Go Beast Mode With Powerful Scents

Go Beast Mode With Powerful Scents

What scents will get you compliments?

Perhaps there’s a good reason perfume starts with the letter p: power. As searches for ‘beast mode’ scents increase, is there such a thing as too much fragrance?

Admittedly if someone sprayed their scent 50 times and walked into a bar, we might be opening windows, or making a run for it, but overall there’s a growth in interest for perfumes that make a definite impression.

Just as longevity has become more important, our scents have to work harder for us, so we can be sure other people will notice them. Why? Because, actually, having someone compliment us on our scent, by saying “wow, I love what you’re wearing” can make our day. There’s nothing wrong with wanting this. Yes we can choose perfumes that give us pleasure, no matter what anyone else thinks, but it’s still nice if others appreciate our chosen scent.

These days this is less about attraction or seduction and more about being noticed generally - feeling validated and present. All part of the jostle for status which is a natural part of being human and totally normal.

Compliments often mean your scent is noticeable. Some of us want the equivalent of ‘stadium scents’. Ok they might not fill an arena but they’ll definitely spread around a party. Some of us want a bit more to be more subtle, but still registered by someone when meeting them for the first time.

Essentially, compliment-worthy scents don’t have to be big, but the two concepts often go hand-in-hand.

  • What scents will get you compliments?
  • What are Beast Mode Scents?
  • Are powerful perfumes something to do with sillage?
  • What perfume ingredients will get you noticed?
  • What ingredients will boost my perfume’s power?
  • How can I apply my perfume so it’s more noticeable?
  • MOVE
  • I don’t notice my perfume but others can. Why?
  • Do You Like Tiger Perfumes Or Kitten Perfumes?

What are Beast Mode Scents?

‘Beast mode’ describes high-impact scents that are super powerful, super long-lasting, and will receive lots of compliments. It’s a newish phrase, not without controversy, but beast perfumes have existed for a long time in some form.

In the 19th century writers talked about London’s fancy indoor shopping arcades and theatres reeking of particular perfumes, everyone clamouring to be noticed by advertising their taste in the latest fashionable fragrance. Heady scents with spicy floral notes like carnation and heliotrope were particularly on point.

Some scents of the 1920s were incredibly punchy and muscular, especially as they had to compete with the inevitable fug of cigarette smoke (you could even buy scents designed to perfume cigarettes). Many of them featured powerful and deep tobacco and leather notes, or warm bases rich in vanilla.

The last time we had beast perfumes in the mainstream was the 1980s, when infamous perfumes like Poison by Christian Dior, Kouros by Yves Saint Laurent, and Giorgio Beverly Hills were best-sellers. The scent equivalent of shoulder pads, these were perfect for those wanting to show they were made of serious stuff and ready for an appointment on the board of directors.

The heavy-hitting floral Giorgio Beverly Hills became so infamous that some restaurants in New York banned it for interfering with the food. Its notoriety meant this scent became a bit of a pre-internet meme.

In the 1990s there was a reaction against powerful perfumes and towards the understated: lean green tea perfumes, the low-key Issey Mikake, and the gender-neutral CK1. Yes, huge scents were definitely still being released, and had their devoted fans, but they weren’t defining the zeitgeist. In the west, the sensibility until recently has been to be super considerate of other peoples’ personal space and therefore to be more discreet with our scents.

But now, when we want to go out, we want to go OUT, and the pendulum is tipping back towards making a statement.

Are powerful perfumes something to do with sillage?

The technical industry term for a perfume’s power is ‘sillage’. This is a French term that refers to the waves made in the water by the movement of a ship. So we’re saying our perfume makes waves. If we’re the boat, we’re making ripples far out to sea….

Here are some other terms we can use to talk about our perfume’s footprint:

Diffusion - which originates from the Latin term for ‘pour out’. When perfumers evaluate ingredients on scent strips, they are interested among other things in how diffusive it is: do you have to get right up close to smell it, or can you detect it from five paces away?

Bloom - This is a poetic way to imagine a scent opening up and releasing its potency into the air.

Scent Trail - the invisible path of breadcrumbs that someone catches on the air, and which leads straight back to us.

Overdose - An overdose happens when a perfumer adds a very generous amount of one material, or a small blend of materials known as an ‘accord’, to give a powerful effect or to tip it strongly in a particular direction. Overdoses in scent can be accidental or on purpose. They sound enticing and dangerous, so the term’s often used in marketing - ‘Oh we added an overdose of rose absolute,’ a perfumer might say. This basically makes you think ‘wow this is a wild and exciting perfume.’

What perfume ingredients will get you noticed?

In order to create powerful scents, perfumers have different options. They can identify ingredients that have a low odour threshold. This means you don’t need to inhale many of the individual molecules to notice it. The opposite of this is a HIGH odour threshold which means you’d need to breathe in a lot of molecules to have a chance of your brain clocking the smell.

A low odour threshold means that if a small amount is sprayed in a room your nose has a great chance of getting a molecule to your receptors so your brain can go ‘yep, I’m getting that.’ A great example of a specific material is vanillin, which is found naturally in vanilla pods but can also be synthesised including from wood chips. Added to fragrance, vanillin is the soft-serve ice cream version of natural vanilla, lacking the smoky complexity but possessing all the fun, nostalgic sweetness - and it happens to be perceptible even in small amounts.

Perfumers also look for high diffusion materials, which can whizz round a room and fill a space.

Here are some of the materials classically used in the fragrance industry for their power:

Ambrox - There is a group of ‘amber-smelling’ perfumery materials which often go by names like Ambroxan or Ambrox. They’re made by different fragrance manufacturers, who often have their own house names for this type of material.

Ambrox doesn’t smell like amber - the semi-precious stone - which is odourless. Instead the name comes from ‘ambergris’, the waxy material emitted by the sperm whale, which historically is a prized material in fragrance for its complex, long-lasting aroma. Ambrox is the modern, animal-free take on this sort of odour profile. It smells powerfully dry, warm, woody, often quite ‘clean’. Ambrox molecules are highly diffusive even though they are large, so will spread through a space quickly.

Dihydromyrcenol - This smells like a sci-fi lime. Powerful, fresh, a bit futuristic. Dihydromyrcenol was used a lot in powerful men’s scents of the 1980s, like Drakkar Noir, to give heft. It’s also used in functional products like cleaning sprays as it smells impressively, impossibly clean. Dihydromyrcenol has a really low detection threshold, so you need only a tiny bit to register it. And as a molecule it has a polar structure (meaning it has areas with a positive and negative charge). This polar structure makes it more soluble in water. It therefore dissolves more easily in the mucous in our nose. This mucous transports it to our scent receptors, helping us to detect it easily.

Schiff Bases - These are named after one of history’s most famous chemists. They’re created when you put together two different molecules which are reactive. In perfumery they’re often made from something called an ‘amine’, together with an ‘aldehyde’. Both these molecules have atoms in them that make them keen to bond with others.

When you mix the two together they produce heat and condensation, and react to form a new compound. This can have a totally different smell to the original two molecules. Schiff bases can smell like powerful orange flowers - think honeyed, slightly soapy blossoms. Some smell more like a marine, aquatic fragrance.

As well as smelling pretty strong in their own right, they also help other materials to get out there and join the party. Schiff Bases were used a lot in those harcore perfumes of the 1980s like Christian Dior’s Poison and Giorgio Beverly Hills. Think absolutely massive diffusion.

There’s a problem though: by focussing on these ingredients, they can dominate the rest of the formulation. So if you just smell of ‘ambrox’ it can be generic and not particularly distinctive.

The trick is to include enough to boost the power of a scent, but to allow all the other ingredients to shine too so you get the complexity and artistry of the whole creation.

What ingredients will boost my perfume’s power?

Perfumery is full of clever tricks. Some ingredients are powerful in their own right. There are others which are the amplifiers. They might not smell of much in isolation, but add them to a blend and they add lift-off and diffusion to your fragrance. Here are some of the most important:

Iso E Super™ - This is a dry, woody-smelling material that many of us can’t smell in isolation. Read on in this guide to find out why. But it has the power to amplify any scent to which it’s added. Iso E Super often makes other ingredients smell ‘more’ of themselves. Spray it onto a concrete wall, and you might notice ‘essence of concrete’ wafting towards you whereas before you didn’t think the wall had a smell. Mix it with a rose and the rosey scent will seem more 3D and of itself. Iso E Super is in many commercial fragrances. It’s also in several famous ‘your skin but better’ scents.

Hedione™ - Smelling like very airy jasmine, without any of the darker elements, this material is a synthetic aroma chemical which was first created in the 1950s. When it was first used noticeably in a perfume in the 1960s (for Dior’s Eau Sauvage), it changed the industry. Hedione™ plays nicely with lots of ingredients, and can boost a fragrance’s diffusion while keeping a lightness of touch. Fascinatingly (and see more below), lots of us can’t detect it on its own but can smell its effect when blended. Often if a perfume seems a bit flat, Hedione™ could just be the answer.

Aldehydes - Give the champagne effect to a fragrance. There are several different organic compounds known as aldehydes, which have different numbers to indicate how many carbon chains they include (like C11 and C12). Some of them smell like expressed orange rind, others smell very waxy They were notoriously ‘overdosed’ in Chanel No 5 to give its amazing effervescent opening. It’s almost as if they can make a perfume jump from being 2D to 3D. Some of the aldehydes quality might be perceived as ‘vintage’ today so they need to be included cleverly to blend in and not stand out, unless you’re fully going for the retro vibe.

Synthetic Musks - With futuristic sounding trade names like Galaxolide™ and Tonalid™, synthetic musks add a nuzzle, powdery warmth to perfumes (and laundry products where you want your clothes to smell clean and inviting). They help to underline a scent, boost its power and help the other ingredients to unfurl. Interestingly a lot of us are unable to smell certain musks - read on for more.

How can I apply my perfume so it’s more noticeable?

Want to boost your scent’s power so it fills a room and gets you noticed? Here are some easy tips:


This sounds obvious but simply spray an extra couple of times. If you’re not sure how much is too much, it’s worth checking with a close friend how your levels are, because we might not realise our scent’s gone totally out of control. Other people might find it much more powerful than us because they’re not used to it. And just as at a gig we don’t want to press our ear right up to the speaker because it will distort the sound (and destroy our hearing), sometimes drenching ourselves in scent will mean it’s too intense to appreciate.


You can also try reapplying your perfume just before you arrive somewhere and want to make an entrance. This replaces more of the small, volatile molecules which whizz around the air more freely and help it to bloom. These molecules are the ones which might evaporate more quickly, so a top up adds the boost you need.


Think about where on the body you spray. If you usually apply fragrance to your wrists, try spraying a little higher up on your body so the scent is closer to nose level, and more detectable. We often have our hands down by our sides which probably doesn’t help. Chest, neck, hair or behind the ears is good.


Whether dancing or walking around a room, movement helps the scent molecules dislodge from your skin and get out into the air. For more on this, read our super-guide on long-lasting perfumes.

I don’t notice my perfume but others can. Why?

Ever walked down the street and caught someone’s amazing scent trail, wishing yours did the same thing? Well, it possibly is! You just can’t smell it. This is because of habituation.

If we keep registering all the sensory input we get through the day we’d be exhausted and wired. We wouldn’t have bandwidth to do anything, and would probably be in a frazzled heap on the floor. We have to continually let things go, to be able to focus on something else.

Once our brain has registered something we often tune it out. This can happen with any sensory stimulation including sound. Ever realise you’ve totally zoned out of your podcast and have no idea what anyone was talking about? Yep. With smell, our brain is telling us this odour isn’t a threat to us, and we can carry on.

So if we want to keep noticing our perfume, we can switch it up to keep stimulating our brain with novelty. Some people who wear the same perfume for decades can no longer smell it at all, but having a wardrobe of a few very different styles of fragrances gives us the contrast we need to continually appreciate how we smell. An alternative is to take a break from our perfume for a couple of days before going back to it.

We also know that a lot of large molecules that add power to fragrance are so large we might not all be able to smell them.

Everyone has their own pattern of olfactory receptors at the top of our noses - the docking stations that pick up the smells when we breathe. This is a little like how some people are colour blind, except with the sense of smell, ALL of us have particular odours we won’t notice. It’s really hard to know what they are, because….well we can’t smell them.

This phenomenon is called ‘selective anosmia’. Anosmia refers to a lack of sense of smell. In this case it’s selective because this lack only applies to certain molecules. There may be genetic reasons behind some of this. Other materials might fatigue our nose so we can smell them for a few breaths, then they seem to disappear. This whole area is still unproven and there is more research to understand more about selective anosmia.

Interestingly, it’s not a blanket thing. There are a few different musk materials used in perfumery, and often we’ll smell some of them but not others. This is why perfumers will often blend a few different musks into a product so they know most of us should be able to smell at least one of them.

It’s also possible to build up the ability to detect these materials. If you smell them a lot, as perfumers do, after a while your receptors will start to register them. So far, researchers don’t know exactly how long this takes, or how much exposure you need of a particular material, but the more you try smelling, the more likely you are eventually to one day go: “I’ve smell it now.”

Sometimes you might be able to smell a material once it’s blended in a perfume, or a few hours after application onto a scent strip. When it’s freshly sprayed those molecules lodge in your receptors and ‘knock them out’. But after a few hours, you’ll inhale fewer molecules and will have more of a chance of noticing them. This is a particularly strange case of ‘less is more.’

Do You Like Tiger Perfumes Or Kitten Perfumes?

So to recap, there are lots of ways you can make a perfume powerful and noticeable, hopefully aiding those nods of approval when you walk past.

But high-impact scents aren’t for everyone. It’s totally fine to prefer something more subtle, and as we constantly try to reinforce at Diem, you’re the expert in your taste. Some of us might want to catch a Tiger, some of us might be more into kittens.

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