It’s very good, so just… Relax !

Relax by Davidoff is a 1990 “masculine” release with the following notes, according to Fragrantica.com:

Top notes are mint, lavender, tarragon, bergamot and lemon; middle notes are bay leaf, patchouli, jasmine, vetiver, heliotrope, anise, cedar and geranium; base notes are leather, tonka bean, amber, benzoin, oakmoss and vanilla.

First, I’ll mention that this is not a vintage scent I had any special interest in acquiring. However, I did obtain a bottle as part of a lot purchase, not thinking much more than I might be able to swap it off for something I’d really like to have. Second, when I see mint and lavender in a 1990 scent, I’m thinking, “something I probably should avoid” (I’ve already got a few and very rarely wear those). Of course this seems to be a popular combination (Le Male, Cuba Gold, 360 White for Men, and so many others), but to me it can be the essence of cloying. And there’s also an anise note, which again does not make me think pleasant thoughts with this list of notes, as visions of “classic barbershop” scents come to mind.

Fortunately, this is something I’ve never smelled before and it’s great – it makes me wonder why there haven’t been “clones” of this one since 1990. The major accomplishment here is that there is smoothness, whereas others with these notes are too harsh for me. What else can I say about it? Despite the jasmine note, there isn’t a strong animalic element here – perhaps a hint of the animalic at most. It’s sweet but not like some recent releases. The fougere accord is very mild, and unlike in so many other “masculines,” it complements the other elements rather than announcing its presence like some “Leisure Suit Larry.” In some ways it’s like a precursor of the A*Men flankers, at least in the drydown (it’s got a near gourmand quality).

There’s no “Play-Doh” type of heliotrope note and unlike Cool Water for Men, there is nothing “synthetic” about this one (such as the apparently large amount of dihydromyrcenol in CW), but I don’t get strong vetiver, geranium, wood, leather, or oakmoss notes. So, don’t expect an “old school” scent with powerful aromatics here. Instead, what you get is a really smooth, natural-smelling blend, with just enough contrast to prevent boredom in the drydown – the whole point of “designer” scents, in my opinion (“Brut in a tuxedo,” perhaps). The prices for this one on ebay now are quite high, to my way of thinking, and I wouldn’t pay those prices for a bottle, but I might go for a mini at $10 or so (though I’m wary of mini bottles that are splash). I can see why a fan base for this scent might have developed.

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The Arc of the Fragrance Aficionado.


First, I’ll point out that I don’t consider many of those who comment about scents online to be connoisseurs, the reason being that I think perfumers and perfume school students have the technical knowledge required for that designation. For me, the aficionado is someone who can speak intelligently about his or her preferences, though the person might be incorrect sometimes about details that only “insiders” know. By contrast, the person who writes a fragrance review saying something like, “People, believe me, the hype is real. You’ve got to get this one or else you’re wearing yesterday’s garbage. I’ve tried a lot of colognes and this one is so much better than anything else it’s just ridiculous. Don’t be fooled by the ones that are said to be clones. There is no equal to this one, and you won’t be sorry about spending more money on it. The compliments just keep coming when you wear it!” is likely not an aficionado.

And this kind of non-review, as I like to call them, reminds me of grading essays written by certain kinds of students. They thought that if they wrote enough and kept things general enough, they would get a passing grade in my classes. In any case, notice the lack of anything resembling useful details, and the claims made can’t be verified even if the criteria disclosed was important to you (in this case it’s mostly about getting compliments). I’ve been through the hobbyist cycle with a few other endeavors, and when I began with scents, I knew it would take a while before I accrued a solid understanding (of major notes in particular), though I had no idea how long. I decided to approach things as a student might (or perhaps an “autodidact” would be more precise), and within a few months I began to identify some notes. What I didn’t realize at the time is that some notes and/or aroma chemicals began “spiking out” to me, for whatever reason, which led to a kind of “chemical sensitivity” issue.

It took at least a couple of years to realize that my sensitivities would change, over and over again, both in terms of specific notes, accords, and aroma chemicals, as well as in terms of overall sensitivity. Because of this, I question how useful anyone’s opinion is to anyone else, or even to that same person at a different point in time! That said, online opinions often seem to be used for “blind buying” purposes, even if that means something like a niche sample rather than a “full size” bottle. And in that context, I look for a scent that has more than a few reviews as well as reviews that seem to possess an apparently helpful claim. One, fr example, is that a scent smells like Armani’s Code for Men. To me that suggests a common accord that has a “laundry musk” quality, to my way of thinking. This has in fact been the case with several scents I “blind bought” and now I generally avoid ones with reviews that contain this claim (because I already have a few scents like this but hardly ever wear them).

Now as to the “arc” mentioned in the title of this post, I suggest thinking of a so-called bell curve. If you are smart enough to realize how ignorant you are as a “newbie,” then you should have a good idea of when your understanding and/or appreciation is near the peak of the curve. But can you then pass that peak and descent quite a bit? To be sure, you wouldn’t descend back to newbie-land, but instead have more of a “been there, smelled that” kind of attitude. And that might be exacerbated by having low general sensitivity at the time. This certainly seems to have been the case for at least some of the people I have called “chronic samplers” in the past. Many wrote up a whole bunch of reviews within a short period of time, often of niche scents (especially ones with “hype”), but after a couple years or so, more than a few were never to be heard from again !

By contrast, when I’ve felt this way, I’ve had a large number of scents to choose from, and for one reason or another I’ve wanted to wear one that day, so unless I have the flu or have some major issue that would prevent me from being able to assess a scent, I still persevere with the hobby. What’s interesting about it is that the aficionado might sometimes have the upper, so to speak hand, so to speak, over the perfumers. That is, the aficionado may have studied a large number of certain kinds of scents, something few perfumers would do, or even have the time to do, since they have to use their noses to “make a living.” I tend to doubt that more than a few would even consider doing this kind of thing, because they’d likely just say that determining which compositions of old scents are similar to each other is of little or no interest to them. They know there are quite a few examples of this or that scent, what use would it be for them to spend time doing this?

An aficionado who wants to write a book about template compositions, as one might call these, would need to pursue such a task. Another point about the “arc” involves new acquisitions. As a newbie, you don’t know how much variety exists, but after you’ve studied a large number of scents you begin to realize that discovering a new composition that you really like may not occur very often. And you may already feel that you don’t need a slightly superior version of a particular composition. I’ve pointed this out about Success by MCM. When I read the notes and noticed when it was released, I thought to myself that it sounds like it’s similar to Boss Cologne, which is now Boss Number One. Tenere is another of this type, as is Iquitos. Of course, for one reason or another, some aficionados might want to have several scents with similar compositions, but other than wanting the “best” of a particular type (if it is not too expensive), I can’t remember when I felt that I had to have one scent over another with a very similar composition because of a slight difference.

Again, however, that could change when my sensitivities shift, which makes being an aficionado so difficult at times. I can’t remember a wine “expert” (or whatever they prefer to be called) talking about shifting sensitivity issues, nor of someone in a different hobby where this possibly could be a factor. Perhaps that’s the most important element when one is descending the arc. That is, you realize that not only are you less likely to be pleasantly surprised by a scent you’ve never tried before, but you also realize that even if you do find one you really enjoy, that enjoyment may never be replicated! On the other hand, you may be more open to trying a scent that you didn’t find especially pleasant a couple months earlier because you now realize that a change in sensitivity could lead to really enjoying it the second (or third, or fourth) time around. I’m not sure if there are other hobbies with this quality, but it sure keeps things interesting, at least to me !

I’ll conclude this post by addressing the question, is the fragrance aficionado a “snob?” Certainly some are, but that isn’t saying much, of course. I pride myself on wearing scents that some may regard as “drug store dreck,” and am only concerned with a pleasant olfactory experience, so if someone were to call me a fragrance snob, I’d just laugh at him/her, because it suggests the person is quite ignorant (and for some reason that tends to amuse me in these kinds of contexts). In any case, so what if you are a snob? Live your life the way you like! If you lose friends and generally alienate people, and you don’t like this aspect of it, then become more self-aware as well as more empathetic, and make positive changes in your life. However, I learned an awful lot from professors who to me had some snobby elements to their personalities, back in the 80s and 90s, so I would suggest trying to ignore snobbery and “pick the brains” of such people. Then you can “tell them off,” if you like – that’s been my attitude for decades now, though I don’t really feel the need to tell people off. I tend to simply have less and less contact with them, which has worked out well over the years.

NOTE: For those who want to read more about this subject, I suggest this thread:

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/409014-Thinking-about-slowing-down

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The advantage of being a “drydown person” – no must, no fuss !


Recently, I’ve come across a new claim, that of “musty top notes,” apparently a notion associated only with vintage scents. I did a google search and found that this idea goes back to at least circa 2007. I’ve never heard a “professional” make such an assertion, and I wonder what it is meant to convey.  By contrast, I understand the claim about some vintage scents conveyed in this Basenotes.net review of Guess Men (1991):

The shockingly repulsive smell of hot vinyl and overheated electronics…

And I’ve come across it in at least a few, especially the “drug store favorites,” but with vintage the claim that makes more sense is that the drydown is musty, which seems to be related to a misunderstanding about what certain note combinations result in, though of course one is entitled to dislike it. However, if you don’t give scents a chance you may be missing out on quite a bit of olfactory enjoyment. For example, I gave Cool Water for Men several chances but never liked it, though I gave Carlo Corinto Rouge a second chance and I was glad I did, though it shares some major elements with Cool Water. However, CCR is simpler and there is more of a “quality” cedar base note, which supplies a slight tobacco impression, whereas CW is more of a “woody/amber” of little interest to me.

In any case, I’d like to mostly focus on this statement in this post:

Whatever you do, however, don’t rub your skin after applying perfume to “activate” the scent. All you are doing is heating it up prematurely and eliminating the top notes, effectively reducing its longevity and removing an entire facet of its overall accord. Also bear in mind that the human nose has an uncanny ability to acclimatize to scent, and that just because you can’t smell something on you, doesn’t mean others can’t. Dousing yourself so thoroughly that you reek is never a good move. Trust in subtlety; a little goes a long way.

http://www.highsnobiety.com/2015/06/29/a-beginners-guide-to-scent-perfume-and-fragrance/

I’ve gone beyond this and suggest that some people might want to try using a hair dryer, perhaps set on cool, to prematurely eliminate the top notes, as this author phrases it. He points out that one might not be able to smell one’s scent of the day after a while, but he seems blissfully unaware that the reason might be related to the effect of top notes! In fact, if I had not discovered this back in 2008 I might have “left the hobby” by 2009! Why he is concerned about “removing an entire fact” that only lasts a few minutes or so is puzzling, because he provides no reason, and there is nothing in the article that offers any insight into this.  Sure, if you enjoy mostly top notes and don’t care about smelling the scent an hour after application, go ahead and use the approach that works best for you.

However, keep in mind that there is another olfactory world waiting to be explored a few hours after application! It’s true that for some scents, the “opening,” as I call it (meaning what lasts for anywhere from about half an hour to a couple of hours, and not fleeting top notes) lasts for quite a while but then there is hardly any drydown. In fact, I just sampled Dalimax Black and was surprised at how interesting it was at least a couple hours (a heavy wine-like quality), but then it seemed to have nearly disappeared. These are the kinds of scents I tend to avoid, though in this case I’d buy a bottle and reapply when necessary, because the opening did last longer than usual – I’m just not a fan of this idea and have others with this element that I enjoy more, such as Barolo. Being a “drydown” person means that you have the entire scent to “deconstruct” and consider (and you can easily avoid “musty top notes,” if there is such a thing). And of course you can also apply more of less, dilute it, spray to different parts of the body or even on a strip (which you can place in your breast pocket, for example), to try and get it to work for you.

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Alchemy is back – and in your fragrance bottle, or is it?


On a recent Basenotes.net thread, I came across a claim that seems to be gaining momentum, yet also seems to have no scientific basis (and reminds me of Medieval alchemy more than anything else). Fist, I’ll quote the post in question:

Well, this might serve as an example of reformulation hysteria.

Amouage reformulated Epic Man with the bottle change… which was in 2014. It went from a friction fit cap to a magnetic cap, and the juice was reformulated, resulting in a weaker performing fragrance. This topic was started in early 2013.

What I did notice with my Epic Man was that over time, as more air entered the bottle, the fragrance intensified. It’s great, and lives up to the name. And I bought this in November of 2013.

My response to this was:

Whatever happened, it can’t be “magic.” What you are describing suggests quite a bit of chemical activity in a sealed bottled. I have yet to read any industry expert or scientist explain how a significant change in a typical concoction of this kind is possible, other than the scent “turning,” which I have yet to experience, and beyond some apparent top note issues (a few hundred bottles with well over 100 that are 15-20 or more years old). Moreover, if this is a phenomenon that the industry knows about but doesn’t want to disclose to the public, they could “mature” their batches so that these would smell great when someone was sampling it to buy, not after quite a bit of the scent was used up in the bottle. However, this is a phenomenon I have experienced, and there was no doubt in my mind that it was related to being able to detect and appreciate the drydown more, after the first few wearings. There is a person who has argued for this “let some air in” notion for a while now, and at the very least it does not pass the smell test. LOL. The one test that can be done is a MS/GC study, which would show if there were at least higher spikes on the graph (one would do a before and after study), but that means more [of the same] molecules would have to be generated from the same amount of substance from the same bottle. Can someone say urban legend?

I’ll also quote some items from the Fredric Malle site:

Time necessary for a perfume (perfume concentrate mixed with alcohol) to be olfactively stable and get its full measure on the olfactive level. Note that to be really useful, maceration always has to be done on a large volume of perfume before being bottled. Once the perfume is in a bottle, it doesn’t macerate the same way. At Editions de Parfums, each perfumer decides on the time needed for the maceration of his or her composition. A time strictly adhered to by our house.

http://www.fredericmalle.com/about-us/perfume-glossary

And:

DO YOU MACERATE YOUR FRAGRANCES BEFORE BOTTLING THEM?

Of course we do, as one should! Like wines, perfumes have to age in large containers to give their full measure. This is even truer if one uses lots of natural ingredients or lots of rich base notes. (An Eau de Cologne needs less maceration than heavy chypres, for instance) Every “Classic” used to be macerated for a period varying between 4 and 8 weeks. Some mass-market companies eliminated this practice in the 80’s, to avoid immobilizing money for weeks. Once we are done developing a fragrance, we always decide of an aging protocol for this new perfume with his author. Some perfumers favor long maturation (aging the fragrance concentrate before mixing it with alcohol), others prefer long maceration (aging the finished solution). Portrait of a Lady, for instance is matured for 2 weeks then macerated 4 weeks, a 6 weeks aging process. One can note when working with fresh lab samples that they are much less powerful, less beautiful, and often less stable, than properly aged products. Time and mass are critical. As a rule of thump, we find that one must manufacture a minimum of 5 Kg of concentrate at a time to get this extra body in a fragrance.

http://www.fredericmalle.com/eu/about-us/questions-answers?___store=eu_store

And here is what one “natural perfumer” has to say on the subject:

…now with all the lab work and the synthetic aromas and all those scientific breakthroughs in perfume technology i believe the maceration days have long gone and even if they are still being used i think its only with high end perfumes that use resins still or heavier aroma chemicals that need time to mend together but with the electronic noses and head space technology and all the aroma chemicals i think its just mix and go
from my experience of natural perfumery for over 20 years i still need to macerate even if i mix new aroma chemicals with synthetics and natural oils i still need to macerate for up to 3 month to get the full potential from a perfume and tweak in-between i have to keep them away from the sun and in a constant temp in days past they would even dig holes in the ground to macerate and not to have the impulse of re opening the bottles let them be and let the magic begin as u said ..so its not a figment of the perfumers imagination it is a reality that has been carried for centuries from generation to generation perfumery was such a closed field and the secrets of making it was highly guarded now its a more open field and all the old techniques and ways are changing and so is the new market with less and less fine perfumes to smell i think the new generation will not even know what fine perfumery is

http://www.fragrantica.com/board/viewtopic.php?id=79807

Note that on this Fragrantica thread, there were claims that over time scents seems to lose their harshness and become more “rounded,” not that there is an increase in strength without “spoilage.” And the professionals seem to have a very good idea how to use the maceration process, if it is even necessary (which it doesn’t seem to be with many if not most of today’s designers, due to how synthetic these are – if used, it’s unlikely to be difficult to manage effectively). There’s little doubt that these professionals would laugh at such extraordinary claims, but people who make such assertions don’t seem to realize this.  With the exception of some anonymous internet people and one blogger, to my knowledge nobody has made the claim that there can possibly be a significant increase in the intensity of the scent in this way, all else being roughly equal. However, I’m sure it is wonderful to live in a mental universe where such alchemy is possible !

UPDATE:  Perhaps a couple of days after I published the above there appeared this review of Interlude Man at Fragrantica:

I have cracked the code. I take my words back regarding old cap/new cap change of formula. I don’t even know why I even got into that in the first place but I have since realised that the liquid is the kind that would mature inside the bottle.

I have had a magnetic cap for about 6 months and in the beginning it was almost kind of brittle, harsh and headache inducing but with time it has developed inside the bottle somehow and the notes are coming out more rounded. I think they ultimately will all smell the same a few years down the line so have patience people and enjoy what you have purchased instead of beating yourself up for what you got!

Note that I have experienced these same things, but I realize it is related to my changing perceptions or sensitivities, though it’s certainly possible for top notes to weaken over time (since I try to avoid much of the fleeting top notes I can’t speak to this element), probably decades in most cases.  As a newbie I simply could not imagine that my olfactory perceptions could change so much within a matter of months or even weeks!  The alternative, believing that somehow many more of certain molecules are created either from nothing or from molecules that can’t be changed into them in this context, is quite humorous, equivalent to trying to turn lead into gold with Medieval technology.  Too bad I don’t have any friends who are chemists.

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Return of the Clone Wars !


Recently on Basenotes.net and Fragrantica.com there have been threads in the “men’s” forums about how close Armaf’s Club de Nuit Intense for Men is to Aventus. Some may laugh at this notion, considering how much discussion there has been for a long time now about batch variations in Aventus (and I pointed out in a thread that one could not “clone” Avenuts even if he/she was willing to spend a huge amount of money if you believe in the batch variations – the best you could do is to “clone” a particular batch). Obviously, the idea is find a replacement for a very expensive scent that doesn’t leave one feeling “deprived.” However, this is clearly something one can only decide for oneself.

And yet the new threads keep coming, with various claims, such as:

1. The person starting the thread is a “shill,” “troll,” or something along those lines.
2. There can never be a “true clone” (for one reason or another).
3. Clones are nothing new.
4. Sometimes the clone was released before the expensive scent was.
5. “Luxury items” are not to be compared to “knock offs” (I guess the fake Rolex watch being a prime example).

I think number 3 is worth pursuing, in that when I sample a vintage scent for the first time, I often find myself thinking that it was clearly “inspired” by another scent (s). There are quite a few examples, such as Tenere and Boss Cologne (now #1), and of course the army of scents similar to Gucci’s Envy for Men. Some seem to be “in betweeners,” such as Carven Homme, which features elements similar to Envy on the one hand and Heritage/Zino on the other. The other day I wore vintage Alain Delon, and my thought was that it was like a weird combination of elements from vintage 1-12, the honey-dominant vintage ones like Kouros, Tenere, and Boss #1, and some basic leathery scents (sort of a murky, blended aspect that gives the impression of an old baseball glove).  When do we use the term “clone?”

In the case of the Armaf scent, it seems that there is a clear lemon note that is inconsistent with Aventus, for example. Does that mean it is not a “clone?” And of course one can argue that the top notes of a scent were “cloned,” but the drydown was not, or vice versa. What I liked about another “Aventus clone,” Lomani’s AB Spirit Silver, is that there’s a kind of burnt coriander note that I enjoyed, whereas lately I have not enjoyed clear coriander notes. I can’t remember what Aventus smelled like a few hours after application, but I’m not sure I would prefer it to the Lomani! Of course one can argue that after spending $200+ on a regular-size bottle, the buyers are going to think that a $20-25 “clone” can’t be “as good,” and that this affects their ability to assess at least some scents, but I think that after one has done quite a bit of sampling, it’s easy to get a sense of where “the reality” probably lies.

So, where is that, exactly? I’ll use the example of Virgin Island Water, which I recently sampled. At first, I was struck by the similarity to Laguna (“women’s”‘ version), in terms of at least a central accord. My thought was that if Laguna was layered with vintage Set Saiil Saint Barts for Men, one could get close to VIW. In fact, my guess is that it would smell better (to me). Laguna provides a soft, particulate quality that SSSB does not possess, whereas SSSB has the “spikey” elements that supplies contrast and dynamism. I usually don’t think much when someone says that this and that scent can be layered to produce a third scent, and here I’m not saying a “clone” would be the result. Rather, this is what I’m seeking in this kind of scent, at least in recent days.

The key point here is that this is my reality, in the recent past. I have no idea if it will be my reality tomorrow. I don’t really pay much attention to reviews any more, in terms of “blind buying,” other than to get a general sense of what the scent might smell like. For example, if someone said that a “clone” of Patou Pour Homme had just been released, I would be in no rush to get it, because I have to want to wear the scent in question often, and these days I’m finding that “cheapos” can be quite compelling (and of course I’ve got a bunch of vintage scents from which to choose as well). Along with a few niche that I like, what is the point of the “clone?” If you want a “panty dropper” scent, the “clone” may very well work out fine, whereas if you are an aficionado (and have plenty of money to spend on these concoctions) why would you even think about the “clones?” So, if you want a “clone war” to be in your reality, that’s your decision.

Yes, if you bought a few “clones” and they disappointed you, it’s something you can mention on a relevant thread, but isn’t it time to stop there and just refrain from buying such scents in the future? If you’ve got the money to buy a bunch of clones, why not just buy a decant of the “real thing,” if money is a factor, but not such a huge factor that you can only buy one clone? Last week, I purchased Sun Java White for Men, because I remember enjoying Silver Mountain Water’s first half hour but then didn’t smell much of anything (as a “newbie”), so I thought that from the reviews it was worth the $12 or so I would have to pay for it. I am pleased to report that there is a very interesting and pleasant accord present, though it doesn’t seem as rich, complex, etc. as SMW does for that first half hour. Because variety is very important to me, I’m glad I now own a bottle, and also that I didn’t pay retail for SMW. However, if you only want to own ten or so bottles, and retail Creed prices are not an issue, then I’d advise to just avoid even thinking about the “clones.” Get “war” out of your consciousness !

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Sorting through the vintage greats.

I’ve been more interested in variety lately, and what that means is I wear vintage less often. Moreover, because of the sharp rise in price for many vintage scents, it’s not a bad idea to sell some now, which would relieve feelings of becoming a hoarder as well as bringing in some cash! I have plenty of “backup bottles” of a bunch of vintage scents, but I’ve also been thinking that I should sell off some that I never seem to be interested in wearing as of late. How do I decide which ones should go?

Quorum is an interesting case. I like all the notes, but I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed wearing it, perhaps due to a lavender note that is just too strong. However, I have enjoyed Henry Cotton’s in Green, which also features a strong lavender note. The difference is that the rest of the composition of in Green seems to “cut” the lavender whereas in Quorum it seems to enhance its irritating qualities. Because vintage Quorum does not seem to have “hit the big times,” in terms of prices, though, I’ll likely hold onto it for a while.

Carven Homme is another that I don’t seem to be enjoying enough lately. Instead, I would wear vintage Heritage EdT. Not long ago, CH was selling quite well, but then a whole lot of “new old stock” seems to have been discovered and 50 ml bottles were selling for around $20 new. This is a case where it would seem to wait until prices rise again. Micallef #31 is another of this type, though it’s simpler and tends to be less cloying than CH can sometimes be to me. I recently acquired a bottle of Le Male Terrible, and this may be one to keep, because it’s not too close to vintage Heritage EdT, though it’s one I would swap if someone made me a great offer.

Vintage Red for Men is so complex that I can’t imagine not wanting it in my rotation. Every time I’ve worn it I’ve gotten at least slightly different impressions. And while I’ve enjoyed it a bit more or less, I’ve never experienced a “bad wearing” with it. The “patchouli monsters,” by contrast, have bothered me over the last few years. These include Givenchy Gentleman, Giorgio for Men, and Moods Uomo. On the other hand, while I enjoy the Boss Cologne/Tenere type scents, I’m not sure if I need more than a bottle of one of those. Success by MCM was released around the same time with a similar note list, so I never thought it worthwhile to obtain a bottle, though I sometimes look to see if someone listed it at a good price on ebay.

By contrast, the “castoreum monsters” are more appealing to me, though for a while I was very sensitive to that note. These include Salvador Dali Pour Homm, Vermeil, Davidoff, and One Man Show, though there are some that aren’t quite as monstrous in this context, including Leonard Pour Homme, Jil Sander Pure Man, and Van Cleef & Arpels Pour Homme. The most well-known, older aromatic fougeres have not interested me in quite a while (Paco Rabanne Pour Homme, Azzaro Pour Homme, etc.), but I think I’d like to keep Montana’s Parfum d’Homme because it is more complex, which allows for different impressions (with the fougere accord sometimes not seeming to be too strong).

Kouros is an interesting one in this context. I’ve got Balenciaga Pour Homme, Joint Pour Homme, and Kouros Fraicheur, as well as vintage Kouros. Lately I’ve prefered BPH due to the nice sandalwood note, and less astringent qualities, but these are the kinds of scents that really seem to go from one end of the enjoyment/irritation spectrum to the other, depenging upon overall sensitivity or sensitivity to certain notes, accords, or aroma chemicals. Then there is One Man Show and Krizia Uomo. I think I might prefer the vintage aftershave formulation of OMS above others I’ve tried, but I think I’ll keep my vintage EdT as well, along with a bottle of KU, beause again these seem to vary considerably in terms of my enjoyment of them.

Havana and Montana Parfum d’Homme (“red box”) have some strong similarities. The Montana may be the most complex scent I’d call a fougere, whereas lavender does not play any major role in Havana, which features a tobacco note absent in the Montana. They both start out rather loud, but in the case of Havana, it’s too loud, though I can just use my technique for getting to the drydown more quickly, so that’s not really an issue. And while I have too many fougeres, I don’t think I should move out my Montana bottle because the complexity it possesses means that I may be able to wear it when no other fougere will be tolerable. Then there is Havana Reserva, which is a simpler but more tobacco-oriented version of Havana, which means I usually wear it rather than Havana. Because of this, I would part with my Havana bottle, though right now prices are low so it makes sense to wait. The Montana is also not expensive, so there’s not much of a decision to make. If someone wanted to offer me “big money” for a Havana Reserva bottle, I’d be tempted, but otherwise there’s no real decision here.

Sybaris by Puig is another that is in this range, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a market for it, so again, it pays to wait and see if prices rise for that one. The drydown on these is not that far from that of vintage Bijan for Men or Patou Pour Homme, actually, and in the case of those, BfM can be found in vintage formulation at low prices on ebay if one has patience whereas PPH seems to always sell for hundreds of dollars per 90 ml EdT. In any case, I think the above has supplied some ideas about my thought process in this context. One thing I don’t want to do is waste too much time on a hobby, but to me this is also a kind of journey of discovery. I don’t know what the limits of my olfactory interests are, and there are no scientific studies that might help clarify things (that is, a study of perhaps thousands of people over the course of a decade or more who have done what I’ve been doing since 2008). And so, I can’t help but to spend some time each day thinking about how everything “fits together.”

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How to make your own niche scent, cheaply !


You’ve probably read some threads on sites like Basenotes.net or Fragrantica.com which feature someone asking what inexpensive scent smells like a really expensive one. Aside from ones that seem to be an “homage,” to put it nicely (such as Lomani’s AB Spirit Silver and Aventus), there is also the possibility of layering scents to create a similar effect. It all depends upon what you are seeking, and unfortunately I don’t think many people really know! For example, some seem to want a top notes experience that lasts up to perhaps half an hour, and then the base could be quite generic and they wouldn’t even realize it. In other cases the person is seeking a specific kind of “vibe,” that term indicating that it’s a vague perception for them.

It is the latter kind of quest I’ll be addressing here, because I’m not that interested in top notes and don’t think I can do justice to that experience for “top notes people.” I’ll address two examples of possible attempts to replicate a “vibe” that expensive scents generate, one being Memoir Man by Amouage and the other being Black Afgano. I have sampled MM, and it struck me as being similar to Burberry’s Brit for Men, but it’s not quite the same, note-wise. So, for those who want an absinthe type note, which Brit doesn’t possess, I would try layering it with one of the Lolita Lempicka “masculine” scents or Smalto (1998). The “trick” seems to be to use the right amount of the two (or more scents) you are layering, and the best way to do that might be to decant them into dab vials and apply tiny dabs until you get the right “vibe.” Where you dab also matters – what I’ve found is that you want to dab the stronger scent below the weaker, if you do this to your chest and abdominal areas.

In the case of Black Afgano, I’ve only read reviews, but perceptions seem to be rather diverse with this one. If you’ve already got some Kouros, you can dilute that (if it’s vintage) and decant it, then I’d try decanting some Axis Oud as well. You can then use tiny dabs until you get the effect you are seeking. Now there may be a note in BA that doesn’t exist in any of the scents you already possess and can layer, but again, this is about a “vibe,” which means the loss of a note is not crucial. Of course this idea is much less useful to someone who owns very few scents, and in those cases I recommend buying some samples of what you think might interest you, to get a sense of the variety that exists (especially if you are “newbie”).

If nothing else, layering is an interesting experience. What I like to do once in a while, in this context, is to start the day with one scent and than apply another if I am getting bored and I think the other scent will enhance the first. Today, there are so many niche scents released each year and so much hype that unless you are wealthy this “hobby” might cause problems, perhaps even resulting in a divorce! I’ve certainly known of divorces that seemed to be about less than someone spending thousands a year on fragrances, that’s for sure! All it takes is a little thinking – ask yourself why you want a scent. For example, let’s say there’s a new and expensive “oud scent” that has strong spice and incense elements. Try layering something like Witness by Bogart or Jacomo de Jacomo with Jovan’s Intense Oud. If you want the oud quality to be mild, dab it below where you applied Witness. This isn’t that complicated! And you get to use what you already have while saving hundreds of dollars on just one bottle.

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