Oakmoss in nature

Oakmoss in nature

Oakmoss is pretty hard to find now.  Once it was a cinch to smell the dry and pungent scent of oakmoss in fragrances, moss was part of every chypre, now because of regulations, oakmoss is largely banned and the sort that is allowed in fragrance (ie IFRA compliant meaning it is in line with the  dictates of the Industry watchdog) has low atranol.

What is atranol?  Besides being the operative bit of oakmoss?   Apparently along with chloroatranol, it is the leading allergen in oakmoss absolute which is determined to be problematic by skin patch tests.  So much for wonkery.  What this means is less dryness and darkness in commercial fragrances.  Perfumery loves sugar, like the girl I overheard at the wine shop saying that she really, really, liked her Rieslings and her Marsalas. 

This has come to mean that for the rest of us, those of us who do not care for perfume

salt in another natural form...

salt in another natural form…

Rieslings, the options are fewer.  Some perfumes should in fact be dry and getting an accord that thrives and expands on skin without the obvious sweet cheat sheets  (usually ethyl maltol) is not easy and seldom commercially viable these days.  So you get desserts.  Maybe not just desserts, but overwhelmingly, desserts.

Now I actually like the smell of oakmoss.  I bought one of the last small samples of non atranol zapped oakmoss available some years ago.  It was a great deal more interesting than the compliant kind. That moss was deep, very dark, and very dry.  You could tell that this stuff was going to be a natural companion for salt. The low atranol oakmoss by contrast had been neutered.

Saltiness in perfume which used to be fairly common is out currently just like oakmoss.  Aside from the slight salty fig note in Womanity which polarized smellers (was it good, bad, under-pantsy?) courtesy Ralf Schwieger who worked on the brief with other perfumers, there are few attempts at introducing moss or salt into scent anymore. Nor are there efforts at what might be called umami. Currently ouds are the only salty wood notes out there.

Womanity the Thierry Mugler perfume

Womanity the Thierry Mugler perfume

Ralf Schwieger turns out to be one of my personally favorite perfumers, and in part that’s due to his preference for introducing moss, a little darkness, a little dryness, a tiny bit of salt into perfumes he works on without dragging in the oud again in the process.  I enjoy Atelier’s Vanille Insensee partially because that’s a very dry and unsweet vanilla which somehow also manages to be light and contemporary.  I can’t help but admire his Orange Sanguine from the same company for its fun orange juice beginning, and who doesn’t like Hermes’ Eau des Merveilles with that salt note again, half buried, but still perceptible?

When chypres disappeared and were partially resurrected in two formats, the woody musk, and the patchouli chypre, sweetness, not saltiness became ubiquitous.  The top selling chypre in the world is probably still Mademoiselle Coco with the typical fruitchouli genre blackberry jam/ woody scent profile. Maybe though the public could be persuaded to add a bit of salt to these proceedings? They seem to like it in food. They can like it in drink, as witness the salt rims on margharitas. Too much sugar in with the oakmoss and musk and patchouli is infantilizing the chypre genre.  Couldn’t we have just a little umami please?

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8 thoughts on “Salty-Mossy

  1. In food I’m much more drawn to salty than sweet. It’s much harder to find in perfume, as you say. Occasionally I get salt from leather notes. Shalimar EDT sometimes strikes me as having a salty aspect, very faint, in the top. Could be my imagination.

    I’ve never tried Sel de Vetiver but would love to one day. Loathe Womanity.

    1. Figs in bottles rather than on plates or trees never did strike me as just right, so Womanity was not a favorite with me either, but I was glad of an attempt to use salt. And there was a salty aspect to Shalimar Light (which I know better than Shalimar because I wore it so much longer) so why not Shalimar?

      Sel de Vetiver is good and I agree with you about salty vs sweet. Will eat dessert happily, but bags of potato chips are never safe around me 🙂

      1. I’ve smelled Eau de Shalimar but not Light, and I’m not sure how different they are. I like it but I don’t really get a salty note, sadly. I get a bit tired just thinking about all the Shalimar flankers. 🙁

  2. You know, I’m just not a big salt fan – in perfume or in food. Just not my thing.

    I do love sweetness, but I seem to prefer it in the floral way rather than the foody way. Or fruit, I like fruit sometimes too, but then I like Rieslings! (And aldehydes sometimes seem sweet like powdered sugar to me, but I like that. Somehow aldehydes don’t seem foody, though.)

    I loathed Womanity (probably the fig) and did not care for Eau de Merveilles. But I don’t care for Coco Mlle either, and the current version of “Miss Dior” (ha!) is just vile. I can’t think of a salty perfume I really like.

    1. Love my red wines, it’s my Italian youth. But I do enjoy a Riesling, particularly with a strawberry or two in the glass.

      Did you get a bit of salt in Shalimar Lite? Was I imagining that?

      Womanity did poorly,you and Anne Marie are in the majority on that one. So salt and fruit are odd together, Fraaagola Saalaataa notwithstanding. Could salt work with florals, like tuberose? This gives me a very meaty smell in theory…which i’m not sure I should have thought about because it’s sticking in my mind like a nasal version of the earworm!

  3. Sel de Vetiver and Fleurs de Sel are both nice – haven’t smelt either in ages.

    Does Dans Tes Bras have salt – I seem to remember it is a realistic skin scent of some kind. And I do like the salty note in Eaux des Merveilles. And Vanille Galante, or did I imagine that?

    1. You didn’t imagine the salt in Vanille Galante actually, I caught that too. Dans tes Bras I have not smelled which is very remiss of me. I’m going to be in Paris this month so I will catch up I promise. Will do remedial sniffing.

      Eaux des Merveilles is so pleasant that I wonder it does not turn up on forums more often than it does.

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