When I posted an article about the impending creation of an official UT fragrance on the Texas Exes Facebook page back in June, our astute (and opinionated!) alumni didn’t hesitate to weigh in on the ingredient list—suggesting everything from the smell of leather and orange blossoms to that of Jester and grackle droppings.
Today, I had the opportunity to participate in a focus group for the upcoming UT perfume and cologne, which are both set to debut around Valentine’s Day next year. And let me assure you: there wasn’t a note of dingy dormitory to be found.
A handful of UT staff members crowded into the Athletic Director’s conference room in the stadium this afternoon to serve as official scent sniffers. The chosen few included representatives from UT’s Central Communications, the University Co-op, and the Texas Fan Shop—plus one lucky Alcalde assistant editor.
Katie Masik, CEO and founder of Masik Collegiate Fragrances, made her first trip to Austin from New York for the occasion. Her company, which was founded in 2008, currently carries fragrances for 17 other universities across the U.S., including Alabama, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M ( imagine what THAT one smells like). According to Masik, a University of Texas fragrance has been the most requested since she started the company five years ago, so it was high time to get one in the works.
Masik came equipped with six potential scents, three for women and three for men. After showing an informative video about the company—which I’m sad to report heavily featured the Aggie fight song—Masik gave us a “fragrance inspiration briefing,” AKA a rundown of how her perfumers choose ingredients for each collegiate fragrance.
“Each of our scents is inspired by real elements of each school,” Masik told us. For UT, those elements included our school colors of burnt orange and white, leathery accents like cowboy boots, bluebonnets, and even the architecture of the Tower.
Focus group showrunner Martita Huntress, a coordinator in UT’s Trademarks Licensing Office, passed around test strips of each fragrance one by one while Masik explained the science behind top, middle, and base notes. (For fragrance novices like myself, top notes are the scents that hit you immediately; middle notes, or what Masik calls “the heart of the fragrance,” appear about half an hour after putting it on; and base notes are the heavier, muskier smells.) To preserve the integrity of the scents, the complimentary cookies were even removed from the room as to not disturb our sensitive nostrils.
Aromatic patchouli, iced mandarin, smoldering amber, textural cashmere woods—each fragrance had an astounding 10 notes that were layered to achieve the full effect. We were asked to rank the three perfumes and three colognes from most favorite to least; a focus group of students was asked to do the same earlier this morning.
My personal favorite of the perfumes was nicknamed “I Love UT”—though I’m told the official names will be simply “University of Texas For Her and For Him”—and contained notes of sparkling blood orange, Bulgarian rose, sueded musk, and caramelized patchouli. My top-ranked cologne, nicknamed with the clever “Hook ’em Horns,” included Mandarin pulp, aged Bourbon accord, and golden amber.
When they launch in February, the official UT fragrances will be available in 1.7-ounce bottles priced at $39.50. Masik says her company is also working on a body spray, expected to be at the $9.99 price-point, that will debut in 2014.
After the focus group, I smelled of 60 different notes and had a slight headache, but I’m happy to say I made a small difference on the Forty Acres today. Now we’ll just have to wait and see which one they pick.
Photo courtesy thinkstock.