What to do about questionable recommendations on the major fragrance sites?

I’ve pointed out how ridiculous it is to do something like suggest a high school guy wear vintage Kouros to his prom, but there seems to be no end to these kinds of comments. So, my thought here is to write a post on the subject and hope that “word gets around.” Here is the latest thread of this type, which starts with this post:

Hey guys,

I’m searching for a nice sweet male scent containing Vanilla, Amber and Cinnamon. Sweet but not cloying.

My sister has this nice jummy fragrance from Yves Saint Laurent called Cinema and another one by Guess called Seductive so I wonder if you guys can recommend me at least 3 male fragrances that have this sweet vanilla/amber/cinnamon and floral vibe.

When I first read the thread, there were ten responses. The first suggestion included two very expensive scents (that I have yet to sample) and one that was not very good (Spicebomb, which doesn’t possess a “floral vibe” and isn’t particularly ambery – I don’t even remember vanilla being prominent if detectable at all). The second suggested another two very expensive scents, which seems unrealistic given what’s known. Another response was worse, in that the person recommended a “feminine” scent, when the person was seeking a “masculine.” Now I’m the first to tell people to reassess their perceptions of “gender” in this context, but in this case the person asked a very specific question, and it’s clear that if these distinctions didn’t mean anything to him he’d just buy a bottle of what his sister owned. How much more obvious could that be?

Later yet another person suggested:

Based on your wish for sweetness and florals I’d say try TF Black Orchid but probably much darker than Cinema.

Not only is this a lot more expensive than Guess Seductive, but the person likely would view it as “feminine,” again given what we know. My suggestion was:

Sounds like you want to keep it inexpensive. I’ve seen Corduroy sell for next to nothing lately and it comes across as a bit floral though only lavender is listed as such.

Not long after that post, I thought it would make sense to try and get more information from the person that would help with suggestions, so I then posted this:

It would help if the OP told us if he’s ever smelled Joop! Homme or Le Male, and if so, what his thoughts were about those.

Note that in my first response, I implicitly suggested that the person post again, to tell us if indeed he was seeking an inexpensive scent. And before I posted the above, someone else suggested Ambre Premier by Jovoy, which sells for $129 per 100 ml (that’s the least expensive price I saw with a basic google search). Now it’s possible that the person who created the thread is rich, but you certainly can’t assume that, given that it sounds like he lives with his parents and he thinks Guess Seductive smells great, but at the very least, why not offer a less expensive option along with an expensive one, if you want to suggest an expensive scent to such a person? It comes across as something like, “don’t bother with that garbage meant for the stupid masses – this is what you really want, and it will change your world. You will be among the great and sophisticated once you spray it on.”

Now I hope this is not the case, but it sure seems that way. I wouldn’t have this thought if the original post was something like this:

Hello Gentlemen, I’m new to the world of fragrance appreciation, but I’d prefer to start at the top, so to speak, and work my way down, if it ever comes to that. I’m seeking something along the lines of strong amber/vanilla and spice, I’m guessing cinnamon in particular. Price is no concern, so let me hear about the best of the best. Thanks!

It’s an interesting phenomenon, which may suggest a lack of self-awareness, considering how few niche aficionados there likely are in the world. I’d guess there may be a lack of empathy too, because how is this person going to feel about all the “great” scents he can’t afford, and can’t even imagine affording, if he’s a poor high school student? Perhaps this is just another manifestation of the “income inequality” we see widening, and not just in the USA. Whatever the case may be, this is probably what “gives BN a bad name” to those who claim it is full of “niche snobs” who do things like express extreme disappointment that Sauvage turned out to be “just a nice scent.” In fact, it seemed like it was the vintage and designer crowd who were most upset, the niche snobs viewing Sauvage as “beneath them,” but most Basenotes newbies probably don’t have enough understanding to recognize such distinctions.

UPDATE: After I finished the main draft of the above, the person who started the thread responded, but not to my request to give us some background on his experience level, and there were more recommendations that didn’t make much sense to me, including (and the first by a long-time veteran with over 5000 posts!):

Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur, definitely
Serge Lutens Five O’clock au Gingembre, sort of
Caron L’Anarchiste, maybe
L’Occitane Eau des Baux, give it a try

I concur with Musc Ravageur and 5 O’clock au Gingembre by Serge Lutens but you have to like ginger for that one.

Bogart Witness
Bogart Furyo
Aramis JHL
Versailles Pour Homme
Elizabeth Arden Passion

This last recommendation assumes the person is seeking an “old school” scent, though there is no reason to think this is the case, and Furyo in particular might be far too animalic for the person. It’s one thing to try and be helpful, but it’s another to make some of these suggestions to an apparent newbie, IMO. And most of the time the person does not identify themselves as a newbie, beginner, etc.

UPDATE #2: Yet another BN recommendations thread appeared after I put the finishing touches on the above, this one entitled “Opinions, thoughts needed:”


This person tells us that he’s “looking for something a little different, edgy yet timeless…” for about $100. He’s been a member since October, 2015 and this is his 43rd post – and he provides no clues as to what he might be seeking! This screams out “newbie with preconceptions that will likely cost him some money” to me. In grad school, a professor might respond, “you can’t make a claim about something being ‘different’ unless there is something to which you can compare it.” At this point, I don’t think I’ll do what I’ve done in the past with these kinds of threads, which is to ask the person to supply readers with a sense of his tastes/preference, because this seems to be a general phenomenon (not just asking for such advice but also not giving readers any important information they should have in order to respond reasonably).


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Filed under Criticizing the critics.

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