What happens when a perfume ingredient is banned?
Imagine a word is banned, imagine the word ‘fair’ is no longer allowed to be used. There are several replacement words you could use, so whilst this is annoying, is it really a big deal?
If you are writing something new, about someone with fair hair, you could instead say pale hair, or blonde; if you were expressing that something was unfair, maybe you say it’s ‘not OK’. To use ‘not OK’ loses some meaning which is unfortunate but if you think harder, be more creative with the sentence you could gain some meaning back with ‘unjust’ or ‘biased’.
Imagine, you want to write ‘the fun of the fairground was too distant a memory’. To avoid ‘fair’, you could consider ‘playground’, or ‘dodgems’ or even ‘candy floss filled nostrils’. None of the alternatives capture the original meaning or efficiency of the sentence. However, if the banned word is so bad that it shouldn’t be used, then these small efforts would be worthwhile.
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
The far trickier problem is what do you do about all the writing which already exists? If the word is so bad that it’s banned, this means removing and replacing the word everywhere it’s already been used. This is a significant problem. You must find all the places the banned word is used in work that has already been distributed and within work in progress. Then, determine the context of its use and work out what is the most appropriate replacement? ‘Working out’ is a combination of applying experience, experimentation and assessment.
For example, if the banned ingredient is very strong and unique, replacing it might only be possible reviewing each perfume in turn. If the banned ingredient smells very similar to others, you might get lucky and, from an odour perspective, you could do the equivalent of ‘find and replace’. Except… ‘find and replace’ is only possible if the impacts on fragrance cost, stability and regulation status are tolerable. To continue the writing analogy would be like saying the successful replacement of the banned word also depended on matching the font, including size and style, that was present in the original work.
For example, ‘Are you going to Scarborough Fair?’ could be replaced with ‘Are you going to Scarborough Fete?’, but it would be uncomfortable if we replaced it with ‘Are you going to Scarborough FETE?’.
Having made the best replacements possible, you then need to re-publish the works. It’s time consuming, costly and you hope the replacement doesn’t detract from the readers appreciation of the original work. During this lengthy process, you keep your fingers crossed no other words get banned, hoping that ‘blond’ and ‘unjust’ remain possible to use.
The process outlined above is effectively what happens when a fragrance ingredient is banned. Fortunately, a ban is very rare, but the amount of work involved in dealing with a ban means the mere threat of it can drive the ingredient into decline, potentially changing the commercial viability of it.
Indeed, if an ingredient is under the spotlight, perfumers and their perfume houses may think twice about using it, just in case there’s a problem later. In new developments, they might avoid the potential problem and choose a fragrance synonym instead. When you are designing a fragrance you can choose to tell the scented story as you wish; at this stage the customers expectation doesn’t yet exist, they have no idea where you are taking them.
Are you going to Scarborough Fair / Fete / Festival?