Why men's body washes all smell the same

"It’s aggressively tangy, like Kool-Aid made from pine cones." That's how The Atlantic's Olga Khazan describes the smell of the men's body wash she used during a recent shower (it was her boyfriend's body wash; she'd run out of her own lavender-scented liquid soap).

Curious as to why almost all men's fragrances have a similar smell, Khazan reached out to Ann Gottlieb, a scent designer for Axe, to find out what the deal is. In short, floral/fruity scents are stereotypically considered more feminine, and woodsy/minty smells are considered more masculine. (See video below.)

In any fragrance, she explained, there are what are called top, middle, and bottom notes. The top notes diffuse right away and hit the nose first. The middle notes make up the majority of the fragrance and give it its character. The bottom notes are heavier and help the scent stay on the skin. “It all comes together in a magical concoction,” Gottlieb says.

A scent relies on a perfumer expertly mixing 75 to 200 ingredients, most of them synthetic. In a women’s fragrance, there’s a large middle section filled with floral and fruity notes, and a bottom section that’s more vanilla-y. Men’s fragrances, meanwhile, are extremely “fresh” smelling, which is what gives men’s products that sharp bite. Men’s scents have notes of mint or “sea” or “fresh air” on top, followed by less prominent notes of leaves and flowers, all underpinned by woodsy bottom notes. According to Gottlieb, the most traditional male fragrances are in a category called fougère, after the French word for “fern.” They’re, well, kind of grassy.

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Perfume to smell like a kitten

Demeter, the fragrance "library" that famously released a cologne with the smell of used paperback books, now offers a Kitten Fur scent. It's available as a cologne, body lotion, shower gel, and other toiletries. (Note: Wow, that's one tiny kitten next to the one ounce bottle in their product photo above.)

Cats. Love them or hate them. There is no in between. But everyone loves Kittens! Now after 15 years of effort, Demeter has captured the olfactory essence of the warmth and comfort of that purrfect spot, just behind a kitten's neck.

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New Mac-scented candle reportedly smells like a standard candle

The New Mac Candle is a hand-poured, 100% soy 9-ounce candle offering 45-hours of burn time with notes of mint, peach, basil, lavender, mandarin and sage. It's $24.

Here it is reviewed by staff at The Verge, who all have different opinions on what it smells like, until they're told what it's supposed to be, whereupon they agree it smells nothing like a new Mac.

I remember distinctly the scent in question: notes of adhesives and hot-pressed cardboard with a delicious aftertaste of styrene. Maybe the candle smells like a New Mac if you poured an artisanal cocktail on one? Read the rest

The chemical composition of "old book smell"

It starts with lignin — a compound that makes up the cell walls of plants. Turns out, it's also closely related (chemical-structure-wise) to vanillin, the stuff that makes vanilla smell so vanilla-y. Given that books are full of the broken-down cell walls of trees, a big part of what we think of as "old book smell" is actually a scent similar to vanilla. Read the rest