Thursday, June 25, 2009

Scent Systems fragrances & Oeillet: fragrance review

Your perfume wafts me thither like a wind;
I see a harbour thronged with masts and sails.
Still weary from the tumult of the gales,
and with the sailor’s song that drifts to me
are mingled odours of the tamarind,
and all my soul is scent and melody. ~Charles Baudelaire
Scent Systems is a company founded by Hiram Green specialising in all-natural fragrances, which were developped by professor George Dodd. Dr.Dodd has worked as a consultant for various international companies whilst at the same time pursuing an academic career at the University of Warwick (1971-1994). He can claim fathership of the electronic nose technology, since he established the UK’s only Smell Research Group at the University of Warwick in 1971, specializing in 'firsts' to create the worlds earliest electronic noses. He also founded the Olfaction Research Group (the only smell research group in the UK) and organized the world's first conference on the Psychology of Perfumery before moving to the Highlands in 1994. There, he established Aroma Perfumes and Aromasciences in a croft at Loch Awe in Wester Ross. In 2005, Dr.Dodd developed the Scent Systems bespoke perfume service and recently developed Scent Systems first ready-to-wear perfume collection.

The floral collection includes Jasmine, Tuberose, Rose, Oeillet (carnation), Wild Violet & Tuberose.

The Scent System fragrances are quite unusual and need to be approached with some apprehension: These are not intended to be a realistic approximation of the blossom baptism they got, but rather an interpretation of the idea of the flower in a manner which I haven't been accustomed to even in natural perfumes which have been featured on these pages. It's as if they're dawning from the pages of an old botany compedium with gothic images of stamen and chalice.
All-natural perfumes usually present an approach which necessitates time on the part of the wearer, contrary to commercial perfumery which utilises attractive top notes to grab you instantly. They usually begin on a very intense, thick and pungent aroma upon first sniff, then unfolding their complexity in billows of sensations that often remain on the blotter for days and weeks on end creating desire and longing. Indeed natural perfumes often gain complexity with time, because the natural maturation process continues in their flacon, advancing like a good millesime of Chauternes. "Once you taste a fine vintage wine, you fall love with its sheer richness of sensory experience, and you notice a lack when you indulge in a cheaper version; even though you have previously enjoyed this cheaper version. The same applies to fine perfume", as George Dodd confided to Sniffapalooza Magazine. Still, these fragrances at hand present their own little challenge and they are built on a clash of opposites which like passionate people argue and make up continuously, their prominent characteristic being texture.

For me, the most interesting in the lot was Oeillet. Carnation is a flower sadly underappreciated, often associated with funerals (alongside lilies) or used as a filler in a bouquet of more flamboyant beauties to cut down on costs. Yet its peppery, spicy aroma is having more carnal and earthy intentions than the afterworld to which we assign them. In ancient Rome carnations were referred to as Jove's flower, Jove being the God of Love, while I still recall the fiery flamenco dancers in Andalusia tucking one behind their ear as they clapped their hands to a frenzy to accompany their passionate dancing. I even recall how as a small child I was transfixed by the intensely, intoxicatingly fragrant white carnations we had potted in my bedroom's balcony and how often instead of the sword-like leaves I thought I was cutting for my night-stand, I came face to face with same-hued locusts in my palm! The pale shade of the blossoms, intensely so under the hot glaring sun, seemed at odds with the scent of the multi-petalled flowers that appeared prematurely wrinkled to my eyes, like a woman who has weathered life to become who she is. When some grain of another variety landed in my jardinière and "contaminated" the white carnations coming forth with a tinge of red at the outer ridge of the petal, somehow things seemed to take their proper meaning and fall into place puzzle-like upon finish of the last remaining bit. This was how carnation should look, a red-hot ribbon on the edge of cooler white volants! Little did I know that in the language of flowers it stands for unrequited love...

I have since long scoured classic perfumes for their almost arousing, erotic effect they provide thanks to their inclusion of a carnation note. The classic treatment of carnation in French perfumery is best exemplified by Caron, in which the allied forces of eugenol and isoeugenol molecules create the dazzling clove-y note which appears in Poivre extrait and in its Eau de Cologne Poivrée equivalent Coup de Fouet. The passionate aspects are also evident in Bellodgia, a multi-nuanced rich floral of epic proportions. Another direction is the smaller facet in Nina Ricci's classic and tender L'Air de Temps, given flight thanks to an overdose of salicylates. But while in those fragrances the peppery note of carnation is coming up like a jolt to tingle the nose naughtily, here in Oeillet by Scent Systems it unfolds under a camphoraceous and acidly green joli-laide impression that reminds me of the comparable treatment that Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake saved for tuberose in the agonisingly beautiful Tubereuse Criminelle. The mysterious effect is according to the perfumer due to a natural-occuring aldehyde which harmonises with the textural facets of the carnation note.
The quest for a natural carnation absolute is difficult since only a few manufacturers worlwide provide it and in some cases the crop essence is contaminated with tiny traces of some acetyl-pyrazine molecules which result in a nutty off aroma. In Oeillet George Dodd told me they source a special absolute from India, which as I attested through personal sampling, indeed unfolds differently than most carnation scents. Garlanded around it is a very spicy absolute from Basmati (another Indian and oriental scent note), the absolute oil from the ylang-ylang flower (quite different from the ordinary essential oil) and the absolute oil of rose centifoflia. The ‘heat’ aspect of oeillet is given by a blend of unusual spice oils including cardamom. The interstructural play of hot and cold is at the core of the fragrance and accounts for much of the charm of the atypical composition. The coda of the perfume is supported by an invisible warmth that melts on skin becoming cozy and soft like a soft pashmina put on chilly shoulders during an evening out in Kerala to harvest the humid night-air and its cornucopia of aromata.

Scent Systems are having a summer sale right now: "All full size bottles of our ready-to-wear floral perfume collection are reduced 20% percent for a limited time. We have also decided to extend this sale to include a reduction of 20% on our bespoke perfume gift vouchers and bespoke perfume refills. Our bespoke perfume gift vouchers have no expiry date; therefore, they can be purchased during the sale and redeemed any time in the future. Sale offer applies to online purchases from the Scent Systems website only. Sale ends June 30 2009 or until supplies last.". Click this link to claim your discount.

And a draw for our readers: Leave a comment for a full sample pack of the floral collection by Scent Systems!


  1. Fernando14:11

    When you started describing the company's background, I was afraid the perfumes would be attempts and copying the flower scents. But what you describe is much more interesting. Sounds like something to try, and so I'd love to be entered in the draw.

  2. What an interesting compnay! I am very curious, so please enter me in the draw.

    Natural perfumes have grabbed my attention lately. As the weather gets warmer, I find they tend to stay at a comfortable, discreet sillage, whereas some of my other scents tend to start shouting.

  3. Hello, E. Very interesting review. As a child, I loved the smell of carnations too, and took me a long time to realize that carnations were somewhat of an under-appreciated flower by others. Please enter me in the drawing.

  4. Please enter me in the draw - Scent Systems is well outside the reach of my budget, but I'd love to sniff them.

    I too adore the heady, sensuous fragrance of carnations and have been searching for the Perfect Carnation Scent. So far, my favorite has been the gorgeous Oeillets Rouges by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz.

  5. Alexandra15:35

    I adore smell of carnation. Small wild one, *Turkish carnation* as we call it, rather then big cultivated carnation. Small ones have more aroma of cloves.
    Russian *Krasnaya Moskva* perfume was nice carnation scent, before it was tempered with.

  6. Nina Z.16:00

    Please enter me in the draw. I'm definitely curious about the carnation fragrance--I once wore Bellogia on a regular basis. (Your blog is amazing by the way. I've been getting an education by reading through your older posts!)

  7. gautami16:21

    I have not tried any natural scents yet other than some attars that I get on my visits to India (I don't think the attars are natural anymore either). I mentioned attars because they start resinous and pungent and take time to unfold.
    As I would like to try some natural scents please enter me in the drawing.

  8. Anonymous16:57

    Put me in the drawing.

  9. Anonymous16:58

    I didn't realize there were so many carnation zealots amongst us.....I have been searching for a "perfect" carnation scent since I started collecting fragrances years ago. I would love to be entered into the drawing and experience another version of the complex Oeillet.



  10. Anonymous17:05

    Dear E,

    This sounds very intriguing. They sound like scents that really grow and become very individual on the skin.

    An evening in Kerala with bare shoulders caressed by pashmina sounds divine.

    Please enter me in the draw.

    Thank you


  11. I also love Carnations, and have not yet found a good scent based on them...would love to try this!

  12. Your post made me optimistic again. It looks like there is still hope for the world of perfume. The most recent regulations, reformulations and the Guerlain vs. Octavian case had almost make me loose all my interest in perfume.
    Please include me in the drawing as well. I would love to sample this line.
    Thanks again!

  13. Fernando,

    thanks for commenting. No, they're removed from even trying to be photorealistic, they present their own challenges. Oeillet was interesting! You're in of course :-)

  14. Eileen,

    it's good to discover the intricasies of all-naturals. Please click on the bottom of the post on the label "naturals" and it will automatically take you to all entries on all-naturals scents, news & reviews on Perfume Shrine. There is a whole new world to explore and it's gratifying.

    You're included!

  15. Hi J! Thanks for your kind words.

    Of course I am including you, this is an interesting field worth exploring!
    Isn't it a shame that carnations are so looked down on as bouquets?

  16. Mals,

    good luck!
    I find DSH's work quite interesting indeed, should devote more time to it.

  17. Alexandra,

    yeah, the big hothouse ones are completely real aroma, comparatively "plastic". Wild ones on the other hand...
    I knew of Red Moscow, but did they tamper with this one too? Sounds so ironic!

  18. Nina,

    thank you very much for your wonderful compliment; I am very happy Perfume Shrine provides enjoyment and education.

    I love Bellodgia and I consider it a classic. Perhaps this one might introduce us to a new direction in carnation scents.

  19. Gautami,

    you're included. It's very interesting!

  20. Barbara,

    best of luck!

  21. Marko,

    it seems we're more than I initially thought. It's good to know :-)
    Hope you win!

  22. Natalia,

    it impressed me that the impression on the blotter was completely different than the one on skin. They morph differently and they're unusual...
    Good luck!

  23. Datura,

    another carnation fan! I have included you :-)

  24. COD,

    oh I am positive that there is future for perfumery, it's just not that bright at the moment, but I expect the mists to disperse at some point in the near future. We have experienced a tough patch and hopefully things will start to clear, now that consumers are more aware of things.

    You're in! Good luck!

  25. I am a daily reader, but this is my first post. I also love carnation and have been frustrated in trying to find good carnation fragrances - I do love Bellodgia by Caron and Sun Moon Stars is a wonderful fruity carnation by Sophia Grojsman,now discontinued, but I'm always looking for more. Please enter me for the draw!

  26. When I discovered the Scent Systems, I remember yelling bloody murder, they were so weird. They take a lot of getting used to, don't they? I haven't re-smelled them in a while (the sample set wasn't mine), but they're definitely staking out new territories.

  27. JAntoinette20:59

    As I read your lovely review, the poem "The Poems of Our Climate" by Wallace Stevens came to mind. I have always thought carnations were delicate and elegant and I love that you appreciate them as I do. Thanks!

  28. First of all, this is a gorgeous reviews. Carnation notes
    are among my favorites in perfume, and so hard to get right without veering into powder/plastic artifice. They discontinued Floris Malmaison, and if only I could find something similarly stunning, I'd be happy. So please, enter me for the draw - and thank you for writing one of my favorite blogs!

  29. Anonymous21:37

    I am going the Carons for their Carnation notes. I would love to try these! Please enter me in the draw. Thanks, ChantillyLace.

  30. lize21:56

    Dear Eleena,

    My neighbour was looking very surprised last year, when I fell to my knees in order to smell his wonderful pink and spicy carnations. Their smell immediately touched my soul. By now, he is used to my peculiar behavior and bought me a carnation plant- which stars as a small summer-queen in my garden.
    Please, enter me in the draw.
    And thank you for this lovely and educational blog!


  31. Please enter me in the drawing! I love the smell of carnations, one of my favorite carnation perfumes is Lush's Potion solid perfume. I would love to try this one from Scent Systems!

  32. Elizabeth02:36

    I love Carnation too, having recently acquired L'Artisan Oeillet Sauvage, which is gorgeous but oh so light and fleeting... I also adore SSS Oeillet, which I had only a few drops of. Please enter me in the draw, and thank you!

  33. Anonymous02:42

    I'm wearing Bellodgia today and really enjoying its beautiful, somewhat retro scent. Like Mals86 above, I truly adore Oeillets Rouges by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. Another great carnation is from the CDG Red series.
    I used to think carnations had no scent, because florist carnations from my past seemed not to, but now I know better! Please enter me in the draw. Thank you.

  34. I'm still searching for the perfect carnation, and I've always wanted to try this one. Oddly enough, although I love carnation, I can't stand cloves... Is this one clove-y, in your opinion?

    Oh, and I would love to be entered in the drawing -- thank you for your generosity!

  35. Anonymous04:40

    Hey Helg, I'm actually kind of surprised that carnation is associated with death (is it like tuberose in some countries?) but in asia it gets a totally different connotation...well, sort of. You see, children of all ages buy carnations right before Mother's Day--pink/red if the mother is alive and yellow/white if the mom is no longer around. Some even make their own carnations of paper, which I have done a number of times as boring school craft projects, which can be really mean because teachers sometimes will pass out white/yellow papers in front of all the other kids.

    But I like the smell of carnation: I didn't know how nice the scent could be until someone bought in a bouquet of cottage pinks--so clove-like in the scent that I even wanted to plant my patch. Well, until my butter fingers crushed the seeds ;-p

    Speaking of L'Air du Temps, I have some interesting info--I'll e-mail it to you.


  36. Anonymous06:28

    Great review! I adore carnation, and enjoy wearing Caron's Poivre. I only wish it lasted longer on my skin. Please enter me in the drawing, I'd love to try this line of perfume. Thanks,


  37. I have been quite keen to try their Carnation. Please enter me in the draw.

  38. Anonymous16:17

    Carnation was a communistic flower, typically communistic - in my country or in USSR. That's why many people here don't like it. But the new generation doesn't know it anymore. And I like it.

  39. Krizani,

    thanks for unlurking! :-)
    Hope you enjoy having lively discussions in the comments now.
    You're of course included. I think you might like the spice of Eternity, if you're a fan of Grosjman.

  40. D,

    yeah, bloody murder they ARE weird. It's as if an all-natural perfumer had illicit children with a lab-white-coated technician and they decided to shoot them up into space and back! :-)
    It's certainly an interesting path, one that takes getting used to as you say. I think the most approachable in the lot might be Rose, it's more typically a rose interpretation. The other one which made an impression on me was Wild Violet, but maybe that's for another day.

  41. JAntoinette,

    what a lovely choice! Thanks for bringing it up! Yes, it captures my feelings well.
    Glad that the post resonated with you on some level.

  42. Tarleisio,

    oh, thank you so much for your most kind words. I appreciate it!

    Carnations are difficult in that they often come as too much of the dentist's office (although I love that smell personally and I have good relationship with my dentist!). Malmaison is a good one!!

  43. Chantilly Lace,

    the Carons do explore the colve-y carnation aspect well. You're included, good luck!

  44. Lize,

    you're welcome, thanks for your support!

    That's a wonderful visual, you on your knees smelling the little crumply things. They do smell lovely, don't they. Good luck with the plant.

  45. Jenn,

    of course you're in! I can't say I have tried the Lush (although I like their vetiver powder, referenced in the Vetiver Series). Should note to take a sniff if I get the chance!

  46. Elizabeth,

    aww, Oeillet Sauvage is one of my favourite light carnations for summer! It's so feminine, lightly interplayed between ylang and "baies". I think it needs to be sprayed with abandon to reveal its nature and to have some staying (spray on clothes).
    Good luck!

  47. Mary,

    yeah, florists' carnation (and other flowers) don't really have a scent, they have this generic "florist shop" aura about them. Wild ones are the most fragrant. And I agree that the CDG one is a very good one!! Need to try the DSH.

  48. Natalie,

    you're included.
    I don't think this is clove-y, in fact it takes a different direction than the classic approach, which is why it stuck out to my mind so vividly.

  49. A,

    I don't believe it's that it has a special funeral connotation for some other reason than it is inexpensive (compared to other flowers) and it withstands neglect ;-)
    Thanks for the info on the Asian customs, I believe a Canadian friend told me recently how carnations are given on Mother's Day (a lovely detail since I myself unwittingly gave carnations to my mother from time to time, cutting them from my own little plant because I liked them so much!)

    Got the mail, thanks!!!

  50. Lara,

    thanks! Poivre isn't lasting? What have they gone and done to it, they ruined it too?
    You're of course included in the drawning and best of luck!

  51. Kathleen,

    you're of course part of the drawing. Good luck!

  52. L,

    yes, isn't it funny? Was it because it's red (most often) or is it because it was cheap (proletarian)?
    It's good that the new generations are not bound by associations and can appreciate some things in their proper dimensions.
    Glad we're both fans of the humble carnation :-))

  53. I'd love to be included in the draw! :)

  54. Sure, you're in!Good luck!

  55. The Scent System fragrances sound fascinating.
    Please include me as well!


  56. Thanks Mark, you're included.:-)

  57. edwardian22:57

    I'd love to smell the Scent Systems perfumes, I'm not familiar with natural perfumery and I don't know what to expect, but your description of Oeillet makes me very curious about it.

  58. They've been neglected certainly in the last few decades and I'm going to buy carnations tommorrow because I don't think I can remember what they smell like!
    I'd love to be in the draw.

  59. maitreyi197801:54

    They sound very different. Please enter me in the drawing.

  60. I would love a chance to win (though I'm skeptical I will if I am the last or next-to last commenter in the thread when you do your picking!).

    I enjoy carnation sometimes, but I also realize I need to be in the right mood for it. My standby has been Commme des Garcons, but today I received some samples from Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, including her Oeillet, which I'm anxious to try. I've heard great (GREAT!) things about Scent Systems take on carnation, but I've been afraid to even look into their line due to the price point.

  61. stella p09:11

    I'm another member of the carnation-lover group! Please enter me in the draw!

  62. Eddwardian,

    thanks for stopping by and I hope you win! They're very unusual, so in case you do win, I wouldn't call them representative of all-naturals en masse. They're atypical of either genre.

  63. Jessica,

    your house must be smelling glorious! :-)
    You're in!

  64. maitreyi,

    they most definitely are. You're in!

  65. Joe,

    oh, there is no reason to feel like that, as I run the names through a random generator, so there is no difference whether someone posts first or last :-)

    The SS frags are pricy, true, although that comes with the territory. I also like the CDG one!

  66. S,

    our forces are something to be reckoned with! I'm so happy there are so many carnation lovers here.

    Good luck!

  67. Such timing! Your article came at an interesting time...I *just* found that I actually do enjoy carnation in a fragrance--maybe. :) My epiphany was in the development of Bellodgia in the edp form....have no idea if my appreciation stems from a "scent maturation" in my own nose, because I just didn't wait for it (maturation on skin) before--I know I tend to get turned off if pure carnation hits me immediately in the top note.

    I have had the opportunity to sniff Scent Systems fragrance; would love to be included in the draw.

  68. S,

    I was thinking it was perfect timing myself when I popped over to see what you're up to!

    Good luck in the draw!!

  69. Please put my name in the drawing! I have been intrigued by Scent Systems since I first read about them, but their prices are kind of frightening. I love carnations more than any other flower, and I already have quite a few carnation-heavy scents (including Comme des Garçons Carnation, Guerlain Terracotta Voile D'Ete, Lush Potion, Old Spice, and Estee Lauder Spellbound), but I would really love to try this Oeillet.

  70. Done deal!
    Carnations is a vast field that always needs a special treatment. The whole set is worth exploring, they're unusual and different than anything else.
    Good luck!

  71. Count me in! Hope I'm not too late for the sample giveway! I'd like to get my nose near a real carnation :)

  72. Thanks Juan, you're in. Hopefully I will announce the winner very soon!


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