We know that smell is subjective, and I have also read somewhere the idea that no matter what you say a thing smells like, you are probably right to some degree. I will sometimes think I’ve captured most of the main facets of a certain material, and then come across a description of another characteristic, smell the material again to see if I detect it, and voilà, it seems so obvious in retrospect. It’s similar to how multiple-choice questions are often easier to answer than open-ended ones when one is not very familiar with the topic.
My other half usually finds a vial suddenly appearing under his nose, without knowing anything about its contents, and responds with adjectives (“woody” most of the time, and “soapy” without fail if I have included even the tiniest amount of aldehyde) or guesses at ingredients (he has a special radar for patchouli). Sometimes he would name an ingredient and I would say, “There’s no _____ in this one!” However, I have realized that I can never be sure, as long as I’m using any commercially available bases. It may be a leather “specialty” note, but that may well contain sandalwood, jasmine, and rose in its formula. Not to mention the fact that the main molecules in one material may be prevalent in several others, becoming more prominent in one’s perception.
I recently purchased the book The Formulation and Preparation of Cosmetics, Fragrances and Flavors by Louis Appell, which was highly recommended by the blog The Perfumer’s Craft, itself a wealth of knowledge and resources. The book provides several formulae of classical styles of perfume as well as specialty bases and is highly useful for studying how many accords are made.
You may think I’m small, but I have a universe inside my mind.—Yoko Ono
A similar idea might hold true for many perfumery materials.