Is “it’s delicious!” the new “fresh and warm?”


I once criticized a Basenotes member’s reviews because he seemed to always call the scent in question “fresh and warm.” I objected to this characterization on two grounds, one being that it makes a scent sound special, but lacks specificity, thereby possibly leading many to “blind buying” a bottle of it. And when you add the fact that so many of his reviews had this same phrase, with few or any negative reviews (from what I remember), and you have to wonder if he just wanted to reaffirm his positive emotional experience more than anything else! The other objection was that it seems highly unlikely that this is a reasonable description, because while there are a subset of scents that go from being “fresh” to being “warm,” how could a scent be fresh and warm at the same time? The only thing I’ve come across that might meet this criteria (for some people) are ones that have a kind of hot yet wet chili quality, perhaps Live Jazz would be an example.

Lately, I’ve seen quite a few reviews with the word delicious, and as you can guess the reviews always seem to be positive. Here again is an example of a lack of specificity and something that is inconsistent with at least my experience. That is, a scent that literally smells delicious is likely to lead to irritation after a short period of time. How long can one smell something like vanilla cupcakes without wanting to smell them any more, for example? And again, this kind of comment may lead to many blind buys that turn into regrets. My guess is that many if not most people who use this term have experienced a certain kind of scent for the first time and so to them it’s like some sort of olfactory revelations, but to those of us with experience it may be a waste of time (read the review), because it doesn’t help us in any way.

That brings me to a scent I recently reacquired, Carlo Corinto Rouge. I swapped it off when I was a newbie because I was dealing with some sort of chemical sensitivity issue at the time, and indeed it seems to possess quite a bit of dihydromyrcenol. This certainly imparts a “fresh” quality, though the fairly strong lavender note keeps it from being “sport”-like. In the base there is a nice cedar note, along with something slightly ambery (not “woody/amber”), and perhaps a touch of tonka, because it has a hint of a pipe tobacco element. The note pyramid, taken from Fragrantica.com, suggests another Cool Water for Men “homage:”

Top notes are lavender and oak moss; middle notes are nutmeg, granny smith apple and pepper; base notes are virginia cedar, amber and vanille.

Less is definitely more here, however, as there is no jasmine nor neroli, which seem to generate a note a clash in CW. It’s also not nearly as sweet as CW. The base isn’t “warm” as in a typical oriental scent but if someone described this scent as being “fresh, then warm,” I would understand that perception. Perhaps it’s best to think of CCR as a “mixed” scent of this type, sort of like “mixed voice” in singing. At some point (within the first hour), the two strands come together, in this case the dihydromyrcenol recedes and the warmer notes step forward. And while I can’t say it’s a very “natural” smelling scent, due to the obvious aroma chemical (s) used, it is handled well here so that

CCR has reaffirmed my sense that it’s often the composition that is problematic rather than the general idea, though perhaps the more natural-smelling cedar in CCR is necessary to make the composition work. If it had a “generic woody/amber” base I don’t think I would like it, and probably would have swapped it off again (someone actually made me an offer for it a couple weeks ago). However, as is always the case, i can’t vouch for what is on the market today. I think my bottle of CCR is vintage and so for all I know new batches could have a generic woody/amber base !

Unlike the picture I used for this post, which is clearly not literal, many might not realize that if you spray a scent in your mouth, it’s going to taste bad, due to chemical additives (to prevent people from drinking these for the alcoholic content). If you make your own scent, though, you could, presumably, drink it or spray it on you. And then you would know if it truly was delicious or not! The picture does point to one important reality here, which is that certain biochemistry must be present that produce a “pleasure effect.” However, using language that can only be misleading doesn’t seem to make much sense, unlike the picture, which is amusing precisely because we know it is meant to be figurative.

UPDATE:  I just happened to come across a review of Ambre Narguilé (by the legendary BN reviewer, “foetidus,” which contained the word delicious, used in a way that makes a lot more sense than any other review that contains it, from what I remember:

Off-Scenter is right on. Ambre Narguile is about food, not passion… not sex… It does food extremely well – it smells delicious. It’s linear and has good sillage. It is not a disappointment to me because I wasn’t expecting much (Not a big Jean-Claude Ellena fan here). My thought about gourmands in general and Ambre Narguile in particular is that it is not enough for niche gourmands to smell like savory food: There should be a more challenging intermingling of fragrance notes than this one exhibits; after all, if I really wanted to smell just like food, there are much cheaper ways of doing that. I own and love several what-I-consider gourmand fragrances (including Arabie and Body Kouros), and they all do more than simply smell like food. This is a pretty and pleasant but non-intriguing designer fragrance, and after a few hours of smelling it, it’s just plain … there. If it were a cheaper fragrance, I’d give it a thumbs up even though I personally don’t find it very interesting… its lack of complexity and development beyond the food notes are at odds with my expectations for an expensive fragrance.

After reading this review (along with a few others that are similar), I can tell that it’s highly unlikely I would be pleased if I bought a bottle of this scent, and in fact I just purchased a bottle of Cuba Prestige, with the thought that a fairly straightforward gourmand need not be expensive to be appreciated. I might do a review of that one in a future blog post.

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Filed under Criticizing the critics.

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