The High Cost of Getting a Great Deal ?

Well, I have to admit that I thought claims about these olfactory concoctions couldn’t get much stranger,  but I encountered a new one that may be the “winner” here:

We wear the frag and enjoy it, but in the back of our minds wonder, what’s the catch? Did I really just get a fresh-fruity cheapie that I like? Or am I paying for its cheapness somehow, in some manner less obvious to me, but not others?

First, I’ll point out that I’ve read on several occasions (and experienced it myself) that many of the “cheapos” from several decades ago were known to have no real top notes, and in fact to sometimes smell unpleasant for a minute or two – that was the “catch” with these, and I certainly have no problem “paying” what to me is a nearly non-existent price (since I’m not like a “Creed fanboy” who is mostly buying the scent for the top notes, which is his right and I hope he enjoys the experience).  Now the new “cheapos” vary considerably, and it’s not even clear what one should call a “cheapo” because some were selling at non-cheapo prices at places like Sephora or Ulta (an example being Everlast Original 1910), yet then had a long run (years) of selling for very low prices.  Then there are the Cuba scents, for example, that apparently were meant to sell at low prices from the outset.

In both cases, however, I would not agree with this blogger, who thinks that:

With very cheap fragrances, there’s a higher chance that the headspace off the fruit will emit something bland, clean, and nondescript. Close up, with your nose mere millimeters from where you sprayed, you may get a very complex blend of lucid accords and individual notes.

Note that “headspace” usually refers to a test that was used to construct the scent, but this person seems to be saying that if you wear some “cheapos” they will smell “bland, clean, and nondescript” to others who might walk by you and smell it, for instance.  I find this humorous because I thought that is what most people were seeking!  Moreover, I can’t remember a “cheapo” that struck me as a “very complex blend of lucid accords and individual notes” when smelled at any distance, though smelling any scent very close to the skin is generally a bad idea because perfumers construct their scents to be smelled at a distance of more than “mere millimeters.”  Of course, this kind of claim screams out for a couple of examples, but this person simply mentions a few companies, not the scents in question.  If you have a complaint about a large number of scents, why can’t you name just one or two?  I’d really like to buy that “cheapo” that smelled like a “very complex blend of lucid accords and individual notes” close up or from some other close distance!

I wonder if any perfumer would say that he/she could construct a scent that smelled like a “very complex blend of lucid accords and individual notes” up close but “bland, clean, and nondescript” from a few feet away (or whatever the claimant is suggesting).  What I have found is that some “cheapos” seem reasonably natural, reasonably complex, etc., and I’ll provide an interesting example, Magman by someone I’m guessing is fictional in this context, Arno Sorel.  The notes are listed (at Fragrantica.com) as:

…bergamot, pineapple, cumin, nutmeg, rosewood, prune, musk and amber.

In my review I said, among other things:

Sort of a “mini-me” Lutens (perhaps Five O`Clock Au Gingembre without the tea note and weaker)!

I mention this one because the blogger said “fresh-fruity cheapie,” yet later in the post states:

Cheapies like Caron Yatagan and Krizia Uomo don’t suffer this fate because their profit margin is modest.

First, how does this person know about the profit margins from these two scents relative to “cheapos” in general?  One would have to at least mention a “cheapo” in question and then provide evidence demonstrating a significant profit margin difference!  Second, why bring in two non-“freshies” in this context (and the bottles of KU I’ve had seemed to possess quite a bit of castoreum!)?  If it hadn’t been for this claim, I wouldn’t have written this post, because I have little interest in “freshies” and to me they all smell “bland, clean, and nondescript” and/or “chemical,” “synthetic,” harsh, etc. to some degree, though it depends upon how the person is using the term “freshie.”  Again, this is where some examples are crucial.  Do Creed “freshies” have nicer top notes that Playboy “freshies?”  I’d be very surprised if that wasn’t the case, but who would argue otherwise?  And so many complain about poor Creed longevity (apparently this being the case mostly for the “freshies”) that one might ask if it’s a question of smelling something versus smelling nearly nothing!  Such people are clearly buying the scent for their own enjoyment or else they would be more concerned about whether other people could smell it, and if so, what those people were perceiving.

But back to Yatagan and scents of that sort.  I’d probably rather wear Jovan’s Intense Oud or Magman, simply because to me those smell better.  I’m not wearing them for others and I wouldn’t mind it if such scents smelled  “bland, clean, and nondescript” (to other people), because most people don’t like cumin notes, Yatagan in general, and the kind of “oud scent” that is Intense Oud (I’ve called that one something like a mini-me Black Aoud by Montale)!  There is no “price to be paid” here, other than the very cheap one to buy a large bottle of these “cheapos,” assuming you like them, obviously.  Now if I didn’t like Intense Oud, for instance, and really liked Black Aoud (I dislike that one because it’s too strong/harsh) then I would have to decide whether it was worth the price.

Fortunately, I can’t remember being in a position to make that kind of decision, because I’ve been able to acquire the expensive scents I’ve sought through swapping.  There seems to be a notion in the minds of some individuals which assumes that people like myself think along the lines of, “gee, I really like scent X but I’ll settle for cheapo X clone and save some money, even though I know I’ll almost certainly regret it.”  That doesn’t happen, at least with me.  I genuinely enjoy many “cheapos” I’ve purchased, in some cases more than very similar ones that are a lot more expensive.  Then there is an example like Cuba Prestige, which is similar to A*Men.  I have bottles of both.  There’s no reason to swap Prestige because I wouldn’t get much in return and would have to pay for shipping, but if I could swap A*Men for something I wanted that cost let’s say at least $50,. then I would not hesitate to do it because Prestige satisfies my interest in this kind of scent, when it arises (perhaps once a month).

I never think that I’d rather wear A*Men instead, and can appreciate them both roughly in the same way.  This isn’t true in all such cases, of course, an example being Preferred Stock, which is a good “cheapo” version of vintage Red for Men, but it doesn’t provide what I seeking when I want to wear Red (the company claimed it contained over 550 ingredients, so it would seem to be unreasonable to expect it to).  In other cases I prefer the “cheapo” because it’s not as harsh or “chemical,” an excellent example being Dorall Collection’s Mankind Bravo, which was apparently meant to be a Kokorico clone.  Kokorico is difficult for me to wear at times because it can come across as “synthetic/chemical,” but Mankind Bravo is just right (I think I paid $6.35 total for 100 ml).  Sure, not everyone is going to devote that much time to figuring out such things, and that is what the major companies are likely “banking on” with new releases that cost $80 or more per 100 ml bottle, yet don’t seem all that unique (but can smell quite harsh, “chemical,” etc., Sauvage being an obvious example).  Of course if you are more concerned about what others think, go ahead and ask them!  I hope this blogger adds an update and clarifies his position (and offers a few examples).

In the meantime, I noticed that a Fragrantica member seems to have the opposite notion:

It is a fragrance you spray to get “Oh, you smell nice” or “Oh, you smell good.” You do not wear this fragrance to show off it’s complexity or quality of notes. It just a good cheapie to garner compliments, and with that said it is a good cheapie!!!

This is a review for Karen Low’s Pure Blanc, which I haven’t tried, but at the very least this shows that you should think things through for yourself and try to give any scent you sample a chance to impress you (or others), without assuming that the price is going to be a major factor, one way or the other.

NOTE:  One person who commented on this individual’s blog post said:

I agree with you completely on this. A few days ago, I tested Adidas Victory League. It smells nice at first but develops into a cheap and headache inducing mess. I would never wear this, but I’d use it as laundry freshener.

Again, AVL is not a “freshie;” perhaps fruity masculine oriental would be as far as one could go in a “fresh” direction with that one, but much more importantly, the blogger was not addressing “headache in a bottle” type scents!  The post was supposedly about “freshies” that smell a lot less impressive from a distance than more expensive “freshies” (with no price range nor any other guidance given).  If one reads the reviews of AVL, one does not get the impression that it is a “headache in a bottle” type of scent, but who would wear such a scent in the first place?  One wouldn’t care if it was less impressive from a distance to others if was making one ill – one would simply avoid wearing it!  And get this, the blogger had a fairly positive review of it back in 2013:

…it does remind me of Allure Homme (original), except lighter and less dimensional, sort of an Allure Lite. It’s a nice fragrance with a pleasant orange-citrus lift on top, followed by a vanillic amber, affectingly soft and clean. Again, Adidas proves that inexpensive “sport fragrance” need not be cheap-smelling and trite. If you like sporty ambers (there aren’t many), you could do much worse than this.

I more or less agree with this view, though I’m not sure what “clean” would mean here other than it doesn’t have any animalic notes.  In fact, if he used my language he might have called it a “mini-me Allure Homme!”  But the key question is, how does AVL support his claim, particularly in light of his own review (since he provided no examples, it was quite helpful that one of his readers did)?  The commenter didn’t say the scent developed into a “bland, clean, and nondescript” scent!  And the blogger didn’t say anything about highly irritating, “headache inducing” drydowns.  Thus, the blogger was not successful in conveying what it was he was trying to communicate, apparently.

And it’s also interesting to ask what the better alternative is if others think you smell “bland, clean, and nondescript” while you are wearing a “freshie.”  Would it be, “wow, you smell fresh, clean, and distinctive?”  I have never read anything online other than comments like, “you smell very nice (or very good)”or “you smell sexy” when a scent is described as a “compliment-getter,” and I have yet to get compliments of any kind, other than when I ask someone about a scent (and so they say they like or don’t like the scent itself), perhaps because I don’t use many sprays, often just one.  The point is that I find it unlikely that more than a tiny percentage of the population would make such linguistic distinctions in their commentary (assuming they say anything at all).  In any case, there is no such thing as a “cheap smell.”  Whether or not the vast majority of people in the area you inhabit think you are wearing something “cheap,” something “classy,” something “sexy,” something “generic,” etc. would require quite rigorous study.  When those results are published, I’d be very interested to see them, but in the meantime, views about what “smells good” seem to vary significantly, and the possibility that one blogger knows everything there is to know about such things seems rather remote.

 

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Filed under Criticizing the critics., The basics.

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