I use the phrase “basic logic” because I’m not sure what to call the latest claim by Mr. Ross over at the FromPyrgos blog (the title of the post is “Writing About Vintage Fragrances: Where Is The Nexus Of Legitimate Research?).” I really don’t know what he thinks he can accomplish, and I actually hope he can lower prices for vintage on ebay (since it’s getting more difficult to find good deals these days) with his posts, but I don’t know why he can’t understand that some of us prefer vintage. We’ve stocked up and unless the bottles get stolen, broken, etc. we are “set for life.” And we can talk about our experiences with those bottles for many years to come, which may be driving him mad, though I certainly hope not. Even if his friend and “industry insider,” Jeffrey Dame, thinks that after about a decade these scents will turn to dreck, we prefer them head and shoulders above the new releases, even niche !
However, I can’t read his mind and I have found some of his recent statements to be absurd, so here I will restrict my arguments to items that I feel can be sorted out by logic, for those who care about it. The last thing I found clearly illogical (not long ago), just to recap, is his claim that scents without coumarin can be classified as fougeres. If it’s got a clear lavender note, apparently, that’s good enough for him! Doesn’t logic “dictate” that there would have been no original fougere if any scent with strong lavender were to be called a fougere? People enjoyed strong lavender scents before the fougere was invented, after all. Did they call them rose scents? Jasmine scents? Let’s get serious here !
The latest bit of illogical thinking can be found in this passage from his latest post:
Last year I published a link to a study that showed differences between vintage Old Spice by Shulton, current Old Spice by Shulton (a version only sold in India), and current Old Spice by Proctor & Gamble for the North American market. Here is a summary of the results:
“What small differences exist between [vintage Shulton and current Shulton] 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.”
This conclusion tears a hole in the vintage enthusiasts’ argument that vintage is “better” than “current,” simply by showing that even when using gas chromatography, it’s impossible to pin any deleterious formula change to the current fragrance licensee of something as cheap and easily-changeable as Old Spice. If a drugstore scent like Old Spice barely registers any scientifically-proven formula change while under Proctor & Gamble’s thumb, why am I to believe that more expensive fragrances are being cheapened and degraded by reformulations under new commercial ownership? The people who claim that reformulations are inferior to vintage never bother to seek any CG results, so I can not take their opinions seriously.
First, I’ll point out that these were aftershave formulations, and aftershaves usually don’t have the base notes that the kind of EdT formulations (or stronger) vintage aficionados seem to prefer do (or the base notes are quite weak and not relevant). Moreover, I’ve pointed out many times that the top notes are of little importance to me (if they last a long time, as is sometimes the case, then I would be concerned about them), and from what I’ve read over the years, at least some vintage aficionados feel the same way. Second, Mr. Ross omitted the first sentence in this paragraph, which is: “The current Shulton and vintage Shulton products, overall, are very similar.” The point here is that “very similar” may be good enough for him but not for everyone; why does he feel that he should make such decisions for other people? Third, he himself claimed that the the Old Spice formula was/is cheap, so there may not have been much of a point to cheapening it further! Fourth, the researcher did find that there was a significant difference with certain Old Spice formulations, so why would Mr. Ross think that this can’t possibly occur with another scent, made by an entirely different company? Does he really not understand this?
Thus, this study possibly could “tear a hole” in a claim that vintage Shulton Old Spice is much better than (or significantly different from) newer versions in some contexts. I say possibly because someone might appreciate vintage Shulton Old Spice for a note that was enhanced or diminished in the new version tested. The overall “feel” might be the same to most people, but for that one person the absence of that note (or perhaps a change in the molecule used to represent that note) is what matters. For example, it’s known that for some scents a modern musk has been substituted for an older one, and a particular person may be especially sensitive to the new molecule, disliking it intensely (or vice versa). This is certainly true for any “nitro musks” scent, as Luca Turin and others have pointed out quite a while ago, but some people don’t perceive the musks at all! Nitro musks were removed from scent formulations long before IFRA became an issue for many people, it seems. In any case, it’s certainly true that many if not most people won’t detect a change (in some reformulations) while a small number of people will, so Mr. Ross is telling everyone that they should smell what he does, or else he thinks this study covers all reformulations made by all companies, either of which would of course be ludicrous.
In a recent Basenotes.net thread, in fact, someone made a claim about IFRA, thinking that he was “scoring a point” against me, yet I just asked who is stocking up on vintage and to what degree, not that IFRA was to blame (I just mentioned IFRA because it seemed that there was a kind of IFRA-panic, but I made it clear that I was just prompted to write up the post in light of those apparent concerns). In fact, one could argue the “major players” are using IFRA (if they don’t control it “behind the scenes”) because it allows them to create inexpensive scents “to comply with IFRA.” And I’m not arguing that “new must be bad,” but rather that differences are detected and are not wanted by some people. You can tell people that they aren’t smelling what they think they are smelling, of course, but if that person has studied a huge number of all kinds of scents over a period of several years, I think you should be prepared for that person to get a good laugh at your expense !
What I find most egregious in this passage from his new post, however, is that Mr. Ross thinks that all scents have changed (or not) in the same way that Old Spice has. He must be aware of my writings (and that of may others), and I’ve often pointed out specific differences in formulations. Moreover, in the case of Boss Cologne/Boss Number One, I haven’t found any differences I’d consider major, and I pointed that out long ago. Where logic is really lost, so to speak, is with the notion that the “vintage” Old Spice tested had not already been reformulated into what I consider “drug store dreck.” How could he not consider this possibility? For example, I found an old bottle of Royal Copenhagen (Swank formulation) that was in the back of a drawer in a relative’s house. This person has lived in the same house (with central air conditioning) since he acquired the bottle new, and the bottle had never been taken out of the box, until I tried it.
He said he hand no use for it and told me to take it because he’d just throw it in the garbage. As I wrote long ago on this blog, I found this “vintage” formulation to be awful, and happily swapped it off. If Mr. Ross wants to find a person who can perform GC tests on scents that I think were reformulated poorly, then let’s do it! The problem here is that if there is any difference in the resulting graphs, it’s possible that this represents why a person likes or dislikes a specific formulation. The study in question suggests that Shulton may have been more consistent in their formulations (over the course of quite a few years) than some other companies, though that formulation may be viewed as “drug store dreck” by most vintage aficionados, for all we know (I haven’t tried either formulation so I can’t speak this point). I’d like to see a lot more research on these kinds of subjects, but that wouldn’t change my appreciation of these concoctions, so this seems to be yet another example of Mr. Ross seeking to get into a “right fight,” as CBS TV’s Dr. Phil might say. What he has accomplished, IMO, is a demonstration of how “twisted” one’s thoughts can become when one can’t tolerate the thought of being wrong !
NOTE: You can find the study in question, along with graphs at:
NOTE #2: It’s well-known that the “good quality” sandalwood used in many old scents is not available and hasn’t been for some time. There may be a few people who have obtained it and created their own scents with it, but it’s certainly not something you can find in any scent that has been released recently (other than perhaps very expensive niche), to my knowledge. Thus, Mr. Ross is either ignorant of something that vintage aficionados (and many others) find very important in this context (that is, the loss of that sandalwood note in some reformulations) or he has decided to ignore evidence that would “tear a hole” in his argument.