The Sniff Box – Perfume In Plain English

Tagged With ‘cheapone’

Tom Daxon

Sicilian Wood

rsz_sicilian_wood-2I had high hopes of Sicilian Wood. Tom Daxon launched his perfume business in March 2013 at the age of 25, and has quickly gained a lot of fans. I’m not surprised, as he looks like a nice chap and he should know his stuff: his mother, Dale Daxon Bowers, was trained as a chemist and worked for Mary Quant cosmetics before becoming creative director of Molton Brown, so you could say that Tom grew up in the fragrance business.

He’s started out with a small range of nine different perfumes, and as you’d hope given his background they’re outstandingly well designed and packaged, with sharp typefaces, smart faceted bottles and attractive boxes cleverly secured with criss-crossing black ribbons.

So far so good. The only trouble is, try as I might I just can’t get to like the perfume inside.

Daxon compares Sicilian Wood with ‘a citrus grove warming in the sun… [with] an effervescent, hyper-real citrus top note [that] settles into a base of seductive woods.’ He’s also described it as ‘a budget-less woody citrus [that] will prove a revelation to anyone left underwhelmed by all the bland versions out there.’

I certainly get the citrus, and the warmth, which emerges from a mix of (among other things) cardamom, guaiac wood, jasmine, cedar and sandalwood. But Sicilian Wood also has to me an unsettling, slightly sickly, somehow faintly chemical smell, which it shares with so many men’s fragrances on the market (especially so-called ‘sports’ scents) that I call it cheapone: the very opposite of ‘budget-less’, in other words.

Whatever it is, it spoils this perfume for me, which is a shame, as I’d really like to like it, not least because it was created by Carla Chabert and her father Jacques, who was once assistant to the perfumer Henri Robert at Chanel, and is said to have had a hand in Chanel’s classic Cristalle. Time to explore some of the other perfumes in the range.

The missing ingredient

I’ve been meaning to write a post for some time about an ingredient I thought I’d discovered in the majority of the men’s perfumes that have been launched in the last five years or so, which gives them all an intensely acrid, peppery, chemical smell, like a fire in an electricity substation.

For lack of any better information from the perfume companies themselves I was going to call it ‘cheapone’, since it makes anything it’s in smell so cheap and nasty, but now the estimable Lee Kynaston, men’s grooming guru and blogger extraordinaire, has identified it in a feature he recently wrote for the Telegraph.

Dihydromyrcenol is apparently the culprit, and I’m delighted to discover that Lee hates it as much as I do. The reason for its ubiquity, he explains, ‘is that creative briefs for men’s fragrances often require that they “last all day” because men, unlike women, tend to apply once and don’t bother to top up later in the day. The easiest way to deliver that longevity is to throw some dihydromyrcenol into the mix.’

In a way it’s nice to have one’s suspicions backed up at last by scientific evidence, but what would be even nicer would be if our perfume masters stopped using the revolting stuff and found a more attractive ingredient instead. Or even started using their imaginations again, like perfumers did in the days before dihydromyrcenol.

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