Mr. Ross over at the FromPyrgos blog thought it necessary to write up another post about his interview with Mr. Dame, apparently mostly because Mr. Ross has difficulty with reasonable criticism (more about this in a subsequent post). That post is no longer there and I didn’t get a change to read more than a few sentences when it was deleted, but the title was something like, “The Aftermath of the Interview with Jeffrey Dame…” and a critic of mine told me harsh comments were made against me in it (which is fine with me, so long as there were no personal attacks). This is one reason why I prefer to remain anonymous, that is, I want the focus to be on the scents, not my personal life, because I am basing my opinions on this blog on my olfactory explorations and nothing else. Whatever the case may be, I thought I’d add a few more points on this subject that I think are worth making. Over at Basenotes.net there is a long thread about it, so you might also want to read that as well:
However, the first order of business is a comment of Luca Turin’s on this subject (in response to an email I sent him, asking him about what Mr. Dame said), which is not consistent with Mr. Dame’s view, but is also a bit vague:
Thanks for your email. Jeffrey Dame’s general statement is wrong. I’ve seen 100 year old fragrances, kept in darkness at reasonable temperatures and with no volume loss, that came out as fresh as the day they were made. And I’ve seen things go bad in weeks in the wrong conditions, esp. strong light.
Perhaps Mr. Turin means that top notes may be lost quickly, but I have to be honest here and point out that other than that, I do not have any old scents that seem like dreck, and considering how many I now have, it’s not reasonable to think that the various owners all stored these bottles properly for decades (though I don’t know anyone who stores their bottles in direct sunlight)! Now on to my points. The first is the most obvious, which is that prices for vintage scents (and when I think vintage I generally think more than twenty years old, not the “dreck” Mr. Dame thinks eight year old scents become). Note that he didn’t mention if scents turn into dreck quickly or if there are degrees of dreckiness, which suggests a lack of knowledge on this subject. In any case, regardless of what world Mr. Ross and Mr. Dame would like to live in, there exists what seems to be a market on the rise here, which I wish were not the case, because I’ve found it more difficult to obtain vintage scents at the prices I could a couple years ago! If you have watched the show “Oddities,” you will see that there are markets for all kinds of objects that many if not most of us would simply throw in the garbage, so in this case I feel the onus is on a person like Mr. Dame to explain exactly what happens when one wears a “dreck” scent. Is it as bad as being “sprayed” by a skunk?
Some have compared “turned” scents to spoiled fruit, but this is simply ridiculous. Why does fruit “go bad?”
Most fruits and vegetables go bad because of damage caused by microorganisms such as bacteria and mold, enzymatic processes or bruising. Microorganisms speed produce deterioration through structural decay. Microorganisms such as bacteria and molds release their own enzymes as they grow, speeding up the spoiling process. Enzymes, which occur naturally in live fruits and vegetables, are part of the natural aging process. Enzymatic browning leads to discoloration and, later, spoilage. Bruising physically alters the exterior of your fruits and vegetables, which trigger enzymatic reactions.
Note that strong light is not mentioned, and I don’t know anyone who claims that bacteria, fungus, and/or enzymes degrade scents. And this brings me to what I think is the most important point to be made here, which is that “expertise” in the traditional sense is not relevant in this situation, because if it were it would be like someone saying that we all should enjoy eating whatever Dr. Andrew Weil tells us because he claims it is best for us and that we will get used to that food and come to enjoy it more than what we are eating currently (and that is assuming he is correct!). Here again, even if one views scent as “fine art” it’s undeniable that many if not most people hang paintings and other “art” in their houses that museum directors deplore. Thus, just as when one decorates one’s house, there is no need for a “scent expert” to tell us what we should want to smell or smell like. Another example is chess, which one might think entirely objective. However, one can take lessons from a highly rated player but he or she may not be a good teacher, and the student may want to know how to defeat players with very low ratings without too much “investment” in studying; that is something a non-expert may be able to provide just as well if not better than the expert player !
In fact, the dreck claim is ludicrous because “experts” like Mr. Dame must be telling us that we are smelling something awful when we spray on scents that are twenty or more years old; otherwise, it would seem that his claim is logically faulty. So, do we literally smell at least somewhat like skunks when we wear these scents? I’ve only received compliments when I’ve worn vintage scents in public, so does he think that we must all develop our “noses” to his level of olfactory greatness? If so, he can believe that, but the rest of us can consider it beyond ridiculous, since probably hardly anyone has even heard of him, let alone will totally change their minds about what they smell because he tells them they should. The only other possible claim is that we are somehow insulting the perfumer, which in this industry is even less reasonable! Moreover, how would the perfumer know what we are doing? Most people have no idea what we are wearing, let alone that we are wearing something an “expert” thinks has “turned.”
And I’ve criticized Mr. Ross on this point before but it appears I think it is important to mention in this context: you can’t create your own standard, then hold people up to your own standards, and then claim they are “wrong” when they disagree with you. Now if you have a scientific claim, then you can cite evidence for your point, and in this case we do have some evidence (cited by Mr. Ross in a different blog post), which contradicts Mr. Dame’s assertion:
Conclusions: The current Shulton and vintage Shulton products, overall, are very similar. What small differences exist between them may possibly be attributed to the age of the sample or point to a natural variation in components in some essential oil. It is the author’s opinion that Shulton is using the same recipe in India that was used to manufacture the vintage sample. The P & G Old Spice appears to be significantly different from the other two Old Spice samples. I believe that there may be some evidence here for a change in recipe sometime between when the vintage Old Spice was produced and the current recipe. Whether that supposed change occurred before or after P & G obtained the product line is impossible to say. Finally, it appears that the Vijon flavors and fragrances chemists have done an admirable job at reproducing the current P & G product.
Apparently, Mr. Ross can’t accept that a certain percentage of the population are vintage aficionados, and also that none of us (with a few exceptions perhaps) agree with Mr. Dame. He is no “expert” to us, just as the Pope’s words may mean nothing to a Lutheran. We have little if any interest in buying what Mr. Dame is selling, literally as well as figuratively, but some of us will opine and point out the glaring inconsistencies if not outright bizarre claims such people make from time to time. Mr. Ross is going to have to learn to live with this reality, because even if I passed away tomorrow, it’s clear that quite a few people are buying and wearing vintage scents on a regular if not daily basis. Neither Mr. Ross nor Mr. Dame can tell us what we are smelling, and judging by reactions I have gotten, the general public also disagrees with the notion of scents becoming dreck in a decade or so; either that or he possesses a very different understanding of the word dreck than I, and I’d guess just about everyone else does !
Mr. Dame didn’t mention how the LLP company could reformulate “classics” in a “faithful” way in light of new IFRA guidelines, but I’m not surprised Mr. Ross also didn’t think to ask him such a crucial question. And this may be the most important point to make, which concerns why people decide to “vintage hunt” in the first place. In my case, there were plenty of old scents available to me (mostly from older female relatives who no longer used their old bottles but had kept them in the back of dresser drawers for decades), yet for the first few months of this “hobby” I didn’t think they offered anything to my olfactory pursuits (and in some cases I just didn’t ask). When I began to realize the value of vintage (to me, not the ebay prices), I asked around and acquired perhaps twenty old bottles from them. Anyway, the point is that I value the quality of ingredients used, which seems to create a great sense of “depth.” Recent designer scents simply don’t seem to posses this quality (other than to a relatively tiny degree), even though I like more than a few of these and wear them once in a while (niche is often too simple, leading to boredom quickly, so I can’t wear those scents often either). When a scent has depth, it’s like a cavernous olfactory landscape opens up, and I can enjoy the richness, complexity, dynamism, etc. fully, and it doesn’t seem like “deterioration with age” affects this, or does so to any significant degree. My guess is that people like Mr. Dame (as well as “top notes people,” in general) have never experienced this, because for me this quality is far more important that loss of some top notes or other kinds of slight deterioration/modification over time.