Being Luca Turin…


I’m sure some of you have seen the oddball movie, “Being John Malkovich.” One thing that is necessary to make the idea work is the notion that the real John Malkovich is some sort of “Renaissance Man” who is living the life “intellectuals” can only have dreams about (though I was surprised to learn how “right wing” he apparently is!). In the case of Luca Turin, I’m sure many fragrance aficionados at least think they’d like swap lives (or at least noses) with him. In any event, there were recently some new threads started up on Basenotes.net concerning LT’s reviews in his “The Guide” book, and here I’d like to address some points that seem obvious to me.

First, people do change their opinions, especially about non-serious things such as these scent concoctions. Secondly, I don’t know why anyone would find it difficult to discern what appear to be patterns among LT’s reviews. For example, he seems to be more forgiving of “lesser” companies, whereas he seems to expect more from companies like Chanel. Moreover, in the case of Chanel, he seems to think they have largely “sold out” to popular tastes/trends in recent years. Overall, I’d say that I agree with most of his general assessments, but find more than a few reviews to be highly problematic (as I’ll explain below).

In the case of Creed, I think he views most of their compositions as simplistic or odd (not in a “good way”). He seems to value “innovation” while undervaluing “wearability.” Ingredient quality is something he talks about often, but is willing to forgive if the composition is innovative or highly “optimistic” (at least in some cases, such as Beyond Paradise). What I find especially interesting (and puzzling) is his dismissal of most if not the overwhelming majority of “masculines” released in that late 80s/early 90s period, which I consider to be the best “modern perfumery” had ever produced. Apparently, because these tend to be “loud,” men of today aren’t intelligent enough to wear discretely. Or could there be another reason? If so, I can’t even imagine it !

The last pattern I can recall at the moment is that he seems to have a proverbial soft spot for many of the popular “classics,” such as Old Spice or Blue Stratos, and hasn’t spoken much about formulation changes. In his latest post, “Aqua Velva Ice Blue (Vintage) & Frost Lime,” the FromPyrgos blog author, Bryan Ross, tells his readers that he can’t detect any changes in the vintage and recent formulations of this scent, for example. This may indeed be the case, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a major change. Moreover, most of these old “cheapos” never smelled good to me in the first place, or are not what I would regard as aficionado scents (for example, due to a totally uninteresting and possibly weak base). About two years ago I was given a “drug store” aftershave as a gift (I think it was an Aqua Velva flanker), and I was impressed by the longevity and projection. The scent wasn’t “bad,” but the “laundry musks” in it were obvious and created imbalance. This is the kind of information I wish LT had furnished his readers in his book.

Of course, he could have done this as well as write up his reviews, which strike me as wildly inconsistent in tone and content. His descriptions of specific scents have not been helpful to me, generally-speaking. Let’s consider Cinnabar; the closest LT comes to describing the actual smell is when he calls it a “stonking oriental.” However, even this makes no sense to me, as it has an aromatic quality uncommon among orientals. This quality (and perhaps another, such as less use of amber than usual) helps it transcend the “stonking oriental” genre to me. Of course, we don’t know for sure what he means by stonking, but I can’t conceive of any reasonable usage of the word here that would make sense. And interestingly, while Amouage scents get high ratings aren’t many of them closer to the “monsters” of the mid-80s to early 90s than any others?

To me, LT has contributed quite a bit to the fragrance aficionado crowd, regardless of what one thinks about his tone or some (if not many) of his reviews. However, I can’t say I understand why so many are concerned with his opinions. I have no doubt that some people simply enjoy dismissing “Sacred Cows,” and often criticize them in an unfair way. On the other hand, LT has been quite harsh in his criticism of perfumers or fragrance companies, and while I tend to think his opinions are likely accurate in these matters, I would rather describe scents in detail and let readers decide what to make of them. One could speculate about motivations all day, but I’ve come to view this as a waste of time. LT may have more “insider knowledge” than we do, and so many of his criticisms may be on target, but the problem is that his readers can’t know – they can only believe or not. Perhaps many readers like to imagine they are thinking like LT when they smell a new scent, but I prefer to just be myself.

If you feel you’ve detected other LT patterns please leave a comment and let us know of your thoughts.

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