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January 7, 2023 57 mins

Women consistently rate scent as the most important factor in a man's attractiveness and men have been manipulating that for centuries with scents of all sorts. Learn about the fascinating history -- and, well, art -- of making perfumes in this classic episode.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Hey, everybody, Welcome to the Saturday Select episode. I am Chuck,
your curator for this weekend. You know how perfume works? Well,
if you have less than an hour, we can explain
it to you. This one goes back to February. How
perfume works right here, right now. Welcome to stuff you

should know, a production of I Heart Radio. Hey, and
welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark with Charles W
Chuck Bryant, and Jerry Jaers. That'd be great if that
was her name, Jerry Jerry Jaars like Tony, Tony, Tony.

My friend used to call them Tony, Tony, Tony. Why
is the spelling? Okay? But I thought the last one
was an E with a little accent. Well that was Tony,
but he didn't say tony accent. Well, but the point
is it's E, I, Y are the three letters when

Jerry Prester Court, did you think we were gonna be
talking about Tony Tony Tony. I never know what the
heck we're going to talk about. For the first thirty seconds,
I would not have predicted that one. I was gonna
tell the story, but I'm not going to. Now, what's
the cent You're wearing is Oh did didn't chuck musk?
It's called chusk in French that means water of chuck musk. Gross. Yeah,

I'm wearing drecarn no air. Are you really? No? Do
you think you'd be able to smell it? Well? Yeah, sure,
I never know. I don't want to. Like, I'm very
sensitive to making fun of people and what they choose
to do. You know, I'm not making fun of anybody. No,
but I didn't want to say you're wearing cologne. You
were wearing drekar noir. Gross. I used to love drecarno

war back when I was in like seventh eighth grade.
I believe it, man alive. Those are the cologne days.
I looked it up and I was like, what does
drecarno R mean? No? Are black? Right? Um? What is
dr car? Apparently your car or duck car is a
name for a Viking ship. Nice, So drek car has
kind of come into um French colloquially as like a

big ship or a yacht. So I think drekarn no air.
Here's the fact of the podcast sad like, uh means
black yacht. Nice. That means you are very fine because
all you see is white yachts. You ever seen a
black yacht? Nope, that would be pretty slick. Yeah, it'd
be very hot. That's why they don't paint yachts black.
I would imagine. Oh yeah, I guess so, because he

sat up in the sun all day. Um, so I
wore Benetton colors. I never wore that one. And um,
that smell today is still very evocative. Because I have
the bottle, I don't know if I still had it.
I had it? What? Yeah, I key stred it in nine.

Every once in a while, when you feel in nostalgic,
you just shed it. No, I can't find it. I
just oh, where is I thought you were saying you
still had the bottle. I key stred it and I
can't find Um. No, I had it for a long
the longest time. I don't think I still have it though. Um.
And as we'll see, cologne can go bad. But this

was in a dark drawer and it seemed to smell
the same to me. Yeah, that sounded like a perfume
industry propaganda. Oh to keep you that it. No matter
what usual to protect it, it's still going to go bad.
Into It's like these vicadin are no good anymore exactly.
Don't believe that for a second. No, but definitely don't
just assume that they've downgraded in potency and take like four. Right,

although I do think I do think cologne and perfume
could definitely go bad if not cared for correctly. Right,
But if you care for it correctly, yeah, yeah, yeah,
we should probably just go ahead and say, if you
keep it out of the sunlight, yeah, keep the artificial
light to a minimum, keep it in its original bottle.
Uh yeah, um, supposedly it stays good for two years. Yeah, yeah,

that's what happened. I thinks as long as you don't
expose it to the outside air, right, keeping it in
a sort of Joe bottle and the sunlight's not saying
they're breaking its molecular chains, it's it's gonna be fine
and stable. Yeah. I mean I had literally had proofum
cologne and Vikadin. I'm happy to come out on the
record about that's great man, all right, this is a

good article. I thought, Well, a nice choice. Yeah, I
I agree. I think perfume is surprisingly interesting. It's one
of those things where you just take for granted or
you think like, oh, that's just for the fashionista glitteratti
types or you know Madison Avenue folks kind of thing.

And then you dig into it and you're like, no,
it's pretty cool perfumes for everyone. Even if you don't
wear it, it's still interesting to know about, like, for example,
the history. Do you read much of the history? Yeah,
it's aw, um, you sent me some pretty cool stuff
that um. And this isn't necessarily perfume, but I guess
perfume is really anything that smells. Yes, you know, it
doesn't have to smell great. Yeah, we're we're generally talking

about perfume meaning like a product that you go by
too and to change or enhance your scent. Right, yeah.
That but if you look around, like everything is perfumed
unless it's specifically marketed as unscented or non perfumed. Yeah,
but just about everything else has some sort of perfuming
to it. Yeah, but it's got it has to be
a substance. That's what is the distinction between like a

perfume and an odor. Yeah, yeah, Like I guess the
odor actually comes off and say the plant. The perfume
is when you go to that plant and squeeze the
odor out of it, put in a bottle, put it
on your skin. Yeah, well you don't even to put
it in a bottle. Yeah, I guess not. You rub
those leaves all over you. Um. But like I said,

back in the day, ancient priest, do you sent me
these things? That they burned incense initially to cover up
stinky dead animal carcasses that they were sacrificing, Which makes
sense that the Latin uh translation is through the smoke.
Perfume means yeah, like you can smell it through the
smoke of I guess he's burning dead animals, or through

the smoke you feel a lot better about sacrificing animals
because you can't smell the death. Yeah. Uh. The ancient
Egyptians very quickly, so, like originally these were priests using
refume to cover up animal sacrifices, the ancient Egyptians said,
we got a better idea. Let's use the glands from
those animals to scent ourselves for loving. Well, yeah, let's

put it on our stinky parts. Yeah. Originally it was
the animal sacrifice, and it went very quickly into sexuality
and ever since then, the purpose of perfume has remained
virtually unchanged. It is to um stimulate sexuality in some
form or fashion. Yeah, especially men wearing cologne. Yeah, and

what we'll get to some of those reasons in a bit.
But um, that's a good primer. I never really thought
about that. But I guess you're right. You're wearing it
um to smell more attractive, even in a on the
friendship tip. Sure doesn't necessarily have to be sexual. I
don't think. Well, it depends because some of the early
um ingredients that stuck around until in some cases of

the nine nineties and are still being used in other
cases are from basically the sex glands the scent glands
of animals. Yeah, And this article points out it's like
it's funny to think about the first person who saw
a skunk and said, you know what I'm gonna I'm
gonna get all up in that anal gland and rub

some of that on me. Or the musk deer. The
musk deer you get some of that. The beaver um
produces cat storium, the civic cat, which is a Himalayan cat. Well,
that's that's the skunk. There's like a dozen animals they
classify as civic cats. And then ambergriss yeah, or ambergrie

I don't. I can't remember which way to pronounce it.
Let's just say it's both are acceptable. We'll agree to disagree.
Amber Gree, I can't remember anyway. That's it's the whale stuff. Yes,
So supposedly everybody said, well, it's whale vomit when a
whale eats a squid and it's beak gets end of
in its stomach and it needs to dislodge it. Yeah,

squid beak Okay, I thought I think that. Yeah, Oh,
it's a beak. It's probably the most disturbing part on
any animal on the planet. The fact that a squid
has a hard beak just like a bird is disturbing.
It just keeps me up at night because the squid
is like gelatinous and flimsy. It's not supposed to have

a hard beak that can break bone. Well, I think
it is supposed to. That's wrong to me. Uh So,
if a whale has that beacon its stomach after eating
a squid, it needs to get rid of it. So
the common wisdom was that it puked up this stuff.
And that's what Ambergriss is. Yeah, this is the sperm

whale specifically, right, Yeah, but but in this ambergriss is
like this, Well it's just like vile and puke and
that kind of thing, But it floats on the on
the surface of the ocean and photo deg raids and
hardens and turns into this waxy substance that's actually flammable,
that can have its own scent, that has long been

and instill in some cases used as a major ingredient
in perfume. Right, yeah, I think it's supposed to, uh
make perfume stick to your body more right, It's affixative,
is what it's called. Um. The weird thing is is
there recently finding out that it's possible that ambergriss it
comes out of the bottom end of the whale, the

mouth they poop it out. It's basically whale diarrhea that
you're using in your perfume. So consider this. Depending on
the perfume and the fixatives that uses, you could be
using anal glands from a beaver and diarrhea from a
whale in order to make yourself smell sexy. Yeah. What's insane, chuck,

is that it actually works. Uh well, sure, that's debatable
depending on who you are. I guess right. I hate
the smell of perfume, all perfumes. There's not a single
perfume sent even a component of a perfume that you find.
I don't like perfume. Scented perfume for women specifically, is

what I'm talking about. As far as working sexually, um
and I and no, it doesn't. I don't even mean
like sexually necessarily that like you're worked up, getting a
little hot under the collar, even just relaxing, not pleasing
to me at all. Really, Nope, don't like it? Are you? Do? You?
Do you like sense of anything? I mean, like Emily

makes all sorts of soaps and stuff. Do you like
any of those? Sense? Those are all natural? That's the difference.
Most every perfumed product is synthetic. It's on the market.
It depends, for sure. The cheaper ones definitely are, but
not all of them are most of them, I mean,
there's still plenty of that use like ambergris what's more
natural than whale diarrhea? Well, that's true, you know, uh

not here in the US, so we should point out
is illegal to use that perfumes in the US of A.
But the Europe yes, But the European perfume houses still do.
But no I'm very specifically averse to most sense because
we don't use uh chemical products as much as possible,
So like I don't use scented sprays, scented deodorants like

fabrize to me, is like the most disgusting thing you
can do to your home, fabric softener, sheets, UH laundry
detergent like nothing nothing with with sense. I hate it.
There's nothing to me worse than like going to a
hotel and smelling scented sheets that have clearly been washed

with some kind of perfume E detergent. What if it
smells like something pleasant though, I mean like there's nothing
like I understand what No, they're all supposed to be pleasant,
Like this smells like lavender, and none of it does
to you. It's just like this is synthetic, so it
feels bad to me. It smells bad. Yeah, I got
to um the the idea you just rattle off a
bunch of like um uses for perfume beyond actual perfume,

and that that's actually kind of an old concept. Um
the what's long been considered the seat of Europe's perfume
industry is a gross I think g R E S
S E in the south of France, and it's got
this unusual microclimate to where all of these wonderful plants
um like jasmine and orange blossoms and lavender and all

this stuff can grow. And the locals figured out number
one that they needed to grow the stuff, but also
to extract it in different ways. You can extract the
essential oils, you can extract absolute you can extract concretes.
But what you're doing is this extracting these odorant molecules
from plants and using it to perfume. But what they

were originally using it to perfume. And I think like
the fourteenth or thirteenth century where leather gloves. So remember
Catherine de Medici, she's been coming up a lot, a
lot um. She was given some scented gloves by the
tanners of Gross, France, which was originally there. That was

their gig, was making leather goods. But they stunk like death.
So just like those ancient priests, the people of Gross
said we need to perfume these. They came up and
started this whole trend of perfumed leather gloves by sending
a complimentary pair to Katherine de Medici, who loved them.
And then all of a sudden, bam, Gross is not
only making these awesome leather goods, it becomes the perfume

capital of the world and stays that way for a
very long time because she essentially was the first celebrity
sponsor of a product, and she was in the copies
of the local rag saying I love the smell of
my lavender leathers exactly. Uh, that's pretty cool story. Yeah,
and so that was the heart of it all. Then. Yeah,
and Gross still makes not nearly as much as they

used to, but they still produced tons of control oils
every year of all these wonderful plants. Nice. Yeah, see,
I'm done with the essential oils. That's different, right, But
that stuff is frequently used in perfumes. I mean, they
might not be using it in like you're you know,
tied or anything like that. That's probably a synthetic scent.
Not probably, it's absolutely a synthetic. But there are still

plenty of perfumes that do use essential oils in there
as as smell molecules. Well, the reason people they don't
is because it's expensive. Um. All right, So let's talk
a little bit about what perfume as the stinky stuff
that you use an atomizer if you're fancy to spray
on your body to smell sexy um, And a little

bit about smell in general. I guess the liquid perfume
that we're talking about is basically just a concoction of
alcohol and water and these smell molecules. Um that basically
what you're smelling is evaporation into the air and um.
They do point out the article not everything you know,
it's light up to float, but not everything that's light

enough to float has that has a smell. Um And
what do they point out? Carbon monoxide is the common danger. Right,
you can't smell it, you might be dying. That's why
you have the detectors in your home. Yeah, if all
of a sudden you can't think, right, Yeah, and there's
no other reason why, it's probably carbon oxide leak in
your house. There's no old lacutting around used to check
the battery on your carbon monoxide detector. So them not

only do some molecules not have a scent, they're just
not odorance. Some odorance aren't smelled by all people, Like
apparently sandalwood natural sandal would is the most commonly uncensed odorant. Yeah,
the natural original the o G right. Yeah, so even
even if you are making a perfume or something like that,

you may be making something that can't be smelled by
a significant portion of the population, which is a challenge
in making perfume and the whole cilantro thing up the
posted a link to a story about that. I know
we've talked about it before. It's like ten percent of
the population as a genetic marker that thinks it tastes
or taste and smells soapy. Yeah, And this article points

out that what's going on is not that there's some
alteration of the smell or taste of cilantro, but that
there's a note to it missing. So that's incomplete what
people are sensing, and therefore they find it gross. But
I saw another study that showed that of odorant receptors

are different from person to person. Take any two people,
of their odorant receptors are going to be just wildly different. Yeah.
So it is a real challenge to make perfume that
is pleasing to enough people. And as a result, some
people have gone the opposite way and they're just making
exactly what they think is super cool and if you

like it, awesome. If it smells good, great, if not, whatever.
But that's kind of counter to the main mode of
thinking in the perfume industry, which is based audience as
the best exactly because more people are gonna buy and
you're gonna make more money, and if it's a really
good one, it'll be a classic that people do develop
like a brand loyalty too, and buy again and again

and again year after year. Number five. Yeah, which classic
perfume it is? And it was the first perfume to
use synthetic ingredients. Did you know that? I did not,
And apparently it was not a hit right out of
the gate. It was created in the twenties um for Chanelle,
but it wasn't until Marilyn Monroe, in an interview in

the mid fifties, said that all she wears to better
two drops of Chanelle number five, that all of a
sudden it was like, sure, forever, the forever perfume. So
every guy bought it for his wife. I get, yeah,
because it would make him think of Marilyn Monroe. But
it's just stayed that way ever since, even even though
the Marilyn Monroe story has been kind of lost mostly

to popular culture, there's a documentary on co Oceanelle I
haven't seen yet. Supposed to be good. Oh yeah, yeah,
I have to check it out. Um. So, perfume oil
specifically is a super you know, this is what we're
talking about, being like steamed or pressed out of like
a fruit or a plant or something. It's super concentrated,

so it's only it's going to be an alcohol and
two percent water. So that's the solvent. Yeah, and then
you take the solvent and the amount of solvent that's
combined with perfume oil, you have different types of perfume. Yeah, exactly,
so parfume and you know it'll say this on the
bottle if you if you go to if you've ever
read the back of a perfume bottle um, which I haven't,

but parfume P A r f U M is at
least perfume oil. Uh. Oh departfume. Oh de toilette or
toilet water is ten percent and oh de cologne is
um X body spray. It's light. It's very light. Yeah, back,

unless you're talking about like just a straight up cologne.
Can also mean a man scent, which is sometimes way
more than five percent. Yeah, I think I've said this before.
When I lived in you my Arizona UM post college,
there was a lot of dudes wearing cologne, and I

was like, you guys are still wearing cologne. Huh. Like yeah, man,
you don't work cologne. I was like, nope, where's your curve? Yeah?
And um, yeah, it was it was. It was a
very strange thing to me because I'm just I don't know,
I don't see a lot of guys that work cologne anymore. Oh,
it's definitely falling away again. Maybe I'm in the traveling
in the wrong circles. Well, in America, it was. It

was cool at first and then it kind of fell
away and then um, thanks to Marilyn Monroe and Chanelle,
it kind of came back big time. Um, and then
it kind of peaked I think in the nineties for
men especially UM, but it's still going strong, like one
uh one armani geo d ARMANI. I think I can't

remember what it's called. Um. It made like several hundred
million dollars in you know, two thousand six. Is that
one of the unisex ones? Nobody's from men? Okay, yeah, yeah,
if I always thought that whole new uh well, it
seems new. The unisex cologne always thought it was interesting
well to asign something for both men and women. Right,

that's a throwback. Actually, Um, originally there were no gender
differences among any perfumes, especially in France. UM. And the
French men like to smell like lilac as well, right,
and that you know nothing wrong with that. The idea
that lilac is a feminine scent is new in social
construct you know. Um. Or the idea that cedar is

a manly scent. That's a new and social construct too,
and very American as well. Sure. So when it comes
to categorizing, like we're just talking about, there are terms
that they are used in the biz. But um, it's
not like there's any rule about it. It's just basically
how people have grown to talk about perfume there in
the business of perfume. But generally there are these categorizations. Uh,

floral it's a no brainer. Fruity that's a no brainer.
Green that might be grassy or leafy. I like stuff
like that. Um, like the olive oils that tastes like grass.
You ever had those? Yeah, man, those are good? Or
wheat grass shot that is not good. Oh, I love it.

You don't like it? O, Man, I love it. It's
like drinking down some grass clippings. I think I would
rather drink grass clippings than wheat grass. Well, it is
crass clippings actually, like fescue or something. Sure, we'll take
a fescue shot. Then herbaceous like herbs, woody like wood,
amber tree resin. I thought that was interesting. Every time

I want to say uh and uh, animal like I
want to say animaniac for some reason, bodily smells that's gross. Well,
that's like from that's musk. Yeah, it's a bodily smell. Well,
but then there's musk as its own category too, because
it's just so singular, right, But I mean, like, um,
there's also supposedly also I guess either I don't know

if it's a subtype of musk or animalk or whatever.
But fecal is another thing too. Calvin Klein's obsession is
among the perfume industry, well known as a very famous
fecally perfume. Yeah, yeah, which one obsession obsession? Yeah, like

a hugely selling, very popular perfume being worn by people.
If you walk past someone in the perfume industry. They're
gonna be like, there's some real fecal notes to that one. Well,
they said in this the top notes, they say, sometimes
can be something really nasty just to attract you. I
don't know what attract means, but I guess to get
your attention maybe, But that'll wear off the quickest. It's

not what lasts on your body, which we'll get in
that in a second. Let me just finish this little list.
Here you have the oriental UH and it's proper usage
here um amber and spice UM, and then a few
other ones are categorized by the actual molecules like phenolic
might smell like tar, or lactonic creamy, lactic lactose obviously,

or alda heideck, which is fatty. So those are the
main categories UM. And we will get a little bit
more into that chemistry that we teached you with right
after this. So, Chuck, we talked about um perfume being diluted,

like heavily diluted. What a rip off. It's almost all alcohol, yeah, rip.
The reason why though it's not it's not a rip
You would not want the perfume oil, which again is
just essential oils or synthetic versions of those oils and fixatives,
or synthetic versions of the fixative. So it might be

essential oil of lavender, it's a muskrat anal gland, and
then solvent is most of the other stuff. It's I'm laughing,
but it's true. And then bam, you've got a perfume
right there. But the reason why it's so dissolved, and
why so much of it is alcohol is because the
way that perfumes are designed is so that the different
types of molecules, when they interact with the alcohol and

the alcohol evaporates, will evaporate in a certain progression of time. Yeah,
I thought this is the most interesting part of this
whole thing. The alcohol actually makes it possible to separate
those notes. Um. And they likened this article to hearing
all the parts of a symphony at once, like a
lot of pleasing things all at one time. Is not

necessarily good thing. No, And that's what you would get
if you stuck your face in a one ton barrel
of perfume oil. Yeah, you might say, man, this is sweet,
but you wouldn't pick up on the subtle subtleties of
those odors. Yeah, exactly, But what alcohol does is it
takes that concentrated form. It not only dilutes it, but
it again spreads it out temporally. So when you first
put it on, UM, you put on a little perfume, right.

The immediate notes, the top notes are what you smell immediately,
and they go from anywhere like immediate to maybe um,
a few minutes usually, Yeah, the first ones you'll smell
and the first one to leave your body exactly. That's
the top notes. And a perfume is designed so that
as each set of notes, and there are three, there's top,

heart and bass notes, um, as each one is leaving,
the next one is starting up. So you have this
this basically flowing transition. Comparing it to a symphony is
so apt, sure, because it's just like this kind of
flowing melody of sense that worked together by um, I guess,

dissolving evaporating. Yeah, at a certain time, at a certain rate. Yeah.
And like we said before the break, there a lot
of times they will put something unpleasant in that first
top note, UM, and I guess it will just get
your attention in the store. Yeah, you're just like, oh,
that's so fecal exactly, or like, um, what was it?
An anchorman. Oh the musk, Yeah, it was like Puma musk.

Ohh that one the woman urine or something yeah alone. Yeah,
well I can't remember like exact line, but like seventy
percent of the time, it works all the time. Um,
what was it Panther? Yeah, it was Panther something man.
That was a funny movie. Um. And then you've got
your heart notes next, right, Yeah? How long did they last?

They kick in anywhere and last for starting it two
minutes to about an hour from what I saw. Um,
and those are gonna be It can be entirely different.
It depends, as we'll see what you're trying to get across.
But you could do woody top notes with a vanilla

base or heart note, so it'll go from wood to
vanilla to lemon citrus bass note. Right sure, Or you
could do it completely opposite. You can just mix and mast.
It depends, right. It depends on the um, the the
type of molecule you use, and as you're making synthetic

um odorance, you can make it synthetic odorant that's gonna
stick around as a bass note, even though if you
had an essential oil of that lemon, it would be
just a top note, because it's gonna go away so quick.
And as we'll see later when you when it's when
you're making these perfumes, it's a real science of a
balancing act of getting exactly what they want because these smells,

as you said, are coming and going and um it
is sort of like composing and symphony again again man um.
So the base note, that's the one that's going to
stick around the longest, though, right, and come out latest. Yeah,
it can come out starting usually about thirty minutes after
you put it on, and can stick around for a
day if you're not careful and didn't you find something

where the no perfume is going to smell the same
on any two people exactly right. Not only is it
not going to smell the same on any two people,
it's going to smell different to any two people, right
because again thirty percent of our odor receptors are different
in every single person. Plus also, an odorant can activate

different kinds of receptors depending on the person. And then lastly,
that person is going to encode it different because scent
is definitely its own thing as far as our senses go,
and it's the only sense that's um directly hardwired to
the brain, so the odorant receptors go straight to the brain.

It doesn't send it to a nerve cell that's nearby
first exactly. So it's like hard our sense of our
sense of smell is hardwired to our brain, so it
evokes some serious reaction brain. And there's also a hypothesis
that our brain, the lobes of our brain evolved from
old factory buds, that that's what they started out as,

and then it just grew and grew and grew, and
then we were all like brain stem and olfactory buds,
and then we the brain grew from that, which would
be like hats off to the sense of smell because
that's what started at all. Interesting, But there's there's the
point is that our sense of smell is it's a
big deal, um, but it's different in each of us.

And when you factor in our body chemistry, our skin, sure,
that's when it's it's it genuinely does smell differently on
different people. Well, I would think it has to because
everyone has a natural um scent. I think just as
a person that's different from one another. When you combine it, yeah,
it's got to make a different thing. You know. It's

like if I smell like a cherry pie, which you do,
throw some cool whip on me, which I would gross.
I wouldn't do anything. I just throw cool with you know,
um in the form of a pie to the face.
That old gag. Um. But when you're putting on the perfume,

this is this is all coming around to this point. Um.
There are ways to do it supposedly that will get
the proper um I get, get the most out of
your perfume. Like, you shouldn't put it in, rub it
in your skin real hard. You don't want to heat
it up right away or anything like that. No, because
then you break the chains of the top notes and
you wear them out before your finger even comes away

from your skin. Yeah. Kind of dab it on lightly, Yeah,
surely you just did, like the old lady moved dab
it behind the air maybe, or I've seen the other
lady move to uh to do it on the wrists
and maybe rub that together a little bit and then
um my. My big trick was too because I never
I liked the Benetton colors, but even back then I

didn't want to be super colone. So you know, I
did the deal where I spray it in the air
then like walk through it. You know. That's even I
think mentioned in this article is as a method. Yeah,
that's a method. Okay, Um, I was really onto something.
I think even rubbing your wrists together though, no, because
you're you're you don't want to generate heat. And one

of the reasons why people put it behind their ears
or on their wrists stinky behind your ears for one,
that's one. You can also smell it yourself right there.
Oh yeah, But if you put your fingers behind your
ears and then put them, like, I don't know, on
your head or something, you'll see that behind your ears
is warm. Yeah, on your wrists is warm. These are
pulse points, right, So you're hot blood is close to

the surface of your skin. So then that heat will
start to break up. The alcohol will make it evaporate,
and we'll hence make those different notes come out. That's
all the heat you need. Any friction is too much heat, right,
So you say no on the wrist rub, No wrist rub, okay.
I mean, if you want to waste your money and
just get heart and base notes and no top notes,

go for it, all right, Josh. So let's say, I
thought this was all pretty interesting too. Actually, let's say
you want to lart launch um Josh nous. You work
for Polo and you just you want to do Josh
no this. Um. You're in their perfume department and you say, guys,
this is gonna be a trust me on this one
be a top seller. Right, So you got a Polo

your bosses and they say, all right, Josh, what we
need here is a brief, um. And the brief is
gonna outline um. As you know again, you can't say
this is a perfume everyone's gonna love because they're like,
there is no such thing. So write up a brief.
Tell me who was gonna love it, who it's gonna
appeal to? What do you want it to smell? Like? Yeah,
what do you want this to say? Even so, tom

Ford launched one became very successful called Black Orchid, and
he said, I want this to smell like a man's crotch.
That was one. Can I give you another brief please? Um?
For Pure Poison from de or The brief included what
is it like to have something soft and hard at
the same time? Oh, I think we all know that

all right? And then um, here's another one. I don't
know what this one was for. That's a rat so
uh yeah, I don't know which one this is, but um.
One brief described what they were after as give us
the scent of a warm cloud floating in a fresh
spring sky over sicily raining titanium rain drops on a

woman with emerald eyes. That's what somebody wrote down when
they were trying to describe what scent they wanted. Yeah,
I mean that's those are legit briefs. That's that's how
you're supposed to do it. Describe not just um, the
specific sense that you want, but what do you want
it to say? Uh, generally is probably more something like
you know classy or you know prosperous or something like that,

fecal fecal um. Then you want to write out what
how you're gonna sell it, like, um, what form it's
gonna take. Um. You also want to have a marketing plan,
like I think we could sell this in the in
South America for the next like five years. They're going
to go crazy for yeah exactly. So then after that

it's gonna go um to a chemist and it's gonna
get mailed to what are called fragrance houses. Well, because
Polo doesn't make it themselves. They don't come up with
it themselves, that is, and the chemist is employed by
the fragrance houses. And they send this brief out to
a bunch of different fragrance houses and and basically started competition.
Who who's going to land this account? But what we

want see what you can do. So this fragrance house
they do a couple of things. They have the perfumers,
who they actually are, the chemists who come up with
the formula. Yeah, they've got all these scents in their
head and then they know like, oh, I know exactly
what smells like a woman with emerald eyes. Sure super smellers,
I would imagine. Yeah, oh yeah, you know. Yeah, there's
an older tester job out there that's supposed to be great.

I don't know if I do so hot on that.
Oh yeah, you have to have like just a naturally
wonderful nose. Yeah, my nose is not naturally wonderful. It
has to make like a curly to Uh. These fragrance
houses also have they don't just um, right, the formulas,
they also have the stuff in stock, um, all these
different ingredients in warehouses or they will work with another

company who has it. If they're like, we don't have
UM you know, papaya, oh papaya, we need to work
with a company who does, they will sub that out.
And they have these chemists that actually work with UM
gas chromatography mass spectromety, which we've talked about in something
I can't remember what it was. It's gonna be used
for other things. It basically analyzes odorant molecules, yeah, to

to say here's here's what it's made of, and here's
how you can make a synthetic version of it exactly right, exactly.
So then you have those people, those UM chemists, analysis analysts,
and then you also have synthetic chemists who say who
take the readouts from the guests UM chro chromatography and say,

oh I can build this, and then they build the
synthetic molecules exactly and all just mind blowing. It is
mind blowing. All of these people are employed by the
fragrance houses. That's right. Uh. One thing that they do.
We we did talk earlier about UM. You know how
they have this stuff in stock. A lot of times
it can be the actual oils from pressing it and

steaming it UM. But there's another headlock exactly. Uh. There's
another cool thing they have though, called headspace, and that
is when if they want an odor um or fragrance,
they will they will put like an avocado in a
jar and um suck out the air every hour or

constantly for hours, right, and then they use gas chromatography
to analyze that and analyze that. There you go, and
then somebody goes and builds that, right, And that's what's
called the headspace. The headspace is basically a synthetic version
of an existing natural scent that somebody trademarks and then

all of a sudden it becomes part of the perfume
industry's repertoire. Yeah. I mean that's the space in the jar.
That's the literal headspace. That is is got the odor.
There's a dude name um Christopher Brosius, and he started
a company called Demeter, and they're known for making like
really weird perfumes like birthday cake, baseball, mit, baby aspirin,

just your stuff like that. But what's neat is they
nail it. And one of the ways they nail it
is by using by making headspaces. One of the first
ones they did was called Soaked earth. He took some
um dirt from his parents farm, put it in a
bag and took it to New York and threw it
on the table and said I want this. And they

analyzed it, and by god, that came up with dirt
the smell of specific to his Yeah, yeah, you know,
I think Pennsylvania interesting. Um, I guess here we can
briefly mentioned that um. Knockoff colognes and perfumes is a
very common thing because uh, your copyright. I mean, you

can tweak your formula slightly, and it's totally legal, you know,
to to sell that essentially same thing that's just oh
so slightly different under a different name. It's like the
same thing as design or drugs, except with perfumes. Yeah,
remember that, like the gas station if you love if
you like Georgia, you'll love whatever we're calling. What was

the knockoff name for Georgio Georgie, But there was like
a whole generic rip off line called if you like Blank,
You'll love Blank. It's hilarious, So chuck, Um. You take
all this stuff, you take your head space, you take
your existing headspace, you take your essential oils, and you
put them all together to create that um emerald, I

woman who has titanium rain drops raining honor in Sicily
on a spring day. Yeah, well you do anywhere from
ten to a hundred of them each Fragrance House does. Yeah.
Then they send them to their oder testers and the
oder tester goes no, no, no, this one's a maybe no. No,
I like this one. No no, maybe again yes, and

then no, and then Polo at this point has not
smelled any Josh in this yet. No. This is all
they're trying to weed out the gunk because they don't
want to waste Polos time, right, you know, Yeah, they
don't want to send them four Josh Josh, and this
is exactly no. They want to send them like one,
maybe two, And they do. Sure, so Polo, well then
get it, say I like the second one, but it's

a little too strong on this one, cent Um. So
they'll go back again. And it's just a process basically.
Maybe they nail it on the first time, probably not,
but probably not. It's a back and forth basically. It's
it's just like working with an editor and they'll swap
in ingredients and they'll you know, like we said earlier,
it's a science basically of the right combination in the
right order of evaporation. Um. I think it's just super interesting.

They put it through product testing, of course, um to
see what people think of it, because they're not just
gonna launch it out of the blue. They want it to,
like you said, appeal to either the right demographic or
the most people possible. And so the one that um
Polo decides that is josh nous. Yeah. Um they win.
That perfume house wins, and so they get a contract

to produce X number of tons or gallons of this
particular perfume. Well of the of the the perfume oil, yeah,
the undeluded stuff, yeah Polo actually produces. They take that
and produce the perfume. Right. They add the solventure to
produce the perfume, the oda toilette, the de cologne, all

that stuff in the different concentrations. They will probably also
use it and maybe like a deodor in a body lotion,
all that stuff. But they deliver them in like one
ton drums of the perfume oil that you don't want
to smell until it's been diluted, and then all of
a sudden, the joshness is released into the world literally
and becomes the number one selling cologne of all time. Well,
and um Polo never knows the exact concoction that makes

joshness either, which I thought was super interesting. It's literally
the perfumer knows this little secret. It's gonna so after
this we're gonna talk a little bit um about the
science of scent and whether or not it's something that
we're born with or that we learn. Alright, So Chuck,

why do people wear perfume? Depends on who you ask. Um.
There's a lady named Rachel Hurts Uh from Brown University.
She wrote a book called The Scent of Desire Colin
Discovering our enigmatic sense of smell, and she postulates that, Uh,
depending on how old you are and what gender you are,

you have your different reasons. Did a young men do
it to attract women, That's why I did it, all right?
Older men do it out of gratitude to the women
who gave it to him. Howey, you'd smell nice with
this on, so sure, I'll wear it, dear. Uh. Women,
depending on how old you are the twenties, you're more
affected by I guess inspired by your friends in the media. Beyonce,

sure she has a perfume dungy. Yeah. You know who
has like a surprise runaway smash hit right now is
Sarah Jessica Parker. That doesn't surprise me. It does me
a little bit. Wouldn't surprise me in like two thousand two,
but like it is a top seller right now. She's
like a goddess to a certain uh age group of women.

Though yeah, still I guess you're right. But even still
you'd think, like, yeah, I don't know, maybe they're right
in the perfume Wheelhouse could be an awesome smelling perfume.
I've never smelled it. I was just surprised because you know,
you're like Beyonce, Derek Jeter, like, these are the celebrities
that have that. Yeah, it's top selling that have these
top selling like cologns, and then Sarah Jessica Parker. It's

just I just don't think of her like that. I
don't I like her. She's great, Like, I just don't
think of her as that, and I'm I'm happy for
her success. Yeah, she's iconic a certain demographic. Yeah, um,
not to me. She's she's an icon to Emily. I
think she was a big fan of that show. Um.

Women in their thirties, they say, follow no particular pattern.
There's I don't know what they're doing. They don't know
what's going on yet. They just like what they like.
I think is what that means. Well, by the time
they're forty, they say, that's uh, simply because they like it.
Like I just like the way the smells, and I'm forty,
so I'm gonna just wear it. I don't care what
my husband thinks at this point or what my friends

think at this point. Um. And their sixties, they say,
women think of other people's which is like, uh, their
friends are loved. Ones say they like the way it smells,
which is a really nice thing. And then a lot
of um, people choose perfumes apparently that their mother or
or in the same scent family. Yeah, either knowingly or not,

but probably knowingly because um, there's an associative learning theory
of smell. All you were saying before the break, We're
going to talk about whether you know smell is learned
or forborn with it. The idea that smell is learned
is called the associative learning hypothesis. Yeah, that like, we

come to like smells based on social constructs, based on experience,
there's supposedly evidence that smell learning begins in the womb,
even that odor and molecules can be passed along from
mother to child, and that the stuff you're exposed to
in the womb you can show a preference for later
on down the road. Yeah. And Rachel Hurts is a

member of that camp. Yeah. And by the way, I
want to give a shout out. Rachel Hurts wrote a
chapter for the book Neurobiology of Sensation and Reward, which
is a gas in general, right, But she wrote chapter seventeen.
Perfume is the title of it, and it's on UM
the n I H website, the n c B I website.

Just search for that and he will come up. The
whole chapter is right there, and it's really interesting and exhausting.
But she is one of the ones who's like, this
is a learned behavior and lays out something really great
um evidence for it. Yeah. One of her points is that,
um that babies basically don't think anything smells bad or good. Um.

I don't know how they know this. I guess wafting
things under a baby's face to see what the face
they make, including poop. Well, yeah, you never never see
the baby like yeah, like all wallow and poop. I
don't care. I'm a baby. I don't mind the smell.
You ever farted right in a baby's face, No reaction,
they just blink nothing a couple of times. They're delighted.

Well plus also um. Other studies of adults, not even
babies have shown that the same smell can be preferred
or disliked in very similar groups. In the UK, the
smell of winter green in a study after World War
Two was found to be just generally disliked. In the US,
like a decade later, the smell of winter green was

found to be generally preferred. In the US. Winter green
is used for like candy and gum, and it's associated
with positive stuff. In the u K. Winter green was
used during World War two, um for medicines that were
used in the field, so there's associations with battle war
maiming disease. So that's what winter green is the people

in the UK, whereas in the US the exact same
smell is pleasant. And you know, I mean it's not
like the Americans and the Brits are the exact same people,
but they're in the same cohort, you know, are very
similar cohort and they showed like opposite preferences, which is
really great evidence for associative learning hypothesis. Yeah, and it's

also a reason why in the early two thousand's the U. S.
Army was not able to come up with a stink
bomb that was universally upsetting to people's noses across cultures.
They contracted out them mol Chemical Sense the Center in Reilly,
and they tried to curate a universal stink bomb smell.

And they said, you know, because of cultural specific products
and things, we had to avoid anything like food related.
Even if we think it really stinks, some other culture
might like it exactly. Um. So they had to basically
go to They focused on stuff with biological origins like
vomit and human wate and burnt hair and uh. They

made synthetic versions of all these and got some people
in Philly and put them in a hood and introduced
these people and I thought it was funny that was
Philly though they're probably like, it's not so bad, um,
and introduced They slowly infused it, and they said people
thought it was the worst thing they ever smell. Their
heads would jerk back, they would contort with revulsion and

then basically just try and hold their breath as long
as possible or take little shallow breaths. Sounds like a
great stink bomb to unleash on people in Philadelphia at least. Yeah,
but they couldn't. Basically, they couldn't come up with anything
that was universally hated. So do you remember the Air
Force also tried to come up with a gay bomb
that used like some sort of perfume to turn like

enemy combatants into like just gay lovers. So silly. Um.
It's a shame, though, because the stink bomb is actually
really like it's a great idea. You know, it doesn't
hurt anyone, there's no, it's not like a chemical like
you know, what do you call it the sprays irritant? Yes,
not an irritant in anyway. It just stinks, and it
would keep people out of a sensitive area if they

didn't want them there. Well, chemical um irritation is a
sensation that your nose experiences along with odors. So it
is technically a stink bomb like pepper spray is a
stink bomb. Oh yeah yeah, but it has like an
actual physical effect on your skin, which a stink bomb wouldn't. Um.

But The other school thought, though, is that it's uh,
you know, it comes via evolution basically, Yeah, that it's innate. Yeah,
which this kind of makes sense that they both make
sense to me. I think it might be a mixture
of both. Um. But what's his name, Gilbert or hill Bear?
Hill Bear, one of the two. So if you're in

the Gilbert camp, though, you're gonna you're gonna go with
the evolution because he points out that, UM, when we
were evolving, you know, apples smell good because you're meant
to eat them and you're meant to spread the seed. UM,
So that smell is associated with living and living well
by eating fruits. Conversely, the smell of poop and vomit

and urine um, which convey disease and bacteria and all
the stuff you're not supposed to be with. Under innate hypothesis,
it would be that's why we avoid those, because we
do avoid the the substances that carry those obnoxious smells.
Makes sense. Oh, it totally makes sense. So I just

think to me, the evidence is more than or for
associative learning. Yeah, I think I think it can be both.
I don't think it has to be mutually exclusive and
I think it can be overwritten by the by the
learning as well. Whatever. In eight things we have UM
and I don't remember, we did a bit on a
study years ago about UM people looking for their mates

according to having a different immune system, which would in
turn make their children immune to more possible things. Yeah,
more robust immunity and the kids. Because you take immunity
A and immunity B, and putting together you've got immunity C,
which is the best of A and B. Right, So this,
this is like a whole idea of why or how

people select mates is based on that which is scent based.
That's what they think, and apparently it's this is evidenced
by study after study after study that finds consistently that
women rate a man scent as the number one factor
and attractiveness more than his pearance, more than wealth, more

than anything else. Scent is perennially the number one most
important thing. They think that's possible that the reason why
is because um our senses are attuned or scent is
a tune so that we can sniff out somebody with
a different immune system so we can reproduce more robust kits.
The problem is if you factor in cologne. What you're

doing is deceiving that natural drive, and all of a
sudden you're gonna have kids with like zero immune system
because the guy was wearing cologne. Yeah, that makes total sense. Uh.
You don't want to confuse your potential mating mate. It's
a pretty good argument against warring cologne. Yeah. Um. And
then there is the uh, of course the whole does

this stuff work anyway as far as being a sexual attractant? Uh,
And there's there's zero scientific proof that there was any
kind of um ahdusiastic assic fords ac Ick compound you
can concoct that will literally, um draw someone to you sexually,
as much as they've tried and tried to advertise that

subtly or not so subtly. Um. We are not pigs,
who apparently do have mating pheromones that actually work that way.
They have something called a accessory olfactory system. Uh. And
in pigs, they have something in their nose called the
vomar nasal organ which is specifically specialized to pick up

on these molecules. And we don't have them as humans.
We don't have the curly tails either, or they say
we may have them but it just doesn't work. I
don't know which is which is the case. Who knows.
Maybe we just use their normal olfactory senses and it's
not pheromones. It's just smells. Yeah, you know, or you
know they say maybe it'll make you think that you're

more sexually attractive, so that I'll make you more confident
and thus make you more sexually attractive. Um. I got
one more thing which I mentioned. Georgia. Yeah, Georgio is
a huge, hugely popular maybe the number one cent of
the nineteen eighties. Um. And it was famously banned from
some restaurants because it was so stinky. Yes, because some

restaurateurs are like, if you've got a couple of people
were in Georgio in here, it's gonna overpower the smell
of the food and the taste of the food. So
they banned Georgio, which all it did was accelerate sales. Well,
there are some people in this building that I wish
would be banned from our elevators. I almost never run
into that anymore. Boy, I've smelled some stuff that they're

not even on. In the elevator car. It's a vehicle,
and I step in. I'm like whoa is it like obsession?
That's usually like super perfuming lady stuff? Oh I got you? Yeah?
You got anything else? No, I mean there's plenty more. Yeah,
but yeah, we got so much time. If you want
to know more about perfume, you can type that word
in the search bar at how stuff works dot com.

And since I said search parts time a listener mail,
that's right. I'm gonna call this a little Nostre Damas
bit from a Canadian. Hey, guys, I would like to
say how great. First of all, that you make my
hour long commutes to work every morning. So thanks, um,
it's a pleasure to listen to the show, especially on
Nostre Damas. I thought i'd give you another example of
what he supposedly said. Quote from the Calm Morning, The

end will come when of the dancing horse, the number
of circles will be nine. It's from Nostre Damas three
she said. She says. It was said that Nostre Damas
predicted in the world and was explained as follows. Korea
is the calm morning country. Sigh dancing as in doing

the dancing horse is Gangham style. On December one, that
song reached one million views on YouTube nine zeros. In summary,
people were claiming that damas Is prediction was the into
the World would be on December twenty one. So that's it. Guys,
keep on doing what you do. You do a great
job and you're always a pleasure. And oh the sound
effects are awesome. Kudos to Jerry. Wait to go to Jerry.

That's from Julia Ka in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Hey, we
love Toronto, AK Toronto. Right, that's right, we love it. Well,
let's see what we want to hear from you. Let
us know about your perfume preference. Uh. You can tweet
us your favorite perfume of all time or your most
hated perfume of all time at s y s K podcast.

You can let us know on Facebook, dot com slash
Stuff you Should Know. You can send us an email
to stuff podcast at how Stuff Works dot com, and
as always, join us at our home on the web,
Stuff you Should Know dot Com. Stuff you Should Know
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