A case of anti-“cheapo”snobbery?


Recently on Basenotes.net, someone created a thread to ask for “blind buy” advice:

“Royal Oud and Reflection Man are two very different scents, but each has a cedar/sandalwood base that is almost creamy and lightly sweet. And I LOVE IT!!! I’m looking for other scents that have a sort of creamy sandalwood base that’s sweet but not cloyingly sweet. Mont Blanc Individuel and Original Santal, for example, are too sweet for me.

It must be modern. Egoiste is excellent, but it’s way to classic or vintage for my style (sure is awesome stuff though!).

Bonus points if it can be worn in summer, but that’s not a requirement at all.”


And let me begin by saying that I understand niche on a psychological level, though I don’t experience it myself, that is, buying and/or wearing a niche bottle seems to make some people feel that they are “special,” rising above the “madding crowd,” perhaps. I noticed this in the “fine art” world as well, and I’m sure it’s common in many other hobbies, interests, fields,  etc.  Being interested in these olfactory concoctions mostly  for personal enjoyment, though, I tend to sell or swap off my niche bottles, if possible, unless I really like the scent, of course.  To me, there simply isn’t enough difference in perceived quality, or anything else, between niche and the best “cheapos,” to justify current pricing (that is, typical online pricing) and this is yet another instance, which I’ll get to in a moment.

Many of the recommendations were for niche scents, as you might have guessed.  One person suggested Carven Homme with great vim and vigor, for some reason that makes no sense to me (I get some cedar but no sandalwood note in that one, and it’s very “old school,” eventually convincing the person to buy it:

“Isn’t Carven Homme sort of classic smelling though? I’m so terrible about making blind buys – I avoid ’em like the plague, even for cheapies… but I’m temped.”

And guess what?  He bought it and was disappointed, considering it too “old:”

“Carven Homme arrived. On first try, I’m 95% sure it’s a miss for me. It smells more classic than what I’d want to wear. I know it’s from 1999, but it smells more like it’s from the days of Egoiste, Bois Du Portugal or Tiffany for men – all of which are FANTASTIC, but they’re not my style…”

So, this person clearly is not an all-out niche snob, but while responding to my suggestion of Swiss Army Unlimited (because to me it seemed he wasn’t really looking for a strong sandalwood scent) and he mentioned Individuel but said that one was too sweet (IMO, Unlimited solves this problem in a similar composition).  He addressed this suggestions, saying:

“Now I think we’re headed in the exact opposite direction. I haven’t smelled it, so I’m just guessing… but I doubt there’s a similarity between the base of Swiss Army Unlimited and the base of Royal Oud or Reflection Man…”

But why would he think there was a similarity between the base of Carven Homme and Royal Oud or Reflection Man?  The key point here is that he didn’t even mention my recommendation of Eau de Iceberg Sandalwood for Men, which I noted is (or was) selling for less than $9 total at ScentedMonkey (100 ml).  According to Fragrantica.com the notes are:

“Fresh bergamot from Sicily and black pepper are combined with Georgywood molecule that smells like amber wood. The heart is made of warm milk, creamy cedar and vetiver from Java, while the base notes include Australian sandalwood, the vanilla scent of tonka bean and Maxalone musk. ”

One of the reviews there does a good job of summing up this scent (though misspelling one word):

“I gotta say that this is a warm, milky, woody and a bit sweet. I will say that is not a typical male scent, more unisex.. I found it very plesant and love the sandalwood and vanilla. A scent that is nice for male and female.”

Even if you haven’t tried it, doesn’t it sound like something this BN member might be seeking?  And I’d say it’s more of a warm weather scent than a cool weather one!  But it seems that because it is a “cheapo,” it gets no thought, whereas the venerable “vintage” Carven Homme is purchased “blind,” despite costing about four times as much per ml!  How many recent designer scents, even “lesser” ones, are  called “Sandalwood?”  That’s not very common these days, for whatever reason, yet a person seeking a “sandalwood scent” (at least in his mind) didn’t appear to be even slightly curious about it!  If this is not a case of anti-“cheapo” snobbery (and think of how few things you can buy for $9 these days), I’d really like to know why this recommendation didn’t even seem to reach the brief mention stage of consideration.

For those who are curious, Sandalwood for Men really does have the milky quality suggested by the notes, and my guess is that it’s exactly what this person is seeking, but for some reason, apparently, he can’t imagine it “being any good.”  Mostly, what I’ve sought with “super-cheapos” is variety, so long as I didn’t find the scent to be irritating in the drydown, but I’ve found that there are quite a few that far surpass such a modest accomplishment.  After years of recommending such scents (I know I suggested Everlast Original 1910 several times since around 2008, for example), usually with little if any response from those asking for advice, I have come to conclude that there is a great deal of bias against scents that sell for very little, even if they were originally marketed as non-cheapos (I think EO 1910 sold at Sephora at one point).  I have encountered a bias against dollar store items as well (not just scents), despite there being some excellent bargains there.

A similar scent (most might consider “higher quality,” at least in “vintage” formulation) is Minotaure by Paloma Picasso.  The notes for that one are:

“Top notes are aldehydes, coriander, tarragon, fruity notes, galbanum and bergamot; middle notes are jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, rose and geranium; base notes are sandalwood, tonka bean, amber, musk, vanilla and cedar.”

Because he said he didn’t want “old,” and because of what I’ve read about a bad reformulation (I was careful to buy “vintage”) of this scent, I didn’t mention it in that thread.  However, it is certainly worth mentioning here, in case someone finds Iceberg’s Sandalwood to be too simple or not as “natural-smelling” as he/she would like (which I’d find surprising).  I’ll close this post by pointing out that it seems as though the “cheapo” companies have really caught up with not just today’s designers, but also much of niche, especially the more popular releases.  These may not be close enough for those who want to feel “special,” but they may work for those who don’t want their wallets to feel too light!

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Filed under Fragrance Reviews., The basics.

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