Can we listen to Rodney and “just all get along?”

That other fragrance blogger I mentioned (in the “thoughts about reformulations…” post) seems to have read that post and become infuriated (there is a picture of a man wearing a “dunce cap” and sitting on a stool for his post). Why? I only said that his reviews are of limited relevance to me, though they may be in accord with the perceptions of others. He also seems to think that I am angry with him because I asked him which version of One Man Show he reviewed but he would not disclose that information (he said that he “wouldn’t publish some rude comments” even though there was absolutely nothing rude about my question, which was straightforward; this alone provides a great deal of insight into the character of this person, IMO). At that point I just assumed it was the new one, mainly because of his review and how rare the vintage seems to be (I often “hunt” these kinds of fragrances on ebay so I have a fairly good idea of the market).

The funniest thing though (to me) is that he repeated what I view as the same mistake he made with his One Man Show review (and in general). He said that I must have confused a fragrance I’ve never sampled for Green Water. Does he realize that there are two versions of Green Water that are usually available now, at least on ebay? There is also a decades-old one (the original). I’ve only tried the most recent version (which I pointed out in my review that he apparently read, since that is the only place I remember talking about it in detail), and I got a strong accord with jasmine that I call “suntan lotion” jasmine to try and convey what it’s like to readers. He still has yet to disclose which version he sampled (to my knowledge) and apparently thinks there can be no differences (or too minor to be worth mentioning) in formulations, which brings us back to my point about reformulations that he seems to dismiss out of hand. Clearly, this is an “agree to disagree” situation, unless he is willing to listen to people in the industry who can tell him how much was spent on certain fragrances many years ago as opposed to today.

I would be the first to admit that one should wear a fragrance “normally” at least twice before “passing judgement” on it (and recently stated this on a BN thread). I call it the two by two rule, meaning that you should wear it twice normally but wait at least two weeks between wearings. The reason is that it’s often the case that an accord comes across very powerfully the first time but the second wearing is smoother. Because I have so many fragrances I may not get around to wearing it that second time for months, so I write up a review and then update it whenever I get around to the next wearing. When I do this for Green Water I will update it and say that the suntan lotion jasmine accord is not as strong as it felt the first time around, if that is the case, but I write up my reviews after the first wearing, because even if I eventually come to disagree with part of it at some point, I may come “full circle” and agree with it again! That is one of the points I made in the “thoughts about reformulations…” post and that this blogger seems to not understand.

His apparent anger may have “blinded” him to perhaps the greatest criticism of his blog, which is that he seems to think there is some “objective” aspect to fragrances. If he reads this, I hope he then writes up a post on this idea without becoming infuriated and lashing out (and perhaps posting a picture of a little boy being spanked). He also thinks that comparing fragrances is a bad idea, which again is fine, if that’s the way he feels. I’ve gotten messages at BN and Fragrantica telling me how glad they are that I write reviews in which I often do comparisons. Why does this blogger not understand the old adage, to each his own? In the case of fragrances, one’s understanding changes over time, so it is certainly the case that I could go back and read through the hundreds of reviews I’ve written up over the years and change some of them, but how could I do that all at once? I would have to wear several a day, but when I do that I can’t get the same impression as I do when I wear the fragrance “normally.”

So, what I do is to go back and update when I do wear the fragrance normally. To me this makes perfect sense, but if this person does not agree then he is free to ignore my reviews. What I’ve seen more and more lately is that people seem to get very upset about newsgroup or blog posts yet they simply can avoid reading posts by the people who irritate them. Why is that so difficult to do for them (I do it all the time)? His blog post is titled “Why Avoiding Top Notes Never Works Out,” yet there is no relevant discussion of this topic in that blog post (that’s why I was very interested in reading the post in the first place!). Clearly, nobody can totally avoid the top notes, as I have said many times. One can avoid getting so much of the top notes that olfactory fatigue results. Does this blogger think that olfactory fatigue is some sort of myth as well? Even though I don’t agree with much of what he says on his blog, I like to read it because he has such a different view on fragrances, along with an occasional insight I think has merit. He, on the other hand, can’t seem to accept the obvious reality that fragrances can generate significantly different impressions, even for the same person (at different times). I have a feeling he is the only one who will “lose out” on the situation.

One of his recent posts is titled “This Conversation Is Important.” Here, he talks about the “perfumery as art debate.” This is not very important to me. I did read the post and I can understand why people like to talk about it, but as I’ve said before, I’m mainly interested in fragrances for the pleasure they generate. I sometimes have a minor, temporary interest in some fragrance-related topic, such as Creed’s historical claims (which I find humorous), but for the most part I like to think about what fragrances smell like rather than anything else. I seem to have found my niche, both for myself and for at least several others who seem to think along the same lines. This blogger probably has a few followers of his own, and that’s just fine, isn’t it? Is it of any value to “overthink” fragrances? Aren’t there so many distinct fragrances that there is already more than enough to think about, without getting angry because someone enjoys or thinks about fragrances in a different way?

ADDITIONAL NOTES: In the blog post that the blogger found so offensive, I made it clear that I do not consider myself a “know-it-all.” I stated “One of the reasons may be that this is not my favorite type of fragrance, so I can’t tell that there are others which are clearly superior.” Let me make it clear right here and right now: when it comes to certain kinds of fragrances (such as the “feminine” fruity/floral) I consider myself an amateur/newbie. I can detect things like the sweetness (ethyl maltol, I assume) or synthetic musks used in large amounts, but I have no idea which one is “best.” I would have to like the genre in order to think that any are “good,” so there is no “best” in my mind in this context. There is also no “worst,” or “really bad,” because there is not enough experience in wearing them or even sampling them. Others may view this differently, of course (I have a feeling Luca Turin does, based upon what he’s written, for example), but I feel that my insights are limited for these kinds of fragrances.

Secondly, I have compared more than a few fragrances to Montana Parfum d’Homme (“red box”) because it is complex and contains several common “masculine” accords. Thus, Bowling Green has the citrus effect, the spices, the herbs, the woods, etc. of the Montana, but lacks a strong fougere accord and the leathery/ambery qualities. I personally find this to be a very useful way to think about fragrances and the Montana is great to use if you do too, I’d guess. The apparently irritated blogger wants you to think that I have fixated on the Montana for no reason and that I’m just some sort of crank, it seems. And you know what? You can feel that way if you like. I learned long ago in graduate school that one usually finds at least one nugget of wisdom from a person who clearly has studied a subject over a long period of time. Whether that person is a “crank” is again a personal opinion and is irrelevant to the insights one might obtain from keeping one’s mind open. It does seem that we live in a world where too many people take things personally and feel they must “go on the offensive,” but one reason I got involved in fragrances is that they took me away from thinking about people like that !

Finally, he mentions that on at least one occasion I said that aldehydes were “nasty,” as if that was a high crime (compare my supposed insult to a molecule to some of the language he uses on his blog!). Many people are sensitive to aldehydes, and he does not explain why he found my opinion to be so objectionable, supplying the reader with no context whatsoever. To me, that is something a “dunce” might do. And just as with top notes, of course a relatively small amount of aldehydes may not bother most people or even register with them as being present, whether they are sensitive to these molecules or not. I do assume that if I say a fragrance contains nasty aldehydes that readers will understand what I am trying to communicate. No, it is not a perfect way to convey what a scent smells like in words, but that is true of any combination of words. We do the best we can when we review fragrances and let readers do what they like with our perceptions.

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Filed under Criticizing the critics.

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