In her blog post Wine Fraud and Perfume Reformulation: A Distinction Without a Difference? Sherapop at Salon de Parfum draws our attention to how a specific marketing tactic can be considered fraud in one industry, but is standard practice in another. Wine aficionados are willing to pay a premium for a specific vintage, because wine produced under the same label can vary greatly in taste depending on the harvest. Perfumes, just like wine, are based on natural ingredients; they too have varying scent profiles depending on the given harvest. Roses harvested on a dry and warm year will smell different from those harvested during a cold and wet year. However, unlike wine, perfume is not marked with the year it was produced in.
While the perfume community never fails to notice when their favourite perfumes get reformulated, most of the mainstream perfume producers fail to address the issue. For example, Dior, which uses an small marketing army to uphold the legendary status of its creations, regularly denies any reformulations. Perfumes like Dior Homme by Olivier Polge and Dioresscence by Guy Robert (one of my favourite perfumers) , which were once masterpieces made by the most talented noses, are now completely different from the originals. Because the marketing rests on the legendary status of the originals, Dior continues to claim that the fragrance sold now is the same one as was originally created. In the wine industry this would constitue fraud.
While change is the only constant (Heraclitus), the ways in which you can publicly address perfume reformulation are various. You can simply deny it as many mainstream brands do, or you use social media to reach out to your consumer base like the House of Guerlain regularly does. Guerlain’s chief perfumer Thierry Wasser regularly gives interviews to the perfume community where he comments on the changes in the ingredients used in his perfumes. He explains that due to changes in IFRA regulations, some there are ingredients which can no longer be used, and then goes to great lengths in showing the community what he is doing to maintain the integrity of the original perfume’s structure, whether it is by using synthetic ingredients, or closely related naturals. One such interview can be found here: http://www.basenotes.net/a/the-shoe-fits-an-interview-with-thierry-wasser . Guerlain uses social media to give its consumer base an insight in the process behind the creation of their favourite products. In turn, they are rewarded with a cult following of their products on essentially every internet perfume related resource. They serve as a terrific example how the perfume industry can use transparency in their social media interactions to create a strong relationship with their customers.