Can you “just say no” to IFRA ?

Rogue Perfumery Warning Label.jpg

Not long ago I was contacted (through the Basenotes.net site) by a new perfumer who is launching a new line.  He wanted to know if I was interested in sampling his initial fragrances, and I agreed.  So, as for “full disclosure,” I was sent four samples that appear to be 1 ml or less each.  The perfumer is striving to recreate vintage compositions (and doesn’t adhere to IFRA guidelines), especially of that late 70s to early 90s period, it seems, so I was quite curious to sample them.  After doing so, he decided to launch one of them at first (Tabac Vert).  For those interested, here is where you can order samples or 30 ml bottles:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/RoguePerfumery

I’ll begin my reviews with Chypre de Siam, which I hope he releases soon.  The notes for this one are:

Benzoin, Kaffir Lime, Jasmine Sambac, Salacca Fruit, Oakmoss, Incense Wood.

The ingredients listed on the etsy page are:

Coumarin, Iso Alpha Methyl Ionone, Hydroxycitronellal, Benzyl Benzoate, Linalool, Limonene, Oakmoss, Citronellol, Geraniol, Citral, Eugenol, Isoeugenol.

I dabbed it on and I try to avoid top notes (though in this case I just blew on the area that was dabbed, rather than holding my breath or leaving the room), so keep that in mind.  It certainly feels “old school,” and those who don’t like dry “old school” scents that are sweet may find not enjoy it, but I could also see some of these people being won over to it, because it isn’t “musty” (I’ve read many who complained of this quality).  On the other hand, it’s possible that some would perceive it as musty.  I think what most mean by this is a dry yet musky quality, perhaps with a clear animalic element.  If you have tried Equipage, imagine it without the strong rosewood (and muskiness) and I think you’ll have a good idea what this is like (again, at the drydown stage).

What I was expecting was either a somewhat sweet base or a dry/woody one, but this is no more than a touch sweet and just a bit woody.  I think it would satisfy those who have said they wished they could find in vintage scents, which is a more straightforward (possibly simpler) and less “in your face” composition.  You don’t have to worry about any obvious aroma chemicals here, and I could imagine this being good for layering as well (lately, I have often layered a vintage scent with a recent release).  A criticism may be that it’s not daring enough, but unless someone claims that his/her scents were meant to be “groundbreaking” I can’t accept this as a valid complaint.

I was going to sample the others, but then before I did he told me that he decided to change the formulations/compositions, and only release Tabac Vert for the time being, until he gets the others exactly as he wants them.  The listed notes for TV are:

Cedar, pepper, bergamot, amber and sandalwood.

Fortunately (for me, at least), this is a “big” tobacco type scent, reminiscent of Creed’s Vintage Tabarome and Worth Pour Homme Haute Concentration (but without the lavender), so I’d classify it a bit closer to the former.  I like this one better than any non-sweet tobacco scent I’ve tried so far (I wouldn’t reach for this one when I wanted something like Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille, and vice versa).  And the tobacco quality  lasts for a very long time!  There’s no longer any reason to lament “high” vintage prices (such as for ones like Patou Pour Homme, Vintage Tabarome, and Egoiste Cologne Concentree).  Nor can one say (as I’ve heard on more than a few occasions) that vintage should be avoided because it may not be easily replaced.  It’s available now and you can buy as much as you like!  The base is reminiscent of Boucheron Pour Homme EdP (vintage formulation) but with tobacco rather than lingering citrus.

As to the oakmoss content in Tabac Vert specifically, the perfumer says it is just a hair under 1%, whereas IFRA only allows .2%.  I asked him about how Tabac Vert  compares to vintage scents that contained more tiny amounts and this was his response;

I recall seeing a Louis Appell demo formula for Chypre de Coty with 1% oakmoss. And I’ve also seen a (so-called authentic) formula for Mitsouko with a whopping 7%.

Without an actual gcms of these original juices we’ll never really know because perfumers are super secretive. We can only really gauge from these demo formulas and what works in our own lab.

But, for the record: I very adamantly DO NOT consider myself a perfumer but rather a perfume hobbyist. I’ve spent the last 8 years learning and familiarizing myself with the materials. I experimented with demo formulas and did A LOT of trial & error (mostly error), but I think to consider myself a perfumer marginalizes the real perfumers in their industry and their hard work, experience and education.

Overall, I was pleased to learn that there’s no reason why vintage type scents can no longer be produced.  Why so many niche companies want to market “iso e super overload” or “cashmeran overload” scents is an interesting question.  As I’ve said before, it may be that enough of the niche crowd now perceive a scent with a lot of iso e super or cashmeran as “special,” “expensive,” “high quality,” etc., and so it’s more likely to be a success (can you imagine what a “dihydromyrcenol overload” scent would be perceived by this demographic?).   Personally, and on the other side of the niche scene (that is, the “talented amateurs”), I liked these scents more than any of the Andy Tauer scents I’ve tried.  Why are some of AT’s scents so popular?  If it’s because of the “in your face” quality, then you might find the Rogue Perfumery ones to be “up your alley,” but to me TV is a composition that works perfectly, whereas the AT scents I’ve tried seem flawed in one way or another.  After I told him how much I enjoyed TV, he generously sent me 30 ml, so that should keep my non-sweet tobacco scent cravings in line for a quite a while, as it’s very strong (I think one full spray per wearing is all I need)!

NOTE:  TV is really “old school,” so some will likely perceive it as musty or even “old lady,” but they’d say the same thing about Vintage Tabarome, Patou Pour Homme, Egoiste Cologne Concentree, etc., I’d guess.

 

 

 

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A short post about a couple of issues that seem to resurface every so often.

It seems that sometimes a notion has to sort of burn itself out over time, as more and more people realize that what they believed was incorrect or misunderstood. One issue is the use of aroma chemicals to market scents. One fragrance blogger seems to think that if any amount of an aroma chemical is used, then it is “common” and not noteworthy. The point I have made over and over again throughout the years is that sometimes a scent is “overloaded” with this or that common aroma chemical. This doesn’t seem to be “controversial” within the industry; for instance Cool Water for Men included a large amount of dihydromyrcenol. If such a scent becomes popular, after a while the chemical overload goes from smelling “new” and “exciting” to “common” and “generic,” as has occurred with this scent (whether all the “clones” greatly aided in this process or not is an interesting question). My perception is that some companies are using iso e super overload or cashmeran overload to market a scent as “niche.” If others disagree, that’s fine, but you can’t say someone is wrong about a perception that involves “industry secrets,” unless you are an “industry insider.” We simply don’t know if the people who make decisions about what scents to release and how to market them are doing this intentionally or not, but I have little doubt this is the reality in recent years!

Another issue is the one I’ve been speaking about recently, that is, the mental contortions some people go through so that they feel “justified” in spending a huge amount of money on one of these olfactory concoctions. In the Basenotes.net thread concerning Creed’s Viking I’ve been referencing in the last few posts, there are these two new statements:

…It projects and lasts quite well thruout the day for me. Everyone has a different experience with Viking so far. Is it overpriced ? Absolutely , but most creeds work on my skin and if I enjoy it , I’ll wear it. Not to mentioned the positive reactions I’ve received already wearing this.

And:

I think this fact makes Viking a very well made, artistic niche and what’s even better is that it’s still highly nose-pleasing to all of these differing opinions. Fantastic development. I bet Creed tested this exhaustively to achieve broad appeal while still trying to remain a niche scent. Remember this was 7 years in development. It’s pretty remarkable.

Now what I find even more amusing is that when I commented on this thread that it seemed as though to some people Viking smelled like the latest formulation of Halston’s Z-14, one person said:

Those people are wrong. It smells nothing like Z-14 in even the remotest way. I own 2 bottles of Z-14.

I think it’s highly questionable to claim that Viking is “artistic niche” and at the same time “highly nose-pleasing to all,” but you certainly can’t claim that “everyone has a different experience with Viking,” and then claim that a person who perceives it as being similar to Z-14 is “wrong.” I know these are not the same people, but they are making the same kinds of arguments about Viking on this thread.  Just in these early days alone, many have said there’s a strong cinnamon quality to Viking, and there is clearly a lavender note in both (apparently not strong in either), which is listed for Viking.  Why can’t some people believe that those notes may be “spiking out” for some people, even if that is not the case for themselves? Such claims suggest that a person is trying “right fight” perceptions of these concoctions, rather than simply stating their own opinions about it. The same is true for scents that are “overloaded” with this or that aroma chemical. I have a friend who thinks that scents seem to have huge amounts of dihydromyrcenol smell the “freshest,” for example, and he has no perception of any chemical element; to him it smells totally natural. To me, these are a strident, simplistic compositions that apparently were made for those who share his perception. If you read the reviews for the recent Stash release, that same kind of perception appears to be operating, but about different aroma chemicals (s). I certainly wish I didn’t smell “chemical overload” in Stash, but we clearly do not all perceive these concoctions in the same ways.

NOTE:  Right before publishing the above, I saw this post in the major Viking thread at Basenotes:

In sampling Viking, I found that I was one of several reporting that the more you wear it and become familiar with the way the notes evolve, the more you’ll tend to really like it. The cinnamon and clove combo, to me, is really appealing. The way they use the slow dry down of the clove is really nice and rather creative. Now…if only I could smell it noticeably after a few hours, all would be grand and I’d buy a bottle of it. But this just doesn’t appear to be the case.

What such people don’t seem to realize is that if one were to somehow put perhaps half (or even more) of the recent “masculine” releases by designer names into a Creed bottle they would say the same thing.  That is, if you keep studying a “decent” scent (and most are at least that, by the standards of the last decade or so), you are going to find those “subtle facets,” “nuanced complexity,” etc.  How many of these people study the scent of any other company the way they do a Creed?

UPDATE:  Several hours after I published the above, this was posted to that BN Creed thread:

…I have to say that it’s complex and it kept changing from the opening to drydown. It really is bold, edgy, confident and masculine . Even though I was reminded of the 90s at first , it doesn’t mean that it’s a designer like scent or anything. It’s high quality.

No, even though it seems to be like a 90s “masculine,” there’s no way that’s more or less what it is, right?  Then that would mean hundreds of dollars were wasted!  Of course, no 90s designer scent changed at all from top notes to base, and there weren’t any “bold, edgy, confident, and masculine” scents back then, or were there plenty of them?  Ah, the mental contortions we engage in to justify our behavior or perceptions!

Another person said that the small samples don’t contain enough liquid but that if he sprays himself several times to the chest the scent is much better.  Again, does he do this with every scent he samples?  Most likely he’s seeking the “hidden Creed magic” and doing everything he can think of to find it, regardless of whether there is anything especially unique about Viking.

 

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It’s not just Creed, but are women smarter in this context?

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that as major perfume companies are more and more limited by IFRA, the claims made about their scents become more extravagant, though in the case of Creed, most of the claims (aside from the historical ones) are made by their fans.  Here are a couple new ones on that Basenotes.net thread devoted to Creed’s Viking:

…this scent is clearly an artistic ‘niche’ scent that smells different to so many people and you’ve got quite an achievement. Universal acceptance + artistic complexity giving divergent experiences = a very rare type of fragrance. Creed has done it again folks. So many people were thinking this one was going to bomb at the box office, but it’s a big hit.

And:

I’ve [had] it for a couple weeks and what I come to realize is that the very late dry down is where it’s at. I was in NYC on business this week, and so at nights I was walking around the city much more than I normally would in my hometown. This stuff, 12 hours later would literally re-ignite on my skin once I got my temperature up, and it smelled ridiculously good. It was obvious, in a good way. 12 hours later. There is just something about it that I can best describe as piquant. It’s not loud, it’s piquant, and that’s where the fire comes in. I know this is not gonna sound great, but it smells almost vinegarish during the late [dry] down, but in the best way possible way.

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/429631-The-Official-Creed-Viking-Thread/page15

Apparently, all the comments I’ve quoted in my last two posts, as well as the two above, were written by men.  In stark contrast, at the NST blog, a review of two new Jo Malone scents and the first two comments were written by women.  Here is part of what the reviewer had to say:

English Oak & Redcurrant is described as “[t]he forest at dawn. The juicy bite of redcurrant. The zest of green mandarin. The freshness of rose softened with white musk. Enveloped in roasted oak.” Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to that sensory evocation for me.

English Oak & Hazelnut, stepping deeper into the forest, is “[a]n enchanted walk. The crunch of green hazelnut. The spice of elemi. The earthy woodiness of vetiver cooled by emerald moss carpets. On a warming base of roasted oak.” It’s less gourmand than it sounds, and it does last much longer on skin than English Oak & Redcurrant. On the other hand, it seems to skip too quickly into a base of dry vetiver and wood — yes, definitely oak rather than sandalwood or cedar, and it’s sharp and a touch smoky in an way that interests me, but it feels a bit blunt.

And here are the first two comments:

Thanks for the review – this is one of the few times that I’ve been able to comment on something new! I tried both of these last weekend. I agree that that the Redcurrant is very fleeting – I sprayed it on as I went into the store, and by the time I’d looked at the shoe department, it was gone. I liked the Hazelnut, but it’s a bit similar to things I already have.

And:

Cool review, Jessica. I have tried them both and was a bit disappointed. I guess I was expecting the perfume equivalent of kicking through leaves and the woody-nuttiness of acorns, and maybe even a touch of sweet creaminess of hazlenuts ( a bit foody). I was surprised by the sharpness of the perfumes and also the paleness. I didn’t try layering them but it sounds like I should have. I have been reading The Hidden Life of Trees recently and oaks are incredible . It’s worth reading.

http://www.nstperfume.com/2017/09/21/jo-malone-english-oak-redcurrant-and-english-oak-hazelnut-fragrance-reviews/

My point here is that in the case of Creeds, it seems that there are quite a few men who think they are smelling specialness in scents that are reasonably good but not at all special.  And as I said in a comment to the last post, for every Creed scent I’ve tried, I’ve found one I liked better that was much cheaper, except for Vintage Tabarome, which I’m happy to own a large decant of (obtained in a swap, because the price is prohibitive to me).  I’ve liked all the Creed scents I’ve tried (perhaps 20), with the exception of Himalaya, but they just aren’t special, just variations on similar themes.  There are plenty of threads about which designer scent smells like a particular Creed, so this is certainly not my impression, and how many threads have there been comparing Green Irish Tweed to Cool Water for Men?

Women who are fragrance hobbyists seem to be much more discerning and skeptical, for whatever reason.  They may be a fan of a particular “house,” but when the house promises a special scent, it seems they are more likely to be disappointed if it is not, whereas for at least the “Creed fanboys,” all kinds of intellectual contortions will be utilized in order to maintain the fiction that Creed scents are special or head and shoulders above all others.  I guess it’s wonderful to live in such a mental universe, and perhaps the processes occurring in the brain are similar to a child watching a fantasy film that he or she is really enjoying.  But what if they were to learn that there are some great “super cheapos,” whether “clones” or not?  To me, that is truly special!  It means I get to have some olfactory enjoyment for next to nothing (for example, think of how many days one gets from one or two sprays from a 100 ml bottle as to seeing one movie at a theater, and in many cases one ticket to the movie costs more than the 100 ml bottle!).  But I guess a sense of specialness has a kind of narcotic effect that my way of thinking does not!

One last point that I have yet to address involves the claim that Viking is quite spicy at first, with claims of powerful cinnamon or pepper.  Guess what?  Halston’s Z-14 was reformulated within the last several years so that it would have a very strong cinnamon note at first!  However, that one was widely criticized for that quality.  At Fragrantica.com the notes for Z-14 are listed as:

Top notes are cypress, gardenia, green notes, basil, bergamot and lemon; middle notes are coriander, patchouli, cinnamon, jasmine, vetiver, cedar and geranium; base notes are leather, tonka bean, amber, musk, benzoin and oakmoss.

It’s possible the notes are the same but where modified, in terms of intensity, for the cinnamon-dominant formulation.  Viking has this note list:

Top Notes

Calabrian Bergamot,Sicilian Lemon, La Reunion Baie Rose

Middle Notes

Peppercorn, Bulgarian Rose, Peppermint

Base Notes

Indian Sandalwood, Haitian Vetiver, Indian Patchouli,

Lavandin Absolute

http://scentbound.co/viking-by-creed/

Why is it so difficult to some people to understand that to many others Z-14 (I bought an 8 ounce EdT bottle of the cinnamon-dominant formulation for about $12 a few years ago) might be preferred?  Even if Viking used “higher quality ingredients,” not everyone has the same sensitivity to this or that molecule, so it may not make any difference to a whole lot of people (especially if they blind tested both!).  I don’t get anything “synthetic” in any Z-14 formulation I’ve tried, and I’ve already got scents with strong peppermint, sandalwood, patchouli, and rose notes (the others in Viking I generally do not care for, unless perhaps they are weak background ones).  Moreover, quite a few reviews mention an aquatic or metallic element, and I dislike both of those qualities!  In fact, when I tried Z-14 the first time, my thought was that it was very niche-like, but of course (at least to me) the important thing is that I enjoyed it (I’m not looking to impress others with these concoctions).  To each his own, of course, but let’s try to refrain from making what are essential magical claims!

NOTE: I noticed that on another fragrance blog, a person commented:

Creed uses real ambergris, it is one of their signature notes you’ll recognize throughout nearly all their fragrances.

How does this person (apparently a woman!) know this? But let’s assume it is accurate. I could buy a tiny amount of ambergris and market a scent as containing real ambergris, simply by using enough so that there are a few molecules of it in each bottle. Nobody would be able to smell it (and if there was enough for them to smell it they might not like it!), but it might help stimulate magical thoughts about a particular company producing scents that are perceived as much “greater” than those released by other companies!

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More about Creed’s new Viking release.

There’s one major Viking thread in the Men’s Forum at Basenotes.net, and one post to it (responding to someone else’s comment) that may get to the crux of the matter, in terms of Creed’s appeal to some people.  First, the original comment:

it’s interesting how people rush to tag any new release to an existing fragrance. this happens most often/fervently with Creed. reading over the initial Aventus thread from 2010, many commented that it was a “Zara clone”.
I looked with this “initial Aventus thread”‘ but did not find it.  However, the person is confusing two different issues!  It’s one thing to compare a scent to one that has already been released, because so many of the same aroma chemicals are used, and probably quite a few of the essentials as well (vanilla/vanillin, patchouli, etc.), but it’s another to claim that a scent that might be an attempt to “clone” a popular one is in fact the original (that’s just aggressive ignorance, if it occurred).  Here’s the key question for me, “why would someone criticize someone else’s perception, especially when a site devoted to these olfactory concoctions is by its very nature mostly going to focus on individual perceptions?”  On a practical level, some of us also have to consider Creed’s price, but along the same lines, for someone like myself (who has a few hundred bottles of many different kinds of fragrances), why shouldn’t I try to save quite a bit of money by wearing what I already own (even if that is achieved by layering)?  Now let me move on to the comment by the person who created the post:

Viking is to Pasha was Aventus was to Zara.Surely that’s a pretty ‘human’ thing to do though isn’t it? Let’s face it – how many times have we smelled a new fragrance and it’s reminded us of another? Creed is an odd one as some of the line is strongly reminiscent of other fragrances – Green Irish Tweed = Cool Water, Bois du Portugal = Pierre Cardin Pour Homme, Original Santal = Joop Pour Homme etc yet many of their fragrances are original and ground-breaking ie: Aventus, Silver Mountain Water, Virgin Island Water etc. I find the comparisons very helpful in terms of forming an idea of what I’m going to smell. The magic of Creed is that they manage to create the best smelling ‘version’ pretty consistently. Cool Water is a fine scent but Green Irish Tweed is something much more special. I’m betting Viking will remind me of other fragrances but I’m also betting I’ll be working out how to justify buying a bottle too…!

It’s hard to believe that Creed would always create the “best” version of a certain type of scent, considering how we are talking about perceptions only.  They may have a good idea of what a certain demographic will perceive as “high class,” “rich and smooth,” or whatever, but the men I’ve asked to try a Creed have not liked it.  These were people who enjoyed cheap aftershaves and would never spend much on one (I didn’t tell them how much it cost until after they provided their opinions).  To me, Creed has never created the best version of a type of scent (and Pierre Cardin was released more than a decade before Bois du Portugal, so they don’t even get credit for being original there!), which is why the only Creed I possess more than a few ml of is Vintage Tabarome (and I would swap the decant if the right deal came along, but I do like it and likely will keep it).

So, the obvious question here seems to be, “do people allow themselves to be mesmerized by the Creed name?  If you haven’t seen it already, the researchers of a  recent study about wines have concluded that this is the case in that context:

A new study found that a high price tag on a bottle of wine tricks our brains into thinking it tastes better than a lower-priced bottle, even when the wines are identical…

http://www.foodandwine.com/news/expensive-wine-doesnt-taste-good-we-think-it-does

Furthermore:

“The reward and motivation system is activated more significantly with higher prices, and apparently increases the taste experience in this way,” said researcher Bernd Weber, acting director of the University of Bonn’s Center for Economics and Neuroscience in Germany…

This is known as the “marketing placebo effect,” explained the researchers, referring to health benefits people often feel when they’re given a “placebo,” or dummy, medication.

The measurements of brain activity in the MRI scanner confirmed this effect.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/sc-hlth-expensive-wine-tricks-brain-0823-story.html

So, should we call it the “Creed placebo effect?”  I do think there is one more element that may be involved in some of these kinds of situations, which might be best called the “expensive-smelling molecule effect.”  A great example is how large amounts of calone or dihydromyrcenol in a scent probably leads to a lot of people thinking it’s “cheap.”  On the other hand, load up a scent with iso e super or cashmeran while slapping a niche label on it, and you’ve got something that “smells expensive” to a certain demographic.  Of course, over time this can change, as more people smell such scents and as much cheaper “clones” are marketed.  It sounds like with Viking, the perfumer decided to try and combine at least two different genres in order to create a scent that many would deem unique (while others might call it a mish-mash).

But do I “need” a unique scent, or at least one that will be unique until the “clone” companies market their versions of it?  Some apparently feel that they do, but I have a very large rotation, so even my favorite scents only get a few wearings a year.  Thus, while I can understand how someone might want a unique “signature scent,” this is likely a minority of even those who post to sites like Basenotes and Fragrantica, judging by how much praise scents like Sauvage and Bleu de Chanel have received (in spite of quite a bit of initial criticism).  Indeed, how often has someone written that those who want truly unique scents (such as “vintage” Leather Oud by Dior) are only worn by a few “snobs” or weirdos?  Again, it seems as though Creed is exempt, for some people, from the “usual logic.”  This reminds me of claims in sports that certain players are given more leeway by officials than the vast majority of the rest of the players in that league.  And how many of those who said they “kept trying” a Creed they initial didn’t find especially compelling gave “lesser” scents the same opportunity?  I’d guess that around 25-30% of the scents I eventually decided I wanted to own a bottle of I initially didn’t like (or like enough to buy a bottle of at that point), but I was judging on merit, not name.

A recent example is Sensation Midnight for Men by Nu Parfums.  It cost me less than $4 for 100 ml and is by a company that would likely be regarded poorly by those who visit sites like Basenotes.  Moreover, the first time I tried it I did not like it at all, and thought it was too “chemical.”  However, the second time I tried it I thought it was somewhat interesting, sort of an “amped up” Midnight in Paris, though definitely not exactly the same (other than being stronger, of course).  And the third time I wore it my thought was that it was important to let it waft up to the nose rather than smelling it up close or using my hand to waft it up to the nose.  What would most Basenotes’ members think if it was marketed as niche and there was a label saying it had been “expertly formulated” so that it would only smell right if one allowed it to waft up to the nose from a distance of more than a foot?  Some tried to “defend” their decisions to buy Viking by comparing it to other consumer items, such as bicycles, but the obvious problem is that others can see the “specialness” of the bicycle, whereas people don’t carry their Creed bottles around showing them off to others (and would anyone care but a “Creed fanboy” or person who buys niche?).  I’d guess that most people could create their own “unique” scents with very little study (all of it free from online sources) and very little cash, or one could just try some different layering combinations (if you already have a whole bunch of different types of fragrances).

One comment I made on that Basenotes’ thread was:

For me, considering the price and what at lot of BNers already own (I’ve got plenty of “warm/spicy” and a few salty scents, and I don’t want an aquatic note in any scent), why not try a layering combination to figure out something that will be quite close to Viking? If you know your notes, do you really even have to sample Viking? LOL.

The last statement was meant to be a joke (hence the “LOL,” but someone took it seriously!  To clarify that here, I’d say that if a whole bunch of people are saying it’s like a salty Pasha, and you’ve already got a salty scent and vintage Pasha (that you can layer), and the notes don’t look like anything you’d regard as special, do you really want to even bother considering a very expensive scent (assuming you aren’t afflicted with the “Creed placebo effect?”  Even if I really liked it, after a few wearings it would just be another scent in my rotation, right next to Sensation Midnight and a bunch of other “super cheapos.”  We only have limited time and limited budgets (assuming you aren’t super wealthy), but unfortunately it may be true that a majority of people have very limited self-awareness (and so don’t realize that they are susceptible to these kinds of “placebo effects,” nor foresee how certain kinds of scents may become boring, or just one among many, in short order).

Note that the Basenotes post I addressed above can be found here:

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/429631-The-Official-Creed-Viking-Thread/page11

And here’s an “added bonus!”  I came upon the following comment on this same thread, and thought I’d do a “running commentary” on it (my comments are in brackets).  The person starts out by saying, “it is pretty good,” and then we get:

I feel like a lot of people look at the price tag of this fragrance and then immediately write it off because of that or smell it and go “This isn’t the best smelling fragrance ever so therefor it’s trash at this price”. But I feel that’s a completely wrong way to review a fragrance. How can anyone else give a value based judgement for another person? What is a reasonable price for me might not be for another or vice versa. What I tried to do was ignore completely the price and just review the fragrance for what it is. Each person has to make the value assessment themselves on what they are willing to spend on a fragrance.

[That’s a reasonable sentiment, but then you have to subject all scents you sample to the same reveiw protocol (and not only sample the “big names”); what I’ve seen with Creeds is that some peope will keep going back to it, even after an initially negative impression, until they find the “Creed magic.” They are definitely not going to do this with a Playboy or Remy Latour level scent, and may not do this with a Gucci, Calvin Klein, etc.]

If you strip everything else away from Viking and just focus on the smell the large large majority of people would find it good. It’s a people pleaser fragrance and is really really different from basically anything I’ve ever smelled. It also does changes that make it hard to pin down and evolves a decent amount over it’s life.

[Hold on now! It’s a great all around/people pleasing scent and yet it’s “really really different” from everything else you’ve ever smelled? Well, either you have very little experience with these concoctions or it sounds like absolute nonsense one would expect from a “fanboy.”]

For example, today I sprayed it on and I got less mint in the opening and a good bit more of the spice but also a bit of freshness that wasn’t there in the opening yesterday. It has a bit of an original santal vibe but also not. There’s woods and lavender and vetiver in it and still mint. That’s one reason I said this fragrance could be someone’s signature scent. If I was blindfolded and someone sprayed this and any other fragrance I’ve ever smelled, I think I would be able to pick this every time. Does that make it better? That’s up to the individual person to decide. But it does make it unique in my book.

[The notes for it are not very unique, nor are any of the comments I’ve read so far. Some say it’s like Pasha, or Pasha with a salty note, or like Shelter Island, etc. Yes, if you study a scent in great detail, you likely will be able to distinguish it from others, but again, that’s probably true of just about any release.]

Another note on performance. When I woke up this morning I could *still* smell it on my skin. I honestly feel like people finding this fragrance lacking in the performance department are going nose blind to it. Is it a powerhouse 12+ hours later? No. I think most people in a warm climate will feel it projects well for 5ish hours and then it stays as a skin scent for 8 or more. But let me say this, as someone who owns multiple bottles of Aventus from ’15 and ’16, some considered the best batches of the moderns – Aventus doesn’t perform any better on my skin and I routinely go nose blind to it. I’ve never personally gotten the beast mode Aventus claims that others have. Not on skin at least.

[If it’s just an “okay” scent selling for $500 a bottle, one can just reapply a weaker, but very similar scent.]

I wish more people would just judge the fragrance itself and leave their own personal value assessment out of it. Objectively speaking, Viking is a great release, especially for people who always scream that they want something different than the usual stuff. Viking takes common notes but matches them in an interesting different way. Is it my favorite fragrance ever? No, but I would rock it out without a second thought and expect to get good responses to it.

[Yes, I too want the scent to be judged on its own merits, but you only want this intense study done on Creeds, or if you would like to see it done on other scents, you don’t seem to want to participate or encourage others to do so. And if another company “takes common notes but matches them” in a different way, it often gets heavily criticized (such as occurred with Bleu de Chanel soon after it was released). Creed gets credit for this but when another company does it, people don’t like the “mish mash”/generic offering. Now let’s say I sample Viking and think it’s quite good – I’m still not paying those prices, and the reason is that I don’t feel deprived (as apparently people like this do) if I can’t have this particular scent. If I want something similar I have little doubt I can figure out a layering combination with fragrances I already own plenty of. So, thanks Creed (and other companies), for giving me new layering ideas, but no, I don’t need a “round up the usual suspects” and do something a little different (at best) scent for those kinds of prices!]

Here is the thread in which the comment was posted:

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/429631-The-Official-Creed-Viking-Thread/page13

 

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Creed’s new Viking release: an unofficial, non-review.

There are more than a few reviews of Viking on the major fragrance sites at the moment, so I thought I’d write up some thoughts, as I am not likely to sample it any time soon (it may be another super-hype scent, like Aventus).  The notes listed at Fragrantica.com are:

…bergamot, black currant and pink pepper; middle notes are driftwood, salt, rose and fruity notes; base notes are ambergris, oakmoss, sandalwood and sea salt.

With a name like Viking one might have guessed a Yatagan-like scent (at least before seeing the notes), but so far the reviews suggest it’s more like a Pasha type scent, with the anise/mint taken out and the salty element added.  I could go on a tirade about how ridiculous it is for a company that prides itself on “royal” affiliations to name a scent after those who slaughtered anyone who got in their way, including royalty, women, children, monks, etc., but one can just go to the Wikipedia page and decide for himself/herself.

My guess is that it has a dry/woody element that is not too strong, because that is much of what I get from Pasha (vintage formulation).  Here are the notes for it:

…lavender, mandarin orange, mint, caraway and anise; middle notes are coriander and brazilian rosewood; base notes are labdanum, sandalwood, patchouli and oakmoss.

I don’t get any of these notes with strength, unlike an “old school” scent with many of the same notes, such as Azzaro Pour Homme, where the lavender/fougere and anise are quite “in your face.”  Pasha is closer to Safari for Men, though I’d guess there’s a bit of dihydromyrcenol in Pasha (I don’t remember if I ever thought it was present in Safari).  Obviously, Creed’s perfumers don’t mind the use of this aroma chemical, because it’s clearly present in Green Irish Tweed.  And while I don’t get a specific salt aspect to Pasha, there is something about it that does suggest at least a hint of it.

Some who have sampled it say it is a “safe” and “all around” scent, and one wonders if the idea was to create a more interesting and less “chemical” version of a designer offering like Sauvage.  The main point I wanted to make in this blog post is that unless you are wealthy you might want to ask yourself if you can simulate Viking fairly well with a layering combination.  Now if you only own a few bottles then no, you probably aren’t going to get particularly close.  In my case, not only do I have a lot of bottles to choose from (and quite a variety too, including a whole lot of “feminines”), but I tend to dislike “salty” scents, so it might work out better for me, assuming I like the idea of a salty (or saltier) Pasha, more or less.

Thinking about the reviews of Viking (in terms of it being safe/”all purpose”) and my experiences with Pasha, I have to conclude that these kinds of scents are just not for me, and I really like the way Pasha smells!  The problem for me is that I lose interest in it quickly.  However, I realize this sort of perception can vary greatly from one person to another.  For example, Luca Turin said something similar about Jaipur Homme, yet to me that is a scent that I find to be quite interesting, in terms of the strong spice contrasting with the other notes.  I’d rather have a scent like JH, which I have to be in the mood to wear, than one like Pasha, which I doubt I’d ever have an issue with wearing, but almost always prefer another scent when deciding what to spray on in the morning.  It’s also not great for layering because it’s already rather complex, so I’d likely try a different scent to use if I wanted a layering combination with a salty element.

Viking doesn’t sound too complex, by contrast, and I wouldn’t mind sampling it (I’d likely wait for a “clone” if I enjoyed it, though, considering the prices), but lately I’ve found myself more interested in what I already have.  Over the last couple of years I’ve rarely found myself intrigued by a note list of a scent I’ve yet to sample, and that’s often in “super cheapos” anyway.  The notes for Playboy’s King of the Game, for example, include black coffee and an alcoholic drink accord (known as “Jager Bomb”); it’s certainly worth the $7 for 100 ml that I paid, as I enjoy it and do think about reaching for it, unlike Pasha.

Anyway, I went ahead and wore vintage Pasha, got bored with it (as expected) within the first couple of hours, then sprayed Red Sea by Micallef once just above the navel (below where I sprayed Pasha).  Sure enough, I was thinking, “yes, Viking sort of makes sense, but it’s more like the shore right before the vikings came to invade!”  Now I doubt I would have thought that if I didn’t have that name on my mind, but the important thing (for me) is that both scents were improved by this combination (IMO).  The notes for Red Sea are:

Top notes are neroli and cinnamon; middle notes are rose and iris; base notes are sandalwood and musk.

So, I’m glad Creed and the “fanboys” gave me the idea to try this!  If and when I sample Viking I’ll be sure to update this post or create a new one about it.  If you have tried it, please let us know what you think.

NOTE:  For those who want to talk about the name/design, it’s interesting that a significant area of the bottle is covered in orange – that doesn’t seem to make sense, for example:

In heraldry, orange is a rarely used tincture except in South Africa and in the heraldry of the United States Army. A more accurate picture of its use is at tenné.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_(heraldry)

And in the West, orange would seem to be the exact opposite of what the name Viking suggests:

In Europe and America orange and yellow are the colours most associated with amusement, frivolity and entertainment.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_(colour)#Colour_of_amusement

By contrast, purple is the royal color, at least in European history.  What about real vikings?

“Blue and red were popular colours throughout the Viking Age. In general, they all wore colourful clothes with patterns and sewn-on ribbons,” says Mannering, adding that archaeologists have come across examples of colours covering the entire colour palette.

http://sciencenordic.com/what-vikings-really-looked

Some Basenotes.net members seem to be thinking along the same lines, for example:

…This new Creed release just looks rediculous, in terms of perfume pyramid matching the theme of the scent.
What a blasphemic step…

And:

…that [bottle] is hideous.

And the color simply doesn’t match at all with the concept or notes.

And:

…the discordance is very jarring, if Creed were creating a fragrance called Silk Road and were to switch the logo to something more appropriate the vivid red/orange colour would work but for Viking I was expecting a much darker shade and around cobalt blue with gold trimmings, maybe even switch it up to a wooden cap to keep with the theme…

I liked the name Aventus – why not come up with an original name so that will only be associated with your scent?  For me, though, it’s the scent that matters – I’d buy a scent called Royal Turd if I really liked it, even if there was a pile of you-know-what pictured on the bottle!

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A “mini me” Sécrétions Magnifiques? A Fragrant Mystery?

I have no idea why those who had the license to Perry Ellis fragrances released Perry Ellis by Perry Ellis for Men (I think that’s the official name for it) in 2008.  When I first sprayed it on, I was thinking that it doesn’t seem to fit in with other “masculines,” of that time or any other!  Of course I may just be ignorant of certain kinds of masculines of that period, because I was never a fan of citrus-dominant fragrances.  But let’s start with the notes – even there are not clear.  For example, Fragrantica.com has the notes as:

…grapefruit, woody accords, resins, iris root, leather.

But Parfumo.net has the notes as:

Green apple, Grapefruit, Patchouli, Woody notes, Amber, Musk, Leather.

Then there’s the Basnotes.net list, which is just apple and amber.  I don’t get a clear apple note, green or otherwise, and instead it seems like a soft grapefruit.  And it begins quite musky.  Several reviews talk of a metallic, bloody, or fishy note or aroma chemical, and when I wafted this to my nose I detected that, but since it’s not pleasant I stopped, and then didn’t smell it again.  My guess is that the people who say this smell it up close or waft it around.  Now in 2005, Everlast Original 1910 was released, which included these notes (from Fragrantica):

…lime, lavender, mandarin orange, mint and grapefruit; middle notes are nutmeg, cypress, cinnamon, tarragon and geranium; base notes are leather, tonka bean, patchouli, musk and guaiac wood.

However, EO 1910, while possessing strong grapefruit/citrus in general and leather, also has a fougere accord gets a bit oriental over time, whereas PEbPEfM doesn’t change much.  The citrus gets weaker but the musk really hangs in there for hours (thankfully, it’s not of the sharp “white” variety, but it’s not animalic either).  After a few hours, I do begin to think this isn’t too far from EO 1910’s drydown.  I never got clear iris, “resins,” nor woods, and the leather is more like a texture to me.  It’s a touch a sweet, but otherwise indistinct, though in its own way (I wouldn’t call it a “blob” because there are a few obvious facets).  There is still an oddball quality to it, in terms of the metallic, bloody, fishy element but it has dissipated more than a little.  And this brings me to Sécrétions Magnifiques, which was released in 2006, the official notes being (from Fragrantica):

Lodized accord (fucus, azurone), adrenalin accord, blood accord, milk accord, iris, coconut, sandalwood, opoponax…

And if you don’t know, this is a scent that has nauseated its fair share of aficionados, who claim to smell things like spoiled milk, metallic blood, etc.  My guess is that those who say this are more likely to smell it up close on the skin, but since I’ve never sampled it, I can only wonder whether the perfumer for PEbPEfM decided to do a low-level designer version of SE for the “masses.”  At Fragrantica no perfumer is listed for it, but Antoine Lie composed the other two.  Even if he had no part in the creation of PEbPEfM, another perfumer might have sampled the other two and thought about combining those.  In some ways it reminds me of the original Hummer scent (“vintage” formulation), in that it’s a fairly recent “mainstream” release with a strong (and interesting) but not entirely “friendly” muskiness.  Perhaps this would be great for someone who doesn’t want to smell too much like all the other young guys (many or most wearing Sauvage?) but doesn’t want to stray into the potentially weird waters of niche.

But wait, there’s another possible “mystery,” depending upon how you define them.  When I posted about PEbPEfM not long ago over at Basenotes, one comment on that thread was:

…it’s quite disgusting. It smells even cheaper than it costs. I can’t see any basenoter enjoying it. It is synthetic but that’s not the worst part. It’s just a total mess and it’s topped with this rotten ‘aquatic’ stuff.

My response was:

Perhaps you should have read the reviews before making the latter statement? And how many BNers like Secretions Magnifique? Is that one for “sophisticated noses” whereas because this one was released by Perry Ellis it’s got to be bad? Seriously, these are just smells, so if you don’t like them, fine, but you don’t have to implicitly (if not explicitly) assert that some scents are “bad” and some are “good.” I think more than a few BN favorites are a kind of olfactory torture, but I know that there are factors at work, such as sensitivity to certain aroma chemicals, that need to be taken into account. This PE scent is what I think of as a training wheels Secretions Magnifique, so I might actually wear it once in a while, and in fact if I spray the air with it and walk through the mist, it might be quite good. I’d much rather have a bottle of it than a whole bunch of other scents, and that would include TdH, Fahrenheit, the original Moschino Pour Homme, etc. (all other things being equal; otherwise I’d take one of those others and sell the bottle quickly).

Here’s the “mystery” element, IMO, embodied by this hypothetical question:  what if Antoine Lie had created PEbPEfM, and in an interview had said he was “perfecting” his Sécrétions Magnifiques composition, with one aspect being to make it more wearable?  Would it then be embraced by those who think they can speak to “objectively good” scents that “sophisticated noses” would appreciate?  Why can so many like the idea behind Escentric Molecule scents, but can’t seem to recognize an interesting composition released under the Perry Ellis brand name?  But one doesn’t need to go that far – what about Terre d’Hermes?  When I first tried it back around 2008 it felt like a chemical assault!  How in the world is that “objectively” better than PEbPEfM?  Again, for all we know PEbPEfM was Lie’s greatest achievement (in his opinion, at least), but even if he had nothing to do with it, how does one “objectively” say PEbPEfM is terrible but “vintage” TdH is great?  How can some people become so distorted in their thinking?

 

 

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Dior’s Sauvage or Leather Oud?

I’ve seen people mention these two scents in the same paragraph.  The point is usually one of two possibilities, along the lines of, “if you don’t like Sauvage, go ahead and wear Leather Oud and watch people run away from you,” or, “how could a house that released Leather Oud release Sauvage not long thereafter?”  The obvious thought here is that Sauvage was targeted at the masses, especially younger guys who think a scent will help them in their romantic quests, whereas LO is only for those who want something unique and don’t care what others think of the scent they are wearing.  One point I have made is that if Dior (or whatever corporate entity makes the decisions) is willing to release a scent like LO but has to also release a scent like Sauvage, why shouldn’t we all embrace this?  Sure, you might work in an office where one guys bathes in Sauvage, but that would likely be some other scent you don’t like (if Sauvage was never released)!

As of this writing, the last two reviews of Sauvage on Fragrantica.com do a good job of summing up the “two sides:”

in this non-innovative competitive market, being a market leader is a pretty difficult job and for this reason I admire this creation from Dior and the contemporary absolute genius perfumer Monsieur Demachy. Agree or Disagree this creation is a super crowd pleasing perfume around the world, making lots of money for Dior and changed the market rules and trends, brought up Ambroxan as a key ingredient to the industry as well. Dior Sauvage is not an easy forgettable perfume. It is a revolutionary product that won’t leave the scene for years.

And:

How could the man who penned Leather Oud and the house behind a modern classic like Dior Homme and a portfolio of legends commit such a crime against humanity?

Sauvage is the scourge of this age, tailored to fit the shallow and self-absorbed trend of the time. Grace, manners, style, respect, balance, wisdom, and art? Out with all that, now all that matters is who is the loudest for the longest time. And Sauvage is loud. I long thought, that Paco Rabanne’s Evil Million was the ultimate olfactory WMD, but somehow Demachy and Dior trumped it by several lengths!

The ambrox overload puts everyone on the vicinity of the “wearer” in a death grip, that would make even Darth Julius Vader himself give a respectful tip of the helmet. Usually ambrox is a great material to work with, as it enhances everything with an organic, soft and exalting glow, but its beauty and purpose has been corrupted, transforming it into a piercing weapon from which there is no escape.

No escape…..

The reviewer in the first passage quoted is outright wrong.  Adventurer II by Eddie Bauer also has an intolerable (to my nose) dose of ambroxan, and I would be surprised if there wasn’t another scent that also has such a dose, but was released before Adventurer II.  No matter; if you like it, you like it – that’s fine with me.  What I do find strange is how so many who seem to think of themselves as aficionados (or at least very knowledgeable about scents) are so quick to think Sauvage is unique or special.  Instead, they should say something like, “I only really sample the major releases, and compared to the others this is quite different, at least in terms of the use of ambroxan.”  Even when people like myself point out that this is not a new idea, they keep saying the same thing, as if that will make it true (perhaps this is appropriate in this new age of “fake facts,” where a recent poll found that a clear majority of Republicans, for example, thought that the nation’s colleges/universities are doing more harm than good)!

But I don’t want to pursue this further; instead I want to talk about why I enjoy LO so much (note that I am referring to a 2011 formulation).  Fragrantica has the following notes for it:

…leather and civet with noble agar and other woody nuances (patchouli, sandalwood, birch, cedar and vetiver). There are also ingredients of cardamom, cloves, amyris, beeswax, amber and labdanum, which complement this warm composition.

So there’s a lot that can “go wrong” here, such as the usual ‘chemical oud” note, but what I get here is what I want in a designer scent, which is excellent balance among the notes, along with naturalness (the opposite of Sauvage, to my nose).  Over time, it gets better, and my “mind’s nose” is able to appreciate the nuances that such a scent possesses.  Just as I think one note might be a bit too strong, another note comes forward, which is what I think of as great dynamism.  Like Sauvage, a little goes a long way.  I have sampled so many oud, leather, etc. scents, but there simply is no comparison.  LO packs all kinds of “heavy” notes (no tobacco, though) together and makes it work exactly the way I want it to.

Of course, LO is more expensive than Sauvage, but there is a similar scent, One Man Show Oud Edition, by Jacques Bogart, that is selling for very low prices at the moment.  It’s goes on similarly, but after a while the chemicals become obvious to me (iso e super in particular).  However, it might work just as well for you!  For me this is an excellent example of why an aficionado (who isn’t poor, obviously) would pay more for a scent that is similar to a cheap one (I obtained some LO in a swap).  By contrast, I have so often thought to myself that a “cheapo” was just as good as an expensive niche scent.  And this is not a new phenomenon, for instance I enjoy Pierre Cardin Pour Monsieur more than Bois du Portugal (at least the Aladdin or older formulations of PCPM).  There’s another example of niche being much better (to me) than designer or below, and that is Cheat Day, by Haught Perfumes, which possesses powerful notes of waffle cone, chocolate, and coffee.  Rebelle by Rihanna has similar notes (no waffle cone but both have strawberry and the other two notes), but I have to strain to detect the notes I enjoy most in Rebelle.

What I get from Sauvage is a scent like Wings for Men by Giorgio of Beverly Hills, that is a “chemical nightmare” (though one that many think of as pleasant, fresh, etc.) that is very strong – it’s what I think of as a “drug store scent” (that, or an older scent that used to be quite good but has been reformulated and/or weakened significantly, is what I tend to think of as “drug store”).  As some have argued, the brains of many “youngsters” today seem to have been “wired” to appreciate chemicals like ambroxan and “laundry musks” in large amounts, so it’s really not fair to tell them they have bad taste (as some have), and olfactory fatigue can also play a major role (for those who nearly bathe in such scents).  Just like popular music today is often said to be awful by the older crowd, young adults need time to sort things out.  Many will say things like, “I can’t believe I ever enjoyed wearing that scent” (or listening to that music) when they get older, but others will persist with their preferences (as many wear Cool Water still, which seems to be loaded with dihyromyrcenol, at least in my “vintage” bottle).  Arguments can be made about why a scent is tasteful while another is not, but if you are going to say this to someone who can’t even comprehend your case, I would say you are wasting your time.  Just enjoy what you enjoy!

 

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