Saturday, March 08, 2008

Salicylate In Perfume

I just learned something truly eye-opening about Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps and why I might not like it: salicylate, or more specifically, Benzyl Salicylate, an ingredient that's described as making a perfume smell the same from beginning to end. It must be in many perfumes I adore and I don't even know it, but if it's used in high quantity in L'Air du Temps (15%), it might be the main culprit for my feeling nauseated by it (unless it's just the aldehydes, or the particular mix of notes). I know this type of sameness throughout that starts off with a blast of top, middle and base notes tends to bore me, and occasionally irritate me to the point where I can't tolerate a scent. Isn't salicylate the ingredient used in the older Pepto Bismol we've stopped giving to children because of the link to Reye's Syndrome and salicylate toxicity? Benzyl salicylate is said to smell faintly sweet and it's used regularly as a fixative in perfumery, but isn't salicylic acid also related to methyl salicylate or oil of wintergreen, commonly synthesized today? Frederic Malle Carnal Flower lists salicylic acid as an ingredient--did they mean Benzyl Salicylate or Methyl Salicylate?

Read about the use of Benzyl Salicylate in L'Air du Temps in this article, The Challenge of Creativity
A lecture given to the Society by Mr. Bernard Chant on November 11th 1982
, British Society of Perfumers 1983:

"The very exciting group of Floral Bouquets: There are many great names, but I would like to mention L'Air du Temps, the grandmother of so many successful fragrances. If we smell L'Air du Temps it is really, in 1982, a rather straightforward scent - floral, spicy, woody, very smooth, smelling more or less the same way from beginning to end. So why such a success? In my opinion it comes from the utilization of Benzyl Salicylate. I do not know of any other perfume before L'Air du Temps that contains Benzyl Salicylate in such an amount and, although it seems that many perfumers are strangely anosmic to it, it produces a diffusing, blooming effect very pleasing to the public. Many big successes were created on the same theme, such as Wind Song, Norell, Estee, Charlie... there are too many to mention them all."

Michael Edwards' book, Perfume Legends, p.107 states:
"L'Air du Temps is a lively, well-balanced and consistent perfume from its head notes to its engaging base notes" --Robert Ricci
He also wrote that "L'Air du Temps inspired a cavalcade of spicy florals, among them Le De (1957), Fidji (1966), Norell (1969), Charlie (1973) and Gucci No.1 (1975)".

Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps was created in 1948. By the way, the only one I like listed above is Charlie--I don't like Norell, Fidji, Le De, and I'm pretty sure I don't like many carnationy spicy florals (are they carnation-clovey because of the salicylates?).

The smoothly diffusive effect of salicylate sounds almost like how we describe linear perfumes, so is it a safe assumption that Benzyl Salicylate is what makes linear perfumes, or is the term "linear" a whole other ball of wax? Perhaps linear describes notes all coming out at once but not as a well-defined three-tiered structure like L'Air du Temps and more like one unified smell (Chanel Allure). Nevertheless, these seem to be scents that jut out in a very forward way. Maybe a musician would understand this analogy: These smooth perfumes are about as alluring to me as portamento (or “smearing” in jazz vernacular), in which the instrument glides from note to note in the manner of a slide trombone.