What do you say to the “niche fan boy” ?

On a recent Basenotes.net thread about Memoir Man by Amouage, I pointed out that:

It’s so close to Brit for Men that I see no reason to spend that kind of money. Though a bit “synthetic,” I actually prefer Brit.

Within about half an hour someone responded with:

I own both and I can safely say that to my nose, Brit for Men is 0% like Memoir Man. Brit is powdery and ginger heavy, where Memoir is incense/wormwood/pepper heavy.

Let’s take a look at the notes for these two (from Fragrantica.com, with Brit being listed first):

Citrusy freshness of mandarin and bergamot and cool, spicy notes of ginger and cardamom preceed a masculine heart of cedar and nutmeg with a touch of refined wild rose. The base is sensual due to precious egzotic woods, gray amber, Tonka bean and patchouli.

Top notes are basil, mint and wormwood; middle notes are lavender, incense and rose; base notes are sandalwood, guaiac wood, oak moss, amber, vanille, tobacco and leather.

And let me mention that the top notes may indeed be a bit different, since I try to avoid breathing in too much of them. I do get the oakmoss in MM, which I don’t get at all in Brit, and Brit is a bit spicy (which is one reason why I prefer it), but the rosy/powdery and woody/patchouli (with some amber to soften it up) come through the loudest, so to speak, with these two. Is it possible that a person who wears MM often begins to detect some subtleties that those of us who have worn it perhaps twice (as I have) have not? Sure, but that only serves to reinforce the point that there is a strong element that is common to both !

I’m not a huge fan of this kind of scent, but I do like it once in a while. Aside from Brit, I have Rose d’Homme, which has an orange tint to it along with leather rather than wood, as well as Royal Secret for Men, which features strong citrus, sandalwood, amber, and rose, so it’s not like I haven’t sampled several of these. In fact, I’d say out of the four, MM and Brit are considerably more alike than to the other two. Now it’s possible that someone is very sensitive to oakmoss and when he or she wears MM (it is at least somewhat “unisex”) that note really unbalances things and makes it seem quite different. I’ve never known oakmoss to do that, nor do I remember anyone making such a claim, though it’s certainly not unimaginable.

Here, however, we have someone claiming there is “0%” similarity, which is to my mind outright laughable, and suggests that he is outraged that anyone would compare a relatively inexpensive scent with a very expensive one. He doesn’t seem to understand that when a person has a large rotation a less expensive scent may indeed “get the job done” for that person. I usually point this out in these situations, but most of these people seem to lack the imagination to conceive of that possibility. Even in cases where I think there is very little similarity, such as with Cool Water and Green Irish Tweed, I can understand how some, especially “newbies,” would view the two are being very similar. Apparently, there is an overall “feel” to the two which may be largely due to how dihydromyrcenol comes across to them. In the case of MM and Brit, I can clearly detect the rose, patchouli, wood, and powdery elements (probably from the rose and amber), and these are very strong, unlike the wormwood or tobacco, for example. In fact, if I wanted an anise/wormwood type of scent that was sufficiently different from Brit, I’d choose Lolita Lempicka au Masculin, which is in my rotation.

Another kind of scent, the Envy for Men one, has been copied to a large degree in several scents, the most obvious being Carven Homme and ST Dupont’s Signature Pour Homme. And with Envy there are claims that the reformulation may not have been especially good. I remember getting a sample in 2008 and liking it, but then when I swapped for a bottle I found it harsh and just thought my sensitivity had changed – that was before I realized how badly some scents have been reformulated! In any case, I have used Fragrantica’s “This perfume reminds me of” feature to tell others that Envy is similar to a few other ones, only to see them deleted soon thereafter. I’ve gone back and used this feature over and over again to see what would happen, and sure enough, even when others join me in using this feature to make this suggestion, within a few days they are all deleted again. Note that this only seems to happen with “fan boy” scents (Chanel’s Allure Pour Homme seems to be another) or ones like Envy, which now sells for much more than it did a couple years ago, due to discontinuation.

But then we have the opposite phenomenon, which is that once an idea about similarity becoms popular, there is tremendous support for it. Look up Cool Water at Fragrantica and you’ll see (at the time of this writing) that 197 people, apparently, think it is similar to GIT. And 108 think Individuel is similar to Original Santal. And 89 make the same claim for Mugler Cologne and Original Vetiver. Yet for Allure Pour Homme there are none, despite several reviewers pointing out scents that they believe to be similar. I have tried several that are similar, including “super cheapo,” Adidas Victory League. Again, nobody is claiming that any two are actually identical and that’s not what the Fragrantica feature states either, but it seems undeniable that some people are trying to prevent possibly useful information from getting to the general public, and the only reasonable explanation is that they are irritated by the thought that their “exclusive,” expensive scent could possibly be even remotely similar to anything else.

In response to that person’s “0%” claim, I said this:

“0%” ?

Sounds like a total “fan boy” who can’t deal with the possibility that a “cheapo” could smell similar.

Such a claim may be a bit more credible if you said something like, “the rose, wood, amber, and patchouli” that the two have in common don’t really come through with much force for me.” For me, the wormwood and tobacco don’t come through in Memoir Man, and both are “powdery” (neither is especially sweet); this is likely due to the rose and amber notes. The oakmoss does but overall it doesn’t change the smell much but rather the “texture.” I doubt if more than 1 in 100 “newbies” could detect any difference, for example if you sprayed one on him on Monday and then sprayed the other on him that Friday.

Perhaps the best way of thinking about all this is that if these two scents were the standard for dissimilarity, I wouldn’t be able to think of any two scents I could consider similar !

NOTE: I used the phrase “niche fan boy” even though, as I mentioned, this seems to be the case with some discontinued scents as well as some of the more expensive “designer” ones, mainly because it suggest that a sense of exclusivity may be at the root of the denial. And if anyone has the box for a bottle of Brit, see if it says linalool on it, because Brit has a bit of a lavender-like element just as MM does, despite it not being listed as an “official” note. Also, the thread in question on Basenotes has gotten a lot of “action,” so I’ll be writing up another post with more thoughts on this topic, though it will be in the context of another subject, one addressing the value of blogs such as this one. Stay tuned !



Filed under Criticizing the critics.

7 responses to “What do you say to the “niche fan boy” ?

  1. I agree that the “0%” claim betrays what’s really going on here. Clearly the two are more similar to one another than either is to water or, I imagine, Chanel no 5. These similarity claims are funny, though, and I confess to often being astounded at the perfumes assimilated by Fragranticans. In many cases it is quite obvious that they have limited experience with perfume, and so are grasping at very tenuous links which may very well, however, seem quite salient to them.

    In the case of your “fan boy”, the strong reaction is similar to the gushing I see in some of the Facebook groups over very expensive perfumes (By Kilian is a common example), which the gusher clearly owns and therefore has “invested” a significant “chunk of change” in and wishes to believe that he/she was not fooled or seduced into paying ten times more than readily available similar compositions lacking the cachet of the brand. To the owner of the perfume being praised (by the owner), it may seem quite rude to suggest that it is a total rip-off. The rudeness is inferred, I suppose, from the statement that the perfume is absurdly overhyped (and overpriced) to the “insinuation” that anyone who would actually fall for the ruse is some sort of ridiculous dupe.

    We all have our cases, though, it seems to me, where the differences seem so much more important than the similarities that we find ourselves scoffing at the “poor slob” who does not “get it”. I recall that you strongly favor the pre-Coty versions of Calvin Klein perfumes. Perhaps we fall on one or the other side of the line as a result of our unique sensitivities to the particular substances which make two perfumes seem very similar to some wearers but not at all to others. Here’s an example: I detect the iris note very strongly in Hermessence Paprika Brasil, so much so that I actually regard it as an iris perfume! Clearly, I am in the extreme minority, as many people do not detect the iris in that composition very much if at all. So if I compare that perfume to Bois d’Iris or some other iris perfume, people will likely think that I don’t know what iris is. In fact I do, but for some reason I find it quite salient in a perfume which to most people smells like pepper! Who is right and who is wrong? I think that we are all right. We cannot be wrong about our very own perceptions, can we? 😉

  2. Well for me the thing is that some people seem to perceive scents more similarly than others, so you want to find people who are “in sync” with your “nose” and be sure to read what they have to say. Those who seem to have very different perceptions actually may be useful too, though, because you can do the opposite of what they say! LOL.

  3. PauperPerfumista


    *In the case of your “fan boy”, the strong reaction is similar to the gushing I see in some of the Facebook groups over very expensive perfumes (By Kilian is a common example), which the gusher clearly owns and therefore has “invested” a significant “chunk of change” in and wishes to believe that he/she was not fooled or seduced into paying ten times more than readily available similar compositions lacking the cachet of the brand.*

    Would you give examples of expensive perfumes with ‘readily available similar comoisitions’.

    • In case sherapop doesn’t get back to you, I’ll try to give some examples. I’m not much of a niche sampler so those who are probably have some other examples, perhaps better ones. I have the second formulation of Messe de Minuit, and I would say the base of Hummer 2 is similar, though not as strong (you can spray more and that might help but I haven’t done that because the top notes are quite strong). I have an extra bottle of MdM, and wouldn’t mind selling it for a lot of money, but that isn’t preventing me from pointing out that a “super cheapo” may be just as good for a lot of people who are seeking a similar base.

      Then there is Royal; Secret for Men, which has amber sandalwood, citrus, and rose, so unless you want the patchouli and leather in the much more expensive Rose d’Homme, that might work for you (unless you dislike sandalwood). And as you may know, many compare Encre Noire to Sycomore. In that case i seems as though once there are enough thread on the major sites about two scents being similar there are enough people to prevent a few with “fan boy fever” from stopping the information getting out there. Of course, one could do searches for old threads for that information, so perhaps laziness gets what it deserves! LOL.

    • Hello, PauperPerfumista! I don’t really want to take over Bigsly’s blog, so let me just offer a couple of quick examples. First, many haute niche houses have the equivalent to a tea rose perfume. In every case, it is at least ten times (and usually much more) expensive than Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose. Second, many people feel that Tom Ford Private Collection Neroli Portofino smacks of Mäurer & Wirtz 4711, which is available in a jug (literally!) for a minute fraction of the price of a small bottle of the Tom Ford.

      In both cases, it is probably true that the niche is in some ways better, but it is probably not twenty or thirty times better. Worst of all, most of the people whom the wearer knows will not be able to tell the difference! My approach is to save the big niche bucks for truly unique and extraordinary compositions not something that is similar enough to a bargain bin scent to be mistaken for it. 😉

      • And to follow up, Hummer H2 is probably more “acceptable” to the “masses” so you would save a ton be much less likely to offend; the key question here is obviously, is H2 good enough, and that’s only something an individual can decide for themselves. However, depriving a person of the possibilities is what I find particularly odious. The “This perfume reminds me of…” feature allows a person to investigate further; I doubt if more than 1 in 100,000 people would just see a scent listed as “reminds me of” and then blind buy it. Almost everyone would then go and read the reviews for the other one if they were at all curious, and then go ahead and look for old thread on the subject if they had the time. Depriving people of that should only be done if you think the recommendation is highly misleading, IMO, a true “apples and oranges” situation.

  4. So true: scent “twins” and “antitheses” may be equally important!

    I was thinking about your point that people vote down similarity claims and realizing that I do that a lot. At first, it occurred to me that maybe I should not, given that they perceive what they perceive, but I also agree with your observation about “bandwagon” behavior, where it becomes popular to identify two scents–Cool Water and GIT being an excellent example–and then everyone seems suddenly to be making that assimilation. In the end, I probably won’t modify my behavior. lol

    By the way, as an aside, there could be shills working in some cases, voting down under multiple pseudonyms…

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