I’ve been called a niche hater as well as a chronic niche sampler by those who seem to want to do anything in their power to deflect attention away from this question, but that will be the subject of this post (one can’t compel others to accept obvious reality, as is clearly the case in this age of “fake facts”). First, because some people seem to want to continually “debate” what I consider to be unresolvable questions, such as “what is niche?” I’ll address that up front. In this context, I’m not referring to the “amateurs” like Smell Bent, but instead to anything that possesses what I call a “niche Guerlinade” quality (see below) and where there seem to be niche pretensions, which brings me to “celebuscent,” Stash SJP. The note list, taken from Fragrantica.com is:
fresh grapefruit, black pepper and aromatic sage. Its heart notes include Atlas cedar, patchouli, ginger lily and pistachios, laid on the warm woody base of olibanum, massoia wood, vetiver and musk.
When I began to write this post, the top review at Fragrantica included the statement:
…totaly genderless and niche type perfume.
which apparently was the idea behind it, though an interesting question is whether this was made to satisfy SJP herself or to see if there was a market for what I would call a “generic niche scent.” After my first wearing of it, I wrote up this review:
I don’t see the point of this one, as there are others that smell similar. It’s like they took a hint of Terre d’Hermes, a dash of a CdG incense fragrance, etc. and said, “okay this smells niche-ish enough.” It certainly seems to have its share of iso e super, for those who would want to know. At first I thought I might enjoy this, as it seemed that something interesting was going to “break though,” but it just didn’t go anywhere that was interesting and the “chemical” quality began to irritate me.
UPDATE: The “chemical” quality lasted around 24 hours, if not more, and that was on skin, and I used the equivalent of a spray if not less. I bought two 4 ml vials but now I’ll definitely swap one of them off, as a tiny dab is all I would need if I want to experience this again (but I doubt if I’ll be willing to deal with that obvious “chemical” quality). For me, the reference dry, woody, smoky, incense type scent is Black Tourmaline, which doesn’t seem too “chemical” to me, by contrast.
I decided to wear it a second time, just to be sure my impressions would be the same, though rarely would I wear a scent like this again; once is a enough for such a “chemical” composition! Often a second wearing will reveal some new things, and this time I used smaller dabs, but more of them (and I included the wrists as well as the chest), hoping that the “chemical” quality might be lessened that way. At first, I was thinking “chemical wood, why did I waste another day with this one?” However, this time I did detect a kind of gourmand element, though I can’t say it smelled clearly like pistachios. It is nice, and I wish the whole scent was like this, but instead the “chemical wood” quality just keeps coming forward. And here’s the “problem” that might arise for these companies: they are listing notes that either are barely detectable or are quite obvious, which might satisfy someone like myself (in this context) but then I’m just going to start thinking, why should I pay niche prices? For example, I can buy “Crafters Choice™ Pistachio Macaroon Fragrance Oil 756,” which I saw at http://www.wholesalesuppliesplus.com for less than $6 per two ounces (I have no affiliation with this company and have yet to buy anything from them, but there are plenty of other such companies if you do some searching)! The feedback for this product was great, including:
I was trying to find a dupe for Laura Mercier Crème de Pistache fragrance and this is pretty darn close! Nutty and sweet with creamy vanilla notes this is sweet and delicious. I made a lotion for my friend and can’t wait until she smells it.
If I’m going to do some blind buying to find a pistachio scent, this is going to be it – I don’t even want to spend $3-4 on a niche sample that may be a “chemical nightmare,” and at best will likely be mediocre. So, why are companies marketing scents like Stash? One possibility is that companies that market scents that are considered niche or have decided to market at least one niche-like scent know there is a kind of niche version of Guerlinade they can use, which will be inexpensive to produce and sure to come across as “niche-like” (for those who buy niche), yet might be “tame” enough for some “mainstream” buyers. If you don’t know about Guerlinade, you might want to read this before proceeding further:
On that page, you will find this statement:
In 2016, Thierry Wasser questioned the Guerlinade concept, saying that it is oversimplified and reductionist, like “a thing, plop, plop, that we more or less put into every bottle.”
Wasser’s sense of Guerlinade is the sense I’ve been encountering with the small number of niche scents I’ve sampled that have been released over the last two or three years. IFRA guidelines may play some part in this as well, and there may not be any kind of conscious decision involved. For example, my guess is that the same perfumers (or ones who have similar backgrounds/experiences) are asked to make a niche-like scent for various companies, and yet they are also told to stay within IFRA guidelines (and also have a budget to deal with). After a while, certain types of compositions become common, which is where we may be at now, or things may be headed in that direction. One can read many reviews at Fragrantica in which the reviewer says something about a niche (or niche-like) scent smelling clearly “synthetic” or “chemical,” such as this one about Stash:
Not bad definitely smells niche spicy though the balsamic musky notes are very prominent I’d have liked to smell more woody notes here. Drydown smells a little synthetic not really to my liking…
This is more or less my impression of such scents, that is, they usually seem like ones I should enjoy but then they quickly become too synthetic or chemical. Often, I’ll be thinking, “what’s the point, I’ve got some vintage scents that are based on a similar idea but are entirely natural smelling?” I have never gotten this impression from the several Lutens scents I have sampled (or own), by contrast, and those aren’t all that expensive, which is further support for the idea that some companies think they have found a common accord (s) that will lead to more than a few people thinking, “oh, that’s a true niche [or niche-like] scent!”
Over at the NST blog, Kevin (on March 3, 2017) reviewed Durbano’s Lapis Philosophorum, saying that it possessed, “decidedly phony [woody notes] (Iso E Super stands out).” In the comments section he said, “The faux wood IS strong in this one,” and to another commenter he said, “Lizbee, ha! To get rid of Iso E Super you’d have to remove skin.”
Now if you enjoy Stash, that’s great! After a second wearing, I do get a sense of why it appeals to some people (especially the mild gourmand element), and the “chemical” aspect wasn’t as irritating this time (but it certainly meant the overall experience was unpleasant). I wish I did like it, at least when I could have obtained what for me would have been a lifetime supply at a very good price (not long ago). Instead, I ‘ll likely pursue the inexpensive “fragrance oil” route. I don’t think the “fine fragrance” world has much to offer me going forward, beyond enjoying what I already have. Of course, I’ll continue to swap if possible (that’s how I obtained nearly all my niche bottles, decants, and samples), and if I see a great deal on ebay I’ll likely grab it, but otherwise, the “hype trains” are going to leave the station without me!
NOTE: I have nothing against people I refer to as “chronic niche samplers” – if that’s the way they choose to enjoy scents that’s fine, and if I enjoyed scents that way, you would have certainly encountered at least one blog post by me in which I would have spoken about why I enjoy doing this (one can look at my Fragrantica reviews to decide whether you think I sample a few niche scents each week, if you think I’m lying, as at least one blogger seems to believe!). In any case, I was critical of the reviews written by some of the people who impressed me as such, the reason being that they often made it sound like they loved the scent so much that they wore it almost every day. Then I’d see another review that sounded the same, then another, etc.
Soon, it became clear that something was amiss; after quite a few of them either disappeared or expressed great disappointment (especially with niche) and then disappeared (sometimes returning for brief periods), I began to think that these people were not using these concoctions the same way I was. Moreover, I came to realize that my impressions could change significantly over time, and that since the chronic niche samplers seemed to only wear a scent once, I thought I should let others know that they might not be the best reviewers to follow, especially when blind-buying expensive niche scents! For those who don’t know, you can sample one scent while wear another in your usual way, just dab or spray onto the ankle (it’s best not to get any on clothing, such as your sock). Then whenever you want to know how the ankle sample is developing, you just cross your legs and use one hand to waft the scent to your nose. Thus, even if a person has written a lot of reviews, it doesn’t mean the person only wears that scent on a given day, but again, why not tell this to people (as I’ve done on numerous occasions)? If you are writing a review, you are presumably trying to help others, but the “chronic niche sampler” review often seems to omit some important things for no good reason.