Saturday, February 8, 2014

S.O.A.P. Panel Fragrances: First Impressions

Squee!
Last week, my S.O.A.P. Panel fragrances arrived! Underneath the pretty tissue paper and official S.O.A.P. seal were eight one-ounce samples of mystery fragrance oils from Bramble Berry. My job is to test them in at least one bath and beauty product and offer my feedback on each scent. Seven other panelists will do the same and then Bramble Berry will decide, based on our feedback, which scents to offer in their 2014 spring lineup.

Each mystery scent bottle is labeled with a number, and there are no clues as to what the fragrance is supposed to be. This is so that the testers won't be biased and can give honest assessments. And also because it's fun.

Since this is the spring S.O.A.P. panel, the scents are mostly fruity, floral, or outdoorsy. The day I received the FOs, I did an initial sniff test and took some notes. A few days later, I returned to the scents and my notes and sniffed again, hoping to deepen my interpretation of each fragrance.

It can be tough to identify scents when you don't know what you are sniffing. It's kind of like trying to figure out who is doing a voice-over in a commercial. Maybe you think you've heard the voice before, or maybe you think you haven't. But then when someone says, "Hey, that sounds like so-and-so," you're like, "Oh, yeah, that's totally who that is!" Same with mystery scents. You may identify some notes or maybe think, "I've smelled this before, but I can't put my finger on it ..." If someone hands you something that is Brown Sugar and Fig-scented and says, "Here, smell this. It's Brown Sugar and Fig," you'll smell it and be all like, "Hey, this totally smells like brown sugar and figs!" But if someone hands you something that is Brown Sugar and Fig-scented and says, "Here, guess what this is," you might be all, "I have no idea, dude."

So, here are my first takes on the fragrances. And I did purposely avoid reading about the other panelists' impressions until I had organized my own thoughts so that I would not be influenced by their opinions of the scents.

The mystery S.O.A.P. fragrances

Okay, here we go:

Scent #1: This fragrance reminded me of something I had smelled before. I immediately detected citrus, but also something else. After much sniffing and pondering, I realized that the other note was fir-like and that the scent makes me think of a Balsam & Citrus FO that I bought from another supplier a couple of years ago. This scent makes it into my top three of favorites.

Scent #2: This one smells strongly of watermelon with maybe a hint of apple. Very yummy.

Scent #3: Strong floral scent. Again, I thought, "I've smelled this before." Sniff, sniff, sniiiiiiiiiff. Ah, it's honeysuckle! This fragrance is my second favorite of the bunch.

Scent #4: This one is very sweet and candy-like. To me, it smells like sour apple with a touch of pear or maybe pineapple. It reminds me of a green apple Jolly Rancher.

Scent #5: I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, you guys, but I didn't like this fragrance out of the bottle at all. It smells kinda grassy and green, which I usually like, and it also has earthy notes, which I also usually like. But the notes in this scent smell musty and damp, not like the lovely fresh-dirt earthiness of patchouli that I adore. And this may sound weird, but to me it also sorta smells a bit like canned corn. I think it is supposed to be some sort of garden scent. This is my least favorite fragrance. Maybe it will smell better after I've soaped it.

Scent #6: Initially this fragrance made me think of Sweet Tarts, but as I kept sniffing, the scent grew sharper and cleaner. Once again, I found myself thinking, "I've smelled this before, what is this?" And then it hit me - grapefruit! And something else - something sweet, like sugar.

Scent #7: Another floral scent. This one smells like delicate baby roses. It is a good, subtle, true rose scent. Not powdery or perfume-y at all.

Scent #8: This is my favorite fragrance. It is a fresh, clean masculine scent, like cologne or aftershave. Very sporty. I kept thinking that it smells like a men's cologne I've smelled before, but I couldn't remember which one. Then I realized that it reminds me of the scent that wafts out of Abercrombie & Fitch stores.

With the exception of Scent #5, I enjoyed all of the fragrances. Of course, these are out-of-the-bottle impressions. The scents might be somewhat different in the finished product. Sometimes scents can fade, especially in cold process soap. Or the scent may change a bit, with some notes becoming stronger or mellower in the final soap. It will be interesting to see how each scent holds up after it's been soaped.

I have already begun testing each fragrance in cold process soap, and I may also experiment with melt-and-pour soap, too. I am taking lots of notes, photos, and video. Later this month, I'll share the results of my testing!

31 comments:

  1. Sounds like fun trying to identify scents -- funny how some scents can take you back in time and remind you of things you haven't been around in years (like Jolly Ranchers). I think honeysuckle would be my favorite scent of the bunch.

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    1. Thanks, Mom! It is a bit of a time warp when you suddenly get a whiff of something that you haven't smelled in years. It really takes you back. I've heard that smell is perhaps the most powerful memory trigger of the senses. The honeysuckle scent is gorgeous!

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  2. Sounds like some nice scents arrived your way. I love the idea of a good masculine scent always on the lookout for something new, cant wait to see how it behaves

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    1. Thanks, Lyn! I love masculine scents, too. I've always liked clean, sporty colognes. Scent #8 is my favorite.

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  3. When I first started reading your post I was thinking how much my sense of what something smells like is dependent on the name of the FO. So I really admire all of you who're testing out the scents, having to make those difficult decisions.

    Scent #2 sounds so yummy and I can't wait to see what you end up making with each of the different fragrances.

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    1. Thanks, Monica! Yes, seeing the name of the fragrance kind of gives you an idea of what to expect, like the brain and the nose are already primed for it. Not knowing what the scent is supposed to be seems to make both work harder, and sometimes they have trouble connecting. It's fun, though, to puzzle it out as best as you can. Scent #2 is yummy, perfect for spring and summer!

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  4. You're so detailed on your descriptions of each scent and I'm amazed you were able to zero in on what they exactly smell like to you. You'd make a terrific nose, Jenny! I think it would be awesome to study on how to become a perfumer or a nose.
    Can't wait to see how the fragrances turn out in soap. Have fun! :-)

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    1. Thanks, Silvia! I don't know how accurate my nose is - I hope I'm close with most of these! I've been reading up on the other panelists' initial impressions and some we agree on and some we don't. It's fun to see how differently (or similarly) all of our noses interpret scents. Being a nose or a perfumer would be fun!

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  5. Great review so far Jenny...I like how you compared this to hearing voices you have heard before on commercials, that is a great description! Can't wait to see how these perform in soap and your impressions then! :)

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    1. Thanks, Cee! I'm curious to see if and how the scents change in the soap, too. I'll keep you posted about my testing! :)

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  6. How exciting Jenny! I remember how giddy I was when I opened the box when I was selected. Isn't it funny how you nose searches for certain smells you are familiar with? I cant wait to read how your testing goes. Good Luck!

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    1. Thanks, Roxana! I enjoyed following your experiences on the S.O.A.P. panel when you were on the team. It is interesting what your nose will tell your brain (and vice versa) when neither one knows what's going on, LOL.

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  7. How neat that smell is so subjective. Like I love Scent 5 and you don't, and there is a perfume at work that is THE MOST popular perfume ever. I mean 50 women come in a spray it all over themselves daily, and I absolutely loathe the smell. I really liked reading your impressions, it is nice seeing what a more experienced soaper finds in each scent compared to a newer one like me :) Can't wait to see your soap!

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    1. Hi, Sue! Thanks for your comments. Smell is really subjective. I thought it was interesting that you and I have totally opposite thoughts about Scent #5. Or how I love patchouli and my mom absolutely hates it. Back when I used to do craft shows, it was interesting to see different people's reactions to the soap scents. I remember one lady sniffing an apple-scented soap and saying, "This doesn't smell a thing like apples." And another lady came up later and said, "Oh, wow, this smells exactly like an apple!" :D I can't wait to see how your testing goes, too!

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  8. It sounds like we had very similar reactions to the fragrances and liked the same ones. You are really good at figuring out what the fragrances are!

    Dana Huff

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    1. Thanks, Dana! I enjoyed your video about your impressions of the scents. Looking forward to seeing how your testing goes!

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  9. Can't wait to see all creations with new scents! Do you think all participants received the same samples? I thought they didn't! At least, I don't think they are marked with same numbers?!
    You described them so well, I can almost smell them through my screen!

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    1. Hi, Maja! Yep, I'm pretty sure that we all got the same fragrances, all numbered the same. Bramble Berry wants eight of us to independently test each fragrance and give our feedback, and then they'll chose which scents to offer in their spring lineup based on that feedback. It's been a fun experience!

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    2. Hihi, i would mix the numbers, to confuse you when comparing your impressions!

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  10. Yep, I totally agree with the scent identification. It can be SO hard to name a particular scent when you don't know the name (isn't that the strangest thing?). But I noticed that I could pick out notes that I would have missed otherwise because instead of a quick whiff to confirm, I smelled...and smelled....and smelled. :) Hope the trials go smoothly!

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    1. Thanks, Amy! Identifying the scents is a challenge, but it's been fun. You're right about how a scent deepens and changes as you keep sniffing it, versus just doing a quick whiff. I took a couple of days to form my impressions, coming back to the scents over and over again. I'll keep you posted on the testing!

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  11. That sounds like a lot of fun - and I'm loving your descriptions. I really don't think I'd be any good at identifying fragrances, but it would be interesting to have a go :-D Looking forward to hearing how they perform in soaps.

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    1. Hi, Vicki! It is fun. I'm not sure yet how accurate my nose is, but I hope I'm at least close on some of these! It will be interesting to see how my impressions compare once Bramble Berry reveals the names of the mystery fragrances.

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  12. Hello!!
    Ok I found you via a comment you had left on someone else's blog..please don't ask name as when I opened yours it closed it..go figure right! I am planning on making soap for a bridal shower..as everything for this shower will be handmade..why because I can do it cheaper than buying it haha...but I thought it would be really cute idea to have a variety of soap as a take home thing...you it seems have this down to an art!!! I truly don't have time for oh just remelt, redo etc...over and over!! If you have time to handle some ?? it would be great!! If you are swamped like I am..hence reason I just can't deal with huge learning curve! That is completely understandable!!! My basic ?? are...what to melt in, how much of what to use..as it seems this is a huge problem people encounter is the measurements. Oh and yes I have been researching this!!! I am not 100% comfortable in doing this..yet!
    Thanks bunches!!
    Jackie P
    jmpresearch@gmail.com
    oh and I do have a nice long window for getting this done..this is not a oh I have a month!!! I am huge on preplanning! and leaving time for trial runs!!!

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    1. Hi, Jacqueline. There is a lot to learn about soapmaking. I don't know if you are considering making soap from scratch or if you are thinking about using a melt-and-pour base, but if you are not comfortable with cold process soapmaking, melt-and-pour may be something to consider. With melt-and-pour, you start with a soap base, melt it down, add fragrance and colorants, and pour it into a mold. There is still a learning curve with melt-and-pour, but you don't have to make the soap from scratch or deal with lye.

      As far as equipment goes, I use heavy duty polypropylene plastic (5PP) and stainless steel for cold process, and Pyrex measuring cups for melt-and-pour. For cold process soap - if that is what you are considering doing - how much of which ingredients depends on the recipe. Teach Soap (http://teachsoap.com/) is a great place to start finding recipes and more info. The Soap Queen blog (http://www.soapqueen.com/) is another great resource for both cold process and melt-and-pour soapmaking. Soap Making Resource also offers quite a few cold process recipes: http://www.soap-making-resource.com/soap-recipes.html.

      To learn the basics of either cold process or melt-and-pour soapmaking, I'd recommend checking out Soap Queen TV on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/soapqueentv. Anne-Marie has a beginner's series on each that walks you through the basics as well as several techniques.

      I'm not in the soap-selling business, but if you decide to pay someone to make the soap for you, I'd check out someplace like Etsy.com. There are lots of soapmakers on Etsy, and many of them could probably do a custom job for you.

      I hope that helps! Best wishes with the bridal shower!

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    2. Oh thank you! That was actually a great help! Now I know to look for melt and pour process. And I can use pyrex (which that was HUGE ? on what to use for that)
      I want to do this myself, as with rest of the shower I am doing it all myself. So if I can pull this off, it would be a great addition.
      Thanks bunches so much!! I will start with links you mentioned tonight!
      Jackie P

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    3. You're welcome, Jackie! I'm glad that helped. Happy soaping!

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  13. You are such grate expert Jenny, perfect panelist! It is really amazing how you can detect and distinguish particular scent and moreover link it to something you experienced before! I whish you successful continuation of this exercise and many colorful and beautifully soaps!

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    1. Hi, Gordana! Thanks for your comments. I hope that I'm getting at least a few of these scents right. I'm curious to see how accurate my nose is when Bramble Berry reveals the mystery fragrances!

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  14. Hey Jenny - I totally understand what you mean about trying to blind guess a fragrance. My daughter worked at Abercrombie and Fitch when she was in high school - I loved the smell they pumped through the store, but only in small amounts. A great blog, thanks! I'll look forward to hearing how the fragrances perform in product.

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    1. Hi, Suzy! Thanks for your comments. It isn't easy to identify a scent in a blind test, but it is fun to try! I hope my nose is getting at least some of these right. :)

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