In a recent post I asked if there was any rational argument to make for buying a bottle of Savuage (this is/was during a time before bottles began/begin to sell at significant discounts, if that occurs any time soon). The “problem” is that those who write positive reviews for it don’t seem to know a few potentially important things, such as that there are much cheaper alternatives. They claim it’s a great “compliment getter,” yet people have and continue to say that about many inexpensive scents. And these are usually often the same people who say they want to smell unique, which isn’t the case with Sauvage, since it has become very popular very quickly. So, it’s not cheap, it’s not unique, and there are very cheap alternatives. One reasonable argument would be, “I just want to go to the department store and buy something I like that’s there. I don’t want to do any research, and $80 for a 100 ml bottle is not a financial issue to me.” But nobody ever seems to make an argument like this!
However, since then I realized that there is at least one thing that should be added to this “riddle,” and this realization occurred when I read this Fragrantica.com review of Dylan Blue by Versace:
Finally got cool enough here today, for me to go ahead and do my first full wearing of Dylan Blue after sampling a couple times.
To me this is along the same lines as Sauvage, only MUCH better to my nose. Sweeter/fruitier and more youthful, instead of just a dusty ambroxan and pepper bomb after the Dior’s likable initial opening. Neither one really develops much IMO, but this one does a little bit more.
Jury is still out on performance as it’s only been 3hrs since putting it on, but it’s still chugging right along and I’m getting these glorious fruity citrus/ambrox wafts!:)
It’s not just this review, though, as I remembered people saying they had to use more than a few sprays of Sauvage or that it was weak. I found one spray on a card to be overwhelming, by contrast (and that was after at least an hour, which is when someone brought it into my house!). And so I think people who enjoy these kinds of scents tend to have very low sensitivity to aroma chemicals (in the case of Sauvage I’d guess musk molecules are crucial to generate the overall effect, much as in some of the “old school” musky “masculines”), though the musks used today are generally different. I sent the person a message, because I wanted to know how many sprays he used, and he said:
I used 4 from a 10ml travel atomizer…2 on my torso under 2 layers of clothing, one to the back of my neck/shirt collar and the final one to the front of my shirt:).
I don’t think I could handle four sprays of Sauvage – it might feel like a form of torture, and most seem to think others smell it even if they think it’s weak or gone (almost certainly olfactory fatigue in those cases). The obvious possibility here is that those who don’t detect much of a base or who are satisfied with it (as in the way this person reviewed DB) in these kinds of scents are having a very different experience than I am, and this person’s sensitivity may be even higher than mine:
It’s a chemical nightmare for me. After smelling it, it gives the effect on my olfactory that bleach does, where for hours everything else I smell is unidentifiably awful. Even the fragrance itself smells like burnt tires and transmission fluid. No joke, that is what the chemical opening does to my sense of smell. Just like bleach alters everything I smell after exposure, this fragrance has that effect on my nose. Fresh citrus oranges smell AWFUL after exposure to this, just like bleach does to me. And, my sense of smell is largely paralyzed/blinded for many common smells. I MIGHT be able to identify something like cinnamon after exposure but citrus smells like toxic poison (indescribable).
Sauvage was a HORRIBLE experience for me. I ONLY get this effect from MODERN designer fragrances at Macy’s/JC Penney such as Invictus and other modern ones from YSL too, have the same effect. Old school designer scents are no problem. So, SOMETHING (chemical(s)) these designer fragrances are using are absolutely AWFUL for my nose. It’s depressing and I would like to volunteer my sensitive nose to these houses so they can reformulate these into acceptable levels of tolerance for sensitive people. And I’m not saying my nose is “sensitive” as in “snob”, but rather, vulnerable to being hurt by chemicals that are simply too strong. I’m not good at picking out notes or anything like that…
And there is a scientific explanation. For example, a person who lost his sight at age 3.5 and got it back about 40 years later has yet to adjust well (after a decade with sight)! If you want other examples, you might be able to watch the documentary, “The Brain with Danny Eagleman: What is Reality?” on Youtube (I had to click on a few different links before I found one that worked). It is pointed out that not everyone’s brain is “wired” the same way, and an obvious example are the people who have synesthesia:
One thing I’ve found very interesting about scents is how my sensitivities have changed over the years, sometimes to particular molecules, presumably (“notes”) and sometimes in general. My guess is that fragrance industry researchers not only product test but also are thinking about how to create a “new and special” perception among enough people to make their releases successful. Now an interesting thing to look for in the future is whether a lot of people start saying that a Sauvage smells “old,” “mature,” “out of date,” “played out,” etc. It might take at least a few years, but my sense is that “the shock of the new,” as an art critic titled his book about “modern art” is the one of two key factors, for those who like scents such as Dylan Blue or Sauvage. However, it’s more compelling with fragrances because the person not only enjoys the scent but gets compliments from others who also find the “newness” intriguing even if not something they’d want to smell all day long.
The other key factor would seem to be “house appeal” (some might call it “snob appeal”), meaning that if a bottle has a name on it like Chanel or Dior many are looking for something “special,” which of course explains why so many in the aficionado crowd were disappointed with Sauvage. If it’s a Playboy scent the “newness” is much more likely to be viewed as unpleasant, it would seem, but Playboy scents don’t have a presence in major department stores, Sephora/Ulta, etc., and beyond not being present, such scents don’t get the full salesperson “push” that scents like Sauvage get. Going back to “fine art” for a moment, how many of you know about the (very expensive) paintings of Francis Bacon:
Probably most Americans have not seen any of his paintings (other than perhaps there being one illustrated in his or her college textbook, which they might not even read), but I doubt many would argue that if you asked Americans to tell you who painted one of these works, the minority would say Francis Bacon, despite these being obviously unique and “shocking.” What most people definitely don’t know is why these kinds of paintings are considered “great” or “masterpieces.” One reason is that very wealthy people decide to “back” an artist, and at some point a kind of threshold is reached and the artists is considered a “major” one. You can ask yourself how similar this is to marketing fragrances, but one significant difference is that few scents are purchased for speculative purposes, and this is usually done with ones that are recent, like Perry Ellis’ Oud: Black Vanilla Absolute, which rose in price but then came back down after stores were restocked. Because of this, most fragrance wearers buy what they like, though so many don’t seem to realize how they are being influenced. By contrast, major art buyers often hire an “art advisor.” If you are interested, this documentary explains the fine art market very well:
So, to “wrap it all up,” I’d say that Sauvage apologists, for the most part of course, don’t know why they like it, and so they can’t put forth a reasonable explanation. It wasn’t “online hype” that made it a bestseller, but rather a combination of factors that the good folks at the perfume companies must have known, perhaps in the way that certain Hollywood blockbuster sequels are almost certain to turn a profit, if not be outrageously profitable. And that might be a better comparison, because most people don’t have the time (or want to use it) to do a lot of film research. It’s easier to just decide on a movie based upon personal tastes (as is true with fragrance genres) and “buzz.” It also doesn’t cost that much and serves a social function, though like fragrances, it’s not a social necessity. But the buyers (presumably those with a low sensitivity to certain aroma chemicals) believe they are experiencing something special/unique, and like very strange-looking fine art, want to be part of it. There’s a kind of excitement about it, and that is difficult for people to describe in these contexts (other than to say things like, “wow this scent just blew me away,” which doesn’t help readers much). By contrast, when I “blind buy” a scent, I am only interested in the scent itself (other than rare occasions when I get such a great deal that I think I can sell/swap very profitably).
NOTE: Some of those who really wanted to be part of the “excitement,” it seems, were also among those who may have high sensitivities to certain aroma chemicals, but there’s also another possibility, such as what might be illustrated in this comment about Bleu de Chanel:
Sold off all BDC and for the last time. It’s just not for me even though I like it, I just won’t wear it.
BdC is supposed to be a great “all rounder,” so one wonders how someone could like it enough to buy multiple bottles over a period of time, yet can’t bring himself to ever actually wear it. There seem to be strong emotions at work, which many people don’t recognize at all, it would appear!