Quirky Monday: Odd or unexpected notes in perfume

oddHave you ever worn a fragrance and one (or more) of the notes just kept pinging your nose, for better or worse? And you’re thinking, “What on earth is that?” My recent reunion with Aviance did just that for me and got me pondering unusual or odd notes in scents.

Some that I’ve come across:

The aforementioned Aviance (Prince Matchabelli from the ’70s) has what I’ve dubbed a “lighter-fluid” accord in it, but I rather like it as it adds to the scent’s dry, quirky nature.

After an AMAZING start, Ramon Monegal’s Mariposa came out swinging with a big fig note that put me down for the count for the rest of the fragrance’s life. It’s like the fig just KO’d all the other notes in the middle to drydown. My weird skin must amp that note something fierce because it wasn’t nearly so noticeable on a friend. Wanted to love this one so much … big sigh.

odd 2Niki de Saint Phalle’s marigold note adds an interesting twist to an already unusual scent. It’s equal parts weird and wonderful, and though not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like it, you like it. It gets bonus points for coming in a variety of colorful, interesting bottles, especially this one with the entwined snakes.

The oregano (or was it the pimento berry oil?) did me in with Amouage Interlude Man; the scent’s first 20 minutes were rather jarring to me, then it settled down nicely into a warm, vanilla-ish smoky goodness. But not nearly nicely enough to go down that bumpy opening road again. I know many of you love it, but I’ll have to give it a pass.

Pucci’s Vivara had a cold, almost stainless steel-like ribbon running through it that was a bit off-putting and made the fragrance feel sterile and somewhat clinical at one point in its development.

A whopper of a chemical, plasticky note overwhelmed M/MINK on me and gave this Byredo scent the distinction of being the first real scrubber I had ever encountered. The Adoxal, perhaps? I think this fragrance is an odd bird that people either love or hate, but there’s no doubt that it’s got originality in its corner.

BTW, isn’t there a fragrance out there that many people say seems to have a celery note in it?

For better or worse, what are some of the most unusual or odd notes that you’ve come across in your fragrant travels?


  1. Yes, Amouage Lyric woman, I almost love this fragrance but there’s one small facet that bothers me, not sure what it is?

    • Hi, Ruth! Is it a deal-breaker for you or can you ride it out? Little odd things don’t bother me so much, but I draw the line if it starts making me feel queasy or headache-y or just plain unhappy.

      • Hi Anne, with the price of Amouage fragrances it certainly is a deal breaker, I would need to love every aspect to spend that much money! Although sometimes fragrances grow on me, like Coromandel, I used to find the earthiness a bit much, but I adore it now!

        • Very true, Ruth! For that kind of money, it ought to massage your feet, bring you a cup of tea and tuck you into bed at night, shouldn’t it?
          I’m so glad you mentioned Coromandel. I loved it at first sniff but I know a lot of people who disliked it but have gradually come around to its beauty — so glad you did!

          • Hi Ann, I agree with Ruth about Coromandel. Something made me keep trying it until I fell in love. I now own a full bottle, and it’s one of my favorite Chanels.

            • Ruth, I get a “horrid plastic doll head note” from Lyric woman, really turns me off what would be an otherwise lovely scent.

    • That combo sounds interesting! Don’t think I’ve ever smelled tomato leaf in a fragrance before. But as much as I love tomatoes, I’d better get sniffing.

  2. Coconut (but a good buttery smooth, well done one) in Slumberhouse Olive + Pear. I don’t like coconut in perfume but in Olive + Pear, it was masterfully blended.

    • Hi, dear! I didn’t know that scent contained coconut. I love this blog — you learn something new every day! I’ve heard many people rave about that Slumberhouse, but I haven’t tried it. But now it’s definitely on my radar. Thanks!
      BTW, have you ever smelled Ysatis? That has coconut in it but it’s not loud or overbearing and adds a nice element to the scent.

    • I received a generous sample of Pear & Olive from a generous Posse Fairy Godmother and have pretty much fallen in love. It’s really unique and gorgeous.

    • Ha! I was dyslexic with the name…but y’all know that I meant Slumberhouse Pear + Olive, right? 🙂

      • Not to worry — we knew exactly what you meant and didn’t miss a beat 😉

  3. I think it is the hemlock in SSS Forest Walk that just makes me feel uncomfortable. Is that the cinnamon-y scent in the opening? The rest of the ride is great but the first hour or two I have to really fight not to gag. I have been known to put a dab on under a long sleeved shirt and go outside to do some work until the opening smooths out. Needless to say, this will never be a fb scent for me.

    • Oh, Liz, you are a braver woman than I am! If something made me start to gag, I would be running for the Tide. I have not tried Forest Walk; it’s a wonderful line but, alas, something in her base does not agree with me.
      But I love your idea about the long-sleeved shirt. Will definitely have to try that — thanks!

      • We must be scent twins. I love Ysatis; it was my signature scent when it first came out. And sadly, I can’t wear SSS.

        • Yep — I think we are! So I’ll check with you: Have you tried the Slumberhouse Pear and Olive, and if so, how did you like it? 🙂

          • A very kind FG sent me some, and I liked it on first try, but got sidetracked and haven’t tried it since. Will have to revisit…

  4. The Unicorn Spell comes to mind: violet, iris, and pickled green bean. It was a little too odd for me.

    • Yes, the Unicorn Spell (such a magical name) smelled like straight up canned green beans on me. Bleh.

      • The Unicorn Spell did the same to me. I got about about 20 seconds of beautiful mossy violets, then green beans. Awful. Nothing but green beans!

      • Yes, yes! That’s the other one I was trying to think of that had a veggie note. Thanks!

  5. I get a very distinct adhesive smell from Timbuktu– something like peppery tape. Also, band-aids in TF Black Orchid- rubber and sterilized, yuck!

    And Amy K, you have me interested to smell a pickled green bean!

    • Oh, no, Amy! That doesn’t sound good. Is the Band-Aid smell kind of like what you get in some ouds? I know I’ve experienced that a few times.

      • Yes, the ouds – I’ve experienced that exact thing with Montale’s White Aoud which smells just like rose-scented band-aids on me, just couldn’t get past it.

  6. Yes! Chypre Rouge has a strangely celery-like note in it, that I’ve kinda come to appreciate. Angelica, maybe? This one doesn’t get much love – I’ve heard some people compare it to the scent of Red Hots – but I really like it.

    • I get a lot of roasted honey nuts from Chypre Rouge, plus a touch of celery. I’m one of the few who actually liked it, too!

    • Howdy, Lisa and Masha! Thanks — that’s the one I was thinking of. I tried it early on in my perfume life but I need to go back and revisit it.

  7. I’ve only just tried Sécrétions Magnifiques, and the opening is truly repulsive. Coconut is general is a cheap trick in perfumery and layered over seaweed makes for a truly horrible effect.
    I also really don’t like the pee in Shalimar’s opening. I think it’s the only thing I’ve ever scrubbed.

    • You are brave, Elia! That SM is one that I’m not touching with a 10-foot (or longer) pole. I don’t get pee in Shalimar, but I can’t wear it either.

  8. Peach is a tough note for me sometimes. When it’s good it smells like peach, when it’s bad it smells like cat pee.
    I’m with you on the Interlude Man. I’m thinking it might be the oregano too now that you mention it. Whatever it is it gets in my nose and it’s just grating and unpleasant. Iris Silver Mist sent me running for the soap as well. I don’t know if it’s the amped up iris that I don’t like or something else about it. I could not get it off fast enough.

    • Hi, Poodle! I agree — peach is a very tricky note and it can be wonderful or just plain awful. Glad I’m not the only one with Interlude Man troubles; so many people love it that I thought maybe something was wrong with my sniffer.

    • Yes! I think that’s what gave me (and other folks) some hesitation about that scent.

      • What’s supposed to smell like caviar and figs ended up smelling like dirty sweat socks covered up with fruity air freshener to me….in a boy’s dorm room. I think I’ve shared that before. I’ve rarely had such an instant aversion to a scent.

          • LL Rose 31 to me smelled like a hot funeral home full of sweaty men. It was one of the only perfumes I’ve ever scrubbed – but it was interesting! 🙂

  9. I had a funny (sort of) experience with L’Artisan’s Dzongkha. I wore it out several times, and people were looking at me funny, but not saying anything. Then someone asked me privately why I smelled like whiskey. I said I didn’t drink whiskey, can’t stand the stuff. He sniffed me and said he begged to differ! About a month later, the mystery was solved when I smelled Dzongkha on someone else. That whiskey note was HUGE! Why hadn’t I smelled it before? Now that’s all I can smell when I spray it. So sad, I can’t wear it now.

    • Too funny, Masha! But I’m sorry that it’s put a damper on the scent for you now. Maybe you could try just wearing it at home on a day when you won’t be going out in public. That way it won’t be a complete wash.

      • Well, you know if I did that, Ann, my boss, my husband’s boss, or the in-laws would show up for a surprise visit! Murphy’s Law, right? 😉

        • You’re right — you’d practically be guaranteed a surprise visit!

    • Hmmm … carrots. Not sure about that, Connie. And come to think of it, not sure I’d recognize a carrot note in a scent. But I’ll keep that in mind when I try that fragrance.

  10. Absinthe! Sometimes it is too much to bear, as in Kilian’s Taste of Heaven. Other times it is that little bit of interest, in my mind that little “beauty mark” that renders a beautiful woman both stunning and interesting, as in the case of Amouage Memoir.

    • Hey, sweetie! If that’s what I’m getting l in Memoir Woman, then I like it, I like it! That scent is not only as you described it above, but kind of mysterious, too. It’s got a lot going on it, but pulls it all together just beautifully. I need to go back and re-try the BK as I can’t recall it off the top of my head.

  11. Melon (shudder) – Angel for women smells like huge rotting melons to me. Totally impossible, makes me gag. I love the mens version though… Chocolate and coffee, yum!

    • How awful, Tara! And doubly bad that it still seems to be popular. I smell it on someone at least once a week (if not more). The melon in one of the Hermes (the Jardin Mousson, I think) just about did me in, so you have my deepest sympathy.

  12. Cartier’s So Pretty – Eventually you get to these wonderful fruity/ black current notes that are just luscious but first you have to wade through about 20 minutes of what I can only describe as a “soiled diaper” note – so NOT pretty. I just can’t wear it, even to get to the good stuff.

    • So sorry to hear this, Lynne Marie! We need that perfume scalpel pronto to lop off that nasty note. Have you tried the long-sleeve shirt trick someone mentioned above? I’m going to give that a go sometime.

  13. Yes, I have had that happen, and it always means the fragrance is not for me. Mostly, it has happened with chypres, which I’d love to love but just can’t. Paloma Picasso, Niki de Saint Phalle, Knowing, etc., all have a note (maybe the oakmoss?) that makes me feel like someone is poking me in the back with a stick. Another was SSS’s Femme Jolie,very pretty in general, but there was one note that kept popping out and harassing my olfactory nerves, as pesky as a mosquito.

    • I make one bottle of old-fashioned chypre’ each year for Xmas/New Year’s, and I use real oakmoss. It’s very much an acquired taste, like well-aged Rieslings. After several hours, it can definitely feel like a poke in the back! (the perfume, not the Riesling)

      • Agree that the oakmoss is definitely an acquired taste. And some people never develop a fondness for it, but that’s OK — plenty of other great notes to love!

  14. There’s a chemical screechiness to Red Door that I can’t stand. It gives me a massive headache and just smells vile to me. I look at the list of notes and nothing seems to be the culprit as I like those notes in other frags. odd. Poison used to do the same, for more than 20 years! Until one day I suddenly developed an understanding and instant love for tuberose- and kaboom! Poison suddenly smelled lovely!

    • Lynley, how awful for you! If i recall, it was a pretty shrill scent; thankfully, i don’t think a whole lot of people wear it anymore. I’m so happy that you found the love for Poison! It really is beautiful when worn with a moderate touch.

  15. Reading through these posts I finally remembered what else I’ve scrubbed. A*Men. There’s a burnt note in it, which is ridiculously loud and purely reminiscent of industrial chemicals. The SA hit me heavy and I didn’t want it following me around all day so I washed it straight off.

    • That is pretty bad when you’ve got to wash it off pronto. Come to think of it, don’t think I’ve ever tried the A*Men.

      • And after hearing of your experience, I definitely would try it on paper first.

        • well it’s very very strong. You need to know that before spraying.

          • Good to know — think I’ll go with paper first, and then perhaps just a tiny dab on skin …

  16. I sometimes have difficulty with that celery note – it was very prominent, to me, in Iris Ukiyoe, so that I started to call it “Iris Ooky.” After having some conversation with Laurie Erickson of Sonoma Scent Studio (I get on well with her florals in particular), we determined that it may be a jasmine fractional material that smells very close to celery, so I’m not surprised it pops up in several scents.

    Aromatics Elixir smells like urine on a rose hedge to me and is therefore totally unwearable. Oddly enough, I can and do enjoy blackcurrant, which does smell sort of cat-pee-like to me, I just don’t care.

    There’s something in the drydown of PdN Maharanih that smells exactly like sweaty jockey shorts to me. I mean, very man-specific sweat.

    • Howdy, Mals! Maybe I’m anosmic to celery but I didn’t get that in the Iris Ooky as you call it. I’m with you on the AE; someone here on the Posse (Musette? March?) calls it “Elixir of Doom.” But it’s great on those who can pull it off. Haven’t tried the PdN though, and after hearing your take on it, think I’ll pass 🙂 P.S. Did you ever get to try the Faberge?

  17. I read this post last night and didn’t comment until this morning so I could really think about it. There is a note in some perfumes that I like otherwise but I get an Ajax or Comet cleanser whiff, usually in the drydown, that really bugs me. I now take my time and really sniff these scents at all stages and have identified vetiver in some form. I can conquer the cleanser bit by breathing deep and concentrating. Sounds weird, I know. Otherwise, most of the off putting notes I smell are pretty common, I think – bandaids in some aouds, turpentine in Borneo, menthol in Carnal Flower, that kind of thing.

    • Hi, lady! That cleanser note sounds pretty rough. My hat’s off to you for getting through it — I’d be scrambling for the sink! But at least you know now what to watch out for. I’ve never been a huge vetiver fan, so if that’s a prominent note in the scent, I tend to steer clear (except for SL’s Vetiver Oriental, which is nice).

  18. I don’t know why is the I find Coco Mademoiselle and Amouage Ubar to be perfumes that I really can’t stand on me. I get the whole bug spray and flowers vibe. People have told me that I smell good but I keep getting a whole lot of bug spray.

    • That is odd that you dislike those so but keep getting compliments. Better that than the other way around at least. I wonder if the body products in those would work better for you. I can’t wear the CM but love Ubar gently applied.

  19. Not sure what the exact ingredient is, but I cannot take the overcooked buttered popcorn vibe. There have been several perfumes from which I got that but the one that bothered me the most was SSS Champagne de Bois. I typically do quite well with Laurie’s scents so that was a major surprise. And yes, I tried several times so it wasn’t a fluke.

    • Certain aldehydes smell like overcooked buttered popcorn to some people, it depends on your genetic profile, probably, like anosmia to macrocyclic musks. Champagne de Bois has a fair dose of aldehydes, that’s probably what was going on. Some aldehydes smell like nasty burnt wax to me, so Chanel No. 5 has always been a scrubber. Aldehydes smell different to different people. It would make an interesting scientific study!

      • Good to know, Masha! It really helps when someone can offer the “why” and “how” behind certain elements of fragrance. BTW, I can’t wear No. 5 either, although the Eau Premiere was somewhat better.

        • I get the buttered popcorn thing with DK’s Cashmere Mist.

          • Hi, Mary! That’s so funny — I will have to try that next time I’m in a department store and see if I can smell it too.

  20. I really like the marigold note in Niki de Saint Phalle. That’s probably my favorite thing about it. I also like the caviar note in Womanity. Now for the ones I don’t get along with so well:

    I get something Windexy in Alien. I want to like it but that thing just bugs me.

    PdN L’Eau a la Folie was straight up Lysol.

    Ys Uzak Pohadka had a thymol-like note that reminded me of Method anti-bacterial kitchen cleaner.

    In both Ineke Sweet William and SL Santal Majuscule I get a note that kind of reminds me of butter-flavored cooking spray. I’m guessing its a synthetic wood material. It wasn’t a deal-breaker but it struck me as a little weird at first.

    I really wanted to like Tauer’s Carillon pour un Ange, but there is something in it that really irritates me. I like the scent, but there is something in it that gave me coughing fits the day I wore it.

    • I get get that fake butter from Sweet William too but i couldn’t put a name to it. That might actually have been what made it unappealing on first try (that and it was not the spicy vegetal scent i thought it would be) but when I went back for a second sniff I decided I really liked it and now I wear it a lot.

      • Yay for another marigold/Niki fan! But that’s a real bummer about those household cleaner smells. I’ve not tried the others that you mention but I can see that odd note with the SL Santal Majuscule.

        And Liz, happy that you grew to love the Sweet Willliam.

  21. There it is again, the beautiful snaked bottle. Still haven’t found it on ebay. I give up!
    I am very open to the “weird”, ink, gasoline, blood, you name it. It is the “off” I have problems with. For example, there is something in Luna Rosa by Prada that smells like sweaty, oil stained clothes… not that I have any of those. Terre d’Hermes seems to have a celery note to my nose.

    • Don’t give up, Amer! Sometimes when you least expect it, one will pop up. But if not, if I ever come across one that’s not horribly expensive I’ll get it for you. And whew! Must take a pass on that Prada if sweaty clothes are involved. 🙂

      • I honestly don’t know how people find it fresh. I hope it is not a skin chemistry thing because I really don’t know what it would say about my skin… and might take you up on that offer! 😉

  22. Well, I’ve encountered a whole array of feces and urine notes… Some vomit too and a bit of horse manure. I can’t quite handle urine notes, or vomit, but feces/manure is actually kind of nice! One manure favorite that comes to mind is Olympic Orchids Tropic of Capricorn

    • Nadja, I’m with you on those icky notes — some can be downright sickening. But like you, I don’t mind a bit of manure now and again. Especially the horse variety. As a kid, I never minded mucking out stalls for just that reason. So now I need to try that Olympic Orchids scent.

    • Ugh.. I’m with you on the urine notes. I was in an import shop recently that sells goods from the UK, and I tried a perfume from an Irish brand I’d never heard of (Ór by Inis). I don’t know what was in that thing but it smelled disturbingly like urine on me.. urine and a little powdery something-or-other. I thought maybe it had a blackcurrant note or something like that, but I looked it up at Fragrantica, and there was no mention of any such note. I don’t know if it was a bad tester or just me.

      • Jarling had a weird scented diaper thing going on for me – not poopy, well, maybe a tiny bit poopy – but mostly like powder scented diaper – that’s exactly what came to mind when I was wearing it.

  23. The opening skanky medicinal notes in Le Labo Oud 27 brought me to my knees, and not in prayer, except maybe to make it all go away! After an hour or two, the drydown is pleasant and interesting, but not enough so to make me ever spray this on my person again. I got this in a swap, and will swap it away asap.

    • Oh, no, dear — that doesn’t sound good at all! It is probably best to pass it on to someone who’s an oud lover. I never tried that one as I’m not big on oud. So many of them have a harsh, almost metallic vibe to them that kind of icks me out.

    • lol. I don’t mind it.
      You’ve made me want to try it again soon 🙂

  24. When I first tried Atelier Cologne’s new Mistral Patchouli, the opening instantly reminded me of Raid bug spray–anise, maybe? Some days it still does, but oddly enough I grew to like it. The drydown is soft and mellow, but still interesting. Now Mistral P. has become one of my summer favorites and I wear it a lot.

    • Hi, Kismet! So glad your story has a happy ending. You were smart to give the MP several more chances. Sometimes I think we’re too quick to write off a fragrance after just one try. I like that scent, too, but have only dabbed it and need to try it sprayed.

  25. There is a note in Kenzo’s Jungle L’Elephant that reminds me of putty or caulking in the middle and I have no idea what it is.

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