Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Thinking about Calone & Controversial Notes

This morning, for no particular reasons, I woke up thinking: “I need to make a Calone* centric fragrance”. The second thought was “maybe with a big flower next to it. That would be so odd, maybe a tuberose or rose”. The third thought was “there is a reason why I do not have Calone here in my perfume studio/lab/creative mess”.

*Calone is an aromachemical with an  effect of watermelon, which became huge in the 1990s thanks to its inclusion in "marine" scents. 

Thus starts an entry on the blog of indie perfumer Andy Tauer titled "Was Calone Putting an End to High End Male Perfumes?" which you can read here. It highlights something that has been bugging me as well for some time: how much of what we object to has to do with the very nature of the thing and how much with the associations we make with it? And more importantly, how much does the creator cater to their own impulses and how much do composers of perfumes cater to the taste of their perspective audience? And why should this be good or bad.

On to you: Do you have a bad association with a specific note and why is that, you think?


  1. Astrid13:52

    Thank you for the opportunity to vent!

    Gonna go with toxic saccharine marshmallow/cotton candy/caramel/fudge and every other cloying ethyl maltol "gourmand" note put into perfume to save money on a formula that requires quality components.

    In this particular case, I'd say the nature of the thing has the same problem as its associations - i.e. it smells like my kid smeared cotton candy down my shirt on a very hot day at the fair and now I have to walk around in a sticky mess...and apparently it's SUPPOSED to smell that way. Go figure.

    Also not crazy about the thin, watery cardboard note Iso E adds to everything it touches. Yes, it is always noticeable and no, it's not a wonderful cheap alternative to quality components any more than monosodium glutamate can completely disguise rotten vegetables. Note to perfume composers: if YOU can smell it, we can smell it. If it smells bad to YOU, it smells bad to us.

    It also wouldn't make me sad if the cheapo scratchy musk/woods chemicals that appear in every low quality fragrance (including expensive ones) from teen clothing stores to "niche" junk disappeared forever. If you don't want to cut into profits by including sandalwood in your product, make something that doesn't use a sandalwood note.

    Also not wild about Calone, although Eau d'Eden contained it and was gorgeous. At least Calone is not trying to be a cheap substitute for a higher priced quality substance.

    1. There's certainly truth in what you say about perfumers being able to smell it equating people being able to smell it as well, even though they can't necessarily point it out by name.

      I don't think it's just cheap ingredients, it's fear of going outside drawn borders and limits. It's producing the same thing over and over. I also believe some perfumers use ISO-E Super as a shortcut, like a coal painter/sketcher using (and overusing) sfumato to cut through the problem of not having the time to devote to good sketching to begin with.

      The excess of ethyl maltol needs to stop, though, it becomes suffocating. To me, it can also become disgusting coupled with sweet fruits: insta death by the candied fruit can!

  2. Actually, I am not mad about big melon notes wherever I see them. Is there calone in either that Armani scent with the big melon note (darn, I can't recall the name - Idole, that's the one) or L'Eau d'Issey? L'Eau d'Issey is a much bigger scent than it is given credit for. It's not a clean, wisp of a thing at all. Or rather it is clean - like this big florally melony monster that has just exited a shower cubicle. I couldn't tell you why I have the bad association, mind. I am not against fruit in perfumes per se!

    1. There's Calone in both Aqua di Gio and L'eau d'Issey, not sure about Idole, haven't really smelled it (if at all). And I totally agree about L'EdI being BIG and loud!!! I can smell it from across the street actually.

      I think the bad association comes not from the actual ingredients (Astrid's example as per above is a great one, thanks Astrid!), but through overexposure to particular pathways to the brain: L'EdI and AdG have been done to death so that we have come to despise them. The way women who were cooped up in a booth with a woman who wore Poison by the bucketload in the 80s can't stand it, even now. But they're not necessarily averse to either plum or tuberose or musk or any of the individual materials themselves.
      Other acquatics (like REM) remain pleasant because not everyone and their hamster has worn them. This explains why many people apparently liked Aqua di Gioia even though they have tired of Aqua di Gio or at least that's my theory.

      Then again there is the matter of the intrinsic value of things: Is Eau d'Issey a good perfume? Hmmm. Not really. It's not the absolute worst one though. Is Poison or Angel a good perfume?Most definitely they both are (and the logical part of the brain affirms it), but that is irrelevant to the aversion they produce to many so we go full circle.

  3. Anonymous22:46

    Seems none of us are keen on calone/melon notes!

    I wasn't keen on L'eau d'Issey though it was a distinct and quite elegant perfume in its own way.

    I wonder why the melon note in Roudnitska's perfumes such as Eau Sauvage or Diorella always smell relaxed, not headachey, yet in Le Parfum de Therese there's a melon note which some, including myself, find too strong

    1. R,

      I believe it also has to do with received wisdom. People like us, who participate on online disucssion, are very much "branded" by what we read to the point that we form solid opinions that are "learned" before even beginning to build emotional ones.
      Parfum de Therese is a Roudnitska, therefore it's "good" while L'eau d'Issey is a cheapo mainstream, therefore "bad". Intellectually talking that is not far from the truth (in this particular instance at least, there are other examples which are not as clear) but emotionally someone might have an averse response on LPdT and that wouldn't be a "wrong" thing, Emotions are what they are and they're always valid. Whether we intellectualize them and interpret them and analyze them afterwards is a different matter.

      Personally I'm not averse to melon notes. I'm averse to big frags with very obvious melon notes which have been worn by everyone and their hamster ;-)

  4. Emphatic yes answer to Andy Tauer's question. I strongly dislike calone.

    But in general, my guess is that perfumers have, often, to cater to prevailing tastes. If they want to keep their job at their aromachemical firms, that is. They may put their heart in things they like, but for others, they have to bend. Regarding your other question, I don't know - associations certainly help, but I think it's more being used to and being exposed to things. A bit like for food. People do get used to certain types of food (say, bland, supersweet etc). And the first exposure to different types of food can be a turnoff. But over time, one can grow to like different things, and what one considered good may now seem bad, once one has got used to better stuff.

    1. M,

      please see above for my own response to melon/Calone, if interested. I do get you though!

      As you say, a perfumer can't create outside prevailing tastes, at least not if they hope to actually sell the perfume. Experimental and art project perfumes are all very well but one needs to sell to a set number of people to justify the inventory, the packaging, the press and all the logistics around creation (something most perfume lovers don't pay attention to, but which is a pressing reality).
      Especially now that niche brands are increasingly going through a "phase" and a new audience of oligarchs is increasingly buying niche, without necessarily being educated in niche.

      On another note and thanks for bringing this aboard: one CAN get conditioned to a certain type. Witness the ersatz fruity and super-sweet foody smells. They have taken perfumery by storm from the bottom up (from body products to fine perfumery). It's a type of conditioning, isn't it?
      It's a bit of a let down that not more nuanced types have been presented for greater consumption lately. Everyone does what everyone else is doing. I would hope that there are many more levels within any genre to do subtle twists and turns and produce something clever. It happens once in a while, but not often enough for such a gigantic yearly output of perfumes.

  5. I wonder what calone and Oudh would smell like... :-)

    1. Calone is like watermelon through a plastic foil, like the slices sold in Northern European countries.
      Oudh (the commercial bases at least) smell like opening a new box of Band Aids.


    2. Haha, I meant together :-). That would be dreadful!

    3. Petroleum, which Elena described a few days ago, does some of this, an oud fantasy with marine notes:

      Dreadful it is not, but it is definitely strange. (Scent of Departure Dubai, which is a cheap offshot of the same brand, is in the same spirit, though the balance is opposite, a marine scent with a touch of woody oud).

    4. Thanks to Cacio for pointing out this example (and giving the link too)!
      Not sure whether it's Calone that acts as the marine effect (I believe there's vetiver plus something else giving an iodine effect that recalls the sea, a similar approach to Goutal's older edition Vetiver) but it's certainly a very odd (but compelling, to me at least!) combination of marine and oud.

  6. Nathan12:33

    I don't like any scents with calone our ozonic notes, kills the composition for me. I was hibernating (perfume-wise) during that whole aqua era so it isn't through association, I just hate the smell. Can a sea/watery theme be reproduced in scent without smelling synthetic? Sel Marin is good but I don't want to smell like an oyster.

    On the subject of pleasing the crowd, companies should take risks to find the next big thing. Oud wasn't always popular, same with aquatics. What about Bandit? They are still making that stuff but it wasn't/isn't exactly commercial.
    Oh, I forgot, big business doesn't like risk and beauty, it likes safe money. Aren't Thierry Mugler parfumes a success? Did they follow market trends when they started?

    1. Nathan,

      excellent points! What is learned and what is emotional response?

      Companies are just copying each other, producing what everyone approves of (I blame focus groups) and not diverging outside a core of 20 materials in fear they should trigger a non familiar response.

      I think Mugler is a brand that is not especially "commercial", at least in the average "mall" buyer. Same (even more so) for Piguet. Angel is huge, but it's worn by people who want to feel "out there", even though they're wearing something popular. I'd venture the same goes for Fracas, for instance. Popular, but for people who want to make a stance. Not everyone does, though and the ones who do not are a greater percentage than they ones they do; it's a symptom of the democratization of fragrance that the latter percentage have become a greater market share than the former (who were the ones to actively buy and wear perfume in previous decades).

      Re: ozonics. Hmm, there are certainly a few that are very very worthwhile. I do agree that the scent of the sea is immensely difficult to produce though; it's such a complex smell.

  7. Nathan12:57

    Just realised that calone is more the melony aspect in aquatics and others. I'm learning :)

  8. WOW! I have one note that just drives me crazy. It seems to buzz my whole head till I get a pounding headache and takes ages to leave my body. I don't know what it is but it's in Ambush by Dana and there are traces of it in a few more expensive offerings.
    That's all I know of it but it is not friendly for me.
    Portia xx

    1. Portia,

      aha! Could it be Ambrox? Lots of people have trouble with how harsh it can be in some compositions. I really don't recall Ambush at all, so can't be more help, but it would be a logical consideration. Any other scents off the top of your head which do that for you? (*ouch, sorry for that!*)

  9. I have never liked the smell of cantaloupes melons ... or the taste!
    The French go mad for them! LOL

    1. True :-)

      I'm not really crazy for melon, though I can eat it when firm and greener. I don't like over-ripe soggy cantaloupe, it feels like slime. I'm the same with watermelons.

  10. Anonymous11:21

    I started becoming very fond of perfumes and being able to afford them when cal one was all the rage, and I am partial to a few marine scents. And unashamed. I hated patchouli for a very long time, as it was the smell of the clothes of my nemesis in primary school: three years older than me, and a bully threatening me on a daily basis. I could spot patchouli a mile off and it made me uncomfortable. About ten years ago, I had a change of heart, and quite a sudden one, and am now very fond of that note.

    1. Your story is very much our story, perfume lovers' collective story I mean.
      Emotions are very strong, we do breed a love for what we loved back then, we have some hesitation re: certain notes, but we're willing to expand. I think that'\s what brings us to such discussion pages in the first place.
      So welcome aboard! And thanks for sharing.

  11. Miss Heliotrope01:20

    My main dislike (am being polite) is vanilla, but extends to food/pretend food notes - but not herbal/aromatics. A lot of it is that I just dont like sweet - especially that fake sugary sweet, but also why would I want to smell like fake food? (Even real food can be problematic - once I have eaten, I dont really want to smell it again, although this is me being picky & fussy).

    Is it learnt? Not directly, and yet - they have been (are?) highly fashionable, but is it sobbery? - I dont want to be seen (sniffed) to be one of those sorts? Or is it just too much exposure? Or that bc it was fashionable, there were a lot of cheap versions, which were considerably worse?

    We all react to our surroundings, even if we pretend not to, and while some people find that fashionable things are the way to go, others of us will run the other way - but we are still reacting to them. If one says "O I like them even though they are fashionable," would you have tried them anyway? Or did they only come to your attention bc they were everywhere?

    I think even creators - who live in the world, and of course need to sell their stuff to someone - do react to fashion, but what makes a creator great, is the way they react. Yet another x scent can be dull. A scent deliberately without x for the discerning can be just as dull - a scent, with or without x, that appeals to people, that resembles what the perfumer intended, that adds something to the world, is good. To hit the analogies again, food: there's always the It ingredient. & while hundred of so-so meals around the country might use that ingredient for no real reason & to no great taste effect, there is always someone, whether they are first or last to try, who will produce a stunning dish, making the diner re-think her attitude to the fashionable ingredient. It doesnt have to be a stunning, extravagent tour de force, it could just be a pinch in a simple sauce or salad, but suddenly you know why everyone is trying to use that ingredient, even if most of them fail -

    1. As usual, excellent points!

      Being overexposed I think at some point brings a saturation and the need to "go away". One can't eat the same food every day for the rest of their lives, can they? It's also most annoying when people around wear the same thing in mega doses so our nose becomes dull and anesthetized by the fumes; after a while the novelty turns off and we're left with displeasure.

      But things are even more complicated, I believe. I think there's both a "me too" wish and a "individualistic streak" mentality going on at the same time, even in the most hardcore perfumista and even in the most pedestrian casual perfume wearer. If you charge people with complying to a norm or peg them, they tend to react and give reasons why they "do their own thing" and if you make them feel too outcast, they tend to give a try to mainstream things to feel a bit how others feel, even if only from a curiosity point of view. So there are different reasons for wanting to test what is fashionable, what is trendy and what is the NEXT trend!

      Perfect example about the brilliance of a creative mind making due with some material or others. Sometimes a small detail can make or break a work of the mind.


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