The High Cost of Getting a Great Deal ?

Well, I have to admit that I thought claims about these olfactory concoctions couldn’t get much stranger,  but I encountered a new one that may be the “winner” here:

We wear the frag and enjoy it, but in the back of our minds wonder, what’s the catch? Did I really just get a fresh-fruity cheapie that I like? Or am I paying for its cheapness somehow, in some manner less obvious to me, but not others?

First, I’ll point out that I’ve read on several occasions (and experienced it myself) that many of the “cheapos” from several decades ago were known to have no real top notes, and in fact to sometimes smell unpleasant for a minute or two – that was the “catch” with these, and I certainly have no problem “paying” what to me is a nearly non-existent price (since I’m not like a “Creed fanboy” who is mostly buying the scent for the top notes, which is his right and I hope he enjoys the experience).  Now the new “cheapos” vary considerably, and it’s not even clear what one should call a “cheapo” because some were selling at non-cheapo prices at places like Sephora or Ulta (an example being Everlast Original 1910), yet then had a long run (years) of selling for very low prices.  Then there are the Cuba scents, for example, that apparently were meant to sell at low prices from the onset.

In both cases, however, I would not agree with this blogger, who thinks that:

With very cheap fragrances, there’s a higher chance that the headspace off the fruit will emit something bland, clean, and nondescript. Close up, with your nose mere millimeters from where you sprayed, you may get a very complex blend of lucid accords and individual notes.

Note that “headspace” usually refers to a test that was used to construct the scent, but this person seems to be saying that if you wear some “cheapos” they will smell “bland, clean, and nondescript” to others who might walk by you and smell it, for instance.  I find this humorous because I thought that is what most people were seeking!  Moreover, I can’t remember a “cheapo” that struck me as a “very complex blend of lucid accords and individual notes” when smelled at any distance, though smelling any scent very close to the skin is generally a bad idea because perfumers construct their scents to be smelled at a distance of more than “mere millimeters.”  Of course, this kind of claim screams out for a couple of examples, but this person simply mentions a few companies, not the scents in question.  If you have a complaint about a large number of scents, why can’t you name just one or two?  I’d really like to buy that “cheapo” that smelled like a “very complex blend of lucid accords and individual notes” close up or from some other close distance!

I wonder if any perfumer would say that he/she could construct a scent that smelled like a “very complex blend of lucid accords and individual notes” up close but “bland, clean, and nondescript” from a few feet away (or whatever the claimant is suggesting).  What I have found is that some “cheapos” seem reasonably natural, reasonably complex, etc., and I’ll provide an interesting example, Magman by someone I’m guessing is fictional in this context, Arno Sorel.  The notes are listed (at Fragrantica.com) as:

…bergamot, pineapple, cumin, nutmeg, rosewood, prune, musk and amber.

In my review I said, among other things:

Sort of a “mini-me” Lutens (perhaps Five O`Clock Au Gingembre without the tea note and weaker)!

I mention this one because the blogger said “fresh-fruity cheapie,” yet later in the post states:

Cheapies like Caron Yatagan and Krizia Uomo don’t suffer this fate because their profit margin is modest.

First, how does this person know about the profit margins from these two scents relative to “cheapos” in general?  One would have to at least mention a “cheapo” in question and then provide evidence demonstrating a significant profit margin difference!  Second, why bring in two non-“freshies” in this context (the bottles of KU I’ve had seemed to possess quite a bit of castoreum!)?  If it hadn’t been for this claim, I wouldn’t have written this post, because I have little interest in “freshies” and to me they all smell “bland, clean, and nondescript” and/or “chemical,” “synthetic,” harsh, etc. to some degree, though it depends upon how the person is using the term “freshie.”  Again, this is where some examples are crucial.  Do Creed “freshies” have nicer top notes that Playboy “freshies?”  I’d be very surprised if that wasn’t the case, but who would argue otherwise?  And so many complain about poor Creed longevity (apparently this being the case mostly for the “freshies”) that one might ask if it’s a question of smelling something versus smelling nearly nothing!  Such people are clearly buying the scent for their own enjoyment or else they would be more concerned about whether other people could smell it, and if so, what those people were perceiving.

But back to Yatagan and scents of that sort.  I’d probably rather wear Jovan’s Intense Oud or Magman, simply because to me those smell better.  I’m not wearing them for others and I wouldn’t mind it if such scents smelled  “bland, clean, and nondescript” (to other people), because most people don’t like cumin notes, Yatagan in general, and the kind of “oud scent” that is Intense Oud (I’ve called that one something like a mini-me Black Aoud by Montale)!  There is no “price to be paid” here, other than the very cheap one to buy a large bottle of these “cheapos,” assuming you like them, obviously.  Now if I didn’t like Intense Oud, for instance, and really liked Black Aoud (I dislike that one because it’s too strong/harsh) then I would have to decide whether it was worth the price.

Fortunately, I can’t remember being in a position to make that kind of decision, because I’ve been able to acquire the expensive scents I’ve sought through swapping.  There seems to be a notion in the minds of some individuals which assumes that people like myself think along the lines of, “gee, I really like scent X but I’ll settle for cheapo X clone and save some money, even though I know I’ll almost certainly regret it.”  That doesn’t happen, at least with me.  I genuinely enjoy many “cheapos” I’ve purchased, in some cases more than very similar ones that are a lot more expensive.  Then there is an example like Cuba Prestige, which is similar to A*Men.  I have bottles of both.  There’s no reason to swap Prestige because I wouldn’t get much in return and would have to pay for shipping, but if I could swap A*Men for something I wanted that cost let’s say at least $50,. then I would not hesitate to do it because Prestige satisfies my interest in this kind of scent, when it arises (perhaps once a month).

I never think that I’d rather wear A*Men instead, and can appreciate them both roughly in the same way.  This isn’t true in all such cases, of course, an example being Preferred Stock, which is a good “cheapo” version of vintage Red for Men, but it doesn’t provide what I seeking when I want to wear Red (the company claimed it contained over 550 ingredients, so it would seem to be unreasonable to expect it to).  In other cases I prefer the “cheapo” because it’s not as harsh or “chemical,” an excellent example being Dorall Collection’s Mankind Bravo, which was apparently meant to be a Kokorico clone.  Kokorico is difficult for me to wear at times because it can come across as “synthetic/chemical,” but Mankind Bravo is just right (I think I paid $6.35 total for 100 ml).  Sure, not everyone is going to devote that much time to figuring out such things, and that is what the major companies are likely “banking on” with new releases that cost $80 or more per 100 ml bottle, yet don’t seem all that unique (but can smell quite harsh, “chemical,” etc., Sauvage being an obvious example).  Of course if you are more concerned about what others think, go ahead and ask them!  I hope this blogger adds an update and clarifies his position (and offers a few examples).

In the meantime, I noticed that a Fragrantica member seems to have the opposite notion:

It is a fragrance you spray to get “Oh, you smell nice” or “Oh, you smell good.” You do not wear this fragrance to show off it’s complexity or quality of notes. It just a good cheapie to garner compliments, and with that said it is a good cheapie!!!

This is a review for Karen Low’s Pure Blanc, which I haven’t tried, but at the very least this shows that you should think things through for yourself and try to give any scent you sample a chance to impress you (or others), without assuming that the price is going to be a major factor, one way or the other.

NOTE:  One person who commented on this person’s blog post said:

I agree with you completely on this. A few days ago, I tested Adidas Victory League. It smells nice at first but develops into a cheap and headache inducing mess. I would never wear this, but I’d use it as laundry freshener.

Again, AVL is not a “freshie;” perhaps fruity masculine oriental would be as far as one could go in a “fresh” direction with that one, but much more importantly, the blogger was not addressing “headache in a bottle” type scents!  The post was supposedly about “freshies” that smell a lot less impressive from a distance than more expensive “freshies” (with no price range nor any other guidance given).  If one reads the reviews of AVL, one does not get the impression that it is a “headache in a bottle” type of scent, but who would wear such a scent in the first place?  One wouldn’t care if it was less impressive from a distance to others if was making one ill – one would simply avoid wearing it!  And get this, the blogger had a fairly positive review of it back in 2013:

…it does remind me of Allure Homme (original), except lighter and less dimensional, sort of an Allure Lite. It’s a nice fragrance with a pleasant orange-citrus lift on top, followed by a vanillic amber, affectingly soft and clean. Again, Adidas proves that inexpensive “sport fragrance” need not be cheap-smelling and trite. If you like sporty ambers (there aren’t many), you could do much worse than this.

I more or less agree with this view, though I’m not sure what “clean” would mean here other than it doesn’t have any animalic notes.  In fact, if he used my language he might have called it a “mini-me Allure Homme!”  But the key question is how does AVL support his claim, particularly in light of his own review (since he provided no examples, it was quite helpful that one of his readers did)?  The commenter didn’t say the scent developed in a “bland, clean, and nondescript” scent!  And the blogger didn’t say anything about highly irritating, “headache inducing” drydowns.  Thus, the blogger was not successful in conveying what it was he was trying to communicate, apparently.

And it’s also interesting to ask what the better alternative is if others think you smell “bland, clean, and nondescript” while you are wearing a “freshie.”  Would it be, “wow, you smell fresh, clean, and distinctive?”  I have never read anything online other than comments like, “you smell very nice (or very good)”or “you smell sexy” when a scent is described as a “compliment-getter,” and I have yet to get compliments of any kind, other than when I ask someone about a scent (and so they say they like or don’t like the scent itself), perhaps because I don’t use many sprays, often just one.  The point is that I find it unlikely that more than a tiny percentage of the population would make such linguistic distinctions in their commentary (assuming they say anything at all).  In any case, there is no such thing as a “cheap smell.”  Whether or not the vast majority of people in the area you inhabit think you are wearing something “cheap,” something “classy,” something “sexy,” something “generic,” etc. would require quite rigorous study.  When those results are published, I’d be very interested to see them, but in the meantime, views about what “smells good” seem to vary significantly, and the possibility that one blogger knows everything there is to know about such things seems rather remote.

 

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Filed under Criticizing the critics., The basics.

Will somebody please make a rational argument for Sauvage?

On another fragrance blog, I was criticized (harshly; basically called stupid) for a statement I made in the Sauvage review page over at Fragrantica.com, so I’ll copy and paste that first, to provide the information necessary to go forward:

I can understand how some would enjoy this, or how they noticed many compliments (though those who tried it who I know personally said they didn’t like it at all), but you have to make a logical argument! Is this the only scent that garners compliments? The other day someone said that Mambo for Men was a great compliment-getter, for example, and buying that one instead of Sauvage will save you quite a bit of money. But let’s put money aside for a moment. ConsumerThis said: “Let’s just say it’s been a pleasure to watch that love bar pass up everything over the time…” If you enjoy Sauvage for whatever reason, why would you want to see a whole bunch of other people buying it? Do you want to smell like every other guy in your demographic? I think most people want to at least smell a bit unique when they spray on a scent. Instead, it seems like some people want to feel vindicated, as if when enough people online (and anonymous) say Sauvage is great, then that justifies paying more than you would have for Mambo, Berlin by Playboy, or any number of other “cheapos” that would make you smell more unique and might garner as many if not more compliments! And this leads me to think that many “Sauvage lovers” don’t have all that much experience, either will less expensive (non-department store) scents or with scents in general. If you disagree with me, please make a reasonable argument – I’m really interested to hear one at this point. Thanks.

I’m not sure what there is to criticize in this comment, but I have a feeling that some people have at least somewhat “lost their minds” with Sauvage, even those people who may not like it much, if at all!  Why?  At this point, all I can think of doing is listing relevant things that are facts or “semi-facts” (see my recent post about that, if you don’t know what I mean):

1.  It can’t be argued that there is nothing like Sauvage because one can say that about any of these concoctions.  What one can say is that a particular scent is quite odd, such as Secretions Magnifiques, but there are few such examples among designers.  From what I can tell, Sauvage may have more ambroxan than any other scent marketed to the general public that also reaches a huge number of people (compared to say an obscure niche company).  However, that’s not something the apologists seem to be highlighting in their “defense” of it.

2. It can’t be argued that Sauvage is less expensive than niche, making it some sort of bargain, because A. that’s not even true (50 ml Smell Bent scents are $50, last time I checked, for instance), and B. that would only matter to those who want a huge amount of ambroxan in a scent, and again, I can’t remember anyone making that argument (if there is one, that is obviously an “exception proving the rule” situation).

3. There are a huge number of scents that are very inexpensive and seem to have a similar construction and purpose, Berlin by Playboy being an obvious example.  I don’t like Berlin much, which cost me around $5 for 100 ml, but I do think the very different Magnet for Men is quite enjoyable and an obvious “crowd pleaser,” with no “chemical overload” aspects  – quite “natural smelling,” IMO, and that cost me around $7 for 100 ml.  When it comes to the Sauvage type of scent (that is, with a clear marine quality), I’d rather wear Horizon, so that I at least get some vintage complexity and naturalness, for those interested.

4.  If you enjoy Sauvage, that’s great, but it’s just one scent among perhaps 2,000 released just this last year alone!  If you claim that you want to smell unique, how can you not consider several of the other hundreds of “masculines” released recently?  You have to be content to “smell like every other guy.”  That doesn’t bother me at all, though I just happen to rarely wear those kinds of scents.  However, this does eliminate one major reason why people say they want to spend $80 or so (or more!) on a 100 ml bottle, rather than just using a deodorant and/or body spray (or “cheapo” EdT like Berlin) that “smells nice.”

5. If you don’t mind “smelling like every other guy,” that’s fine, but then why spend so much?  Why not just get a scent that is an excellent “compliment getter” but is a lot cheaper?  One reasonable response is that the person doesn’t want to spend the time doing the research, going to stores that might or might not have testers, etc., but again, I can’t remember one person saying something like, “I’ve heard all the online commentary, so I really wanted to try Sauvage, and when I did, I found that I liked it, and I really didn’t want to do any more testing or research at that point.”  As things stand, it seems that “online hype,” or whatever one wants to call it (along with ignorance in many cases), is determinative for nearly all of the positive reviews, directly or indirectly.

Let’s face it, if you are the kind of person who reads/writes reviews or posts about these olfactory concoctions, then you have bought into “hype” to some degree (including myself), in some way, but that doesn’t mean at least some of these scents don’t deserve the hype!  How many movies were you “hyped up” to see but then were quite disappointed?  Or lived up to it?  And for how many other things does this apply?  This is a normal part of humanity, it seems.  There’s nothing to be ashamed of here, unless you become obstinate and make claims that are clearly unsupportable.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to just go to the local mall and buy a scent at the department store fragrance counter – why not just leave it at that?  Why feel that you need to go online and “defend” the scent?  Dior must be making huge profits on it, so you don’t need to “help” them (so many seem to think that by praising Sauvage they are doing the equivalent of standing up to a bully!).  Why not just let the scent speak for itself?  Some people spend hundreds on a 100 ml (or less!) bottle and think it’s a great deal while others don’t want to spend more than perhaps $15 or $20 on such a bottle – if someone tells you that you might like a $5 bottle of Berlin, why not say something like, “thanks for the tip – if I can find a tester I will?”  If Berlin is likely to “accomplish” more or less the same thing that Sauvage does, shouldn’t you be glad?  Why reduce everything to some sort of illogical “zero sum game?”  And if you took the time to write a review, you can take the time to  explain your decision-making process!

If you haven’t read many of my recent posts, I’d like to mention here that it will be interesting to see what happens in the fragrance industry, because there are so many companies marketing inexpensive scents that are very similar to expensive ones (meaning around $80 or more at the local department stores) and are “good quality” (at least in the drydowns) one has to wonder if this all falls apart for the “major” companies.  Of course, the success of Sauvage would seem to be evidence to the contrary and perhaps another variation on the old saying, “nobody ever went broke overestimating the stupidity of the American public.” It may be that the top notes are what closes the deal, so to speak, especially at department store counters (as some have said for a while now), but these days (with the internet resources available), the only thing stopping someone from most likely getting a great bargain is their desire to do something else instead of a bit of research.

NOTE:  For an example of someone who seems to be the kind of person who would think that spending $80 on a 100 ml bottle of fragrance is ridiculous, there is this review of Trump’s Success on Amazon.com:

OK I’m not a huge fan of Trump ego but boy boy boy I know this fragrance here will get me alot of compliments from the ladies. I’m a huge cologne fan own over a 100 bottle this will most definitely be a signature scent. To put it bluntly it have a citrus blast of Nautica Discovery when you sniff yourself and then a crossover of Avon Driven Black if your familiar with those scents it’s in one here. I smell successful when you leave the room people will definitely know you been there…

I tried Driven Black a long time ago and didn’t think much of it, but in any case it sounds like Success might be similar to Cuba’s Silver Blue, which is selling for about $4 for 100 ml now at ScentedMonkey.  I would have bought it but I can’t just buy every “cheapo” at this point or else I’d be tripping over these bottles!  But even on this “cheapo” level there may be better deals – the “super cheapos” – it’s all about how much effort you want to put into it, and also there may be no testers available locally, meaning that you need to decide if you want to “risk” a blind buy.  And so, as I’ve said before, you should just make your own decisions.  Don’t think you need to justify your preferences or motivations when you buy a bottle.  But if you feel the need to do this, consider making an argument that can withstand some scrutiny.  Don’t assume everyone else shares your decision-making process.  I know I’m likely “preaching to the converted,” but I’d like to make sure my views are clear on the subject.

UPDATE:  Since my last post on the Sauvage review page at Fragrantica, nobody has written a review there that addresses my points.  This review, written after my comment, is a good example of a “thoughtful” one that is worth examining:

There is nothing wrong with this fragrance but there is not groundbreaking either. it smell good but kind of generic after the initial blast calms down. Longevity and projection are both good which is a plus. However i think most people are disappointed with this fragrance because they expected more from a house that came out with the Fahrenheit and Dior Homme series. At the end of the day it serves it purpose though; an easy wearing fragrance that can be mass marketed. It has become quiet popular here in toronto as every department store i walk into is really pushing this one.

Of course I don’t agree that it is “easy wearing,” but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the case for most of the “younger generation.”  However, most importantly (in my view) is the notion that it “serves its purpose,” because that can be said of deodorants, body sprays, and much less expensive EdTs.  So, again we encounter yet another  reviewer who does not address the issue of price.  Is he rich?  Does he not have the time and/or motivation to do some research?  We don’t know, but it’s really his responsibility to tell us if he’s going to make such statements.

 

 

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Filed under Criticizing the critics.

Jaguar’s Excellence is… well… excellent !

Here’s another “cheapo” that I decided to buy because I could get it at a “super cheapo” price, and my perception of this scent dovetails with what I said in recent posts about niche being something of a fad (at least among those who are not wealthy).  That is, the drydown of Excellence is better than the drydown of many niche scents I’ve sampled, though of course if you want a drydown that smells of turnips and turpentine, then yes, Excellence is not going to be all that impressive (as would be the case for 99% or more of all other scents!).  I’d guess that the negative or lukewarm reviews of it are based upon certain expectations.  For example, some consider it an inferior version of 1 Million, but suppose it wasn’t meant to be like such loud, “party” type scents?  I think that’s the case with Excellence, which is a very pleasant blend that doesn’t go too far in any direction.  The listed notes, at Fragrantica, are:

“…luminous grapefruit and mandarin combined with pink pepper. A heart provides floral notes of lily of the valley, iris and orange blossom, to warm you up and to enrich warm and cuddly base notes of vanilla, amber and tonka.”

There are more than a few notes on that list that can overwhelm a composition, and I imagine quite a few guys thought that grapefruit, mandarin, and pepper would be quite strong and “statement-making,” but that’s not the case here.  I’ve found that lily of the valley can be more or less ruinous to a composition, for example, but I’m not sure I can even detect a hint of it here!  Orange blossom often has that “raspy” textural quality that seems to be a love it or hate it affair, though all I get is a kind of orange tint.  And obviously when you see that the only base notes are vanilla, amber, and tonka, there’s a tendency to think you are going to smell like Play Doh flavored candy, but this isn’t even all that sweet!

Once again, I find myself asking, why did they create a scent that seems like something one might get with a niche scent (at least in the drydown)?  Perhaps companies that make these “lesser house”/celebuscent/etc. fragrances thought they needed “identity” at one point, though now it seems like the trend is to roughly copy a popular niche or designer exclusive one.  Do I need a $150 niche scent that has a similar drydown to Excellence?  My guess is that people like Michael Edwards would say yes, though that would be if you could actually get a relevant response!  That is, I don’t think they want to address this kind of question at all.  Excellent is excellent, but in terms of our existing socio-economic structure, there seems to be a small market for it – those of us who can recognize a very good drydown and want to save more than perhaps $100 because we don’t care about “house reputation” or other such trappings of specialness.

I wore Excellence three times, the first being a dab sample and the last two being “regular wearings.”  Reading reviews of niche scents lately, I find myself thinking, “what are these people actually experiencing?”  And, “do they know that there are some really inexpensive scents that are very similar?”  I’ll be the first person to say that a scent such as Sweet Tobacco Spirits 18.21 is probably not available in “super-cheapo” form, but when I read niche reviews of scents I have little or no interest in, such as on sites like the NST blog, I wonder who is getting so excited by most of the compositions discussed.  For example, think of the options you have if you want to buy a new car.  Are you going to take dozens of cars for a test drive?  I’ve never known anyone who does that – usually it’s narrowed down to a few to test.  Yet with scents, so many seem to think that they need to not just sample, but buy bottles at around $100 or even more, despite having a scent (or more) that is similar!  Now if you can afford it and it’s your main hobby, that isn’t something to criticize, IMO, but just don’t claim specialness at that point.  You like variety, as I do, but I just think of these as interesting smells that last for several hours and don’t seem to be as unhealthy as items like scented candles or burning incense.  Don’t “hype” every new niche scent that gets released – yes, it’s unique, in that it’s not exactly like anything else, but to claim that it’s special goes too far.  How many of these concoctions are truly special at this point?  I’ll buy an excellent “cheapo” and use the rest of my free time to think about something other than every new niche scent that gets released!

 

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Science and claims about “modern perfumery.”

As a non-science teacher/professor I was surprised that so many students, including ones with majors in a scientific discipline, were more or less “clueless” about the scientific method.  Of course, scientists are not legally bound by it, and I’ve come across a few who really didn’t understand it, so it’s not surprising that students didn’t!  Moreover, one can argue that science is whatever gets into a science textbook that is used at a major secular university, but when one crosses a river by bridge or is considering a surgical operation, one hopes that there is more to it than that!

A book by Thomas S. Kuhn is (or was) considered to be the seminal work on this subject:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Structure_of_Scientific_Revolutions

I’ll sum it up here.  First, there is a hypothesis, generally put forth by someone with “credentials” (though of course this was not the case before there were any institutions that could provide such credentials).  It should not be put forth on a whim, but after examining all the evidence available.  The person tests the hypothesis, and if there is any inconsistency it must be reworked or abandoned.  If it passes this test, it can be presented to other scientists, at least some of whom should do their own testing to see if indeed it doesn’t appear to be refutable.  Even if it passes that test (and then likely would be regarded as a theory), it can always be refuted at some point in the future.  Thus, there is no certainty in science.  Note that the world being spherical is not a scientific theory, but an empirical observation, which might be used to construct a hypothesis.  The reason why it is spherical requires a scientific hypothesis, assuming you are not guided by some kind of magical/supernatural belief rather than science.

One problem is that many claims cannot be tested, and today many notions regarded as “settled science” are based upon computer modelling and other lines of evidence (such as mostly human-driven global climate change).  In fact, the modelling for climate change includes a small percentage possibility of “existential disaster,” meaning an end to most if not all human life on the planet.  That’s not something, for whatever reason, one hears in the “mainstream media.”  In such situations, the “conservative” position would seem to be not to take such chances, since there is little to gain from it (other that perhaps more profits for those millionaires and billionaires in the fossil fuel industry).   Another important point is that experiments must be properly controlled, meaning one needs to test for any variable that could possibly be at work.  Sadly, I’ve seen situations where this was not done, even though it was inexpensive and easy to do, because the researchers assumed that those variables couldn’t possibly be relevant (they seem to do this because they tend not to question “textbook dogma”)!

Turning to “modern perfumery,” there are some interesting claims that exist in the online community.  One is that some of these olfactory concoctions (in sealed bottles), created by professional perfumers and almost always highly synthetic, could change within less than a year’s time and become much stronger, yet still smell the same!  In this instance, it’s a scientific claim, as all the variables can be measured.  Those who have asserted this claim have provided no evidence for it other than personal experience, which of course is why the scientific method is so important in the first place (that is, people tend to believe things about their perceptions that are simply false – Aristotle, for example, made various and rather simple claims that turned out to be false, such as why certain objects float in water while others sink).  At least one person mumbled something about “maceration,” but this is done by the perfume companies so that there is little if any change once the bottles are put up for sale to the public (certainly within the first couple of years!) – and that’s almost entirely about the smell rather than the strength.

There certainly can be very minor changes within the first couple of years, but nothing that would lead to a much stronger smell that is also perceived by most to be similar if not identical to what the scent smelled like originally.  Now the chemicals and naturals used to make nearly all of these concoctions are well-known and it’s mostly about variations on a theme at this point in history.  Just read the ingredients on a bunch of boxes and you’ll see the same ones, over and over again, listed.  Thus, if someone thinks that linalool, vanillin, and this or that essential oil are going to produce this effect, let him/her go ahead and make that claim.  You can’t say something like, “I predict something bad is going to happen this year,” and then when something does, as it certainly will, claim that it was a scientific prediction.  Your hypothesis must be precise.  In this case, one should be able to identify exactly what is going to occur within the first year that will lead to a stronger but otherwise identical scent.  And remember, it is the aroma chemicals that are nearly always responsible for the strength of a scent, at least beyond the top notes (and naturals being the main strength factor in a scent’s top notes is likely true for very few), so if you are smelling the usual molecules like linalool and vanillin when you first buy the scent there would have to be more of those to produce a stronger scent.  Where would these molecules originate?  What process could possibly create more of those in a sealed bottle?

Science has a technology to measure these molecules, MS/GC, which provides researchers with a graph showing the amounts of these molecules.  One simply can perform the test before and after the perceived significant strength increase.  It’s neither difficult nor expensive, in terms of scientific testing.  If the claim were accurate, in fact, it would be of especial interest to perfume companies, because it would mean they could save quite a bit of money, just as if you could put gold flakes in a sealed container (with some perfumer’s alcohol, linalool, etc.) and come back less than a year later, then lo and behold, you have more gold!  Instead of thinking such things through, though, some people prefer to mock those who point out how ridiculous (and truly worthy of mockery, presumably) this kind of claim is!  Even with wine, where the product is largely if not entirely natural and more chemical reactions occur after the bottle is sealed, the winemaker has a good idea about when to put the product on the market and how long it should be “aged” before opened.  For example:

http://www.extension.iastate.edu/wine/w-aging

Imagine if you could buy an expensive wine and figure out how to make it stronger over time without any other changes occurring (sealing it yourself with one of those vacuum devices that are cheap and effective)?  You could then dilute it with water and save a lot of money!  Isn’t it likely that winemakers would have figured this out already?  Perhaps this largely “boils down” to self-awareness.  That is, some people simply can’t seem to imagine that their sense of smell is so malleable, even if those whom they criticize have cited scientific evidence on that point!  New research suggests the opposite is true, that is, we are much less aware of “reality” than we’d like to think.  One book on this subject is “The Master and His Emissary” by Ian McGilchrist, for example.  And this is quite interesting:

According to Morsella’s framework, the “free will” that people typically attribute to their conscious mind — the idea that our consciousness, as a “decider,” guides us to a course of action — does not exist. Instead, consciousness only relays information to control “voluntary” action, or goal-oriented movement involving the skeletal muscle system.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150623141911.htm or

http://news.sfsu.edu/consciousness-has-less-control-believed-according-new-theory

Perhaps a major issue in this context involves emotions, which aren’t well understood either (one example I use is the guy who gets angry at how “emotional” his wife supposedly is, but he fails to recognize that anger is a strong emotion!).  For example:

“If you get a warm, fuzzy feeling after watching cute cat videos online, the effect may be more profound than you think, according to research. The Internet phenomenon of watching cat videos, from Lil Bub to Grumpy Cat, does more than simply entertain; it boosts viewers’ energy and positive emotions and decreases negative feelings, investigators say.”

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150616093357.htm

So it may be that believing in all kinds of apparently magical notions about fragrances makes people feel “warm and fuzzy,” whereas thinking that their sense of smell may be may be like Heraclitus’ river (“one cannot step in the same river twice”), generating negative emotions, perhaps rather strong ones!  Thus,magical notions certainly may be psychologically helpful, but science can’t help you understand the world if you allow emotions to rule the day!

NOTE:  Le Labo has a statement about maceration:

All our perfume concentrates are maturated for more than 2 months, enabling each raw ingredient to fully equilibrate within the formula. This is an important step in assuring that the fragrance has settled into the olfactive perception desired by the perfumer. Maceration usually follows maturation and begins when the essential oil is mixed to alcohol. Raw ingredients need to equilibrate with its new host. Le Labo products are freshly weighed at order, in front of you for you. The oil will macerate over a product specific period that can last as long as 2 weeks. Slight olfactive evolution can occur within this period.

As is pointed out, this process is mostly about how blended the scent will be, not about how strong it will be.  Moreover, almost all of these concoctions are largely perfumer’s alcohol (about 90% or more is common).  However, some people seem to prefer living in a magical kind of world, presumably, and so they make up silly arguments.  Notice how when challenged they have no interest in doing the obvious things they could do to demonstrate scientifically that they are correct!

 

 

 

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Where does “hype” originate?

Recently, on Basenotes.net, there was a thread about there no longer being “hype” for Musc Ravageur:

QUOTE:  …if 50% of the people who try musc ravageur hate it it doesnt mean that the other 50% who love it are being deceptive or “hyping” out of some other motive. They like it or even love it and want to share that experience with like minded individuals. And that I think is the key. Like minded individuals. I used to base my purchasing habits on whatever was being talked about the most. But people who love musc ravageur are not the same people who are wanting a bottle of 1 million. But I dont think the people who were pushing musc ravageur were trying to deceive anyone or lie and didnt really like it. I think the people who liked it were vocal about it. But so were the people who didnt. But its the individuals choice on which opinion if any they are going to allow to influence their spending. All i know is if I buy something based on the opinions of others and I dont like it, the hype if any exists, I created myself.  UNQUOTE.

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/424688-Musc-Ravageur-is-the-hype-finally-over

First, I agree that one wants to think in terms of the comments of like-minded individuals, but that’s not always easy to determine.  It takes quite a bit of research, if one hasn’t read quite a bit of the recent posts, and even then the people may be more flexible in their tastes.  For example, I prefer gourmands, orientals, and complex vintage scents, but there are some “fresh” or warm weather scents I enjoy once in a while, such as Blenheim Bouquet.  Most of the “fresh” fans, however, are seeking more “modern” scents of that type.   Moreover, some sites may be much more oriented towards certain kinds of scents, and even then, that might change over time.  Basenote.net seems to have been more niche-oriented when I signed up as a member, back in early 2008, but now it’s considerably more diverse, and the “fresh” scent fans seem to be a lot more numerous.  Even so, there was a time when Terre d’Herme was “all the rage,” I guess because it was viewed as a fresh scent for those who wanted something “‘unique.”  Perhaps it would be best to regard it as a sort of “fresh niche” at a time when there was a lot less from which to choose in the “fresh” category.

Next, I think the statement about those who like MR not being the same people who like One Million is interesting, because while that may be true for most, I’d guess there is a sizeable percentage of aficionados  who would wear either, including myself.  There’s also the issue of whether someone is more of a top notes or drydown person, but perhaps just as important is how much experience the person has with certain kinds of scents, if any!  For example, to me MR’s drydown was too in line with other “niche amber” scents, and I already owned a bottle of one that I rarely wore (Etro’s Ambra).  And this is where the “hype” might be most problematic.  It goes like this: hype begins to build for a scent like MR, in the “old days” because the “niche samplers” were talking about how great it was.  That then led to the much less experienced (if not newbies) to buy a sample or bottle, and then the hype really got going, even though it may have been the case that the vast majority had never smelled a scent with a similar drydown!  Fortunately, I already owned Ambra and so swapped of my MR bottle for something I preferred, while not feeling at all “deprived.”

And this is where I disagree with the person quoted, because only certain kinds of scents seem to get the hype treatment; “cheapos” hardly ever get it, and when it does happen it’s usually because the scent is similar to an expensive one, often niche (as in all the “Aventus clones”).   I think this is because the cheap ones are said to be generic, derivative, unexciting, etc.  How many times has someone said that Animale Animale for Men was derivative of A*Men (which I don’t agree with) or that Individuel is derivative of Creed’s Original Santal, despite being chronologically false?  And then when a scent is rather unique, such as Phoenix by Keith Urban or KISS Him, there may be a few good reviews, but hype never seems to develop.  What if either of these scents was released by a company like ELdO?  The scent in question seems to require the mark of specialness, which always seems to  involve a non-cheap price tag, despite most of the hypsters probably knowing the liquid itself rarely costs more than a couple of dollars, even in the case of niche scents.

These days, my attitude is, “what could the scent possibly be like that I would feel the absolute need to own a bottle?”  I’m more interested in layering than new releases, because that way I can control the notes and composition (I still seek out “cheapos” with apparently interesting notes or compositions to “blind buy”).  Of course, to do this requires owning quite a few scents, or else your options are limited.  And I think this leads to a major difference among aficionados, hobbyists, or whatever you want to call such people, including myself.  That is, some treat it as a “luxury item” proposition, whereas there is clearly no need to do so,  because these are just smells and you can get 75 ml bottles of ones that are fairly good at the dollar store.  For some reason, a few people seem to become irrationally irritated by how others “pursue this hobby,” for example, criticizing the points I’ve made about very cheap alternatives to very expensive scents.

Obviously, if it “works for me” that doesn’t necessarily mean it will for you – everyone already knows that!  And if I prefer a “super-cheapo” which appears to contain a fair amount of ambroxan (Berlin by Playboy), and enjoy it, why shouldn’t I mention that I prefer it to an expensive scent that seems similar but costs a lot more (Sauvage)?  Readers can figure out for themselves if this advice is likely to help them or not.  They don’t need others to tell them how they should enjoy these concoctions (or how much they should spend, or how many bottles they should acquire, etc.)!  When I read something that suggests hype (whatever the motivation may be) I am curious to see if the person actually speaks to the smell itself, and if so, how important the top notes appear to be.  If someone says, as is common, “it smells great but has terrible longevity,” that usually means the person has difficulty with drydowns (unless the scent is likely to be short-lived, but I tend to dislike those scents anyway).  Thus, one doesn’t have to dismiss out of hand a “hypster,” because there might be something useful stated.

 

 

 

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A case of anti-“cheapo”snobbery?

 

Recently on Basenotes.net, someone created a thread to ask for “blind buy” advice:

“Royal Oud and Reflection Man are two very different scents, but each has a cedar/sandalwood base that is almost creamy and lightly sweet. And I LOVE IT!!! I’m looking for other scents that have a sort of creamy sandalwood base that’s sweet but not cloyingly sweet. Mont Blanc Individuel and Original Santal, for example, are too sweet for me.

It must be modern. Egoiste is excellent, but it’s way to classic or vintage for my style (sure is awesome stuff though!).

Bonus points if it can be worn in summer, but that’s not a requirement at all.”

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/424219-Sandalwood-modern-rich-creamy-like-the-bases-of-RO-amp-RM-What-should-I-try

And let me begin by saying that I understand niche on a psychological level, though I don’t experience it myself, that is, buying and/or wearing a niche bottle seems to make some people feel that they are “special,” rising above the “madding crowd,” perhaps. I noticed this in the “fine art” world as well, and I’m sure it’s common in many other hobbies, interests, fields,  etc.  Being interested in these olfactory concoctions mostly  for personal enjoyment, though, I tend to sell or swap off my niche bottles, if possible, unless I really like the scent, of course.  To me, there simply isn’t enough difference in perceived quality, or anything else, between niche and the best “cheapos,” to justify current pricing (that is, typical online pricing) and this is yet another instance, which I’ll get to in a moment.

Many of the recommendations were for niche scents, as you might have guessed.  One person suggested Carven Homme with great vim and vigor, for some reason that makes no sense to me (I get some cedar but no sandalwood note in that one, and it’s very “old school,” eventually convincing the person to buy it:

“Isn’t Carven Homme sort of classic smelling though? I’m so terrible about making blind buys – I avoid ’em like the plague, even for cheapies… but I’m temped.”

And guess what?  He bought it and was disappointed, considering it too “old:”

“Carven Homme arrived. On first try, I’m 95% sure it’s a miss for me. It smells more classic than what I’d want to wear. I know it’s from 1999, but it smells more like it’s from the days of Egoiste, Bois Du Portugal or Tiffany for men – all of which are FANTASTIC, but they’re not my style…”

So, this person clearly is not an all-out niche snob, but while responding to my suggestion of Swiss Army Unlimited (because to me it seemed he wasn’t really looking for a strong sandalwood scent) and he mentioned Individuel but said that one was too sweet (IMO, Unlimited solves this problem in a similar composition).  He addressed this suggestions, saying:

“Now I think we’re headed in the exact opposite direction. I haven’t smelled it, so I’m just guessing… but I doubt there’s a similarity between the base of Swiss Army Unlimited and the base of Royal Oud or Reflection Man…”

But why would he think there was a similarity between the base of Carven Homme and Royal Oud or Reflection Man?  The key point here is that he didn’t even mention my recommendation of Eau de Iceberg Sandalwood for Men, which I noted is (or was) selling for less than $9 total at ScentedMonkey (100 ml).  According to Fragrantica.com the notes are:

“Fresh bergamot from Sicily and black pepper are combined with Georgywood molecule that smells like amber wood. The heart is made of warm milk, creamy cedar and vetiver from Java, while the base notes include Australian sandalwood, the vanilla scent of tonka bean and Maxalone musk. ”

One of the reviews there does a good job of summing up this scent (though misspelling one word):

“I gotta say that this is a warm, milky, woody and a bit sweet. I will say that is not a typical male scent, more unisex.. I found it very plesant and love the sandalwood and vanilla. A scent that is nice for male and female.”

Even if you haven’t tried it, doesn’t it sound like something this BN member might be seeking?  And I’d say it’s more of a warm weather scent than a cool weather one!  But it seems that because it is a “cheapo,” it gets no thought, whereas the venerable “vintage” Carven Homme is purchased “blind,” despite costing about four times as much per ml!  How many recent designer scents, even “lesser” ones, are  called “Sandalwood?”  That’s not very common these days, for whatever reason, yet a person seeking a “sandalwood scent” (at least in his mind) didn’t appear to be even slightly curious about it!  If this is not a case of anti-“cheapo” snobbery (and think of how few things you can buy for $9 these days), I’d really like to know why this recommendation didn’t even seem to reach the brief mention stage of consideration.

For those who are curious, Sandalwood for Men really does have the milky quality suggested by the notes, and my guess is that it’s exactly what this person is seeking, but for some reason, apparently, he can’t imagine it “being any good.”  Mostly, what I’ve sought with “super-cheapos” is variety, so long as I didn’t find the scent to be irritating in the drydown, but I’ve found that there are quite a few that far surpass such a modest accomplishment.  After years of recommending such scents (I know I suggested Everlast Original 1910 several times since around 2008, for example), usually with little if any response from those asking for advice, I have come to conclude that there is a great deal of bias against scents that sell for very little, even if they were originally marketed as non-cheapos (I think EO 1910 sold at Sephora at one point).  I have encountered a bias against dollar store items as well (not just scents), despite there being some excellent bargains there.

A similar scent (most might consider “higher quality,” at least in “vintage” formulation) is Minotaure by Paloma Picasso.  The notes for that one are:

“Top notes are aldehydes, coriander, tarragon, fruity notes, galbanum and bergamot; middle notes are jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, rose and geranium; base notes are sandalwood, tonka bean, amber, musk, vanilla and cedar.”

Because he said he didn’t want “old,” and because of what I’ve read about a bad reformulation (I was careful to buy “vintage”) of this scent, I didn’t mention it in that thread.  However, it is certainly worth mentioning here, in case someone finds Iceberg’s Sandalwood to be too simple or not as “natural-smelling” as he/she would like (which I’d find surprising).  I’ll close this post by pointing out that it seems as though the “cheapo” companies have really caught up with not just today’s designers, but also much of niche, especially the more popular releases.  These may not be close enough for those who want to feel “special,” but they may work for those who don’t want their wallets to feel too light!

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The “semi-facts” that dominate the fragrance industry.

In one of my other posts, I introduced the concept of the “semi-fact,” which I’d say is the opposite of Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness.” That is, instead of sounding true but not being true, the semi-fact is something that the “contrarian” (or “stick in the mud”) might argue against, but is otherwise clearly functional to the rest of us (though many may not have investigated the matter).  The example I used was the argument against my point that there are thousands of much less expensive scents than Sauvage one can find at the discounters and on ebay.  A critic said that Sauvage will be discounted at some point, which may be true, but even then we don’t know if it will be as drastically discounted as so many others have been.  Whatever may happen, it has nothing to do with my point, as I was talking about people who had already written reviews and stated that they had purchased a bottle (or made it sound like they had).  Some may have used an online coupon and gotten a small discount, for instance, but when one considers the prices at the time I was writing, there was no comparison between Sauvage prices and those of some I mentioned, such as Playboy’s Berlin or Eau de Iceberg Amber for Men.

If you aren’t the type to do much research before purchasing and just buy the “top names,” then you probably aren’t one to read blogs such as this one, nor check the prices on a few sites where the great deals often appear.  Such people may find it irritating to read that a Playboy scent was selling for around $5/100 ml but is now considerably more, for example, but it still may be a “better buy” for that person than Sauvage was a few months back (or today as well, in terms of price alone).  If I really like a scent that is $20/100 ml, and to me, it’s clearly better than one at $70/100 ml, I’m going to buy the former and think that I got a great bargain (this was the case recently, for Black Oud by Remy Latour at $15 versus Perry Ellis Oud: Black Vanilla Absolute at around $50).  Not everyone seems to think this way, for some reason.  The critic mentioned above, in fact, suggests this in his review of Sauvage at Fragrantica.com, which includes the following:

“…If you’re going to the mall to buy a good designer masculine scent, and you’ve narrowed the choices down to Sauvage or Bleu, buy the Chanel and call it a day.”

Why would anyone go to the mall – and pay “mall prices?”  Indeed, there must be far more than a few such people who indeed pay more than they probably should have (this is the majority of men who buy such scents, isn’t it?).  Such people may not even know that Playboy has their name on any fragrance nor that there is such a fragrance brand as Iceberg!  A small percentage of these people go to Fragrantica and write up glowing reviews of this “great new fresh scent.”  Use your browser’s find feature and see how many times the word fresh is used in a Fragrantica review of Sauvage!  So, we have another semi-fact here, because it’s beyond obvious that there are some significantly different ways that people perceive the value of these  concoctions (including the very existence of many of the brands).  Moreover, a common  complaint is that a scent like Kouros is too strong, for example, yet the same people seem to be quick to dismiss claims that a Playboy scent may be like a weak version of a scent from Dior, Chanel, etc., which suggests a fair amount of bias in line with the mentality of the guy who is “going to the mall to buy a good designer masculine scent.”

In a sense, the semi-fact is designed to deal with those who think that the exception is the rule rather than it proving the rule.  It also used to be said that “for all intents and purposes” this or that was the case, but again, the semi-fact is more economical and more importantly it will prompt many people to think about those with “contrarian” type personalities wasting their time with ridiculous arguments.  Now I’d like to turn to other semi-facts in the fragrance industry that are significant in the context of reviews.  Perhaps the most “debated” is the concept of natural.  At least a few people don’t seem to realize that “modern perfumery” is based upon the heavy use of synthetic substances.  In some instances, though, it doesn’t matter much (except in terms of cost); for example, from what I understand vanillin is an exact or near exact substitute for vanilla extract, in terms of the smell if not everything else.

However, in other cases something might smell clearly “un-natural” to many of us, even if the scent is just as synthetic as another scent that smells “totally natural” to most of us.  Thus, the natural claim is one of perception only.  Another interesting example involves sandalwood notes.  Some are all natural, others are entirely synthetic, and some are a combination.  Moreover, there are substances that are called sandalwood oil (derived from similar kinds of trees), but smell a bit different, to the point that some people would pay quite a bit for one type but have no interest in another.  When one claims that a scent has a natural-smelling sandalwood note, it may smell natural to him/her but nobody else.  Unless someone is willing to go into quite a bit of detail (and/or has “insider knowledge”), therefore, the natural claim should always be thought of as perceptual.  However, there are a small number of “all natural” scents (or so they claim!) and ones that include considerably less synthetics, so saying that all scents (marketed as we have come to expect) are largely synthetic (let’s say for the last 20 years) seems like another excellent example of a semi-fact.

One semi-fact is that crops up now and then is these concoctions don’t “spoil,” because there undoubtedly must be a few examples of this in modern perfumery (I have yet to encounter one “spoiled” drydown in all my “vintage hunting”).  And of course citrus top notes are subject to degradation over a relatively short period of time, though even this varies tremendously, it would seem.  A major problem here is that the people who usually make the claim, at least online, are the same kinds of people (that is, non-perfumer amateurs) who found the 100+ year old shipwreck fragrances (which were truly all natural) to be fine, whereas perfumers perceived obvious spoilage!  And as I’ve said before, whenever I asked those who made the claim to send me the bottles (stating that I was willing to pay a non-insignificant amount for them) I have received no replies or scents that seemed fine, with a bit of strangeness for the first few minutes in a couple of cases.  Thus, it appears that one is more likely to be struck by lightning on a sunny day than experience a “spoiled” drydown in a scent released over the last few decades, if not more!

There are lesser semi-facts, such as that testers are the same as the retail boxed scents (rarely, one might buy a reformulated scent after testing a “vintage” one), but my point in this post is to provoke thought about what is worth thinking about and what is not, because while one is more likely to be killed in a car accident than sitting on one’s living room sofa (though I’m sure there must be an exception or two), for instance, one doesn’t use one’s car only for necessary driving due to such statistics.  So, let’s say someone tells you that a new scent (one produced within a year’s time) smells different after he’s worn it for a month or two.  You can say, “its a semi-fact that one becomes familiar with scents after they have been exposed to the various components for at least a short while, with some seeming to be stronger or weaker, so you likely have what one might call olfactory familiarity.”

Another idea of this type is “thick description,” which I learned about while in graduate school in the 1980s:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thick_description

This notion had its critics, to be sure, and I remember at least one Professor saying something like, “that’s what many of us have been doing for years before Geertz introduced the concept!”  But sometimes a new term is very useful – for those who have not been adhering to it in particular.  As to the semi-fact, I think it’s especially useful when dealing with people who just want to argue – they tend to go off on any tangent they can dredge up, no matter how ridiculous it is in the context of the main point.  Thus, with the semi-fact, one can say to them, “you can compose a detailed argument if you like, and I’ll take a look at it when I get a chance, but as things stand I’m going to stick with the semi-facts here.  If someone wants to believe otherwise, I think it will be to his or her detriment.”

It may be that most people are quite concerned about what others think, but I think that because I entered graduate school at such a young age and the overriding notion there was to construct a strong argument, rather than to concern oneself with what “non-experts” thought, I can’t imagine “social pressure” in this context.  In our society, we largely “vote with our feet,” but that doesn’t mean there aren’t powerful interests trying to herd us in certain directions!  Reconsidering how language is used can be an important step towards trying to prevent the powerful from trying to lead us to act against our own self interest.  This is especially true when it comes to elections, with candidates trying to gets people to believe things that are ridiculous or at least disproportionate.  They will say such things because they know those who have yet to decide (or “lean” strongly towards one candidate) are usually the least knowledgeable voters, and are also least likely to do research on the issues raised (and least likely to know how to research without bias).  That’s a “semi-fact,” or is it?  Perhaps you should investigate this claim and see where your research leads you!

NOTE:  After writing the above I came across this report:

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/06/21/482922838/even-a-small-meal-for-a-doctor-can-tip-the-balance-for-a-brand-name-drug

Here is one relevant excerpt:

“A ProPublica story published in March found that doctors who took payments from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries prescribed a higher proportion of brand-name medications than those who didn’t. It also found that the more money a doctor received, the higher the percentage of brand-name drugs he or she prescribed, on average.”

If this is the case for doctors, supposed “objective scientists” (or at least that’s what many seem to believe), it suggests that the more money a person spends on a scent (and perhaps how much “good publicity” he/she hears about it) the more likely it is that the person will “defend” it, ignoring facts and semi-facts that seem to diminish his or her opinion of that scent in some way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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