In Search of Big Foot and the Super-Charged GIT !

When I was quite young I remember being frightened by that “In Search of…” show hosted by Leonard Nimoy. Looking back on it, the music likely was largely responsible, because I didn’t understand much of what was being claimed. And I was a rather trusting child, so I don’t think I understood that there could be absolute nonsense broadcast on a “major network.” Nor did my parents explain to me that it was meant to be entertainment, though they probably should not have allowed me to watch it at all. However, there is clearly a percentage of the population that become “true believers,” and it doesn’t matter what argument you make or what evidence you present to them. Fortunately, I entered graduate school at a young age and learned about how to assess evidence – that helped me avoid spending a lot of time “chasing ghosts.”

Speaking of which, on a recent thread, a rather strange claim was made about a sealed Green Irish Tweed bottle:

When I got this bottle, there were a couple other people on BN complaining that it was extremely weak and light juice, no longevity at all. I didn’t have this experience, I’d wear 2 sprays and it would last around 6 hours. However, months later and my lord, my juice has matured a TON! Only one spray (and from a distance at that, i couldn’t even wear a whole spray) is CRAZY potent.

I pointed out that in a sealed bottle, there can’t be an incredible surge in strength without the smell being different, but one person who seemed to think he had a scientific explanation, made this claim:

If the precursors that they originally mix aren’t as strong smelling until after oxidation, then in that respect there are MORE of the strong-smelling, oxidized molecules (and fewer unoxidized molecules) post oxidation. In other words, if A –> B, after a while there will be more B and less A. If B has a stronger scent than A, then the result will be a stronger smelling perfume.

What I find especially humorous about this notion is that if this was the case, perfume companies would have figured this out long ago, and then they would be able to use less ingredients to create the same effect. In any case, this was my response to that statement:

Nobody is contesting that, though. The point I’m making is that A is not going to smell the same as B but much stronger. One molecule that is likely in GIT in fairly large amounts is linalool [I could have also mentioned dihydromrycenol, etc.], for example. It has two forms, and they smell clearly different. So, even with a molecule that has a mirror image, so to speak, the scent is different. At that point it doesn’t matter if it seems stronger or not because it does not smell the same. My guess is that you are not as aware as you think you are, in terms of either psychological effects or an ability to detect various aspects of a scent. For example, if you spray two similar scents on your ankles, and after smelling one you smell the other, what happens is common notes are “knocked out” and you smell mostly the notes, accords or aroma chemicals that the two do not have in common. If you want to make a claim about putting certain molecules in a sealed bottle, such as linalool, then letting one sit in the light after being sprayed a bit over the course of a couple months, or something along those lines, and then finding that is smells like the control (which hasn’t been sprayed and has been kept in cool/dark conditions) but is much stronger, go ahead and make it. But there is no “magic molecule” in GIT. The ones responsible for the vast majority of how it is perceived by people are not going to get much stronger but smell the same.

What I find so interesting, though, is how easily people can be convinced, or can convince themselves, that something “magical” has happened. I’m now wondering if the FromPyrgos author’s claim about GIT needing some room to “bloom” over the course of a few months is a factor here (in terms of the idea becoming disseminated online). This is his notion:

Green Irish Tweed is a rather weak perfume. It smells very green and crisp, but has limited longevity, and almost no sillage. But if you notice, Creed bottles aren’t airtight. They’re actually very poorly made. My last bottle of GIT used to leak from the atomizer base. That means air is getting inside the bottle, and mingling with the fragrance. It also means alcohol and water is evaporating out.

After a few wearings, let a bottle of Green Irish Tweed sit for six months. Then come back to it. When you spray again, you’ll be blown away by its strength. Suddenly, this perfume is an eighties powerhouse…

For those who don’t know, this person also made this claim:

Air in the bottle will change things, ever so subtly at first, but given enough time and a combination of other natural factors, like temperature, humidity, and exposure to sunlight, will eventually ruin the perfumer’s idea, and create a fragrance very different from that which he formulated.

What does one of the most famous perfumers, Guy Robert, have to say on this subject?

Once you have opened the bottle, a light oxidation process takes place inside. If you forget to close the bottle after you have used the perfume, this will only speed up the process. The fresh, fleeting top notes of the fragrance will tend to “calm down” a bit; it’s true that this will not completely ruin the fragrance, but it will change the initial impression you get from your perfume.

Note that it sounds like he is referring to a “splash” bottle here. However, at least we have something here to work with that seems “real.” That is, we first need a leaky bottle of GIT that the person doesn’t know leaks because it only had its seal broker after it was placed upright (and the person would have had to never turn it upside down for more than a short period of time). Then the top notes might get substantially weaker, though this is highly unlikely for a bottle that is a few months old or younger. Then there would be the psychological effect this would have, meaning that the person would not experience much olfactory fatigue at this point, and the drydown would seem to be quite a bit stronger, though the smell might be perceived as being the same. Is Big Foot sounding more plausible to you now? If so, are you wondering if it would appreciate the super-charged Green Irish Tweed?

Finally, the BN member I believe to be the FromPyrgos author decided to post to the thread in question with this:

Bigsly’s main fallback for when he doesn’t know what he’s talking about: “cite some evidence for your claim.”
How about everything tensor said. The truth behind the claim is owning and wearing GIT for years, and starting with new bottles. Unless you’ve been doing the same, I doubt you know what you’re talking about in this regard. Sorry, man.

So for him, science is trumped by perception? Isn’t the reason why science is so important precisely because impressions, bias, etc. need to be put aside in order to let the evidence speak for itself?

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My Own Magnificent Secretion Creation.

I’ve never tried Secretions Magnifiques by Etat Libre d`Orange, but a few years ago it was a popular discussion topic at Perhaps it would have been better to market something apparently so “experimental” as a sample rather than in large bottles, but I have no idea how their business model works and this scent may have been quite successful, at least in terms of expectations. My thought is that it would be best to create several different “oddball” scents and sell samples as a “collection.” Then the company could also sell bottles (let’s say 50 ml), which they would fill up when an order was placed, rather than spending a whole lot of money on bottles that are sealed up (meaning they can’t be used for whichever scent becomes popular), along with fancy labels and boxes. They could use very plain labels and bubble wrap, which might become part of the attraction. Instead, it seems that (or at least ELdO)) wanted to be odd in a way that is appealing to those who view themselves as “hip” (or whatever).

Interestingly, I created a very strange scent unintentionally, though it smelled reasonably good to begin with, several years ago. It began with a purchase of a tomato leaf accord, and I don’t even remember exactly what I was thinking when I bought it. Then I tried combining it with a strong amber scent, I think Casmir. I then forgot about it for several years, rediscovering my concoction recently. I didn’t even know what it was, because the label had fallen off, but as soon as I opened it I could recognize the tomato leaf accord. It was in a small glass bottle that I wanted to use for something else, so I dumped this mixture out into the sink (there was probably no more than a couple of ml in it), then ran the water for several seconds. I quickly realized that it didn’t smell quite right, though the strength of it was amazing (and I’m pretty sure I followed the directions, in terms of how much to use).

Coincidentally, I also invited a couple over to the house that day, and when they arrived the whole house smelled like the weird concoction. The husband hated the smell but his wife thought it was nice (at first), though strong. Perhaps an hour later she said that it was beginning to irritate her. I didn’t know what to make of it, because there was something about it that seemed to cause pain to the nose, yet the notes seemed about right (I’d say there was at least a somewhat metallic quality to it, though). Needless to say, I don’t want to repeat this “experiment,” and I just threw that bottle in the garbage, though in retrospect I should have screwed the cap back on and put it somewhere for a few months and then tried it again.

By contrast, I began using a smock type garment while making up samples and decants because I hate getting a little bit of this and a little bit of that scent on my clothing when I do this. I guess one would call this inadvertent layering, but it generally results in an unpleasant olfactory experience. However, the other day, when I went to retrieve the smock to make up some samples, I noticed that it smelled very nice. It was a little sweet, a little powdery, perhaps at touch spicy, but very rich and “full,” though otherwise it was difficult to make any notes out clearly. It reminded me of what Luca Turin said in his “Perfumes: The Guide” book (co-authored by Tania Sanchez): “The difficulty with this kind of composition is that it works only if the raw materials are of exquisite quality. Nothing is harder to do on the cheap than diffuse, soft-focus luxury.”

On at least some level, the smell emanating from the smock has this “diffuse, soft-focus” and luxuriant quality. It reminds me of some very old scents I’ve encountered (marketed to women), but those tend to have poor longevity and don’t feel as rich or full. I’ve made samples of new scents that possess strong “synthetic” qualities, so I am surprised that the smock doesn’t have an unpleasant odor that is similar to the one I created with the tomato leaf accord. I do remember getting some of a scent on clothing for the first time and thinking that something was very wrong. One example is Cuba Gold. On skin I liked it, but when I got some on my shirt, it seemed like a sweet “synthetic” quality emerged perhaps an hour later, sort of like an attempt at a new candy flavoring that failed badly. Generally, I seek dynamism, and what’s on the smock doesn’t seem to possess much of this quality, but for some reason it never gets boring, though I haven’t yet tried sitting for a while with it on my lap, to see if it maintains all its good qualities without taking on any negative ones.

If there are any “new developments,” I’ll update this post.

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How much oud (if any) is too much oud?

First let me say that I am one who almost always says, “the more the merrier” when it comes to the number of scents on the market. However, in the case of oud, it seems to me that this is more about marketing than anything else. Now it’s true that you might have smelled a “vetiver scent” that most aficionados would say doesn’t seem to have much if any vetiver in it, but with oud the situation seems to be worse, in that you are probably smelling some sort of synthetic oud reconstruction. If I can sum up the notion of a member who seemed to be an oud expert, if you want oud just go ahead and buy oud (don’t buy an “oud scent,” especially not a designer one)!

This brings me to a post to a thread over at

Really looking forward to this. Big fan of the other Varvatos offerings. My only complaint with their other offerings is the longevity.

Honestly people – how can you say “enough of the oud”? If you don’t like oud, skip it. Why limit your options? No one is forcing you to buy it – or even try it.

Does anyone say “enough [amber / lemon / vetiver / vanilla / iris / incense / etc.] scents!” ? No. So why do it with oud? Oud is here to stay. There are a LOT of very original oud scents out there and more original ones coming out each day. I think there is a good chance this will also be unique and original. If not, then it will be a pass. But I am glad for the option.

This was in response to other posts, where the sentiment was, more or less, enough is enough with oud. As to some of the things said in this passage, I think I’ve said (years ago) that there are too many amber-dominant scents and that they all smell close enough to not warrant owning more than one. I don’t know if I would still say that today, but because I’m not a fan of this kind of scent I am not actively sampling different ones. I have a partial bottle of Ambra by Etro and I can’t even remember the last time I wore it (and I have hardly any interest in it).

On the other hand, “incense scent” could mean some very different things (this is all in my experience, just to make that clear), but even here there only seem to be a few different kinds (dry\woody, oriental/sandalwood, etc.). Leather too has a few different possibilities, but the possibilities do not seem to be extensive. In the case of “oud scents,” I’m not really sure what the idea is. The first major player (at least among the American niche crowd) seemed to be Black Aoud by Montale, which featured strong rose. Oud and Roses by Lanvin reminds me more of wormwood than oud and is much softer. In M7, I think of the oud note as a supporting one at best (in the drdyown). Jovan’s Oud Intense is a nicely balanced scent that has a hint of oud reconstruction (I’m guessing). I can’t say I ever think that I’d like to smell strong oud notes, but then again I may have only smelled synthetic reconstructions, for all I know.

I do agree with this person in terms of not limiting one’s options, and I have a feeling I might end up with a few more bottles of “oud scents” because people will trade me for something on my swap list after they decide that they “hate oud.” And I think this is the most important point I can make here, which is that you never know when you might change your mind about a scent. That’s why I’m much less interested in selling or swapping these days. If you’ve been reading my recent posts, you’ll remember that I was surprised at how camphorous I found Joint Pour Homme to be, after not having worn it for perhaps a year. In the past, that quality “amped up” the entire scent but this time I got clearer notes (though that camphor thing nearly knocked me off my chair!). Also, in past wearings the opening notes didn’t register nearly as powerfully, and I seem to have been detecting the base notes more forcefully (though not the camphor as such).

And yes, I know how disappointing it is to blind buy something you think you’ll wear often and enjoy like nothing else, but what I’ve found happens in many cases is that the ones I really enjoy at first I find to be less compelling over time, whereas some of the ones I didn’t like I come to find intriguing and pleasant. Of course in some cases the issue is a bad reformulation, and after sampling the original I realized that it’s something I’d like to own, so long as I know it’s the original. Examples of disliking a scent at first but then wanting it in the rotation include Xeryus Rouge, Uomo? Moschino, Sienna, Set Sail Saint Barts, Heritage, Zino, Ungaro 1, and Carven Homme, with reformulation only being the case, I think, with Zino and Uomo? Moshino (the others either apparently were never reformulated or I didn’t try a reformulated version until later).

As I’ve said before, strange things have happened with my sense of smell over the last several years (though my detection of notes/accord/aroma chemicals seems to grow progressively). In late 2008, I seem to have been afflicted with some sort of “chemical sensitivity” issue, and I mostly wore soft gourmands for a while. My sensitivity remained quite high even though this extreme sensitivity abated after perhaps four or five months. Over the last year or so my overall sensitivity has been low, but I seem to be better at detecting notes, etc. than ever before. My sensitivity to particular things, however, can be very high, such as what I think is camphor or camphorous patchouli (perhaps depending upon the scent). This is a major reason for me to say, “the more the merrier,” since I don’t know what I’ll enjoy when I push the spray button, though I do understand that many people don’t want to or can’t possess a couple of hundred bottles, and so may be irritated by this “follow the leader” phenomenon, the latest and probably oddest being oud.

How many people do you know that have any idea what oud is? I won’t say more because I have no idea if these companies are trying to create demand or if they are trying to “capture” those who already seek oud scents (perhaps they think they can do both). One thing that’s certain is that you can call any scent an oud one and just put a tiny amount of real or reconstructed/synthetic oud, so that the oud fans might buy it while most others will not know what it means (or think it’s something exciting), but the scent itself could be little more than a “generic masculine.” And to me that puts some if not most “oud scents” in the “pet rock” category, but at least in that case something tangible is present! Obviously, the irony is that there are a huge number of “oud scents” available, but hardly any probably contain any real oud. Of those, there may be none in which the real oud contributes to the smell !

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Filed under Criticizing the critics.

Psychoanalysis versus psychotherapy.

This has been a subject I’ve been interested in since I was a teenager, but over the last few years I’ve done quite a bit of research, including watching many lectures by psychologists, therapists, researchers, etc. By now you are probably asking what this has to do with scents, and I’ll begin to answer that with one of my recent posts at

QUOTE: When Jim Gehr sent me his perfumes, he also sent me a slew of samples from his extensive catalog of raw materials and synthetics… There were also a handful of synthetics, including alpha isomethyl ionone, bois ambrene, synthetic agar, cis-3 hexenol, coumarin, “Timbersilk,” a type of Iso E Super, and a few other marvelous things. My education in understanding these materials has been, put simply, a lot of fun. UNQUOTE.

That’s from the FromPyrgos blog (7/13/14). And then we have: QUOTE: …only 30% of masculines pre-dating 1997 incorporated natural sandalwood oil as a principal fixative, as per Nigel Groom’s “New Perfume Handbook.” UNQUOTE.

Comment by one Bryan Ross on my blog on 2/19/14. Does that sound a bit like: QUOTE: According to the 1997 edition of Nigel Groom’s New Perfume Handbook, real sandalwood oil was only used in 30% of the world’s masculines… UNQUOTE.

Posted by you on the Pierre Cardin Pour Monsieur post here at BN yesterday.

And a google search reveals that Mr. Ross has mentioned octyn esters at least three times on his blog since last year.

When I first suggested that you might be the divine Mr. R., you said, “I don’t know who this blogger is, Bigsly.” That was from the BN post entitled, “Anyone ever experience a fragrance going bad?”

Go ahead, keep pretending – that only damages your overall credibility, even though your arguments about vintage scents make no sense on any level (others can decide for themselves). I wonder what the mods will do. I’ll go on record and say that you should get a second chance here, but then again I don’t know why you were banned in the first place, to be fair.

Of course you will require some reference point here (and I’ll mention that I took screen shots of the relevant statements). The thread was entitled, “What makes Green Valley green?” and a new member (joined in June of 2014) named “HankHarvey” stated (about Green Valley):

Definitely mint, vetiver, probably a bit of cis-3 hexanol, a leaf alochol, very dry green smelling, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some of GIT’s octyn esters in there also, lending it that violetty aspect.

When I was doing research about “psychopathy” (and I am by no means calling Mr. Ross a psychopath), which included works from the 1950s as well as some other possible historical examples, such as Becky Sharp from “Vanity Fair,” I was thinking that I’ve met quite a few people who just seem to like to “cause trouble,” as many used to say when I was a child (not about me, for the most part). The reason I bring this up is because it is one thing to get banned from a web site and then to try and get back on in an unethical way so you can do things like ask questions and obtain information. It is yet another to also “cause trouble” when you must know there is clearly a percentage of the membership that does not agree with you on a subject, in this case “spoilage.” Yes, American society has a “dog eat dog” quality to it, but do you really want to bring that into your hobbies? And if you can’t ever “agree to disagree” with anyone, would you prefer to live in a dictatorship? If so, suppose someone you disagree with on just about every issue becomes the dictator at some point?

I don’t know why people do things such as what appears to be the case here, but it may be that nobody will ever know, including the person doing it (in this post I’m assuming my notion is true, and so readers should regard it as entirely hypothetical). That’s what psychoanalysts attempt to do. They want to get to the root cause of “neurotic” behavior, as Freudians used to say (not sure if they still use the same language), and at some point it may be concluded that improper “potty training” was the key, for instance. I am with those who dismiss this kind of idea, and think of it as a kind of “Munchausen by Proxy” situation. By contrast, psychotherapy is an attempt to help people become more “functional,” and there are various techniques that can be utilized towards this end (such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). An interesting example is the “hoarder,” who usually doesn’t see a problem at all, but often eventually comes to the attention of authorities, who may make demands upon the hoarder that can result in just about anything. To be sure, I have no idea how functional he is, and perhaps this is the only area of his life that seems rather “off kilter”

What I wonder in this instance is if this person enjoys the thought of “pulling the wool” over the eyes of the moderators at Basenotes as well as others who know about the banning. This is the same person who said he was done with Basenotes not that long ago, so it’s possible there are some internal conflicts as well. Then there are the shifting and contradictory claims against vintage scents and “spoilage.” And the interviews where people with conflicts of interest are thrown “softball” questions. I don’t like most recent designer scents, for example, and I don’t think about them often, but I give credit where I think it is due. I know a whole lot of guys seem to think Midnight in Paris is great, for instance. but I see no need to continually write about the large number of ways that I think it is an incredibly inferior concoction, even relative to other recent ones, and that includes ones that sell for a lot less, such as Yacht Man Chocolate. Mr. Ross, by contrast, seems to think he needs to go on an “all-out offensive” against people who mostly enjoy vintage scents, sometimes confusing the issue, such as by talking about the intention of the perfumer. Even in this case, he doesn’t seem willing to acknowledge the obvious point that some reformulations bear little resemblance to the original or are very poorly rendered – why does he not criticize these companies for paying no regard to the perfumer’s intention in those cases?

I am curious about why this person thought he would be able to make several very specific arguments on Basenotes that he made on his blog (or comments on mine) and expect nobody to notice that it must be the FromPyrgos author. It’s true that narcissists tend to underestimate others, for example. Does he not mind getting banned again but wants to irritate as many people as possible before that occurs? Does he think that people will believe that there really is a “HankHarvey” who is not Mr. Ross and that this person just happens to know quite a bit about octyn esters, cis-3 hexanol, as well as the same statement from an obscure books about perfumes? It’s one thing to become enthusiastic about a hobby like this and to want to share your views with others, but making the decision to lie suggests something is very wrong. Moreover, there seems to be an issue with personal boundaries or self-awareness, because if you decide to end your relationship with a site like Basenotes (while you still use Fragrantica) but then can’t adhere to it for just several months, shouldn’t you ask yourself if there is something “deeper” involved?

The last point I’ll make here (one which references the photo I used for this post) is that there is a difference between making a strong argument and trying to “win” in a “right fight,” which is how I classify Mr. Ross’ statements in this context (other than lies, of course), a good example being how he argued that the sense of smell is “objective,” despite the scientific evidence to the contrary and apparently no evidence to support it. Right fighters will do things like ignore points you make that they don’t have an answer for or will “move the goalposts.” One example of the latter is when people claim that most vintage bottles are “spoiled, but then when you use common sense and point out that there are just too many reviews and comments about vintage that do not mention this for it to be any kind of major issue, the “move” occurs and they might talk about the intention of the perfumer. With Mr. Ross’ post about Joint Pour Homme, he goes even further, claiming things about a scent of that era and type that nobody else seems to have ever experienced. This leads me to believe that it is just another lie, though perhaps self-deception more than outright deception. Whatever the case may be, I find his behavior quite fascinating, though I don’t think I’d like to be a psychotherapist who meets with him for an hour once a week !

NOTE: For those who don’t know, there was a post at FromPyrgos entitled something like, “Chandler Burr should just shut the hell up.” I don’t remember anything in it that was outrageous, though I may not have agreed with all of it, but for some reason Mr. Ross doesn’t seem to want his readers to know anything about its existence. He has never, TMK, explained why it was deleted, which I think a blogger owes to his or her readers. If a mistake was made, why not just apologize and “move on,” just as if he feels the need to be active on Basenotes, why not just tell us that he changed his mind about that site? Is there vindictiveness towards the owner of Basenotes? If not, what is the problem? People I have known in the past who do things like this have had major issues with mood swings, so I hope if that is the case here, Mr. Ross seeks professional help – you don’t have to tell anyone you are seeing a therapist, just please be fair to your readers, Mr. Ross. Isn’t it really “below the belt” to tell people that Basenotes is really bad and then become a member – what sort of person does these kinds of things?

Let me make clear. though, that I think his blog has provided his readers with plenty of interesting insights and valuable information, and I hope he continues with it. What simply isn’t acceptable is to do something like make a claim about an experience that is entirely unique (and contradicts what just about everyone else who has written on the subject has said – even the “expert” he interviewed, Mr. Dame, “walked back” his “dreck” statement), but then to dismiss what someone like myself has said on this subject. I’ve been studying vintage scents since 2008, and have or have had several bottles of the same vintage scent (Kouros, Red for Men, Lagerfeld Cologne, Boss Cologne, Quorum, Alain Delon, Iquitos, Giorgio for Men, Giorgio VIP, Lapidus Pour Homme, By Man, Il Lancetti, 1-12, KL Homme, Tuscany Uomo, Aramis, CPuH, Zino, Obsession, Chanel Pour Monsieur, Ho Hang Club, Heritage, etc., and that’s just the “masculines”). If you want to do that, then you had better present some strong evidence, such as GC/MS studies of the scent in question. The only one he mentioned contradicts his notion, and at The Raiders of the Lost Scent blog, some vintage scents were studied in this way and seem to have held up very well. Does he not think that his judgement could ever get clouded by a deep desire to perceive things a certain way?

UPDATE: For those interested in a documentary that does a good job of illustrating some common “dysfunctional” behaviors, I suggest “I, Psychopath,” which is currently on youtube:

However, one problem I encountered was that few experts tell people how to deal with dysfunctional individuals. For a quick but very good word on this, there is this video:

What I’ve found is that I often have to watch a documentary twice or read a book a few times before I feel that I really understand the subject matter. One thing you don’t want to do is to get discouraged, because even experts can be clearly wrong, for example, read about Dorothy Otnow Lewis’s notions on Ted Bundy’s Wikipedia page. Recently, there was the Elliot Rodger rampage, and what’s interesting is how he left a detailed “Manifesto” that seems to suggest a very odd but clear delusional aspect to his psyche (that is, “beautiful” young women were supposed to come up to him and ask him to go on dates, among other related things), as well as severe mood swings, yet few if any experts have pointed out that this seems consistent with schizoaffective disorder more than anything else!

Lastly, for those who are wondering, I have not contacted Basenotes’ moderators demanding that “HankHarvey” be banned. I have more of a “two heads are better than one” belief, which is why I like to read forums, even though there are some “trolls.” And I have no issues with those who feel they must have perfect top notes, if there is such a thing, and I have offered to buy “spoiled” bottles of Creeds (sealed spray bottles), though at a discount of course, so that they don’t have to feel they must throw these bottles in the garbage (as more than a couple have said at BN). The main issues are the shifting claims and the apparent pathological need some people seem to possess to claim that vintage aficionados are somehow unable to detect “spoiled” scents. They don’t know this is the case (I’m more than willing to participate in a study to determine if I have difficulty doing things like detecting food items that most people perceive as spoiled, for example), and the evidence we have supports the opposite conclusion, when viewed as a whole. Of course, conflicts of interest may play a role in some cases, depending upon who is making such claims, but it seems that some people aren’t willing to accept that others may have opinions that differ from theirs, and so they put forth nonsense arguments to try and “convert” a very small number of people who might be “on the fence” and willing to take their advice.


Filed under Criticizing the critics.

So, now the claim is “spoiled base notes” ?

Over at the FromPyrgos blog, there is yet another strange claim (in a post entitled “Joint Pour Homme (Roccobarocco),” this one being about a scent from 1993 (my review of it is at the end of this post, in the addendum):

It begins with a gorgeous array of accords, but it’s obvious from the very first moment that it’s a clone of Zino by Davidoff…

My enlightenment occurs at the forty-five minute mark, when something interesting occurs: Joint suddenly loses focus and balance. It’s as if someone suddenly deflated its big red balloon. The woods begin to fuzz out, rather severely, and the tobacco slips away. The vanillic castoreum, which smells like the processed food flavoring in high concentration, suddenly defines the amber, and a semisweet blush of nondescript earthiness is washed out by a honey-like white musk. At this point it’s clear that two things have influenced past assessments of Joint. One, the fragrance is shockingly top heavy, to the point where it’s almost as if the top notes are the fragrance in full…

The second issue is that time has effected the balance of the fragrance. Joint has been out of production for twenty years, and my bottle is likely that old, if not older. For anyone to say that this fragrance is a good example of how rich and natural and powerful vintage designer masculines can be negates the prime effect of degradation that has obviously occurred here. Does my bottle of Joint smell very good? Yes. As such, one could argue that it has not “turned” or “gone bad,” but there’s a better definition of those terms – the fragrance is no longer balanced, and no longer smells exactly as it should. In this case, the drydown was effected instead of the top notes, which is certainly atypical of vintage degradation, but is still degradation nonetheless. Also there’s the question of whether this weakened, somewhat off balance drydown and sub-par longevity can be excused by the brilliance of the first few minutes. Although it’s clear that Joint is a lovely composition, it’s also clear that it’s derivative, and doesn’t add much to the genre of burly tobacco-themed scents from its period. Zino is better, in my opinion, and can still be had for much less money. Vermeil is also better, and also much cheaper, and it’s arguably the best of the three.

Based on my experience with Joint, I continue to believe that lovers of vintage perfumes live in a deeply-rooted and psychologically complex state of denial about the true quality and value of vintage fragrances. I can’t help but wonder if their noses are simply not attuned to detecting when notes have gone stale, or when whole accords have flattened and weakened and ruined structural balance and longevity. These changes are often subtle and can perhaps be intentionally overlooked in favor of enjoying whatever remains, but as with other vintages, such deterioration is clearly present in this fragrance. It’s still wearable, and still performs fairly well considering its age, but it definitely doesn’t smell the way it did fifteen years ago.

First, and most obviously, if he has just worn it for the first time in his life, how does he know what it smelled like 15 or more years ago? And why should we trust his judgment about a drydown “falling apart” and not smelling “as it should” (especially considering what he’s written on his blog over the last few years)? In order for his claim to possibly be useful to most people, it must mean that his bottle is incredibly bad-smelling, such as like smelling milk that has clearly “gone bad,” but his description does not sound like this is the case, other than the claim that it smells intensely of an artificial food flavoring (which is the last thing Joint’s drydown seems like to me). In fact, the first time I sampled Balenciaga Pour Homme, I didn’t think much of the drydown. That came from a vial someone sent me in a swap. However, not long ago I saw a good deal on a one ounce bottle and decided it was worth taking a chance, because I like this sort of composition (it’s similar to Laipidus Pour Homme, 1987), and sure enough the drydown was fabulous. It’s quite common, however, for one to enjoy a scent for first few wearings and then to find it “flat,” because from what I can tell, the mind no longer recognizes the notes/accords/construction as unique. I still enjoy the scent but it doesn’t have that same kind of “wow factor” unless I put it aside for a month or so, and even then it never seems to be quite as “special” as the first wearing or two.

Second, this blogger used an awful lot of words but there isn’t much substance, and what there is of that doesn’t make much sense (which is why I quoted more than I usually do in this kind of situation). Instead, this sounds like someone who mostly appreciates top notes, which is something I have thought (and mentioned on my blog) for quite a while now. On another level his claim of a “turned” or “bad” drydown makes no sense because there, the strongest ingredients are at work, and as one famous perfumer has said, the notion of top, middle, and base notes is largely a fiction. In this context. the relevant point is that you aren’t going to smell “good” notes for 45 minutes and then smell something very “bad.” If there is something “bad” present, you would likely smell it as soon as you took the cap of the bottle, unless your nose is stuffed up or your sensitivity is abnormally low for some reason. Moreover, his claim is not consistent with what anyone else has described about this scent, and we are again at a “dog that didn’t bark” type of situation, meaning if that it was common for 20+ year old scents to be “bad” then we would have read about it by now on the relevant sites and blogs.

Interestingly, this is the same blogger who cited the GC/MS study of four different Old Spice formulations, including vintage. Why would a clearly “high-quality” scent always “go bad” while a “cheapo” like Old Spice apparently retains its integrity very well? This could be true for some oddball concoction (no matter how unlikely), but keeping in mind how he thinks it shares quite a bit with Zino (as well as Kouros, Lapidus Pour Homme, and Vermeil, to a lesser extent) where are all the claims that there are “bad” bottles of those, considering how many more bottles of those two must have been produced (plenty of which were bottled well before 1993)? He is not a scientist specializing in this field, nor a perfumer, nor, apparently, someone who has collected a large number of vintage bottles, and the best thing to do under such circumstances, if one believes that a “great insight” has occurred, is to find some actual evidence to support it! Instead, he thinks that one wearing is enough to make such strange claims, and shows no awareness that his apparent experience is entirely consistent with “newbie olfactory fatigue,” as I’ve called it in the past.

Now he may indeed have a “turned” bottle, though the way he described the experience is not something I have ever experienced and I can’t remember reading about this before (and I don’t find it similar to Zino, so there is clearly some sort of perceptual issue involved on someone’s part; to me it’s much closer to Kouros, but with more noticeable dry woods and tobacco). The opposite is rarely the case (“turned” top notes), and you can read plenty of those kinds of claims, especially, it seems, from “Creed fan boys.” In two recent threads, in fact, there were a few of those claims, as well as people talking about how they threw their bottles in the garbage or gave them away for free. I posted in both that instead of doing that they should send me a message because I would offer them money for their “turned” bottles, so long as they were sealed spray bottles (since I don’t want scammers sending me messages about splash bottles they want to sell). And obviously, even if his Joint bottle has “turned,” why is assuming that everyone else’s has? He doesn’t even tell us if his bottle came in a box (mine did), which might help readers who share the concern about “turned” scents, considering how his assessment of Joint is inconsistent with all the other reviews I’ve read and that one can simply refrain from buying bottles that are not boxed.

A recent Basenotes thread that readers may want to view on this subject can be found at:

I tried as best I could to elicit descriptions of exactly what a “bad” scent was like, and it seemed as though some valuable insights/information was garnered. One is that many of the claims seem to be coming from “Creed fan boys” who own Creed bottles they think have “spoiled” even though these are less than ten years old, some five years old or less! Another person pointed out that an old scent smelled like burnt sugar and I mentioned a review of the first Guess “masculine” scent, which was described by the person as beginning with “hot vinyl and overheated electronics.” I then said that I had recently obtained an old Chanel No. 5 EdC bottle that seemed to have this same issue, though in the case of the Guess scent I’m not sure about if the harsh opening was intended or not. With the No. 5, however, the aldehyes were clearly missing (or largely missing) and instead there was that “burnt sugar” quality. However, after several minutes it was gone and I actually preferred it without those strong aldehydes! One person who posted to that thread, a woman,, said that this happened to the aldehydes in a bottle she owns. And it seemed that many of them didn’t realize that old spray bottles seem to have “spoiled” liquid trapped in the tubes, so the first spray or two may smell very bad (vinegar-like) but that the rest may be fine (and even the liquid in tube eventually goes into the same drydown anyway, in my experience).

If anyone seems to be psychologically grasping at proverbial straws, it would seem to be him! However, if he wants to believe in some sort of olfactory derangement syndrome, I think he is missing the point, which is that there are aficionados who enjoy such vintage scents much more than niche or current designer, and it’s not like this enjoyment is causing any harm to the person or to society, nor is it particularly expensive (if one has patience), so why should that be any kind of problem? Do people near these aficionados run for the proverbial hills because the person smells like a skunk but doesn’t know it? Again, we would know about that at this point, because there are just too many reviews and posts on this subject by now. If this blogger does believe he has discovered some sort of measurable phenomenon, perhaps he should contact some universities to see if any scientist or social scientist is interested in pursuing the matter, but as things stand now, there is no evidence to suggest his notion is correct, and considering all the strange claims he has made in the past about vintage, this just comes across as a “sour grapes” situation.

For those who have had experiences similar to mine, there seems to be a consensus opinion that vintage scents are clearly superior to everything else (or at least worth wearing fairly regularly), except perhaps compared to some sort of “bespoke” scent that would cost you thousands of dollars. Even if the notes have “shifted” a bit or the first few minutes are “not right” in some way, the experience these scents generate is not something I have found anywhere else. A good example of the problem with today’s scents can be found in Dior’s Escale a Portofino, which is certainly no “cheapo.” It smells great for a while, with strong bergamot and caraway, but after a couple hours or so I begin to detect what seems to be a “cheap” wood note (based upon what perfumer Chris Bartlett has told me about such notes). This is not something I have experiences in any vintage scents, and so the superiority of vintage is that one doesn’t have to be concerned with irritating “chemical” or “synthetic” type qualities (at least I have yet to experience it in the dozens that I consider vintage greats).

ADDENDUM: The lavender in Zino is very strong, and it’s much more floral overall than Joint is. Joint’s note listing at Fragrantica does not include lavender and I do not smell any (the Estonian site doesn’t list it either). Before I published this post, I decided I should wear Joint and then write about any new insights in this note section, especially since my sensitivity has been low for at least a few months now. The last time I wore it, when my sensitivity was significantly higher, it came across as similar to Kouros, but drier and with tobacco. With this wearing, however, I seem to be picking up more citrus and aldehydes (it has a kind of “sparkling” quality I have never perceived in any of my four bottles of vintage Zino), and a bit of a green/herbal aspect (at first). The Kouros quality is sort of lurking beneath the surface at this point, but it is most reminiscent of some older “feminine” chypres at this point (perhaps inspired by vintage Coriandre). There is absolutely nothing about it that seems “off.”

It never “falls apart” for me, and there is no “synthetic” quality of any kind. In fact, more than an hour in, and I wish there was a more vanillic element for balance, but instead it becomes awfully camphorous, which is something that didn’t register to this degree in previous wearings. The opening dissipates a bit but it’s still clearly present. The woody/patchouli aspect, however, asserts itself, and it’s a bit musky and floral (no lavender). Interestingly, now I would compare it to vintage Givenchy Gentleman at a similar point in development, and quite far from Zino, though the Kouros quality is there too. I’m getting only a little tobacco, unfortunately (one of my favorite notes). Am I more sensitive to camphorous qualities than I was a few years ago? It certainly may be the case, but it’s really obvious here, which suggests to me that it is a “major player,” though you may find that another note/accord/aroma chemical “spikes out” if and when you sample it. And all I can do is to “call them as I see them” when I wear them and decide to write about the experience, but there is nothing here that would lead me to think this drydown is somehow wrong, spoiled, turned, or such.

More than four hours in, and I’ve decided to wipe it off (as much as possible with a damp paper towel. I used one and a half sprays to the chest. And now an hour later and it’s more tolerable – it certainly has no “issues.” A few hours after this and it finally works a lot better for me. The opening actually is persisting with reasonable strength! It is now closer to Kouros than GG but with that Coriandre opening quality playing off of it – very interesting. This scent held up very well during this time, with a smooth opening to drydown transition, but I would not recommend it to those who do not like camphorous patchouli. The FromPyrogs author’s opinion of this scent is so different than mine that it’s difficult for me to believe that it reflects what he actually smelled, even if we assume that my preferences are “polar opposite” his. And intriguingly, a new Basenotes member (June 2014) named “HankHarvey,” who sounds an awful lot like Mr. Ross to me, wrote up some posts for the Basenotes thread I cited above. After he was bested on this thread (IMO of course), he wrote up the Joint post on his blog, which seems to be mostly an attempt to assail vintage aficionados from a new and bizarre direction, as discussed above. I’ll write up another post here about the evidence for “HankHarvey” being Mr. Ross and you can decide for yourself, if he doesn’t admit to this being the case by then. This may not have much to do with these olfactory concoctions, but I do find it interesting from a psychological perspective, which is another interest of mine.

The notes for Joint are:

Top notes: aldehydes, basil, bergamot, artemisia, lemon, green notes, coriander and cumin. Heart: cardamom, honey, geranium, carnation, rose, jasmine, orris root and tobacco. Base: amber, leather, civet, labdanum, cedar, musk, patchouli, vetiver and tonka bea

UPDATE: A woman wrote up a post on the Basenotes’ thread I cited above and talked about how her perception of “spoilage” might have been due to a newbie lack of understanding. What’s interesting is how I might have thought my Joint bottle had spoiled if I didn’t understand that heavy camphorous quality that might be most obvious in vintage Givenchy Gentleman. I don’t have the expertise to say whether that quality could get a lot stronger after a decade or two, but it may be that nobody has studied this possible phenomenon, and so as I’ve said before in similar contexts, the best you can often get, it seems, is an “educated guess” (and I would be very surprised if that quality had become very powerful, even if relative to the other ingredients).

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Should you be envious of those who own Envy for Men?

I’ve written about Gucci’s Envy for Men in the past, pointing out how it became a kind of template for several other scents, though one could argue that it’s a tweaking of early 1970s scents like Pierre Cardin Pour Monsieur or Ho Hang, and ones that came later, such as Guerlain’s Heritage. There’s no way to say for sure how close one scent is to another because not everyone perceives scents the same way. Some might be a lot more sensitive to patchouli notes, for example. I was never a big fan of the Envy type of scent, but over the last couple of years I’ve been able to enjoy these (which include Devotion for Men, ST Dupont’s Signature Pour Homme. and Floris’ Santal, supposedly, as I’ve yet to try that last one). To be sure, though, I think I prefer ones that are bit different, such as Carven Homme and Micallef #31.

When an opportunity arose to obtain a partial bottle at a non-outrageous price, I decided to go ahead, because I thought I would be able to swap it for something I would like, if I wanted to rid my collection of it. Before I discuss the scent I’ll just point out that there may be two formulations that are distinct, at least to some people. Claims have been made that the liquid color is brighter in the newer formulation, and that it is inferior, though I think at least one person said he preferred the most recent one. I had owned two bottles before this latest one, and while it seemed like one was superior to the other, I don’t remember whether the colors were different or which one I preferred. I also had major sensitivity issues at the time, so I’m not sure my opinion would have been that useful to those who like these kinds of compositions.

Lately, my sensitivity has been low, so I think it’s the right time to reassess it. My bottle is 50 ml and the batch code is 30788. The color does not seem as bright and intense as some I’ve seen online, looking roughly like the picture above, but of course it could be the case that the colors in some online photos are exaggerated due to lighting effects. I decided to go with a light application for this first wearing after several years, using perhaps half a spray (at most). I could detect quite a bit of ginger at first, as well a whole lot of sweetness. For these first few minutes, I was thinking that this might be a bit unique, relative to the others I mentioned (excluding Floris’ Santal, obviously), but things soon changed.

After the ginger mostly dissipated, at least in terms of quantity, I perceived a very similar effect that one can get in Devotion and the Dupont in particular. There is some soft lavender, a syrupy ambery quality, spice, and a bit of patchouli and wood. The key point here is that it comes across as an accord, and this accord is very, very similar. By contrast, there is Pi by Givenchy, which is similar in some significant ways but is clearly a different kind of scent, with a nice cedar note emerging after an hour or so. And it’s not just that the Envy type scents possess patchouli and lavender, unlike some others (at least in fairly strong amounts), but that these also have some sort of “fresh” quality that is difficult for me to assess because it is blended into the major accord. Could it be a mixture of several synthetics used to convey “freshness?” I don’t think it is dihydromyrcenol by itself, for instance.

More than a couple hours in, and the wood note is clear, though not strong, and not as textured (nor as interesting) as the wood note in Pi. I was hoping that I would perceive Envy as unique and something that I could not sell or swap, as is the case for more than a few, such as Les Copains Homme, but I don’t find the drydown to be unique enough. I would suggest that anyone who is envious of those who own a bottle simply buy a bottle of Devotion for Men, which is now selling for low prices on major sites. Now as I mentioned above, it may be that the original was much better and that I have a bad reformulation. However, considering the history of “masculine” orientals that are at least remotely similar, as well as what was being done in “masculine perfumery” back in 1998, I can’t imagine that any formulation of it, assuming there was more than one, would lead me to think that it is worth the prices it usually sells for on ebay.

NOTE: If I were to write up posts with only self-interest in mind (when conflicts of interest existed), I would tell everyone that this is a great, unique scent, and hope that the prices rise further. I certainly wouldn’t point out that I think you could get what I view as nearly the same drydown for about $15 per 50 ml (the current total price for that size bottle of Devotion for men on ebay at the moment). As to Devotion, I have only a 1 ounce bottle and intend to keep it, unless of course prices shoot through the roof (to levels I simply can’t imagine at this point). I value my integrity very highly, and I only wish that my sensitivities didn’t change, so that when I write something about these concoctions I would be confident that I would never change my mind !

UPDATE: I acquired another bottle, and the color of the liquid is considerably brighter/richer. The batch code is four numbers and one of the check sites claims that it is from September of 2006. I have yet to wear it so I’ll update this post again when I do. I intend to do that within the next few weeks.

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The evidence concerning the importance of “name” brands.

In a recent thread at, the topic of what makes a scent popular arose. I was reminded of something I heard quite a while ago about the The New York Times “Bestseller List.” Here is one take on it:

An endorsement from Oprah Winfrey. A film deal from Steven Spielberg. A debut at the top of The New York Times bestsellers list. These are the things every author craves most, and while the first two require the favor of a benevolent God, the third can be had by anyone with the ability to write a check — a pretty big one.

The point is that I have no way to know if a scent like Bleu de Chanel would generate huge sales or hardly any if it were to be sold by a brand like Lomani. I decided to do some do some basic searching, to see if there had been any relevant research on this subject. Below are passages from a few papers that I thought were the most illuminating.

Title of paper: “Taiwanese Consumers of Perfume:The Importance of Brand Familiarity & Communication Channels.”

Brand Familiarity is Key Out-of-Store (before & after purchase). It affects Taiwanese consumers’ decision-making before (when they consider the purchase) and after(evaluation) the purchase moment per se. It provides trust and helps consumers easily scope their choices, ultimately leading to a final choice of purchase or not. It is less important while Taiwanese consumers experience perfume purchase: the scent becomes the most important factor of the purchase experience in-store…


Title of paper: “Measuring Consumers’ Luxury Value Perception: A Cross-Cultural Framework.”

Hedonic Value – Certain products and services carry an emotional value and provide intrinsic enjoyment in addition to their functional utility (Hirschman and Holbrook 1982; Sheth et al. 1991, Westbrook and Oliver 1991). Studies in the field of luxury consumption have shown that luxury products are likely to provide such subjective intangible benefits (Dubois and Laurent 1994). Additionally, research concerning the concept of luxury has repeatedly identified the emotional responses associated with luxury consumption, such as sensory pleasure and gratification, aesthetic beauty, or excitement (Benarrosh-Dahan 1991; Fauchois and Krieg 1991; Roux and Floch 1996; Vigneron and Johnson 2004). Hence, hedonism describes the perceived subjective utility and intrinsically attractive properties acquired from the purchase and consumption of a luxury brand to arouse feelings and affective states, received from personal rewards and fulfillment (Sheth et al.1991; Westbrook and Oliver 1991). In sum:

…P3b: The consumer‘s perceived level of hedonism towards a luxury product or service and its property to satisfy an emotional desire for sensory gratification as best as possible is positively related to the individual luxury value perception.

A study entitled “An Experiment in Brand Choice” may provide some understanding about what is thought to be established as well as what such studies require:

QUOTE: The study of consumer dynamics-how people change their purchasing habits-is facilitated greatly by experiments in which marketing factors are deliberately varied. The cost of such experimentation in the marketplace is usually prohibitive…

The high level of brand switching observed in the
first few weeks did not last. After the period of search,
buyer behavior began to settle down as illustrated
by the 3-week penetration levels and average buying
frequency levels. These useful forms of analysis are
discussed elsewhere [3]. The average figures sum-
marized in Table 1 reflect those for the individual
brands (the comparable results from the earlier study
are documented more fully in [7]).
The pattern for each brand in the first half of the
experiment was a downward trend of penetration and
an upward trend of the average buying frequency.
From this is seen the development of brand loyalty…

CONCLUSIONS This study is the second of two similar experiments on consumer dynamics. It confirms and extends the earlier findings.The evaluation of experimental buyer behavior under stationary conditions turned out to be simple because there is a generalized body of knowledge which summarizes stationary behavior in real life and the same patterns were found to recur under the experimental conditions. But for the dynamic situation, of course, there is no such body of real-life knowledge. Indeed, these experiments were directed toward producing some generalizable results under dynamic market conditions. Two things are required if this is to be achieved. First, many experiments must be conducted to determine whether results generalize even within the experimental context. Second,once a reliable and coherent body of experimental results has been built up, their validity must be tested in the marketplace. UNQUOTE.

Perhaps it’s worth mentioning here that the other day I saw a NatGeo “Brain Games” episode in which it was pointed out that simple things, such as blowing the scent around and playing the sounds of food sizzling on the grill, can lead to a willingness to eat “road kill” foods, such as Iguana Lasagna. Thus, one wonders how much major companies such as Chanel understand about how to influence consumer behavior. My guess is that such companies have more than a few “trade secrets” in this context! In any case, one thing that’s clear is that many if not most people are not going to do a great deal of research when they are thinking about buying a new bottle. To me the more interesting phenomenon involves people writing up reviews or posts defending a specific scent against charges that it is “generic” or mediocre. If a scent is considered “bad” by many people, by contrast, there is usually a reason why, such as a strong cumin or civet note, whereas what I noticed in the case of Bleu de Chanel, many people seemed to think that they needed to “defend” it, even though there was little mentioned about how it actually smelled. In any case, if you want to hear my thoughts about defending the mediocre or generic, you can read my recent post about the Bleu de Chanel “wars.”

Lastly, I’ll close with a thought I had about what might be the major problem with “mainstream designer” scents these days, at least to those of us who are seeking a reason to pay some attention to their recent releases. This thought occurred to me when I saw a “masculine” scent at called Club Men by Azzaro. The notes are listed as lemon, papaya, cannabis, hinoki, and musk. This makes it sound “niche,” and yet the reviews and online comments I’ve seen suggest that it is “generic” or like a light version of Black XS for Men, and not of any particular interest (very little if any detectable cannabis note), overall. If this is the case, why bother listing a cannabis note? Of course some of the reviewers may have been suffering from olfactory fatigue, but does any aficionado who hasn’t tried it think that it is going to be remotely like a niche scent? Instead, it may be that this is part of a new marketing strategy, which is to include at least one note that piques the interest of the aficionado while the scent actually is designed to appeal to the “average Joe.” While this is speculative, we’ve now seen a whole bunch of non-niche names/houses release scents with an oud note, for example, and in the ones I’ve tried the oud note is nowhere near as obvious as it is in a scent like vintage M7, for instance. However, another possibility is that enough “average Joes” have heard about oud at this point, so in this case these kinds of scents may not be marketed with aficionados in mind. Or it may be that there is a certain amount of groping in the dark occurring, with the “lesser” companies waiting for the major ones to do something “different,” and then they go ahead and make similar scents, though of course this would certainly be nothing new.


Filed under The basics.