Using Test Blotters
To Analyze A Fragrance
Testing perfume with a smelling strip.
Using perfume test blotters to evaluate your perfume, or any perfume or aroma material, is not as easy as many would think. The nose itself, even for the person with a good sense of smell, plays tricks on us, particularly when we are not aware of how the nose is operating.
The problem is that the nose quickly adjusts to a new scent, sends a message to receptors and then, so to speak, clears itself out — desensitizes itself to the scent which it had just detected — to be ready for the next scent.
If you are working with perfume test blotters, smelling the first blotter will "block out," for a period of time, the aroma materials found on that blotter. When you smell your second blotter, all those aroma materials on the second blotter that are similar to those on the first blotter will be smelled more faintly!
You can prove this to yourself by smelling, one right after the other, two test blotters which have been dipped in an identical amount of the same fragrance. The second — although identical to the first — will seem to be weaker.
It is this problem of the desensitization of the nose which makes comparing two fragrances so difficult. Thus, the first "rule" for smelling tests is to be careful with your judgments. Don't take quick sniffs and think you have nailed it. Analytical smelling takes time to learn and even experienced perfumers can be fooled. Come back to the same combinations of fragrances and see, over time, what your reactions are and whether they stay the same or change.
Here are some points to consider when making tests with perfume blotters:
- Do your testing in a clean environment. Avoid a room where you can smell distracting scents — perfume or cologne that you or others may be wearing; chemical smells such as paint or plastics; food or tobacco. Most important, get away from your own supply of perfumes and aroma materials. Don't attempt critical test smelling in your laboratory!
NOTE: As you begin to seriously smell your creations, you will become more and more aware of distracting background aromas and want to avoid them in your test environment.
- Do your testing in a tranquil environment. Why? Because you need to concentrate your mental attention on what you are smelling.
- Do your testing in a room with sufficient fresh air. If you are working in a very warm (or cold) climate, this will be difficult but keep in mind that it is the ideal.
- Dip only a small amount of your sample fragrance. If you've wet your test strip only 1/8", that's just fine.
- Mark ALL your test blotters with the name of the fragrance you dipped plus the time and date on which you dipped it. If necessary, develop a simple coding system for your bottles of fragrance to be tested so that you can place a matching code on your test blotters.
- Hold your test blotter about an inch from your nose and mouth when smelling. Open your mouth and breath with both your mouth and your nose.
- Take only a small whiff from the test blotter. Then hold it away from your nose and ask yourself, "what have just smelled?"
- Take written notes on each smelling. This forces you to be analytical. You will also find it very helpful a day or two later when you can no longer remember what you had smelled. If necessary, make up your own language to describe what you have smelt. Don't hesitate to be colorful. There are no fixed rules for describing scents.
When smelling when you aren't sure what a fragrance is, think of, and write down, all the things which is is NOT. This can help you rule out this or that until you finally pinpoint what it IS.
Take regular "fresh air" breaks from your smelling tests so that your nose and your brain will be more alert.
When trying to evaluate two very similar fragrances on test blotters, keep a third blotter handy that has been dipped in a very different — and strong — aroma material. Take whiffs of this blotter "C" between smellings of blotter "A" and blotter "B". Blotter "C" will help your nose "forget" blotter "A" and resensitize your nose for blotter "B".
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