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Thread: Perfume Reformulations

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    Elite Member WhoAmI's Avatar
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    Default Perfume Reformulations

    Thought this was interesting (and useful). If you find your scent has been changed, you can try getting a vintage, unopened bottle from Ebay and hope for the best.

    Perfumista tip: on reformulations, or why your favorite perfume doesn’t smell like it used to

    One of the many hazards of writing about perfumes is that they’re not static objects. If you pick up a new bottle of Jean Couture Coriandre, what you’ll smell won’t be at all what I smelled when I first bought it in the late 1970s. It might not even be the same as what I smelled when I reviewed Coriandre a couple years ago, and found it to be an entirely different animal than the scent I remembered. The Coriandre you smell tomorrow, or next month, or next year, might have changed yet again.

    This has obvious implications for anyone blogging about perfume or reading perfume blogs. When you read a perfume review, unless it’s about a perfume that launched recently, you can’t be sure that what you’ll smell in the stores is the exact same fragrance.

    This article is meant as a very basic primer on reformulation, and most of what I’ll cover is well-known to seasoned perfumistas.

    Perfumes get reformulated all the time, and they always have. Why? Well, there are any number of reasons. Sometimes companies substitute cheaper ingredients as a cost-saving measure. Sometimes once-plentiful natural materials become scarce or extinct. And some materials, such as natural animal-derived notes, have been replaced with synthetic substitutes because of consumer preference and/or trade restrictions.

    Sometimes ingredients are found to be unsafe, and sometimes, especially with older perfumes that relied on pre-made specialty bases, they simply don’t exist any more. And sometimes, of course, perfumes are reformulated to bring them in line with modern tastes.

    It’s also important to remember that perfumes that rely on natural materials might have subtle variations from year to year anyway. A crop of jasmine from one year might smell different from the prior year, and a crop of jasmine from one part of the world might smell different from the same plant grown elsewhere.

    Perfumes are being reformulated at a more rapid rate than they used to. Vanilla, jasmine, oakmoss, coumarin, birch tar, citrus oils, heliotropin, styrax, opoponax…these are just a few of the fragrance materials that are restricted and/or banned by IFRA1 or are under consideration for restriction. The most recent set of IFRA standards (the 43rd Amendment) was issued in 2008; perfume companies are supposed to reformulate all existing perfumes to be compliant with these standards by August, 2010. In practice, if you’ve been doing much sniffing lately, you know that many old favorites have already been redone in advance of the deadline (goodbye and thanks for the memories, Sisley Eau de Campagne2).

    Perfume houses, for obvious reasons, don’t tend to publicize reformulations. After all, who wants to hear that their favorite perfume is no longer exactly the same as it used to be? Also remember that a perfumista’s idea of reformulation — the perfume no longer smells the same — may not be the same as that of a perfumer or a perfume house. If Australian sandalwood is substituted for now-scarce (and costly) Indian sandalwood, you could argue that the “formula” hasn’t changed, but to a perfumista, the result is the same: the perfume doesn’t smell like it used to.

    So how can you find out if a perfume has been reformulated? Well, the best way is to trust your nose. Asking a sales associate is usually a waste of time: in my experience, they almost always swear up and down that the perfume hasn’t changed even when it’s patently obvious that it has. Customer service and public relations departments of the various perfume houses, more often than not, do the same, and this is true even when it’s obvious that the original perfume would not possibly meet modern IFRA standards.

    Trusting your nose, however, has its own pitfalls. It’s important to remember that the last dregs of your three year old bottle of perfume won’t smell the same as a brand new tester even if the formula hasn’t changed at all.

    Unfortunately, we can’t constantly seek out and test new samples of everything we’ve already reviewed here at Now Smell This. That means you should approach every review, especially the older ones, with caution (which strictly speaking, you ought to be doing anyway). If you do smell a perfume that we’ve covered here and that you’re quite sure has been reformulated, you can do your fellow readers a favor by leaving a comment to let them know.

    1. IFRA is the International Fragrance Association. Here is a brief summary of their mission, from IFRA in a Nutshell:

    [IFRA's] main purpose is to promote the safe enjoyment of fragrances worldwide.

    IFRA represents the fragrance industry regional and national associations worldwide. IFRA is the reflection of the industry’s choice to regulate itself and and [sic] its activities result in a Code of Practice and safety Standards, which members must adhere to, in order to achieve the objective of protecting consumers’ health and our environment.

    If you want to learn more about IFRA’s restrictions on the raw materials used in perfumery, you can see their whole list of standards here. Two excellent resources for those opposed to the IFRA standards are the aromaconnection blog and Cropwatch. You can also take a look at all the articles on Now Smell This tagged IFRA.

    2. I’m not meaning to pick on poor Eau de Campagne in particular; it just happens to be something I smelled recently (and barely recognized). I should also point out that I don’t even know if it’s a victim of IFRA standards; it could easily have been redone for some other reason.

    Many thanks to Tania Sanchez for her help with this article!
    Perfumista tip: on reformulations, or why your favorite perfume doesn’t smell like it used to :: Now Smell This

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    Penske material sprynkles's Avatar
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    Interesting article.
    I swear, every perfume I have been in love with has been discontinued. Which sucks because I have a hard time finding one I like.

    She is such a useless shit stain on the panties of humanity~Bitter's awesome description of K.K

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    Elite Member WhoAmI's Avatar
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    Which ones have you lost, Sprynkles?

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    The 70's

    The 80's


    The 90's

    2000
    Pure Bliss by Mary Kay

    I managed to get several bottles of Skin Cooler from Ebay, and the scent is the same. The Andron and Fresh Lemon I got from Ebay absolutely stunk. Too old I guess.
    Yet perfumes I find flat out awful continue on and on. I don't get it!

    She is such a useless shit stain on the panties of humanity~Bitter's awesome description of K.K

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    I noticed that the Love's Baby Soft is totally different from the 70s/80s. Very weird. Also Shalimar is different, as is Emeraude. Emeraude used to be lovely fragrance similar to Shalimar, but it changed drastically in the 1990s.

    Perfume Review: Vintage Coty Emeraude

    It’s difficult for me to write a review of a fragrance that is special to me. Emeraude was the first perfume I ever loved. I still love it. I’m a little worried that the magic could wear off and it could become ordinary for me. But this is a lovely thing, and if I had my way, everyone would smell it – everyone.

    I first encountered Emeraude at the drugstore sometime around 1984, and instantly thought it the most beautiful perfume I’d ever smelled. Soft and aromatic and floral at the same time, it was so well-blended that I could never have told you what was in it. At the time, I was about halfway through my bottle of original Chloe, that big flirty white floral bomb, and I was only really familiar with my Chloe, my mom’s No. 5, my grandmother’s Avon Cotillion – which I thought was hideous - and Opium, my personal scent nightmare. Emeraude was like nothing else in my world.

    And (in the smug, naive manner of teenagers everywhere), I loved the ads for it, too: “I love only one man. I wear only one fragrance – Emeraude.”

    This was the bottle of Emeraude that I owned – eau de cologne in a lime green color, in a slightly-curved rectangular bottle with a white top. My mother disliked it, finding it “too mature” for a teenage girl. But a boyfriend gave me a small half-ounce bottle, and I kept it on my dresser and wore it and loved it until it went bad from a couple of years’ worth of light and heat damage. And then the next time I went to smell it at the drugstore, some time in the early 90′s, it smelled different to me. It smelled like itself – sort of – but sharper and thinner. It didn’t make me sigh with pleasure, so I thought that my tastes must have changed. I just put it back on the shelf and gave it no further thought.

    Until I read a mini-review of the vintage on the Posse (link at bottom of page), in which March described Emeraude as soft and rich. Yes, I said to myself. Yes, ebay. Yes, I’ll go look. I bid on a half-ounce bottle of parfum de toilette that looks 70′s-era to me. It smelled even better than I’d remembered. I went on an extended Emeraude quest last summer, eventually hunting down and dragging home six bottles. (Um, yeah, you read that correctly: six bottles. Two teeny bottles of parfum, one half-ounce bottle of 1950′s edt, two half-ounce bottles of pdt, and one stunning FOUR-ounce bottle of pdt. I told you, I love this stuff.)

    I will make the observation that unlike many vintage fragrances, vintage orientals tend to survive the years largely intact, although sometimes they can go faint. All of the pdt bottles I own smell fabulous, which the two parfums, which are in pretty, decorative bottles and presumably spent some time on display on dressers, are actually less strong, and less long-lasting, than the pdt bottles.

    Since you knew this was coming anyway, I’ll give you the usual caveats regarding vintage bottles, particularly those on ebay: YOUR BOTTLE MAY VARY. You never know the conditions under which a particular bottle was stored – was it kept in Aunt Sadie’s bedroom closet, in a box up on the shelf, away from light, until she bought her assisted-living condo and downsized her possessions? Or did it spend twenty years sitting out on Aunt Louise’s windowsill because “it was so pretty”? Has it been sitting in the window of the thrift shop, catching the light, until an ebay seller snapped it up and listed it for sale at a 400% markup? You just don’t know.

    Ahem. So on to the important stuff: how’s it smell?

    When I first put it on (all my vintage bottles are splash-type, not spray), I dab one drop on each wrist and one at the base of my throat. Then I attempt to dissect what I’m smelling, which is a little like trying to diagram Shakespeare’s poetry in that it’s not only difficult, but rather pointless when it comes to describing Emeraude’s appeal. What is immediately apparent is the citrus. There’s a huge ton of bergamot, intense but somehow creamy, possibly because of all the vanilla in the base. This is the big-sillage phase, and it only lasts about 20 minutes before quieting and settling down onto skin.

    The heart of the fragrance gradually comes into play, and it consists of rich florals that are so well-blended it’s difficult to pick out any specific note except jasmine. This blend seems very classical, and under the citrus vanilla, it reminds me of quite a number of familiar fragrances – No. 5′s rose-jasmine-ylang center comes to mind, and so does Alahine’s. The heart phase, which seems to stay always underneath the citrus-vanilla veil that characterizes Emeraude to me, lasts about an hour, maybe an hour and a half.

    Eventually it slides into its beautiful base. Emeraude is, particularly in its drydown, extremely soft. There is an element of powder from the benzoin, and the smooth sweet blend of vanilla and sandalwood. I can’t pick out opoponax or (thank goodness, because a lot of orientals are ruined for me by this) patchouli. The whole base is satin-smooth like scented talc, but is also mysteriously creamy, plush, and sweet and seems to melt into my skin and stay. And stay, and stay… I typically get about eight to ten hours out of those three drops of Emeraude, which is excellent staying power for me.

    Here are the notes for Emeraude: Lemon, bergamot, orange, tarragon, rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, Brazilian rosewood, vanilla, sandalwood, benzoin, patchouli, opoponax, and amber.

    What Emeraude feels like: velvet the color of soft moss, like “Miss Ellen’s portieres” at Tara, the ones Scarlett made a dress out of. It feels like a heavy, weighty formal gown made of heavy cream satin, with green ribbon trim. It feels soft and plushy and bosomy, womanly and quietly sexy, but not flirty or coy or predatory. It feels comfortable. For all that heavy, smooth weight, it is surprisingly wearable in the summer because its sillage seems to stay rather close to the skin, once the big bergamot blast has settled. It’s one of my favorites, and I’d probably take it to the desert island (heat or no) if I were ever forced there.

    A word on concentrations and formulations: Emeraude has throughout its life been released as parfum, eau de cologne, eau de toilette, and parfum de toilette. While the vintage edc and edt smell nice, they tend to be rather faint. The two small bottles of parfum that I own are also quite ethereally light, possibly due to light damage. My favorite concentration is the pdt - I haven’t been disappointed with any of the samples I’ve smelled of it – it is rich and lasting, without overwhelming anyone. The pdt was last produced, as far as I can tell, in the late 1970s/ very early 1980s. I recommend the 1960s-1970s pdt in the gold crown-topped bottle (see image #5). However, I have not sampled proper vintage parfum that smells as it should, so if you can find that, it might be the way to go. Edit: Forgot to mention color. The oldest stuff has usually lost its green tint and turned a light amber color, like weakish iced tea (okay, fine, I’m a Southerner, I just assume everybody knows what that looks like, and if you don’t, I’m sorry). See image #3 above. The PdT is usually a soft mossy-green color, like really good virgin olive oil. See image #5 again. Anything the color of neon sour-apple candy? To be avoided, in my opinion. The 80′s EdC was not hideous, so if the only thing you can find on ebay is in the rectangular-ish bottle with the wide white top, check the color. If it’s peridot green (image #6) as opposed to Green Apple Jolly Rancher green (image #2), it might be okay. The bottle has not changed since then, but the color has grown more garish.

    Emeraude was reformulated sometime in the 1980s, and has been retooled since then. There may be reformulations I’m unaware of, which is not unusual for such an old fragrance. I’ll be honest with you: leave the current version on the drugstore shelf. It’s thin and sharp, stiletto-y, nothing like its former bosomy, creamy self. Luca Turin says of Emeraude that it was the second oriental fragrance (the first, he says, was created for the original Parfums de Rosine company, and its formula has been lost) and “arguably best,” but that it has been ruined. I concur.

    A large number of people comment on (vintage) Emeraude that it’s “just like Shalimar, only softer.” I’d disagree, at least in part. Certainly I see why people make the observation, because Shalimar and Emeraude share some DNA: a bright citrus top, a classical floral heart, a rich, powdery-creamy vanilla base. There’s no question in my mind that Shalimar is a further exploration of the structure of Emeraude. The differences, as I notice them? Shalimar’s citrus is more tart, a bit more lemony. Instead of Emeraude’s soft rose-jasmine heart, I smell mostly jasmine, full and luxurious in Shalimar. And the base contains noticeable patchouli as well as the famous vanilla – once the “impure” De Laure vanilla, now recreated with a bit of birch tar – that Guerlain uses to such startling effect . I’ll venture to say that perhaps Shalimar is the better perfume. It is more adventurous, more contrasted, more surprising and complex. That touch of tar in the base – that’s genius. It’s shocking. It’s art in a way that Emeraude is not.

    And yet, I do not love Shalimar. I find it difficult to wear, unless the weather is just right; it seems to be perfect in the fall, when there is a hint of woodsmoke in the air and the promise of rain. I find it impossible to wear in any concentration lower than parfum de toilette. But Emeraude is forgiving and soft, plush as kitten’s fur and friendly as my favorite sweater. Perhaps it’s telling that I’d a thousand times rather have Shalimar Light than the original – all the difficult parts of Shalimar were planed away, and the whole thing sanded down to a finish with a texture like suede. If you love Shalimar, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were to find Emeraude unchallenging and perhaps a bit dull.

    Francois Coty’s insistence on keeping his perfumes available at a low price made it possible for a lot of women to own Emeraude. Which is lucky for us, because a fair number of those Emeraude bottles, packed away in someone’s underwear drawer still in the boxes, are popping up on ebay and in thrift stores all the time. Also luckily, Emeraude seems to age well.

    Reminder: if you are interested in entering the drawing for a sample of vintage Emeraude PdT, please leave a comment on this post, before midnight (Eastern Daylight Savings Time) on Sunday, May 23, 2010.

    I could not find a full review of vintage Emeraude on any of the perfume blogs I frequent. There’s a brief one from March and a separate brief one from Musette at Perfume Posse; another brief mention of it in this review of L’Origan at Grain de Musc (Warning: the accompanying illustration, an art nude by Kees van Dongen, may not be suitable for the workplace), and a mention of it in this review of Parfumerie Generale Felanilla at 1000Fragrances. Also, here’s a very brief mention among other Coty scents in this post at Perfume-Smellin’ Things. And here is a short history at Perfume Projects. Edit: I had forgotten this lovely review at Yesterday’s Perfume and overlooked it when I went hunting for blog reviews. (So sorry, Barbara!)
    Perfume Review: Vintage Coty Emeraude « Muse in Wooden Shoes

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    Charlie is still the same thank GOD.

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    One of my faves back in the day was Madame Rochas. I wore it all the time. It's not easy to find these days so I ordered some online and it smells like toilet cleaner so either they changed the forumla, or my sense of smell has changed or it's a knockoff from China.
    How can you trust anything that bleeds for 3 days every month but doesn't die?

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    I thought my sense of smell was going bad as I got older! I picked up a bottle of Lauren not too long ago (loved it in the '80s) and it smells completely different now.
    What I really want to know is whether it makes your poop glow in the dark after eating it! ~ Kittylady

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    Lauren was a disastrous reformulation. (It's not one I wore, but a close friend did.) The new one has no depth and doesn't even smell remotely like the old one.

    A lot of the new perfumes (and reformulations) just smell very, very sharp and off-putting to me. They don't draw me in.

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    I really, really miss Impulse body sprays. I love them. Especially the musk one.

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    I never thought of buy perfume off of Ebay... I stick with Estee Lauder but last month I bought Gucci, Guilty and its my new fav.
    My grace is sufficient for you, for my my strength is made perfect in weakness...I love you dad!
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    I just bought some Lair du Temps, and it brought me back to my teen years when I used to wear the heck out of it. It smells the same.

    My Chloe smells the same too. I almost bought some Passion but am going to wait til I run down these two bottles.

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    Penske material sprynkles's Avatar
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    Does anyone wear any of the DKNY Be Delicious perfumes? I think I liked a sample of it, but I have been fooled by samples before. I got a bottle of Red based on a magazine sample which I loved. But I could not stand myself in the actual perfume. Way too strong for me.

    She is such a useless shit stain on the panties of humanity~Bitter's awesome description of K.K

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    Chloe was reformulated in 2008, according to the Perfume blogs. You can probably find some of the old stuff on Ebay or at TJMaxx. L'Air du Temps was reformulated in the 1990s. Not sure when your teen years were.

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    In the eighties. They smell the same to me as I recall them smelling, but I WAS drunk most of those years.

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