Birectifier Analysis of a Perfume, a “masterpiece of weird”

I was re-gifted a fragrance quite a while ago and eventually it dawned on me that it may be educational to fraction it with the birectifier. This may sound like strange territory but the birectifier is a versatile tool and I have already done some wild case studies such as Angostura bitters and Green Chartreuse. If you go way back I had even previously made hand sanitizer from both Pinaud’s Bay Rum and Lilac Vegetal after shaves.

The fragrance in question is Bvlgari Black eau-de-toilette which is a toilette and not a true parfume which would be more concentrated.

The perfume contained roughly 80.2% ABV and it made sense to analyze 25 ml (it was bottled as 75 ml). This means my sample had 20.05 ml of absolute alcohol. Birectifier samples have 100 ml of absolute alcohol and typically amount to 250 ml so I needed neutral supplemental alcohol to make all the congeners align correctly. This means the sample had roughly 20% of the ethanol of a typical birectifier fraction in 10% of the volume. ABV for ABV, the perfume is about 1/5th as concentrated as a regular spirit sample which can be taken into consideration during organoleptic analysis. In the end, I really liked my scaling but would not be afraid to push a larger volume.

To supplement the missing ethanol and being a pandemic, I only had odds and ends. I found some 70.67% light spirit and added 113 ml to make up the remaining 79.95 ml of absolute alcohol. Finally, I added distilled water to reach 250 ml and extra distilled water as a rinse.

The sample louched incredibly and became almost viscous. It is hard to say if this is just oils coming out of solution or if this is due to non-volatile fixative compounds. I was worried the ethanol content may be obscured by the high oil content, but all the temperatures measured in the transition from the 4th to 5th fraction where normal.

Something we could be looking for in high end fragrances are rose ketones like damascenone in fraction 5. Reviews point to aroma descriptors that match those of rose ketones such as black tea. Bvlgari Black was also called a “masterpiece of weird” so it may be interesting to see if we can learn anything about arrangement or even just a sense of beauty. Can beauty found in fragrances we wear teach us anything about beauty we ingest or is it a different thing?

[The louching in fraction 1 and then again 4 was very interesting.]

Fraction 1: Definite louching, but less than fraction 4 and likely due to terpenes. Beautiful generic terpene aroma where you can see how it could add with something else to create focused recognizable aromas. Not as beautiful as what I remember from angostura bitters.

Fraction 2: No louche. Generic terpene aroma, but less concentrated than the first. Nothing distinct. These are the top notes!

Fraction 3: Fairly neutral, but not as neutral as most spirits. Hard to pin down. Possibly with information that came from the same source as the top notes in fractions 1,2.

Fraction 4: Incredibly louched with no obvious oil droplets. Powdery aroma, almost what you find in barbershop talc. Maydalyn called it “perfumey” relative to the others. Fresh, but not citrusy, but it belongs with citrus. Not a citrus derived freshness.

Fraction 5: Incredibly surprising. Not remotely the most concentrated fraction so far. Visible oil droplets all over the surface. Whiffs of rum oil, but nothing like those observed in heavy rum even recognizing that it is 1/5 as concentrated. Not remotely as concentrated as fraction 5’s in full flavored spirits at this scaling. Nothing like the true gloriousness found in great spirit fraction 5’s. Probably not estery. I feel I detected a possible rose ketone aroma and also a vanilla related aroma. If this were a rum, I’d score it lame and I’d be suspicious it was adulterated.

Fraction 6: Again surprising. Oil droplets all over the surface at the same magnitude as fraction 5. Not concentrated at any level that matches the oil presence. A whiff of something acrid, almost burnt and aroma-negative by itself. This is a perfume so it is obviously put there to back something else up, but if this were a spirit it would feel like a flaw. No more rum oil aroma or vanilla related aroma.

Fraction 7: More aromatic than 7, or 8? Or because my dog briefly interrupted me and my nose took a rest? The separated oil is substantial, but different than 5,6. The droplets are larger with two very large ones dominating the center then smaller ones at the periphery. The aroma seems most akin to fraction 4. Almost powdery. Possibly like a sandlewood/cedar, but with not enough information? Slightly cloying. It vaguely feels like this is the part of the perfume that would give me a headache. Madalyn says “heavy and oppressive.” There is weight, but nothing solid or dense like a vanilla. It merely hangs on you dragging you down.

Fraction 8: Wow, a rubbery aroma-negative character that is no doubt there for a reason, but still hard to understand. A little bit brimstoney and ominous. Acrid. Madalyn did not agree with my descriptors, but thought the general negativity was on point.

When I first started fractioning, I was sure I would be stopping at fraction 6, such as I had done with most gins because of a lack of information in the later fractions. Seeing all the oil droplets appear it definitely made sense to keep going and its amazing how differentiated each of the later fractions were. It really shows the power of both the birectifier and the eight fraction concept. This turned out to be an extremely cool exercise.

This is the cheapest way to do any of this analysis and in many cases is far more insightful than a GCMS results print out because of the olfactometry experience. The tool is simple to operate and can even be delegated to many staff members. Interpretation can even be collective and this session had two evaluators.

Overnight the first fraction louche separated. This illustrates a lot and may teach us about the behavior of the most volatile terpenes as well as how they can be decanted before the second distillation of a triple-sec. If the diluted first fraction of your orange-liqueur is not as clear as a role model, you may need to decant terpenes as described by Joseph Merory. Do not forget, one reason we remove a portion of the most volatile terpenes is because they cast olfactory shadows and its a method of contrast enhancement.

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