Perfumed Letters

Reading the scent trail of fragrance and words

Endangered Smells



Not to be confused with Herbal Essences

Not to be confused with Herbal Essences


Perfume lovers understand the concept of  “endangered smells.” New technologies affect perfume production. Synthetic odor materials have been on the rise since the 19th century. Environmental and animal rights concerns restrict the use of natural products that were once mainstays of perfumery. (It is a good thing, I think, that we no longer hunt musk deer in order to extract their glands for perfume). Today perfume lovers lament IFRA’s Hays-Code like approach to regulation of fragrance products that could potentially provoke allergic reactions for some users. Even if Jicky remains the oldest perfume still in production today, we know it can never smell quite the same as it at the time of its 1889 launch.

Of course, perfumes are not the only smells that go instinct.  A friend just sent me a link to an article on 11 Smells that are Slowly Disappearing due to new technologies and safety regulations. Number one, and one of my favorite smells of the past: freshly dampened, “dittoed” paper (from the whimsically named “Spirit Duplicator”).

One of my favorite extinct smells is Herbal Essence shampoo. I was thrilled at the new Herbal Essences release some years ago, then immediately disappointed to discover the remake had nothing in common scent-wise with the original. As Roland Barthes has pointed out, sometimes the “s” makes all the difference. A while ago, while entertaining an obsession with scratch-and-sniff literature, I purchases a book called  Nosestalgia. I wanted almost desperately to smell the Herbal Essence shampoo on page 54. I remember that dark green thick liquid, and the peculiar (for cosmetics), grassy smell that my mother hated. It was a rebellion shampoo. And it dried out my hair. Sadly, the scent samples in my copy of Nosestalgia had all dissipated.

Fortunately for the nostalgic among us, BloodyFrida has been following the scent trail to perfumes that bring back the Herbal Essence experience.

After checking out the 11 endangered fragrances in Kara Kovalchik’s article,  I’ve been thinking other lost smells. Mine include lots of cosmetics and office supplies, as well as certain kinds of books–and though this technically doesn’t count–descriptions of smells in the pages of those books.

Which smells would you add to the endangered list?






2 thoughts on “Endangered Smells

  1. Oh, there must be lots of extinct smells I miss – one that springs immediately to mind is a type of craft glue we used at school that came in a big tub like ice cream and that was either white or dark brown in colour but had a wonderful intoxicating scent – probably quite literally! The bubble gum cards mentioned in that link are another fine example, and I daresay more will come to me…

  2. H!, Vanessa! Now I”d like to know the smell of your craft glue, which was probably nothing like that of the paste (in little tubs) that some kids not only smelled, but *ate.*. I admit I tasted the paste, but that was it.

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