Niche vs. Designer; the example of Cereus # 12.

There was yet another Basenotes.net thread on this subject recently, which you can read at:

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/379708-Is-there-really-that-much-of-differences-between-the-Higher-End-Designers-amp-Niche-frags-in-quality

My first contribution to this thread was:

At this point I certainly wouldn’t blind buy recent niche or designer. One major problem is that due to new IFRA guidelines, I can’t imagine any great new constructions. I don’t need another decent gourmand or other kind of scent that can still be well done, I’ve got enough oud scents to last a lifetime, etc. I can’t stand at least some of the synthetic wood notes being used in many of today’s niche and designer, and there are more than a few niche scents that have too much iso e super for me. If none of this bothers you, then keep in mind that many designer houses now have a niche or niche-like line of scents anyway.

I didn’t even bother to mention that there is a great deal of “crossover,” since I thought it was implied (others pointed this out in any case). However, a scent I tried recently that I do think is worthy of being placed in the niche category is Cereus #12, which is marketed to women. My Fragrantica.com review of it is:

The fruit accord lasts a very long time. At first, it’s somewhere between a juicy orange and some kind of orange candy. It never comes across to me as “feminine” peach. I’m not much of a fan of scents with strong fruit notes, but this one doesn’t bother me as most do. There is a fairly good rosewood note in here, but you have to give it time. Otherwise, vanilla and musk are the other major players. After a couple hours I get a better sense of the different fruit notes involved, especially the black currant, and it’s more natural smelling. Perhaps if the wood note was stronger this could be marketed as unisex, but I have no problem wearing it. If it seems weak just spray more. This is only slightly sweet and the vanilla is not very strong, so I think this would be good for the office if the weather isn’t really hot or really cold. Note that I never detected any watermelon, and I’ve got a Popy Moreni scent that possesses this note clearly, so I guess it was a very fleeting (and perhaps weak) top note. I’m not sure why “ozonic” was used to describe this, because this is on the “thick” side, not the airy!

What makes this “niche” for me is that there is a focus on a small number of notes, which means that if the “quality” is poor, it would likely smell awful to me. In this case we have a base that includes vanilla (not syrupy or overly sweet) and rosewood, though there’s clearly some musk as well (not animalic). I recently purchased some rosewood essential oil that is supposed of high quality. I diluted it with vodka, but it was still quite strong. Then I came across this scent at a good price and did a “blind buy.” I was a bit disappointed at first, but once the dense fruit notes began to dissipate, I realized that I had found the kind of rosewood-centered scent that I’d been seeking for quite a while (the rosewood in it is “smoothed out” but it’s still obvious and has no “rough edges”). I still enjoy Equipage and vintage Uomo? Moschino (when I’m in the mood), which also feature obvious rosewood, but Cereus #12 has a Silver Mountain Water type of construction (with black currant playing an important role in both), though with strong notes that I prefer; because it’s so different from the other two, I have never found myself struggling to decide which one to wear when I want to smell clear rosewood.

A few days after the Basenotes thread mentioned above, a new one appeared in which the author argued for a new way to classify these concoctions:

Designer v niche is not a very good system for classifying fragrances, so I have come up with a new system, which we should all use from now on:

Designer – self explanatory
Luxe – AdP, Guerlain, Creed*, Chanel les exclusifs, TF private blend, etc
Independent – Frederic Malle, Mona di Orio, etc…

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/379746-My-proposal-for-reclassifying-fragrances

After reading this, my thought was, “who needs this or any classification framework?” At this point, there are so many “hybrids” as well as novel compositions that this sort of thing may be helpful to newbies but a waste of time for someone like myself. After all, if I sample a “Luxe” scent that comes across as “cheap,” both in terms of construction/composition and the ingredients used (for example, a lot of iso e super), why should I regard it as superior to “typical designer?” In short, why is it so important to do something more than assess each scent on its own merits? If we want to talk in generalizations, why not be more specific? For example, Creed scents come across to me as more “natural” smelling but not all that unique, though this may be wrong for any particular Creed scent, even if you agree with this generalization. So again, this may be somewhat helpful to a newbie, but don’t aficionados want to sample the scent and then classify it based upon their experience?

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