Monday, February 16, 2009


That stands for "today's sojourn through SoHo." I just have a couple things to say, so I'll be uncharacteristically brief.

Banana Republic's candles are exceptional. I like them all, although it's confusing to me why the one with a name like "Fireside" smells so intensely vanillick. (I'm sorta making up that word cuz I don't know if one says 'vanilla' or 'vanilla-like.' I'm sure if enough people see this post, someone will tell me. They always do.) Shouldn't it smell more like firewood? It's nice, though. And another of them smells woody and smoky. They're to be commended in that they all smell kinda dry, not too sweet. There must've been a temptation to make the Sangria one smell sweetier and fruitier, like an Escada perfume (I look a' thee, Tropical Punch. That said, I used to wear a fake of you, and I got complimented by guys in a grocery store. Hmmm, was I in good shape then? I'd like to think it was the perfume they said smelled great; but hell, it was a gay part of town and I had a toned body a few years back. Whatevz), but they held back and it's fruity-but-not-too-sweet. So their candles rock.

Their fragrances? (Eaux de Toilette, which Comptoir Sud Pacifique call "Eaux de Voyage"--good for you CDP! Sharp and bold. You rock for that. So much for brevity. And coherence. I'll quote the SOV here: "Oh gosh, I'm not posh. I do what I'm doing, yeah.") Not so great. Nothing particularly wrong with them, they're just not up to much. Like, I'd wear Corduroy or Black Walnut, but I'd never, like, pine for them, you know? But the worst is their main one, which I smelled today for the first time in a while. I've been a little interested in their newer ones, and I remember the main one being flimsier, but I tried it again today, as I read the description: "Modern, clean...." There was another word in there, but it seemed like what they were implying was that you'd smell essentially of nothing. Of just "clean." And clean in the way that things are clean in Gattaca. Because really, isn't everyone who shops at BR (and especially Club Monaco and FCUK) trying to live in Gattaca? Anyway, so I sprayed it on, wondering if it would prove to be this amazing cologne that really did smell of modern, clean minimalism; and if so, what kind of layering possibilities could that create? Something that gives you a minimalist clean scent, something between laundry, ozone and stainless steel--you could match that with anything ozonic or aquatic; maybe with green smells or that Marc Jacobs one that's very figgy. Hmmmm, just the smell of cleanliness and simplicity, that would be interesting. So did it smell like that?

No, not at all. It started out with what I guess was a grapefruit smell--something zingy but not in a ginger zingy or a nose-tingling way. Then there was this weird fern(?) or green(?) accord that persisted a while. Then it was all laundry detergent. Which is what I expected initially. Pleasant? No. Interesting? Yes. Because even though it had that green/fern accord, which smells kinda 70s, but they did it light here, which was unexpected, it said NOTHING from start to finish. It had less personality than Clinique's Chemistry. It said absolutely nothing. And if you can appreciate fragrance at all, then you know what I mean. A good fragrance, for the generic you, is one that speaks to you. It could be Stetson Original, Individuel, Polo, CK One, Baldessarini, Gentleman, Equipage, Un Jardin Sur le Nil, 5 O' Clock au Gingembre, or anything. Even Lady Stetson. As long as it says something to you deeply, it's a good scent for you. Maybe not for the rest of us, especially if it's something like, say, Le Male (cuz let's face it--that's LOUD), but it's the best for you. And for the peeps out there who like fragrance (and I guess you wouldn't be on this page if you din't), you know that some scents have something to say, some have more to say, and you don't necessarily have to like them to say that; but there are also scents that say nothing. And this BR one falls into that category.

I think it's amazingly ironic that it bills itself of smelling like nothing but clean and tries to do so by communicating nothing. If the description were the perfume brief, and they had a talented perfumer, I'm sure that it could smell like that--there's new scent tech coming out all the time; what they can do with raw materials now is astounding. But alas, it only could've been. (They're playing some love song written to the tune of Greensleeves on the radio now. It's distracting. And it's really crappy. How fitting.)

So that was BR. I also sniffed some scents at French Connection UK. I went in there specifically to try to bribe a cashier to steal one of the mannequin wigs for me. Because they're cool, and if one fit, I'd shave my head and wear it all the time. I smelled their two fragrances, which were bland and terribly preictable. The first was this one that was supposed to smell really fresh, but smelled really HARSH like Demeter's Gin & Tonic, but with a lemon note. I tried to like it, but it was gross. The other was better, but so forgettable that I don't recall it, except I remember them telling me it was the "more masculine" of the scents, which were both "technically unisex." Yeah, that technically unisex thing is huge--right now, the trend at the expensive houses is to make everything unisex, which makes sense from an artistic standpoint, and if it could make florals more acceptable for men, which would be awesome. But it'll never work in the US at least. Because the companies know that they can keep Americans convinced they have to wear their own "gender" of scent, and that's a scent strategy that potentially doubles your consumers. God help us, Gaultier is trying to introduce makeup for men, and please cod, let this never take on. Just my personal bits: 1) It's so nice to NOT have to wear something more. I mean, now everyone's getting manicures and pedicures and shaving this and trimming that.... who needs one more thing you have to do? 2) Honestly, most women can't put on makeup. So let's not make men try and have more dumb-looking faces out there. If you can't wear makeup, girls, don't wear it. You'll probably look better without it--no woman NEEDS to put on lipstick and eyeliner to look presentable. 3) I'm sure men wearing makeup would look like men who get their eyebrows waxed: ghastly. Now granted, someone from Los Angeles told me the other day that those are only the men with the bad wax jobs. The ones with the good wax jobs, you can't tell. But finding a good eyebrow waxer seems like it would be as difficult as finding someone who can take your dark brown-with-gray hair up to when-I-was-23 light brown with NO orange. In other words, damn forking hard. So I'll pass on the whole eyebrow waxing thing. For the record, though, I've been known to put on makeup for occasions--like do the whole raccoon-eye thing on Halloween or New Years' Eve or shit (see above); but not for everyday.

That was FCUK. I stop into Mont Blanc to smell some Presence, because I like the way it smells. The person behind the counter, who I really wanted to talk about the cologne with (without him thinking I was hitting on him), didn't seem to want to engage. Or maybe didn't know anything about the colognes, which I think may have been the case, since he called Individuel a "day fragrance" (IIRC, the shite smells like electric neon raspberry-strawberry, the olfactory equivalent of staring into a pink eclipse) and said that his other main fragrance is Le Male. OK, that's all I needed to hear. It was like when that chick who sells tickets at Angelika told me that that STUPID Woody Allen movie, Rebekah and Clairemooneydoo's Most Awesome Barcelona Adventure, was a "good movie," like "Woody Allen grows up." She was serious, incidentally; if she's in college, she hasn't met the "older man who's doing well" yet who will date her and hopefully teach her a bit about culture. (No, I'm not old enough yet to be that guy. He has to be in his 40s and have more gray in his hair.) Oh, and Presence is discontinued. So I left.

And I only mentioned Club Monaco because they had an awesome orange belt that I wondered if I should buy. I mean, I AM orange, right? Oughn't I to own the perfect shade of orange belt? Unfortunately, it was one of those wire ones that you have to tie, and I can't figure those out. Fortunately, I'm just fat enough to never need to worry about people seeing my belt, because I wear all my shirts untucked. Thanks cod that is doable these days. In the 50s, they'd ship you off to a leper colony if you went around with your shirt untucked.

Then I bopped in Sephora. Damn, that place is such a disappointment these days. The word naff comes to mind, even though I hate the concept behind that word. There are only three men's scents I'd spray in that store: Polo, Eau d'Orange Verte or maybe Baldessarini del Mar, and that Prada one that smells of orris, which is an impressive scent to me, because when I'd first smelled Prada I declared it all shite, and my mom wears Prada occasionally, and I absolutely detest the smell of it. I may just get her some Beyond Paradise or Burberrry London for her birthday. Hmmmm, maybe I should get a scent that's xmas-appropriate, though, if she's going to wear it when I'm down at xmas. Then again, that may not make any difference--she was wearing Pleasures Intense at xmas. That's nothing near an xmas scent. It's a finnocking good scent, though. I wish my mom wore more Esteee. ANYWAY.... You can't find estee lauder in Sephora, there's so much else you can't find. It's just a huge storehouse for dreck. Sure, they have Opium and some Chanel stuff (blech), but almost all of it is the new JLo or the Escada-of-the-month or whatever Calvin Kliein or Armani is out now. You used to be able to go in there and smell such a wide range of things, from ancient ones to totally modern; now it's like a bigger, more expensive KMart cosmetics department. Such a shame. But while I was in there, I checked out the new version of Happy--who can keep up with how many anorexic versions of that polyanna scent they come out with?!--and guess what? It's not unpleasant. There you have it. Then I sprayed Burberry London on a strip--I love that stuff. So floral, almost berry-like. It almost smells like actual flowers some time when you smell the strip. I have to buy that for someone one day. Then I smelled Chanel No 5 to see how it compared with the Burberry---still hate it. Then I smelled Un Jardin Sur le Nil again, and everytime I smell it, I like it more. It's really great for a unisex fragrance--fruity but dry, a little earthy and "vegetal." A roommate of mine wanted to buy it once, but didn't because it was in the "women's" section in Sephora. Ugh. And Hermes calls it unisex, so who is Sephora to classify it like that?! Same with Eau de Cartier--the original formulation is in the women's section, the "concontree" is in the men's. I guess the concentree is probably a more traditionally masculine variation on it, rather than a more concentrated version. Canny of Cartier to do it like that--disappointing, but canny.

And that was the last of the smells. Oh wait, I ambled into Fresh for a while, but I just hate that place. It's all crap except the cucumber one. The Milk scent COULD be something good, but how would we know? It doesn't come in a spray, and it's too hard to get what it would smell like as a cologne by smelling the soap. The Tobacco Caramel scent is a disgrace. How hard could creating something called Tobacco Caramel be? I'll tell you: not hard at all. You just plop together some variation on coumarin and you have tobacco (some of the most expensive "tobacco" scents I've smelled, and I mean EXPENSIVE, smelled just like tonka and nothing more; so you can just put something comarinick in something and get a tobacco note; if you're feeling ambitious, you could combine coumarin with myrrh resinoid, like I've seen advised on a fragrance page) and then any of the accords available to suggest caramel. Hell, a few entries ago I discussed caramel furanone, which is supposed to create a carmel/maple note in extreme dilution. So how is it that their Tobacco Caramel smells nothing like tobacco or caramel? I think it smelled like the crappy, hamstery part of Atlas Cedar. Basically, it offended my nose. If you want something from Fresh, buy the Cucumber Baie. It's bearable. If you like lemon, you might like their Sugar scent (why isn't it called "lemon sugar"?).

OK, so THAT is the TStS beep for today.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009


First of all, ugh. I log into blogger and now they list "followers," like twitter?? I feel so much pressure when I see stuff like that. And then I gotta remind myself, "They'll stop following when they see how little I post these days." Sigh, it's like that old saying, "A friend is just someone you haven't alienated yet." Hmmm, now that I think about it, I'm not sure whether that's an old saying or something Mark Baratelli said once. Well, I better give him credit just in case, or he'll go all Exorcist on me. So that phrase originated by the inimitable Mark Baratelli. He also originated this one: "Failure is God's way of telling you to step aside and let the good people succeed." Yes, folk, he's a comedian. But now that that's out of the way....

I have been seriously in neglection to this blog, since it's taken me so long to mention that I went to an event by the New York Academy of Sciences a few months ago about smell. I think that's who put it on--I'm too lazy to look up a link right now. Anyway, someone who did a lot of smell research spoke and the author of that book The Nose Knows. They were both really intelligent: she was pretty and he was engaging. I can't remember all that much about the presentations. There were a few bits that I didn't already know (and not a small bit of 'what I already know' had come from just perusing that Nose Knows book); but I honestly can't remember them right now. Well, I remember one, because what really stood out for me was smelling some of the raw materials they'd put out, which included:

Hexanal, vanillin, jasmine absolute, boar attractant spray and androstenone. I'd smelled all but the latter two (well, I'd never smelled plain old vanillin, but I'd smelled artificial vanilla extract, and that's just vanillin, alcohol, water and possibly a sweetener or preservative or something), and the latter two were essentially identical. In the talk they discussed androstenone and androstedienone--one or both accounts for a large part of the odor of male sweat. It was thought to be a human pheromone, but I think they said it doesn't have that function. It does, however, act very clearly as a pheromone for pigs, hence the boar spray. Two thirds of humans can detect the odor, and typically they describe it as unpleasant--sweaty, urinous or chemical. One-third of humans, who have a different genotype (I think it's one gene that codes for the ability to smell the molecule), either smell nothing or describe the odor as sweet, vanilla-like. So we all smelled it after the presentation to see which camp we fell into.

I could smell it. To me it smelled like a harsh synthetic woody chemical, so I guess you could put me in the "unpleasant," "chemical woody" camp (because there were actually a lot of different descriptors people used for it, from chemical to woody to urinous to sweaty to whatever; but urinous/sweaty seemed to be a dominant description for it), which sounds salacious to me ever since someone pointed out the double entendre of the word woody and insisted the word I wanted to use was "woodsy." No, woody is what I read everywhere. When I think of 'woodsy,' I think of the smell of a forest. Woody connotes the smell of the wood--it could mean sawdust, a particular raw material, a tree.... Woodsy connotes the smell of a wooded area-with the earthy notes and everything.

Anyway, after the speeches there was supposed to be a spread from Whole Foods, but it was so overcrowded in the reception area and the skrimps were so practically gone that I just went to a nearby Indian place, peeved at the crowdedness.

And that's the science beep for today.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Axe Dark Temptation

Y'know, I'd be really remiss if I didn't mention this stuff. Here's the dizeezy:

When I went home for xmas, I didn't take any deodorant, because who knows if you have to put it in that ziploc bag, right? Well, we went to Publix (don't get me started on Publix; I change words in xmas songs to "Publix" because I love it so. One of the biggest joys of xmas is just being in Publix), and I'm looking through the deodorants (these days I pretty much always wear either Old Spice Original or Speed Stick Musk. However, I'm open to exploring other deo choices; I would just prefer ambery/woody/musky to fresh/ozonic/citrusy), and I see this Axe Dark Temptation body spray. And I was like, WTF??! Because everything about the bottle suggested that it would smell of chocolate (the tagline is "as irresistible as chocolate," even); and I thought that pretty surprising. Because I've smelled the Axe body sprays before, and by and large I don't care for them. I'm sure part of that is because I can't remember the ones I've actually smelled, since the names are all so dopey that I don't pay attention to them when I give em a try. But the chocolate angle really intrigued me--it's like Angel has finally made it to the men's body spray market. So I said to Mom and I'd give it a try, and even if I didn't like it, "I could write about it in my perfume blog." And I was not in a contemplative mood when I said that!

So I started using it, and I started having those, "Who is wearing that amazing perfume?" and "Why does it smell like great perfume in here?" And I put two and two together and realized it was the Axe. OK, it doesn't smell THAT wonderful, like it could replace your regular scent, but it's pretty damn good, and the best for a body spray that I've ever smelled. And if you use it, when you try it out you'll probably have that experience of smelling the clothes that it was on when you wore it and thinking, "How did a nice perfume get in these clothes?" because it almost smells like the last remnants of a nice perfume. And yeah, perfume. Not "cologne."

Does it smell chocolatey, though? Hmmmmm. Maybe a little. No more than that candle company's "Mexican Cocoa" scent, that I discussed somewhere below. I guess if you're thinking "chocolate" when you smell it, or if you layer it with a good chocolate (Amour de Cacao, I still can't stop extolling your praises), you'd call it chocolatey. I wouldn't say chocolate immediately. I don't know what I'd say--perfume-y? ambery? But even though it doesn't really smell like chocolate, it's certainly versatile, and maybe if you layered it right, you could walk through the streets smelling like chocolate cake. Here's a recipe for that:

-cocoa butter out of the shower
-a cream-cheese scented body oil (because it's hard to find a good chocolate one--chocolate must be tricky, because it can smell like a Milky Way the second you put it on, but then usually it collapses, sometimes into tobacco, sometimes into shitty-cheap vanilla)
-Amour de Cacao all over

But that's kinda boring. Let's get REALLY gourmand:

-that cocoa butter oil gel in the shower; the one that smells like almond-hazelnut
-cocoa butter out the shower
-that Pink Buttercream Frosting body spray, or a cotton-candy one if you're feeling daring or girly
-that cream-cheese oil mixed with that macadamia oil
-Vanille-Amande by CSP
-Amour de Cacao for a chocolate thing; Vanille-Banane for a fruity tone; both for if you want to see if you can pull it off

Now if you wear that, you may get told one of the following things:
1) It smells like vanilla over here.
2) You smell like cookies!
3) It's like getting mugged by a bakery.

Only #3 is positive.

But I've gotten off-topic, and notice that I didn't include the Axe in the chocolate recipe, because it smells more complex that that. I really like the way it smells (it doesn't smell like Axe) and I hope it stays on the market.

Now, there are some other new(ish?) Axe products out there: One based on vetyver (it says so on the label); one of bergamot and I think an amber. These are less exciting. I have the vetyver--I liked it initally, because it seemed to smell earthy and not sweet like vetyver, but the more I use it, the more it seems that that's just the very initial expression, and once it fades, you're left with a regular Axe scent. The thing about the chocolate is it smells just as good, maybe better, 12 hours after you first sprayed it on.


ADDENDUM: I got the body wash the other day, and it smells even better than the spray. It smells spicier, and even a bit chocolately, and kinda like Angel for men without the laundry note. Yeah, it smells awesome. I'd say get it before they take it off the market. It's one of the best-smelling shower gels out there, if you like those. Suave's Mango-Pomegranate smells good too. And there's one by Zest that's absolutely incomparable. Can't remember the name, though, but all the gels from Zest are good. Just goes to show ya--you don't have to spend a mint for good-smelling shower gel.

Friday, February 06, 2009

And the answer to the mystery is....

...Maple Furanone. I think.

So you know about the mysterious maple syrup smell that has ever and anon wafted around NYC, right? I think it started in 2005, and I remember learning of it from gawker, because I don't remember ever smelling it myself, even though I lived in the Columbia 'hood at the time. Anyway, for some time now I've been certain that it's maple furanone. Why? Uhhhh, because I'm a scent nerd---DUH!

But seriously, this is why: I knew that caramel furanone is one b9itch of a molecule that you don't want to mess around with. Because it's STRONG. Believe me. I've once owned some 3% caramel furanone (diluted in propylene glycol, I believe), and trust me, it's very, very, very strong. Now, I knew that it was extremely strong, so I thought maybe it could be the culprit behind the mysterious maple smell, because it can smell of caramel or maple, depending on the concentration. Amberway, one day I was googling it and came across this page from Leffingwell, about burnt sugar notes. And it discussed maple furanone, which apparently is MUCH stronger than CF. Behold:
With a detection threshold of 0.00001 ppb maple furanone is nearly 3,000,000 times more powerful than cyclotene and in fact is one of the most powerful flavor chemicals known to man.

Odor Detection Threshold (in water) = 0.00001 ppb
Powerful maple-caramel aroma and taste

When I read that I knew for certain that this had to be the chemical behind the maple smell. Because I know there are flavor/fragrance manufacturers in NYC and NJ (the actual manufacturing plants are probably all in NJ; the "artistry" is probably done at headquarters in the city, perhaps like at a place like Symrise), and it's entirely possible that just a small spill of MF could scent a whole city. I know I read something in a Luca Turin book (methinks) about a town in France that smelled like a cumulus-cloud-sized fruit (pineapple? mango?) when someone dumped some of a certain raw material down the drain chez a fragrance material manufacturer's.

Annehathaway, when Bloomberg announced today that the source of the odor (and who knew they were really researching the source?!) was some plant in NJ that manufactures flavors from fenugreek, I knew that it had to be MF, because it's extracted/synthesized from fenugreek (another name for it is ethyl fenugreek lactone). Now, he said that the odor was an ester, and I admit: I don't know enough chemistry to speak to that, but I feel sure that MF is the the culprit here--perhaps the 'ester' part comes in when we're talking about what it's diluted in? A company in NJ manufactures it 50% in "Triacetin"? According to wikipedia, triacetin is "
the triester of glycerol and acetic acid." So maybe that's where the ester part comes in.

Arboritumway, I made sure to post my prediction for what the smell was on the boards for the Brian Lehrer show today before Bloomberg announced it, and either I was right or sounded right enough, because a producer emailed me and asked if I had insider info. "Nope, just an enthusiast"--story of my life, right? Whatevz--so I might be on the show for minnut or two tomorrow for "follow-up Friday," but we'll see.

But I certainly didn't post with any thought of getting on the air--my thought was to DOCUMENT this shelleezy. Because I KNOW I had mentioned to someone that the maple smell must be maple furanone in the past year or so. I know that I had. So when I posted that, I took screenshots, because it's about time I started getting cred for my predictions. I'm like the Faith Popcorn of, well, uh, all that random stuff I'm interested in, except I don't have a drag queen-sounding name. (I have a "sounds like a Duke in England" name.) For further proof of my dizzazzling prognostication powers, I direct Thee to my latest post on the WFMU blog, where I discuss how I've been saying that "oxytocin is the new serotonin" since at least 2003. (It's a 13,000-word entry. No, really. That's according to Microsoft Word's "word count" feature. So scroll to the endnotes for the oxytocin ish. Yes. I did endnotes. Because I can get highfalutin.)

I shall post the screenshots laterly, since I forgot even to email them to myself. But I shallst!!

And that's the I-was-right-bow-down-before-my-futureknowingness beep for now.


PS: Yes, I'm available for fragrance private investigator work. My consulting rate is, uh, $1,495.77/hr. And, yeah, we can work this into a movie or TV series if you want: Ed Shepp: Scent PI. We'll have to shoot on location in Hawaii, though, because that's where my character will be scouring nature for new odorants when he's not solving mysteries 'n stuff. Know wa'ah mean?