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


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

The shockingly repulsive smell of hot vinyl and overheated electronics…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

My response to this was:

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

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

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

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

And:

DO YOU MACERATE YOUR FRAGRANCES BEFORE BOTTLING THEM?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Return of the Clone Wars !


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sorting through the vintage greats.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How to make your own niche scent, cheaply !


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

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

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

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

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Axis Oud, not Axis Caviar Oudh-Wood, or is it ?


I’ve got a lot of good things to say about this scent (Oud), but I do want to point out that this company has decided to use very confusing names! First of all, the company is Sense of Space, which doesn’t sound too promising in an olfactory context. Secondly, according to Fragrantica.com there are 37 releases by SOS, with 34 of these beginning with the word Axis. Five of these are Caviar scents. Axis Oud and Axis Caviar Oudh-Wood have yet to be listed at Fragrantica (I’ve given up trying to get them to list scents that clearly should be, such as Stardust for Men from 2001). It may be that “Caviar” scents simply have tiny colored balls inside the liquid, done entirely for visual effect, but I can’t speak to that, though I’ll include a picture of ACO-W so you can see this design feature:

The listed notes for Oud are:

“Top notes of tangerine, black pepper and saffron. Heart notes of rosemary, orange blossom and patchouli. Base notes of oud, incense, amber and leather.”

For Ouh-Wood, I’ve just seen “woody and smoky” notes mentioned. I’ve only seen Oud listed for sale on a UK site, but it was at about 10 pounds, so it’s unclear who the target market was. ACO-W seems to sell for around $25 or a bit more on ebay these days. Oud smells a bit like vintage M7 at first, but quickly goes in a different direction. The oud note is obvious, as is a cherry/medicinal quality one finds in M7, and it’s nicely balanced. Unlike M7 there is nothing even slightly ambery about this one, and instead of smoothing out, it becomes more intense, at least for my sensibilities. After no more than several minutes there is a really interesting charred or burnt wood type of effect, and then after that an aroma chemical (s) I’ve encountered before becomes obvious, though not outrageously strong.

Unfortunately, this chemical seems to really irritate me even in small amounts. I think Club Men by Azzaro contains it in even larger amounts. It is very tenacious and overwhelms other notes, even more so than the aroma chemical (s) in Potion Royal Black that seems to bother me to a lesser degree. It’s hard for me to know what to say about this phenomenon, because if you have the same reaction to it that I do, you probably won’t wear it, but if it doesn’t bother you and you can get 100 ml of Axis Oud for $20 or so, you’ll likely be very pleased (assuming you enjoy “oud scents”). In some ways this aroma chemical seems to be appropriate for the composition, and images of burnt debris at an old factory may come to mind.

By contrast, Jovan’s Intense Oud, while certainly not smelling entirely “natural” to me, doesn’t bother me, and in fact I seem to find it more natural-smelling as it develops. I wore Intense Oud just before writing this, and my former impression was reaffirmed – it’s not as interesting as Axis Oud but for the time being it’s more wearable. I don’t dislike M7, but I don’t find it to be that interesting, whereas Axis Oud is one of the most interesting “oud scents” I’ve come across and liked (compositionally), though wearing it for more than a short period of time has been a challenge so far. I was thinking of spraying it once on my back to see if that would help lessen the strength of the offending aroma chemical.

Despite the notes, it’s not that similar to vintage M7. There is a clear cherry/medicinal quality, but that’s the major similarity, along with a bit of what passes for oud at this price level (it’s not as syrupy and it’s drier too). It’s not that similar to Jovan’s Oud Intense, either, so if you are a fan of “super cheapo” ouds, this is not redundant. Instead, this one goes in more of an incense direction, though with clear aroma chemicals (however, I definitely wouldn’t call it a “chemical mess”) and a smoky wood element. The sweetness is minimal as well, and some sort of musk molecule is present, though not of a “laundry” variety. I’d cal it a good “starter oud scent,” and it has a niche-like quality. This is no run of the mill designer scent that has an oud note listed, that’s for sure. As I’ve said before, with scents like this on the market, selling for much less than department store scents that list an oud note, I have almost no interest in sampling new designer offerings.

This is my Fragrantica review, which I had to place on a different Axis scent’s page, because as is so often the case this site does not have a listing for it:

Axis Oud isn’t listed so I’ll put my review here. Note that there’s also an Axis Oudh-Wood but I haven’t tried that one (it may be the same for all I know). Oud is somewhat similar to vintage M7 up top, with the cherry and medicinal qualities, along with that sharp oud-type thing going on. However, there is a kind of charred or burning wood element that M7 doesn’t have, though it’s at the cost of smelling a bit “chemical,” at least to me. It’s nicely blended and never gets too sweet or generic, so unless you dislike this particular aroma chemical, I’d call this an incredible bargain (for you cheapo/oud fans), though I think I personally prefer Oud Intense by Jovan among this group. I’ve only seen it at a UK online store for about 10 pounds, and I don’t see any listed on ebay, though there are some of the Oudh-Wood bottles listed.

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Should you try to save money with “clones,” such as Dark Flower ?


“Designer imposter” scents go back a long time (from what I remember, to at least the 1980s), but these days there seem to be a flood on the market. Now if all of you lived near a store that sold just about every one them, and had testers available, I wouldn’t have written up this post. With the internet, we can not only learn about the availability of these, but in some cases read reviews at sites like Fragrantica.com, which for some reason thinks that some companies are legitimate enough to list in their database while others are ignored. Or perhaps they just list whatever they come across, though I’d suggested listing such scents as Stardust for Men (2001) but it is yet to be listed, months later !

Dollar store scents can be a great buy, but in most cases the more discerning person isn’t going to wear these, if he or she even bothers to try any. On the other hand are rather expensive scents that are supposed to be “as good” as really expensive ones. Using Fragrantica’s “This perfume reminds me of” feature, we can see that Cedrat Boise by Mancera, for example, is thought to be most similar to Aventus by Creed (53 votes). The “problem” is that it seems to be selling for more than $120 for 120 ml bottles these days, which is not a “cheapo” situation. In fact, if I enjoyed Aventus but couldn’t afford it, I doubt I could afford Cedrat Boise, and I’d also be incredibly disappointed if it did not smell close enough to Aventus. It certainly doesn’t seem like one could call this a “safe blind buy,” that’s for sure! On the other hand, spending $20-25 (or less) on Lomani’s AB Spirit Silver seems as safe as one an get, so long as you don’t believe it will smell exactly like Aventus.

Another company which seems to be doing this sort of thing, and which I just learned about, is Armaf. There doesn’t seem to be much of a secret about what their scents are meant to be in many if not most cases (if you do some research on Fragrantica, ebay, amazon, etc.). In fact, one ebay seller is opening claiming that Armaf’s Derby Club House Blanche is a “Creed silver mountain water copy.” The price is $30, at least if you live in the USA, and for me that’s till too high to label it a “safe blind buy,” but I can see how some might find that price (for 100 ml) and the reviews to be too tempting to pass up, especially considering how some of these “copy cats” seem to become unavailable at any price, though of course one might get lucky on ebay, or the company might decide to create a new batch (though you wouldn’t know if it smelled the same as the older batches until you obtained a bottle).

For me, the “sweet spot” is the Dorall Collection. I came upon one of their bottles at a yard sale back around 2009, purchasing what seemed to be a Polo “copy” (it’s called Mustang and is in a similar type bottle that is green). It’s a competent, wearable scent, and different enough from my vintage Polo to be worth owning for a couple of dollars. So, when I noticed a scent produced by Dorall Collection and called Dark Flower selling for about $10 for 100 ml, I did some research. Parfumo.net seems to have most of the Dorall Collection listed, usually with notes as well. In this case it seems clear that this is supposed to smell at least a bit like Black Orchid. Parfumo provides these notes for it:

Bergamot, Citric notes, Mandarin, Black gardenia, Jasmine, Ylang-ylang, Lotus wood, Orchid, Spicy notes, Floral accord, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Frankincense, Vanilla.

I haven’t tried Black Orchid in years but it does seem to bear some resemblance to what I can recall (in the drydown). DF has obvious an obvious but not very strong sandalwood note, along with florals that aren’t too “feminine” to me and gourmand elements. The balance is nice and I’d rather wear this than more than a few recent designer releases, that’s for sure. It’s a bit dry, isn’t too sweet or syrupy, and doesn’t have animalic quality (I’d say this is unisex, for those used to niche). And this brings me to a point that seems to be crucial, which is that some people seem to be seeking the strong niche scent experience whereas others, such as myself, are seeking a pleasant, dynamic, balanced, and smooth drydown. This is why I thought it would be worthwhile spending the money on DF, though another factor was the retail price of Black Orchid. If BO sold for a lot less, I’d just try have patience and get a good deal on ebay or in a swap.

So, while I have limited experience with “copy cat” scents, I certainly would mention Dorall Collection ones to those seeking a very inexpensive alternative to very expensive scents – assuming you don’t mind going to ebay once in a while to see what’s available, as well as doing some research on parfumo.net. There are also a couple of sites which may tell you exactly what the scent in question is supposed to smell like:

http://www.arioninc.net/#!catalogs/c5s0
http://shop.designerfragrancesinc.com/main.sc

Note that there are others, such as the Diamond Collection. If you search ebay’s fragrances for Diamond Collection you’ll see even more audacious bottle designs and names (IMO), and I wonder about the legality of those, but my main interest is in how these smell, of course. I’m not really “in the market” for a reasonably good smell-alike of anything now, so I don’t intend to pursue this much further, other than to grab one at a really low price if I happen to see it (probably on ebay) and think I might like it. Of course, if you are familiar with vintage scents, you’ll know about at least a few that seem to have been “inspired” by others, usually best sellers, such as Chanel No. 5. The difference today is that it seems like there are “copy cats” at prices points that range from about $10 per bottle (leaving aside the dollar store offerings) up to more than $100, and I doubt there are any local stores which sell more than a small fraction of what one can buy online, unlike by the late 80s, where a trip to a medium-size mall might allow you to do a whole lot of sampling, relative to what was being produced.

NOTE: I have no affiliations with any fragrance company and don’t have a strong opinion about only wearing the “original” or trying to save as much money as possible. I find it at least somewhat entertaining and don’t mind wearing a “copy cat,” but because I don’t feel compelled to buy any new scents (already possessing more than I could use in a few lifetimes) I’m mostly swapping or looking for “too good to pass up” deals.

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