Sunday 17 May 2009

Perfumes that Smell Like Sugar

Diabetes is epidemic. Obesity is increasing, even among
children. And right now, most of the hot new perfumes smell
like sugar.

Traditional perfume notes typically included flowers,
plants, certain tree barks, spices, and a few unusual
ingredients like ambergris and musk. The most common
"edible" notes in the perfumist's repertoire were citrus

In fact, the world's first cologne was a citrus scent.
Created in Cologne, Germany, it was marketed as Cologne
Water and quickly got branded 4711 after the street number
of the factory. You can still buy the centuries-old
fragrance today (available through

Fragrances in the Far East often used pineapple and other
fruit-inspired notes. Today, fruity fragrances are so
popular they have even started their own perfume genre. You
can sometimes search fragrance websites for "fruity
florals" or "fresh" type scents.

An even newer twist on the market are the sugar-inspired
scents. It is hard to say when the trend toward sweet
perfumes started, but they're very common today.

One of the world's most famous sugary scents is Thierry
Mugler's Angel, which comes in a very striking star-shaped
bottle that reclines rather than stands upright. Angel is a
complicated scent, though. It's also got notes of chocolate
and other spicy woody elements.

A more playful sugary scent is Aquolina's Pink Sugar. With
a smell that is strikingly close to cotton candy, it's a
youthful fun fragrance. Unlike Angel, which is heavier and
more sophisticated, Pink Sugar is light stuff.

Hannae Mori is also a sugary scent, but one that is more
grown-up both in composition and price.

My first introduction to the world of sugar in perfume came
from Fresh which is well known for Sugar Blossom, Lemon
Sugar, and just plain Sugar. All three scents are a
completely different approach to the sugar note. They are
all sugar-citrus blends. Starting with Sugar and then
progressing to Sugar Blossom and finally Lemon Sugar, the
citrus component gets increasingly more dominant.

The beauty of the Fresh scents is that they are light and
casual. Although available as eau de parfum, the Fresh
scents remind me a bit in attitude of the original 4711
cologne. These are great summer-time scents. But for
maximum sugar intake, go for Sugar rather than Lemon Sugar.

Of course, mixing food scents into perfume is going toward
the tropical as well. Carol's Daughter makes a scent called
Groove with a strong fruit punch, mostly peach. You can
also find peach notes in a much smokier, mysterious scent
called Chinatown by Bond No. 9. Chinatown has strong
patchouli overtones, to me at least, but there are some top
notes of peach.

Escada's Sunset Heat is another tropical scent. Bond No. 9
also unveiled a new scent to its extensive collection this
summer with an unusual twist. Coney Island lists among its
main notes "Margarita mix." I am thinking this is a
lime-sugar note, but I have yet to experience the actual

So why are we so eager to scent our bodies so we smell like
food? First, I think the perfumer's art has expanded with
synthetics to the point that we can experiment with a
wealth of intriguing new scents. The original perfumers
could work with only natural ingredients, which were of
erratic quality and not always abundantly available. Today,
a perfumer works in a lab which can cook up scents with
names like "ozone" or "ocean breeze" or "clothes line."

And speaking of labs, the same labs that make fragrances
also make flavorings for food. Food flavoring additives are
a huge business and are essentially a fragrance component
that goes into the food. For foodies, taste is what you
experience on your tongue but flavor is what you experience
in your nose and mouth. When we bite into a Delicious apple
or dig into a dish of chili or take a first bite of
fresh-baked rye bread with butter, we are smelling the food
as much as tasting it.

Perhaps it was inevitable that labs that made sugar and
spice and lime and lemon and Margarita mix flavorings would
start experimenting with these things in perfume.

Not everyone likes the new sugary notes in perfume. Some
people find them an acquired taste. The first time a
perfume friend of mine tried a citrus sugar scent, she
thought she smelled like Sprite®. Many Europeans associate
citrus smells with baby products (just as Americans
associate powdery scents with babies).

The emergence of fruit and sugary perfumes is a new wrinkle
that has created a lot of excitement (not to mention new
scents) in the perfume market. It's hard to say if this is
a fad or a trend, or a permanent shift in what is and what
is not permissible in a woman's fragrance.

Interesting note: the rise of sugar in perfume in the West
tracks onto the increased consumption of sugar and rising
obesity levels. Are we just food obsessed? Is perfume
really that close to food?

So far, I think the interest in food-flavorings in perfume
is more of an offshoot of our processed food supply. We
find these scents appealing. And so far, only bits and
pieces of food scents have infiltrated the perfume world.
Nobody wears hot dog cologne or bacon perfume. Just as
flowers please our nostrils, so does the sweet smell of
certain fruits and sugar itself.

About the Author:

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Joanna McLaughlin wrote this article and she just wrote an
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