Saturday, February 25, 2006

Scents and Classifications - Etched In Stone?

Someone on a makeup forum asked on the board today what "one thing" makes an Oriental perfume. The Oriental fragrance family is typically base-heavy and/or spicy compared to the lighter fragrance families such as Floral. There are certain ingredients that typify an Oriental scent such as vanilla, resins and spices, but it's the amount of the base-heavy or spicy notes that differentiates Orientals from Florals which might have the same ingredients but in lighter concentrations.

Is there a gray area in fragrance classification? I believe so, which is why there is a genre called Floral Oriental, a meeting of the two worlds. Fragrance experts often disagree with each other on whether a scent is Floral, Floral Oriental or Oriental, so who decides how a scent is classified?

Some will answer "the experts". Some people will name one particular fragrance expert as being the definitive guru, and it's hard to argue when that person has an entire industry behind his system of classification. But then, how do we explain the fact that the industry itself changes its system of classification every few years to fit the times we live in? Apparently, all of the rules aren't perfectly etched in stone, at least not 100%.

When is a scent an Oriental and not a Floral? When someone says it is. Subjective vs objective will forever be an argument in the Arts. Most critics will lean toward all things being definitively classifiable. Most artists will say it's all subjective and never shall the twain meet. Or shall it? I hope so because that's the gray area I want to probe.