“Probing” Questions – What a thread with a nonsensical title can reveal.

A couple of years ago I became interested in interviewing techniques, and read a few books on the subject. This came about because I was watching some “true crime” type TV shows and sometimes thought that interviewers were not asking questions that could be quite revealing. Right before this I had quite a bit of research into relationship dynamics personality disorders (and personality more generally). Of course, in a criminal case, if someone is read his/her rights that person can invoke those rights at any point, asking for a lawyer and refusing to ask any questions. This means the interviewer needs to consider if certain questions should be asked within a short period of time, if the person hasn’t “invoked,” obviously. And the main concern seems to be obtaining confessions, as one would expect.

Then there are interviews with those convicted of heinous crimes, but again time seems to be a major concern, because the prison officials seems to always limit the interviews to short periods, sometimes only half an hour. In my experience, one can discover a lot more about “what makes a person tick” by taking much longer periods of time, though not necessarily all at once, to ask questions that the interviewee is not likely to anticipate, especially if he/she thinks you are interested in something else. For example, what about asking a convicted serial killer if he/she had any stuffed toys as a child, then following that up with related questions, such as, “can you remember how old you were when you gave up the stuffed toys and what you were thinking when you did?” There is no way for the person to know what to make of this question, let alone predict that it would have been asked, so preparation is not possible. In this case, at least to me, it’s more about the reaction (especially the immediate one) to the question than the “content” of the question, as the person could lie.

Let’s say he/she did have a stuffed toy, but answered the question, “no, that’s for kids who will grow up to be weak,” with apparent anger. By itself, it suggests an anger issue and/or a “macho” view of the world, but by itself it wouldn’t mean that much to me. Instead, IMO, one needs to ask other questions (that don’t seem to be related) in order to get a better sense of the person’s behavioral and personality patterns, for example, how did your parents treat children who were not related to them? Moving on to fragrances, and as I pointed out in the recent post about accusations of “hysteria,” it struck me that if any people could be accused of some sort of “mass hysteria,” it would be those who appeared to be quite agitated by the release of Sauvage. On Basenotes.net, there was one thread that became the focal point of this, with the title of, “Dior SAUVAGE. A constructive discussion.”


From what I remember, though, there weren’t any claims made about such people “over-reacting,” despite what seemed to be strong negative emotions on the part of many participants who thought Sauvage would be much “better.” So, I decided to create a new thread to ask those who expressed at least some disappointment about Sauvage if they would tell us how they felt about, using the phrase “lost it,” because it is vague but at least fairly strong, which certainly might meet the criteria for “hysteria” (in the minds of perhaps a majority). The title, Dior’s Sauvage: A Carnal Dementia was also meant to be vague. It could be viewed as connected to the question, or even as a joke, considering the title of the other thread about Sauvage (I thought it was humorous). What resulted was quite interesting, as I was first accused, at least implicitly, of having some sort of “ulterior motives.” I wish I had some idea of what might result, the closest thing to that being the thought that at least a few people would say something like, “yes I was disappointed but I certainly never came close to losing it.” Here is the link to it:


After that, the posts were “all over the map,” and many just reiterated their opinions from the other thread. I guess I should not have been surprised, but few were interested in answering the question, with one long-time member calling it “bizarre.” This supports the conclusion I reached in my recent psychological research, which is that very few people are aware of their emotions (for example, boredom is a negative emotion, though I mild one). On a TV show about sports coaches with “anger issues,” in fact, one of the coaches said something like, “I’m not going to participate in some sort of hippie, drippie nonsense about my emotions – I don’t need help with that.” He said that while in an apparent state of rage, which was interesting enough, but it was also clear that to him, anger was not an emotion! My guess is that his notion of “emotional” involved hippies holding hands and singing folk songs or a woman curled up in the corner of a room quietly sobbing.

Now beyond that thread, which I suggest you read and draw your own conclusions, it’s obvious that scents have an emotional impact on people. Of course, vintage aficionados are going to feel some level of negative emotions if they buy a bottle of what they think is the substance they purchased twenty years earlier but discovered it to be very different, possibly “unwearable.” Even the author of the FromPyrgos blog expressed this kind of sentiment in his recent post about Cool Water for Men’s reformulation! On the other hand, it also seems to be the case that those who decided not to get involved with vintage or who think the reformulations are more “modern” and therefore wearable sometimes get irritated by the threads about vintage scents, even when those discussions are clearly meant to help people identify certain formulations. The author of the best blog for this endeavor, “Raiders of the Lost Scent,” told me that he received quite a few angry messages about not revealing the results of some GC/MS tests done on some very old scents, such as Amazone by Hermes.

Why? It didn’t make any sense, as it’s unlikely anyone would try to recreate that scent, given the expense, level of interest in that kind of scent, IFRA restrictions, etc. From what I could gather, it was about “protecting” something “special.” Whether or not you want to call that “hysterical,” it seems like some strong negative emotions had been generated by the use of a scientific test that would only help to provide some sense as to what made Amazone “tick.” At this point, it seems clear that these concoctions do generate strong emotions, and that most people can’t recognize their own emotions, but sometimes over-emphasize the emotional responses of others. What is to be done? Probably nothing, other than to try and be a “role model” and not allow emotions to become too strong or to last for too long (there are even studies that strong positive emotions can be problematic!). Don’t allow yourself to get “baited” into responding with obscenities, personal attacks, “straw man” arguments, etc. Learn to “laugh it off” and hope that “cooler heads prevail” in others in the “not-so-distant” future.

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Will the real “hysterical” person please stand up ?

There was yet another new thread on Basenotes.net about reformulations:


What has surprised me most is how much time people who claim to have no interest in purchasing vintage bottles invest in such threads, often starting these! There are those who seem to be what I call “niche samplers.” They wrote up a whole lot of reviews of the most expensive scents, and it sounded like they were buying samples for the most part. Then, all of a sudden, one never heard from them again. Their reviews became more bitter over time, and some railed against “the industry” for creating “boring” scents, so their sudden exit from the scene was not all that surprising. The key point is that while I found interesting, I didn’t create a bunch of threads with titles like, “Why do people keep sampling niche, thinking that they will find some unique and incredible every time?” And I can’t remember anyone else creating such a thread, though the sudden disappearances were noticed, sometimes with threads bearing such titles as “Whatever happened to Member X?”  Who ever called these people hysterical, or something similar?

I don’t understand why people are willing to spend a lot of money (say $80-90 for 100 ml bottle) on a new designer scent, especially “blind” (why not wait for some bottles to arrive at the discounters, ebay, etc?), but I’ve said this a few times, and never called anyone something like hysterical. Perhaps those who create threads about how buying vintage doesn’t make sense (even though I’ve yet to hear one explanation that would relate to me) simply don’t understand what vintage aficionados are seeking and experiencing. And I’m not suggesting that if one doesn’t wear vintage every day then he/she should not be considered an aficionado, nor do I wear these concoctions every day. In any case, what I’ll do in this post is to copy and paste my responses on that thread, which should give you an idea of my point of view here, and then add a little extra at the end:

The short/easy answer is that if scents are more or less an olfactory blur to you, then it probably doesn’t matter. If, however, you smell a scent and say things like, “wow, that’s a nice yet subtle sandalwood note,” many if not most of the reformulations (of let’s say pre-1995 vintage) will likely disappoint you.

It’s important not to bring in another issue which serves to obfuscate the discussion in favor of the “pro reformulation” side of things. That is, I’d be the first to mention that I used to wear vintage more often, and that some vintage I don’t like as much as I used to, whereas others I like more. This, however, has nothing to do with my perception of the “quality” of the scent. Now sometimes I don’t feel the need to wear a quality scent, and I often reach for a “super cheapo,” but if I’m in the mood for vintage Zino, for example, that’s what I want. I have no interest in wearing what I believe to be reformulated Zino, ever. Others can’t detect any difference, or claim it is negligible. That’s fine, but it has absolutely nothing to do with what I want to buy or wear. And that’s why my first response referenced how you perceive and appreciate these concoctions – that is what matters, and nobody can read your mind, so the best you can do is read the relevant information online and try to make the right decision (but it will only be the right decision for you, not necessarily for anyone else).

And I have found that vintage holds up incredibly well over the decades. If your experience is different and that has led you to avoid vintage, I applaud your strong decision-making qualities, but again, that has nothing to do with my decisions in this context. If you don’t like it when others talk about how much they like their vintage scents, then just ignore them – why post something that suggests you think they are deluded, lying, or wasting their time? It’s a hobby, and the internet provides places like BN to share opinions and information, so of course there are going to be threads on the subject! I remember when I investigated the world of fine art works on paper, some people thought pop art was “garbage” and laughed at the prices, yet that would have been a much better investment than something like op art or minimalism, that’s for sure (generally-speaking). And with scents, most are not trying to “cash in,” but just seeking out what they consider to be the best scents ever made. Some people might eat any pizza that put in front of them, whereas others only want “quality” pizza, and even if the restaurant is out of anchovies, and they’d really prefer it that way, they are not going to eat the “garbage” pizza because that restaurant didn’t run out of anchovies. LOL. So, it may be true that top notes are sometimes “messed up” (which is irrelevant to me) or that base notes have shifted slightly, because they are still head and shoulders above everything else! Again, if you think that’s not the case, then go ahead and be happy with your decision, but that has nothing to do with me.

And as to money being no object if you want to buy vintage, exactly where are you looking for them? I’ve got so many great vintage deals, just on ebay alone, that I wouldn’t want to think about putting a list of those together! Even if you pay “high” prices,” how do they compare to the prices being asked at the local dept. store for the usual generic/synthetic dreck? There are only a small number that sell for “big bucks” in vintage: PPH, Derby, Egoiste Cologne Concentree. Others with prices that high are usually an ebay seller’s wishful thinking, as I have waited for great deals on many of those and was rewarded. It’s more an issue of patience with probably at least 90% vintage, if you want to pay at current dept. store prices or lower, in my experience.

That could be true for others but I came upon this the other way around. I bought the reformulations first, heard the reformulation “hysteria” (which never seems hysterical to me), and dismissed it. But then I began to understand “quality” and came upon some vintage formulations, and eventually couldn’t stand most of the reformulations (as a newbie I basically didn’t have a perception of “synthetic”). I had just about no memory of “vintage greats” before 2008, nor any real understanding of what made them special. And there’s no need for a lot of time to be spent – just go to the BN sales forum or the Crystal Flacon site. There are plenty of people who will put a bunch of decants or samples together at a reasonable price, no more than you’ll spend on the latest designer scent at the mall (at least that’s where my pricing is at for most vintage I can decant).

I can’t say I understand all of the above, but I’ll mention, again, that I came to vintage after being a skeptic and never having paid much attention to them “back in the day.” I smelled mostly the reformulations first, and then in a few cases accidentally tried the vintage versions, such as from a sample, and noticed what seemed (and still seems) like a huge difference in many cases. As a newbie I doubt I would have been able to detect much if any difference, but after several months of intense study it became clear.

As to those who make up excuses, it does get irritating after a while to hear them, over and over again, so I’ll try this one more time:

1. Vintage can be cheaper than dept store prices for generic designer stuff.
2. Sure, avoid sampling Patou Pour Homme if you don’t want to feel you must have it, but the drydown to vintage Bijan Men isn’t too far off and I’ve seen that selling cheaply on ebay, again, if you have patience.
3. If you don’t have patience there are BNers and Crystal Flacon sellers who can help you out. I have a small group of people who buy from me on a regular basis, mostly vintage (samples, decants, and bottles), for example.

There is no reason to avoid vintage, IMO, unless you are going to claim that you only want something like PPH in its “pristine” 1980 form. In that case, yes, you are too particular for vintage, but for others that high-priced stuff is probably well under 1% of the vintage scents out there, probably well over 95% selling at or below current designer prices, if you want to buy on ebay (and possibly cheaper from BN and CF sellers).

If you don’t care about vintage at all then these threads are irrelevant to you, so I’m not sure why you waste your time on them! I’m certainly not one to tell people that if they don’t like vintage they are somehow a lesser person.

Perhaps there are some people who have poor control of their emotions, but I fail to see how one can assume that there are a bunch of people who are “hysterical” or “going crazy” because they do research on scents. Does anyone say this about wine connoisseurs, people who must have a comic book with a certain number on it, those who wouldn’t buy a coin unless it is in BU whatever condition, baseball card collectors who insist on a certain rating from the major rating companies, etc? No, this is the rule, not the exception in these kinds of endeavors. You can call it a waste of time, but I don’t see many people devoting most of their free time to charity, if any. Is it worse than playing a video game or watching a mindless TV show? Let’s get real here, please! LOL.

I’ll just mention that the “mind reading” continues with HankHarvey’s comment. As a newbie, as I’ve said, I couldn’t tell the difference. It certainly was an olfactory blur, and when I read reviews I get the sense that this is true for many others. Of course, it’s a generalization, based upon my perceptions. Again, I like “super cheapos,” and wear them often. There is no disgrace in enjoying whatever you enjoy, again, as a generalization (if you smear your body in feces and enjoy the smell, then yes, some might say that is disgraceful). But we don’t need people claiming that there is “hysteria” because vintage aficionados are seeking information from fellow aficionados. Those who can’t smell the difference appear to get irritated that such threads exist, which makes no sense to me. I often do not read threads that do not appeal to me or that I feel are ridiculous or irrelevant. I do not start new threads on those subjects, calling those people hysterical, silly, or whatever.

Explanations I can understand:

1. I’ve already spent enough money on this hobby, so I don’t want to be tempted by vintage.

2. I’ve smelled some vintage, though I’m not sure of the formulation, but I find these kinds of scents really unpleasant.

3. I’m a stickler for top notes so I will only buy if there is a great return policy, and that’s rarely the case with vintage.

4. I’ve tried a bunch of vintage in original and new formulations and I prefer the new, because the top notes seem stronger (or it’s less animalic, or it’s got less patchouli, etc.).

NOTE:  I think that some people can’t accept that they are unable to detect what others can, and take it as a personal attack, whereas calling someone who is stating a reasonable opinion online “hysterical” is clearly a personal attack.  As I say in my reviews, sometimes a note/aroma chemical seems to be very strong, but during other wearings it does not.  There is no shame in the fact that one’s olfactory perceptions may change over time or that one is unable to detect something like “laundry musk” when a bunch of other people don’t seem to have any difficulties.  Why some of them think this way is the truly interesting question!


Filed under Criticizing the critics.

Will the real conspiracy theory please stand up ?

Over the years, I’ve been amused by how many claims have been made regarding these olfactory concoctions. A common one is that the testers are better or stronger than the bottles in the retail boxes. People who make such claims probably don’t realize how little money would be saved by “watering down” a designer scent (it’s mostly recent designer scents mentioned in this context). Of course no two bottles might have the same formulation, so people who make such claims might want to write down the batch code to the “good” bottle and then try to find one from that same batch. I’ve never read a claim involving someone doing this, but if you are going to posit such a “theory,” don’t you have a responsibility to readers to try and determine whether or not you are correct?

It would make a lot more sense to say something like, “wow, I wonder if my perceptions can change that much, because it seemed like the tester I tried in Sephora was much better than the bottle I bought from Online Discounter X.” Then you can see if anyone else has had the same perception. Perhaps they have more information that can help explain things. Why go the conspiracy theory route? Interestingly, though many have claimed that their scent has “gone bad,” I can’t remember anyone saying that he/she thought this was done on purpose, by the company, in order to necessitate the purchase of another bottle. If there was a conspiracy afoot, this would be something one would expect. After all, I think most us have learned about the concept of “planned obsolescence” at some point in our lives!

My take is that things that can appear to be “conspiracies” are often just the way things were likely to turn out, all things considered. A good example, IMO obviously, is exemplified by what I’ve read over the years on several occasions. That is, someone will say that they liked a scent at first, wore it a few times, and then it began to bother them. Some say it’s too “synthetic” or “chemical,” or simply that it’s giving them headaches. I have certainly said this my fair share of times! But does anyone think that cheap aroma chemicals were created to make most people sick of a scent, so that he/she would have to buy a bottle of something else? Wouldn’t that person be likely to buy a different brand? Of course, these days there aren’t that many major companies, despite there being so many “designer houses,” but when perfumers began using aroma chemicals in large amounts in most scents (relative to ones from the 1970s or earlier) were they thinking that their creations would soon make those who used these ill?

I do wonder, when I encounter an especially “synthetic” scent, such as Lacoste’s Challenge, how such a scent could have been marketed. If it was at the dollar store, though, I would not think twice about it, other than perhaps how long-lasting it was. As one Fragrantica.com reviewer of this scent said:

I would really like to know the full list of ingredients for this fragrance, does anyone know anywhere it is published?
Upon smelling this fragrance I experienced a sense of revulsion so extreme that it was with me for days, even as I remembered how it smelled I felt sick.
Perhaps it is a chemical that is used as opposed to a fragrance note.
I am sorry for those people who like it, but I actually fear ever having that sensation again and I avoid this fragrance like the plague.

But there are plenty of reviews I would classify as at least “good.” Perhaps the company does some testing and finds that one in ten people find it too harsh/synthetic, but that the strength, along with the usual “fresh” aroma chemicals are appealing to a four or five of those ten people, making it worthwhile to market such a scent. I have no idea, but I think the explanation lies with today’s consumer testing notions, not any kind of conspiracy, though I do think many who like Challenge initially will find it quite a challenge to wear after a while. Interestingly, it does share quite a bit in common with Green Irish Tweed, and so it serves as a kind of lesson for those who want to get a sense of the difference between niche and designer (generally-speaking, of course). The notes to Challenge, from Fragrantica, are:

…Challenge opens with notes of pure energy created of tangerine and lemon with a hint of bergamot. A heart of this fragrant challenge hides ginger combined with aromatic lavender and violet leaves, creating a perfect, pleasant and sensual harmony. Base notes leave a trail of ebony and teak wood…

NOTE: For those who don’t know, a rod was sewn into the top part of the flag that was planted on the moon, as shown in the picture.

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Concoctions and Concocting.

Like my frequent use of the phrase “the opening” in the fragrance context, I also believe I was the first to call these modern olfactory marvels “concoctions” on a frequent basis. And like “the opening,” I see that “concoctions” has caught on, though it seems to a bit of a lesser degree. And as I said with “the opening,” who cares? Well, some of us find language usage (or “misusage”) to be interesting (at least at times), and occasionally amusing. Sometimes it seems that a new word or phrase fills a void that exists, even if it’s still not quite optimal. I pointed this out in the last post, because I don’t like how some people are using “the opening” in this context. Of course, one doesn’t know if a phrase/term is going to “catch on,” and if it does, how it might be used in novel ways.

Concocting is something perfumers and sociopaths do. The former need to create something that is at least a touch novel, the latter seem to live in a world where there is nothing but manipulation and trying to take what belongs to others (in an illegal or at least unethical manner). I’ve enjoyed concocting new recipes, according to criteria such as low cost and available ingredients. Writing blogs posts or fragrance reviews is a kind of concocting as well, as is layering scents. The finished products, if one gets that far, are concoctions. Yet another concoction is a reputation, which is sometimes deserved and other times not. A “good” reputation seems to have led many aficionados to rush out and buy Dior’s Sauvage “blind,” for example.

With Sauvage, it appears that more than a few people have concocted reasons for “liking” it, whereas others think it a generic, lame, simplistic/crowd-pleasing concoction. By contrast, lately I have been only buying “cheapos.” Doing so allows me to simply put the ones I don’t like on my swap list. If they don’t get swapped off, I can revisit some of them in the future, if I think there’s a possibility I might like them. Sometimes I’ll spray just above the ankle, so that I can sample a scent without it ruining my enjoyment of another scent, which gets sprayed on the chest. One recent swap was Zirh’s Ikon for CK’s Shock for Him. I sampled Shock once when it was first released, and remember liking it, but I sampled so many that day I didn’t have a sense of how it would perform during a “normal” wearing.

I wouldn’t have minded keeping Ikon, but there was nothing I found special about it after a few wearings. I “liked” it, but I hardly ever wore it, and since acquiring it I’ve been able to appreciate stronger and more complex scents with incense and/or amber. Some have complained that it’s not strong enough, and this is true of many “cheapos,” though some, especially the Bogart ones, tend to be very strong. I don’t understand why they can’t add another 50 cents worth of aroma chemicals (if it cost that much) to avoid this perception. After all, these are not dollar store scents! This is especially puzzling in the case of the “masculine” Playboy scents I’ve tried. Hollywood and London are quite strong, whereas VIP and Ibiza were strong enough, but I recently acquired New York, and found it to be very weak.

What’s worse is that this may be my favorite, in terms of how it smells, and I really like London. Moreover, there’s nothing “synthetic” about New York, other than the intended and mild vinyl note that works well in this composition (much milder than the tar note in A*Men and the rubber note in Black). It doesn’t even have that “laundry musk” quality that I sometimes dislike. It seems like the perfumer had scents like A*Men and Bvlgari Black in mind (though this is not similar to either of those other than pe4rhaps the “general idea”). I would certainly say that it has a niche-like quality, and while it’s weak, it’s not as disappointing to me as Eau de Charlotte by Annick Goutal, which might be one of my favorite scents if it possessed longevity! The first time I tried New York, I kept spraying, until I was up to ten sprays to the chest after perhaps five hours. I’ll have to try it again and just go ahead with up to ten sprays initially.

Shock, by contrast, is certainly strong enough. It’s got an odd “energy drink accord,” though I find it generates interesting contrast and dynamism. After a while it can smell a little “synthetic” (meaning “bad synthetic”), and I’m thinking it might be good for layering, when I want a mild tobacco note added to a scent. The first couple of times I wore Shock, though, it didn’t bother me at all. It may even be interesting to layer it with Avant Garde by Lanvin, to concoct a different kind of tobacco scent. Perhaps the most interesting concoction is self-deception. How many threads have been created over the years at the major fragrance sites that involve notions of “needing” a scent?

Now it’s likely true that for most aficionados, after a while the brain becomes “wired” to expect a certain kind of olfactory experience each day. But there also seems to be a sense among at least some of these folks that they require something special. They have concocted a notion (for at least themselves) that they must experience a “special” olfactory concoction each day (usually involving niche, vintage, or designer exclusives). Some have called this snobbery, and of course this may be the case for some if not most. Whether this is the case or not, what I’ve found is that my preferences seem to be dictated by my sensitivities to some degree. Because of this, I think, I find many “cheapos” to be appealing. But beyond that, ever since I was young I can remember thinking that it’s better not to get too attached to material objects, whereas many others seem to think that it’s crucial to feel a strong sense of attachment to all kinds of things. And that difference may have been concocted by “nature,” perhaps even before we were born!

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Uncooperative Rebels, Openings, and Preferences.

Some people like to view themselves as “contrarians” or “rebels,” and I’m guessing this is largely an under-40 phenomenon, especially for rebel. In my experience, such folk tend to use false equivalencies often. In politics, for example, they go to great lengths to justify one President’s actions, but then when a President from the opposing party is elected they criticize him harshly even though he is doing the same thing as his predecessor (and sometimes to a considerably lesser extent). The chess great, Bobby Fischer, seems to have been one such person – he certainly had his “rebellious” qualities. Towards the end of his life, he seems to have become a raving anti-Semite, spouting absolute nonsense at times. Despite this, a new film will soon be released about his winning the world chess champion title back in the early 1970s. My father became interested in chess at the time and taught it to me, and by my teen years I had taken it seriously, reading books about how the “great masters” played.

Fast forward to 2007/2008, when I became interested in fragrances. I noticed that some had the “traditional” three stages of development but most did not. Instead, I noticed that there was more of a two-part structure, with the first part being stronger but lasting a short period of time, a half hour being perhaps the average. After that a weaker stage began, which could last hours. I don’t know if I was thinking about chess, but when I began to write reviews I sometimes would say “the opening” rather than “this opens with,” and a few years later I noticed that many people were using this same phrasing. I don’t think there is anything “special” about it, but I do think it’s almost always better than thinking one will get the three stage development experience that is at least implied with most note pyramids supplied by the companies that produce the scents.

I did some research and couldn’t find any other use of the word opening in this way before I did, and I mentioned this a couple of times, mostly because I found it amusing. One blogger apparently thinks that I believe myself to be some sort of “genius” because of this notion, and has implied that I am lying or otherwise incorrect in thinking that I was the first to use the term in this way. I find it quite fascinating that anyone would care, one way or the other. I certainly don’t care, though I’d be curious to know for sure. If I were to imply what he did, I would find some evidence first, and this brings me to the rebel/contrarian issue, because it seems to me that people like this “shoot their mouths off” before actually doing any “fact checking” far too often. And now we have people who will say things like, “well I read it on a credible web site so I assumed it had to be true” (if confronted by an undeniable lie), and it’s almost always the case that calling the web site in question credible demonstrates very poor judgement in the first place !

This brings me to another thing a blogger has recently posted, though I’m not really sure I understand it. The claim is that notes or note pyramids are “phantoms.” Isn’t that redundant, such as calling someone an uncooperative rebel? Just about everyone who has studied these olfactory concoctions for a while knows that many “official” notes appear to be a figment of someone’s imagination. If you want “reality,” then you can read the list of ingredients, but even here there’s a problem, because consumers aren’t told exactly how much of each is used, and these are only the ingredients they are required to disclose, from what I understand (at least in most cases). In particular, my Fragrantica.com review of Aubusson Homme was criticized (again, I can’t say I understand what the blogger was trying to communicate):

Just did a quick ankle sampling along with a few others, so I’ll certainly have to update after a regular wearing. This does feel light at first, a bit fruity and fresh, but not in a dihydromyrcenol overdose kind of way. Instead, this smells natural and it’s somewhat dry; it’s definitely not too sweet. Over time a nice sandalwood note emerges. Don’t expect heavy patchouli, moss, or leather notes; this is more of a warm weather scent. Interestingly, there’s at least an impression of tobacco in the background, and I’m surprised at how nice this is, somewhat like Ho Hang Club or Halston’s Limited for Men, but not as floral or dense as those. Overall it’s a little creamy and with a mild woody texture, in some ways like a more natural smelling Code for Men by Armani (after a couple hours or so). I know my bottle is quite old, so perhaps it was reformulated into something different, especially considering the amount of stock I see on amazon now and the low prices.

UPDATE: With a regular wearing, I’d say I’m leaning towards Shamu1’s review. That is, it’s fresh and fruity at first but then it’s like a light version of Balenciaga Pour Homme, though without the animalic quality of that one. I get little moss or patchouli, but instead the dry woody quality is obvious, with the fruity/freshness hanging on for a long time at a considerably lower volume. Overall, it’s a little sweet and powdery.

Certainly, some will argue that this is or is not a helpful review, but I would never suggest that anyone buy a bottle ‘blind” based upon any one review, including my own! And I’ve said that at times I seem to be much more sensitive to certain notes, accords, or aroma chemicals than I am at other times. If I try a scent more than once (separated by at least a few weeks, usually) I feel more confident about my review. In this particular review you can get a good sense of that, as I now would not hesitate to tell someone that if he/she doesn’t like strong patchouli or “moss” that shouldn’t be a reason to avoid sampling this scent. Of course if the person is extremely sensitive to such notes, there could be an issue, but in such cases I would suggest that people avoid blind buying scents that list such notes, regardless of what the reviews say (assuming price is a consideration – if not, you can just give it to charity or as a gift, or try to swap it off).  The rebel/contrarian, though, will always find fault, no matter how much of a “mountains out of molehills” the issue is!

I was also criticized (implicitly) for my preference for Playboy’s VIP for Him (over Cotton Club for Men). I found this very odd as well (and also incomprehensible) because of how clear my review was:

First dab sampling: it seems most similar to Cotton Club for Men. This one seems a bit fruitier and less woody… The odd composition actually seems to balance things out so it doesn’t go too far in any direction…

In chess, you try to steer the opening in a direction that you prefer, and one that you hope makes your opponent uncomfortable. This blogger seems to be suggesting that one should wear a scent that he/she doesn’t like as much as another (even though the two are quite similar) because of some sort of objective standard by which to measure scents (apparently, some people think they can appoint themselves the Pope of Perfumery!). If anything were more subjective than scent, I’m not sure what that would be, and when you reach for a “super cheapo” any claim about the “art of perfumery” is beyond laughable. And so my conclusion is that “right fighting” with a rebel/contrarian personality is futile. One should simply make one’s case and let readers decide. There isn’t going to be any kind of “final showdown,” or even a world championship match. Unlike chess, you can’t demonstrate that your preferences are the “right” ones. The “leading voice” in the USA in this context talks about how he likes the smell of the “clean anus,” after all! Some people do not seem to understand the concept of personal preference (I have no idea how such people can exist in our kind of society, but that is not my problem).

NOTE: To be clear, I don’t view rebels/contrarians as being predisposed to things like antisemitism. I view Bobby Fischer as a great example of someone who cultivated at least a rebel-ish quality, and his uncooperative antics at the 1972 world chess championship should have come as a surprise only to the most naive. He just happened to harbor some abhorrent opinions too. By contrast, the person who raves about an upcoming “nanny state” because a bill concerning the labeling of genetically-modified food ingredients is being debated in a legislature is exactly the kind of person to whom I’m referring. However, I certainly hold out no hope that such mind-reading, future-predicting, false analogizing, conspiracy theorizing, etc. is going to end any time soon – the internet seems to have increased either the number or “visibility” of such individuals (if not both!).

UPDATE:  The blogger in question apparently has found a few usages of “the opening” in this context before I began using it frequently (though I certainly never claimed to know for sure, and I’d guess I was in fact the first to use it frequently at least online).  The key question seems to be, why was this an “issue” in the first place?  If someone said he/she thinks he/she was the first to say that a scent is delicious,  I might be critical of the usage (as I have been), but I wouldn’t care who applied it this way first (and it may have occurred first “offline” in any case!).  In fact, if I had it to do over, I might say something like, “beyond the fleeting tops notes, this scent has two stages, the first lasting about half an hour,” for example (an when applicable, obviously), rather than the opening.  When someone says “the opening” I don’t know if they are referring to fleeting top notes.  My guess is that many are, and then for them the drydown is what I consider (or used to consider) to be “the opening.”

Moreover, I think there is something else that can be garnered here.  Does anyone remember Stephen Colbert’s concept, “truthiness?”  There was a much more important idea behind it, and in some ways it was prophetic, considering how many American politicians claim to no longer believe in various scientific theories!  How less significant can the answer to the question, who was the first to use (or use frequently) the phrase, the opening, in the context of fragrances, be?   I’ve mentioned this before, saying that I’d be amused if I were the first to have used the phrase, but I didn’t think much of it, one way or the other.  However, this episode seems to be an excellent example of how the mind of the rebel/contrarian functions, so is this “check and mate?”

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Is Chandler Burr’s “clean anus” simply delicious ?

On pages 248-249 of the book, “The Perfect Scent,” by Chandler Burr, we are told:

It is one of the most astounding smells you will ever
experience. It is, to put it most precisely, the rich,
thick scent of the anus of a clean man combined with
the smells of his warm skin, his armpits sometime
around midday, the head of his ripely scented
uncircumcised penis (a trace of ammonia) and the
sweetish, nutty, acrid visceral smell of his breath.
There is simply no other way to describe it…

The smell of clean anus turns out to be extremely
helpful in perfume. In trace amounts it deepens and
enriches floral scents, fleshes out green scents.
Jacques Guerlain…famously said that all his perfumes
contained, somewhere inside them, the smell of the
underside of his mistress. He was referring to all three

First, I’m surprised these comments have been discussed as much as at least I would have expected (and I’m generally a low expectations kind of person!), especially considering how much online chatter there has been about scents like Muscs Koublai Khan and Musc Ravageur. And this is Chandler Burr, not some guy calling himself Bigsly with a small fragrance blog! Now I (and others) have pointed out that some “dirty” notes strike me as more “foody” than “dirty,” such as cumin, but I simply can’t relate to these claims. And I don’t think it’s because I’m apparently more “Puritanical” than Burr, not having engaging in any “ass play” in my life, but instead that I don’t associate “human smells” with these largely synthetic olfactory concoctions. Yes, MKK reminds me a bit of something one might encounter from an underarm area, but that was long ago (that I sampled it) and I can’t remember another scent that had that quality for me, other than Carlo Corinto (when I was newbie, and I have only a very vague recollection of it now).

So, perhaps this is due to sensitivity levels and/or one’s sexual lifestyle, but where things get very strange is when one uses the phrase “clean anus.” Let’s be blunt here, if you take a “fresh” scent and spray someone’s anus with it, what have you created? The point is that this seems to be Burr’s notion of what that might be like (though of course he may have tried it), and he seems to be talking about evocation rather than the perception of something that actually exists (since what one of these concoctions evokes for him, perhaps mostly in the top notes, seems to be a lot more important to him that to me). And I wonder what all those people who have been using the word delicious in their scent reviews would make of this! Can an anus be delicious (let’s assume you are not an “ass play” person and generally don’t go poking your nose in such places)?

My major criticism of Burr’s reviewing style, aside from putting too much focus on evocation, is that he isn’t specific about his tastes, and that can lead to misleading reviews. By contrast, I am very specific, having said on many occasions, for example, that I try to largely avoid any fleeting top notes. One major thing I always think about when reading a review is whether the reviewer is what I call a “top notes person.” If he/she is, then I know not to place much weight in it, in terms of making a blind buy purchase. Can anyone think that not only would he/she enjoy a “clean anus” scent, but also know that Burr’s notion of what this coincides with is what his/hers would be? Burr seems to be either a bit naive in terms of how much variation there is in the perception of these concoctions or he is trying to “make a name for himself” with such statements. Can you think of another possibility? If so, please leave a comment !

If nothing else, I think the “delicious people” and the “clean anus people” (however few there may be of the latter) demonstrate that it’s crucial to consider the way perhaps a majority of people perceive these concoctions. On the one hand, using the word delicious suggests a gourmand scent, whereas many if not most would likely avoid a “clean anus” scent, though some might be made more curious by such a remark, just as talk about Secretions Magnifiques by Etat Libre d`Orange seems to have led many (at least in the online fragrance community) to feel compelled to sample it. You may have a social circle in which describing things (that are not food or body parts) in terms of deliciousness or anal cleanliness is common, but do you really think this applies to the majority? Why not ask yourself if your description would make sense to your grandmother before writing up reviews that are going to reach those of many different demographic groups? You don’t want to make a “horse’s ass” of yourself, do you?

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A Two-For-One Special !

I had two ideas for a post but neither needs to be as long as my posts usually are, so the solution, of course, is to combine these! The first concerns “oud scents.” Since 2008 I’ve sampled quite a few, but only one smelled rather different from the rest, Asalah, by Mishal & Majid (in a swap someone included a partial sample as a “freebie”). About a week ago I arranged a swap which included a tiny sample of “real oud,” that is, Mi-Si-Da from the Oud Cave web site (I didn’t even ask for it!). Though it didn’t smell exactly like Asalah (which has a clear floral element), there seemed to be a similar accord. This quality is leather-like and quite smooth. I really like it, yet it lacks dynamism and doesn’t last for more than perhaps three hours, at least with strength. By contrast, the other “oud scents” I’ve tried (apparently with no significant real oud) smelled quite different, with a harsh and often medicinal quality. My main point here is that if my experience is consistent with real versus synthetic oud, then I don’t understand why the synthetic substance is even called oud – it doesn’t really resemble the real material. My guess is that there is a real oud that does have some of that harsh/medicinal quality, but I simply have not encountered it yet.

The second idea for a post involved the “problem” with recent designer releases, at least the “masculine” ones. Specifically, and what still surprises me, is that so many “cheapos” are more enjoyable than designers that cost several times more! Some cheapos even have niche-like qualities, the most obvious probably being Jovan’s Intense Oud. There seems to be a conscious decision on the part of the designers to “stick to the script” to some degree, whereas the “lesser” companies don’t always think along these lines. Sauvage seems to be an excellent example (from what I’ve read) of this new trend, and I’d say this is true for Bleu de Chanel EdT, which I’ve sampled at least a couple of time. That is, the plan seems to be to create a mish-mash or pastiche, so that it can’t be said to smell like another scent, and to use strong aroma chemicals so that it has longevity.

By contrast, I’ll mention Dunhill’s Custom, which definitely seems to have been formulated with Gucci Pour Homme 1 in mind (the 2003 release). Some things were removed, such as the ambery quality, and it’s considerably weaker. Then an apple note was added, which is nicely done. I like it, actually, but it’s two-dimensional for me, as if the thought of using essential oils was not even considered (I have no idea if this is the case but that is how is comes across relative to ones that smell more “natural,” especially vintage designers). The lack of depth makes it boring over time, but I do think that it might be useful for layering purposes. It seems that “amber” or something tonka-ish and/or vanillic is the main element these days that can add some sense of depth, but there is little of that in Custom.

The Secret by Antonio Banderas, though, doesn’t have much of a vanillic/ambery/tonka-ish quality, yet seems so much more complete (and enjoyable by itself) than Custom, and I wonder if this is because celebrity or “lower end” companies are willing to take more risks, whereas a “house” like Dunhill is content with making scents that smell somewhat like others that are or were popular. Their London smells a bit like their own Red for Men,which I find amusing (why not “rip off” yourself, so to speak?), though I do like London better, so at least it’s an improvement, unlike Custom. Then there is a scent like Black Sugar by Aquolina, which is sort of like A*Men (minus the mint and lavender) combined with Bvlgari Black, plus some strawberry added. If they had named it something like “The Noble Savage,” that would make some sense (especially if you think sweetness is noble), but from what I’ve read about Sauvage, the only way it’s a savage is in its “synthetic” quality !

On a recent Basenotes.net thread one long-time member lamented his disgust with recent designers. I mentioned that I’ve found quite a few “cheapos” that I really enjoy over the last few months, but he dismissed my advice quickly, saying he had already tried plenty of them. From what I know of his activities (I’ve done quite a few swaps with him), he hasn’t tried Black Sugar, Dark Flower, Diesel Green for Women, or Playboy’s London for Men. I know he has tried The Secret because I obtained a bottle of it from him in a swap. My guess is that he’s just bored at this point, because I’ve obtained quite a few niche scents, and a whole lot if samples and decants are included, yet I can’t say I often find myself thinking that I’d want to wear one. The other day I wore Tobacco Vanille, after not having worn it for a long time, and it really didn’t do much for me. I was thinking that I’d probably enjoy Lanvin’s Avant Garde more!

In light of this and the recent online negativity towards the apparently non-savage Sauvage, I think it may be that too many aficionados are looking for a “bigger high” but it just doesn’t exist. After you learn to enjoy several scents, it may not get much better than that, because there may be a limit to how much personal enjoyment you can get from such concoctions! You may be able to change your preferences to some degree or your sensitivity (probably by accident, as was the case for me), but it may be the case that you can only enjoy so many scents at an optimal level. After that you can try layering, though the problem with this (I’ve found) is that you often don’t get what you’re seeking, and you wish you had just worn one that you know you’d enjoy. I guess this can be called the “comfort zone” hypothesis, meaning that if find your comfort zone, any attempt to go beyond it by a wide margin will result in disappointment. If you have any thoughts about this, in terms of your personal experience, please leave a comment !

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