Saturday, January 30, 2016

What's That Smell? BENZOIN

In the "What's That Smell?" series,  I'll explain some of the less obvious perfume notes that crop up in many indie perfumes. Keep in mind my descriptions and comparisons are based on my own experiences and your impressions may not be the same. Perfume notes are NOT ingredients. They can be natural essences, artificial isolated compounds that imitate the natural substance, blended accords, or a combination. Therefore, the note you like in one perfume may be unrecognizable in another. As with all sensory, subjective things, your mileage may vary.

Benzoin is another trusty tree resin (where would perfumery be if tree resins weren't a thing, man?) which has an incredible effect on blends. In its natural form, it's a very thick, viscous resin (it's not pourable at room temp) and it has a light sweetness but is a powerful fixative/base note for any formulation. It's reminiscent of vanilla, but without that characteristic rich, vanilla...thing. To me, it adds a roundness, a sweetness, without actually adding to any sugary or food aspects of a scents. I love benzoin in combination with sweeter scents, because it supervises and herds those flightier notes, complements them, but doesn't add to the mix or make it cloying. 

To me, it is the gentlest and most easy-to-like of all the popular perfume resin notes. It has no characteristic OOMPH or power where you smell it and immediately go, "Yup that's benzoin for ya!" Instead, it has a silky, soft, wraparound quality where it transforms in any scent to add a hint of smoothness that binds all the notes together in an unobtrusive way. If you like lighter amber notes, you will probably also love benzoin. If you like gourmands, but find they get too sticky, look for something with benzoin notes to lend sweetness without being overpowering. If I had to distill it into a few words: it's vanilla without the rich foodieness, and it's a less-sweet version of sugar.

Perfumes featuring benzoin:

  • Cocoa Pink Vintage Halloween: In this blend, the benzoin serves to add sweetness and softness to the bright, herbaceous green and ozone/air notes. Benzoin is doing an excellent job of balancing the richness of the vanilla notes so that this doesn't become a BAM vanilla scent.
  • NAVA Bastet Amber: This is a classic "skin scent," which gives you an aura of something without explicitly smelling like perfume. The amber and benzoin are both at their lightest, sweetest, and most lingering. You basically can't smell this if you sniff your wrist, but you will find it in the air around you for hours after you apply it.
  • Sixteen92 Paper Moon: Peachy vanilla floral could easily turn little-girlish and body-spray like. However, in this blend, benzoin adds a resinous anchor note that plays nice with the lighthearted top notes without joining them. It basically supervises them to keep them from being cloying.

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