Fragrance News This Week in Fragrance: Preserving Scented Spaces, Patenting Play-Doh & 6 French Perfumes

This Week in Fragrance: Preserving Scented Spaces, Patenting Play-Doh & 6 French Perfumes

03/08/17 09:21:14 (8 comments)

by: Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison


Randy Kennedy at the New York Times writes this week about an unusual research project exploring scent and memory:

Over the past year, a Columbia University preservation expert and a curator at the Morgan Library & Museum [pictured below] in Manhattan have been engaged in an unusual poetic-scientific experiment in the little-visited olfactory wing of history, trying to pin down the powerful connection between smell and memory — in this case, collective memory. “Under normal circumstances, we would have been kicked out of any museum if were behaving the way we behaved: We were on all fours, putting our heads under Morgan’s desk, smelling his cigar box, the aromas inside his personal book vault, which were still very strong,” said Mr. Otero-Pailos, who has been exploring the role of smell in preservation for almost a decade. READ MORE...

I think it's fascinating that smell is being paid attention to with the same interest that has helped us establish visual and auditory records. What places would you like to have captured in terms of their aroma and what do they smell like?

Morgan Library

Fans of Play-Doh rejoice! Samantha Sasso of Refinery 29 discusses how the aroma is now being patented and described in terms of fragrance notes:

We often associate Play-Doh with the pure, unadulterated fun of our childhoods. There's just something about the putty toy that brings us back, and we still hold those memories near and dear to our hearts. Besides the fact that this joy in a plastic jar had the potential to damage nearly every couch or carpet, there's one other thing about the product you likely remember: its scent. It was distinct, for sure, but we never could quite pinpoint what it smelled like. Luckily, someone else did, and it now officially has a fragrance description..."a “unique scent formed through the combination of a sweet, slightly musky, vanilla-like fragrance, with slight overtones of cherry, and the natural smell of a salted, wheat-based dough.” How's that for appetizing?" READ MORE...

What do you think? Is that how you would have described it? I know Demeter has a Play-Doh scent that smells *almost* true to the putty. And I know that many of us have described powdery vanilla aromas as Play-Doh-like. Would you wear a Play-Doh scent? Is there another scent from your childhood toy/play experiences that you would like to have described or even bottled?

Play Doh

Ham & High Property addresses the growing interest in bespoke perfumery...for one's home! Prudence Ivey has the scoop:

It’s no longer good enough to have mantelpieces heaving with Cire Trudon and Fornasetti; if you want to display your luxury creds, your guests shouldn’t be able to identify the delicious aroma emanating from your abode because you’ve commissioned your very own unique scent. Top end developers are even creating bespoke fragrances to lend a special air to their high end developments. At Buxmead, on the Bishops Avenue, Harrison Varma engaged the services of Alexandra Soveral to create the upmarket pine scent identity for their multi-million pound apartments. Unsurprisingly, AirWick it ain’t. READ MORE...

So if you could create a fragrance for your home, or perhaps even fragrances for each room, what would they be and why?


Meanwhile, in Brussels, PR Newswire reports that IFRA and other relevant research bodies have met to discuss new findings on fragrance allergens:

Today, at the fourth Annual Review of IDEA (International Dialogue for the Evaluation of Allergens), held under the auspices of the European Commission (DG SANTE) there was a full review of the work carried out so far by the various working groups and priorities for future work were set. This multi-stakeholder project has progressed on several key milestones which were reviewed today in Luxembourg. The revision of the Quantitative Risk Assessment (QRA) for fragrance materials has been completed, incorporating ways to better estimate the aggregate exposure to individual fragrance ingredients. The revised methodology has been submitted to the EU Commission who are initiating an assessment of the value of this new version in preventing consumers becoming sensitized to fragrance ingredients. READ MORE...

What are your thoughts about the work that groups such as IFRA, IDEA and the like are doing? Check out the IFRA website to learn more about their work and concerns.


And Catherine Piercy at Vogue ponders the 6 perfumes every French woman has owned at least once in her life:

Classically speaking, what are really the most French of the French perfumes? You know, the ones every Parisian under the age of 40 has had on her dressing table at least once in her life? In search of a professional opinion, we called up French nose Francis Kurkdjian, whose own self-titled jewel-box boutique on the Rue d’Alger, with its exquisitely made perfumes, is a mandatory stop on any Fashion Week itinerary. Here, six timeless perfumes that are quintessentially French. READ MORE...

Which ones do you think made the cut? Have you owned any of them? What are some of the perfumes that many women in your country or part of the world have owned?

Woman in Paris in front of Eiffel Tower


Image of the author

Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison

Managing Editor & Columnist

Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison’s journalism in the fragrance industry has appeared in international print and online publications such as PlayboyMen’s JournalMen’s Health and the New York Times. Marlen is also a regular contributor to and works as a graduate professor, thesis advisor and faculty supervisor for MA programs in TESOL, Education, Writing and Literature. Learn more about Marlen by visiting:


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I thought everyone had decided Caron Pour un Homme (my signature) smelled like play-doh?


Wow what an interesting idea! The smell of a library, old books, etc. At once bizarre and also who doesn't love to smell nice smells, including books?! I hate reading online TBH and love books - will always be somewhat old fashioned in some of my ways.

As for the smell of Playdoh, eh, not in perfume thanks, I don't like it enough to want to smell like it. There are some smells I don't want made into perfumes. I can't get my head around baby powder perfume smells. Leave it to baby powder and babies (though who uses powder nowadays?).

Scents for the home, maybe I am not that imaginative because I think there are so many available scents, I don't need more choices! Too many choices and I am overwhelmed!

drugstore classics
drugstore classics

Terrific news overview, Marlen!

I am one who on the subject of the IFRA does TRY to be polite, and in the end fails entirely. My thoughts on what should happen to them are not very charitable, from loss of smell to a special place in Dante's hell reserved for those with careers of perfume ruination and interference! *cough* Gets down off soap box....

As for the smell of Play Doh, I always knew it was brilliant! Wonder if that touch of wheat dough smell was added to mimic the homemade play dough our grandmothers (at least, certainly mine!) whipped up for us? This even Looked like real dough, as Grandma refused to add food coloring. The only difficulty with au naturale versions was the temptation to taste what obviously looked delicious, and most certainly was not. ;)


I completely agree with Bourgognais. I am sure they do good work at some level. I know they are trying to "communicate what they really do" it seems like lately. "Lets change our image." "Those consumers/fragrance snobs don't understand we are just trying to protect their health." Blah blah.

In my imagination I can hear them talking within their organization, trying to justify their jobs.
Even a visit to their website, shows you that someone is being paid far too much to phrase things that sound nice on every tab you click on. It reminds me of a used car salesman that talks too much, trying to convince everyone that they're important.

When I think about them, my opinion remains the same. I think they are going overboard trying to control the creation of perfumes. Taking their power to an extreme and suffocating perfume creators with their restrictions. Reformulating products to the point they are gross. Taking their power to an extreme and stifling perfume imagination and creation.

When I think about why the industry might have created this monster, the only thing I can think of is because they want to avoid class action lawsuits. I think it comes down to money. They are paranoid that something like what happened in the tobacco industry, or those bad medication lawsuits. Of course they make it sound all rainbows and unicorns, "We are here to protect you, the consumer." Nah, I call BS. I think their true purpose is to protect the industry, and in the process they are ruining it, suffocating perfume creators with their restrictions. I think a mild allery should be allowed. Meh, cigarettes cause cancer but people still smoke them. I doubt wearing perfume would be as risky. I find it so fake that they pretend to do this "for everyone's health". Wow, The next Mother Theresa.

They can phrase things however they want, but there is no guarantee that all these "SAFE" aroma-chemicals will actually prove to be safe in the future. In 100 years from now they might find out that Oak Moss replacement is actually worse for you and the environment then natural Oak Moss. There is no guarantee that these "SAFE- ALLERGEN FREE" chemicals are better than the molecules that actually do activate a mild allergy. I think it is a complicated subject to define the exact time a natural molecule becomes synthetic and which one is better for you. In the end, we will all be six feet under, so wouldn't you rather go down smelling good then being barried in the ground smelling like a synthetic mess from IFF or Givaudan? In the end there is no guarantee that they will be able to avoid lawsuits. What they end up doing is putting more synthetic chemicals out in the market.

And I know that most fragrances comes from these companies and they have a lot of AMAZING ingredients. IFF, etc etc. I say take some of that Oud synthetic from Givaudan (cause at least that ones really good) and mix it with pure Oakmoss. Bathe in it, douche with it, because in the end you will probably die from something like old age, or cancer anyways, no matter what you do. So you might as well smell good.


Play-Doh exactly smelss like L'Instant de Guerlain pour Homme. And this is absolutely not a joke!


Crayola crayons and the waxed sheets of art paper squares. Those litlle ones that always got ripped up for collages and papier machê. I'd always help our art teacher when I was 5 simply so I could smell that paper.

French women and perfume...the Kenzo flower was a surprise. The most boring perfume ever. It's funny how spoilt for choice the Parisians are, yet they are ones I've owned too.


Not that the good folks of IFRA and IDEA do useless work, but when I think of them, in their Brussels grey suit, justifying their job by tracking down the last molecule which may cause a slight cough in 0,03 % of test mice, it reminds me of that scene in Broken flowers by Jim Jarmusch, in which the protagonist visits an ex-girlfriend turned new-age health nut:
-"Shall we go out for a drink ?
- I don't drink.
- How about going to dinner, then ?
- I don't... «eat»."

I wonder if any of those guys ever tried to wear perfume to one of those meetings just for fun. Imagine the looks and sighs.


Ahh I could spend a lovely weekend in that Morgan Library. I have always loved the smell of books, old or new does not matter. And I will never I repeat never get my reading entertainment from a Kindle or Nook. I think Iris Nazarena captures that older bookstore smell perfectly for me anyway. I laughed when I read Hasbro is trying to patent the play-doh smell. Shows how important that smell really is to memory doesn't it. I am one of those who loves that play-doh smell and one of the perfumes that imo has it is A lab on Fire WWDIPIS but not in an overwhelming way. As far as those six perfumes every women has had yes I admit I have had them all although I think they left out some important ones like YSL Paris and LouLou. Great week as always Marlen.


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