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
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.
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?