One Thousand Scents

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

30 Demeters in 30 Days: Day 4, Orange Juice

Different scent molecules evaporate from the skin at different rates: their molecular weights make them more or less prone to flying away, which is why citrus notes appear at the top of a scent and vanish quickly, floral notes lie underneath this and hang around for an hour or two, and wood notes grab on and stick around for hours, even a day or more. It is these qualities that give composed scents their top-middle-bottom structure. But Demeter scents are different; since they're intended to smell like a single thing, they don't generally have a structure. What you smell at the outset is usually all you're going to smell. If that scent's odor molecules are large and heavy, then you get a scent that can stick around for a while, but if they're tiny and flighty, then you don't have much time to smell the scent before it disappears.

Straight off the skin, Demeter Orange Juice smells very much like the real thing: wet, brightly acidic, with that incomparable smell of the orange oil that explodes into the air when you peel an orange, and even some of the bitterness of the white pith. It's as accurate a reproduction as you could hope for.

The trouble is that the molecules involved are tiny and highly evaporative. If you repeatedly smell a glass of orange juice, you have a lot of molecules; the tenth snootful will smell just like the first. But when you've sprayed or dabbed some perfume onto your skin, once those fugitive molecules are gone, they're gone. There has to be something to fill out the scent, to bolster it and make it more complex (and help it stick around more than thirty seconds), and that something is decidedly synthetic. Not even five minutes after applying Orange Juice, the freshness is a distant memory and your skin smells rather like artificial orange flavouring, like Kool-Aid or a Popsicle. (I found the same problem with CSP Vanille Orange, which attempts to fasten the orange-oil molecules in place with larger, heavier, sturdier vanilla; the creamy orange eventually turns synthetic.)

It's impossible to blame Demeter for this state of affairs, because it's impossible--as far as I know--to concoct something that will smell like a freshly peeled and squeezed orange and have it smell like that for any length of time; the molecules are bound by the laws of physics to take flight. For its one brief moment, though, Orange Juice is so faithful to the source that it's pure delight.

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