Some lovely perfumes and time honored scent ingredients go out of commerce for the oddest reasons. Take for instance the case of cedar wood. That’s a wonderful scent and many perfumers like to work with the essential oil but for a sizeable number of the public cedarwood is inextricably linked to pet shops.
I first realized this after a discussion with one of my Connecticut neighbors who told me that she couldn’t stand the smell of cedarwood in anything, “I just think of hamster cages,” she said. After that conversation with Susan I began to have a clearer idea of what it is that perfumers are up against all the time: association.You see we can’t help our individual experiences. This something that is almost arbitrary
in the lives of the public. We are all unique and we can’t control the associations we each have and they tend to be influenced by the the trends of our times or the place where we grew up. The person who knew orange groves in California or Florida will have a different feeling about orange blossoms than the person who grew up in New York. That’s inevitable. But what about cedarwood?
I knew that cedarwood was already living through a renaissance of sorts because of Feminite du Bois the first properly speaking of the Serge Lutens scents( Nombre Noire having had a smaller success). It had already been released for some years when I had my talk with my neighbor but I knew better than to try to recommend such a scent to her. Cedarwood no matter how biblical or precious, was always going to smell like hamster cages to her. That’s the power of association.
I never tried and I think that was right. But another association has always haunted me and that’s the rose=soap or worse rose = toiilet paper one. I know that the people who say this have two adverse facts in their lives 1) limited experience of living roses and 2) no encounter with actual rose absolute or rose otto. Both situations are bad to my mind. We should be able, all of us, to stop once in a while and actually smell real roses rather than downmarket counterfeits. Smelling Damascenones and other synthetics is emphatically not the same, and anyway anyone who has actually grown roses will tell you that the scent of roses is very eclectic and changes with the variety. There is no one “rose scent”. I have grown roses for twenty years and try to breed them as a hobby and have smelled everything from cloves to damask rose to lemon and even apricot in their natural perfumes, as well as myrrh. The range is broad and for people to say that roses “smell like soap to them” tells me of a life spent out of rose gardens.
Perfumery does not help. Although some lines like Rose de Rosine have widened the public perception. The first scent to try to rectify the misapprehension was The Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose, a great hit and followed many years later by Annick Goutal’s Rose Absolue. That was originally a melange of many sorts of rose oil including the wonderful slightly alcoholic turkish rose. If you can find a bottle particualry an old one you will smell what I mean.
Other good palate clearing rose scents include CBIHATEPERFUME’s Tea Rose and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s American Beauty. Stop and smell a rose.