Further adventures in vintage spoilage paranoia.

As I pointed out in a fairly recent post on the subject, it seems that most of the “rank and file” fears that bottles less than ten years old (highly synthetic ones mostly, in sealed spray bottles) are “going off” quickly, while the “experts” (some of whom might have conflicts of interest because they are profiting from very expensive niche scents) make claims about scents of which they may know little.  As I said in that other post, I’ve had around 300 vintage bottles (around 20 years old or older), if not more, pass through my hands since 2008, and I have only encountered a few with what I would say are “off” top notes – no spoiled drydowns!  How is that possible if spoilage is common?  Are we all walking around in public smelling like skunks?  Come on already, “experts,” your bluff has been called and you’ve got a “busted hand” on this one!

An article on Fragrantica.com titled, “Vintage Perfume Hunting: A Wild Goose Chase of No Practical Purpose (?)” apparently stirred up quite a bit of passion, with claims that  several response posts being deleted.  Here is one (of several) complaints about it:

Is it just me or does it seem that three days of posts have just now been deleted from this thread? 

My last post was – by anybody’s reckoning – broadly sympathetic to both sides of the discussion, where I discussed the difficulties of coming to an objective understanding of the issues concerned. 

There would obviously be no reason to remove it, so I wonder can this and the others also deleted please be returned….

Fragrantica, I would like to have a response on this, please. I am sure it is just a technical issue…But it needs a response.

My response post was:

Even if you had no interest in scent, it would be worth it simply in financial terms!  Most of the ebay sellers I buy from are obviously “pickers” who go to yard/garage/estate sales (judging from the other stuff they sell).  They are probably doing quite well with their “vintage hunting.”  Most people who have complained about vintage prices don’t ever seem to mention what the “chemical soup” designers are currently selling at dept. stores – isn’t that a good point of comparison for most people?  I’d rather “hunt” for something like vintage Jacomo de Jacomo (still not that expensive; usually quite a bit less than designer prices) than buy just about all the current designers at the dept. store, even if the prices were the same.  However, if you must have something like Egoiste Cologne Concentree, you’re probably going to have to pay at least a few times more than current designer prices.  And I certainly think it’s that much better – does anyone really believe that some day soon ECC will be selling for around $50?  If it did, I’d buy all of them immediately, and I think a whole bunch of other people would too!  But if you don’t want to vintage hunt, that’s fine – these are just smells, after all.  You can buy some decent ones at the dollar store.

I just wrote up a blog post on this subject, specifically what one might call “spoilage paranoia” (especially considering how so many are claiming that highly synthetic scents in sealed spray bottles are “going off” quickly).  In one case a person said a Creed bottle spoiled while it was in a Creed boutique!   Another said he thought his original Jazz bottle was spoiled because it smelled too good (still not sure what he was thinking).  I don’t know how many others have my experience, which is a few hundred or more bottles around 20 years old or older since 2008.  Other than a few (and I mean like 2, 3, or 4) that had tops notes that seemed wrong, all the others had very pleasant drydowns – much better than “chemical soup” designers, that’s for sure.  I have been getting some bottles from people who claimed spoilage but so far, the scents are fine, not even bad top notes.  We vintage hunters know the great bargains we get, but unfortunately word has spread and prices on ebay have risen sharply lately, so I’m just glad I bought almost all the vintage I wanted before that happened !

One person, who said he didn’t have an “experienced nose” bought some vintage Drakkar Noir but thought the two bottles had spoiled.  He offered to send them to me, but I suggested he wait a few days then try again.  Here is his response:

So I’ve given the Drakkar a second chance and I think that they aren’t as bad as the initial wearing. When I got them, I had really high expectations of having a verified 80’s powerhouse fragrance and it probably didn’t help that my SOTD was Rive Gauche so there was a mental and physical bias off the bat. The 3.4 splash (1987) smells good, just not as strong as my 2002/2004 bottles likely due to inevitable aging to some extent. The 1.7 spray (1986) doesn’t smell as off putting as the first wearing. Not as clean/green as the splash as there seems to be a bit of a spicy note to it? Cant put my finger on it, but i want to say coriander or something exotic -spicy like that?? I’m at the end of the day and the dry downs appear to be similar to my untrained nose.

We then did a swap for those two bottles, and the splash smelled “right” but weaker than my sealed spray one.  The 1.7 oz. one did have an odd added element to the top notes, and that lasted at least half an hour, but I actually prefer this to the others, because it offers contrast to the fougere accord (and in general, I find fougere accords to be strident and lacking in dynamism).  I can’t remember anything else like this with other vintage comparisons, and it could be a different batch.  I doubt it is a “cooked” bottle (the splash one could be) because it is quite rich and vibrant, but as I’ve advised people, if you can sample from the bottle you might eventually purchase that is by far the best thing to do with vintage.

The person who said her Chocolat Mat; smelled similar to “cat pee” sent me two more bottles, L de Lolita and Dune EdT by Dior.  The Dune looked like it was “vintage,”‘ since the label had no batch numbers and it didn’t say it was made by some other company.  This one did smell strange at first (the person said “like vinegar,” which I would not argue against), perhaps for a couple of minutes, then I smelled very little for a while (I’d guess 15-20 minutes), and then it started to smell good.  The funny thing is that it seemed to get better and better!  After a couple hours, I was thinking that it smelled a bit like A*Men but without the tar and patchouli, but with a strong wood note!  And the longevity was great.  So, I’m not sure what to say about this, other than what I’ve said before.  To be as concise as possible, I suggest that if you absolutely hate odd or off top notes (to the point that it’s a “dealbreaker”), then just stay away from vintage blind buys.  Here is the statement about Dune made by the person who sent it to me:

On my skin that vinegar note is sticking. The vinegar note is new. I really loved the original 90s Dune and it was my first signature scent. This one has been through reformulation. This one used to be more woody-ambers; less so now. The original Dune dried down to Amber and real sandalwood, which was really lovely and warm. This latest version is more sharp, but I still wore it until the sour/weird smell started. I’m trying to decide if it’s worth it to seek out a vintage box, given how sensitive I am to any top note changes.

As to L de Lolita, the person said:

It doesn’t go licorice on me; more like cinnamon cookies. What’s up with the L is that the top notes have burned off. It used to have a floral top note which still exists in a newer bottle I have. Also, it’s getting stronger and more syrupy as it ages. It smells good still in the basenotes. I think it has just gone one-dimensional. But the wood structure is mild, you’re right- with a lot of vanilla.

I got a kind of mentholated licorice at first, which quickly gave way to the strong vanilla with some spice and woods/incense.  The licorice seemed to join the woods to form one accord, but it was in the background in any case.  I enjoyed the entire development.

It still amazes me that more than a few people are so aghast that quite a few others enjoy wearing vintage scents, some going so far as to say that because there’s no way the scent can still be “as the perfumer intended” we should throw our bottles in the garbage, or something along those lines (and how does this person know for sure that these are not so close to the original smell that there may be only a few people in the world who could tell the difference, if that many?).  Leaving people with conflicts of interest aside, I’d guess that the other claimants happen to be highly resentful people.  By contrast, if someone said that he/she loved dollar store scents and thought we were crazy for spending more than that, I would say that I can understand such a position, but I happen to derive a lot of enjoyment/pleasure from some scents that cost a lot more.  There isn’t more to say – these are just smells, and you either like them or you don’t (or you are using them to make some sort of “social statement” and it either works for you or it doesn’t).  Once you know what you are seeking, you can ask about things like batch variations/reformulations, though of course that too seems to make many people (probably almost all the same ones) angry.  I suggest we mostly respond (if we don’t simply ignore them) by being very precise, and not letting them “get a rise” from us.  They can wear their $300 niche or their $80 current designers and be as smug as they like, but we will still enjoy our “vintage gems!”



Leave a comment

Filed under Criticizing the critics.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s