Is an “homage” fragrance good enough ?

I recently read on another blog that Creed’s Original Santal is so much better than very similar fragrances that there really is “no contest,” or something along those lines. The idea is that Creed uses better quality ingredients, including synthetic ones. This is something I have suspected for a while, mainly because I have no doubt that Luca Turin was correct (that is, that Creed may use a higher percentage of naturals but that they are still highly synthetic, at least the popular ones like Green Irish Tweed). One wonders why there is nobody in a high position at any of the imitator companies who insists that they simply spend two dollars or so more per bottle (if that) so that they can get a reputation for producing fragrances as good as Creed.

Now I do agree that Green Irish Tweed gets things just right. I see little similarity to Cool Water (though many others do, apparently) or any other fragrance I have encountered (for me, Molto Smalto is Cool Water done right). To be sure, there are plenty of “men’s” fragrances with clear lavender and violet leaf, along with some citrus up top. Bobby Jones Cologne goes in a grassier direction while Lacoste’s Challenge (I’m talking about the aftershave because I can’t stand the Eau de Toilette) has a more literal citrus up top and then goes into a base with a clear wood, so it’s definitely not that close to GIT. For me, what makes GIT special is that it has just enough of an “abstract” quality that it comes across as unique. It’s quite floral yet I don’t think floral when I smell it (though my mind registers the lavender/violet leaf). It’s got Gestalt, so to speak. That said, I really have to be in the mood for it because it is a bit lacking in dynamism and complexity.

With Original Santal, on the other hand, I don’t get that special quality. It smells very similar to Individuel to me, except that the sandalwood note in Individuel is stronger and seems to last longer. The same is true for Zara’s Gold and Aventus, in that I just don’t think of Aventus as having any kind of special quality, unlike GIT. So, for me there is no good reason to spend the extra money on OS or Aventus, especially considering how I got Individuel and Gold in swaps for fragrances I really disliked. Of course, I am not suggesting that someone else cannot legitimately have the exact opposite opinion, preferring Aventus and OS by a wide margin yet settling for Cool Water rather than GIT. The thing is, I want to know why, though I am under no illusion that everyone can articulate their olfactory experiences with depth and clarity. With Zara’s Gold, for example, the smoky pineapple opening lasts a long time, so if the base is a bit generic compared to Aventus that is not an issue for me.

Another issue, it seems, involves how often one wears the fragrance in question. I have a very large rotation and rarely wear the same fragrance twice within the same month. The exception is usually when I first obtain a fragrance and am studying it, though in those cases I often spray on cloth or my ankle, rather than giving it a “regular” wearing twice within a period of a few weeks. I think another issue involves how some people are sensitive to certain aroma chemicals while others have no problems with them and don’t perceive them as “chemical” or “synthetic.” I seem to be able to detect calone, hedione, some new synthetic musks, and iso e super well, while dihydromrycenol doesn’t “register” so easily. Hedione doesn’t bother me much, though it does seem to dampen the dynamism of the fragrance somewhat. The others, by contrast, seem to really bother me.

My suggestion to the reader, especially if he or she is a “newbie,” is to study fragrances before jumping to any conclusions. Let your nose be your guide! Some think it’s a good idea to actually get a sample set of the common synthetic molecules, such as calone or hedione, and study them, but I’m against that because for me what matters is my appreciation (or lack thereof) of an actual fragrance. You may hate a molecule by itself and then if you smell it in a fragrance you might dismiss the fragrance out of hand when you realize it’s got some of that molecule in it. I also haven’t noticed anything especially helpful about studying essential oils, but again many like this idea. Instead, I suggest getting samples of at least 1.5 ml and then only wearing the fragrance once a month. If I could do everything over again, I would collect a huge number of samples before buying a bottle, but of course that’s hindsight (and doesn’t take into account my experiences with olfactory fatigue and over-sensitivity).

Note: A day after I wrote this the other blog I referenced published a new post, “…Why wear Creed?” In some ways, it seems like a response to this post, which is fine with me. This blogger wrote some interesting things in his new post, which I’ll address below, including:

“In the case of a less iconic Creed, like Silver Mountain Water, some ponder why a discerning buyer wouldn’t just throw fifteen dollars down on Al-Rehab Silver and call it a day. You could do that, and smell good all day. But you know Al-Rehab lacks depth.”

and:

“…if you prefer the pineapple in Lapidus Pour Homme over the one in Aventus, then you benefit more from wearing Lapidus. If you feel the apple/citrus/amber/musk structure of Cool Water works better than its price-tag implies, and simply love how the fragrance smells, then maybe Green Irish Tweed truly is unnecessary for you.”

and:

“If you happen to like Creed scents, but are too afraid to wear them, just give it time. Spend a few years with Acqua di Gio. Then re-visit that Creed with the gold label, and see how you feel about being the “melon-aquatic” guy.”

First of all, while I haven’t tried the Al-Rehab Silver fragrance, I would be very surprised if it had much depth at all, but is that the key point here? As I said above, if you get a very strong opening that does everything you want, one that lasts for a few hours or more, does it matter if the drydown is generic or doesn’t have the depth of the more expensive fragrance? To some it does and to others it does not, but that isn’t necessarily related to what you can detect, consciously, at least in my experience.

The second quotation I cited suggests to me that this person, in fact, is the one who has difficulty detecting key elements of fragrances (notes, especially) because the notes of Cool Water are quite different than those of Green Irish Tweed. He may understand depth well but notes poorly. Yes, many casual fragrance wearers mistake the two, but I have been allowing such people to smell my fragrances on a regular basis for a while now and ones they think are similar often amazes me. And how could one compare Lapidus Pour Homme to Aventus? Sure there’s a pineapple note in both, but in Aventus is it “clean” and smoky. In LPH, it’s quite sweet and surrounded by all kinds of powerful notes not in Aventus. Clearly, Zara’s Gold was meant to be like Aventus, but LPH was released many years before Aventus and is part of a different genre entirely.

The last quotation suggests that there are many people out there who fear wearing Creeds. Nobody I have ever encountered, online or in person, has demonstrated even a hint of what might be thought of as fear. Most, it seems (including myself), who own few if any Creed bottles don’t want to pay the retail prices. Some of my friends and relatives laugh when I tell them the prices, but fear is just not an issue. And about Acqua di Gio; I’ve recently come to appreciate it, though I didn’t think much of it a few years ago. It’s not for those who want to smell unique, obviously, but I do enjoy the smell of it, particularly how there is a “hard” marine element (no melon here, so again there is an issue with this person’s note detection abilities) that nicely plays off the citrus and herbal elements with a kind of floral hum that never seems to abate entirely. I think the “blurb” on Fragrantica.com is quite accurate (though to me it has no more than a hint of sweetness):

“The composition is built of a perfect harmony of sweet and salty notes of sea water and nuances of sunny warmth on your skin. Aqua di Gio is full of scorching Mediterranean sun. Bitter citrus with aromatic nuance of rosemary intertwines with salty, sea nuances and pellucid hedione.”

No, I don’t smell the “scorching Mediterranean sun,” which is obviously meant to convey a mental image, but the notes seem right on the button. Now let me say explicitly that if one is not detecting notes well, then perhaps one would perceive things the way this blogger does. That might be the explanation here, and it is certainly not a moral failing on his part; it just may be the way things are, and I’d guess there is a scientific explanation for it (MRI scans of the brain might show crucial differences, for example, and such an experiment has been done; see the book, “What the Nose Knows”). However, it’s important to realize that the sense of smell seems to be different than our sense of sight, for instance; we need to “wire” our brains for complex scents, whereas it doesn’t take us long to figure out where Waldo is.

I’ve seen “wannabe” fragrance aficionados come and go over the years. I enjoy their enthusiasm and feel a little sad when they “disappear” and are never heard from again, yet I don’t want them to mislead anyone either. As I’ve said before, you are entitled to your opinion about fragrances, but there are real molecules in them, and if you are saying there is strong violet leaf in Cool Water and strong neroli in Green Irish Tweed (when the opposite is the case), then that can be measured by existing technologies to determine who is correct and who is not. Is there a fairly noticeable tobacco note in Cool Water and none in Green Irish Tweed? That’s what the listed notes say, and that’s what I detect. These two fragrances are not especially similar, considering how many fragrances there are that do evoke CW very well, though they both may contain quite a bit of dihydromyrcenol (as a huge number of fragrances do).

Source of the blog quotations: http://frompyrgos.blogspot.com

UPDATE: The author of this blog contacted me, apparently feeling like his perceptions of Cool Water and Green Irish Tweed are not as I characterized them. He mentioned his review of Cool Water (on 11/6/11), so I went to that page and found: “The central part of the scent is that which most resembles Green Irish Tweed…” I do not agree here either, and furthermore, I simply quoted what he said. I didn’t ask him to compare the two fragrances in a way that made them sound like they are very similar. He did that in his recent post. At the very least, he needs to clarify his position, IMO, but in any case I cannot wait for people to reevaluate their blog posts. I can only comment in a way that I think is reasonable. If he or anyone else thinks I am being unreasonable in some way, by all means feel free to avoid my blog. However, to me blogs are about expressing one’s opinion, not about consensus building.

I’ll also add that this person has said: “Unbound for Men is the truest clone of Acqua di Gio…” I do not find this to be the case, and instead agree with Luca Turin that there is an almost cod liver oil type of note in Unbound for Men that I really dislike. He has also said: “I realize I’ve been picking on basenoters a lot lately, but the site is starting to rub me the wrong way. I figure it’s established enough among fumeheads that it can withstand a little ribbing from the likes of little old me, so I’m not worried. What bothers me is that it’s an influential site…” Thus, it seems like this is the kind of person who can punch but can’t take a punch, so to speak (“glass jaw” syndrome). Moreover, my blog is clearly not an influential site, so he is violating his own rules about when to become insulting. And I find his use of language to be crude and inappropriate (on his blog as well as the comment me made for this post, which I did not approve because it included yet another personal insult). I guess one should not be surprised to hear such things from someone who subtitles his blog “One Man’s No-Bullshit Olfactory Perspective.” Too bad he doesn’t want others to have the same opportunity.

UPDATE #2:  I have changed my mind about GIT (4 or 5 years after I wrote the above), and I think I should mention that, as it this is not just about GIT but also how time, more experience, changes in sensitivity, etc. can change one’s assessment.  I now find GIT to be a bit too simple, and while the first few minutes are quite nice, I certainly wouldn’t buy a bottle just for those.  I seem to be very sensitive to dihydromyrcentol, which apparently is quite abundant in many “masculine” scents, including GIT, CW, Corinto Rouge, Molto Smalto, Aspen for Men, and Stardust for Men (2001).  While GIT may be the most “natural smelling” of the lot, the dihydromyrcenol registers “chemical” in all these, so it seems my mind then tries to focus on the more natural smelling notes.  Thus, I prefer MS, CR, and Stardust over the many others I’ve tried that seem to have as much or more dihydromyrcenol than GIT does.

 

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2 Comments

Filed under The basics.

2 responses to “Is an “homage” fragrance good enough ?

  1. AJ

    I have many years experience with GIT and Cool Water, the middle notes are almost identical. To be fair, they are both Magic by Pierre Bourdon, so it isn’t that surprising. They are incredibly, incredibly similar…

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