Sauvage: Is it a “nice” scent ?


I was criticized on another fragrance blog for pointing out that if I want a “nice” scent I have a few by Playboy I could turn to, and those cost about $4 each (100 ml bottles). This is an example of a critic being criticized because he is appropriately critical! I don’t review scents and simply call them nice. I might say that I find it pleasant, but I include more information that is specific. In the case of the review page for Sauvage at Fragrantica.com, it seemed (for a while) as though the only positive thing anyone could say about this scent is that it’s nice. Because of this I wanted to mention, especially for those who don’t know, that there are plenty of scents they might think of as nice that are obtainable for very low prices (some might even think of a few dollar store scents as nice, though I have yet to find one that is as good as a couple of the Playboy ones).

Now an individual can certainly try to mislead people by making it seem that I was the first to use the word nice when referring to Sauvage, but then you have to expect to be “called out” for doing it! In any case, one thing I often say to people (who say a scent is nice) in this kind of context is, what is the opposite? In other words, how many truly unpleasant scents can you name that are not “drug store dreck?” As I pointed out on that Sauvage page, comparing it to a niche scent designed to be “skanky” is ridiculous, and clearly an indication of desperation in argumentation. The other point I made (either at Fragrantica or Basenotes.net) is that many members already own several bottles of scents they perceive as nice, so you would need to explain to such people why they should buy yet another (that is rather expensive, at least to me). And I’ll leave it to others to ponder whether a scent called a savage should smell nice!

Now, with this context established, I’ll copy and paste some of the statements I posted on these two sites over the last several days (copying and pasting those I responded to would make this post too long, but I think you’ll get a good sense of what my position is from just what I said):  First, here are some from Basenotes:

…companies like Lomani seem to be going after the niche crowd, though perhaps not in an especially original way. As to the BdC bashing in the early days of that scent, I don’t remember that being the case at Fragrantica, which is why the negative comments there surprised me. I’m not a “fresh” scent person, so it’s possible that Sauvage features something special in it’s fresh approach, which might lead the fresh people to buy it at $80 or more, but my guess is that the fresh guys already have a few (if not many) fresh scents they already enjoy. Now if I turn to Playboy’s London for Men, I get a brandy note – one that I enjoy and that I don’t have in any other scents that I like, so for $4/100 ml, I’m willing to buy non-vintage/non-niche there. What does Sauvage offer a person like myself? I already have quite a few “fresh” scents that I basically never wear!

I would certainly agree that there are more than a few guys (and gals) out there saying things like, “I just bought that new Sauvage fragrance and it’s absolutely delicious!” Is it the same crowd who buy a new [insert brand name here] car without paying attention to any reviews, etc? As others have said, this may be Dior’s “answer” to BdC, but since BdC is being fairly well-received at this point, at least at Fragrantica (and plenty of BNers like it), I thought that would tend to keep the Sauvage negatives down to a minimum. And I do remember some negative reviews of BdC at Fragrantica, but nothing like what I’m seeing there with Sauvage!

One doesn’t have to take something “seriously” to garner information from it. I think in this instance it is quite telling, and I am quite surprised there is so much negativity there. Moreover, the negativity seems to be about it being “nice” and generic, rather than “bad.” Even some of the “bad” reviews suggest this indirectly. I wonder whether the response would have been so bad or lukewarm if the scent had been released as something like Dune Pour Homme Fresh. Another factor is that Eau Sauvage (and perhaps a flanker or two) seems to have a “serious” fan base, and many of those who are Fragrantica members wanted to voice their displeasure, whereas with Bleu de Chanel, there was no connection to a “great” scent. What would have been the response if BdC had been released as Antaeus Intense, for example?

I think people like myself should be grateful for the “hype train,” because it can save us time. In this instance, after what I’ve read I have no interest in even sampling this one if I passed by a tester in a store.

To get back to the OP’s notion, I recently acquired Zen for Men, which is not what I tend to enjoy at all. This is a pleasant scent but I doubt I will wear it more than once a year, if that. Now if Sauvage contained Zen for Men in it (let’s say very similar), wouldn’t it sell a lot more than ZfM (in factt, ZfM might be too “out there” relative to what Savage is like, from what I’ve read)? So the point is that this seems to be about slapping the Dior (and Sauvage flanker) name on a bottle and putting out a presumably “crowd pleasing,” mish-mash scent in it, one that is not likely to offend the “casual” consumer of such items. Good for them (in terms of profits) as well as for those who feel this scent fills a niche in their rotation (the BN crowd) and can afford it, but also for those who own vintage and want to see the prices rise for those (I think there is a “rising tide lifting all boats” effect). But if you want “innovation” or “creativity,” you can sample some niche scents.

…1. My perception is that Fragrantica members seem to be more “mainstream,” so really negative comments there are more telling in this context.
2. The review section there provides a “rapid reaction” resource that does not exist on BN, because it can take quite a while for new reviews to appear.

Perhaps I’m at a different point in my “fragrance journey” than most of those who were excited by the Sauvage release, but for me there’s no need for a scent that is going to do, more or less, what one I already have does. I’m past the “ooh, it’s got an interesting cherry/rhubarb note that lasts ten minutes, but then it’s not that unique, though I’m really glad I bought it [probably at or near retail]” stage of things, if I was ever fully there. Here’s an example: I obtained a bottle of Cuba Prestige not long ago, because I got it at about half of it’s already “cheapo” price, and my thought was, “great, now I can swap off my vintage A*Men bottle because this is close, and good enough for my purposes.” My Playboy London provides a good enough brandy note, so I’m not going to be enticed by any $80+ new release with that note, and I don’t like “fresh” scents (I have several that I hardly ever wear already). So, my main point here is that yes, for some of us, Sauvage had to be noticeably unique/special, or else the price is a joke. I’ll take it for $20, but it would most likely end up as “trade bait,” to get something that does seem like it would be at least somewhat unique.

And here are the ones on the Fragrantica review page (the first one in jest, due to my surprise at how negative so many of the comments where up to that point):

Beep beep, boop boop – I am the robot that created this scent and I am offended by many of the comments here !

@areyouin729:

There certainly may be some “niche snobs” saying bad things about this scent, but I think that there are a larger percentage of us, me included, who don’t see the reason why we should bother with an $80 bottle of this one when we really enjoy our $4 bottle of a Playboy scent, for example, more! If they can’t create a scent that is much better than my best Playboy “cheapo” (assuming it is better), then why should I consider buying it at that much higher price level? Are you going to call me a “cheapo snob?” Can there be such a thing? LOL.

@harlemmal:

I think there are two major issues. The “disgusting” remarks may have to do with too much of one or another (or several) aroma chemicals being used. That is a matter of personal preference, because as you say, there are expensive niche scents that use a lot of aroma chemicals. On the other hand, niche scents that smell animalic are a “red herring” here because that kind of scent is for those who seek it, and Sauvage does not seem to be that kind of scent at all.

The second major issue is price. As I said before, if I can get a “nice” $4 bottle (100 ml) of a Playboy scent, for example, why in the world would I pay $80 for the same size bottle of a “nice” Dior (and why would I “need” it, since I already have the bottle of the Playboy scent)? I think the best thing to do would be to conduct a totally “blind” test of Sauvage against a bunch of “cheapos” that are similar. Only then can someone say that this Dior is worth the extra money (IMO), if that person is seeking compliments from others and if Sauvage does indeed come out head and shoulders above inexpensive ones of this genre.

@harlemmal:

I agree that really nasty comments are not helpful to anyone. There do seem to be enough comments (here and at BN) to suggest that there is a use of aroma chemicals that bother some people, perhaps because these haven’t been used in the same way or in the same amount in any previous “major” release. Or they just expected not to detect any rough “chemical edges,” so to speak. And perhaps if this was released as a flanker to Dune Pour Homme it would make more sense (from what I’ve read) to the harshest critics.

And I don’t begrudge Dior trying to make nice profits with a “mainstream” scent, nor do I think it’s bad for the fragrance market overall. In fact, I think that the notion of there being no such thing as negative publicity applies here as well. That is, it serves to get people talking about “quality,” uniqueness, etc., exposing those who might not otherwise know that there are scents designed to be “edgy.” And from my perspective, I want to let people know there are some great scents that cost next to nothing, such as Dorall Collection’s Dark Flower, which has a nice frankincense note and is quite complex (cost was about $7 total for 100 ml), though it’s not for the “mainstream” crowd, that’s for sure. And I truly hope those who bought a bottle of Sauvage enjoy it !

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Sauvage is that it seems that Dior wants people to think it’s a showcase for ambroxan, as if that’s something special. Over at the Perfume Shrine blog (back in 2010) there is this statement:

…if you thought you haven’t smelled it [Ambrox/Ambroxn] before think again: Almost everyone has a rather good scent memory of it through the ubiquitousness of Light Blue by Dolce & Gabbana, composed by Olivier Cresp in 2001, to name but one of the scents which use this raw material in ample amounts.

The author names several, including “masculines” that contain “perceptible” amounts in the base, such as the designer offerings Emporio Armani Diamonds for Men, Silver/Black (or Onyx) by Azzaro, and 1881 Intense pour Homme by Cerruti. So far I have yet to read a review that explains, in terms that make sense, why anyone should regard Sauvage as worthy of acquisition for those who already own a similar scent. And one BN member went so far as to suggest that those who paid a lot of money were jealous, bringing Aventus into the discussion!

That’s the exact reason why fragrance snobs are outraged. Because for mere $80, if not less, the millions of people around the globe can receive a fragrance that is similar, if not better, than their much coveted Aventuses with obscure batch codes. Dior has ruined all the fun.

I’ll conclude this post by acknowledging that not everyone wants to sample a large number of scents or do any kind of research. Some want to walk into a major department store and try out a new offering. To them, $80 or more for a 100 ml bottle is like buying a dollar store scent is for me. But then why don’t they tell us this, just as I’ve disclosed my disinterest in top notes many times? It seems as though such people are defensive about their approach to obtaining fragrance bottles, but for whatever reason, they serve up untenable claims. Another possibility for some is that they think only a “major house” can offer a “quality scent.” Again, that’s fine but you need to tell us such things! And for those interested, my favorite “nice” (meaning it includes nothing that the “average person” might find offensive) and “fresh” scent at the moment is Bambou by Roger & Gallet, which cost me less than $8 total for 100 ml.

NOTE: I’d like to see the results of a “blind” test consistent with social science principles; Sauvage would grouped with a bunch of similar “cheapos,” (those doing the comparing would have no background in “fine fragrances”).

UPDATE:  After I published the above, this review appeared at Fragrantica:

I can tell you where the hate is coming from. This site is for perfume lovers, i mean we are all here for a reason, and most people that comment on this site have perfume experience and have tried plenty of stuff. Then we have a house that has produced some of the most celebrated and in fact greatest masculine perfumes of all time – Fahrenheit, Dior Homme and Eau Sauvage. So, yeah, they have raised the bar quite high. And then, there is the personal taste, the subjective side of liking or not liking certain piece of art.
I have not tried Sauvage yet, but as a big fan of Dior i will buy this, of course. I may be disappointed, reason mostly coming from the three mentioned above…

This suggests many people are buying Sauvage due to Dior’s reputation and are not happy with it.  I’m not “defending” such people, because while I like vintage Dior Homme, for example (and respect several others), I wouldn’t blind buy Sauvage until I could read more than a few reviews due to the listed notes.  There’s bergamot, ambroxan, ambergris (obviously not likely real, and possibly there’s no detectable synthetic substitute in there either), and something “woody,” according to Fragrantica.  That sounds really bad to me, unless there’s a whole lot of one or another kind of ambergris in there, and so until I read some reviews that speak to this, I would hold off on a blind buy, even if $80 was more like $1 to me.  Why would anyone think this would be special, given recent trends among designer offerings and the notes listed?

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