I had two ideas for a post but neither needs to be as long as my posts usually are, so the solution, of course, is to combine these! The first concerns “oud scents.” Since 2008 I’ve sampled quite a few, but only one smelled rather different from the rest, Asalah, by Mishal & Majid (in a swap someone included a partial sample as a “freebie”). About a week ago I arranged a swap which included a tiny sample of “real oud,” that is, Mi-Si-Da from the Oud Cave web site (I didn’t even ask for it!). Though it didn’t smell exactly like Asalah (which has a clear floral element), there seemed to be a similar accord. This quality is leather-like and quite smooth. I really like it, yet it lacks dynamism and doesn’t last for more than perhaps three hours, at least with strength. By contrast, the other “oud scents” I’ve tried (apparently with no significant real oud) smelled quite different, with a harsh and often medicinal quality. My main point here is that if my experience is consistent with real versus synthetic oud, then I don’t understand why the synthetic substance is even called oud – it doesn’t really resemble the real material. My guess is that there is a real oud that does have some of that harsh/medicinal quality, but I simply have not encountered it yet.
The second idea for a post involved the “problem” with recent designer releases, at least the “masculine” ones. Specifically, and what still surprises me, is that so many “cheapos” are more enjoyable than designers that cost several times more! Some cheapos even have niche-like qualities, the most obvious probably being Jovan’s Intense Oud. There seems to be a conscious decision on the part of the designers to “stick to the script” to some degree, whereas the “lesser” companies don’t always think along these lines. Sauvage seems to be an excellent example (from what I’ve read) of this new trend, and I’d say this is true for Bleu de Chanel EdT, which I’ve sampled at least a couple of time. That is, the plan seems to be to create a mish-mash or pastiche, so that it can’t be said to smell like another scent, and to use strong aroma chemicals so that it has longevity.
By contrast, I’ll mention Dunhill’s Custom, which definitely seems to have been formulated with Gucci Pour Homme 1 in mind (the 2003 release). Some things were removed, such as the ambery quality, and it’s considerably weaker. Then an apple note was added, which is nicely done. I like it, actually, but it’s two-dimensional for me, as if the thought of using essential oils was not even considered (I have no idea if this is the case but that is how is comes across relative to ones that smell more “natural,” especially vintage designers). The lack of depth makes it boring over time, but I do think that it might be useful for layering purposes. It seems that “amber” or something tonka-ish and/or vanillic is the main element these days that can add some sense of depth, but there is little of that in Custom.
The Secret by Antonio Banderas, though, doesn’t have much of a vanillic/ambery/tonka-ish quality, yet seems so much more complete (and enjoyable by itself) than Custom, and I wonder if this is because celebrity or “lower end” companies are willing to take more risks, whereas a “house” like Dunhill is content with making scents that smell somewhat like others that are or were popular. Their London smells a bit like their own Red for Men,which I find amusing (why not “rip off” yourself, so to speak?), though I do like London better, so at least it’s an improvement, unlike Custom. Then there is a scent like Black Sugar by Aquolina, which is sort of like A*Men (minus the mint and lavender) combined with Bvlgari Black, plus some strawberry added. If they had named it something like “The Noble Savage,” that would make some sense (especially if you think sweetness is noble), but from what I’ve read about Sauvage, the only way it’s a savage is in its “synthetic” quality !
On a recent Basenotes.net thread one long-time member lamented his disgust with recent designers. I mentioned that I’ve found quite a few “cheapos” that I really enjoy over the last few months, but he dismissed my advice quickly, saying he had already tried plenty of them. From what I know of his activities (I’ve done quite a few swaps with him), he hasn’t tried Black Sugar, Dark Flower, Diesel Green for Women, or Playboy’s London for Men. I know he has tried The Secret because I obtained a bottle of it from him in a swap. My guess is that he’s just bored at this point, because I’ve obtained quite a few niche scents, and a whole lot if samples and decants are included, yet I can’t say I often find myself thinking that I’d want to wear one. The other day I wore Tobacco Vanille, after not having worn it for a long time, and it really didn’t do much for me. I was thinking that I’d probably enjoy Lanvin’s Avant Garde more!
In light of this and the recent online negativity towards the apparently non-savage Sauvage, I think it may be that too many aficionados are looking for a “bigger high” but it just doesn’t exist. After you learn to enjoy several scents, it may not get much better than that, because there may be a limit to how much personal enjoyment you can get from such concoctions! You may be able to change your preferences to some degree or your sensitivity (probably by accident, as was the case for me), but it may be the case that you can only enjoy so many scents at an optimal level. After that you can try layering, though the problem with this (I’ve found) is that you often don’t get what you’re seeking, and you wish you had just worn one that you know you’d enjoy. I guess this can be called the “comfort zone” hypothesis, meaning that if find your comfort zone, any attempt to go beyond it by a wide margin will result in disappointment. If you have any thoughts about this, in terms of your personal experience, please leave a comment !