Thursday, July 19, 2012

Coca-Cola Notes in Perfumes: The Tingling, Sweet, Spicy Side of Fun

Whenever you hear "Have a Coke," you hear the voice of America. Passport to refreshment. Happy moment of hospitality. Coke means Coca-Cola. (1945) Refreshment the whole world prefers. The cold, crisp taste of Coke.(1958) The favorite drink for ladies when thirsty, weary, and despondent. Good all the way down. Flows from every fountain. Sold in bottles. (1905)
~From Coke advertising slogans

Coca Cola and the cola-type soft drinks similar in flavor (Pepsi being the other giant, utilizing a slightly different recipe) create their own little scent universe. Sometimes, the association with the flavor is so very strong that perfume lovers seem to "catch" a cola note in their perfumes!

In fact Donna Karan advertises its DKNY Delicious Candy Apples Ripe Rasberry limited edition as having a base redolent of coca-cola notes! Grabazzi by Gendarme is another one. But there are other fragrances, which their makers wouldn't think of promoting as reminiscing the popular soft drink: Lauder's Youth Dew and the flanker Youth Dew Amber Nude most definately conjure the aftertaste of a delicious can of Coca Cola. Is it any accident they're more American than the statue of Liberty? America loves Coca Cola and I can well see why!
The French are not immune either: Spray a spritz of classic YSL Opium spicy oriental perfume (in the Eau de toilette concentration especially) and you distinctly find among the spicy bouquet the familiar cinnamon-orange goodness of Coke. Parfumeur niche release Mon Numero 10 has a drydown redolent of the famous soda. Dior's Dolce Vita hints at it, having this sweet, thick-ish undercurrent to differentiate it from Feminite du Bois (Shiseido) from whence it sprang, Athena-like from the leg of Zeus—or perfumer Pierre Bourdon's in this case.  Musc Ravageur by Maurice Roucel for niche brand Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle also boasts the spicy, dry and tonic vibrancy of coca cola before segueing into something softer, more paw-massaged and sexily alluring.

Perfumer Jean Claude Ellena uses just four essences to render the definitive scent of Coca Cola in his conjurer tricks for reporters: Vanillin, plus natural essences of cinnamon, orange and lime. Et voila, Coca-Cola!!

The secret lies in the actual formula of the drink, not the perfumes themselves. In reality, the popular soft drink is comprised of much more "perfume notes" than we thought of. Apart from carbonated water, sugars, caffeine, caramel and phosphoric acid, it boasts the following natural flavorings: lime, lemon, orange, coriander (which has a lightly orangey scent), neroli (coming from the steam distillation of orange blossoms), cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Too many to remember? The basic flavor in Coca Cola and competing cola drinks comes mainly from vanilla and cinnamon, though Pepsi-cola boasts more lime than most (and therefore the question of whether one prefers Coke or Pepsi attains an important level of aesthetic preferences in fragrance consulting tests).

Naturally all of the above are long-time notes in perfumes, especially in Oriental blends and the classic hesperidic-spicy-sweet compositions. The association therefore with certain perfumes is totally logical. In fact, the recent discovery of a Coca Cola notebook from the late 1970s with the handwritten list of ingredients has prompted queries as to how the company needs to come out with a Coca-Cola fragrance. It's a well-known flavor in Lip Smackers lip balms, after all....

A few other scents that have cola aspects to them:
Idole de Lubin where the cola note pairs with rum.
Escada Magnetism for Men: Has the sweeter, thicker smell of a vanilla coke with added cherry, pepper, saffron and musk notes.
Dinner by Bobo is another one, as is Nanadebarry Classic Pink. Penhaligon's Malabah has the piquant opening of a fizzy cola. L'Aromarine made an Eau de Toilette and parfum which were redolent of the scent of Coke.

Have you experienced other fragrances where the scent of Coke (or cola in general) is perceived?
Let us know in the comments.  

pic of coke and youthdew via Fragrantica, design and retro ad pics via Google


  1. This was fun to read, thank you. I'm not a fan of soft drinks, but about once a year I crave a Coke; I'm old enough to remember when Coke switched from sugar to the ubiquitous corn syrup as the main sweetener. The sugar version was better, at least in my teenage memories. I'm now looking forward to sniffing out cola notes in Musc Rav & Youth Dew! I smell root beer in Hypnotic Poison, esp. the newer bottle, but haven't noticed cola as much.

  2. Rosarita,

    thank you!

    I rather like Coke and wish it wasn't full of sugars so I could consume more freely. I can well sympathize with the corn syrup substitution being not as good. I can't bring myself to really like the Light version due to the metallic aftertaste of the sweetener. These things play a significant part in our enjoyment.

    Do try to smell these perfume with that in mind! I might do another one on rootbeer floats and Dr.Pepper! ;-)

  3. The long-discontinued Encore by Alfred Sung had a cola quality, but not what you'd expect: if you sprayed it on fabric, the scent it left behind hours or days later was exactly, precisely the smell of Coca-Cola syrup — viscous, sweet, and spicy. Encore was really terrific stuff, probably Sung's best scent, and it deserved better than a quick ignominious discontinuation.

  4. This explains some things to me! I have always been a Coke (not Pepsi) fan. I went to high school in Atlanta which is the home of Coca Cola. Coca Cola was started in a drug store in Atlanta.
    I'm a huge fan (Helg knows) of the vintage Opium edt and the parfum. I also love Shiseido's Feminite du Bois. I try to stay away from the REAL Coke but every once in's the only thing! I love orange in perfumes.... I have SL Fleur d'Oranger... Also love the root beer smell which is why I love perfumes with myrrhe. As for Youth's the perfume of my dating in college. All these scents are the scents dreams are made of. Nothing like those original green glass bottles of the original Coca-Cola! In the south they say Co-Cola! That's just a 'southern thing! I'm off to wear either my vintage Opium or FdB! Thanks for the memories!

  5. This actually explains a lot for me also in the sense that root beer and coca cola notes I think might be my least favorite notes, quite a few of the scents up there I have tried to appreciate but have been put off by the soda notes (especially when it really veers into root beer territory, looking at you Hypnotic Poison).

  6. Great point about orientals with a fresh top note and coca cola.

    To the list, I'd add Tabu, the grandmother of Youth Dew, and even more so another Tabu descendant, the cheapie Stetson Original.


  7. Anonymous17:03

    I get how the spiciness of Youth Dew is reminiscent of Coke, but vintage Tabu is THE cola fragrance to me.

  8. Anonymous20:09

    I liked the old coke before the changes.

  9. Lubin's Bluff has a very nice cola note.... though a lot of people seem to not be able to smell it for some reason.

    I drink Diet Pepsi all day long... what does this mean?

  10. solanace09:47

    I love coke, and will be searching for the coke note in my ole Opium bottle! I agree that life is too short for artificial sweetners (unless you really need them, of course), so I indulge myself only once a week or so. But then I try to make it right: a small glass bottle on a sidewalk café - hidden from my son! I think the juice tastes much better on a pretty glass bottle than on a can or plastic bottle.

  11. Astrid11:33

    I get pure cola/root beer from Guerlein's TerraCotta Voile d'Ete. No flowers at all, and just the tiniest hint of "clay." Wish I didn't, as it's my least favorite thing to encounter in scent.

  12. brie11:56

    Just finished taking a sniff of my hubby's 20 year old bottle of Drakkar Noir and something about it reminds me of Coke. Also, Cacharel's Lou Lou which always seemed so ambery sweet to me.

    I prefer my Coke made with sugar. Unfortunately the US (as opposed to Europe and other countries) puts high fructose corn syrup in all sodas now. We don't drink soda much around my house but when we do I make sure it is the organic made with pure cane sugar-costs more but it is well worth it!

  13. Kyriaki11:58

    Ralph Lauren Notorious has an effervescent cola note. Sanchez and Turin described its "a bracingly chilly gin-and-Campari top note, then to a whiskey-cola middle section."

    Wish I'd had the chance to try Alfred Sung Encore.

  14. Robin12:31

    Kusmi Tea (a brand originally from Russia, now in Paris) makes a blend called Prince Vladimir that has always reminded me of cola, and now that you've listed the ingredients for Coke, I see why! From the Prince Vladimir label: 'Russian blend of China teas with natural scents of bergamot, lemon, grapefruit, vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves.' You could make an iced tea with it, mix with soda and sugar, and have a nice homemade cola drink.....

    I wonder if the Coke/Pepsi base is actually tea - whence the caffeine.

  15. Gisela18:35

    Bois des Iles EdT smells of coke during the first half hour - my least favorite part...

  16. Minxie23:57

    Two more that have a cola note are Moschino Couture! and the discontinued Escada Collection.
    I also think Ferragamo's Signorina has a bit of a cola note in it. Now I know why I liked Amber Nude and my friend - a diet Coke addict loved Encore!

  17. Anonymous17:47

    I think other web-site proprietors should take this web site as an model, very clean and great user friendly style and design, let alone the content. You are an expert in this topic!

  18. Dina C.18:00

    My local Costco sells Mexican Coca Cola made with real sugar (not high fructose corn syrup) in glass bottles. Tastes great, and sometimes drinking a Coke can ward off a migraine for me.

    I'm gonna have to sniff some of the scents mentioned for the cola notes. Love Bois des Iles, Terracotta Voile d'Ete. Have always hated Youth Dew, but maybe I could stomach it if I could perceive it as cola.

  19. You spoiled my fun. I strongly dislike Coca-cola et al. and if I now smell it in my beloved Opium or Dolce Vita, I'll blame you.

  20. Not exactly Coca-Cola but a Croatian or Slovenian version (I'm not really sure who owns the company nowadays).
    It's called Cockta and the perfume that very strongly reminds me of it is Etro Shaal Nur - I believe it's the incense in both that makes it so very similar.

  21. The long discontinued Ritz by Charles of the Ritz smelled like Coke to me!

  22. There is nothing like the vintage Opium! Nothing spoils it for me.

  23. Nothing could spoil vintage Opium for me!

  24. Haven't meant to be so long in replying. Sorry! Back with you (each of you) in two ticks!

  25. Escada Collection definitely has a coca cola note to it, especially in the lotion, which I had. Minxie is right.

  26. I think I lost my first comment. Minxie is right, Escada Collection definitely has a coca cola note, especially in the lotion, which I had.

  27. Anonymous20:09

    For me, Jo Malone's Blue Agava & Cacao smells very strongly like Coca Cola for the first 10-15 minutes on my skin.
    Too bad I hate Coca with a passio so I can't fully enjoy the scent...


  28. I didn't realize how many perfumes I love and adore have Coca Cola scent in them! I have quite a few!! I think there are many more we haven't mentioned?

    I didn't mean to post twice earlier.

  29. Pyramus,

    haven't had the chance to try Encore. It sounds fun, though!! It's a pity that so many times it's the most interesting scents that get discontinued. :-(

  30. Gloria,

    hi there, how are you? So nice to see you here!

    I'm also a Coke fan rather than Pepsi which explains some things, doesn't it! (Our common fragrant loves for one, Opium in vintage form OF COURSE and then old Youth Dew oil and Feminite du Bois and Fleurs d;'Oranger, love all of these).

    Co-Cola sounds even more fun than usual :-D

  31. jen,

    sometimes we "get" things in a reverse way and it's all helpful, still. Glad the article was enlightening then.

    I had the hardest time explaining why I had an instinctive aversion to a particular scent when I discovered that underneath a fantasy note there was the same molecule present in burnt mace (which had a very unpleasant association with me). It then all became clear.

    Hypnotic is polarizing all right, I think it also has to do with concentration: the EDP engulfs me and eats me alive, the EDT I can do with moderation in wintertime. ;-)

  32. M,

    you're of course absolutely right! Tabu has that sweetish, spicy and yet with a fresh top note thing down pat.

    Haven't ever tried Stetson Original, alas. I'm showing my huge ignorance of the US drugstore gems, I guess. (not for want of meaning to try them)

  33. patty,

    Cacio above mentioned it as well and you're both 100% right. It's delectable (I love vintage Tabu for its spicy sweet bouquet which trails for hours)

  34. Barbara,

    nothing like what one knows well and loves, eh?
    I like Coke Zero in taste, but don't consume due to the alleged sugar substitute furore (is it resolved)?

  35. Furriner,

    it probably means you need the stimulation and refreshment and are watching your line. Though I hear diet sodas manage to add pounds in the end, through some miraculous reverse science. But don't let me discourage you.
    I guess you also have a hankering for lime? (it's more pronounced in Pepsi)

    Bluff I don't remember well. Need to retest!

  36. Solanace,

    do try it again!

    Oh yes, a tall or bulbous glass is so much better!! It adds an elegant touch that translates into the experience.
    It's also great with fruit juice instead of those horrible mini-cartons.

  37. Astrid,

    as that one has carnation (as does Tabu) I might get starting to think whether carnation with its inherently spicy bouquet might have anything to do with the association....It's an interesting, thought-provoking comment you made. Thanks!
    Sorry it doesn't work for you, though! :/

  38. brie,

    yes, Loulou has it too!! Good one! brilliant, thanks!!

    It's a travesty how corn syrup is in everything. Just think of the diabetes risk that is so elevated with this incredibly simple sugar which skyrockets in the blood within seconds.

  39. Kyriaki,


    correct you are. I kinda dismissed Notorious as a cheaper Narciso for Her, but I understand that it is not badly made.

    I also wish I could try the Encore, sounds very good.

  40. Robin,

    Prince Vladmir sounds just fabulous, both name and scent. yes, very close to the cola recipe. I think you should try making a home-brewed cola variation with it and report back!!

    I believe the caffeine is added as an afterthought, to stimulate and revive. (tea would leave a tannin aftertaste, wouldnt it?). But I could be wrong!

  41. Gisela,

    hmmm, I get mostly gingerbread, but yes, the spicy mix is not miles away. Sorry that fabulous perfume doesn't quite work for you. But there's so many more beautiful fragrances to explore...

  42. Minxie,

    Collection was boozy, wasn't it? And vanillin, I recall. Perhaps a tad much for me (such as a Pi?)
    Need to sample the rest again, don't recall them at all.

  43. Anon,

    thanks I guess :-)

  44. Dina,

    makes sense, the caffeine does help alleviate a migraine (migraine relief pills contain caffeine very often).

    I think you're better off with trying the bath oil of Youth Dew (or the cream): those are the best versions, as the perfume can be so very overwhelming and thick. ;-)

  45. L,

    guilty as charged! :-P

  46. ines,

    a ha!! Very interesting. Shaal Nur has lots of lemon which might veer it into Pepsi style. I found it very intriguing, very unusual and not totally wearable (though frankincense has a lemony top note in itself).
    I should try to get a friend of mind to bring me some Cockta from Serbia (I deduce it circulates there as well?)

  47. Karin,

    duly noted!! Thanks :-)

  48. Gloria,

    exactly, we think alike!! :-)

  49. Karin,

    now you're all conspiring to make me track down some Escada Collection. I know it has a cult following but had resisted for a long, long time. Grrr....

  50. Marianthi,

    (κι εσύ πατριωτάκι?)

    hadn't thought of it that way, I always got the salty, savory nuance, but now I'm intrigue, gotta go get my decant and spray again.
    Do you like any other soda? There are frags for every taste it seems! :-D

  51. Gloria,

    absolutely no problem with the duplicates, don't worry yourself.

    Yeah, who would have thought! I discovered many through the readers' comments it seems and I sense we're both on to something now. It sounds like something the industry hasn't quite named but is very aware of.
    And there should be even more out there!

  52. It's great to be here! I've missed my fellow perfume lover! We have so many common perfume loves! Of course they are NOT common!

  53. LOVE Guerlain Terrecotta! Got a back up bottle! It's great for anybody......I live in Florida and this isa go to fragrance!

  54. I believe Cockta would be familiar to anyone from Serbia (or anywhere in ex- Yugoslavia) - it has a rather long history and I know I grew up with the name (in the 80s).
    It's probably available there - if you try it, I'd love to hear your impressions. :) Its taste is reminiscent of Coca-cola type of drinks but it's clearly a different drink.

  55. Anonymous12:05

    Have you ever tried Lubin "Bluff"? It's the only perfume that actually contains cola nut as an ingredient. The accord is backed up by lime, cinnamon, nutmeg, sandalwood and vanilla.

    It smells like those fizzy cola candies I ate as a child.

  56. I don't recall Bluff, but now I'm really intrigued to revisit. Sounds like the very deal for this particular subject!

  57. I don't recall Bluff, but now I'm really intrigued to revisit. Sounds like the very deal for this particular subject!

  58. There was an old fountain drink (a favorite of Zelda Fitzgerald's from her youth in Alabama), called a "dope", made of some drops or tsp of aromatic ammonia spirits in a Coca-Cola (or as we always said in the South, a "Cocola"). That might be an interesting accord for a perfume, or maybe not, but I've heard of stranger ones:)

  59. Oh, and for some years now we've been able to get the cane-sugar Cokes made in Mexico, in the old style glass bottles, in the US. They're so much more fizzy and refreshing-my DH has cancer and some days those cokes are all he can stand to swallow and keep down.

  60. Anonymous19:39

    I was just thinking yesterday that Zoologist Civet comes off strongly of cola in the opening. It certainly has vanilla, spices, and citrus among its many notes, but I wonder how the other florals (tuberose / ylang) and the resinous / animatic notes come into the equation as well.

  61. Anonymous16:03

    I just discovered your wonderful shrine, and almost squealed with happiness upon finding this section because hints of cola have always been the uniting factor in what I like! Paloma Picasso, Origins’ Ginger Essence, Lauder’s Cinnabar, Organza Indecence, the original Coco (Coke Classic? Hehe.), and Youth Dew and YD Amber Nude as you mentioned. Thank you!



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