t mind trying Ambre Sultan on my skin to see why I hated it. I don’t like Bay Leaf, so that may explain part of it. But that’s a good idea trying to compare them to see if I can pinpoint the problematic pieces. I’m actually willing/interested in trying them all again for a better comparison, though I don’t think I could bear Zafar again. God, I can’t wait for you to smell that abomination.

  8. What a fun game! Btw, this question has me convinced (even more so) that those of us that share this obsession have a form of synesthesia. Which is wonderful, really, when you think about it.

    I am going to have to slightly change your categories too, but just slightly. Hope that’s okay:

    1. Adore: Sandalwood, cedar, guiac wood; all woods, really, except for aoud (not that I don’t like it, I have purposely avoided it because it is trendy and I hate trendy, so I don’t know what it smells like). Patchouli. Saffron. Cinnamon. Labdanum and other resins. Butter. Rice. Tea. Smoke. Coffee. Iris/orris root. Apple. Rum. Caramel. Hazelnut. Nutmeg. Milk, wheat. Cannabis.

    2. Like: Orange blossom, neroli, amber, peach, apricot, date, raisin, lemon, lime, chocolate, vanilla. Caraway. Cardamom. Curry. Basil. Rosemary. Bay leaf. Musk. Amber. Rain. Soap. Powder. (Certain powders can be love.) Grass, earth. Evergreens, pumpkin, carrot, celery.

    3. Indifferent: Bergamot and verbena are really the only ones I can think of that I can actually distinguish as notes! I tend to passionately love or hate things.

    4. Notes that are questionable and/or iffy: I am changing this just slightly. For me, these are notes that are either terrible or wonderful depending on how they are done. They are notes that I hate in most perfumes but if done “right” (ie, to my taste– I think white flowers are supposed to be indolic but indoles give me terrible migraines) I will adore them: jasmine, rose, honey, coconut, tuberose, salty notes. Blackcurrant/cassis (I adore blackcurrant tea, thought I hated it in perfume, and smelled the Vagabond Prince Enchanted Forest this weekend and just love it). Cherry. Grapefruit. Incense. Carnation. Leather. Tobacco.

    5. Notes I hate: Metallic, blood, anything labeled “aquatic” or where they dye the juice blue. Ylang-ylang! Aldehydes and berries. Plum. Melon. Cucumber! (By far the most nauseating fragrance in the world to me; I realize I am probably in a class of one with that one.) Root beer.

    • Really interesting list, Nancy. There are some great extremes in your Adore and Like lists, in terms of polar opposite sorts of notes. I think you left out whatever was in Bois Farine that made you love it so much and which obviously will contrast greatly with more powerful accords like cedar, labdanum, curry, patchouli, etc. Also interesting were the fruits that were very problematic for you, as compared to those which you like. I’m really thinking of grapefruit here which is an unusual citrus to have issues with, given a love for the other citruses that you mentioned. Fascinating list. There is definitely no one single unifiying theme in it! 😀

      • I think the difference between the grapefruit and the other citruses is that I perceive the latter as sour (which I like) and the grapefruit sometimes as bitter (more like the pith, which I can’t stand).

        As for Bois Farine, Basenotes has the notes listed as fennel seed (this surprises me- I hate it in cooking); iris (I definitely get and love that); and cedar, guiac (sp?), sandalwood and benzoin. I like all stages of the fragrance but I think it’s the dry down that is making me go nuts for it. I do enjoy both bombastic and elusive!

  9. Ok, I’ll play but with one BIG asterisk: I do not want to go to “a famous perfumer to order a bespoke fragrance.” As I’ve recently explained on Birgit’s blog, I don’t think I’ll be happy with the process and will end up agreeing to something just to stop the torture of trying to explain to the Artist why his genius interpretation of my initial instructions do not work for me at all.

    Neither of the lists are set in stone or even close to be complete, but that’s what I came up with:

    1. Notes I absolutely adore: galbanum, rose, iris root, black currant, gardenia, amber, sandalwood, lily of the valley, hyacinth, mimosa, linden (French lime), fig, lilac, Iso E Super, daphne.

    2. Notes I like: vanilla, jasmine, lavender, vetiver, cedarwood, incense, neroli, leather, plum, tobacco, carnation, peony, pine, mango, coffee, bergamot, cocoa, dark chocolate, guava, tea, tomato leaf.

    3. Notes you neither like or dislike: lemon, basil, champaca, orange blossom, grapefruit, moss, ylang ylang.

    4. Notes that are very iffy for me unless done right: agarwood (oud), cinnamon, cardamom, honey, clove, apricot, almond, coconut, civet, violet, lily, patchouli.

    5. Notes that I don’t like: cucumber, melon, licorice, animal notes, apple, banana, camphore, mint, mushroom.

    6. Notes that I hate with the searing passion: tuberose, cumin, celery.

    • Did Birgit have something on bespoke perfumes recently? I must have missed that. Very interesting list, Undina. For one thing, you’re the first person to mention ISO E Super! For another, you’re the first to put tuberose in the “Hate with a Searing Passion” category! And yet, you like the equally indolic jasmine and gardenia. Interesting on what the differences may be for you, especially as gardenia often accompanies tuberose in a number of floral scents.

      I’m surprised that civet would end up in the iffy category. I was sure you would put that in the dislike list. Are there any perfumes with civet that you’ve really liked? Speaking of civet, what about its cousin: musk? Iffy, no doubt, no? Unless it takes on animal-like notes (like the start of Musc Tonkin), in which case, it obviously goes into your Dislike category.

      Also interesting, your mention of mushroom. I’ve never encountered a perfume with that note. (Are there any?) Your mention of Fig in the “like” category made me remember that I forgot that one too. It would go in the same category for me.

      • It was last week’s Monday Question.

        As to civet, it is in many perfumes that I love/like. First of all, it’s in my first and eternal perfume love Climat by Lancome. Also it’s in Diorissimo, Amouage Gold and Beloved, Jicky, Iris 39 by Le Labo, Vert Pour Madame and The Beat Look by DSH Perfumes. Actually, I didn’t try too many perfumes with it that I disliked: Cuir Mauresque, Library Collection Opus V by Amouage and Lilacs & Heliotrope by Soivohle. Musk is also not my enemy by default, there are so many variations of its usage…

        I HATE tuberose, not only in perfumery: I don’t like the scent of real flowers as well. But I love gardenia and do not mind jasmine. Well, what can I say? 🙂

        As to mushrooms, it’s not that much of a note but rather the smell – foresty-earthy-wet-mushrooms-are-somewhere-around scent. I came across it in a couple of perfumes and didn’t care for it much. I do not think that scent has to be a part of anything – other than of some “train your olfactory capabilities” kit.

        • Ah, okay. Thanks for the link. I must have missed it or lacked the time to read it.

          Really interesting about the civet and the tuberose issues you noted. I wish I had your statistical abilities and love of numbers (which I most definitely do NOT), because I’d find it fascinating to do a breakdown of where some of these things lie in a broad spectrum analysis given most people’s answers. As I said, I think you’re the only one who put tuberose in the “Searing Hate” category, though a number of people find it a very troublesome, problematic note and a few absolutely adore it. (I’m close to falling in that category, though I think I put it just as “love.”) Cumin seems much more universally despised. LOL. Oddly enough, melon seems to have an almost unanimous consensus too! Such an innocuous fruit and, yet, so hated in perfumery. 😀

  10. Love: Tuberose, leather, saffron, orange blossom, almond,

    Like: Leather, amber, jasmine, iris, orris, oakmoss, labdanum, civet, vanilla, that “roasted” note, carnation, violet, anise, lavender, neroli, powdery, soapy

    Indifferent: marine notes, aldehydes, patchouli, vetiver, bergamot, rose, labdanum, sandalwood, chocolate, coffee, ylang, gardenia, cedar, citrus, galbanum,

    Iffy: incense, “clean” notes, tobacco, marine notes, cedar

    Dislike: I’m not all that fond of oud.

    Loathe: There’s a sour vanilla floral note found in Organza by Givenchy, Calvin Klein Beauty, and Parfums M. Micallef Vanilla Fleur that I can’t stand.

    • Joan, how lovely to see you! I’m so glad you listed some of your favorites and not-so-favorites. I thought your lists were very interesting, especially the contrast of tuberose and leather in your “Love” category. Those are two notes that most people find very difficult, so good for you! You’ve made me very intrigued now by the “sour vanilla floral” note that you mention. I can’t recall it in the Organza (which I haven’t smelled in ages) and haven’t tried the M. Micallef, but when you mention Calvin Klein beauty, are you talking about their makeup? I tried one of his lipsticks a few months ago but I don’t recall focusing on the scent. I’m curious now to hunt down the troublesome note. LOL!

  11. This is such a tall order K. I have to compile my thoughts and comment a little later. LOL There are so many notes I love, loathe and many I am indifferent towards.

  12. 1. love 
     vanilla, orange, orange blossom,  neroli, petit grain, saffron, sandalwood, galbanum, oakmoss, lavender, green notes, honeysuckle, fir balsam.

    2. like
     amber, bergamot, ylang-ylang, peach, angelica, oakmoss, cedar, cocoa, dark chocolate, jasmine, honey, incense (that smells like burning wood not the kind that smells like church), plum, rose, patchouli, tuberose, oud (thats treated with a soft hand) leather, civet (thats done well as in Bal à Versailles vintage edp) gardenia, magnolia, iodine/ salt,

    3. indifferent
      iris, tonka bean, nutmeg, musk( can’t really smell these so I can’t really say how I feel about them)

    4. questionable and iffy
    black pepper, cumin, baie rose, licorice/anise, pink peppercorn, cardamom, myrtle, coriander, vetiver

    5. don’t like 
    aldehydes, bitter coffee, cinnamon, apple. However, I do love a good poached apple sprinkled with a touch of nutmeg and cinnamon. It is so delicious, but I rather not smell like it. LOL

    6. hate
    strong pine based accords that smell toxic i.e. Original Polo in the green bottle. Harsh smelling oud i.e. Black Aoud.

    • Nice job!! I’m not surprised by some of your choices but I am by others. Especially your love of galbanum!! Have you tried Bandit by Robert Piguet? Green, bitter, oakmoss and considered to be the most wearable “feminine” leather for men — though it’s not what I would really consider to be feminine, in my opinion. I was also surprised that cardamom went into the iffy category as it often accompanies many of the other notes in your like category. What’s “baie” rose? I’ve never heard that term before.

      • No I haven’t tried Bandit. It sounds very intriguing. Galbanum and oakmoss gives fragrances a green and earthy feel that is strikingly beautiful. Chanel 19 edt is a prime example. Granted most of the real oakmoss has been stripped out of No 19, due to IFRA regulations, but the general feel of the fragrance remains true to the original to a degree. I would love to smell vintage No 19, but I doubt any of it is even around anymore; what is left has probably deteriorated so badly.

        • DKChocoman,

          You can actually find vintages of No. 19 for reasonable prices online. I got a full, 4 oz. splash of the EdC concentration (which hasn’t been made for a while, as far as I am aware) for about $80. I can’t speak to degradation, but it smells positively divine as it is, so I would recommend trying some. I don’t know of you’re on FFF, but a very reputable perfumista there just got a huge dram of vintage No. 19 EDP which she will be selling off, so you may want to check it out if you are interested.

  13. Most of this I am basing on the essential oils I have sampled from Eden Botanicals but some is also based on perfumes I gravitate towards:
    1-blood orange, wild orange, grapefruit,lime, petitgrain, orange blossom, yuzu, bergamot, honeysuckle, lavender, muguet,lilac,beeswax, vanilla, ambrette seed, aldehydes, apricot, violet,star anise, fig, lilac, osmanthus, vanilla, sandalwood, tonka bean,immortelle,coconut,amber,patchouli

    2. honey, coffee, chocolate,gardenia, civet, tobacco, vetiver, caramel, oakmoss,leather, cedar

    3. jasmine,rose,agarwood,almond, galbanum, elemi, iris,rhubarb,cherry, tuberose,melon, soapy/clean, nutmet, ginger,rosewood,ambergris,freesia, carnation, frangipani, ylang-ylang,pine, melon, calone, rosemary, peppermint, spearmint,myrrh

    4. saffron, cardamom, cumin,pepper, tea tree, spikenard, celery

    There really is nothing that I can think of that fits into category 5 or 6 except for the smell of vomit and feces.

    • I found your list to be fascinating, Brie, and it gave me a ton of insight about your perfume profile. Your true love seems to be the more floral, aldehydic, chypre or fruity-floral categories of things. In contrast, it depends much more when it comes to orientals with lots of spices and heavy resins. So, you’re much more a classicist than an hardcore orientalist. At least, that’s my general impression thus far.

      I found it interesting that you listed cedar with its peppery, sometimes mentholated aspects, but were more indifferent to peppery elemi or the more minty elements. You love amber, but ambergris is in the Indifferent category #3. You’ve also put all the indolic flowers in that Indifferent category, while the more light, aromatic or zesty notes fill the Adore with a Passion Category #1. And, though you’ve mentioned not liking saffron due to the foody aspects, you have chocolate, caramel and honey in Category #2. Intriguing!

      Really interesting list. Thank you so much for taking the time to compile it!

  14. Oh, I’m so ridiculously late with this, but I loved reading your lists and can’t resist doing my own here in the comments so many months later:

    Notes you absolutely adore with a passion and which make you sit up just a little bit straighter when you see them on a perfume list.

    Moss, Rose, Black Currant, Blackberry, Violet, Labdanum/Amber, Ambergris, Honey, Saffron, Osmanthus, Balsam Fir, Salt, Iris, Oak

    Notes you like.

    Patchouli, Jasmine, Leather, Booze, Tonka, Vanilla, Civet, Sandalwood, Oud (done right), Benzoin, Coriander, Cumin, Pine absolute, Frankincense, Cardamom, Cloves, Apricot, Peach, Tuberose, Cedar, Plums, Tobacco, Anise, Violet Leaf, Linden, Raspberry, Mushroom,

    Notes you neither like or dislike. True and genuine indifference as to their appearance in a perfume.

    Vetiver, Coffee, Chocolate, Neroli, Grapefruit and many other citruses, Ylang, Galbanum

    Notes that are very iffy for you unless done right, are in conjunction with other things, or are handled in a certain way. In other words, problematic notes that straddle the line between ambivalence and dislike unless something amazing happens to them.

    Orange Blossom (I want to love it, but it so often goes soapy on me), Aldehydes, Fig, Lavender, Clary Sage, Immortelle, woods (mostly because of the synthetic stuff like ISO E), Geranium, Powder, Gardenia, Musk, Leather

    Notes that you don’t like.

    Melon, Freesia, Coconut, Pineapple, Banana, and almost all tropical fruits

    Notes that you hate with the searing passion of a thousand burning suns!

    Soap, laundry musks,

    Hmm, I feel so picky about fragrances that I’m shocked my dislike and hate lists are so short…. but with MOST notes it has everything to do with how it’s handled and how it ends up on my skin. It’s like the Orange Blossom… in theory, I love it. In reality, I often choke on it once it’s on my skin. My best luck is to find it well blended with other white flowers that somehow buffer the soap effect on me. I also love almost all spices and fruits, but there are a WHOLE lot of fruit drenched perfumes I despise. Or, I love Iris, but the metallic, hard-edged iris perfumes cause me to cringe and run….

    • Interesting, my dear. I was particularly fascinated by how aldehydes are a “it depends, can be iffy” listing, whereas actual soap was in the Despise category. I guess aldehydes aren’t always soapy on your skin? And I was completely taken aback to see Iris on your list of Huge Passions. Iris??!!! That one I would never have guessed in a million years for you. Never! How fascinating. Even if you’re excluding the metallic, cold, hard-edged iris, I still wouldn’t have thought you’d like the note. What about powdery iris?

      Freesia is terrible, I agree. Primarily because it’s always a synthetic note, since the flower itself is so hard to capture as an aroma. And let’s not start on Melon, or its Melonal synthetic embodiment. Ghastly!!

      • Aldehydes sometimes just seem sparkly and carbonated and not soapy on me, but usually soapy, sigh.

        I love iris with violet when it comes off creamy and dark, and I can appreciate some powdery irises as long as it doesn’t turn into chalk on me. So, even though it’s a note I love, I have yet to find the perfect iris perfume, even though I love a great many fragrances that include it. I’m interested to sample Parfum DelRae’s Mythique to see if I like that iris, I hear it’s short lived, but sometimes my skin can make a short lived perfume last six or so hours on me

        I’m also thinking that Parfumerie Generale’s Cuir d’Iris would be a good one to sample because I really like PdE’s Cuir Ottoman, which was the first Iris-ish perfume that I fell for. Ormonde Jayne’s Orris Noir sounds lovely, but I try to stay away from stuff that’s going to cost me a small fortune to import a bottle of.

  15. Hi first post here and late to the party but I was so intrigued by doing a list. I’m trying to learn more about perfume and notes and thought this sounded fun.

    Adore- Woods(especially cedar), amber, smoke, ylang-ylang, myrrh, vanilla, poppy, cyclamen, cardamom, nutmeg, incense, lily(stargazer..not sure about the of the valley kind)

    Like- Pepper, white musk, lemon, orange, saffron, ginger, apricot, peach, some white florals

    Iffy- Licorice, rose, wet earth, grass, cinnamon, bergamot, apple, honey

    Hate- Powdery scents, iris, synthetic clean, aquatic and “bug spray” smells (I wonder what causes that bug spray scent?), melon, pineapple, synthetic sugary smells

    I don’t own much perfume but my top scents that I’ve ever had where DK Black Cashmere, Dior Addict and Benefit’s Maybe Baby…which is odd because the first two are pretty different from the third. I’m wondering if I would like Kalemat…I only want to buy it because I’m an Arabic linguist and it sounds so pretty. Anyway love your blog and thanks for the fun game!

    • Hi Daniela, welcome to the blog! 🙂 I’m glad you joined in, but I think you’re not giving yourself enough credit. That’s a great, great list and shows that you know a lot more about perfume notes (and your own tastes) than you might think.

      The “bug spray” aspect can stem from a few different things, in my experience. Usually, synthetics are at the top of the list. Specifically, synthetics mixed with very indolic white flowers, whether orange blossom, magnolia, tuberose and the like. Sometimes, very indolic white flowers have that smell just by themselves. It’s the indoles they put out in order to let bees (who can’t see white) know that they are there. In very high amounts, the indoles can smell of mentholated, camphor, or bug spray. Sometimes, they can smell like rotting garbage, rotting fruit, cat litter, or something a little urinous. It all depends on the amount of indoles in a perfume, how they’re treated, and what the other notes are like. Not all “indolic” smells are like rotting fruit or bug spray. Most indolic perfumes aren’t, in fact. But sometimes…. and on on some skins…. you get an “Uh Oh” moment. 🙂

      Regarding Kalemat, I don’t know enough about your tastes to know what you’d think of the perfume. Judging by your Adore list, I think you’d like it. But you put “honey” in your Iffy list, and Kalemat can smell honeyed, depending on one’s skin chemistry. I think the majority vote would be for “Yes,” but Kalemat is very different from both Black Cashmere and Dior Addict, so I hesitate. I don’t suppose you’ve tried any of the other fragrances that I mentioned and that I compared it (as a general style or family of scents) to in my review?

  16. Thank you so much that is very sweet! Wow I didn’t know that about indoles(or much at all honestly). Are they typically present in those cheap department store men’s colognes. Most of those are the most foul things that I can’t even begin to pinpoint what went wrong.

    I think I’ll have to give Kalemat a try. I will be in Paris in two weeks and, thanks to you:), can’t wait to go to Zahra’s. Honey isn’t bad but I hate the synthetic, overly sweet, plastic ones. I haven’t tried much other fragrances truthfully. I get stuck on certain ones and get sentimental. If I could just find something that smelled similar to Black Cashmere I would be so happy. Hopefully this Europe trip broadens my fragrance horizons. let me know if you have any other suggestions. Thanks:)

    • Ah, if you’re talking about department store perfumes, then the bug spray is merely from cheap synthetics. LOL. Especially if it is in a men’s cologne.

      With regard to Kalemat, when you’re in Paris, the name of the store is Arabian Oud. (Zahras is an American website that is unrelated and merely carries a vast number of different Middle Eastern brands.) The store is on the Champs Elysees, diagonally across from Sephora and the Guerlain headquarters. 🙂 What I would recommend in terms of other places for you to go in order to explore perfume is: Jovoy, near the place Vendome. You can read my post about why it’s a critical stop for anyone who loves perfume and is in Paris. But Jovoy can be an utterly overwhelming experience as well, so you may want to go to a tiny, adorable, really sweet shop with an excellent selection of perfumes called Marie-Antoinette. It’s perhaps my favorite perfume shop in Paris and is located in the 4th Arrondissement, in the Marais or old Jewish quarter. The owner is adorable, and will guide you well in choosing something you like. The shop is tiny, but stuffed with a great range of things. I don’t know about fragrances really similar to Black Cashmere, but hopefully, you’ll find something that you like.

      BTW, speaking of Black Cashmere, have you tried Tom Ford’s Sahara Noir? I don’t know what parts of Black Cashmere are the most appealing to you, and it’s been far, far too long for me to recall its exact scent (which is now discontinued, I believe, so I can’t check it easily), but I think I’ve read a few people finding similarities to Tom Ford’s Sahara Noir. Puredistance’s new BLACK is probably a much closer choice, but that is super expensive. If you wanted to test and sniff the new Black, you could do so at Jovoy in Paris. Or you could order a sample from Surrender to Chance. I think Black would be your closest bet for an overlap with the Donna Karan.

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