And the most disingenuous thing I’ve heard in a long time is…?

Over at the FromPyrgos blog, in a post entitled, “‘An Alternative Approach To Describing Perfume,'” you will find this statement:

“Aficionados” have vocabulary and labeling at their disposal, but often lack objectivity (too much internalized experience), because they’re jaded, or they feel they’ve smelled it all already (just another angle on jaded). Their understanding is limited to what they think they know, rather than what they really know. What separates them from “newbies” is enjoyment of fragrance…

As I’ve pointed out before, making such broad generalizations and not supplying any evidence to support it demonstrates a lack of “intellectual integrity” (at least that’s one thing I learned in graduate school). One can do this if one is making a concession, for example, if you really dislike a scent you might say, “I certainly understand that there are at least a few people who seem to enjoy this one.” However, if you are accusing people of making some sort of “mistake” then you had better illustrate the kind of thing to which you are referring! At the very least, why not point out where one would go to find the kinds of statements you are addressing?

In this case, the quotation in question is borderline incoherent, but I shall do the best I can to “deconstruct” it. First, is the author claiming that calling a scent a chypre, oriental, or fougere is problematic if the person in question possesses a great deal of experience? If so, then it would seem that he could use himself as a great example of this kind of person! Over the last few months, in fact, I have argued that labels and classification notions are highly problematic, but because he has supplied readers with no examples, he apparently thinks he can “hide” behind statements that might apply best to him rather than anyone else. Moreover, newbies certainly possess “vocabulary” – it just hasn’t been codified, so to speak. How many times have you heard an apparent newbie describe a scent with rather “colorful” language? For example:

Kouros is weird,wild,marble cold and spicy hot at the same time…

Less colorful are terms like fresh, warm, soapy, sexy, masculine, and feminine, which it seems that newbies often employ.

Secondly, the claim that there is “objectivity” in the world of these concoctions is so far removed from what the science (as well as my experience) suggests, that I’ll simply refer readers to take a look at some of my older posts, where I cite scientific evidence I consider relevant here. And since when did a great deal of “internalized experience” cause an “expert” to have worse opinions than newbies? Of course, this may happen once in a while, but why would anyone think it is a common phenomenon? What could one “really know” in the context of these concoctions? If he thinks he has some sort of window into “Olfactory Truth,” he sure hasn’t done anything, IMO, to demonstrate this is the case !

And then there is the comment about “smelling something before” – does he not realize how many common accords and bases are in use? And this perception is nothing new (claims have been made against Guerlain, Avon, and other companies for many years now, in terms of using the same or a similar base, over and over again, not that I am arguing it is a “bad” thing to do). By contrast, if I read a review without such comparisons being made, I often find myself thinking that I wish the reviewer would have compared the scent in question to at least one other one. The author has in fact used this device himself at times, so it is incumbent upon him to explain what a “bad” use is and what a “good” one is. And wouldn’t the newbie who seeks to become an aficionado (and isn’t wealthy) want to know this information, mostly in order to avoid redundant “blind buys?”

Next is the claim that newbies enjoy scents more than aficionados. From what source did this notion originate? I can’t remember how many reviews I’ve read in which an apparent newbie says something like “this frag sucks,” for example. Moreover, they often claim that they don’t smell much of anything after perhaps ten to twenty minutes after application! By contrast, this aficionado is only interested in the olfactory pleasure I can derive from the scent for several hours. If someone wants to pay me to assess the “artistic value” of a scent, though, I’ll consider their offer, but I doubt that will ever happen. By contrast, the FromPyrgos author has made arguments along lines that suggest people should respect the original intentions of the perfumer, which I regard as ridiculous, especially considering how many scents have been “mangled” by reformulation, and which many others disregard (such as those who enjoy “layering” scents).

Mr. Ross, please stop the “straw man”/”red herring” type arguments and provide reasonable examples that most readers have experienced, assuming they have done a bit of reading on the subject. If you won’t, then don’t you owe your readers an explanation as to why you are unwilling to do this? And lastly, what is the claim about people being “jaded?” As I pointed out quite a while ago, there seems to have been at least a few members (circa 2007-2011) who became disenchanted after doing a great deal of sampling (I called them “chronic samplers”), but they “came and went” rather quickly, though I still find their reviews to be among the most useful (in a couple of cases the people deleted all their reviews). I won’t mention any names because I don’t want anyone to think poorly of them, but you can search through old threads there and see for yourself, though all one needs to do is to look at all the new reviews on Basenotes and to see that many aficionados are still “alive and well,” and don’t appear jaded in the least !

NOTE: If you want to see a good example of the joy the vintage concoctions often provide, I suggest reading some of the reviews by “ericrico” on Fragrantica. Here’s part of his review of vintage Z-14:

…wonderful and timeless scent! The opening of citrus with integrated herbs and fresh-ground cinnamon takes me back to my youth. My oh my…where has time gone? Time has stood still in this bottle and I am thankful for that. While our planet spins on a tilted axis, so does this bottle of juice in its flacon. It is not a “straight-up” composition. This is a chypre, Grottola…your are correct. With it brilliant aromatics, I would have to call it a “Spicy Leather Chypre” just to categorize Z-14 a bit more apropos. However, I would rather just splash it on and feel like a man! There is no note in this that is off-putting to me. The blend is seamless…

Who is jaded. Mr. Ross? I suggest readers of your blog ask themselves how jaded you might be! Or are you confusing frustration and anger (about reformulations) with it? Here is an example of what appears to be anger in an ericrico review (of Yves Saint Laurent Pour Homme):

I will not buy any bottle of juice made by YSL past 2008 (when Yves Saint Laurent passed away and the house was sold to L’Oreal). Reformulations to virtually all the fragrances occured soon thereafter – and I am truly appalled with what has been done to the house that was orchestrated by a genius in Yves Saint Laurent. However, his brilliant, genius body of work will live on forever, in older bottles for us to enjoy while we are here…may he R.I.P…

However, it appears that while angry at what seems to be happening, ericrico expresses a sense of gratefulness for what was created, and I’m sure he has plenty of bottles to last him a lifetime. Again, who is the “jaded” one, Mr. Ross?

NOTE #2: Over the last month or so, there has been quite a bit of discussion about possible “Aventus clones,” especially on Basenotes. These kinds of discussions seem to be dominated by newbies, not aficionados. So, if Mr. Ross doesn’t think newbies care about scents that smell similar to other ones (usually those with a high price), then what does he think they want to read in a review? If they want to read that a scent is “warm and sexy,” that’s often part of the “sales pitch” given in the “blurb” that the company includes with the list of notes! However, if they want a more specific
description, from whom would they obtain it? Don’t at least some aficionados fill this void? Newbies might not understand everything being said, but if thee are more than a few reviews written by aficionados, isn’t that a whole lot more information than they are likely to get from anyone else? I know reading such reviews helped me when I was a newbie !

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Filed under Criticizing the critics.

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