Vintage Avon: the next “super luxury” item?

Trazarra Avon for men

Not long ago I was researching a vintage (1978) “masculine” Avon scent called Trazarra.  Having had good success with some others, such as Clint (and considering how cheap they can be had, if one has some patience), I decided to go for a blind buy.  Another reason was the notes: “…civet, heliotrope, oriental notes, woody notes, sandalwood and spicy notes.”  Yet another was this review from Basenotes.net:

…The good news is that Trazarra wasn’t really a late-to-the-party “me too” spin on an older established trope like Tai Winds (1972) or Clint (1976), even if those were still very high quality, and instead was a mild-mannered, familiar yet still distinct oriental, although a bit too light-weight to really compete in the nightlife circuit. Trazarra is a finely-tuned well-studied take on the style, but just doesn’t have enough bite heat up with a little sweat like the big boys, and just sits at the bar sipping happy hour well drinks. Luckily, this very same lightweight feel makes it remarkably more versatile in different weather conditions, and it allowed a bit more leeway with office use too, but it’s definitely no match on the dance floor to it’s designer contemporaries. That’s okay, it has it’s own quirks and qualities that still might make it a worthwhile addition to a vintage Avon collection…

The “lightweight” quality he refers to seems to common to these old Avon cologne formulations (the aftershaves are even lighter and I try to avoid those), and simply means using more is necessary for similar effect.  However, it’s not uncommon to find five to eight ounce bottles of the EdC formulation selling for around $10 to $15 total on ebay!  I applied Trazarra liberally to the chest,  and this is my review of that experience:

Tangy, animalic, powdery-floral, slightly sweet, spicy, and with a touch of dry woods. Sound appealing? I noticed that you can still get the cologne formulation on ebay for low prices, so after looking at the notes and year of release, decided to go for a blind buy. If you’ve had any experience with old Avons, especially orientals, I think you will get what you expect here. I’d also say this would be a unisex niche scent if marketed today. It’s quite far removed from today’s synthetics, so if you are seeking a break from the usual aroma chemical suspects, this might be a great, low cost option. The notes are a bit vague, so the use of phrases such as “oriental notes” makes sense. The projection isn’t along the lines of vintage Kouros, which might be an advantage for a lot of people, but it’s got a similar idea to it (though not nearly as “urinal cake” as Kouros). Something else you can do with this kind of scent is to layer it, so that you use a little of a similar but more powerful and synthetic fragrance underneath this one (on the chest) so that it enhances these older fragrances. Overall, if you want a true “dirty” oriental but without the synthetics of today’s niche and without the high prices, grab a bottle while prices are still low!  It lasts at least as well as an Eau de Toilette, but projection drops off quite a bit after no more than two hours.

Of course, subsequent wearings may reveal further nuances.  As to the “super luxury” in the title of this post, I was thinking about this after reading the 2007 book, “Deluxe,” which includes these passages:

[the super wealthy] have perfume made just for them, like Louis XIV did two centuries ago. Each year, Patou receives a handful of orders for in-house nose Jean-Michel Duriez to create a made-to-measure perfume bottled in a Baccarat crystal flacon. The service costs approximately $70,000…

[the super wealthy] don’t need the logo entry-level handbag or to wear labels or logos. We buy from luxury brands, but not ordinary products. Special items. There’s always something special. You can see what is mass and what is special. Luxury is not how much you can buy. Luxury is the knowledge of how to do it right, how to take the time to understand and choose well. Luxury is buying the right thing.”

My thought was that rather than having a perfumer make a scent for you, which you still might not enjoy all that much after a few wearings (that has happened to me), you can “choose well” if you have access to a lot of variety, especially ones that are “high quality” but nobody wears any long, such as these old Avons.  Now I don’t care about being regarded as “high class,” but I did find it amusing how so many seem to be buying the “big name” fragrances and don’t realize how the super wealthy might find that to be the mark of a “peasant!”  By contrast, if I told a super wealthy person that my friend was a perfumer and made a fragrance just for me (though it actually was an old Avon) that person might think that I’m more “high class” than the person wearing the latest Chanel, Tom Ford, Dior, Gucci, etc.  To be honest, I tend to think of most people as “intellectual peasants” (not in the sense of IQ but in terms of not being more curious and avoiding spending more time researching their interests), though I wish they would be as motivated to learn as I am, because then the world might be a more interesting place.

Also, I’ve noticed that some hobbyists don’t appreciate variety as much as I do, and to me that is the most important thing.  For example, in a Basenotes thread, one member seemed aghast that I would prefer to have access to all Balenciaga fragrances (in any formulation I wish) rather than Chanel, but even better would be Avon, due to the huge number of fragrances they have released over the years.  But Avon is the antithesis of luxury, apparently, though in this case, smells are smells; you like them or you don’t, you have specific uses for particular ones or you don’t, etc.  The attempt to attach the notion of luxury to these olfactory concoctions is just idiotic, IMO.  Are there different aesthetics?  Does Avon (and the “lesser houses”) generally follow rather than lead?  That certainly seems to be the case.  But this is about my “personal luxury” as opposed to “bragging rights” among pretentious friends and colleagues, a distinction rarely mentioned, probably because it would not result in massive profits for the major luxury brands!

Coincidentally, while I was composing this post, I noticed the reviews of a recent release by Amouage, Figment Man, at Fragrantica.com.  This one reflects the opinion of many, IMO:

Right from the start you smell heavy animalic and earthy notes. Not much movement, it stays pretty much the same throughout its life. I don’t detect much complexity in this one.
Figment has a primal, raw vibe but sadly is very hard to find a suitable occasion to wear it as it can come off repulsing. Smells quite dirty 🙂 Sorry Amouage, I didn’t like this one.

If I could ask those who wrote these kinds of reviews a question, it would be, “suppose there was an old scent by Avon that you’d likely perceive similarly, but you can still get for around $20 for 4 ounces or more?”

 

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Another “angle” on the “niche sampler” phenomenon?

Euphoria Gold Men Calvin Klein for men

Not long ago there was a discussion of Calvin Klein’s Amber Gold for Men fragrance at Basenotes.net.  I have only tried Gold for Men (2014), the original for men, and Intense, the latter two I find not to my tastes.  The notes for Gold seem accurate; those are (from Fragrantica.com):

…ginger and lemon. The heart is dominated by honey, cinnamon and basil, resting on a deep, warm base of amber, patchouli and vanilla

I got quite a bit of honey the first couple of wearings, and a bit of basil to offer contrast, then the third or fourth time I got more of the vanilla.  Each time I enjoyed it, though the first half hour may strike some as slightly chaotic.  I paid $15 for my first 99% full bottle (part of a 3 bottle lot for $45; each was worth at least $15, IMO), and I bought a back up for about $25, as I noticed the prices rising and I don’t have a honey-dominant scent that I really enjoy (months later, I acquired a partial bottle of Floris’ Honey Oud, which I also like – for me it’s different enough to possess both, though).  For those who don’t know, CK doesn’t exactly have a good reputation in the online fragrance hobbyist community, and some have pointed out that this may mean fragrances like Gold tend to get ignored or given poor reviews, though if marketed under a different name those reviews might have been positive!

As to the Basenotes thread, this is what someone said about Amber Gold for Men:

I’ve seen a couple bottles of this come and go at Marshall’s and TJ’s locally. It sounds intriguing but at $45 it’s not a comfortable blind buy. I own Liquid Gold and I believe both are Middle East exclusives; they’re miles away from the usual freshie snoozefests like Euphoria Gold.

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/452251-NEW-Calvin-Klein-Euphoria-Amber-Gold-Men!

As you see, he used it as an opportunity to dismiss Gold for Men as a “fresshie snoozefest.”  I’m wondering what such a comment represents.  Clearly, Gold is not like Chrome Azzaro, Nautica Voyage, etc.  My guess is that such a person thought Gold should smell like something along the lines of “vintage” Ambra by Etro, with it’s dominant powerful and rich vanillic amber (perhaps with a touch of honey).  Or he might have thought it was going to be like Ambre Sultan, with it’s herbal note offering contrast to the strong amber.  However, if you like those scents, why are you seeking a slightly different version of it?  Perhaps more importantly, why are you not wearing those scents and ignoring all that is released under the CK name (all made by Coty now, from what I understand)?

It seems as though we are back to what I’ve called the niche sampler phenomenon in previous posts.  That is, there seem to be a percentage of the “fragrance hobbyist community” who claim that at least several scents are “masterpieces,” but then they continue sampling, apparently rarely wearing their “masterpieces.”  For such people, few new releases compare favorably to these scents, and so they write up one negative review after another, often talking about “cheapening,” “cutting corners,” “letting the accountants make the decisions,” etc.  If you want a scent to smell heavily of natural items like honey and vanilla, why not go to the natural perfumers?  Why are you seeking that in a CK scent?  This strikes me as at least somewhat absurd.

Sometimes a person will say that such a scent as Gold “lacks quality,” but again, it’s a relative issue, not an objective one, unless perhaps the only scents you’ve ever tried in the past are 100% natural.  I seem to know what aroma chemicals bother me and which ones I can tolerate in larger amounts, so that’s a key issue for me.  I also have yet to discover a vintage scent that is similar to Gold, and doubt there is one.  Moreover, even some recent releases that smell “high quality” and “totally natural” to me, such as 2012’s “Enchanted Forest: The Vagabond Price,” are a bit too much for me!  I’ve notice this with other niche type fragrances, and in some cases I actually prefer the inexpensive “clone” because these are often less “in your face,” regardless of whether the strong notes are synthetic or natural (meaning the balance is superior).  If you disagree, that’s fine, of course, but if you just dismiss fragrances without explaining exactly why, you aren’t helping to advance your point of view.

NOTE:  Obviously, some of us don’t want (or can’t) to spend “niche money” on fragrances, especially if one only wears the scent once a month or more (as is the case for me).  Halston’s Amber Woman is in the same general area as Enchanted Forest, to my way of perceiving, and a 100 ml new bottle cost me $12 total, as opposed to the high prices EF has always commanded.  Armaf’s Club de Nuit Intetnse (the one marketed to women) is yet another similar scent, which cost me around $18/100 ml, but that one has been too strong for me at times.  Some might say EF is clearly “higher quality,” but I mostly assess fragrances in terms of how enjoyable they are to me over a course of several hours, and I’ve found that the perception of “naturalness”/richness may be impressive at first, but after an hour or so that element if of much less important, due to the scent weakening.  If the scent does not weak, I’ve found many become cloying to me, including the expensive, “natural,” rich niche scents.  By contrast, this does not seem to happen with fragrances that I enjoy that were released in the early 1990s or earlier – those great perfumers apparently knew how to get the balance right (or else they were given more time to “perfect” the composition).

 

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Projection, “sillage,” longevity, and an explanation for why reviews for certain fragrances might vary considerably.

Derby Club House Ascot Armaf for men

The example I’ll use is pictured above (by Armaf), which has listed notes (according to Fragrantica.com) of:

Top notes are green notes, lemon and bergamot; middle notes are sage, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon; base notes are cedar, oakmoss, tobacco, amber, labdanum and musk.

This sounds like an “old school”/”powerhouse” fragrance, and it might be (I’ll get to that in a moment).  The first couple of times I wore it, my perceptions varied, which is not uncommon.  Sometimes it takes three or four wearings to really understand what seems to be occurring, but with this scent things were more difficult than usual, and it took me a while to figure out why.

The vast majority of reviews at Fragrantica are positive, with one person saying he feels like he threw his money out the window.  Why?  I’d guess he didn’t think it was strong enough, because the notes are certainly there and it’s not some sort of “chemical nightmare.”  The ratings of potency show that a small number of people think it’s weak, and with one spray on my first wearing I was thinking the same thing.  At first, there was a kind of competition between the fruit and “green notes” (I’m guessing galbanum) on the one hand, and a leathery woods/incense (I never got obvious tobacco and the spices seem rather mild), but eventually it settles mostly on the latter.

During my last wearing, I used four sprays to the chest, and I was thinking that while it’s stronger than past wearings, I still wasn’t getting much in the way of spices or tobacco.  Even the dominant notes weren’t that strong.  However, when I walked around other people, they said it was really strong, and that’s when I knew something odd was at work.  My guess is that it’s the kind of musk being used, which one can quickly become anosmic to, but others smell clearly (at least as you walk by them).  It did impart a kind of tingly quality, but not much in the way of scent (to me); however, when I used my hand to waft the scent directly into the nose, I could smell the notes much more clearly.

Is this a case of great projection but poor “sillage?”  Or vice versa?  The point, IMO, is that it seems it was formulated with weak notes that interest me (other than the leathery quality), but strong musk that doesn’t register much one way or the other, and may cause a certain amount of anosmia rather quickly.  The longevity seems really good, though, regardless of how much or what note you can detect.  Overall, this is an excellent fragrance if this is what you want, but it also may be a frustrating experience for some.  If you are used to the vintage greats, like me, you might think that it might work for layering purposes, but it’s best not to wear by itself, because you have the option of wearing a scent that allows you to smell the notes you want to smell clearly and with strength, for hours.

 

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The “big turn” away from niche?

Image result for sharp turn

The title of this post is the same title to a thread I created at the Basenotes.net site not long ago.  First, let me quote my first post to that thread:

I’m wondering how many others have made such a “big turn,” especially in light of the 2018 “Guide’s” main focus on obscure niche scents. For years, I sought out, mainly through swaps, specific ones, and I would go through swap lists to see if someone was willing to swap one that I thought might be of interest. Now I have very little interest in either endeavor. I think the main factor is that I think I have a good grasp on what I’m seeking, and today’s niche tend to be unsatisfactory for one reason or another, such as how “chemical” so many come across to me. Then there are so many “clone” type scents. A good example is Craze by Armaf (cost me less than $23 total for 100 ml). I haven’t tried Pegasus, but I enjoy Craze, and even if I would perceive Pegasus as a bit better, it’s not worth me actually knowing this (because there’s nothing to be gained, and only money to lose)! The other day I acquired some “vintage” Rochas Man, and my thought was, “this is certainly good enough for me – now I can swap/sell my bottle of New Haarlem!”

What can niche do for me at this point? What smell or combination of smells, assuming that they are rendered well in the composition (again, one factor being “naturalness”), could I find so compelling that I would even want a sample? I can’t fit the bottles I own (let alone the samples and decants) into a yearly “rotation” at this point, and I find myself mostly gravitating towards several fragrances, with the others being useful for the days I want something different. There’s probably a reason why scents like Old Spice are still around and selling, while so many oddball compositions have joined the dinosaurs, the key point being that while much if not most niche might be interesting, I question the “wearability” of them over the course of several hours. Yes, if sprayed on a small piece of cardboard, they might seem quite compelling for seconds or minutes, but that’s not why I buy a bottle. I wonder how many who are buying today’s niche are buying bottles based upon such a “test.”

My attitude towards niche now is mostly indifference, and if that market indirectly hikes up the prices on my many vintage bottles, that’s not a gift horse I’m going to look in the mouth. But I can sum up this attitude with the statement, “you had your chance and you didn’t get the job done.” Several years ago, more than a few BN members had apparently become disillusioned with niche, and at least a few “disappeared,”‘ never to return. I called them “niche samplers because they wrote reviews, and there were plenty of good/excellent reviews, at least for a while, but then the reviews took a turn towards the negative. What I didn’t understand is why they weren’t satisfied with all the niche they enjoyed/praised? How many bottles do you “need?” Of course, it likely wasn’t about how many bottles they wanted to own, but some abstract notion of “the art of perfumery” (I tend to see it more as a “craft”). And I think the “big name reviewers” also possess this view (as opposed to “wearability” over the course of several hours).

So, I’m wondering how many others are quite pleased with non-niche/non-designer exclusive offerings (including the vintage they can still obtain at non-ridiculous prices, which means the vast majority) that are available these days. Another good question would seem to involve variety. How much do you want and how much of it “needs” be niche? Also, do you feel “deprived,” in that you think there should be compositions that don’t exist or only exist at high prices (let’s say around $100 per 50 ml)?

Perhaps people like myself, that is, those who are going to spend a lot of time thinking and sampling, have satisfied themselves (or left the hobby due to disappointment), and over the last five years or so there are a lot more less thoughtful people who are likely to be quite influenced by “herd mentality.”  But whatever the case may be, I think at least a few interesting ideas were generated on this thread.  One of those is the question of why niche is “better” beyond generally possessing more unique, but possibly less wearable compositions, for those who believe this.  A person who posted on the thread claimed that niche is more “nuanced,” while another said niche used better materials.  The problem with the former claim is that vintage is more complex, nuanced, dynamic, and natural-smelling, so why not just buy the best of those fragrances?

Now the latter claim may be accurate, generally-speaking of course, but again, if that’s the main issue for you, aren’t you better off with vintage?  But let’s say the person is concerned about buying vintage for one reason or another, does this mean niche is therefore the materially-superior way to go, if that’s the best way to phrase it?  My first response would be, even if that were true, who cares?  People aren’t going to know how much the fragrance you are wearing cost to compose, and if you prefer a materially less expensive fragrance, why wouldn’t you wear it?  In some responses there were at least intimations that the hobbyist should know which fragrances are the most expensive to compose and then wear those because… I have no idea! I pointed out that much of the recent niche I tried was too “chemical” for me (iso e super and cashmeran dominant, in many cases) and even when it seemed rich and natural-smelling (such as with ambery/syrupy compositions), these fragrances tended to be too simple/boring, and lacking in compositional balance.

In short, I don’t think most niche perfumers  understand the point of “modern perfumery,” which differed from older endeavors in being long-lasting but “smooth” (not pungent).  Of course there is room for new compositions, but because almost all companies comply with IFRA now, it’s difficult to compete with the vintage greats, and so some to seem to think that the best approach is to “go on the offense,” using large amounts of aroma chemicals!  This is why I have come to conclude that many “cheapos” and “clones” do a better job in the context of “modern perfumery” than expensive niche fragrances – and if you are only going to smell a fragrance on a card for a few minutes (as it seems many reviewers, including Luca Turin, do for at least most of their reviews), then you aren’t really helping those who want a “modern perfume.”  Instead, there seems to have developed some “fine perfumery art” notion, which is mostly about oddball top notes compositions, and if that’s your “cup of tea,” fine, but I will contest that this should be classified as “modern perfumery.”  Call it post-modern fine perfume art, or whatever, but it’s something else.

One Basenotes member who is a scholar (I believe a historian) has argued that these post-modern releases are basically for the new wealthy (CEOs, “kleptocrats,” trust fund kids, etc.), and that it’s basically a scam, or similar to “modern art,” which has become a hot speculation-oriented market (there was a recent HBO documentary about it) more than any kind of traditional notion of “fine art.”  As I said on the thread, if I were a billionaire, I might buy a huge number of samples and have a personal assistant spray a card and bring me a new one every 10 minutes or so – that’s the only way one could sample all the new releases!  But that would have nothing to do with wearability.  I’d still probably have a few hundred that I’d want to wear in the usual way, but if I did that, how could I wear the fragrance that I know I enjoy?  And as to “clones,” it may be that some of these are made to be a big more wearable, such as to use less iso e super and more vanillin, which would likely fit my preferences better!

Now whatever is occurring is good for me, so I’m certainly not complaining, but it does seem like a lot of people are rushing into niche these days without an idea as to why.  Perhaps it’s a great example of “herd mentality,” though I certainly wouldn’t doubt that there is a percentage of the hobbyist population that does prefer many new niche offerings.  But it does seem like most are buying the sizzle rather than the steak, as the old saying goes.  And how does one even decide what to sample?  One person told me to do more sampling and less reading about fragrances, not realizing that he wanted me to do what he said!  The situation is therefore untenable for those who have some sort of facile notion of “doing some sampling” and deciding upon “what’s best for me.”  If you already enjoy quite a few scents on at least a fairly regular basis, you can’t sample a whole lot of new releases in the usual way, let alone all those that you think you might possibly enjoy.

However, if you have patience, and wait for the proverbial smoke to clear, you might find one or two that are unique and wearable (or even a really cheap “clone” of it that works for you, as was the case for me with Craze – and the fragrance company that made the “original” is said by some to be little better than designer, with clearly “synthetic” qualities to their releases, though I have yet to try any).  There are two other things I factors I think are worth mentioning here, the first being a change to one’s sensitivities.  In my case, I’m still quite sensitive to iso e super, calone, cashmeran, and dihydromyrcenol, though I usually can handle the latter two in reasonably large amounts if the composition is right.  Oddly, though, I seem to have lower sensitivity to other typical elements/ingredients.  For example, I used to have difficulty with one spray of Cadillac, but the other day I used three full sprays to the chest and kept my shirt open for a few hours, as an “experiment,” but it never became strong, let alone too strong!  If you say you only like niche today, that could change by tomorrow!

The other possible factor is what one Fragrantica member called “olfactory familiarity,” and I’d like to propose an expansion of that notion.  The basic idea is that as you become familiar with certain notes and/or aroma chemicals, you start to perceive other elements, while the ones you originally perceived as strong you may perceive as much weaker in subsequent wearings, if you perceive these at all!  I think there may be a kind of “bell curve” effect, in that the first time or two you wear the fragrance (in the “normal” way), it may seem unique, but then the next two or three times you perceive more, and this may be where you maximum appreciation for it exists.  Then, around the fourth or fifth wearing, you may still think it’s excellent, but no longer “special;” you may even think that another fragrance that you already own is “good enough.”  I have experienced that quite a few times, and I’m not the only one – here is just one example I’ve encountered (a Fragrantica review of Montale’s Red Flowers):

Well I’m glad I did not bought this blind!
It is lovely but it reminds me so much of l’heure blue (especially the edp) so that I dont need this one
It is a lovely fragrance but more powdery than I thougt, becomes a skin scent, but has good staying power, and no synthetic feel.
With l’heure blue in my wardrobe I don’t need this one, so I look further for another Montale…….

Another aspect to olfactory familiarity is that after a while, you “settle in” with a scent (or decide you don’t want to wear it any more, assuming you gave it a few wearings to make sure), and know when you are in the mood for it.  And the key point here is that if  you sample a very similar scent that in some way can be said to be “objectively superior,” you might still prefer the one you’ve worn many times in the past.  On the other hand, if you haven’t worn a fragrance in years, such as vintage Red for Men by Giorgio of Beverly Hills, then Preferred Stock might be good enough for you (at least the formulation I tried a few years back), whereas the new EA formulation of Red is an entirely different fragrance, IMO.

I suspect that may people who claim to think niche, especially recent releases, are producing the greatest scents these days have rarely worn those several times.  Many say they have a lot of decants and samples to keep the cost down, which suggests they might only wear them on rare occasion.  And I agree (and have suggested) that one not wear a scent for a couple months or so in order to keep the “magic” alive.  But that’s true of “drug store dreck” and all other fragrances!  I suspect that many who are entering into today’s niche world are not very experienced in fragrances other than the most common and available ones, so I can see why it might seem like a whole new olfactory universe has been opened up for them.  But that doesn’t mean that my perceptions make no sense for me (in terms of my experiences).  Another aspect to “olfactory familiarity” seems to be that a “clone” works just as well as the “original” most if not all of the time (especially when you wear vintage often, because then you wear the newer, less “natural-smelling” fragrances when you are in the mood for that particular composition).

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What can oakmoss do for a fragrance? The Rochas Man example.

Rochas Man Rochas for men

Not long ago I purchased a lot/group of fragrances, and one of the bottles was Rochas Man.  The liquid was brownish, unlike the bottle I already owned (2011), which is mostly clear, with just a slight pink tint, and I had read that recent bottles have this brownish coloration, so I assumed it wasn’t of much value (considering what I already own, how rarely I wear Rochas Man, and what the current prices are for it).  But before I go further, I’ll quote the note description at Fragrantica.com:

…bergamot and gentle balsamic notes of lavender. Pure and intense jasmine pulses with the heart of perfume along with gentle grassy and fresh notes of lily-of-the-valley and the touch of sensual musk. The base is soft, creamy and warm together with vanilla, sandal, amber and the gourmand tone of coffee.

There may be a hint of something grassy but I never got lily-of-the-valley, nor much of any wood note.  Instead, it’s a lavender gourmand, quite similar to New Haarlem by Bond Number 9.  The obvious question is, “can I get something very close to NH if I buy a $20 bottle of Rochas Man?”  Of course, everyone has different thresholds for difference/similarity in these situations, but for me there was a major divergence in my two RM man bottles, which were formulated just one year apart!

The 2011 bottle (batch 1263) with the clear liquid/very slight pink tint is definitely harsher and less complex to me (and at least a bit “synthetic”).  As you might expect, they smell very similar, but the problem is that the 2011 becomes irritating after a while, whereas the scent from the 2010 bottle (batch code 0273) is enjoyable for hours!  While 2010 may be a bit more “masculine” than NH, which is fine with me, they are more or less on the same level, in terms of my ability to appreciate the scent for hours without irritation.  When I looked on the RM boxes, I noticed that “Evernia prunastri (oakmoss) is listed on the 0273 batch but not the 1263 one!  The other difference is that 79% volume is on the 0273 but 80% was on the 1263.

I’ve read that the very recent formulations of RM are a lot weaker than older ones, and I’d say the 1263 is certainly at least strong enough, but while that may satisfy most, the irritation factor is huge for me.  And in these situations, the great thing is that not only can I sell that 1263 bottle, but I would now certainly consider selling or swapping my New Haarlem bottle, which to me is a huge “bonus” to buying the lot, which I certainly didn’t buy because the RM bottle was included (I thought it was likely a newer bottle because the other bottles in it were released within the last five years).  Of course I can’t say that whatever amount of oakmoss in the 0273 bottle made the difference, but if it did, to me it’s a huge difference, and is consistent with those who lament the “death of perfumery” due to materials restrictions!

NOTE:  In 2015 someone posted this in a Basenotes.net thread:

The bottle in the plastic moulded box (brown juice – early version) smells significantly bolder, thicker, dustier and sweeter – in a good way – than the version with the pink cardboard box (pinkish juice).

Both of mine come in regular cardboard boxes (pink).  On Fragrantica, there was this claim:

 It was reformulated in 2008/2009 by J.M Duriez.

So, it may be that they went with a cheaper box but my 0273 bottle is still of the original formulation.  It certainly seems that way to me, as there is nothing “cheap” about it and the “quality” is very close to New Haarlem, IMO.  And while Legend by Michael Jordan compares favorably to my 1263 bottle, I would rank the 0273 bottle as clearly superior to Legend.

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A reviews of reviews: I Puredistance.

Image result for i puredistance

My idea for this “review of reviews” (and I might do more of them – let me know what you think) is to give readers a sense of how I try to determine if I should try to obtain at least a decant of a scent I’ve never sampled.  However, I think there will be more interesting insights to come of it; you can just for yourself.  On another level, though, I think that I may have gotten to the point where I find how people perceive these olfactory concoctions to be more interesting than the scents themselves, with perhaps a few exceptions.  I want to start with I by Puredistance because it’s the first fragrance reviewed in the 2018 edition of “Perfumes: The Guide,” and it was given a 4 star review (by Luca Turn).  In that review, what he learn of the actual smell is that it’s a smooth, fresh powdery, abstract floral.  We also learn that the ingredients probably cost a lot, it is of a “classical” style, and that the perfumer was Annie Buzantian, whom LT considers one of today’s best perfumers.

What we don’t learn is if he will wear it sometimes, if he thinks it has “unisex potential,” at least for some male demographics, and what fragrances that cost a lot less it is similar to (and I’m sure more than a few readers would like to know these things!).  Over at Fragrantica.com, we can learn a few more things about this 2007 release:

The perfume opens as top note with a fresh, ozone-tangerine blossom blend with a hint of cassis, complemented with neroli bigarade and crisp watery nuances.

The heart of the fragrance warms to a sophisticated, modern blend of magnolia, rose wardia & jasmine; parmenthia & natural mimosa, before finally settling softly into the rich classical notes of sweet amber, vetiver and white musk.
The perfume extract contains 32 % perfume oil.

So, does LT want to smell this himself on at least a fairly regular basis?  What about on his wife?  Or other women?  Or children?  Or pets?  Could it be used as a room spray?  How about spraying it on a card, putting that card in a zip lock sandwich bag, and taking it out now and then, if you like it so much?  But my first question to him might be, who is going to want to buy a very expensive “late-sixties” type green floral scent who doesn’t already own one that is “good enough?”  But for the moment, let’s now turn out attention to the Fragrantica reviews, one of which provides us with a sense of the rationale for it (if you aren’t poor):

This perfume is definitely perfect for any special occasion. I would suggest this perfume for wedding, opera, ballet, meeting with important persons, etc. And this perfume is not just really nice, but it also lasts all day.

“Soapy” seems to be a popular way of describing it, for example:

…opening with its bright, fresh combination of neroli, orange and other white flowers: very natural and uplifting! It dries down a little more soapy…

Now what’s interesting about this to me is that the other day I was wearing Jaguar’s Excellence (the EdT), thinking (again) that the drydown is something I would expect from a niche scent.  The notes for that one are:

…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.

So what could I get from the Puredistance scent that I couldn’t get from Excellence (which cost me around $7 for a 100 ml bottle)?  There could be a touch of galbanum to create a green quality, though I might not like Excellence that way (and I could buy some galbanun, which isn’t expensive, and add a bit to a decant of Excellence).  What about Halston’s 1-12?  if you have patience you can get a vintage bottle on ebay for very little (as I did a few months back), and then you’ll get a green floral scent of a “classic” style.  If you are male, you might prefer these more “masculine” compositions.  Speaking of male perceptions, one Fragrantica reviewer who is also a long time Basenotes member said this about the Puredistance scent:

High-end anti-aging cream type of smell. Inoffensive watery/ozonic floral that’s nowhere close being even barely distinctive or interesting. Not to talk about the overall ozonic vibe.. Is this what you’d expect from an over 2000 bucks fragrance?

Do you like this smell? Get a Carita face cream. It’s cheaper and, at least, it moisturizes.

Now I’ve also got vintage White Shoulders, and White Linen (not that I wear them), along with Teint de Neige, along with a “masculine” that possesses this floral creamy/lotion with citrus type quality (Yang, by Jacques Fath), but I rarely wear them.  Why would I even bother to try a free sample of I?  And even if I liked the composition and thought it was unique relative to what I already own, it’s likely I could use layering to create a similar effect (does LT talk about layering at all in the book?).  And then when I look at the other reviews in the free Amazon preview for this book, I see that most were given 3 stars or less (5 is the highest rating).  My biggest criticism of this review, though, is that if this is a “classic” scent, then why can’t LT which ones form the 1960s (or 1970s, or 1980s, etc.) that it is similar to?  That would really help those who might want such a scent and also have the patience to look for a bargain on ebay or at a local garage sale or thrift shop.  Again, I get the sense that he and his wife are not considering the fact that most fragrance hobbyists are not millionaires.

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Is PS (Paul Sebastian) Fine Cologne similar to Heritage by Guerlain?

PS Fine Cologne Paul Sebastian for men

This question was  asked recently on a Basenotes.net thread (and it’s possible that the most recent formulations are similar, for all I know):

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/458281-Guerlain-Heritage-smells-like-PS-Fine-Cologne

While these two fragrances (I’m assuming the original formulations) are “in the same ballpark,” I don’t think of them as especially similar.  Putting aside note articulation (which is much better in the Guerlain, for the dominant notes), PS is simpler and cruder.  However, the notes in PS are also in Heritage, except for myrrh.  Those are (taken from Parfumo.net):

Lavender, Sage, Mugwort, Musk, Myrrh, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vanilla.

However, Fragrantica lists the notes as:

…amber, lavender, musk, jasmine, oakmoss, sage, ylang-ylang and rose.

The notes for Heritage, from Fragrantica.com, are:

…bergamot, orange, aldehydes, green accords, lavender, lemon, petit grain, violet, clary sage, nutmeg… pepper, coriander, orris root, along with rose, jasmine, carnation, honeysuckle, geranium and lily-of-the-valley…cedar, vetiver, patchouli, amber, tonka bean, oakmoss, sandalwood and powdery vanilla.

So, it  certainly doesn’t suggest a “newbie nose” if you were to perceive the two as similar. For me, Heritage is a complex sandalwood scent, whereas PS is more about myrrh, and the blending is quite different.  I decided to wear PS in order to contribute to the thread, and it struck me as being most similar to Third Man Caron.  Basenotes has the notes for that one as:

Lavender, Rosemary, Anise, Bergamot.
Geranium, Jasmin, Rose, Fern, Carnation.
Amber, Musk, Moss, Cedarwood, Patchouli, Tonka, Vanilla.

Again, I’d say PS is simpler and cruder, though Third Man is also less articulated than Heritage, which is perhaps why it seemed more similar to me. I don’t remember smelling any anise in Third Man; otherwise, I’d likely perceive it quite a bit differently.  Others have said it’s like the Eau de Parfum version of Old Spice, and yes, that also makes sense (but it doesn’t seem to be as spicy).  The great thing about PS is that you can still obtain a “vintage” formulation for low cost, at least on ebay (unlike vintage Heritage and Third Man), so it’s worth considering (and it’s not exactly like Third Man).    However, some have complained that the new formulation by EA Fragrances is too weak or in some other way quite bad, so you can look for the FFI/French Fragrances, Inc. version or the earlier Paul Sebastian, Inc. one.  I’ve seen some on ebay recently and the label on the bottom of the bottle reads:

DIST.
PAUL SEBASTIAN, INC.
OCEAN, NJ 07712
4 FL. OZ.

or something similar, and there should also be a batch code stamped over some of that text (four digits seems common).  Now if you are afraid of wearing an “old man” scent, you probably won’t like it.  The first hour or so is a bit chaotic for my tastes, but it does come together and and I like the myrrh note in particular.  To me, it’s the kind of scent worth buying if you can find vintage at a low price because you may come to enjoy it even if you don’t like it initially (which is my experience).  And with vintage prices rising, it may be a good “investment” if you decide you just can’t wear it, for whatever reason.  Another idea is to try the vintage aftershave, which may be weaker or a bit different.

PS does feel a bit like an “amateur effort” to me, due to how it’s blended to come across as one major accord, but I have no problem with that, so long as it’s enjoyable.  Is it really such an effort?  The “story” is that PS was “a potion [Leonard Paul] Cuozzo had been improving for over a decade together with New York perfumer Fritzsche Dodge:”

https://www.perfumemaster.com/design-house/paul-sebastian

It would be interesting to hear what Dodge has to say, but is this a person or a company?  There is some information here that suggests the latter:

http://www.perfumeprojects.com/museum/marketers/Fritzsche.shtml

Overall, it sounds like a “right place, right time” type of story, but my main point is that PS is a scent like Stetson, in that it seems to often get dismissed out of hand as being “drug store dreck,” which in the case of PS is ironic, because their marketing strategy was to cultivate an “upscale” image.  However, the reality is that in at least “vintage” formulation, it’s not only “high quality” compared to today’s designers (and perhaps most niche at this point) but is very strong, so that a four ounce bottle of the “fine cologne” might last you many years!  And while the first couple of hours might be rather crude and simple compared to the vintage greats, the drydown definitely holds its own, and for me it’s just a matter of personal preferences at that point.

I’ve never liked Caron Pour un Homme, even in vintage formulation, which feels too unbalanced (with searing lavender), and I view PS as a “step up,” but I’d say that PS even fares well against Bois du Portugal, which is smoother but rather simple.  There are quite a few vintage scents in this same “ballpark,” so it’s a matter of personal taste, but PS should not be discounted in any way (at least in vintage formulation).  This could certainly be a niche scent today, though most don’t smell as natural as PS, the major “problem”  being associations with fragrances that are reminiscent of older male relatives.  I view PS in a “glass half full” way, that is, the great advantage of it for the aficionado is that it is similar to so many others, some of which being very expensive, so you can just go on ebay, do a little research, get a great deal on vintage PS, and then you are “set” for this type of scent.  Another example is Sartorial by Penhaligon’s, which from what I remember is also rather similar!

UPDATE:  I came upon an 8 ounce splash PS Fine Cologne bottle.  The box said French Fragrances, Inc. (with the “short list of ingredients”), but the label on the bottom of the bottle said Paul Sebastian, Inc.

 

 

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