Have you ever seen a graph that boasts all the fragrance concentrations in one neat little organized chart and tells you how long they last? I am sure we all have. If it’s in such an easily readable form, then that is pretty handy! However, the truth isn’t as black and white as they would have you believe. It’s much more complicated and nuanced, and today I am going to try to explain this phenomenon and how brands may use this marketing erroneously.
While these graphs and not lies or totally false, they are hardly conclusive. They work for the vast majority of people. However, for us as fragrance enthusiasts, we require more details. We want the minute details, and we want to know the best way for us to smell out precious scents all day long.
In the grand scheme of things, concentration doesn’t matter as much as we believe. Yes, there are purists who will not purchase anything less than Eau de Parfum strength, and that is totally fine. This article is not set out to tell you what to purchase, but rather to inform you of sales tactics and how perfume notes work. Take note that I am not a perfumer, and my knowledge comes only from my personal experience with perfumes. This is also not a comprehensive guide to everything that you need to know, but I am going to cover the basics.
Concentration doesn’t have a huge impact on the longevity of a perfume. You can have an Eau de Cologne with oakmoss in it that will outlast a Parfum with bergamot. It has more to do with the density of the accords used. For instance, notes such as vanilla, musk, tonka bean, oud, and patchouli will last a very long time typically, because they don’t dissipate as quickly as something like lemon, neroli, or orange will. It would take far too long to list the thicker notes against the lighter ones, and it would mostly depend on your skin to judge what works best for you.
Many companies use Parfum Extrait as a name to denote a stronger concentration. While they often are higher concentrations, the term means the same thing as a pure Parfum, meaning it has over 20% oil concentration it. Keep in mind that these terms are not regulated, so manufacturers could put anything on that package to encourage you to purchase it.
What about some of the new terms used in perfumery? Extreme, Elixir, EDT Intense, and Cologne? Well, most of this is just marketing, for the most part. These are not specific fragrance concentrations, so they have very little impact on the scent in regard to strength.
Extreme usually makes people think that the fragrance is more powerful, but that is often not the case. In my experience, Extreme is used mostly to denote a richer and darker formula over the predecessor. This is probably the most confusing term for many perfume aficionados due to the implications of the word extreme relating to something even more powerful, and then they just aren’t. There are obviously examples of scents that do this, but it’s not the norm. Intense is also used in the same way that Extreme is.
Elixir seems to be a new term that is used as well. People are likening this to a rich and powerfully blended fragrance from the success of Sauvage Elixir. However, it is just a fragrance name and doesn’t give any information on the density or concentration of a particular perfume. An elixir is simply a blend of notes. Sauvage Elixir is a Parfum concentration that isn’t different from any others.
Eau de Toilette Intense is also a fairly new moniker on perfume labels. Jean Paul-Gaultier seems to have started this by naming his Le Male flankers as Intense Eau de Toilette sprays, Eau de Parfums Intense, and Eau de Toilette Intensely Fresh sprays. This is just marketing, and they don’t differ in concentration from the normal versions.
Cologne is a very misunderstood label along with Eau Fraiche. Very few fragrances are made in this concentration in the modern era. Cologne is used to allow the user to know that it is likely a citrusy herbal fragrance that was inspired by calling EDCs such as Acqua di Parma Colonia. The vast majority of these fragrances are EDT concentrations. The same goes for Eau Fraiche. Most of these are also EDT and are called such because they are very fresh scents, such as Versace Man Eau Fraiche.
There are many other examples of this, but as I have stated, it’s mostly marketing. Many brands want you to think you are getting a powerful scent, when it might not be the case. Sadly, it leaves many of us perfume collectors with a bias against the brand for them not following through on what we view as a promise to us. There is nothing worse than trying out an extreme version of your favorite scent, only to find out that it’s much weaker than your coveted gem. It’s heartbreaking and I wish companies would be more transparent about these words and the concentrations.
What do you think? Is it all just marketing or am I off base here? Should fragrance houses be held more accountable for what they put on the label? We all know they are held accountable for what they put in if they follow IFRA, so why not for the labels they put on the bottles as well? I’d love to hear your thoughts!