Will somebody please make a rational argument for Sauvage?

On another fragrance blog, I was criticized (harshly; basically called stupid) for a statement I made in the Sauvage review page over at Fragrantica.com, so I’ll copy and paste that first, to provide the information necessary to go forward:

I can understand how some would enjoy this, or how they noticed many compliments (though those who tried it who I know personally said they didn’t like it at all), but you have to make a logical argument! Is this the only scent that garners compliments? The other day someone said that Mambo for Men was a great compliment-getter, for example, and buying that one instead of Sauvage will save you quite a bit of money. But let’s put money aside for a moment. ConsumerThis said: “Let’s just say it’s been a pleasure to watch that love bar pass up everything over the time…” If you enjoy Sauvage for whatever reason, why would you want to see a whole bunch of other people buying it? Do you want to smell like every other guy in your demographic? I think most people want to at least smell a bit unique when they spray on a scent. Instead, it seems like some people want to feel vindicated, as if when enough people online (and anonymous) say Sauvage is great, then that justifies paying more than you would have for Mambo, Berlin by Playboy, or any number of other “cheapos” that would make you smell more unique and might garner as many if not more compliments! And this leads me to think that many “Sauvage lovers” don’t have all that much experience, either will less expensive (non-department store) scents or with scents in general. If you disagree with me, please make a reasonable argument – I’m really interested to hear one at this point. Thanks.

I’m not sure what there is to criticize in this comment, but I have a feeling that some people have at least somewhat “lost their minds” with Sauvage, even those people who may not like it much, if at all!  Why?  At this point, all I can think of doing is listing relevant things that are facts or “semi-facts” (see my recent post about that, if you don’t know what I mean):

1.  It can’t be argued that there is nothing like Sauvage because one can say that about any of these concoctions.  What one can say is that a particular scent is quite odd, such as Secretions Magnifiques, but there are few such examples among designers.  From what I can tell, Sauvage may have more ambroxan than any other scent marketed to the general public that also reaches a huge number of people (compared to say an obscure niche company).  However, that’s not something the apologists seem to be highlighting in their “defense” of it.

2. It can’t be argued that Sauvage is less expensive than niche, making it some sort of bargain, because A. that’s not even true (50 ml Smell Bent scents are $50, last time I checked, for instance), and B. that would only matter to those who want a huge amount of ambroxan in a scent, and again, I can’t remember anyone making that argument (if there is one, that is obviously an “exception proving the rule” situation).

3. There are a huge number of scents that are very inexpensive and seem to have a similar construction and purpose, Berlin by Playboy being an obvious example.  I don’t like Berlin much, which cost me around $5 for 100 ml, but I do think the very different Magnet for Men is quite enjoyable and an obvious “crowd pleaser,” with no “chemical overload” aspects  – quite “natural smelling,” IMO, and that cost me around $7 for 100 ml.  When it comes to the Sauvage type of scent (that is, with a clear marine quality), I’d rather wear Horizon, so that I at least get some vintage complexity and naturalness, for those interested.

4.  If you enjoy Sauvage, that’s great, but it’s just one scent among perhaps 2,000 released just this last year alone!  If you claim that you want to smell unique, how can you not consider several of the other hundreds of “masculines” released recently?  You have to be content to “smell like every other guy.”  That doesn’t bother me at all, though I just happen to rarely wear those kinds of scents.  However, this does eliminate one major reason why people say they want to spend $80 or so (or more!) on a 100 ml bottle, rather than just using a deodorant and/or body spray (or “cheapo” EdT like Berlin) that “smells nice.”

5. If you don’t mind “smelling like every other guy,” that’s fine, but then why spend so much?  Why not just get a scent that is an excellent “compliment getter” but is a lot cheaper?  One reasonable response is that the person doesn’t want to spend the time doing the research, going to stores that might or might not have testers, etc., but again, I can’t remember one person saying something like, “I’ve heard all the online commentary, so I really wanted to try Sauvage, and when I did, I found that I liked it, and I really didn’t want to do any more testing or research at that point.”  As things stand, it seems that “online hype,” or whatever one wants to call it (along with ignorance in many cases), is determinative for nearly all of the positive reviews, directly or indirectly.

Let’s face it, if you are the kind of person who reads/writes reviews or posts about these olfactory concoctions, then you have bought into “hype” to some degree (including myself), in some way, but that doesn’t mean at least some of these scents don’t deserve the hype!  How many movies were you “hyped up” to see but then were quite disappointed?  Or lived up to it?  And for how many other things does this apply?  This is a normal part of humanity, it seems.  There’s nothing to be ashamed of here, unless you become obstinate and make claims that are clearly unsupportable.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to just go to the local mall and buy a scent at the department store fragrance counter – why not just leave it at that?  Why feel that you need to go online and “defend” the scent?  Dior must be making huge profits on it, so you don’t need to “help” them (so many seem to think that by praising Sauvage they are doing the equivalent of standing up to a bully!).  Why not just let the scent speak for itself?  Some people spend hundreds on a 100 ml (or less!) bottle and think it’s a great deal while others don’t want to spend more than perhaps $15 or $20 on such a bottle – if someone tells you that you might like a $5 bottle of Berlin, why not say something like, “thanks for the tip – if I can find a tester I will?”  If Berlin is likely to “accomplish” more or less the same thing that Sauvage does, shouldn’t you be glad?  Why reduce everything to some sort of illogical “zero sum game?”  And if you took the time to write a review, you can take the time to  explain your decision-making process!

If you haven’t read many of my recent posts, I’d like to mention here that it will be interesting to see what happens in the fragrance industry, because there are so many companies marketing inexpensive scents that are very similar to expensive ones (meaning around $80 or more at the local department stores) and are “good quality” (at least in the drydowns) one has to wonder if this all falls apart for the “major” companies.  Of course, the success of Sauvage would seem to be evidence to the contrary and perhaps another variation on the old saying, “nobody ever went broke overestimating the stupidity of the American public.” It may be that the top notes are what closes the deal, so to speak, especially at department store counters (as some have said for a while now), but these days (with the internet resources available), the only thing stopping someone from most likely getting a great bargain is their desire to do something else instead of a bit of research.

NOTE:  For an example of someone who seems to be the kind of person who would think that spending $80 on a 100 ml bottle of fragrance is ridiculous, there is this review of Trump’s Success on Amazon.com:

OK I’m not a huge fan of Trump ego but boy boy boy I know this fragrance here will get me alot of compliments from the ladies. I’m a huge cologne fan own over a 100 bottle this will most definitely be a signature scent. To put it bluntly it have a citrus blast of Nautica Discovery when you sniff yourself and then a crossover of Avon Driven Black if your familiar with those scents it’s in one here. I smell successful when you leave the room people will definitely know you been there…

I tried Driven Black a long time ago and didn’t think much of it, but in any case it sounds like Success might be similar to Cuba’s Silver Blue, which is selling for about $4 for 100 ml now at ScentedMonkey.  I would have bought it but I can’t just buy every “cheapo” at this point or else I’d be tripping over these bottles!  But even on this “cheapo” level there may be better deals – the “super cheapos” – it’s all about how much effort you want to put into it, and also there may be no testers available locally, meaning that you need to decide if you want to “risk” a blind buy.  And so, as I’ve said before, you should just make your own decisions.  Don’t think you need to justify your preferences or motivations when you buy a bottle.  But if you feel the need to do this, consider making an argument that can withstand some scrutiny.  Don’t assume everyone else shares your decision-making process.  I know I’m likely “preaching to the converted,” but I’d like to make sure my views are clear on the subject.

UPDATE:  Since my last post on the Sauvage review page at Fragrantica, nobody has written a review there that addresses my points.  This review, written after my comment, is a good example of a “thoughtful” one that is worth examining:

There is nothing wrong with this fragrance but there is not groundbreaking either. it smell good but kind of generic after the initial blast calms down. Longevity and projection are both good which is a plus. However i think most people are disappointed with this fragrance because they expected more from a house that came out with the Fahrenheit and Dior Homme series. At the end of the day it serves it purpose though; an easy wearing fragrance that can be mass marketed. It has become quiet popular here in toronto as every department store i walk into is really pushing this one.

Of course I don’t agree that it is “easy wearing,” but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the case for most of the “younger generation.”  However, most importantly (in my view) is the notion that it “serves its purpose,” because that can be said of deodorants, body sprays, and much less expensive EdTs.  So, again we encounter yet another  reviewer who does not address the issue of price.  Is he rich?  Does he not have the time and/or motivation to do some research?  We don’t know, but it’s really his responsibility to tell us if he’s going to make such statements.




Filed under Criticizing the critics.

10 responses to “Will somebody please make a rational argument for Sauvage?

  1. Bibi Maizoon

    You have to be content to “smell like every other guy.”

    If you are buying a scent that is ‘mainstream’ and is marketed as such – then yes I would assume you’d be content smelling like “every other guy.”

    Dior is mainstream, designer, and rather bourgeois in style in all it’s products from clothing to cosmetics.
    I like Sauvage.
    Precisely because Sauvage appeals to mainstream bourgeois tastes- cross culturally I might add.
    I live in a Asian culture with a sycophantic bent that requires me to buy luxury gifts. Fragrance is considered an appropriate luxury gift in this culture. These gifts better come from a recognized brand and the scent must not offend anyone. Sauvage’s blast of Szechuan peppercorns is a scent most Asian cultures like and are familiar with. The pared down woodsy/ambergris note of the Ambroxan is another scent that is both familiar and pleasant to Asian tastes. Sauvage is not going to offend anyone, Dior is a well known brand, the presentation is elegant, and the price is around what I wish to pay.
    My husband as well as other high ranking individuals and public officials tend to wear scents like Sauvage, Gendarme, Jockey Club, Royal Briar, Trafalgar, Terre D’Hermes, etc. If you deal with a lot of people from different cultures you’re going to have to smell groomed rather than perfumed and perhaps a bit boring. I’ll probably buy my husband a bottle of Sauvage for his birthday.

    If Sauvage’s modern minimalist composition with it’s heavy dose of ambroxan and brash blast of Szechuan peppercorns & bergamot were put out by Juliette Has A Gun, Escentric Molecules, Le Labo, Byredo- or any other of these trendy niche houses that utilize simple compositions with a lot of synthetics the perfumistas would be probably lauding it’s praises.

    I do think Dior’s blunderous choice of Johnny Depp as a spokesmodel for the fragrance was a rather mistaken attempt to appeal to the niche crowd. Anybody who has risen to superstardom by playing a Disney pirate ain’t hip enough for the niche crowd nor the bourgeoise.

    If I have to choose a gift for a female bigwig or some babu’s wife then I’d choose Dior’s J’Adore for precisely the same reasons- tasteful, well presented, sure to appeal to most everyone, and above all inoffensive.

    We get those Playboy scents here too. I’ve tried them. They’re okay. About the same quality as the more popular Axe. They’re tolerable, inoffensive for the most part (although there are a few stinkers in both lines), a bit short lasting. I like Jovan’s male fragrances for cheapies better though. Jovan’s Black Musk is an updated version of the old 70’s Sex Appeal that smells more expensive than it is. Intense Oud is like an oud with training wheels for those new to the intricacies of that note. I still like Jovan’s Musk for men with that gorgeous Amalfi lemon dry down, although it’s recent formulation doesn’t seem to have quite the bombast nor sillage of the original 70’s version.

    • In response, I’ll just mention that of the 5 or more Playboy “masculines” I have all but one seemed quite strong (and the one that didn’t seem strong I only wore once). I am no expert on aquatics, ambroxan-heavy, etc. scents, but to me Playboy’s Berlin was a wearable version of Sauvage. It only lacks a strong marine quality, and I can get that from Horizon. My main point is that Sauvage seems to be for those who just go to departments stores or Sephora/Ulta and buy. And just as Cool Water seemed like something from another world way back when (probably due to how much dihydromyrcenol was used), the same idea (with ambroxan instead) seems to be behind Sauvage’s creation. I don’t see it as “office friendly,” though because the people who smelled the card I had of it couldn’t stand it, and they were in their 40s or older. I think that it’s more for a younger crowd, especially good for hanging out with friends (“casual” situations), but this might vary from one demographic or country to another, I suppose. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      • Bibi Maizoon

        I don’t get any ‘marine’ notes from sniffing pure Ambroxan (as In Juliette Has A Gun’s “Not A Perfume” which is solely Ambroxan) nor in Dior’s Sauvage.
        I have several forms of real ambergris in tincture and solid form all of which which do have a tinge of a nitrogenous “marine” note. Examples of marine notes would be sea water, ocean breeze, algae, sea weed, drift wood and sand.

        Ambroxan definitely does not have a fishy or nitrogenous note like real ambergris at all. Straight Ambroxan smells like ambergris which has been pared down or “cleaned” of it’s marine notes and is most often described as musky, woody, and amber-like. On my skin straight Ambroxan smells a bit like a mild dilution of sandalwood with it’s characteristic slight muskiness. On my husband’s skin straight Ambroxan has a very warm amber note and a weak peppery cedar-like quality.

        I do find that Westerners mistake the brash, nose numbing, citrusy qualities of natural Szechuan peppercorn for a synthetic quite frequently. People generally like what they’re most familiar with, and most Westerners are not familiar with Szechuan peppercorns.

        The worst I can say about Sauvage is that it is boring, as is Terre D’Hermes with it’s modern minimalistic Iso Super E heavy composition. Sauvage is a simple but tasteful modern masculine that could easily be worn by any male from Grandpa to teenager.

        And yes, anything with a designer name like Dior, Hermes, Guerlain, Gucci, or Burberry is definitely marketed towards the tastes of those who shop at Sephora or well known department stores.

      • I kept the card with Sauvage in it in a bathroom that wasn’t used for the time it was in there (just coincidence), which was over a week, and I went in there to check on it a couple times a day. Each time, it came across as having a marine quality, either when I walked in, or even more so when I smelled the card close up. Of course, not being a perfumer I don’t know if whatever that was had anything to do with ambroxan. As JC Ellena once pointed out, you can take two things that don’t smell at all like chocolate but when you bring them together, there it is! So, from what I had read I assumed that was it, though I think there is also quite a bit of ambroxan (due to “textural similarities) in Playboy’s Berlin, and yet I get little if any marine quality with that one. Since Depp is the “face” of it and he was in all those Disney pirate movies, it would make sense that they would add a touch of the marine to it. I think what’s worse is that it smells like a deodorant (perhaps due to it’s muskiness and lack of clarity) crossed with a simplified version of Horizon to me. At least with Berlin it comes across more like a “personal fragrance,” rather than a non-descript “personal care product.” As a room spray, though, I would use it (such as in garages and bathrooms). Thanks for your input!

  2. Bibi Maizoon

    “Christian Dior Sauvage includes notes of bergamot, elemi, geranium, Sichuan pepper, lavender, patchouli, vetiver, and ambroxan. Available at Dior boutiques and counters.”

    That’s from the Dior website. (Although I tested Sauvage at the duty free shops in the Moscow airport & Delhi airport too- So it isn’t exclusively at Dior stores).

    Not seeing nor smelling anything even remotely “marine” in Savage’s notes. All I get is a very bright, sharp pepper & citrus opening fading to a nondescript warm melange of woodsy notes sitting atop a nicely done “clean” synthetic ambergris base. There is a mineral dryness but none of the sharp iodine or nitrogenous notes you’d associate with a marine fragrance. Try Comptoir Sud Pacifique’s Aqua Motu for a very marine fragrance.

    The mineral dryness paired with strong citrus remind me of Terre d’Hermès. Other aspects of Sauvage remind me of Abercrombie & Fitch’s Fierce, Chanel Égoïste Platinum, & Burberry Brit Rhythm. Sauvage is wearable, presentable, and board room appropriate. There is nothing remotely dark or menacing about it. At worst it’s just boring (as are most designer fragrances these days). If you’d like an interesting and complex perfume then stay away from Sauvage and it’s ilk.

    The photos of Depp in the Sauvage ads tend to emphasize his multitudinous tattoos, plethora of artsy bracelets & numerous rings while he stands out in what looks like the California desert- definitely not marine nor pirate-y. I think they were hoping to attract a younger ‘hipster’ male. Johnny’s too old to attract a younger crowd, he looks more like Keith Richards on a good day. Sauvage is way too clean, antiseptic, and presentable for an aging rockstar or middle aged pirate.

    • On many sites selling the scent, such as Macy’s, you will read this statement in the description of Sauvage: “An ingredient of natural origin derived from the very precious ambergris, it unfurls its marine woody notes, as vivifying as the ocean spray.” I only speak to my impressions, perceptions, experiences, research, etc. I certainly can’t tell others that they are perceiving the same thing that I am!

      • Bibi Maizoon

        Oh come on.
        Directly from the Macy’s website-
        “A radically fresh composition, dictated by a name that has the ring of a manifesto.
        That was the way François Demachy, Dior Perfumer-Creator, wanted it: raw and noble all at once.
        Natural ingredients, selected with extreme care, prevail in excessive doses. Radiant top notes burst with the juicy freshness of Reggio di Calabria Bergamot. Ambroxan, derived from precious ambergris, unleashes a powerfully woody trail. Sauvage is an act of creation inspired by wide-open spaces. An ozone blue sky sprawled above a rocky landscape, white-hot beneath the desert sun. “To create Sauvage, I used man as my starting point. A strong and unmistakable masculinity. Like the image of a man who transcends time and fashion. – François Demachy, Dior Perfumer-Creator”

        From the Dior website-
        A radically fresh composition, dictated by a name that has the ring of a manifesto.
        That was the way François Demachy, Dior Perfumer-Creator, wanted it: raw and noble all at once.
        Natural ingredients, selected with extreme care, prevail in excessive doses.
        Radiant top notes burst with the juicy freshness of Reggio di Calabria Bergamot. Ambroxan®, derived from precious ambergris, unleashes a powerfully woody trail.
        Sauvage is an act of creation inspired by wide-open spaces. An ozone blue sky sprawled above a rocky landscape, white-hot beneath the desert sun. ”

        There is no “marine” anything or “ocean spray” in there.

        “An ozone blue sky sprawled above a rocky landscape, white-hot beneath the desert sun.”

        Now that’s about as far from the ocean or marine as you can get.

        Will you please make a rational argument for your description of Sauvage as “marine”?

        Ambergris does have a marine note, Ambroxan does not.
        Get a sample of Juliette Has A Gun’s Not a Perfume (Ambroxan) & compare it to real ambergris.

      • I’m not sure what you want me to say, as if there is a “right answer.” I get a clear marine quality, and I actually like it. I just think Horizon is a better scent (according to my tastes/preferences) that also has what I perceive as a clear marine quality.

  3. Johnathan

    Sauvage smelled ok to me at first. Nothing special as I already had about 25 fragrances in my collection. But then I smelled it on someone else and it smelled really good. I recognized the scent and said, you smell really good, is that Dior Savage? The guy responded, thanks, yes it is, good nose.
    I then purchased a bottle and I have received more complements with this fragrance than any other and I now have about 35. I’ve heard so many women say you smell so good. One woman followed me to ask me what I was wearing and then said, it’s worth it.
    I have also asked many women to compare scents on my arms and from adult women, Sauvage almost always wins. The most common response is, this smells manly. So Sauvage is my signature. I rotate a lot as well because I like variety but generally Sauvage is my centerpiece simply for the reactions it brings. I am not affiliated with any fragrance company and I don’t have a favorite brand or anything. I just go with what I like and what the women around me think. So for a mid range priced fragrance, I find that Dior Sauvage is a real winner. Judging by the comparisons I have seen on YouTube I would argue that Dior Sauvage is a real winner compared to any priced fragrance.

    • You are likely restating my argument, just using different phrasing (and not being as specific), which is fine, but I want to point this out to other readers. It goes something like this, “I want to just go to a department store and find a scent that is good for compliments [from a specific demographic, presumably] and smells at least okay; I don’t mind paying the $80 or so for a 100 ml bottle. I don’t want to do a lot of research and I don’t care about smelling unique. When Sauvage gets ‘played out’ I’ll go back to that department store and try to find the new scent that achieves the same goal.” The difference is that you don’t address certain issues that are very important to many of us in this “hobby,” such as how much we are willing to spend on any one bottle, and because of that, the arguments I’ve read don’t register as “rational.”

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