Fragrance News This Week in Fragrance: Science of Smell, Eau de Comet, Cheap Scents

This Week in Fragrance: Science of Smell, Eau de Comet, Cheap Scents

07/06/16 07:33:55 (6 comments)

by: Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison reports on new research out of Europe in the science of smell:

Smells are a vital part of daily life: bad odors warn us off rotten food, and the aroma of a tasty meal stimulates salivation and digestion. Our sense of smell is closely linked to our autonomic nervous system, which controls the unconscious functions in our bodies as well as affecting our emotions.... The scientists wanted to find out how similar scents are differentiated – how our sense of smell is so finely tuned. A single note in the complex mixture of odors that make up the smell of fresh fish can reveal whether it is still edible, for example. At the core of sensory perception are the odor molecules in the smells that we inhale.

Every week we seem to learn more and more about olfaction! Are there any other smell mysteries you'd like solved?

Katherine Derla of reports a new fragrance that smells like...a comet:

British scientists have created a perfume that mimics the smell of a comet's surface. As a perfume, the scent is really out of this world — because it smells like cat's pee and rotten eggs. Clearly, it's not something people might want to wear on a date, but it sure is interesting. During the Rosetta probe mission in 2014, the European Space Agency's (ESA) Philae lander was supposed to attach itself on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko so it can hitch a ride into deeper space. Sadly, the Rosetta probe bounced and is now billions of miles away from Earth and ESA's touch. Thinking positive, the scientists decided to make the most out of the data the Philae lander gathered. Through chemical analysis, they created a perfume that smells like the comet's surface.

What other natural phenomenon would make for an intriguing scent?

Mark Lorch of discusses the challenge of smell for sea life:

What if the way things smell started to change? What if food inexplicably lost its aroma and your house no longer had its familiar homely scent? It would certainly be off-putting, but you’d probably manage. However, many animals depend on their sense of smell much more than we do, so they would probably be affected much more acutely by a change in this key sense. It seems that ocean acidification may be causing just such an alteration to the way that sea life smells the oceans. Or, more accurately, marine organisms’ ability to detect chemical signals is being altered by changes to ocean chemistry.

I don't suppose I ever considered that our underwater companions depend on their sense of smell!

David Dodwell discusses the history and current market of fragrance in China for the South China Morning Post (

When I was last in Heathrow’s eerily empty Terminal 5 a particular scene – of a flock of fashionable mainland Chinese women scenting their way through the Jo Malone part of the fragrance section – set me thinking: why, given the emergence of so many fascinating new Chinese consumer brands, from Huawei to Haier, can’t I think of a single China-made perfume? Whatever the progress of Chinese companies in global manufacturing, it seems the leading western fragrance brands rule the China market unchallenged.

The article goes on to provide some fascinating history about fragrance use in China throughout the centuries. Can you think of a Chinese-made fragrance that has caught your attention recently?

Mariah Carrillo at offers her 7 favorite "cheap perfume lines":

I love scents, to the point where they might just be my favorite beauty indulgence; but finding interesting and inexpensive perfume lines that won't destroy my bank account can be quite a task. A lot of my favorite fragrances are ones I only buy in tiny sample vials, because of how expensive classic and indie perfumes can be. Some of my most beloved scents cost upwards of $200 or $300 a bottle, and though I understand the fact that high quality materials aren't cheap, I can't justify spending a quarter of my monthly paycheck on perfume at this point in my life. So, to pad out my array of tiny, precious samples, I also like to have a few less-breathtakingly expensive bottles on hand for everyday spritzing.

What are some of your favorite inexpensive fragrance brands?

Have interesting fragrance news for us to share?
Leave a comment in the new Fragrance News thread HERE.



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 also 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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Nice article Dr. Marlen, thought provoking.
I like JohnGreenInk`s way of thinking.
I had a talk with my son and roommate about notes and how some notes - to me- do not invoke things they are meant to - like marine, water, waves, etc...
They only smell to me like other like smelling `fumes.
I have not indulged into Chinese frags - but I would like to search more out in the future. Maybe starting with sampling Tokyo Milk.
I am always on the verge to reach out and click Buy Now on Lush Smell of Weather Turning.
My "cheapie" fave brands off the top of my head are
Jovan, Dana, Coty, Cuba , Jean Arthes, Victoria`s Secret ( fun to play with especially On Sale ) , and my husband has had a good experience with David Beckham.


Nice article. Favorite inexpensive fragrance brands,,,? Well... Jacomo , Azzaro, Iceberg, S.T.Dupont, Yves Rocher, Antonio Banderas lines. Pleasant aromas for low prices.


I am fascinated by the notion of fantasy flowers, fantasy smells, fantasy locations and what those smells would be - I think it does come from our perceptions and how we try to seek out what is good or bad (that example about how we detect good food versus spoiled food is a prime example.) I think I'm most intrigued by the smells that are difficult to describe - the smell of sunlight (?) when it is extremely hot and dry; the smell of snow; the smell of rain showers. These are subtle changes that we probably detect as part of our survival mechanisms, but I love that perfumers are trying to move deeper into them. Great article!


I consider Caron's classic 'masculine' fragrances (Pour un Homme, Yatagan and 3rd Man), borderline cheap at around 30-40 USD for 4.2OZ, especially the great classic Pour Un Homme, as it can be had in increasingly large volumes (up to 750 ml!) for even less per ounce.
I'm also a bit of a sucker for nostalgia: both Old Spice and Brut (only the aftershave for the former & only the 'classic' for the latter) are scents that I feel still communicate something of their original character despite time, dilution and cheapening of materials. Ditto for Pinaud Clubman. It's got to be said, too, that cheapness has a certain democratic appeal in these cases, a utilitarian value that can work with the social currency on offer (let's not forget that getting a bargain also stimulates a whole other pleasure centre in the brain... )

Finally, a bit of a separate subject, but the Salvation Army has yielded up unspoiled bottles of Aramis, Polo, Old Spice and Opium at about $5 apiece. Wonderful for research if nothing else.


@RJ: what a great group of recommendations!!! thanks so much for your comment :-)

RJ Watson
RJ Watson

Hmmm, interesting question. Funny how time changes one's perspective; when I started out as a perfumisto I could not fathom spending over $100 for a fragrance. And now $100 seems like the new "free". Some inexpensive brands I've discovered are:

David & Victoria Beckham's line. Respectable and wearable even if longevity seems to be a common complaint. I've sampled a few and happily even own a bottle of 'Homme'.

Stetson - The original for men can easily be worn by both genders; cheap and cheerful cola notes, some jasmine, a little powder, some patchouli and musk. What's not to love?

Estee Lauder - reliable, durable - even the reformulations have kept the spirit of the originals intact. Most of the classic scents can be had for under $75.

Bath & Body Works; Ok, so maybe to some, it's a little lowbrow. Lately, some of their fragrances are surprisingly good - Mahogany Woods being one. And this company is notorious for having regular BOGO sales.

Dame Perfumery Scottsdale - Must include this newish line. Not only are the full sized bottles $65 (free shipping to quite a few countries), you can actually get the soliflore perfume oils for $35 (???!!!) and the owner is very generous with providing samples. I have his Tuberose oil roll-on and it's amazing. Osmanthus and Rose de Mai are next!

Finally: Go perusing the discounters in the US: Marshalls, TJ Maxx, etc. Most stores have growing fragrance selections: in my local store I've seen Jour de Hermes (yes!), Comme des Garcons, Gaultier, Rochas, Elie Saab, JLo and of course, lots from Britney and her contemporaries. The return policies with these particular stores tend to be generous, so you're not likely to be stuck with a stinker if you don't like it!


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