Other than in “casual” conversation, the first time I heard someone say “some people say…” in any kind of authoritative context was on FoxNews (which I only used to watch on rare occasion and no longer watch at all, just to be clear). This kind of “reporting” is the antithesis of what I learned in graduate school, which is that a claim can either be yours or someone else’s, and if it is someone else’s, you had better cite the source! Mr. Ross over at the FromPyrgos blog doesn’t seem to understand this point. Either that or he is deliberately trying to “make a case” with the shakiest of foundations, and this is quite clear in his recent post, entitled “Gucci Pour Homme (Gucci, 2003).” Here is a quotation from it:
…to bypass an olfactory “flash” of top notes ensures that the nose’s sensory impressions of a perfume’s drydown are just as incomplete, devoid of context, and limited as the light perceptions of a colorblind person.
This is yet another thing we were warned against in graduate school, which is not to take anything for granted. Here, he seems to have “bought into” the notion that top notes are necessary to experience or else one can’t appreciate the “art” of the scent. This assumes that these concoctions are some kind of “high art” (I recommend the film “High Art,” for those who have never heard of it), and that one is “missing” something if one tries to avoid most of the very short-lived notes. One can believe such things, but I prefer to explore the world without preconceptions (whenever possible or to as much a degree as possible), and to come to my own conclusions. Moreover, these concoctions are not expensive and are rather convenient, so if Mr. Ross thinks he can prevent people from enjoying them in a non-“legitimate” way, he may be delusional. I only write to present my own perceptions and experiences, unlike Mr. Ross; I don’t claim to know the absolute truth of perfumery.
Interestingly, a couple years ago I read that:
…the components that go into a perfume formula, whether fleeting or long-lasting, are perceptible at once in their entirety. The olfactory impression is total since the materials of the perfume fade over time. Hence the error, too commonly taught, of dividing up a perfume into head, heart, and base…
Page 49 of JC Ellena’s book, “The Alchemy of Scent.”
I would add that some molecules seem to mask others for a while in some scents. Moreover, it seems that while Ellena’s claim might be true for perfumers, what about those who insist that a scent smells like Jolly Rancher candy? I don’t understand why anyone would claim that trying (and perhaps always failing) to detect molecules that last for a few minutes is so essential to the wearer, when most probably can’t detect them no matter how long they last! Mr. Ross seems to believe that the intention of the perfumer is crucial to the wearer (as if the perfumer were a “fine artist” who would never bow to any pressures, such as to produce something that is a “crowd pleaser”), but I find this view incredibly naive on multiple levels. It’s certainly true that the perfumer doesn’t always make the final decisions, and in fact this may rarely occur for the “major houses.” I began to use the phrase “the opening” several years ago, and I’m glad to see that it has caught on, whether or not I was the first one to use it in my reviews, because it refers to the earliest period one can get a grasp on a scent after application.
Some of you may have often read statements such as, “this begins with a harsh blast of alcohol that lasts a few minutes.” Just do a google search for basenotes.net harsh blast of alcohol or fragrantica harsh blast of alcohol to see what I mean! Some people seem to have their olfactory “machinery” overloaded by top notes, at least for many scents, and they just experience a harsh “blur,” which is certainly the case for me. However, I have learned that I can spray a scent into the air, away from me, and try to get a sense of the first few minutes that way. I can’t say that this experience has ever been anything special, though, and I certainly wouldn’t buy a scent for this experience. Why Mr. Ross can’t understand that people differ in how they experience these concoctions is something I will leave for others to ponder, but his apparent need to keep making the same claim, over and over again, is somewhat disturbing, like a child claiming to know how to do something when it is obvious to adults that he or she does not.
In this case, it seems like he thinks he is an olfactory sage who possesses some sort of esoteric knowledge:
This fragrance is a marvel of modern design, a terrific example of how literalistic notes in a staid composition can come together as something beautiful and unique. It is the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright in a bottle.
This is the same person who criticized Chandler Burr’s claim about these concoctions being “fine art!” The post he wrote on this subject is now missing, though this is where it used to be:
There are mentions of this “lost” post on Facebook:
and at the Perfume Of Life site, though I am not a member and it won’t let me access the discussion about it (I tried to sign up years ago but never got a return email with sign in information). This suggests a serious lack of “intellectual integrity” on his part, so at the very least I hope he addresses why he removed this post, which he seemed quite proud of at one time, if he hasn’t already. Mr. Ross, why did you put up this wall?
In any case, my main point here is that some of us enjoy scents as hours-long olfactory experience. We rarely if ever think of “fine art,” architecture, interior design, drama, music, etc. as we are having our bit of fun. I wonder if Mr. Ross has taken an anthropology course, because he doesn’t seem to understand the concept of “cultural relativism.” Some argue against this notion, of course (usually for political purposes, it seems), but it is clearly the case that “values” change over time, and this is also true for what people appreciate and do in their “free time.” If some children were playing wiffle ball in a back yard, would Mr. Ross tell them they are “doing it wrong” if he saw something he didn’t like? Would he want to tell married couples that their sex lives are “bad” because they disclosed that they are engaging in acts that he considers “illegitimate,” despite how much they enjoy doing what they are doing (assuming it is legal, of course)? Do I have to refrain from drinking my coffee cold because he thinks it is inconsistent with the “great history of coffee drinking,” or some such nonsense?
I wonder how strange today’s olfactory concoctions would appear to the ancient Egyptians, for example. They might think them a gift from the gods, but from what I understand, at least most of today’s scents would seem very odd, and probably unpleasant, to them. I don’t think anyone would argue that the Egyptians were “wrong” for enjoying the scents (and in the ways they did) they created back then, but for some reason Mr. Ross wants to assert that his appreciation of scents is superior to others. Perhaps he just needs another hobby. which would allow him to be less consumed by how others are enjoying scents. Whatever the case, this is his “problem,” and is ultimately meaningless. Who does he think his audience is? Does he think the vintage aficionado is going to throw away all of his or her old bottles? Does he feel he must dissuade as many people as possible from becoming vintage aficionados? How many people might that be? It seems as though he is in need of a “major reality check.”
Moreover, it is undeniable that today’s scents are largely beholden to what scientists have created, so one wonders how different things might be if aldehydes has never been “discovered,” at least in this context, for instance. Or if some other molecules had been created or invented instead of the ones we know so well at this point. And speaking of aroma chemicals, Mr. Ross uses his supposed review of this Gucci scent to launch yet another “some people say…” type of attack:
A quick note on Iso E Super: perfumer Jim Gehr recently mentioned to me that it is actually very, very mild, probably hypo-allergenic, “more texture than aroma,” and would not lend excessive scratchiness and/or chemical blare to contemporary perfumes. So I stand corrected on this material. Those of us who complain about excessive Iso E Super (or mishandled Iso E Super) are likely suffering from a sensitivity to Ambrocenide, an extremely potent woody amber used in many woody scents, at up to an astounding 24% of concentration.
No doubt, when someone makes a claim against a molecule like iso e super, there will be people who then think that is why they don’t like the scent in question, and they will then go about saying they don’t like that molecule, even if they can’t detect it! This is why it is crucial to cite a specific claim, and in this case there is an abundance. In fact, I have made this point often, though I think there is a rule in Mr. Ross’ mind that he can’t ever mention my reviews or my blog on his site (again, what does that say for his intellectual integrity?). However, I have no problem detecting “woody amber” and would not confuse it with iso e super in these concoctions. I describe iso e super as “fume-like.” I had a friend who worked at a propane company, and on the few occasions I went there (for more than a few minutes_ I experienced sensations similar to what a lot of iso e super apparently does to me (feeling like one is enveloped in a cloud of something heavy and “chemical;” my eyes also feel stressed). This is nothing like strong “woody amber” scents, and again, I think it is necessary for Mr. Ross to provide some examples of his claim about possible misunderstandings, if he is to be taken at all seriously in this context.
If he wants to think that he can appreciate “fragrance art” but that those who try to avoid most of the fleeting top notes cannot, he is welcome to that sentiment, but it is totally irrelevant to me and apparently many other aficionados, which seems to cause him great “cognitive dissonance.” I hope one day he is able to see that it makes more sense to talk about your experiences than to try and “tear down” others who view things differently. This is especially true for scents, which many people never wear and don’t care about at all. I just learned that a psychological disorder called “abrasive passive-aggressive personality disorder” was in the DSM but was removed, and I wondered why. It seems to be consistent with a lot of behavior I’ve encountered, including some of Mr. Ross’ statements. At wikipedia.org, these are listed as some of the characteristics of those who have this element to their personalities:
Contentious, intransigent, fractious, and quarrelsome; irritable, caustic, debasing, corrosive, and acrimonious, contradicts and derogates; few qualms and little conscience or remorse.
If this is his “condition,” it might explain many of his nebulous statements. Coincidentally, while doing research about Montale, I came across an old post of his which contained this statement:
Fragrance fanatics of all ages know about aoud, but there’s not a whole lot of fragrance fanatics out there. This is a relatively small circle we inhabit.
So, Mr. Ross, what are your intentions? Do you think you are going to “convert” three or four people who absolutely can’t stand top notes over to your position? Is that what is motivating you? Or is it in a sense a “pathological” need to denigrate anything with which you disagree? And then there is this statement of his, from the same old post:
NOTE: The thread link to basenotes in the article above was deliberately broken by basenotes, preventing my readers from seeing the full context of all the quotes made in this article. This is typical of basenotes – contrary to its friendly, communal facade, led by a questionable character by the name of Grant, this site operates on several fundamentally dishonest levels…
Yikes, has he heard that old saying about the pot calling the kettle black? He refuses to ever mention basenotes.net now as well as my blog, and apparently deleted a post about Chandler Burr (along with the other questionable things addressed above), but doesn’t see that he “operates on several fundamentally dishonest levels?” I guess self-awareness doesn’t come easy for some people !
NOTE: Green Jeans by Versace has a fairly obvious “woody amber” in its base. In this composition it seems to create a bit of structure and dynamism, whereas in others (such as many aquatic, sport, or fresh scents) it seems to be tossed in so that the scent doesn’t seem to thin or insubstantial. I have nothing against the use of “woody amber” aroma chemicals, just as I don’t have anything against iso e super. Rather, it is how these substances are used (particularly when the amount seems incredibly high) that is sometimes questionable, IMO. In music, for example, there is almost always some repetition, but at some point almost everyone would say the repetition is excessive and there is no desire to listen to it. In the case of at least a few scents that I used to enjoy I found that there was something about them that was physically irritating and also detracting from the experience I was seeking. For me, it seems that large amounts of iso e super makes scents seem less “natural,” regardless of the the content of naturals actually is, besides possibly causing physical discomfort.
UPDATE: Mr. Ross submitted a comment, but I am no longer going to publish any of his because I don’t want to encourage inappropriate behavior. In this comment, he called this post “inane,” and said that he “beat” me “to the punch,” as if writing about scents were some sort of race (as one professor I studied with used to say, “take your time and get it right”). He didn’t explain why he thinks the post is inane, which again is a good indicator that someone lacks intellectual integrity. He didn’t address any of the points I raised, and claimed that because of how I found the Ellena quotation I used, I was somehow wrong (though with no explanation why), and that somehow I made myself look “silly.” I can only assume he would have me go to the library and read through several books in order to find a quotation that (doing the research my way) took a couple of minutes of typing, and this also supports my point that Basenotes.net can be a very helpful place, which is contrary to much of what he has said about BN in the past. He also claims that I “played into” his “hands,” but I have no idea what he is trying to communicate with such a statement (again, he did not explain his position). His comment would seem to be a great example of someone afflicted with “Abrasive Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder.” Readers, please decide for yourself !