As a library worker, I must confess that cataloging systems such as Dewey and LoC have a deathless appeal to my systemizing brain. Beneath their great overarching canopy, new topics receive new decimal codes, while established ones remain evergreen, nourished by a constant flow of fresh publications. Every item has its own unique ISBN and OCLC control numbers; upon acquisition, it will also receive an accession number which will never be reused or recycled even after the item is discarded.
Stability in the face of change: what's not to love?
When Perfume Intelligence UK originally compiled its awe-inspiring online Encyclopedia, it classified fragrances according to the letter-number codes used by the Société Française des Parfumeurs. Unlike Michael Edwards' Fragrance Wheel -- whose transparent category names ("Soft Floral", "Dry Woods", "Citrus") can be easily understood by all -- the Société codes are incomprehensible to any but fragrance industry professionals. Like physicians' diagnostic codes or web designers' color hexadecimal numbers (or heck, the Dewey Decimal System), they are simply not made to be comprehended by outsiders.
Geoffrey Beene Perfume (1971; discontinued) had once been designated "B4F" by the Société Française des Parfumeurs. At that time, B4 referred to 'floral-green, flower-based scents with a sap or grassy note'. Perfect. But when the system had to be revised to include emerging fragrance trends, the B4 classification was suddenly and inexplicably swapped with that of B5, or aldehydic florals (featuring "the dryness of powder" -- not at all descriptive of the example at hand). Nowadays Geoffrey Beene Perfume would be classified "B5F": 'a fresh and predominantly green note... added to a floral complex to give a sharp freshness.'
Over in the men's department, conditions are no less confusing. Grey Flannel used to be a "B6M"-- a masculine intense floral, which sounds more than a little off-target. The arrow lands even further away from the bullseye when we account for the shift in Société categories. B6 is now Floral Fruity Woody, a land where peach, apple, plum or apricot notes predominate-- but where Grey Flannel does not even set foot. If we shift it to "B7", which used to be Fruity Floral Woody, we're suddenly back on recognizable territory. B7 now indicates a straight Floral Woody, in which 'the floral note... could be violet, jasmine, rose, lily of the valley or another flower. There are various top notes : citrus, herbaceous in particular... followed by mostly woody, powdery, vanilla like notes.'
Home at last... but still, isn't it rather a long journey?
In this instance, the shortcut isn't much better. Michael Edwards deems Grey Flannel merely "Woody"-- and while this laconic solution satisfies the cedar-lovers among Grey Flannel's fan base, there's a whole meadow full of violets missing from that description. Indeed, Grey Flannel involves a good deal of violets, as well as lemon peel, vetiver, and labdanum; in combination with the aforementioned cedar, all of these make for an entirely reliable fragrance enjoyed by both my spouse and (vicariously) myself.
As for Geoffrey Beene Perfume, it's a galbanum chypre of the type which wears like a classic '70's wrap dress-- eternally chic, immune to the vicissitudes of fashion. I have wisely populated my collection with numerous examples of this ageless fragrance family (Alliage, Azuree, Private Collection, Imprevu, Norell, Via Lanvin, Galore, Di Borghese) which I wear with rock-solid confidence whenever I need to feel utterly secure.
Plus ça change...
Scent Elements: Galbanum, neroli, petitgrain, bergamot, lemon, mimosa, iris, violet, sage, rose, geranium, narcissus, tonka bean, almond, labdanum, vetiver, oakmoss, cedar (Grey Flannel); probably all the same things, with galbanum predominating (Geoffrey Beene Perfume).