Sauvage: Is it a “nice” scent ?


I was criticized on another fragrance blog for pointing out that if I want a “nice” scent I have a few by Playboy I could turn to, and those cost about $4 each (100 ml bottles). This is an example of a critic being criticized because he is appropriately critical! I don’t review scents and simply call them nice. I might say that I find it pleasant, but I include more information that is specific. In the case of the review page for Sauvage at Fragrantica.com, it seemed (for a while) as though the only positive thing anyone could say about this scent is that it’s nice. Because of this I wanted to mention, especially for those who don’t know, that there are plenty of scents they might think of as nice that are obtainable for very low prices (some might even think of a few dollar store scents as nice, though I have yet to find one that is as good as a couple of the Playboy ones).

Now an individual can certainly try to mislead people by making it seem that I was the first to use the word nice when referring to Sauvage, but then you have to expect to be “called out” for doing it! In any case, one thing I often say to people (who say a scent is nice) in this kind of context is, what is the opposite? In other words, how many truly unpleasant scents can you name that are not “drug store dreck?” As I pointed out on that Sauvage page, comparing it to a niche scent designed to be “skanky” is ridiculous, and clearly an indication of desperation in argumentation. The other point I made (either at Fragrantica or Basenotes.net) is that many members already own several bottles of scents they perceive as nice, so you would need to explain to such people why they should buy yet another (that is rather expensive, at least to me). And I’ll leave it to others to ponder whether a scent called a savage should smell nice!

Now, with this context established, I’ll copy and paste some of the statements I posted on these two sites over the last several days (copying and pasting those I responded to would make this post too long, but I think you’ll get a good sense of what my position is from just what I said):  First, here are some from Basenotes:

…companies like Lomani seem to be going after the niche crowd, though perhaps not in an especially original way. As to the BdC bashing in the early days of that scent, I don’t remember that being the case at Fragrantica, which is why the negative comments there surprised me. I’m not a “fresh” scent person, so it’s possible that Sauvage features something special in it’s fresh approach, which might lead the fresh people to buy it at $80 or more, but my guess is that the fresh guys already have a few (if not many) fresh scents they already enjoy. Now if I turn to Playboy’s London for Men, I get a brandy note – one that I enjoy and that I don’t have in any other scents that I like, so for $4/100 ml, I’m willing to buy non-vintage/non-niche there. What does Sauvage offer a person like myself? I already have quite a few “fresh” scents that I basically never wear!

I would certainly agree that there are more than a few guys (and gals) out there saying things like, “I just bought that new Sauvage fragrance and it’s absolutely delicious!” Is it the same crowd who buy a new [insert brand name here] car without paying attention to any reviews, etc? As others have said, this may be Dior’s “answer” to BdC, but since BdC is being fairly well-received at this point, at least at Fragrantica (and plenty of BNers like it), I thought that would tend to keep the Sauvage negatives down to a minimum. And I do remember some negative reviews of BdC at Fragrantica, but nothing like what I’m seeing there with Sauvage!

One doesn’t have to take something “seriously” to garner information from it. I think in this instance it is quite telling, and I am quite surprised there is so much negativity there. Moreover, the negativity seems to be about it being “nice” and generic, rather than “bad.” Even some of the “bad” reviews suggest this indirectly. I wonder whether the response would have been so bad or lukewarm if the scent had been released as something like Dune Pour Homme Fresh. Another factor is that Eau Sauvage (and perhaps a flanker or two) seems to have a “serious” fan base, and many of those who are Fragrantica members wanted to voice their displeasure, whereas with Bleu de Chanel, there was no connection to a “great” scent. What would have been the response if BdC had been released as Antaeus Intense, for example?

I think people like myself should be grateful for the “hype train,” because it can save us time. In this instance, after what I’ve read I have no interest in even sampling this one if I passed by a tester in a store.

To get back to the OP’s notion, I recently acquired Zen for Men, which is not what I tend to enjoy at all. This is a pleasant scent but I doubt I will wear it more than once a year, if that. Now if Sauvage contained Zen for Men in it (let’s say very similar), wouldn’t it sell a lot more than ZfM (in factt, ZfM might be too “out there” relative to what Savage is like, from what I’ve read)? So the point is that this seems to be about slapping the Dior (and Sauvage flanker) name on a bottle and putting out a presumably “crowd pleasing,” mish-mash scent in it, one that is not likely to offend the “casual” consumer of such items. Good for them (in terms of profits) as well as for those who feel this scent fills a niche in their rotation (the BN crowd) and can afford it, but also for those who own vintage and want to see the prices rise for those (I think there is a “rising tide lifting all boats” effect). But if you want “innovation” or “creativity,” you can sample some niche scents.

…1. My perception is that Fragrantica members seem to be more “mainstream,” so really negative comments there are more telling in this context.
2. The review section there provides a “rapid reaction” resource that does not exist on BN, because it can take quite a while for new reviews to appear.

Perhaps I’m at a different point in my “fragrance journey” than most of those who were excited by the Sauvage release, but for me there’s no need for a scent that is going to do, more or less, what one I already have does. I’m past the “ooh, it’s got an interesting cherry/rhubarb note that lasts ten minutes, but then it’s not that unique, though I’m really glad I bought it [probably at or near retail]” stage of things, if I was ever fully there. Here’s an example: I obtained a bottle of Cuba Prestige not long ago, because I got it at about half of it’s already “cheapo” price, and my thought was, “great, now I can swap off my vintage A*Men bottle because this is close, and good enough for my purposes.” My Playboy London provides a good enough brandy note, so I’m not going to be enticed by any $80+ new release with that note, and I don’t like “fresh” scents (I have several that I hardly ever wear already). So, my main point here is that yes, for some of us, Sauvage had to be noticeably unique/special, or else the price is a joke. I’ll take it for $20, but it would most likely end up as “trade bait,” to get something that does seem like it would be at least somewhat unique.

And here are the ones on the Fragrantica review page (the first one in jest, due to my surprise at how negative so many of the comments where up to that point):

Beep beep, boop boop – I am the robot that created this scent and I am offended by many of the comments here !

@areyouin729:

There certainly may be some “niche snobs” saying bad things about this scent, but I think that there are a larger percentage of us, me included, who don’t see the reason why we should bother with an $80 bottle of this one when we really enjoy our $4 bottle of a Playboy scent, for example, more! If they can’t create a scent that is much better than my best Playboy “cheapo” (assuming it is better), then why should I consider buying it at that much higher price level? Are you going to call me a “cheapo snob?” Can there be such a thing? LOL.

@harlemmal:

I think there are two major issues. The “disgusting” remarks may have to do with too much of one or another (or several) aroma chemicals being used. That is a matter of personal preference, because as you say, there are expensive niche scents that use a lot of aroma chemicals. On the other hand, niche scents that smell animalic are a “red herring” here because that kind of scent is for those who seek it, and Sauvage does not seem to be that kind of scent at all.

The second major issue is price. As I said before, if I can get a “nice” $4 bottle (100 ml) of a Playboy scent, for example, why in the world would I pay $80 for the same size bottle of a “nice” Dior (and why would I “need” it, since I already have the bottle of the Playboy scent)? I think the best thing to do would be to conduct a totally “blind” test of Sauvage against a bunch of “cheapos” that are similar. Only then can someone say that this Dior is worth the extra money (IMO), if that person is seeking compliments from others and if Sauvage does indeed come out head and shoulders above inexpensive ones of this genre.

@harlemmal:

I agree that really nasty comments are not helpful to anyone. There do seem to be enough comments (here and at BN) to suggest that there is a use of aroma chemicals that bother some people, perhaps because these haven’t been used in the same way or in the same amount in any previous “major” release. Or they just expected not to detect any rough “chemical edges,” so to speak. And perhaps if this was released as a flanker to Dune Pour Homme it would make more sense (from what I’ve read) to the harshest critics.

And I don’t begrudge Dior trying to make nice profits with a “mainstream” scent, nor do I think it’s bad for the fragrance market overall. In fact, I think that the notion of there being no such thing as negative publicity applies here as well. That is, it serves to get people talking about “quality,” uniqueness, etc., exposing those who might not otherwise know that there are scents designed to be “edgy.” And from my perspective, I want to let people know there are some great scents that cost next to nothing, such as Dorall Collection’s Dark Flower, which has a nice frankincense note and is quite complex (cost was about $7 total for 100 ml), though it’s not for the “mainstream” crowd, that’s for sure. And I truly hope those who bought a bottle of Sauvage enjoy it !

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Sauvage is that it seems that Dior wants people to think it’s a showcase for ambroxan, as if that’s something special. Over at the Perfume Shrine blog (back in 2010) there is this statement:

…if you thought you haven’t smelled it [Ambrox/Ambroxn] before think again: Almost everyone has a rather good scent memory of it through the ubiquitousness of Light Blue by Dolce & Gabbana, composed by Olivier Cresp in 2001, to name but one of the scents which use this raw material in ample amounts.

The author names several, including “masculines” that contain “perceptible” amounts in the base, such as the designer offerings Emporio Armani Diamonds for Men, Silver/Black (or Onyx) by Azzaro, and 1881 Intense pour Homme by Cerruti. So far I have yet to read a review that explains, in terms that make sense, why anyone should regard Sauvage as worthy of acquisition for those who already own a similar scent. And one BN member went so far as to suggest that those who paid a lot of money were jealous, bringing Aventus into the discussion!

That’s the exact reason why fragrance snobs are outraged. Because for mere $80, if not less, the millions of people around the globe can receive a fragrance that is similar, if not better, than their much coveted Aventuses with obscure batch codes. Dior has ruined all the fun.

I’ll conclude this post by acknowledging that not everyone wants to sample a large number of scents or do any kind of research. Some want to walk into a major department store and try out a new offering. To them, $80 or more for a 100 ml bottle is like buying a dollar store scent is for me. But then why don’t they tell us this, just as I’ve disclosed my disinterest in top notes many times? It seems as though such people are defensive about their approach to obtaining fragrance bottles, but for whatever reason, they serve up untenable claims. Another possibility for some is that they think only a “major house” can offer a “quality scent.” Again, that’s fine but you need to tell us such things! And for those interested, my favorite “nice” (meaning it includes nothing that the “average person” might find offensive) and “fresh” scent at the moment is Bambou by Roger & Gallet, which cost me less than $8 total for 100 ml.

NOTE: I’d like to see the results of a “blind” test consistent with social science principles; Sauvage would grouped with a bunch of similar “cheapos,” (those doing the comparing would have no background in “fine fragrances”).

UPDATE:  After I published the above, this review appeared at Fragrantica:

I can tell you where the hate is coming from. This site is for perfume lovers, i mean we are all here for a reason, and most people that comment on this site have perfume experience and have tried plenty of stuff. Then we have a house that has produced some of the most celebrated and in fact greatest masculine perfumes of all time – Fahrenheit, Dior Homme and Eau Sauvage. So, yeah, they have raised the bar quite high. And then, there is the personal taste, the subjective side of liking or not liking certain piece of art.
I have not tried Sauvage yet, but as a big fan of Dior i will buy this, of course. I may be disappointed, reason mostly coming from the three mentioned above…

This suggests many people are buying Sauvage due to Dior’s reputation and are not happy with it.  I’m not “defending” such people, because while I like vintage Dior Homme, for example (and respect several others), I wouldn’t blind buy Sauvage until I could read more than a few reviews due to the listed notes.  There’s bergamot, ambroxan, ambergris (obviously not likely real, and possibly there’s no detectable synthetic substitute in there either), and something “woody,” according to Fragrantica.  That sounds really bad to me, unless there’s a whole lot of one or another kind of ambergris in there, and so until I read some reviews that speak to this, I would hold off on a blind buy, even if $80 was more like $1 to me.  Why would anyone think this would be special, given recent trends among designer offerings and the notes listed?

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How to decide upon a “cheapo” blind buy.


Sometimes a blind buy sort of calls out to you, which (for me) has recently been the case with Lomani’s AB Spirit. This is a low-priced scent that apparently was meant to smell at least somewhat like Creed’s Windsor. The notes for it (from Fragrantica.com) are:

Top notes are bergamot and lemon; middle notes are rose, iris and eucalyptus; base notes are cedar, sandalwood, musk and moss.

Moreover, some have pointed to this possible connection directly, and the reviews seem to be quite positive overall. Why wouldn’t I blind buy it? One reviewer of Windsor, who has sampled a large number of scents, had this to say about it (on Fragrantica):

Arguably one of Creed’s worst fragrances (in competition against Himalaya and Love in White), Windsor (new) is Vick’s Vapo-Rub on top, and an unremarkable and marginally unpleasant rosy cedar on the bottom. A hint of butyric fruit ester, probably pineapple, is the only point of interest, but it’s too subtle to dwell on. Pointless, surprisingly synthetic, and egregiously overpriced.

First of all, I dislike menthol or eucalyptus type notes – these smell nice but have an irritating quality over time. Then we have the rosy cedar, perhaps with a bit of iris, though not likely the “good stuff” at this retail price point. I’ve tried others like this (rosy/woody), including Cabaret (the “feminine”) but don’t find this combination to be compelling. Moreover, if Windsor has a fruit note, as the reviewer mentions, that doesn’t mean much to me as well (regardless of whether the Lomani does too), because I generally dislike fruit notes unless these are subtle.

For full disclosure, I own Lomani’s Intense Black, which some say is similar to Royal Oud by Creed, but I don’t like this scent (haven’t tried the Creed). On the other hand, I do like AB Spirit Silver, which is at least somewhat like Avents for some period of time. One can also try to conjure up a sense of what the scent will smell like, though this is problematic because notes listings (and often reviews) usually don’t mention predominant aroma chemicals, if any. Another issue for me is the sweetness, especially in the context of texture. For example, there is a kind of “cheap” amber or labdanum (I’ve seen it listed both ways), which isn’t “bad,” but too common – if I know that a scent possesses this, I generally have little interest in it (I already own a few of these). It’s not always listed as a note, though, and reviewers often don’t mention it.

Sweetness can be a positive or negative, depending upon the composition, which brings me to a “cheapo” blind buy that I did make. The scent in question is Cuba Prestige. The reviews are quite uniform on this one, that is, it’s similar to A*Men. Already possessing A*Men and a couple flankers, along with Rebelle (sort of like A*Men with strawberry but without mint and tar), I wouldn’t have purchased it if the price wasn’t really low (and I used it to get a free shipping deal as well). I’m very glad I bought it, because while it is similar to A*Men, it’s a smooth and mellow take, meaning that if I don’t want the full A*Men blast, I can reach for this instead (it seems to have a mild tar note but little or no mint). The longevity is very good but the projection is significantly lighter. I would also consider swapping my A*Men and flankers if the right deal came along.

Obviously, if you buy a “cheapo” and don’t like it, you can use it for gift purpose or just give it to charity, but unless you really hate it, you might want to keep it in case you come around to enjoying it, which has happened to me more than a few times, so I tend to keep these. Eventually, this can put you in “hoarder” territory, or at least lead to concerns about this possibility! I still might acquire AB Spirit, especially if it in a swap or if it was part of a lot. But at this point, I’m mostly curious about it – I don’t think I will like it, or like it enough to feel that buying it was a good idea. And that is what is holding me back on it, unlike Cuba Prestige – I like the idea of having several “variations on a theme” in this case, and since it might allow me to swap off the more expensive yet similar ones, I get some added flexibility for sales (if prices rise sharply for “vintage” A*Men, for instance) or swaps.

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Is “it’s delicious!” the new “fresh and warm?”


I once criticized a Basenotes member’s reviews because he seemed to always call the scent in question “fresh and warm.” I objected to this characterization on two grounds, one being that it makes a scent sound special, but lacks specificity, thereby possibly leading many to “blind buying” a bottle of it. And when you add the fact that so many of his reviews had this same phrase, with few or any negative reviews (from what I remember), and you have to wonder if he just wanted to reaffirm his positive emotional experience more than anything else! The other objection was that it seems highly unlikely that this is a reasonable description, because while there are a subset of scents that go from being “fresh” to being “warm,” how could a scent be fresh and warm at the same time? The only thing I’ve come across that might meet this criteria (for some people) are ones that have a kind of hot yet wet chili quality, perhaps Live Jazz would be an example.

Lately, I’ve seen quite a few reviews with the word delicious, and as you can guess the reviews always seem to be positive. Here again is an example of a lack of specificity and something that is inconsistent with at least my experience. That is, a scent that literally smells delicious is likely to lead to irritation after a short period of time. How long can one smell something like vanilla cupcakes without wanting to smell them any more, for example? And again, this kind of comment may lead to many blind buys that turn into regrets. My guess is that many if not most people who use this term have experienced a certain kind of scent for the first time and so to them it’s like some sort of olfactory revelations, but to those of us with experience it may be a waste of time (read the review), because it doesn’t help us in any way.

That brings me to a scent I recently reacquired, Carlo Corinto Rouge. I swapped it off when I was a newbie because I was dealing with some sort of chemical sensitivity issue at the time, and indeed it seems to possess quite a bit of dihydromyrcenol. This certainly imparts a “fresh” quality, though the fairly strong lavender note keeps it from being “sport”-like. In the base there is a nice cedar note, along with something slightly ambery (not “woody/amber”), and perhaps a touch of tonka, because it has a hint of a pipe tobacco element. The note pyramid, taken from Fragrantica.com, suggests another Cool Water for Men “homage:”

Top notes are lavender and oak moss; middle notes are nutmeg, granny smith apple and pepper; base notes are virginia cedar, amber and vanille.

Less is definitely more here, however, as there is no jasmine nor neroli, which seem to generate a note a clash in CW. It’s also not nearly as sweet as CW. The base isn’t “warm” as in a typical oriental scent but if someone described this scent as being “fresh, then warm,” I would understand that perception. Perhaps it’s best to think of CCR as a “mixed” scent of this type, sort of like “mixed voice” in singing. At some point (within the first hour), the two strands come together, in this case the dihydromyrcenol recedes and the warmer notes step forward. And while I can’t say it’s a very “natural” smelling scent, due to the obvious aroma chemical (s) used, it is handled well here so that

CCR has reaffirmed my sense that it’s often the composition that is problematic rather than the general idea, though perhaps the more natural-smelling cedar in CCR is necessary to make the composition work. If it had a “generic woody/amber” base I don’t think I would like it, and probably would have swapped it off again (someone actually made me an offer for it a couple weeks ago). However, as is always the case, i can’t vouch for what is on the market today. I think my bottle of CCR is vintage and so for all I know new batches could have a generic woody/amber base !

Unlike the picture I used for this post, which is clearly not literal, many might not realize that if you spray a scent in your mouth, it’s going to taste bad, due to chemical additives (to prevent people from drinking these for the alcoholic content). If you make your own scent, though, you could, presumably, drink it or spray it on you. And then you would know if it truly was delicious or not! The picture does point to one important reality here, which is that certain biochemistry must be present that produce a “pleasure effect.” However, using language that can only be misleading doesn’t seem to make much sense, unlike the picture, which is amusing precisely because we know it is meant to be figurative.

UPDATE:  I just happened to come across a review of Ambre Narguilé (by the legendary BN reviewer, “foetidus,” which contained the word delicious, used in a way that makes a lot more sense than any other review that contains it, from what I remember:

Off-Scenter is right on. Ambre Narguile is about food, not passion… not sex… It does food extremely well – it smells delicious. It’s linear and has good sillage. It is not a disappointment to me because I wasn’t expecting much (Not a big Jean-Claude Ellena fan here). My thought about gourmands in general and Ambre Narguile in particular is that it is not enough for niche gourmands to smell like savory food: There should be a more challenging intermingling of fragrance notes than this one exhibits; after all, if I really wanted to smell just like food, there are much cheaper ways of doing that. I own and love several what-I-consider gourmand fragrances (including Arabie and Body Kouros), and they all do more than simply smell like food. This is a pretty and pleasant but non-intriguing designer fragrance, and after a few hours of smelling it, it’s just plain … there. If it were a cheaper fragrance, I’d give it a thumbs up even though I personally don’t find it very interesting… its lack of complexity and development beyond the food notes are at odds with my expectations for an expensive fragrance.

After reading this review (along with a few others that are similar), I can tell that it’s highly unlikely I would be pleased if I bought a bottle of this scent, and in fact I just purchased a bottle of Cuba Prestige, with the thought that a fairly straightforward gourmand need not be expensive to be appreciated. I might do a review of that one in a future blog post.

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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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