Cases of non-mysterious “Mysteries?”

Dyatlov Anger.jpg


I’ve read a lot of strange claims lately while perusing fragrance reviews (political news too, but I’m sure you’re already familiar with those items), for example, these are recent Creed Viking reviews on

The British Creed site makes a point of noting that this is 80% natural ingredients. That’s an interesting decision on their part . I would guess it’s related to the explosion in popularity for Creed and niche in general over the last couple years – trying to make the point that they have not become a “mass producer” and forced to go synthetic because of it.

None of the ingredients in Viking have any real value – although if they continue to use an infusion process, that’s where the costs would really come from .
Anyway. Probably overall not a bad idea on their part. There will likely be more of it going forward.

One thing that did not surprise me about Viking – it was designed with ingredients that have not been part if the IFRA restrictions. Bergamot is the only exception – and the rose is probably synthetic for practical reasons.


smelt it once, smelt very weak , went back 10 minutes later,nothing there. Creed is a joke, especially with their prices. People, we are all being fooled by these perfume houses. please take me back to the 70s and 80s, when colognes were real, not like these light petty lasting and projecting crap we have today. i would not have a Creed even if you bought it for me. Say what you want about me, i dont care. u want to spend hundreds on water, go ahead, i can get water for cheap at the supermarket.

As to the first one, yes, when you read something like “80% vol.” on a bottle or box, that means the alcohol content, and alcohol is “natural.”  That’s it.  Viking is a “highly synthetic” scent, AFAICT.  The wood note alone is laughably synthetic, IMO (though there could have been a mix of naturals and synthetics used to compose it).  An “interesting decision?”  No, if one could make that kind of powerful, “crowd-pleasing” scent using 80% naturals in the fragrance portion, that would be a great accomplishment, but only if it smelled entirely natural, which it clearly does not.  And the other day, I bought a bottle of Yacht Man Victory for less than $3 new total (100 ml and not a tester); the box says: “80% vol. alcohol of natural origin.”  The rest of his statement I can’t say I understand, but it sounds like “fanboy speak” to me, the interesting question being how does one become such a person, assuming he was not paid to do it (directly or indirectly).

In the second “review,” it sounds like a newbie who experienced olfactory fatigue (I had the same problem back in 2008, but then not long thereafter, became hyper-sensitized!).  At the very least, this person should tell us which scents he has found to be very strong and also if he tried to approach his claim systematically.  That is, one could wear the supposedly weak scent on Monday, then the supposedly strong scent on Tuesday, then the weak scent on Wednesday, then the strong scent on Thursday, etc.  If you want to make this claim you need to make sure it’s not you rather than the scent!  Another amusing and strange thing I noticed were how many people took great offense at obviously humorous reviews (on Fragrantica) of Sauvage Parfum, which has yet to be released.  Many droned on and on about how terrible it was that SP has so many “dislikes,” yet “loves” soon surpassed the dislikes!  This led me to write up a couple of humorous reviews of my own, which were voted off the page, so I decided to try “reverse psychology,” posting this non-review:

What’s with all the hate, people? Dior is a great brand, always has been, always will be! The haters spend so much time making fun of a scent they never tried, it’s just ridiculous. Why don’t you people find something better to do with your time them coming to a review page for a fragrance that has yet to be released and just blathering on and on? You know it’s going to be a huge hit and everyone’s going to love it, and it makes you jealous, doesn’t it? Well, grow up for goodness sake; if you don’t like it then just don’t wear it. Why is that so hard to do? Why spend all that time and effort just typing up the hate? I just don’t understand it. Nobody cares about that stuff; they’re going to go to the local stores and buy up all the bottles, and there’s nothing you can do about it!

I thought it was would get voted off too, but last time I looked it had two balloons!  Finally, somebody said what my non-review implied:

Amusing that you all complain about ‘hate votes’ while complicit of love and like votes. So it’s ok to like and love it before release but not dislike? I personally don’t vote on anything I haven’t smelled myself, but if you want to maintain the integrity of the system, you should be upset about any votes before release- good or bad.

We shall see how long it lasts before it gets voted down.  Why can so few people see the obvious, or the likely obvious?  This is not a new problem, but it’s become very obvious with all the people who want to share their views online these days.  And it’s not difficult to find research that demonstrates this, for example:

A new study from the University of Iowa finds that once people reach a conclusion, they aren’t likely to change their minds, even when new information shows their initial belief is likely wrong and clinging to that belief costs real money.

But why are the beliefs there in the first place?  Of course, for many if not most of us, there are things we would like to believe, such as that if we spend a lot more money on a scent than most others do, there is a good reason for the decision (“it’s more natural and it was produced by people who have hundreds of years of tradition behind them,” for example).  There’s some interesting research on this as well:

It has been well established that people have a “bias blind spot,” meaning that they are less likely to detect bias in themselves than others…

They also found that people with a high bias blind spot are those most likely to ignore the advice of peers or experts, and are least likely to learn from de-biasing training that could improve the quality of their decisions.

When I was quite young, I was exposed to various movies and TV shows about “mysteries,” such as “Big Foot,” supposed UFO sightings, “ESP,” ghosts, spontaneous combustion, etc., which was not “age-appropriate,” IMO.  However, it led me to be quite critical of not just extraordinary claims but also mundane ones.  If you are not aware of it, there is at least one “mystery,” that has led to all kinds of extraordinary speculation (at least in the USA), the Dyatlov Pass Incident (Soviet Union, 1959), a photo from which is posted above:

I saw the author of a book on this subject discuss it on a daytime TV show a couple of years ago (the book is titled “Dead Mountain”).  Like those who make all kinds of incredible claims about scents, those who tried to understand why the group left the tent without proper clothing have not looked at the evidence as a whole, and instead assumed the people must have been frightened terribly.  The author of “Dead Mountain” suggests the people were in a state of confusion due to a sound phenomenon (apparently this would be the first time it occurred in recorded human history), but when you look at the evidence, the inside of the tent was as orderly as anyone could imagine (and look at how small it was, considering nine people had to sleep in it):

Dyatlov Tent Diagram.jpg

Moreover, the tracks away from the tent demonstrate that they weren’t running away, but divided into two groups for a while (suggesting that two factions had formed).  The author mentions that some Russians thought it was due to a fight involving the two women (meaning one or more of the men were harassing them, presumably – see the quotes below), but there is evidence that the men were not getting along all that well either (the photo I used for this post, which seems to show one man glaring at another).  Here are some passages from the group’s diary entries that suggest things may have “spiraled out of control:”

Yuri [not the same Yuri who became ill and didn’t die on the trip] moves to the second compartment with terrible cursing and accusation that we betrayed him.   We can’t fall asleep for awhile and arguing about something…

And (written by one of the two women):

The curtains hung in the tent are quite justified.

And (also written by one of the two women):

Yuri Yudin [who became ill] now goes back home. It is a pity, of course, that he leaves us. Especially for me and Zina, but nothing can be done about it.

And there’s this short, “mysterious” statement (written by one of the men), that suggests there could have been internal strife that he tried ameliorate:

I can’t, although I tried.

And here the group leader, Igor Dyatlov, seems to be saying that this trip is not as easy as previous ones he has led (two days before the deadly incident), which could relate to the photo I included above:

Tired and exhausted we started to prepare the platform for the tent. Firewood is not enough. We didn’t dig a hole for a fire. Too tired for that.

This is consistent with the possibility that the World War II veteran decided to show the “youngsters” that Igor Dyatlov was incompetent but that he could show them how to survive, as he had done during the winter days he experienced during the war.  When the veteran was found, it was clear that he and those who went with him tried to dig out a shelter the way Russian soldiers did.  The author of “Dead Mountain” mentions that people can survive for 6-8 hours outdoors under the conditions that existed on that night, so it seems as though the group had split into at least two factions and had decided to go outside to demonstrate or “settle” something (there were injuries on the hands, arms, and head of several of the men that suggested rather savage fighting!).  After two men died sitting at a fire they started, three of the group (including Igor) decided to try and get back to the tent whereas four others, including the veteran, decided to go off in a different direction, and may only have died because of a fall into a ravine (they were clothed better than the others, for some reason).

Most people (including adults) seem to want to believe that there is still some kind of “magic” in the world.  Some experience it by watching cute kitten videos on Youtube, but others appear to seek literal magic!  And the magic is there, though not of supernatural origin – it involves the unique way our minds/brains perceive the world and how we can change that perception.  When I began learning how to paint portraits and landscapes  naturalistically, for instance (circa 2000), I needed to “rewire my brain” so that I could look at an object or scene in “values” rather than what I thought were colors.  In one experience, subjects were asked to paint a tree, and they used brown for the trunk.  However, after you “rewire your brain” for the task, you see the “real color” (often colors) involved, and that is not just “tube color” but you think in terms of what mixtures you will need (usually some white is included).  Someone who insists that color perception is “objective” would likely have great difficulty painting naturalistically.  For those who want many examples of our “flawed” perceptions, the TV show “Brain Games” is probably the best to watch (there are likely free episodes on Youtube).  One BNer, however, prefers to think it’s something “magical:”

…I used to think I had bought fakes, early on in the hobby when I would open a bottle and barely be able to detect anything. But then the scents would change over the next month or two. I’ve never been able to figure out if it’s some kind of maceration process where the fragrance, for lack of a better word, “blooms” or whether or not it’s the nose deciphering some kind of scented code and being able to make sense of it with repeated wearings. But HERE is where I believe it’s the former: I’ll open something and wear it and it will seem sort of flat and uninteresting, and then when I use it a month later it’s very different. Now my nose has still only smelled it that one time before (this time being the second). Is that enough for the nose to “decipher the code” so to speak, or is it more likely that it’s because the fragrance has had a month to macerate after being exposed to a significant influx of air?

Haven’t all adults (who can hear) heard something that wasn’t real (such as thinking that you hear someone call out your name)?  Researchers point out that auditory hallucinations are the most common and nearly everyone has had them.  And for those who drive cars, haven’t you ever seen what appears to be a large puddle ahead, only to realize that there isn’t any water there at all?  We know that many people can experience greater olfactory sensitivity when ill, and that sometimes the smell of a certain food is not as pleasant (or outright revolting) as it is at other times?  My guess is that with many people who make the claim, top notes are mostly what they experience.  Thus, if/when they become more sensitive to the base notes, they think the scent has become considerably stronger.  I certainly experienced this, as a newbie, and was quite surprised.  My suggestion:  take a step back and don’t jump to conclusions.  Work on self-awareness, which is something nearly everyone can benefit from; the problem seems to be that those who are least self-aware think they are the most self-aware (and watching a few episodes of “Brains Games” couldn’t hurt either)!

NOTE:  In the photo (at the top of this post) it appears that the young leader of the group, Igor Dyatlov, is surprised that the World War II veteran (in his late 30s) is angry with him.  Supposedly, Dyatlov was a stern leader.  To me, the look on the veteran’s face says, “you think you are going to boss me around?” or “you think you know better than me?”  The veteran had seen fierce fighting during the war, the odds of him being alive at this time were calculated to be around 3% (meaning that 3% of the men who were born in the year he was survived the war).  When the bodies were found, it appeared that Dyatlov was heading back to the tent whereas the veteran was heading in the opposite direction.  Many of the other photos show the group members, including these two, acting quite jovial, even silly (or doing mundane thing), making this photo quite out of character.  To me the mystery is why this is called a mystery, other than never being able to know exactly what led to the decision to rip open the test and go outside in sub-optimal clothing (the rips are always interpreted to be due to fear rather than anger).

UPDATE:  One reviewer of Queen Latifah’s Queen of Hearts wrote this review, with an update:

I’m stumped. I tried it yesterday and there was absolutely nothing masculine about it. Instead, I smelled a very strong but really nice warm bouquet of white florals. After two hours or so, when I got to the drydown, it was really lovely because it got a little mellower. It still retained that white floral vibe though.

As a fan of both masculine and cinnamon notes, I’m actually a little disappointed. Although the white florals were really pretty, I do hope to get something different next time I spray it on… But if I don’t, it’s okay too!

UPDATE: Okay, I’m wearing it to bed right now, and it’s completely different from the last time I wore it. The white florals are still there, but they are in harmony with the soft, sweet woody base notes. The cinnamon is only detectable when I press my nose against my skin, but it’s lovely.

Did the molecular composition inside her sealed bottle change or is it a change in perception, perhaps due to how our brains get wired?  In a previous post I cited a scientific study that showed how perfumers had less brain activity in relevant areas relative to perfume school students, indicating that the students needed to “work harder” to understand what they were smelling.  During that process, “the mind can play tricks on us.”  Some people, however, can’t imagine this possibility, apparently, suggesting (at least to me) a low level of self-awareness.

UPDATE #2: This Fragrantica review of Vizzari Homme apparently thinks that there will be extensive oxygen exposure if some liquid is decanted, leading to certain molecules becoming more numerous while others become less numerous (or perhaps he thinks that vanillin will be magically turned into linalool, or something along those lines):

…On my skin its just so nice for a many many hours but the vanilla in the base shows up eventually & prevents this from stardom. .
Had the top/middle been more potent & the vanilla less prominent , this would be in my top 25 of all time .
Edit …. I have worn this quite a few times & also decanted around 15ml out of the bottle & i beleive something remarkable has happened to the scent .
I don’t know what but the vanilla now is seemlesly integrated int the base accord & this fragrance is absolutely stunning !!

And here is yet the latest iteration of this myth, suggesting that seems more unbelievable than the claims of some Medieval alchemists, from a review of Armaf’s Club de Nuit Intense for Women:

LEAVE the CAP off!
When I had first gotten this — yes- it smelled good but the longevity was poor. After about 10 months- and tossing the cap in the trash- VIOLA! This has LONGER staying power–like times 5 !!

But perhaps the most perplexing thing I’ve read on this subject is the combination of the claims that vintage, even in sealed spray bottles and store properly,  will “spoil” whereas oxidation will “help” a recent release smell better and/or much stronger!   These molecules are either going to change or they are not, and the only change that is realistically possible nearly all the time is oxidation (and it doesn’t matter if oxidation occurs in two months or two decades – it’s the same chemical reaction to the same or similar molecules).  How can it be good for some scents but bad for others?  In fact one person claims that it is good for most Creeds he has tried, but Creeds are known for “naturalness” and often possess citrus-dominant top notes, so his claim is in opposition to what perfumers tell us!  Why would citrus top notes only oxidize in a “good” way in Creeds?  I guess magic is real, and at least the people at Creed know about it!

UPDATE #3:  These recent reports may be of interest in this context:

Many consumers have found a way to cope with the knowledge that products they like have been made unethically: They simply forget they ever knew it.

Many people are prone to ‘remembering’ events that never happened, according to new research by the University of Warwick.



Leave a comment

Filed under Criticizing the critics.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s