A quick note on a post by Mr. Ross at the FromPyrgos blog

One point Mr. Ross thought he was making a while back, but that I forgot to address then, was made again in his recent post about Van Cleef and Arpels Pour Homme. I’ll cite the relevant passage here:

That means the current formula of VC&A PH is cheap, and the older formula was likely cheap also. How else can a company maintain fidelity to a formula after 34 years…

If I remember correctly, he said the same thing about vintage Lapidus Pour Homme (1987). I don’t understand the claim about maintaining fidelity because many of us don’t think there is much concern about it, as reflected in what we consider awful reformulations. Incredibly, he doesn’t seem to understand that in some cases the cost of materials has risen substantially or that other materials have been banned or restricted to tiny amounts. This explains why good sandalwood notes seem to be so hard to come by these days, at least in the non-niche realm, for example. Sandalwood was not an issue in the 1980s, however (from what I understand), in terms of cost or availability. Moreover, what I’ve noticed in many reformulations is the use of what have been called “laundry musks” (I wasn’t the first to use this phrase, though I’d certainly like to take credit for it!). My guess is that these are either less expensive than the musks used in most designer scents from the 70s and 80s or the older musks are banned or too expensive for most designer budgets these days. Whatever the case may be, Mr. Ross’ claim simply makes no sense. It is more like “apples and lizards” than “apples and oranges,” I’d say, and suggests desperation.

Sure, some people, perhaps a majority, will notice little if any difference, but as I’ve said before, I can only write about my perceptions and experiences! Think of the price of gold today or the average price of a house as opposed to what it was in the mid 1980s, and now think of the price of chocolate covered graham crackers back then as opposed to today (where large packages are sold at the dollar store); prices do not simply rise the same amount for all items – isn’t that well known by just about every adult? And in the case of perfumery, some new and very cheap substances were created within those decades! Because of this, even if some substances are still relatively cheap, some companies will use cheaper synthetics instead. This is why when I look at the note pyramids for new designer releases, I don’t take “sandalwood” seriously. However, others, such as patchouli and vetiver, may be acceptable if faint. Mr. Ross recently discussed an aroma chemical that has become very common for “iris” notes, actually, which is why so many vintage aficionados are willing to pay high prices for old scents with strong “true” iris notes, but as you might expect, he did not address this point !

I’ll also mention here a claim that I’m not sure if he has made, but others who seem to share his mindset have argued, which is that vintage aficionados are speculators of some sort. Of course, there always seem to be a few “outliers,” but at current prices of these bottles it would be a waste of time; you simply can’t pay your monthly mortgage or rent doing this, from what I’ve seen. Now if all of a sudden my bottles were worth a hundred times what I paid for them, I’d likely sell a few, but a speculator buys for that hope, whereas I’m content to swap an extra bottle now and then (or to make up a sample or two). Sales of bottles are few and far between, and I’m usually happy to get my money back. Instead, I’ll suggest that the opposite is more common, which is that some people see high prices on ebay for vintage and feel that the “train left the station without them.” In other words, this is proverbial sour grapes, and while I think anger or resentment is out of place here, the people to direct such negative emotions towards, IMO, are the ebay sellers who try to get very high prices for scents that nobody seems to have ever wanted, but that became “rare” because not many bottles were produced (relatively-speaking, obviously).


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Filed under Criticizing the critics.

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