All for the love of fragrance… ?

As I said a couple posts ago, Mr. Ross over at the FromPyrgos blog wrote up a second post about his interview with Mr. Dame, but then quickly deleted it (I was told by someone who usually disagrees with me that it was quite harsh towards me, but he didn’t specify and I only read a few sentences before it was deleted). Then, about a day later, a new post appeared entitled, “Can A Fragrance Blog Be Controversial?” No matter, because at this point I feel that Mr. Ross has tied himself into knots, so to speak, in many of the positions he’s taken, and I’ll only address the concluding paragraph of his post, which is:

In any case, I’m glad that the content posted here can generate the ire of the basenotes community, and also controversy around the world-wide web. People are reading, people are thinking about what they read, and people are giving me a few good reasons to keep writing. For that, I’m thankful.

The thread in question (I think) is related to what Mr. Dame stated in his FromPyrgos interview recently. I found it odd if not negligent that Mr. Ross didn’t ask Mr. Dame questions I thought screamed out to be asked, but it’s his blog, and so I use my blog to point out some of these things to my readers. Otherwise, I’m not even sure what his position is on issues that I consider important. For example, does Mr. Ross think that most reformulations are excellent or that we should all “suck it up” and live with the “new reality?” Does he think that scents degrade substantially over the years or that most remain at least wearable (and preferable) to the aficionado? Does he believe that the concept of a fragrance aficionado is laughable, and if so, why? Does he think that wine aficionados/connoisseurs are “legitimate” but fragrance ones are not? Does he think we should be concerned about the intentions of the perfumer or that we should find bottles we enjoy, no matter how different they may have become over the years, and wear them without such concerns? Honestly, at this point I don’t care any more.

Lately, I’ve come to think that the thrill of discovering something entirely novel and pleasant is mostly gone, mainly because the old scents were largely “variations on a theme” (and I’ve tried so many of them over the last few years) and the new ones don’t smell natural and “deep” enough to me. An example of variations on a theme are the several scents that smell like Gucci’s Envy for Men (Floris Santal, Signature Pour Homme by ST Dupont, Eryo, Carven Homme, etc.). Some may want all variations but I seem to usually be content with one, and because I already have such a diverse rotation I’m not sure about new acquisitions (lately it’s mostly been swaps, with a few lot purchases that were priced very well). Others might feel ire towards Mr. Ross, but I’m just bored with his blog, for the most part, and in some cases, I’m not even sure about what point he’s trying to make. If he’s “controversial” and wears that as a badge of honor, more power to him. Unlike many others, perhaps, if he were to get a segment on a TV show where he reviewed scents, I’d wish him well, even if I disagreed with everything he had to say. I certainly intend to keep blogging here at least about new insights, which I’m confident will continue to arise.

In general, I think I have made strong arguments for what I consider to be the major points. One is that the sense of smell can vary from one day to another (or even within a day), and that preferences can change significantly. Another is that sensitivity to certain notes/accords or aroma chemicals can change, so that the experience of wearing a particular scent (sprayed from the same bottle) can vary quite a bit as well. And despite these vagaries, vintages are the ones I reach for perhaps 90% of the time these days. These scents possess certain exceptional qualities that no longer exist in recent releases, even niche, and that whatever slight changes may have occurred over time (beyond the top notes, of which I haven’t studied in much detail), these scents are what makes this “hobby” worth pursuing for me (I’ve yet to encounter an old bottle that turned to “dreck”). Lastly, application methods (and the amount applied) can play a major role in how a scent is perceived, along with other factors, especially whether you mostly sit during the day or walk around a lot.

One thing it’s important to point out is that nobody is perfect, so it’s crucial to admit your mistakes and try to become more reasonable over time in one’s dealings with a particular person. To me, Mr. Ross has become more unreasonable and “nitpicky” over time, but of course readers can judge for themselves. The key thing is that you can’t demand that people agree with your opinions simply because you think you have some evidence for your case. All you can do is to make your case and let others decide. Follow up may be useful, and it’s possible that one might change one’s mind (though I doubt Mr. Ross would ever admit to doing this), but you must accept that no matter what kind of case you make some people likely will continue to disagree with you. Unless you can do a “falsification” experiment, as Carl Popper pointed out, you don’t have “science” and therefore you have something less than a scientific theory. Thus, a certain amount of humbleness should always be present when presenting your argument.

So, while some may view Mr. Ross (or me!) as a “crazy uncle” who one tolerates politely at family gatherings, I think it’s important not to allow oneself to be abused by people who resort to various techniques to try and get their way or impose their will on others, and I’ll suggest the book, “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” (by Patricia Evans) to anyone who thinks he or she may be a victim of this kind of behavior (I am not claiming Mr. Ross is this kind of person, but I do see what appear to be “warning signs;” fortunately, I don’t have a “real world relationship with him and can’t imagine ever seeking one out in any context). And to be clear about what I mean, on this blog I state my opinions about my olfactory explorations; if others disagree, then I usually seek a reasonable explanation of his or her position. However, I do not become abusive. By contrast, Mr. Ross resorts to things like “minimizing,” mocking, being abusive while acting like a “victim,” being dismissive, “catastrophizing,” mischaracterizing the ideas of others, arguing for outrageous claims (such as that scents turn to “dreck” in less than a decade) despite scientific evidence to the contrary, acting like one can predict the future or read minds, browbeating/nagging/nitpicking, etc., as well as being passive-aggressive, and all towards what end? Does he think he is going to “convert” hoards of “perfumista” types to his positions?

If he does, that’s fine with me, as I am secure in my notions and am confident that most of those who spend as much time as I have with this “hobby” will agree with me. Moreover, I’d love to see vintage prices on ebay crash, during which time I’ll try to acquire vintage Patou Pour Homme and quite a few others which cost too much these days. And as I’ve said before, I may be more susceptible to certain aroma chemicals, so I’m not trying to minimize the opinions of others, but rather to explain why I have come to certain conclusions. Because of this, I’ve pointed out explicitly (on more than one occasion) that I am writing for myself and those who share similar olfactory perceptions. Of course, those who do not are more than welcome, and I enjoy reading comments from everyone, so long as they are not abusive (which has led me to have to approve comments before they appear on the site). I may consider Mr. Ross a “newbie” in many ways, and likely largely a “top notes person,” but that doesn’t mean I don’t value any of his opinions or some of the information he has “dug up” (such as the Old Spice study I quoted in the last post).

I’m certainly a newbie in the context of particular kinds of scents, such as recent “fruity florals” marketed to women, but I hardly ever even mention such scents, let alone offer opinions on them that suggest any kind of “expertise.” By contrast, I’ve studied many vintage scents marketed to men, and while I don’t consider myself an “expert” in terms of every aspect of these scents, I do think I can speak quite well for those who have a similar olfactory sensibility. Of course, those people can decide whether or not this is the case, and I doubt personal attacks are going to change this situation, so what is the point of doing that, even if one has no ethical boundaries? I seem to have small group of “hardcore vintage fans” that either read my blog, ask me questions from time to time, or want to swap/sell/buy, and I don’t think I want to devote more time to this hobby. Of course, if NBC TV contacted me asking if I wanted to do regular segment on their “Today” show, I’d consider it, but I think I have a better chance of winning a multimillion dollar lottery by buying only one ticket !

Mr. Ross makes unsubstantiated claims, such as this comment about my recent post concerning the fougere concept: “…only the parasitic spammers are willing to comment on this redundancy of a blog post.” This is beyond passive-aggressive, and clearly outright offensive. Still, the redundancy claim may be either accurate or at least an opinion that is shared among the majority of those who know what a fougere is. However, when one makes such a claim (let’s assume it was phrased in a polite way), the least one must do is to explain one’s position. Failing to do that reeks of “sour grapes” if not an outright personality disorder, IMO. There is also an authoritarian quality here, and this is not the first time Mr. Ross has submitted a comment that suggests he is some sort of Lord of Perfumery. I guess that sort of posture will attract some followers, but I prefer readers who don’t take what I say as if i were “gospel.”

So, what were my ideas in that fougere post? I said that it might be best to remove the gourmand type fougeres, such as Polo Double Black, from this category, as well as scents with a very mild fougere accord. And I suggested that fougere accords can vary in intensity substantially, so that this likely is an important piece of information many people would want to know, but is rarely included in reviews of scents that many call fougeres. Perhaps most importantly, I recommended that a new category be created, the “green woodlands, ” which would encompass obvious fougeres, such as Drakkar Noir as well as scents that don’t possess a fougere accord at all, such as Green Irish Tweed. This would eliminate Cool Water, due to the sweetness and strong notes of neroli and tobacco, along with gourmand scents that feature at least a mild fougere accord. If nothing else, this is a unique position, to my knowledge, and now the burden is on Mr. Ross to cite a previous example of this idea from a non-obscure source. And if he has read about it before, why wouldn’t he want to tell me so that I could let my readers know about it? Again, it sounds like the act of a “right fighter” who wants his “pound of flesh” from someone who dares say something with which he disagrees.

By contrast, when someone criticized me for saying that Mr. Dame is “out of touch with reality” (and I’ve used that phrase in quotation marks) and was criticized for doing so, I didn’t “attack the messenger” but rather explained exactly why I made that statement (the reasons included the Old Spice study as well as all the online reviews that talk about how great their vintage formulations relative to the very few that talk about vintage bottles “going bad”). I don’t believe Mr Dame thinks things such as that the moon landing was faked, but some people do! Those people are out of touch with a different reality, but in both cases there is an implicit degradation involved. For example, those who claim the moon landing was faked are maligning those who worked hard (and didn’t become millionaires) to make that happen. The most glaringly ridiculous thing about Mr. Dame’s claim is that there are plenty of people who wear vintage scents and they do not smell like skunks, or otherwise awful, which would be the case if almost all scents turned to “dreck” in a decade or less; again, this is clearly “out of touch with reality,” but if someone doesn’t like that phrase, I welcome their recommendations for a better one.

I guess we should resign ourselves to the apparent reality here, which is that some people experience negative emotions when they hear that others do not wear or appreciate scents the way they deem appropriate. By contrast, if someone wants to spray themselves twenty times with Kouros per wearing in order to basically inoculate themselves from the base notes, that’s no business of mine (though I certainly don’t want to ever find myself standing too close to them). I am very pleased with the results of my idea of several years ago, which is to try and avoid most of the top notes, because I’ve found that doing this has allowed me to appreciate scents for hours, and that is what keeps me “in the game.” That is, there is a certain kind of enjoyment I derive from more than a few scents that is unique, and I’ve found that with a large rotation each wearing seems at least somewhat unique and special, even if I’ve worn the scent more than a dozen times in the past few years.

UPDATE: In his latest blog post, Mr. Ross has stated this: “…Bigsly and other vintage enthusiasts on basenotes disregard the importance of a formula smelling the way the perfumer intended it to. That puzzles me.”

My position is that the reformulations do not smell the way the perfumer intended, in almost all cases, but as I’ve pointed out, it really doesn’t matter to me. Perhaps if I was a “top notes person” my position would be different, but I can only speak to what I have experienced. Vintage scents have provided me with olfactory enjoyment that I never thought possible, so whether they have “degraded” somewhat over time is irrelevant. Niche and recent designer rarely if ever approach what vintage does, and I usually wear niche or recent designer two or three times a month as a change of pace these days. I’m not an aficionado of perfumers’ intentions – how can I make that any more clear?

Instead, I have literally been led by the nose! I certainly didn’t begin this hobby as a vintage fan, and at first I enjoyed all kinds of scents. Over time, however, I found myself enjoying vintage more and more while the opposite was the case with niche and vintage designer. As to Mr. Ross’ claims about Van Cleef & Arpels Pour Homme, I can’t think of a reformulation that was any worse (I’m comparing vintage to the bottle from the black box with brown leaf design, as those are the only two I’ve tried, other than the “Concentrated” formulation, which was very similar to vintage Leonard Pour Homme). If Mr. Ross thinks the difference is “trivial,” that’s fine with me, but as I’ve said recently on a thread, all you are doing is “barking at the moon” when it comes to the opinions of most if not all vintage aficionados. We are confident in our perceptions, and we are enjoying every minute (other than perhaps a few minutes of top notes in my case) of our vintage rotation. In my next post, I will discuss an incredible, recent vintage “score,” one that has even surprised me !


Filed under Criticizing the critics.

3 responses to “All for the love of fragrance… ?

  1. Very nicely said Bigsly!

  2. Dear Bigsly,

    I’d just like to say that I did not find the original “Peanut gallery” post particularly harsh, and I was sad to see it taken down before I had a chance to re-read it and respond. I read it only once quickly, but it seemed to convey a sense of collegiality to me. I believe that “I love you, man” was in the title or subtitle–so kind of like chumming around, no? šŸ˜‰

    • As I said, that was the opinion of a BN member who has disagreed with me often; I only read a few sentences, IIRC. In any case, my major point is that there is no one “right way” to enjoy scents, and some people clearly want “old dreck” and don’t find recent, “fresh” scents especially compelling (at least compared to vintage). Mr. Ross doesn’t seem able to accept this reality, whereas I accept the reality of people like him. In fact, from what I’ve read on the major scent sites as well as on blogs, it seems like some people are mainly responding to top notes (or the “opening,” as I like to call it), whereas others are more interested in the drydown (and at least a few, like me, try to avoid most of the top notes), but again it doesn’t seem like he accepts this reality. I don’t care if I have only one person in the world who reads each of my blog posts, because I am not trying to “win friends and influence people.” Rather, this is like a personal diary focused on my olfactory experiences, but I like the idea of opening it up to anyone who is interested in reading it (and perhaps commenting).

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