Fragrance Notes Attack! What Makes You Run Screaming?

Hi there Perfume Posse! Great to be with you again this Thursday. Hopefully you are all as well as possible and life is smiling gently for you. If not, then grab yourself a cuppa or a glass of your fave and lose yourself in the perfume world for a few minutes. Let’s talk “Fragrance Notes Attack”. Today I want to find out what notes jump out at you from a fragrance, overpowering everything else in it and punching you in the nose?

Bossoli,_Carlo_-_Battle_of_Solferino Fragrance Notes Attack WikipediaWikiMedia

Fragrance Notes Attack!

What Makes You Run Screaming?

I don’t always know what the ingredients are that get me crazy but I do know what they’re in.

ambush-by-dana-eau-de-toilette Fragrance Notes Attack

Ambush by Dana

Fragrantica gives these featured accords:
Top: Kiwi, lavender, papaya, sage, bergamot, lemon
Heart: Passionfruit, carnation, rose, geranium
Base: Sandalwood, tonka bean, vanilla, heliotrope, praline

This note list looks totally benign and when I passed on my bottle to a mate he found the fragrance gorgeous. When he wears it I love it. On my skin though it gets this weird melted plastic and person note, as disgusting as burning hair or tyres. ACK! Even thinking about it makes my nose screw up. Talk about when fragrance notes attack. AND as per usual with something fragrant that annoys or sickens me; it lasts FOR EVER! I can smell it next morning after an oil wash, a shower and a bath.

A note that makes me want to weep some days is the smell of vintage perfume propellant. Fragrance notes attack in this case because they kill any memory of the top notes of a fragrance and add the most stomach churning, oily, metallic creepiness that I really can’t make it through the opening 10-20 minutes to reach the 5-6 hours of incredibly luscious fragrance that lie beneath.

Farouche Nina Ricci Fragrance Notes AttackeBay

Farouche by Nina Ricci

Fragrantica gives these featured accords:
Top: Aldehydes, mandarin orange, galbanum, peach, bergamot
Heart: Honeysuckle, carnation, iris, lily, clary sage, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, rose, geranium, cardamom
Base: Sandalwood, amber, musk, oakmoss, vetiver

Farouche is one of my favourite Aldehydic Florals. When it’s good very few can stand close to it. The base is surprisingly dry and could even be considered chypre-ish. So you get a fabulous metallic, sweet, green floral opening that branches out in the heart to a full blown glittering bouquet and a very dry but furry dry down only slightly warmed through by amber and sandalwood.

Unfortunately if it is a propellant bottle, and until you get it into your hands it’s very hard to tell on the internet, 90% of the time it has had the fun and wonderful top notes turned to a ghastly industrial nightmare that burns my nose hairs out and then fries my brain. Ack Ack ACK! This can happen to other vintages too I have a Miss Dior that I’m trying to use up because the top notes are on their way out.

Surrender To Chance has vintage Farouche extrait samples from $7/0.5ml

So, what notes drive you bonkers? I love to read your stories so join in and share.
Portia xxx


  • teri says:

    Cedar! And it’s in so many scents…;( It isn’t precisely horrible on me, but my skin amps it to 11 on the scale of 1-10, so it takes over whatever scent contains it.

    I also can’t wear Guerlainade (reads as cat box accord on my skin) or the Tauerade (reads as cat hairball on my skin).

    I do, however, love skanky, skunky, stinky, sweaty stuff fiercely. 🙂

    • Portia says:

      Hi Teri,
      How unusual. Hyper-nosmic to cedar. Interesting, and it must be really annoying because it’s in so much.
      Lucky you do have a groove that you adore. Quite like it a little animal myself.
      Portia xx

  • lauryndb says:

    ANGEL!! I cannot grasp why a grown woman would want to smell like fairground pink fluff. I will run a mile from anything that has strong notes of vetiver, gardenia, musk or birch tar. Although, oddly, if blended well enough so that I don’t notice them, each of these can be ok. But I cannot under any circumstance tolerate sugary scents. they make my teeth hurt.

    • Portia says:

      HA! Lauryndb. Loads of people have problems with Angel. It’s pretty ferocious.
      Interesting your other dislikes, it must narrow the field of choice quite a lot?
      Portia xx

      • lauryndb says:

        My body gives me no choice. Those scents, if prominent, will make me feel physically ill. Didn’t always used to be this way. The good news for me is that there are still plenty of notes I love — hyacinth, iris, benzoin, incense, coffee, ginger, spices, hinoki, hay, leather, galbanum, citrus… And there are blends that have some of the notes in them where I don’t detect them as such. Pierre Guillaume is a master at blends that can hold some of these notes without defeating me.

  • PJ says:

    Oh, no. My feelings are hurt. I adore Farouche. Have 2 bottles of splash and one spray atomizer. I don’t smell the yucky part you described so maybe I’ve been fortunate and only gotten vintage that has not turned. I hope.

    • Portia says:

      Hey PJ,
      If your Farouche had turned you would know. If the spray atomiser has propellant in it and it still smells good you are one of the very lucky ones.
      Yes. the splash bottles still smell heavenly. YUMMO
      Portia xx

  • akatchoom says:

    Melon. Gross. Also, I am intrigued by the idea of tobacco, but every scent I’ve tried so far makes me think of wood polish mixed with expired Slim Fast (childhood memory, not sure what flavor it was). I’m not giving up in my curiosity though. Next on the try list is SSS’s Tabac Aurea.

    • Portia says:

      Hey there AKATCHOOM,
      Loads of people aren’t liking melon today. Interesting.
      Tobacco can be tough, Tabac Aurea is lovely. If you like tobacco, spices & hay then Fougere Bengal by Parfum d’Empire is excellent too.
      Portia xx

  • filomena813 says:

    Melon is really the only note I dislike. As much as I love vanilla in a fragrance, there are a few around that I do not like.

    • Portia says:

      Hi there Filomena813 ,
      Melon. Interesting. Does it make you feel queasy or is it something that overtakes a fragrance for you? Maybe it lingers long past its welcome?
      Oh yes, there are some totally unwearable vanillas for me too.
      Portia xx

  • A says:

    I detest any perfumes that are ‘dirty’ or mimic unpleasant body odors such as skank, cumin, sweat, civet, etc. I just read a perfume review on another perfume blog and the person was praising the body odor scents in the perfume and mentioned scents of urine, crotch, and dirty scalp scent like it was something some people like. I feel like vomiting when I think about it.

    • Portia says:

      Hey A,
      What a shame you don’t enjoy the baseline smells of the animalics. I guess a lot of people prefer their fragrances clean and free from those messy reminders of the fleshy world.
      Fortunately there are a multitude of options that don’t include them. Phew!
      Portia xx

  • The vast majority of tuberoses. It’s made me stay away from a lot of fragrances because it amplifies like crazy on me and is all saccharine floral, yikes.

    • Portia says:

      Hi RavensAndOwls,
      OK, you get it in all its bubblegum screech, I have another mate who is repelled by tuberose for much the same reason. Bummer.
      Portia xx

  • elisa p says:

    Mostly involving certain nondescript woody notes/accords ranging from screechy, raspy, to stale saw dust. In fact I’m sampling Baruti (the milkmaid one) and loved it until the stale saw dust accord in the drydown. Points for creating atmosphere, though. Actually, it makes an appearance for me in Tocade as well. Whaaaa.

  • HeidiC says:

    I’m with Tandaina on “powdery” smells — it’s ruined Habanita and some versions of Chanel No 5 and most iris perfumes for me. I also can’t do rose — I don’t mind it if it’s one of several notes, but I’ve yet to find a rose-centric perfume that I really like. I wanted to swoon at Nahema, but NOPE (though I guess that’s good? since it’s being discontinued…). Plus most of the candy-smelling or fruitchouli abominations on the market right now.

    • Portia says:

      Heya HeidiC,
      What a bummer. Rose has been ubiquitous since Agent Provocateur and Stella brought it back in vogue. It must be a shit trying to find anything without rose, powder or fruit currently.
      Portia xx

  • Ann says:

    Howdy, Portia! Great topic today. Thanks for letting us vent! My note nemeses are cumin, oud and (sometimes) calone. And whatever that synthetic note (Ambroxin maybe?) is that goes all harsh and chemically metallic on me, looking at you, Byredo MmInk! 🙂

    • Portia says:

      Hi Ann,
      thank you. Venting is super fun.
      M/Mink in challenging, I totally agree. Some days its an ice cold fur coat and others not so fresh road kill. Always spray it with trepidation.
      Portia xx

  • tandaina says:

    Main isn’t really a note but an accord: powder. Anything with a “powdery” smell turns into stale body powder on me. It smells exactly like the ancient powder my Grandmother had in a decorative silver tin on her vanity, used to keep a lady “fresh” before antiperspirants were common. It’s not a great smell and it has ruined things like say Shalimar for me. 🙁

    • Portia says:

      Hi there Tanzania,
      My gran had a turquoise jar of powder with a huge puff, we used to LOVE that smell and puff huge amounts on our faces and pretend we were beautiful. HA HA HA. Maybe it’s all in the memories associated?
      Portia xx

  • aparatchick says:

    Ozone, Calone, Melon, and heaven help me – lavender. Go ahead and revoke my perfumista card, but lavender makes me gag.

  • grizzlesnort says:

    Don’t know what the note or accord is but a number of women’s perfumes/ colognes have a serious bug spray smell that cuts through the other also oppressive layers. I will be generous and assume this is something that arises when the juice is going off but something tells me it was built in from the start. Bug spray.

    • Portia says:

      Ha Ha ha GrizzleSnort,
      I think I know what you mean, to me it reads hairspray and nail varnish, I love that accord.
      Portia xx

      • grizzlesnort says:

        You do? really, Really? I mean, Raid. Deet. As aesthetic choice. Wow.

        • Portia says:

          He he he he. I think it registers slightly differently for me, though when told something has a bug spray smell I can usually get the correlation. Do you remember the original Fahrenheit? It was one of my faves but a couple of my school mates couldn’t wear it at all because they thought it smelled like mosquito repellant.
          It’s an accord that doesn’t get me in the heeby jeebies.
          Portia x

  • maggiecat says:

    Tuberose and I very famously do not get along. At all. Not just a dislike but a repulsion. There are a few scents with a tiny dose of tuberose that I can sort of almost stand, but as a rule, the presence of tuberose is an automatic NO to me. I’m also turned off by most aquatic notes, which get screechy on me, often annoyed by iris and narcissus and I seem to be a bit edgy as well. Fortunately, there’s so much else out there to love!

  • eldarwen22 says:

    Tuberose, aquatics and ozone are the ones that I hate. Tuberose is too cloying for me. Aquatics and ozone are so over used it’s not even funny. All that stuff makes me sick to my stomach.

    • Portia says:

      Hey Eldarwen22,
      Shame about the tuberose, is it the main note frags that hurt or ANY tuberose in a frag?
      Portia xx

  • Gigi says:

    Narcissus. Hands down. When people talk of delicate narcissus I completely scratch my head. Everything I’ve tried that features this (looking at you Narcisse Bleu, Grey Flannel, Le Temps d’une Fete) all I get is an overwhelming and pungent aroma of gas station bathroom. Lots of gasoline with an undercurrent of nasty things.

    • Portia says:

      Hey Gigi,
      I too find narcissus petrol laden but in a good way. One day if you can get your nose on the CB I Hate Perfume Narcissus you may find a stunning surprise, as affronting and outrageous as it is there is beauty contained within. It could be your gateway, it was one of mine.
      Portia xx

  • mals86 says:

    Heavy orientals. Something about the balsam+dusty patchouli just makes me gag. Opium, Youth Dew, Tabu… if you’re wearing those, please please stay a good mile downwind of me.

    I do fine with white florals and aldehydes, two elements that a *lot* of people hate. 🙂

    • Portia says:

      OH NO Mals86,
      I will stay on this continent through most of winter then. I’d drive you batshit crazy with my frequent uber spritz applications of ALL OF THEM. They are three of the frags I hoard and wear in large doses.
      Lucky about the BWFs and aldehydes, I could at least wear them around you.
      Portia xx

  • furriner says:

    Melons. Amber. Those are the two to drive me nuts. Although watermelon actually sounds kinda good….

    • Portia says:

      Hi there Furriner,
      Amber! Gosh, that must be super hard to avoid. Is it the big burly ambers or any fragrance with even a hint?
      Portia xx

  • rosarita313 says:

    These are fun to read 🙂 I’m with Ladona on big white florals, love the flowers so much but in perfume they sadly turn to Wizard brand air freshener on my skin, especially tuberose. My worst note is violet, especially when it’s sweet. Jul et Mad Stilettos on Lex was an ice pick to the brain at first whiff and even softer violets- the powder and lipstick perfumes – give me a headache. But the ultimate worst worst was Bath and Body Works Sun Ripened Raspberry, back in the 90s. I was constantly herding teenage girls through the mall at that time and that smell was everywhere *shudder* blech, cucumber melon too.
    Ha, I didn’t know I was so picky!

    • Portia says:

      Hey Rosarita313,
      WOW! Those are a few that would be really troubling because they are a bit EVERYWHERE over the last couple of decades. Violet seems to be the new rose, bummer.
      Portia xx

  • Meliscents says:

    AQUATICS!!! If they ever smelled like anything close to a real ocean I’m sure I’d fall in love. But so far I’ve not been so lucky. I just get an overpowering metallic note that lingers for an ungodly amount of time.
    And I had a bottle like the one pictured of the reissued Ambush and it was a nightmare. Nothing at all like the soft vintage ones. Not sure how they can use the classic name on something so awful.

  • finanna says:

    Grapefruit…I deeply dislike the taste and perfumes with prominent grapefruit make me gag, because they literally bring the taste to my mouth (Aqua allegoria Pamplelune is how my hell will smell like).

    Lily of the valley gets the runner-up prize. I love how the flowers look like, but the smell makes me nauseous. Well, more Diorissimo for the rest of you:)

    • Portia says:

      Hi Finanna,
      Ohhhh what a shame. Grapefruit can be a nasty jolt in perfumes and sometimes I adore LotV and others can’t stand it, it’s never meh.
      Portia xx

  • Anno says:

    I loathe calonic perfumes and those with sweaty cumin in them. Oh and the Tauerade base means No to an entire line.

    • Portia says:

      Hi there Anno,
      Caloric makes me laugh, like High Calonic, HA HA HA HA.
      I get what you mean though, after the 90s they became unbearable. Having said that I am now getting a second wind with them and enjoying Issey Miyake’s L’eau d’Issey Homme Intense and a L’Occitane one.
      Lots of people are affected by the Tauer-ade. I love it.
      Portia xx

  • Kate says:

    White “musk” – actually any kind of synthetic “musk” – I can’t smell anything but soap and it goes sour on me. Synthetic amber – sickening sweet, overpowers everything else. Aldehydes – don’t like them, almost anything identified as “aldehydic” gives me a headache, and they also sour on me. Whatever the “aquatic” note is in men’s fragrances. Fake “patchouli” (I adore real patchouli). Fake “fruit”, especially berry and melon.

    In the natural aromachemicals family, I can’t stand ylang ylang; it makes me think of the scent pucks in urinals.

    • Portia says:

      Hey there Kate,
      Bummer, there must be thousands of fragrances that you can’t wear.
      A buddy says that L’Heure Bleu smells like urinal cakes and can’t stand to even get a waft of it on me. Interesting how it all works, isn’t it.
      Portia xx

  • Tara says:

    Great question to get us going, Portia!

    So many notes annoy me which is annoying in itself. A number of Guerlains are out because I can’t cope with a strong marzipan/heliotrope notes.

    I used to think I couldn’t tolerate tuberose but it’s clearly just the synthetic kind because I love Pichola. Never say never!

    • Portia says:

      Hey Tara,
      Lovely to see you.
      What a complete fizzes that the Guerlains are out. I would be pissed.
      If you can wear Nichola then what other tuberose do you need anyway?
      Portia xx

  • Neva says:

    I know that a perfume is much more than the sum of the components and actually I don’t know which note it is that annoys me, but perfumes with the Angel- or La Vie est Belle-ish vibe literally make me scream and run for cover. Additionally they have a huge sillage and longevity. Sigh…!

    • Portia says:

      Hi there Neva,
      Yes, they can be hugely headache inducing worn in too large doses or by the wrong chemistry. Angel is excellent on my mates but on me it turns a bit overbearing sometimes.
      Portia xx

  • poodle says:

    Rooty iris. Yuck. God awful stuff and I can’t imagine why anyone wants to smell like they live in a cellar and have begun to go moldy. That’s what it does on my skin. Mold, mildew, and dampness but in the worst possible way. In tiny doses I can cope with it sometimes but in perfumes like Iris Silver Mist I cannot deal.

    • Portia says:

      OH NOOOO! Poor Poodle. My mate Scott can’t wear Iris too but because he gets terrible bready yeast wafts and feels like he’s expected to rise any moment.
      What a shame.
      Portia xx

  • LaDona says:

    Big white florals…they attack and try to kill me. And I love the scent of gardenia, jasmine, lily, muguet.. Right up until it hits my skin then BOOM! Screechy, toxic urine topped with burned sugar. Ugh! For days. It won’t come off me. It took me awhile to figure out that not every perfume was going to do that. When I found orientals and incense fragrances, the heavens opened up and the angels sang. Bless the hearts of Serge, Tauer and Roucel.

    • Portia says:

      Hi LaDona,
      Yes, you’re not alone in the torment of the BWF. Luckily they go creamy and sweet on my skin but I know what you mean.
      Orientals & Incense are gorgeous, so much choice too.
      Portia xx

  • cookie queen says:

    Cinnamon. Frankincense. And worst of all
    ” woody accords”. On that subject, all ‘accords’. Red flag to a bull. ??

    • Portia says:

      Heya Cookie queen,
      Totally surprised that you don’t like frankincense. That must negate a whole range of frags.
      Portia xx