4 Invented Scents

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Perfumes and scented lotions are made up of a complex bouquet of aromas derived from natural sources we will recognize and enjoy. However, sometimes perfume companies market their fragrances a little bit erroneously. Here are a few common scents that aren’t as accurate as you think.

1. Amber


Though you see it in many perfume pyramids, amber—fossilized tree resin used in jewelry—doesn’t actually have much of a scent. The fragrance we associate with amber is entirely manufactured, and usually involves a combination of benzoin, labdanum, and vanilla to produce a pleasant aroma reminiscent of the gemstone’s golden warmth. Real amber only produces a scent through difficult or destructive methods: when heated under the right conditions (creating oil of amber, which has a musky odor) or burnt (which smells of pinewood).

2. Cotton


Cotton-scented perfumes and candles are popular for their clean, fresh smell, evoking thoughts of freshly washed laundry and crisp spring air. Yet the cotton plant lends little to the fragrances that bear its name; at most, the product contains a hint of cotton blossom. A cotton-scented perfume could consist of citrus, jasmine, lavender, cedar, and more, combined to accomplish a multi-faceted fresh scent. However, as a real cotton-picker reports, “fresh-picked cotton smells like sweat.”

3. Brown Sugar


Brown sugar gets its hue from molasses, which is why most bakers know that the dark, soft sugar doesn’t smell as sweet as it tastes. Nobody’s out buying molasses-flavored candles to freshen up their homes, which is why perfume companies invented a replacement scent to represent brown sugar. Most brown sugar fragrances, like this one from Sephora and another from Fresh, use caramel and magnolia as their main ingredients. The combined aroma is intended to embody the taste, rather than the molasses smell, of real brown sugar.

4. Space


Only astronauts can tell us what space smells like, but the rest of us can imagine it with this space-scented candle from ThinkGeek. ThinkGeek describes the candle having an “ozone-like” aroma as well as “hope for a peaceful federation.” Astronauts have described the odor of space as resembling “seared steak,” “hot metal,” “welding fumes,” and “gunpowder”—none of which sounds very appealing to complement your home décor, but intriguing. However, all of those acrid scents probably wouldn’t sell very well, so the candle does have a touch of lavender, according to ThinkGeek spokesman Steve Zimmerman.