My interview with a fragrance industry chemist.

A while back I swapped with someone who mentioned he’s a fragrance industry chemist (after I asked why he was swapping it – he said he got it for free at work), so of course I had to ask if he didn’t mind answering some questions. At first he agreed, but then he spoke to someone at his company and was concerned about contract violations, so I told him I’d keep his identity anonymous, and I decided to wait as well, just in case someone in the company he works for decided to poke around after talking to him about this.  He did say that a sense of secrecy pervades the industry, and I got the impression that it might go into the realm of paranoia in some cases, just as it seemed to when I asked the former L’Oreal representative (from whom I bought a test bottle of KL Homme Lagerfeld) for an interview several years ago (she agreed at first, I submitted questions, telling her she could answer whichever ones she wanted, however she wanted, and then never heard from her again).  I had a few more questions, but I am glad this person was willing to answer quite a few, if not all.  Of course, just because someone worked in the industry or is a fragrance chemist doesn’t mean he/she is correct all the time, and it may be that there are differences from one “house” to another.  That’s why I used an identity checker web site (which I paid for) and asked probably the most well-known writer about fragrances (at least in English) to review this exchange, and I was told that there wasn’t anything that looked strange or inconsistent.  Nevertheless, I certainly would prefer to name the chemist, but I won’t renege on a promise, and my belief is that it’s worth “putting it out there” – readers can decide for themselves what to make of it.

B (Bigslyfragrance) indicates a question I asked and C (chemist) is his response.


B:  What does your job entail?

C:  My job is to create parfum within very specific parameters, the most important being PPK (Price per kilo.) You get a creative brief that tells you what it needs to do and what its for (product application) and you go from there.

B:  Do you have any preferences in terms of notes, genres, etc.?

C:  I tend to enjoy gourmands and classic leather compositions (think knize ten) for personal use, but I really enjoy just about everything when done well. Also, I wear what is categorized “women’s” about as often as I do men’s fragrance: sometimes you get a double take on the street if you’ve got a particularly floral scent on, but the overlap of notes (or long tail, rather) in modern fragrance application has created a really wide swath of what is considered socially acceptable for both men and women.

B:  How much thought is put into changes that might occur within the first year after someone purchases a fragrance in a bottle that is sealed (such as the typical bottles marketed these days)?

C:  Very little. This question brings up Perfumery 101 lessons about the nature of chemical composition and how smell works. At it’s very core, perfumery is about volatility, or the rate in which things evaporate. When sealed in an airtight container with compounds that extend shelf life (and inert gases are always used to make sure it it stays fresh) you’re going to get almost zero change in chemicals involved.

B:  Have you read anything online that you consider to be common misconceptions?

C:  Whenever I read about testers having different juice from retail bottles I tend to chuckle, as that would require an entire reformulation, and would cost an obscene amount to accomplish and would be very impractical. To be fair, that’s the view from a larger outfit, and smaller Niche companies might engage in that sort of thing, but I doubt it very much.

B:  Do you have any predictions/thoughts about where the fragrance industry is heading over the next five years or so?

C: Really hard to say, as the industry is extremely trend driven (notice how much Oud has shown up on the radar? Agarwood is not a new material) and companies spend huge amounts chasing trends over three year cycles.

B:  What do you look for in a fragrance?

C:  Tricky question to answer, but I suppose when it comes down to it I look for compositions that aren’t top heavy in extremely volatile compounds (generally used for top notes) as that’s sort of a cheap way to get someone at a fragrance counter to fall in love and purchase a bottle on the spot. Those tend to dissipate after a few hours, and that’s not really the idea behind fragrance (at least in a classical sense.)

B:  “Spoilage” in a major concern of some people, yet these seem to be people who either don’t buy many fragrances that are say, over ten years old, or who have conflicts of interest, while others (including myself) have a great deal of experience with vintage bottles, including splash ones, and have yet to encounter a “spoiled” drydown.  Do you have any experience and/or opinions on the subject?

C:  Spoilage is for the most part a non-issue. In general, the parfum in the juice has two main enemies: heat & light. Within your parfum there are a handful of highly volatile compounds that can be damaged most by heat and light (top notes) so worst case scenario is that your top notes burn off and you’re left with the rest of the composition. This will make the first few minutes smell like acetone (because the first to evaporate in the juice is the alcohol and some other chemicals) but after that goes away the rest of the composition will start to come out. Bottom line, keep them in cool, dark places and they’ll last for an extremely long time. I have 20 year old bottles that smell identical to when I bought them.

B:  If you had to guess, what do you think happens when a major company (Chanel, Dior, Guerlain) decides to do a “major’ launch, such as Sauvage, in terms of trying to figure out what the final scent will be?  In particular, I’m curious about how much decision-making power someone like Francois Demachy may have had, as opposed to the product testing that must have taken place.  Would he have likely produced several variations and then those were product tested?  Or can you imagine a different kind of process?

C:  I can’t really speak to corporate testing structure or procedure, but I can tell you that in pieces like Sauvage, Demachy acts more like a hands off director. Most designer level stuff for big companies are just cash cows, so they spend more time and money on marketing and design than making sure the juice is great. Most companies simply license out their names for use so that the big players (i.e. Estee Lauder) can launch various fragrances under different names to create the appearance of variation, and just keep a “nose” on hand to sign off on the final product and give the appearance of authenticity, while technicians and computer algorithms do most of the heavy lifting.

B:  According to the press release, Red for Men by Giorgio of Beverly Hills originally had 551 ingredients, over 35 of which are “naturals.”  Assuming this is accurate, how does this compare to fragrances today that you know about, whether or not you worked on them yourself or not?  If one wanted to do a “knockoff” of this kind of “old school” fragrance today, what would you estimate the number of ingredients to be?  And how many “naturals” might be used, if any?

C:  The claim of 551 ingredients is a well known piece of showmanship in the industry, because it’s not untrue in the strictest sense, but is somewhat dishonest in its application. The number of ingredients is easily padded when you use naturals in any formulae- a tomato contains a little over 200 aromatic chemicals, but the human nose can only detect 6 of them when isolated (a dog can smell nearly all of them) so using any sort of extract in its natural form is going to pad your numbers.

As far as trying to recreate “classic” style fragrances, you run into one major: regulation. Most older fragrances leaned heavily on a handful of natural ingredients to produce the classic chypre or fougere skeletons from which to build on. Strict regulations have crippled the reliance on the older style of perfumery, making it hard to copy out and out what was available in the past. Worse yet, it’s become much more costly to produce a lot of the older style juices, as synthetics (contrary to popular belief) tend to cost a great deal more to produce than naturals (however, this is a bit inverted when dealing with certain resins and tree based naturals.)

[Note here that one blogger has argued that the above is ridiculous because sandalwood essential oil is expensive – didn’t he read the entire statement?  The fragrance chemist did say this is “inverted” when dealing with particular essential oils, and used the phrase”tree based” to provide an example!  Obviously, there must be some that are not resins or “tree based” yet are very expensive, but the person is clearly talking in general terms, so I suggest reading my blog post about “semi-facts,” for those who want to ponder how to deal with “difficult people” – hardly anyone is going to say something like, “for all intents and purposes” after every other sentence!  Some people seem to enjoy making nonsensical statements – I’m just glad I don’t have to deal with them on a daily basis.]

B:  I’m still wondering how they decide to put out a release with a whole lot of ambroxan (Sauvage), for example.  Who probably had that thought?  Wouldn’t that have likely been based upon product testing?  Did you see that BBC perfume documentary?

C:  Stuff like Ambroxan and Iso E Super are the sugar of the perfumery world (they make everything more palatable to the vast majority of consumers), so they get jammed into stuff that they would like to ensure are big sellers (at least initially.)  And yes, I have seen that documentary, I liked it quite a bit!

B:  What about the issue of “cloning.”  As a chemist in general, would you say it’s rather easy to do a reasonably close job, so long as you have a MS/GC unit to test against the original.  Or is it actually a bit difficult to create a good “clone?”  Thanks.

C:  The ease of cloning is directly correlated to the passage of time- most competitors use a Mass Spectrometer (or “shoot the juice” as we say) the day something new comes out, but it takes time untangling how things are arranged, which is very tricky when using captives that were discovered by someone else. However, once they’ve cracked the code the market tends to get flooded with similar products (see Aqua di Gio/Coolwater and the flood of aquatics that came after).

B:  I’m curious about whether it would it be possible to market a scent such as “vintage” Pi now or does it have too much coumarin or something else that has gotten restricted significantly.

C:  It would be very easy to make something similar in today’s market: the restrictions on coumarin are a non-issue in that there are tons of options when trying to produce the scent of tonka bean (coumarin has been synthesized for a very long time, and we’ve had ample opportunity to replace it.)  A lot of people bemoan (myself included) the shift towards lighter, less persistent parfums, but blame it (mistakenly) on over zealous regulations. It’s really more a function of the market: people report wanting less invasive scents, and so the companies produce what they think will sell. We are more than capable of producing knock-out potency stuff, but there is very little demand for them in today’s market.

B:  The other day, I was thinking about the notion of complexity/simplicity, and wondering if you always can detect if a scent is a rather complex or simple composition, or are they almost all rather simple these days?

C:  Complexity is impossible to ascertain without having all the pertinent information (unless something is overloaded with a single ingredient, but even then it might have involved some technical wizardry to make the smaller end pop.)  Something might smell like a high quality rose oil and you think “simple” but it might have been done all synthetic, which takes a ton of work and troubleshooting when trying to match a natural accord flawlessly.

That said, you can often tell when corners have been cut when there has been a clone or when a reformulation is botched, so it’s not really a matter of complexity per se, but more a function of cheaping out.

B:  There’s someone who claims that many if not most cheap fragrances were made (or just happen) to smell rich, complex, etc. up close but smell bland, generic, nondescript, etc. from a distance at which others will likely be smelling the scent.  I’ve only encountered really cheap fragrances that smell “okay” up close, but they all need at least several inches to smell really good (for those that do), so I’m curious to know what you think of this idea.

C:  You’re absolutely correct: cheap fragrances aren’t made to smell different up close vs. from a distance, their whole function is just to provide a decent scent at a low cost, and his notion that there is some kind of conspiracy to trick people with scent duality is pretty far fetched.

And yes, I totally agree that they are playing fast and loose with the idea of blandness/general smells, because there are so many cultural factors and societal factors that go into the perception of a smell (like how in the North America we strongly associate lemons with cleaning products, while the French do the same with Lavender and the Japanese do the same with Roses) that it creates a subjectivity that can’t be easily explained away with the argument that “this fragrance is cheap.”

Conversely, I feel like you could make the argument just as easily in the other direction: so many expensive niche fragrances are made to smell bland in a general sense so as not to offend, and just smell “conventionally good” to please a wider audience (and justify their price point.) I find this to be the case with brands like Amouage, where they are vehemently opposed to stepping outside the formulas you learn in perfumery 101, so the idea that it’s a cheap perfume problem doesn’t wash.

NOTE:  I don’t necessarily agree with everything this person has said above, and one thing I find interesting is the idea that Red for Men’s supposed 551 ingredients is a marketing ploy, because I can’t remember any other scent where such a claim was made so overtly by the company.  Did they try this “ploy,” fail, and then nobody every tried it again?  That seems highly unlikely, but what I find so interesting about Red is that the synthetics seem to be used expertly, whereas in so many other compositions I find myself thinking about whether I’m going to be able to tolerate the synthetics (usually it varies from one wearing to another).  One could describe it as a wood and amber dominant scent, and a great lesson in perfumery is wearing it one day then wearing a “cheap” scent with a typical/generic “woody amber” the next.  This is the difference “quality” can make, even if it is largely the use of more synthetics in a more subtle way.  Whether or not they actually decided to use 551 distinct ingredients, it seems to have a certain quality one finds in a few designer scents in which there is a lot of complexity (but it’s clearly got strong synthetic elements), such as 24, Faubourg.  The thing is, this is quite uncommon in “masculines,” from what I can tell.  Kouros could be another, but in that scent there isn’t the balance I get in Red.  It would be nice if someone subjected these scents to a MS/GC test!

UPDATE:  One response by the chemist, responding to the notion of “sexiness” in a scent, was misplaced for a while, but since I found it I’ll post it here:

The whole idea of fragrance “sexiness” is so balkanized depending upon when (and where) you grew up. Most women over a certain age consider old school fougeres & musks to be the pinnacle of masculine sexiness (classics like old spice, Brut, jovan musk, etc.) but the younger generations brought up in modern, antiseptic environments are more drawn to the smell of cleanliness as a signifier of desirability (“he smells clean, so he must be doing well.”)…

UPDATE #2:  Another statement by the fragrance chemist, coming after the above and after publication of this post, may be of interest also:

…the IFRA has gone really draconian on many naturals for fine perfumery: the legal amount of citrus oil (for an entire 50 ml bottle) is less than you might get on your fingers peeling an orange, so the basic ingredients of perfumery are having to be replaced wholesale.

UPDATE #3:  After posting this. someone has argued (badly, IMO) that the above is fictional, and it certainly could be that someone is claiming to be a fragrance chemist, which is why I wrote a disclaimer in the first paragraph.  However, I feel I’ve done my “due diligence” in consulting an “expert” about it and using an identity checker web site, and just because someone is in the industry doesn’t mean he/she is always correct.  As my readers know, I have no reservations about making my opinions clear, and I also point out when I don’t know something but would guess that something is the case.  I have absolutely no need to invent a person and would never jeopardize my reputation doing something like that – I just wish it were possible for me to bet all my assets that this person does exist!  However, I remembered that something which speaks to this point was said, so I went back to our message exchanges and found this statement by the fragrance chemist:

…I’m on a obscenely strict NDA because I tend to work with captive molecules, and I’m not even allowed to list my place of business on social media because of corporate espionage, and can be sued for the smallest of infractions (and then you tend to get blackballed by all the firms.)…

UPDATE #4:  One blogger has questioned whether inert gas is used in the usual sealed sprayed bottles one finds at dept. stores, Sephora, etc.  Long-time/respected Basenotes and Fragrantica member, “lovingthealien,” had this to say (in 2013):

Many people do this already with their perfumes. This is how they are stored in the osmotheque. Many (most?) factory sealed parfums are already full of inert gas…

Considering how incredibly synthetic most recent releases appear to be, especially designers, and how they use powerful preservatives (BHT seems to be listed on every box I’ve got), I was quite surprised that inert gases would be used.  Also, wouldn’t they be happy if the scent “went bad” after a few years (or less), as many in the industry seem to at least imply?  My guess here is that they want to make sure the scent is fine up until the time they sell it at retail (I doubt they care much about “gray market” sellers), especially with scents that are popular due to the top notes experience (which, again, seems to be especially true for recent designers).  But it seems to be the case that not everyone can “reason through” such things and instead they automatically see a “conspiracy” whenever they learn of something that contradicts their existing notions (does that remind you of anyone who has been in the news quite a bit lately?).

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No Need to Get Angry – Just Explain Your Point of View!

On’s review page for Armaf’s Club de Nuit for Men, there is this recent review:

As others have mentioned this opens with a slightly weird lemon and pine/fern note in place of the pineapple of Aventus. Some have said it reminds them of Pledge, I would say more like a car air freshener. The opening is only about 70% Aventus because of this.

Once the lemon/fern note has evaporated, it does begin to smell closer to Aventus BUT it still has this spicy thing going on that is not found in Aventus. The dry down I would say is about 80% Aventus, and for the price, that’s quite amazing.

If they replaced the lemon note with pineapple and removed the spice, this would almost be a 100% replica and no one would need to buy Aventus again.

For the money this is a quality fragrance, but like wearing a fake Rolex, it’s going to burn at your soul.

My advice; get a split of the real deal.

This reviewer did not explain his point of view, but I think it’s not difficult to discern it.  He thinks Aventus is the “real deal” and wants a “clone” that is perhaps 95% or even 99% similar (I don’t think along these lines because I know how much my sensitivities can vary, even from one day to the next, making it difficult to posit such a precise assessment).  He also is clearly concerned about the top notes experience.  As I’ve said several times in the past, I don’t take any one person’s review all that seriously,  unless it’s the only one available (and there’s an apparently good description of the actual smell) and the scent is inexpensive.  He says nothing about the drydown, other than it’s supposed to be 80% similar to Aventus, so this doesn’t help much in that context.

I’m more interested in the smell of the scent in question, and in that regard he does say it’s spicier than Aventus, which is fine with me and would likely be an improvement (in terms of my preferences).  Knowing that most who have tried this scent have also at least sampled Aventus, I wrote up this review of the Armaf:

I have forgotten exactly what Aventus smells like but this does seem very close, perhaps somewhere between the Lomani “clone” and Aventus (I haven’t tried the others). The Lomani is more smoothed out whereas this one is sharper and seems to have more dimension/complexity. However, it’s not a complex scent overall so for many the Lomani might be fine, if you want to save a few dollars. If someone wants to pay Creed prices that’s fine with me, but I can enjoy this one and don’t need another that’s quite similar, which is the way I usually judge scents when there is a vast price difference (I bought my bottle used so I paid even less than retail for it, making the difference between it and Aventus simply too wide to even consider paying Creed prices).

I could have mentioned the birch note specifically, which is quite noticeable, and has an almost burnt quality, but I just said “sharp” because my previous experience with birch notes has been a bit different, so there may be another aroma chemical at work here.  My 98% or so 100 ml bottle of the Armaf cost me well under $20 total; otherwise I would not have purchased it because I have 100 ml of the Lomani and I’m not a big fan of this type of composition.  It would be helpful if the reviewer said something like, “if you’re a huge Aventus fan I’m not sure this Armaf is going to get the job done for you, but if not, the only major issue might be the sharp top notes.”  I like that first half hour or so, actually, and I’m not a fan of strong pineapple notes (though I don’t dislike them; however, I can’t imagine wearing such a scent on a regular basis, as many seem to do with Aventus).

Moreover, a few weeks before buying the Armaf I purchased a 50 ml bottle of Fresh Pineapple, by Bath and Body Works.  The notes for that one (on Fragrantica) are:

Top notes are orange, coconut milk and lemon; middle notes are peony, pineapple, fruits and rose; base notes are sandalwood, vanilla and caramel.

This one is more of a lemon/pineapple blend, but it doesn’t have as much sharpness as the Armaf.  The drydown is rather different, though, but it might work for those who like the idea of Aventus except would prefer a sandalwood drydown with more sweetness.  In terms of what guys, especially young ones, are wearing these days, I’d certainly classify this 2007 release as “unisex.”

I’ve swapped off quite a few “fresh,” aquatic, “sport,” etc. scents over the years, and though I still have a few, I never seem to wear them.  Occasionally I’ll spray one on my ankle so that I can waft it up to my nose every once in a while yet don’t have to deal with it until I want to, and it seems that every time my thought is that it’s too “chemical” and there’s not much, if anything, to make up for it.  Sometimes I’ve sprayed these kinds of scents on the back of a coat/jacket (if the sprayer generates a nice mist effect), and I can appreciate the scent that way to some degree, but that’s only for when the weather is cooler.  The point is that I think the Aventus type scent is one that attracts the fresh/aquatic/sport scent crowd as well as at least a decent percentage of the niche/aficionado/tobacco/leather/”heavy” scent crowd, so when one reads reviews it’s important to consider this (I often point out that I’m mostly a gourmand, oriental, “heavy” scent fan).  Few will disclose their preferences in their reviews, and probably just as few will provide a good explanation about why they assess scents the way they do!

Another interesting example is a blogger’s comparison of Grey Flannel to Bowling Green.  His conclusion is that, “Grey Flannel, which is ten years older, is resoundingly superior in quality and composition.”  I have vintage (or perhaps “semi-vintage,” in the eyes of some) bottles of both these scents.  I have difficulty wearing GF, probably due to the aroma chemicals rendering the violet leaf note.  I have always enjoyed wearing BG, even though it is not as unique as GF, and this is another instance of the issue of personal enjoyment versus “artistic appreciation.”  I don’t disagree with the blogger’s general impression (other than claims about “quality,” since one would have to have “insider information” and I perceive both – that is, what’s in the bottles I possess – as being at least reasonably good quality), but not everyone is going to spray on a scent and then walk around thinking, “I really find this smell irritating but my appreciation of its artistic elements more than makes up for that!”

I think of BG as a pared down rendition of Parfum d’Homme by Claude Montana (sometimes called “red box” online), with less of a fougere accord in particular (I sampled Red before BG).  It’s still rather complex, which goes to show how “busy” the Montana is.  But the key point is that I do find myself in the mood, once in a while of course, for that BG, whereas that strong fougere accord in the Montana has led me to hardly ever wear it (over the last several years).  In the fine art world, “less is more” is not exactly an unknown sentiment!  The blogger has also called BG “cheap,” which is not my impression at all (suggesting, again, that there is a “quality issue”).  One thing I really like about it is that the pine note has been sort of tamed to just the right degree, whereas in many other “pine scents,” it’s either too weak or so strong that it’s irritating.  I’ve also found that while my preferences have changed a bit, so that I’m more drawn to sweet scents, BG has enough complexity  (and a hint of sweetness), so that boredom is preventede.  And since BG was released about three years before the Montana, it is a case where the original was not “overtaken” by later variations on this theme (Havana by Aramis was released in 1994), unlike many others!




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Has the “Sauvage riddle” been solved?

In a recent post I asked if there was any rational argument to make for buying a bottle of Savuage (this is/was during a time before bottles began/begin to sell at significant discounts, if that occurs any time soon).  The “problem” is that those who write positive reviews for it don’t seem to know a few potentially important things, such as that there are much cheaper alternatives.  They claim it’s a great “compliment getter,” yet people have and continue to say that about many inexpensive scents.  And these are usually often the same people who say they want to smell unique, which isn’t the case with Sauvage, since it has become very popular very quickly.  So, it’s not cheap, it’s not unique, and there are very cheap alternatives.  One reasonable argument would be, “I just want to go to the department store and buy something I like that’s there.  I don’t want to do any research, and $80 for a 100 ml bottle is not a financial issue to me.”  But nobody ever seems to make an argument like this!

However, since then I realized that there is at least one thing that should be added to this “riddle,” and this realization occurred when I read this review of Dylan Blue by Versace:

Finally got cool enough here today, for me to go ahead and do my first full wearing of Dylan Blue after sampling a couple times.

To me this is along the same lines as Sauvage, only MUCH better to my nose. Sweeter/fruitier and more youthful, instead of just a dusty ambroxan and pepper bomb after the Dior’s likable initial opening. Neither one really develops much IMO, but this one does a little bit more.

Jury is still out on performance as it’s only been 3hrs since putting it on, but it’s still chugging right along and I’m getting these glorious fruity citrus/ambrox wafts!:)

It’s not just this review, though, as I remembered people saying they had to use more than a few sprays of Sauvage or that it was weak.  I found one spray on a card to be overwhelming,  by contrast (and that was after at least an hour, which is when someone brought it into my house!).  And so I think people who enjoy these kinds of scents tend to have very low sensitivity to aroma chemicals (in the case of Sauvage I’d guess musk molecules are crucial to generate the overall effect, much as in some of the “old school” musky “masculines”), though the musks used today are generally different.  I sent the person a message, because I wanted to know how many sprays he used, and he said:

I used 4 from a 10ml travel atomizer…2 on my torso under 2 layers of clothing, one to the back of my neck/shirt collar and the final one to the front of my shirt:).

I don’t think I could handle four sprays of Sauvage – it might feel like a form of torture, and most seem to think others smell it even if they think it’s weak or gone (almost certainly olfactory fatigue in those cases).  The obvious possibility here is that those who don’t detect much of a base or who are satisfied with it (as in the way this person reviewed DB) in these kinds of scents are having a very different experience than I am, and this person’s sensitivity may be even higher than mine:

It’s a chemical nightmare for me. After smelling it, it gives the effect on my olfactory that bleach does, where for hours everything else I smell is unidentifiably awful. Even the fragrance itself smells like burnt tires and transmission fluid. No joke, that is what the chemical opening does to my sense of smell. Just like bleach alters everything I smell after exposure, this fragrance has that effect on my nose. Fresh citrus oranges smell AWFUL after exposure to this, just like bleach does to me. And, my sense of smell is largely paralyzed/blinded for many common smells. I MIGHT be able to identify something like cinnamon after exposure but citrus smells like toxic poison (indescribable).

Sauvage was a HORRIBLE experience for me. I ONLY get this effect from MODERN designer fragrances at Macy’s/JC Penney such as Invictus and other modern ones from YSL too, have the same effect. Old school designer scents are no problem. So, SOMETHING (chemical(s)) these designer fragrances are using are absolutely AWFUL for my nose. It’s depressing and I would like to volunteer my sensitive nose to these houses so they can reformulate these into acceptable levels of tolerance for sensitive people. And I’m not saying my nose is “sensitive” as in “snob”, but rather, vulnerable to being hurt by chemicals that are simply too strong. I’m not good at picking out notes or anything like that…

And there is a scientific explanation.  For example, a person who lost his sight at age 3.5 and got it back about 40 years later has yet to adjust well (after a decade with sight)!  If you want other examples, you might be able to watch the documentary, “The Brain with Danny Eagleman: What is Reality?” on Youtube (I had to click on a few different links before I found one that worked).  It is pointed out that not everyone’s brain is “wired” the same way, and an obvious example are the people who have synesthesia:

One thing I’ve found very interesting about scents is how my sensitivities have changed over the years, sometimes to particular molecules, presumably (“notes”) and sometimes in general.  My guess is that fragrance industry researchers not only product test but also are thinking about how to create a “new and special” perception among enough people to make their releases successful. Now an interesting thing to look for in the future is whether a lot of people start saying that a Sauvage smells “old,” “mature,” “out of date,” “played out,” etc.  It might take at least a few years, but my sense is that “the shock of the new,” as an art critic titled his book about “modern art” is the one of two key factors, for those who like scents such as Dylan Blue or Sauvage.  However, it’s more compelling with fragrances because the person not only enjoys the scent but gets compliments from others who also find the “newness” intriguing even if not something they’d want to smell all day long.

The other key factor would seem to be “house appeal” (some  might call it “snob appeal”), meaning that if a bottle has a name on it like Chanel or Dior many are looking for something “special,” which of course explains why so many in the aficionado crowd were disappointed with Sauvage.  If it’s a Playboy scent the “newness” is much more likely to be viewed as unpleasant, it would seem, but Playboy scents don’t have a presence in major department stores, Sephora/Ulta, etc., and beyond not being present, such scents don’t get the full salesperson “push” that scents like Sauvage get.  Going back to “fine art” for a moment, how many of you know about the (very expensive) paintings of Francis Bacon:

Probably most Americans have not seen any of his paintings (other than perhaps there being one illustrated in his or her college textbook, which they might not even read), but I doubt many would argue that if you asked Americans to tell you who painted one of these works, the minority would say Francis Bacon, despite these being obviously unique and “shocking.”  What most people definitely don’t know is why these kinds of paintings are considered “great” or “masterpieces.”  One reason is that very wealthy people decide to “back” an artist, and at some point a kind of threshold is reached and the artists is considered a “major” one.  You can ask yourself how similar this is to marketing fragrances, but one significant difference is that few scents are purchased for speculative purposes, and this is usually done with ones that are recent, like Perry Ellis’ Oud: Black Vanilla Absolute, which rose in price but then came back down after stores were restocked.  Because of this, most fragrance wearers buy what they like, though so many don’t seem to realize how they are being influenced.  By contrast, major art buyers often hire an “art advisor.”  If you are interested, this documentary explains the fine art market very well:

So, to “wrap it all up,” I’d say that Sauvage apologists, for the most part of course,  don’t know why they like it, and so they can’t put forth a reasonable explanation.  It wasn’t “online hype” that made it a bestseller, but rather a combination of factors that the good folks at the perfume companies must have known, perhaps in the way that certain Hollywood blockbuster sequels are almost certain to turn a profit, if not be outrageously profitable.  And that might be a better comparison, because most people don’t have the time (or want to use it) to do a lot of film research.  It’s easier to just decide on a movie based upon personal tastes (as is true with fragrance genres) and “buzz.”  It also doesn’t cost that much and serves a social function, though like fragrances, it’s not a social necessity.  But the buyers (presumably those with a low sensitivity to certain aroma chemicals) believe they are experiencing something special/unique, and like very strange-looking fine art, want to be part of it.  There’s a kind of excitement about it, and that is difficult for people to describe in these contexts (other than to say things like, “wow this scent just blew me away,” which doesn’t help readers much).  By contrast, when I “blind buy” a scent, I am only interested in the scent itself (other than rare occasions when I get such a great deal that I think I can sell/swap very profitably).

NOTE:  Some of those who really wanted to be part of the “excitement,” it seems, were also among those who may have high sensitivities to certain aroma chemicals, but there’s also another possibility, such as what might be illustrated in this comment about Bleu de Chanel:

Sold off all BDC and for the last time. It’s just not for me even though I like it, I just won’t wear it.

BdC is supposed to be a great “all rounder,” so one wonders how someone could like it enough to buy multiple bottles over a period of time, yet can’t bring himself to ever actually wear it.  There seem to be strong emotions at work, which many people don’t recognize at all, it would appear!





Filed under The basics.

Are those Sauvage “compliments” really complimentary?

In yet another round of “discussion” about Sauvage recently (at least at, I noticed that so many argued that it should be regarded as a great scent because it garnered so many compliments, particularly ones that at least suggested the women who made the statements thought they smelled “sexy.”  But then I watched some Youtube videos, one being a Sauvage review by “Jeremy Fragrance:”

and it occurred to me that the supposed compliments may not be what the guys in question think.  Even if these are legitimate compliments, what do they mean?  If we believe that there is some element of truth to the “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” idea, then this may be an excellent illustration of it!  That is, it seemed to me that at least most of the women were not communicating something like, “that is so sexy,” but rather, “that’s something a nice guy, like my brother, would wear” ‘(at best).  In some cases, it seemed like they found the scent to be unpleasant, but were being “polite” by saying what they thought the guy in question wanted to hear.

I should mention here that a few years ago I read some books about detecting lies.  One point was that you should look for “microexpressions” that occur right away, before the person can do anything to try and be deceptive (even in cases like this, where they may just want to be polite).  Watching just the JeremyFragrance Youtube review of Sauvage, I found a few possible examples of this:

Sauvage Photo

This is a universal display of disgust, but she claims it’s “sexy,” though that was after being asked if it’s sexy.  Then we have:

Sauvage Photo 2

This woman had just smelled it for the first time (holding the strip close to her nose).  She appears to be thinking about what to say, but not thinking anything especially positive – she eventually says it’s “refreshing,” “nice,” and “casual.”  Overall (taking “body language” into account), I’d say she thought it was “run of the mill.”  If she thought it was incredibly “sexy,” it’s highly likely that would have registered on her face by this point.

Sauvage Photo 3

This is a photo of a woman right after she pulled her head back after smelling the strip.  Then she said it was a sexy scent, but doesn’t register much excitement for it, though that could be due to cultural differences (it appears that she’s European), and we have no idea what he said to any of these women before providing the strip to smell.  My first guess is that she’s thinking about what to tell the guy to please him, because most of us adults register a “sexy” smell just about immediately – we don’t have to ask ourselves if something is “sexy” or not!  There were two other women with this one who were also asked, but of course after the first one said sexy and the guy seemed pleased, it was a tainted situation.  My sense is that if most “young” women find Sauvage appealing, it is more along the lines of what they would want a teacher, minister, boss, etc. to smell like (assuming she isn’t attracted to the “old” guy), but they know that’s not what the “young” guy wants to hear them say.

From watching the expressions of the women in this video, I do not think this was totally staged, though.  Instead, it looks to me like the women thought it was a “fresh” type of scent and were telling this guy what he wanted to hear when they got some “cues” to do so.  My guess is that if a guy who was very “nerdy,” shy, and not conventionally “attractive” asked them, they would say it was fresh, clean, nice, etc., because they would not find the guy to be especially “sexy” or think it would “seem weird.”  This “experiment” would be easy to do, of course, but one would have to use an actor who could play the part well.  In the reviews that claim “women find it sexy,” we can’t know if they were saying things to the women in question, such as, “this is really sexy, don’t you think?”  And any scent that is very strong, as Sauvage is, will generate more comments than a scent that is so weak the people near you don’t know it is yours or don’t detect it at all.  Of course, product testing much have been done with Sauvage (probably with a “young” crowd), but the idea that they tested for “sexiness” and found that Sauvage was by far the best they could offer in this context seems rather unlikely.

Keep in mind that these are possible examples, the reason being that it’s crucial to establish a “baseline” for every individual, so that you can see when patterns are broken.  For example, if you ask someone what his/her name is (and you know what it is), then there should be no microexpressions that suggest deception, but there might be, simply because of a quirk that is unique to this person.  However, if a heterosexual woman thought that a scent was head and shoulders above others in the “sexy” department, we should see her face really “light up” right after she smells it, but that never seems to be the case with Sauvage.  Moreover, guys claiming that a scent is a “panty dropper” is quite old at this point, and it has probably been claimed for over a hundred fragrances (just online) by now.  In fact, I was watching a documentary TV show about a jail and one of the prisoners said he had marketed a scent that could also accomplish this!  If women really thought that Sauvage was only a good scent for a guy they were going to buy a car from, for example, what would that do to the sales?

Usually, though, these “panty dropper” scents are rather sweet, sometimes with an obvious gourmand element (especially for the “younger” demographic), or a spicy one (probably more for the “thirty something” or older demographic).  And another claim made by many Sauvage “defenders” is that it’s a great “all around” scent.  So, you would need to believe that Sauvage, which doesn’t seem to possess any “special sauce” element (just the usual aroma chemicals, as a fragrance chemist told me not long ago), somehow can accomplish two things that up until now have been considered incompatible!  And if a lot of ambroxan is the key, then why hasn’t anyone (to my knowledge) claimed that Molecule 02 was the sexiest scent created to date?  Something is quite amiss here – what could it be?  I am working on a follow-up post that will address this, so “stay tuned,” but in the meantime, I decided to see how many reviewers at thought Invictus was the kind of scent “women love” (I searched for the word woman and then made sure the context was relevant).  I have yet to try Invictus, so I don’t have an opinion on it, but from what I’ve read it sounds like this is the kind of scent that would generate much more positive initial responses from young women (though the “panty dropper” type clams are sexist and crude, IMO, regardless of which scent is being referenced, and suggest there is a kind of switch in the minds of women that, once in the “on position,” turn them into sexual zombies).  Interestingly, the first reviewer I quote below claims that Invictus does generate an initial very positive response:

Watch a woman smell this, then watch her pupils dilate like I have seen on more than one occasion. Invictus appeals to women on a completely subconscious level

I’ve noticed that women LOVE invictus.

If you’re fishing for compliments definitely buy this — it might be a little too sweet for most guys, but you’ll receive plenty of compliments from women.

I Love and women too

If you want to attract women, this is one of the better choices in the mainstream market

women love it

women really like the smell.

Womens seems to love this…

women like it on men

every time I wear it I get compliments mostly by women

it does appeal to most women, may be not ALL but most of them.

let me tell you women love it

Compliment getter. I haven’t had women respond as strongly and positively to a fragrance since I can remember

will get compliments, especially from women

women like the darn thing.

ALLLLLL da women love it

Two quick sprays of Invictus to my jugular, and within fifteen minutes I’d received five compliments from random strangers–mostly women–while shopping in our mall!
you can get attention from women if you wear it

I work with alt of women and usualy i bring some samples so they can smell and vote for, the amazing thing is that all of them voted for Invictus.

women always immediately buy it for their man when they smell it

the fragrance makes the women go crazy

And I think one reviewer has the right idea about what the social reality is here:

I’m not sure if this is what men want to smell like, but it certainly is what women want their man to smell like!

My guess is that most women in the “younger” heterosexual demographic either think Sauvage is “nice” but too strong or think it’s a “clean,” “fresh,” etc., and possibly generic type scent, but see how excited young men get when talking about it and try to to “be polite” in their response, or just tell the guy what they think he wants them to hear.  I would not be surprised if “younger” women did think Invictus is sexy, though I would still want to see some studies about the social context.

When I searched for the word girl there were a dozen claims (as of this writing, of course) about them loving it, thinking it sexy, etc.  I then did similar searches for Aventus and 1 Million and the results were similar.  I would be interested to know just how many scents, quite different from each other, are viewed this way (by guys), but as things stand it appears that some young men tend to get obsessed with the notion that these concoctions can contain a “special sauce” for making females think they are “sexy.”  However, they also seem to move on, from one “panty dropper” scent to “the next big thing,” so it becomes a kind of “flavor of the month” situation.  Should this be any surprise, considering how many “pick up women” gurus there are, along with books along the same lines?  There is this Nightline (ABC News) segment about it, for instance, but do your own search on Youtube and you’ll find plenty more:

The “guru” telling some of his “secrets” did not mention anything about fragrances!  And I’d classify what I have “sketched out” above as a “working hypothesis.”  Interestingly, with Midnight in Paris, there are quite a few reviews saying it should lbe a unisex of “feminine” scent, and less about it being a “panty dropper,” but whether this is the social reality, or due to women not being cued in to say it is sexy is impossible to tell, of course.  At this point, social science studies should be done to determine if my tentative conclusions are functional for a certain percentage of the “young” male population in nations like the USA, and if so, approximately what that percentage is.

NOTE:  In the reviews of some scents, usually “old school” ones, you might read something like, “this fragrance announces that you are in charge; you are invading the space of others and there’s nothing they can do about it.  This is for those who hold positions of authority and make to make sure everyone knows it!”  Now this might be just as ridiculous as claims about how “sexy” Sauvage is appear to be, but the important point seems to be that nobody feels the need to “defend” a scent that “reeks of authority” (if that notion has any merit), yet so many rush to defend “sexy” Sauvage, which doesn’t make sense at all (and there are plenty of negative reviews of “old school” scents, that’s undeniable).  In fact, if you thought a mass-marketed scent was perceived as sexy by those who you were attracted to, why would you want to spread the word, so that every other guy in your demographic would want to buy it?  Perhaps it’s just another “Emperor’s New Clothes” situation, in this case a variation on a fresh/chemical “department store scent” theme, and few willing to admit to being manipulated by “ad men.”

UPDATE:  When I published the above I wrote up a thread on on the subject, which included a poll:

After five days (by then it was no longer popular), about 65% (53) said no, but about 23% chose “a few times.”  The idea was that BN members were much less likely to buy a scent because a friend, a Youtube video (but not a “girlfriend,” wife, or lover) told them a scent was “sexy” (I didn’t mention “boyfriend” or husband because my sense is that heterosexual men are much more likely to believe such a claim, and since I have seen little if any evidence that gay men think along these lines, I thought it best to consider that subject at a later time).  It seems to be more or a Youtube reviewer phenomenon, from what I can tell, with a small amount of “hype” on Fragrantica and a tiny amount on BN.  The poll results, however, tell a different story, with about a third of respondents saying they fell for the sexy hype at least once.

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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 outset.

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 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 (and 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 individual’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 into 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, 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

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.




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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Filed under Fragrance Reviews.