“Favorite notes,” note “pyramids,” and non-noteworthy reviews.

Over at the FromPyrgos blog is a recent post entitled “L.12.12 Red (Lacoste).” It’s basically a review of this scent, and includes the following commentary:

Its [L.12.12 Red’s] pyramid lists rooibos tea, and quite a few people on Fragrantica smell this note, if the votes for it are to be believed. Alas, upon application I was immediately disappointed. Where’s the tea?

…Two hours later, searching in vain, I finally gave up on the tea note in Red.

…Damn those misleading notes pyramids!

I agree that you can’t expect accuracy from note pyramids for recent designer (or “lesser,” such as celebrity) releases, but even with vintage or niche, you never know if one note will at least seem a lot stronger than the others, or if one is quite mild. I haven’t tried this particular scent but I’d be eager to play the “can you detect the tea note game.” In the last few posts, I talked about how perception can vary significantly, so if that subject interests you go ahead and read those first. Here, however, I’d like to address the idea of a “favorite note.” Over at Basenotes.net, there was a recent thread on this topic entitled, “What’s your favorite note in fragrance and what’s your most common scent in the fragrances you own?” If you’d like to read it, go here:


My response was:

I think for me it’s now about note contrast in a balanced and dynamic composition. I can’t really say I strongly dislike any note, nor can I say I really like certain ones head and shoulders above others. Instead, I enjoy variety, so I don’t wear scents that are similar on consecutive days. However, too much calone, iso e super, “laundry musk,” etc. can ruin the scent for me, as can some notes that come across as “synthetic,” for whatever reason. For the most part, to me this question is like asking someone what colors they like most in the context of an exhibition of Old Master paintings, but I certainly understand this as part of the learning process, because as I began to recognize notes I found myself drawn to some while disliking others. Just keep in mind that one day things might change and the composition may be more important than the notes, assuming all else is acceptable.

That addressed the first part of his question. Here I’ll talk about the second part, which (I think) could be phrased better as, “what dominant note or accord do you find yourself wearing most often?” For example, you might work at a “conservative” office setting and reach for vetiver scents, even though you prefer strong, rich oriental ones. And here for me the major thing seems to be note contrast. Though I do wear complex vintage ones often (vintage Lapidus Pour Homme from 1987 and vintage Red for men, as examples), even fairly simple ones, such as Obsession Night Men, provides enough note contrast to keep things interesting. However, I should mention that if ingredient quality is too low, the notes seem to sort of stick together and irritation if not outright nausea results (an example of this is Dunhill Desire for a Man, which I think I would enjoy if it possessed high-quality ingredients).

A scent that doesn’t have great note contrast, but does smell great (for a while) is vintage M7. Yet one thing about these kinds of scents is that if you are going to be walking around a lot during the day, it probably doesn’t matter much. You will catch wafts of the nice smell now and then, and you probably won’t be bored by it. I call these “strolling scents” and considered writing up a post just on this subject itself (which I may still do at some point). So, I mostly look for variety when I decide what to wear on a particular day. Two similar scents on consecutive days is something I usually find quite irritating. Finally, I’ll mention that many reviews by “experts” (or those perceived by their readers as such) don’t really provide much helpful guidance.

Over at the nstperfume.com blog, for example, there are a large number of announcements about new releases, relative to actual reviews, which mean little to me, since there are 1,000 to 2,000 or so new releases a year, from what I understand, and just about all of them I would have little interest in, though I may only actually sample a few. Instead, I want to know if there is anything really special that has been released that I should at least try to sample. One example is Spicebomb, which if nothing else is interesting to study. Over at NST, there is a recent review of a scent called Korrigan, in which we are told:

…Korrigan is sweet, but for its first ten minutes on skin, it’s also dirty with civet and leather. The dirtiness fades away, and the fragrance fills with boozy musk, giving it both a gourmand and clean feeling. Although it’s not listed — and maybe it’s a trick of the notes — I smell tobacco, too. Cedar and vetiver add enough of a green edge to complicate the fragrance nicely. Still, to me, after an hour or so of wear, Korrigan almost smells like a Brandy Alexander-scented soap that stumps you as to whether you should scrub with it or bite into it…

This sounds like it may be yet another variation on a theme one can find in scents like Dior Homme and Jacomo for Men (not Jacomo de Jacomo from 1980). Or is the oud note quite strong? In order for this review to be helpful to me, I’d need that kind of information, so I implore reviewers, please tell us about other scents you think are similar. Even if we disagree we can begin to calibrate our sense of smell to yours, and then the reviews could be very helpful. As such a review stands, I have no way to know whether I would think it smells “synthetic,” whether it’s very sweet, whether there seem to be a great deal of “laundry” or modern musks used (which I dislike other than in small amounts), etc. The listed notes for this scent are:

…leather, wild apple, juniper, saffron, cognac, lavender, ambrette, cedar, oud, vetiver and musk.

For the entire article, go to:


NOTE (thought of it after posting): I have a feeling that some reviewers don’t point out similarities with other scents because they like the idea of uniqueness, especially with niche or expensive scents. For example, Patou Pour Homme has sold for very high prices on ebay yet I would not pay $50 per 100 ml (other than to then use it for swapping), as there is just nothing about it I can’t get from other scents I already own. Sure, nothing is probably nearly identical but it certainly doesn’t have the unique qualities of a scent like vintage Red for Men by GIorgio of Beverly Hills. What’s interesting it seems that it’s often the same people who wax poetic about Patou Pour Homme who also say that so many scents are “generic.” Of course many if not most of them may not have much experience and are just engaged in “herd mentality,” but I think that the experience of a truly unique scent appears to be declared far too often. Even vintage Red for Men may seem similar to others if you can’t appreciate its complexity. And I’ll be the first to admit that you may get to a point where only what you consider to be the best of a certain kind of composition will do, but that’s all the more reason to mention similar scents when you review one !


Leave a comment

Filed under Criticizing the critics.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s