Updated: May 3, 2022
Discover what makes some of the most popular, trendsetting fragrances tick!
Have you ever been smelling a candle or body spray at Bath and Body Works, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond or something to that effect, and thought it smells like some other really expensive niche perfume, just can’t quite put your finger on it. As it turns out, the formula probably has a lot in common with whatever expensive niche perfume you have in mind. There is a term for this: trickle down. The term refers to high end perfume signature accords making their way into less expensive products like candles, body spray and shampoo. From an perfumers perspective, I see this resulting in creative spin-offs and sometimes “dupes”.
I define a creative spin off as a perfume that uses a few of the more essential ingredients from the inspiring perfume, but still includes some of its own unique character. On the other hand a dupe is just a copy, or a bit of olfactive plagiarism. The designer and niche perfumes I am going to talk about seem to have inspired countless spin-offs and dupes. I want to share the genius of their key accords with you! If only you could smell along...
But wait! You can! Check out the LabHouse Perfume subscription box where you can smell and read along.
Five Inspiring Perfumes
This enticing niche perfume is defined by its woody and mossy character mixed with a pop of pineapple. The woody character here can be achieved by combining materials like ambroxan, patchouli, Veramoss, and Iso e super. If you subscribe to my perfume box I could show you what materials like this smell like, but for now I'll just have to describe them.
The unusually high dose of Ambroxan in this niche perfume was a stroke of genius attributed to perfumers Jean-Christophe Herault and Erwin Creed. Aventus maybe one of the first fragrances to use ambroxan at such an unusually high dose to achieve an elegant and long-lasting dry down. Describing ambroxan is a challenge. Some people described it as salty, musky, and reminiscent of soft clean skin. I like to describe the material as a sheer drift wood amber, because it adds a lingering salty beige smoothness to the base notes of a formula.
Patchouli is another key material in achieving the intense woody sillage in this fragrance. Not just any patchouli though! Based on the unusual amount of patchoulol, I suspect patchouli heart was used here. Patchouli is an interesting natural that can be broken up into multiple fractions including patchouli heart, patchouli light and patchouli MD. The term "fraction", in this case, refers to a specific portion of a raw material collected during distillation. These different fractions contain more or less of the different aroma chemicals that make up the olfactive profile. For this reason, different fractions of patchouli have different aromas and so using the right patchouli fraction is very important. Patchouli heart is a very clean smelling fraction, rich in the more green notes and subdued in the gourmand chocolate notes. The high level of patchoulols in this particular fraction are essential to the strength and clean quality of the fragrance. So we have woody and salty, but what about juicy?
The juicy pineapple that rips off the top of this fragrance cannot be missed! There are a lot of options when it comes to creating these juicy top notes. In my experience a pineapple accord such as the one in Aventus can be created using a few very strong materials such as manzanate, ethyl-2-methyl butyrate, Ally Caproate, Ethyl Propionate....etc. These synthetic materials have a high vapor pressure so they will be among the first to hit your nose.
After this niche perfume picked up popularity it was no surprise when I started smelling this key accord in other perfumes, candles and soaps. If you love this fragrance but don't want to drop $445 on a bottle, check out the list bellow for some spin-offs and dupes.
10 Aventus Inspired Perfumes:
Maison Francis Kurkdjian
Baccarat Rouge 540
Baccarat Rouge 540 is known for its gourmand yet sophisticated quality. Tops notes of transparent jasmine and velvet saffron compliment an ambergris mineral notes and a woody freshly-cut cedar in the dry down.
The secrets to this niche perfume are not so secret anymore...
In a few interviews with the perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, he reveals that the key accord to this fragrance is an "overdose" of a handful of synthetic materials. I personally don't see it as an overdose if it smells right, but I was never one to pay attention to the rules.
When a journalist asked him about the perfume he said he considers it a masterpiece because of "The way it smells. How people respond to it. The formula. The overdose of everything. And it’s only synthetic molecules. I put in orange and tagetes and a few naturals right at the very end, but otherwise it’s synthetic. There’s a synthetic oakmoss, veltol and ambroxan and hedione." (“Seventeen Families”) He also revealed that he built the formula using one of my favorite methods: the Jean Carles method. This method of fragrance formulation starts with balancing two materials, then you add a third, then you balance the whole, then a fourth, and so on...I love this method because I tend to find new synergies between small groupings of materials. The down side is that it is very slow and takes a very patient mind set. I recently tried to "dupe" this one myself as a learning opportunity and I found the the interview was quite honest. Combine ethyl maltol (veltol +), Veramoss (synthetic oakmoss), ambroxan and hedione and BAM, you start to see it! So what do these materials smell like?
Hedione is a synthetic material also known as methyl dyhydrojasmonate. Over the past decade it has become one of the most common materials used in perfumery, often found in fragrances around 20-30%. I would describe the olfactive character as transparent, mushroom, watery, white jasmine petal. Sounds beautiful, and truthfully this is a great material. However, I would not be surprised if I handed you a sample of it and you told me you smell nothing as it is very thin its own. The real strength of this material is mostly detected in a fragrance composition. From my perspective, hedione acts as open space in Baccarat Rouge 540, giving heavier stronger materials like Veramoss, ambroxan and ethyl maltol room to breath. Using a large dose of hedione here works especially well because the formula is already very built out on the other strong synthetic materials like Veramoss.
I find that Veramoss is best described as earthy like a dark forest floor. If you have ever walked in a damp warm forest, abundant with lichens like oak moss, then you know what I mean. However, if you live in San Diego (my home town) or some other desert where no such forest exist, you may want to try my fragrance Viridescent. In this perfume I use both Veramoss and a natural IFRA grade oakmoss at such a high dose it is a dominating note in the fragrance. Where oakmoss is naturally derived, Veramoss is its synthetic counter part. Unfortunately Veramoss is a few shades less complex, but is often used to replace oakmoss, which can cause skin irritation. The IFRA compliant oakmoss that I use is a distillation fraction of oakmoss with the irritant removed. I would argue that Veramoss is actually a better choice in Baccarat Rouge 540 because it comes across as a cleaner more mineral version of natural oakmoss, and it seems to support a more elegant salty dry-down when combined with ambroxan. The woody mineral dry-down of this formula is rounded out to a pleasant gourmand sweetness with Ethyl Maltol.
Ethyl maltol could be the definition of cotton candy! This material is commonly used in flavors as well as fragrance and honestly smells great on its own. I am always tempted to eat it. In woody mossy fragrances it provides a brown sugary caramelized note to break up the dryness. Ethyl maltol is a transformational material, a small dose can completely change the overall character of a fragrance. Certain material combinations with ethyl maltol have this magical effect where they simply do not smell like the sum of their parts. For example the combination of ethyl maltol and patchouli, a fruitchouli! This combo creates an intense fruit shade where one would expect to find a gourmand brown note. In my opinion, when used in the wrong context or at the wrong dose ethyl maltol can make a fragrance come across as juvenile, but in th e right place it can be the linchpin in a formula.
In Baccarat Rouge 540, for example, ethyl maltol is essential to a pleasant creamy dry down. Without it the formula comes across as to harsh and woody in the dry down, at least that has been my experience. While ethyl maltol is synthetic, its parent compound, maltol, was originally naturally derived from the bark of the larch tree in 1861. Ever since its counter part ethyl maltol was discovered in 1971, it has been the sweet key in many perfumes.
Baccarat Rouge 540 is not the most affordable, but I guess that's why spin-offs and Dupes make us happy! Check out the list below if you are looking for some trickle down...
Baccrat Rouge 540 inspired perfumes
Assuming you have been to a mall, it is hard not to know this fragrance! When I walk past the open doors of the trendy Cali-teen store, Abercrombie, I am enticed by the resonating herbal salty umami notes of this perfume. This is an example of scent marketing at its finest!
The distinct character of this fragrance seems to stems from its simplicity and an absolutely massive dose of iso e super and dihydromycenol combined with an herbal trio and Veramoss. Two perfumers worked on this fragrance, Christophe Laudamiel and Bruno Jovanovic. After its launch in 2002, this fragrance took the market by storm. Finally a fragrance so strong it covers up teen boy sweat! This one was so prevalent in junior high for me I almost find it juvenile, but really that's just subjective.
Herbal Top Notes...
The top of this fragrance opens with the cooling notes of lavender and a fresh lemon then it quickly transitions into a mossy salty clean laundry dry down with some sweet coumarin notes peaking through. While it's not overdosed, clary sage seems to play an important role in emphasizing the green umami notes. There are many different kinds of clary sage and I must admit I am not entirely sure which is used here, but I seem to get a decent match when using green crushed clary sage. It is important to make a distinction here between sage oil, which is made from the type of sage we cook with (smells a little weedy) and clary sage, which is more green and fresh. No ganja note in fierce!
I find that the trick to a clean laundry vibe is dihydromyrcenol, which smells floral and citrusy in the soapy muguet direction. Dihydromyrcenol is a synthetic material often used to boost up herbal fougere top notes like the ones in Fierce. It is also commonly used in soaps and laundry care, so perhaps that is why I associate it with clean, fresh perfume. I generally find this material is added in small doses as it is very strong and can even be perceived when added at 1%. Anything upward of 5% in fine fragrance seems very high to me. A large dose, upwards of 6%, of this material combined with Iso E Super gives the Fierce formula a strong sillage.
Iso E Super
Iso E Super could be described as a cross between a cedar wood and iris. It often makes up a large portion of the formula, I've even seen it used at up to 45% of the formula. I would not say this material is especially strong, but similar to hedione, in the way it adds some space for the other materials to breath in a formula. It is another synthetic material not found in nature and luckily its a cheap one that keeps the formula cost down in these kinds of fragrances.
Overall this formula makes for a very affordable fragrance, but that dose not diminish its artistic value.
Fierce was the first of its kind and has inspired a number of great perfumes, soaps and candles. Check out the list below to see a few fierce inspired perfumes...
Fragrances inspired by Fierce:
Creed Aventus, Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540, and Abercrombie Fierce are three perfumes that have inspired many other fragranced products. The key accords in these fragrances were groundbreaking and experimental in their time. Sometimes taking some creative liberty and traveling the road less traveled pays off! I am an independent perfumer, doing just that, teaching my self and sharing as I learn! I always try to be as accurate as possible. I have learned about the accords in these fragrances by gathering information from interviews, interpreting analytical data, and experimenting with fragrance formulation!
- Miriam Shechet