Over on basenotes.net, there was a bit of a debate (mostly between myself and another BNer) over the similarity between Mambo for Men and Ikon (for men), two inexpensive fragrances that are widely available in the USA these days. I found them to be quite similar whereas the other person didn’t think there was much similarity at all. Therefore, I decided to do a side-by-side test, and then I posted this over there:
QUOTE. Note that I do not think these two are identical or nearly so.
Today I sprayed Mambo on one ankle and Ikon on the other. I do this so that I can cross my legs and waft the scent towards my nose every once in a while, to see how it’s progressing, yet I don’t have to worry about “cross contamination,” which can occur if you do such a test on your wrists.
Mambo is drier and not as sweet, with a slightly soapy quality. Ikon is softer yet thicker/creamier. There is a “hard” note in Mambo, probably the pine, but this is relative to Ikon, and overall it’s not an especially harsh frag. Ikon has a bit of a syrupy quality, again, relative to Mambo. If there were a “synthetic” note in Mambo that is horrendous, I didn’t detect it this time, though I just sprayed and walked away, avoiding the top notes almost entirely. After this sampling, I have more respect for Mambo than I did yesterday, though by no means do I think it’s something that will impress an aficionado. As to claims of a horrendous stench, if a person who doesn’t have experience with older frags says that a frag like Youth Dew has a dirty diaper quality, I can understand that idea, but I don’t really detect anything especially unpleasant about Mambo (though it may be in the top notes). I’m not itching to wear it, and I would have no problem swapping it off, but it’s wearable, at least for some occasions. I personally prefer Ikon, perhaps because Mambo seems a bit confused and unfocused, but I don’t think there is a massive difference in ingredient quality. Rather, my guess is that the perfumer who created Ikon is probably a bit more talented, at least when working with these kinds of “low end” budgets.
The predominant notes that the two frags have in common probably are enough, for me, to classify these as “similar,” if not very similar. Here are the notes listed (from fragrantica.com):
Mambo: Top notes are lime, lavender, bergamot and lemon verbena; middle notes are rose, caraway, orange blossom, patchouli, cinnamon, lily-of-the-valley, cedar and geranium; base notes are sandalwood, patchouli, musk and balsam fir.
Ikon: It is created as a spicy blend of cardamom, ginger, Davano flowers and lemon, the heart of black cinnamon, cloves, iris root and French labdanum and the base notes are incense, cedar, patchouli, vetiver and liquid amber. UNQUOTE.
What’s interesting is that the major difference is “textural,” meaning that one is a bit dry and hard whereas the other is softer and has a bit of a syrupy quality. Otherwise, Ikon is sweeter whereas Mambo is a bit soapy. In any case, a question is, is it possible to say that two fragrances are similar or different? If I show you color chips from a paint store, we can disagree about how close two colors are, but almost everyone will agree that a chip has some amount of a particular color in it (I think). This is especially interesting because scientist and perfume critic Luca Turin has put forth a hypothesis about olfaction, and another scientist did an experiment that he though refuted this hypothesis. However, he used “untrained noses” (college students, IIRC) to determine if two molecules smelled similar, something I would never do, mainly because when I ask people what the dominant notes are in fragrances with clear, strong notes, they often can’t tell what those notes are.