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The World of Digital Perfume Finders

LET ME BEGIN with a disclaimer: I am not your average fragrance consumer. I have been a beauty editor for 10 years, which has afforded me unprecedented access to hundreds of perfumes, often before they come to market. My fragrance affections being fleeting, however, I still find myself in search of that elusive 'signature scent': an early love affair with a cyprus-tinged men's scent from L'Occitane preceded a brief fling with Costume National's Scent Sheer, which I recently followed with a multiparty tryst starring Acqua di Parma's Colonia, Byredo's Seven Veils and Frédéric Malle's Geranium Pour Monsieur.

Last March, I'd grown tired of them all. Wandering the streets of Paris while in the city covering fashion shows, I walked into Nose, a newly opened perfume shop in the Second Arrondissement. Intrigued, I sat down at the perfume bar, and a bearded, bow-tied gentleman in jeans assisted me with one of the iPads ranged along the counter. The tablet-and the denim-were signs that a department-store fragrance-buying experience, this wasn't.

That said, it's increasingly less rare to find a digital element in the perfume world. The fragrance-technology industry has been growing steadily, with iPhone apps like reference tool 'The Ultimate Perfume Encyclopedia' and personality-driven scent-seeker 'Perfumance.' Last year, the Japanese company ChatPerf Inc. launched 'Scentee,' a small atomizer that plugs into a smartphone's headphone jack and mists a preloaded scent to notify you of an email or as an alarm.

At Nose, my affable adviser turned out to be one of the store's founders, Nicolas Cloutier, a former international I.T.-management consultant turned perfume purveyor. 'We are geeks who are good at art direction,' Mr. Cloutier later said of himself and a few of the seven partners with whom he launched the shop.

Using the iPad's touch screen, I entered the names of my favorite perfumes, allowing the system's algorithm to create a personal 'olfactive pyramid,' which then produced five personalized recommendations. Key to the Nose experience was a blind sniff test of each scent, intended to de-emphasize packaging, a strategy in line with the store's ethos: to help consumers find fragrances 'without the marketing bulls-t,' Mr. Cloutier said.

And it worked. I walked out with Etat Libre d'Orange's Fils de Dieu du Riz et des Agrumes, a spicy Oriental with hints of ginger, shiso and leather that snapped me right out of my fragrance rut. Nose's algorithm-currently available online, and soon to debut at a second brick-and-mortar branch in the U.S.-made me ponder the idea of online-dating my way to true perfume love.

Sephora's Scentsa Fragrance Finder is similar in concept. Launched in 2008, entrepreneur Jan Moran's algorithm was designed to demystify scent selection by pairing a psychological quiz with a detailed database of the over 800 scents available at the beauty behemoth. Last August, Sephora bought Ms. Moran's technology, which is now only available in their stores. The company plans to unveil extensive updates to Scentsa this fall. To try the current incarnation, I headed to my local outpost earlier this month.

Its 'impression quiz' immediately struck me as outdated. The six questions, which touched on personal style, leisure, travel and design preferences used photos so generic they were borderline unrelatable. Even though I was dressed in a vintage parka, chunky-heeled ankle boots and a knit beanie, I was given a 'sophisticated, refined and elegant' perfume prescription of six upmarket designer scents-all of which I knew, none of which I liked.

Feeling discouraged, I chose to 'Search By Scent Type' instead and selected the 'Spicy Woody Oriental' option from the 'Warm and Spicy' tab. This path yielded two good suggestions-Fresh's Cannabis Santal and Atelier Cologne's Bois Blondes. I was already familiar with both, but, were I not, I could have sampled them at the store. However, anyone who lacked the vocabulary to correctly identify their preferred 'fragrance family' might find this second path tricky.

I had the same reaction to four-year-old app iPerfumer when I downloaded it onto my iPhone last month. Created in 2010 by Swiss fragrance house Givaudan, the app requires you to enter your age and gender and then rate perfumes you already know on a five-star scale. Its algorithm matches those fragrances to similar scents that have been rated by your fellow app users.

Though iPerfumer is updated every four months, Givaudan's head of communications, Linda Harman, admitted that keeping the database au courant is a challenge. To wit, not a single Byredo fragrance was detected by the algorithm. However, my Acqua di Parma, Frédéric Malle and Costume National picks did register, and produced a few intriguing results, including Gris Clair from Serge Lutens and Commes des Garçons Peppermint Series 5: Sherbet. I headed out to a store to try the latter. iPerfumer can't sell you a scent; it can only inform your choice.

Still, the system seemed arbitrary and limited, especially if you have little brand knowledge, or lack the vocabulary needed for the program's search options-a common problem, according to sensory psychologist and Givaudan alum, Avery Gilbert. 'If you talk about 'semi-green notes with overtones of ylang ylang,' it just goes right past the consumer,' said Mr. Gilbert, a consultant who has spent three decades trying to decode the language of scent. This expertise put him in high demand with the founders of another company called Pinrose.

Pinrose, a San Francisco-based perfumer that launched in February, features a Scent Finder rooted in synesthesia-a rare neurological condition that causes people to cross wires in their senses, e.g. hearing colors. However, said Mr. Gilbert, 'everybody, to some degree, has these associational connections.'

The company was started by Erika Shumate and Christine Luby, who met at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. The scent finder, which you access through their website, starts with an obvious question: 'How experienced are you with perfume?' Then it asks you to select your preferences from different shapes, colors and even audio files, before offering three recommendations from Pinrose's collection of 10 perfumes. These are mailed to you (for $1 a set) as scented towelettes. You have the option to buy a 1-ounce bottle of your final choice for $50. In my case, it was Campfire Rebel, a scent with traces of oud-wood and vanilla bourbon that appealed to me, as did the Pinterest board and the Black Keys song on its product page.

Pinrose's multisensory point of view isn't traditional, but there's something to it. There's also something to its competitors, to varying degrees. I may still be searching for my signature, but I'll certainly make further use of these tools to do so. Said Mr. Gilbert of these digital fragrance finders' ability to play matchmaker: 'There's a little bit of magic in them.'

Scent-Finding Technology at a Glance
Can telling a computer your drink of choice or your favorite color help unearth a perfume you'll love for life? A breakdown of four tools that would like to try

Scentsa Fragrance Finder

Launched: 2008

How it works: An image-based questionnaire about lifestyle preferences, e.g. 'My go-to drink is...' It requires a visit to a Sephora shop to interact with an in-store console. On the plus side, you can sample and buy your recommended scent right there. Stay tuned for version 2.0, which comes out later this year.

What it Chose for Me: Bois Blonds Cologne ($200, sephora.com ). It was a predictable recommendation, which I didn't pursue.


Launched: 2010

How it works: With this smartphone app (available for iOS and Android), you rate perfumes you know; that information is used to suggest scents rated by fellow users. You then have to seek out the product to try or buy. The process seems random but, in my case, it was effective.

What it Chose for Me: Peppermint: Series 5 Sherbet Eau de Toilette ($45, Comme des Garçons, 212-604-9200). It was the best recommendation I received from all four tools. I didn't ultimately buy it, though.


Launched: 2012

How it works: An evaluation, completed either online ( nose.fr ) or in a Nose shop, creates a personal 'olfactive pyramid' based on three past or current favorites to suggest your future signature scent. Online users in Europe can have samples mailed to them.

What it Chose for Me: Etat Libre d'Orange Fils De Dieu Du Riz Et Des Agrumes Eau de Parfum ($80, min.com ). Though I bought the perfume and still use it occasionally, it is not, alas, my spritzy soul mate.


Launched: 2014

How it works: An online evaluation gathers your responses to nine questions about your style and preferred scents as well as your favorite colors and music. Samples of the three recommendations are sent to you for $1, with the option to buy a full-size bottle for $50.

What it Chose for Me: Of the three scents, I liked Campfire Rebel Eau de Parfum ($50, pinrose.com ) the best. I didn't buy it, but may in the future.

我想先说一下免责声明:我不是普通的香水消费者。我做美容编辑已经10年了,所以我有机会接触到数百种香水,而且通常是在产品上市之前。我对每款香水的感情都是转瞬即逝,但是我仍然在寻找那个难以捉摸的专属我的味道:最早喜欢欧舒丹(L'Occitane)的一款塞浦路斯男士香水,后来爱上Costume National的Scent Sheer,最近又陆续尝试了Acqua di Parma的Colonia、Byredo的Seven Veils、Frederic Malle的Geranium Pour Monsieur。

去年3月,我对这些香水都开始厌倦了。后来我去巴黎报道时装秀。在街上溜达的时候我走进了Nose,一家在第二区(Second Arrondissement)新开的香水店。出于好奇,我在吧台坐了下来,柜台上放了一排iPad。一位留着胡子、打着领结、穿着牛仔裤的先生拿了一个iPad为我服务。平板电脑还有牛仔裤是百货商场香水购买体验的一部分内容,但这里并不是百货商场。

不过话又说回来,数字元素在香水店是越来越常见了。香水科技行业一直在稳步发展,推出了很多iPhone应用程序,比如参考工具“终极香水百科”(The Ultimate Perfume Encyclopedia),还有搜索个性香水的“Perfumance”。去年,日本的ChatPerf Inc.公司推出了“Scentee”,这是一个小型香水喷瓶,可以插入智能手机的耳机接口,预装香水后可以喷出香水提醒你有新邮件或者闹钟提醒。

Nose香水店这位和蔼可亲的导购竟是该店创始人之一尼古拉斯·克卢捷(Nicolas Cloutier)。他以前是国际信息技术管理顾问,后来做起了香水生意。克卢捷后来评价自己以及该店另七位合伙人中的几位说:“我们是擅长做艺术指导的极客。”

纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com/


这种方法的确奏效了。我选了Etat Libre d'Orange的Fils de Dieu du Riz et des Agrumes,这是一款辛辣香料味的东方香型香水,带有一丝姜、紫苏和皮革的香味,它立刻把我从香水选择困境中解救了出来。Nose的程序让我开始琢磨通过在线匹配找到香水真爱的概念。目前Nose的程序在网上可以找到,不久Nose的第二家实体店将会登陆美国。

丝芙兰(Sephora)的Scentsa Fragrance Finder也是类似概念。该程序由创业家简·莫兰(Jan Moran)于2008年推出,借助一项心理测试以及涵盖800多种香水的详细数据库,让香水选择变得不再神秘高深。去年8月,丝芙兰收购了莫兰的技术,目前该程序仅限在丝芙兰专卖店里使用。丝芙兰计划今年秋季对Scentsa进行大规模更新。为了尝试目前的这款程序,上个月我去了当地的一家丝芙兰。


我感到很失望,于是选择了“按香型搜索”,从“温暖辛辣”选项里选择了“辛辣东方木香”。系统给出了两个不错的推荐——Fresh的Cannabis Santal和Atelier Cologne的Bois Blondes。我对这两款香水很熟悉,但如果不熟悉的话,我肯定会在店里试用的。不过,如果缺乏正确判断喜欢的“香水家族”的词汇,可能会发现这种搜索方式很难用。


虽然iPerfumer每四个月更新一次,但是Givaudan的传播主管琳达·哈尔曼(Linda Harman)承认,保持数据库时刻处于最新状态是一个挑战。难怪Byredo的所有香水都没被检测到。不过我选的Acqua di Parma、Frederic Malle 和 Costume National香水都记录在案,而且系统给出了几个吸引人的结果,包括Serge Lutens的Gris Clair,还有Commes des Garcons的 Peppermint Series 5: Sherbet。我去了一家香水店试了后面那款香水。iPerfumer并不销售香水,只会告诉你适合你的选择。

尽管如此,这个系统还是有点随机和局限,特别是如果你对品牌知识了解甚少,或者对程序搜素选项所需的词汇不熟悉的话——曾供职于Givaudan的感官心理学家埃弗瑞·吉尔伯特(Avery Gilbert)表示,这是一个普遍的问题。他说:“如果你说‘散发依兰香气的绿叶香型’,系统是无法领会的。”吉尔伯特从事顾问咨询工作,他花了30年时间试图解开香水语言的密码。这项技能让他备受Pinrose公司创始人的青睐。


Pinrose由艾瑞卡·舒梅特(Erika Shumate)和克里斯汀·鲁比(Christine Luby)创立,二人结识于斯坦福大学(Stanford University)商学院。Pinrose的香氛搜索工具可以在公司网站上找到。该工具最开始会提出一个平淡无奇的问题:“你对香水有多熟悉?”然后会要求你从不同的形状、颜色甚至音频文件里选择喜欢的选项,接着从Pinrose的10种香水里做出三款推荐。这三款香水会以纸巾的形式邮寄给你(每套一美元)。你可以选择以50美元购买一瓶一盎司的最后选择的香水。我最后的选择是Campfire Rebel,它带有我喜欢的沉香木和波旁香草香味,公司的Pinterest页面以及产品页面上的Black Keys乐队的歌曲我也很喜欢。




Scentsa Fragrance Finder



为我推荐的香水:Bois Blonds Cologne(售价200美元,sephora.com有售)。这是一款预料之中的推荐,但是我并未购买。



为我推荐的香水:Peppermint: Series 5 Sherbet Eau de Toilette(售价45美元,Comme des Garcons有售,订购电话212-604-9200)。这是四个工具为我推荐的香水中最好的一款。不过最后我没买。



运作方式:用户在网上( nose.fr )或Nose专卖店里做一份测试,系统会根据用户过去或现在最喜欢的三款香水制作出一个“气味金字塔”,从而为用户找出以后的专属香水。欧洲的在线用户可选择邮寄小样。

为我推荐的香水:Etat Libre d'Orange Fils De Dieu Du Riz Et Des Agrumes Eau de Parfum (80美元,min.com有售)。虽然我买了这款香水,现在偶尔还会用,但可惜它不是我的灵魂伴侣。




为我推荐的香水:三款香水中我最喜欢Campfire Rebel Eau de Parfum(售价50美元,pinrose.com有售)。当时没买,但以后可能会买。



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