Why does the Chanel No. 5 that I bought twenty years ago smell different than the bottle I got for my birthday last week?

There are 2 good reasons…


Sometimes the producer has to change the formula. Before a perfume is released, the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) must test it in order to confirm that the ratio of the ingredients is safe, even if they are natural oils such as rose or jasmine. Believe it or not, IFRA go so far as to ban some natural ingredients in certain perfumes.

In order to receive an IFRA certificate and get the go ahead, the perfume house must comply with several regulations. Not only that, perfumes are subject to ongoing testing and changes in regulations, even after release. IFRA may require a perfume house to limit certain ingredients, or even eliminate them entirely.

Back in 2014, Chanel was forced to change their No. 5 formula because IFRA found that one of its ingredients was a skin irritant. This means that the bottle you bought a long time ago doesn’t smell the same as the newest bottle you just received, simply because the ingredients are different.


If the formula hasn’t been altered at all, there is a second possible reason for the difference in scent. Perfumes go through a process called maceration, which is key to developing fragrance.

Over time, a perfume’s scent qualities continue to evolve. Maceration involves letting the fragrance develop for up to 6 months, during which time it is repeatedly tested to establish the moment when the perfume is at its best and ready for sale.

But perfumes often continue to macerate and develop even after they have been bottled, which could explain why the older version of your perfume smells a little different to your newer one.

When creating your own scents, maceration is an important factor. Be patient and let your fragrances develop to their full potential rather than being in a rush to get them on the market.

Learn more about perfumery on the FREE Fragrance 101 course at the Scent School by Melanie Jane

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