Category Archives: Criticizing the critics.

Posts in this category will examine statements about fragrances made by all manner of reviewers/critics/”experts.”

The “big turn” away from niche?

Image result for sharp turn

The title of this post is the same title to a thread I created at the Basenotes.net site not long ago.  First, let me quote my first post to that thread:

I’m wondering how many others have made such a “big turn,” especially in light of the 2018 “Guide’s” main focus on obscure niche scents. For years, I sought out, mainly through swaps, specific ones, and I would go through swap lists to see if someone was willing to swap one that I thought might be of interest. Now I have very little interest in either endeavor. I think the main factor is that I think I have a good grasp on what I’m seeking, and today’s niche tend to be unsatisfactory for one reason or another, such as how “chemical” so many come across to me. Then there are so many “clone” type scents. A good example is Craze by Armaf (cost me less than $23 total for 100 ml). I haven’t tried Pegasus, but I enjoy Craze, and even if I would perceive Pegasus as a bit better, it’s not worth me actually knowing this (because there’s nothing to be gained, and only money to lose)! The other day I acquired some “vintage” Rochas Man, and my thought was, “this is certainly good enough for me – now I can swap/sell my bottle of New Haarlem!”

What can niche do for me at this point? What smell or combination of smells, assuming that they are rendered well in the composition (again, one factor being “naturalness”), could I find so compelling that I would even want a sample? I can’t fit the bottles I own (let alone the samples and decants) into a yearly “rotation” at this point, and I find myself mostly gravitating towards several fragrances, with the others being useful for the days I want something different. There’s probably a reason why scents like Old Spice are still around and selling, while so many oddball compositions have joined the dinosaurs, the key point being that while much if not most niche might be interesting, I question the “wearability” of them over the course of several hours. Yes, if sprayed on a small piece of cardboard, they might seem quite compelling for seconds or minutes, but that’s not why I buy a bottle. I wonder how many who are buying today’s niche are buying bottles based upon such a “test.”

My attitude towards niche now is mostly indifference, and if that market indirectly hikes up the prices on my many vintage bottles, that’s not a gift horse I’m going to look in the mouth. But I can sum up this attitude with the statement, “you had your chance and you didn’t get the job done.” Several years ago, more than a few BN members had apparently become disillusioned with niche, and at least a few “disappeared,”‘ never to return. I called them “niche samplers because they wrote reviews, and there were plenty of good/excellent reviews, at least for a while, but then the reviews took a turn towards the negative. What I didn’t understand is why they weren’t satisfied with all the niche they enjoyed/praised? How many bottles do you “need?” Of course, it likely wasn’t about how many bottles they wanted to own, but some abstract notion of “the art of perfumery” (I tend to see it more as a “craft”). And I think the “big name reviewers” also possess this view (as opposed to “wearability” over the course of several hours).

So, I’m wondering how many others are quite pleased with non-niche/non-designer exclusive offerings (including the vintage they can still obtain at non-ridiculous prices, which means the vast majority) that are available these days. Another good question would seem to involve variety. How much do you want and how much of it “needs” be niche? Also, do you feel “deprived,” in that you think there should be compositions that don’t exist or only exist at high prices (let’s say around $100 per 50 ml)?

Perhaps people like myself, that is, those who are going to spend a lot of time thinking and sampling, have satisfied themselves (or left the hobby due to disappointment), and over the last five years or so there are a lot more less thoughtful people who are likely to be quite influenced by “herd mentality.”  But whatever the case may be, I think at least a few interesting ideas were generated on this thread.  One of those is the question of why niche is “better” beyond generally possessing more unique, but possibly less wearable compositions, for those who believe this.  A person who posted on the thread claimed that niche is more “nuanced,” while another said niche used better materials.  The problem with the former claim is that vintage is more complex, nuanced, dynamic, and natural-smelling, so why not just buy the best of those fragrances?

Now the latter claim may be accurate, generally-speaking of course, but again, if that’s the main issue for you, aren’t you better off with vintage?  But let’s say the person is concerned about buying vintage for one reason or another, does this mean niche is therefore the materially-superior way to go, if that’s the best way to phrase it?  My first response would be, even if that were true, who cares?  People aren’t going to know how much the fragrance you are wearing cost to compose, and if you prefer a materially less expensive fragrance, why wouldn’t you wear it?  In some responses there were at least intimations that the hobbyist should know which fragrances are the most expensive to compose and then wear those because… I have no idea! I pointed out that much of the recent niche I tried was too “chemical” for me (iso e super and cashmeran dominant, in many cases) and even when it seemed rich and natural-smelling (such as with ambery/syrupy compositions), these fragrances tended to be too simple/boring, and lacking in compositional balance.

In short, I don’t think most niche perfumers  understand the point of “modern perfumery,” which differed from older endeavors in being long-lasting but “smooth” (not pungent).  Of course there is room for new compositions, but because almost all companies comply with IFRA now, it’s difficult to compete with the vintage greats, and so some to seem to think that the best approach is to “go on the offense,” using large amounts of aroma chemicals!  This is why I have come to conclude that many “cheapos” and “clones” do a better job in the context of “modern perfumery” than expensive niche fragrances – and if you are only going to smell a fragrance on a card for a few minutes (as it seems many reviewers, including Luca Turin, do for at least most of their reviews), then you aren’t really helping those who want a “modern perfume.”  Instead, there seems to have developed some “fine perfumery art” notion, which is mostly about oddball top notes compositions, and if that’s your “cup of tea,” fine, but I will contest that this should be classified as “modern perfumery.”  Call it post-modern fine perfume art, or whatever, but it’s something else.

One Basenotes member who is a scholar (I believe a historian) has argued that these post-modern releases are basically for the new wealthy (CEOs, “kleptocrats,” trust fund kids, etc.), and that it’s basically a scam, or similar to “modern art,” which has become a hot speculation-oriented market (there was a recent HBO documentary about it) more than any kind of traditional notion of “fine art.”  As I said on the thread, if I were a billionaire, I might buy a huge number of samples and have a personal assistant spray a card and bring me a new one every 10 minutes or so – that’s the only way one could sample all the new releases!  But that would have nothing to do with wearability.  I’d still probably have a few hundred that I’d want to wear in the usual way, but if I did that, how could I wear the fragrance that I know I enjoy?  And as to “clones,” it may be that some of these are made to be a big more wearable, such as to use less iso e super and more vanillin, which would likely fit my preferences better!

Now whatever is occurring is good for me, so I’m certainly not complaining, but it does seem like a lot of people are rushing into niche these days without an idea as to why.  Perhaps it’s a great example of “herd mentality,” though I certainly wouldn’t doubt that there is a percentage of the hobbyist population that does prefer many new niche offerings.  But it does seem like most are buying the sizzle rather than the steak, as the old saying goes.  And how does one even decide what to sample?  One person told me to do more sampling and less reading about fragrances, not realizing that he wanted me to do what he said!  The situation is therefore untenable for those who have some sort of facile notion of “doing some sampling” and deciding upon “what’s best for me.”  If you already enjoy quite a few scents on at least a fairly regular basis, you can’t sample a whole lot of new releases in the usual way, let alone all those that you think you might possibly enjoy.

However, if you have patience, and wait for the proverbial smoke to clear, you might find one or two that are unique and wearable (or even a really cheap “clone” of it that works for you, as was the case for me with Craze – and the fragrance company that made the “original” is said by some to be little better than designer, with clearly “synthetic” qualities to their releases, though I have yet to try any).  There are two other things I factors I think are worth mentioning here, the first being a change to one’s sensitivities.  In my case, I’m still quite sensitive to iso e super, calone, cashmeran, and dihydromyrcenol, though I usually can handle the latter two in reasonably large amounts if the composition is right.  Oddly, though, I seem to have lower sensitivity to other typical elements/ingredients.  For example, I used to have difficulty with one spray of Cadillac, but the other day I used three full sprays to the chest and kept my shirt open for a few hours, as an “experiment,” but it never became strong, let alone too strong!  If you say you only like niche today, that could change by tomorrow!

The other possible factor is what one Fragrantica member called “olfactory familiarity,” and I’d like to propose an expansion of that notion.  The basic idea is that as you become familiar with certain notes and/or aroma chemicals, you start to perceive other elements, while the ones you originally perceived as strong you may perceive as much weaker in subsequent wearings, if you perceive these at all!  I think there may be a kind of “bell curve” effect, in that the first time or two you wear the fragrance (in the “normal” way), it may seem unique, but then the next two or three times you perceive more, and this may be where you maximum appreciation for it exists.  Then, around the fourth or fifth wearing, you may still think it’s excellent, but no longer “special;” you may even think that another fragrance that you already own is “good enough.”  I have experienced that quite a few times, and I’m not the only one – here is just one example I’ve encountered (a Fragrantica review of Montale’s Red Flowers):

Well I’m glad I did not bought this blind!
It is lovely but it reminds me so much of l’heure blue (especially the edp) so that I dont need this one
It is a lovely fragrance but more powdery than I thougt, becomes a skin scent, but has good staying power, and no synthetic feel.
With l’heure blue in my wardrobe I don’t need this one, so I look further for another Montale…….

Another aspect to olfactory familiarity is that after a while, you “settle in” with a scent (or decide you don’t want to wear it any more, assuming you gave it a few wearings to make sure), and know when you are in the mood for it.  And the key point here is that if  you sample a very similar scent that in some way can be said to be “objectively superior,” you might still prefer the one you’ve worn many times in the past.  On the other hand, if you haven’t worn a fragrance in years, such as vintage Red for Men by Giorgio of Beverly Hills, then Preferred Stock might be good enough for you (at least the formulation I tried a few years back), whereas the new EA formulation of Red is an entirely different fragrance, IMO.

I suspect that may people who claim to think niche, especially recent releases, are producing the greatest scents these days have rarely worn those several times.  Many say they have a lot of decants and samples to keep the cost down, which suggests they might only wear them on rare occasion.  And I agree (and have suggested) that one not wear a scent for a couple months or so in order to keep the “magic” alive.  But that’s true of “drug store dreck” and all other fragrances!  I suspect that many who are entering into today’s niche world are not very experienced in fragrances other than the most common and available ones, so I can see why it might seem like a whole new olfactory universe has been opened up for them.  But that doesn’t mean that my perceptions make no sense for me (in terms of my experiences).  Another aspect to “olfactory familiarity” seems to be that a “clone” works just as well as the “original” most if not all of the time (especially when you wear vintage often, because then you wear the newer, less “natural-smelling” fragrances when you are in the mood for that particular composition).

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Is it “burnout” or something else?

Image result for snuffed candle

These kinds of dramatic statements are nothing new, to this or other hobbies, but I’ve seen a few of them lately, and since I’ve experienced a change in attitude as well, I though it would be a good time to post about it (probably for at least the second time).  Here is a recent example:

The extent to which EO No 2 impacted me was both a surprise and a major relief. If you’ll forgive a personal digression, I’ll explain why. For me, it’s been an exceedingly difficult three months in an equally difficult year and I’ve struggled extensively with both a disinterest in perfumery and in writing, in addition to some other personal issues. In fact, fragrance has provided little interest, comfort, or distraction. Reviewing even less so. I approached analyzing a fragrance with the same enthusiasm I would feel for a root canal. Neither new releases nor my personal old vintage favourites motivated me to put pen to paper…

http://www.kafkaesqueblog.com/2018/10/06/ensar-oud-eo-no-2/

And there is this Basenotes.net post:

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/457974-So-what-happened-to-Basenotes-And-why-do-you-stay-here

which began with:

…why do you continue to come here to Basenotes, even after it’s clear that no one (outside of those of us who continue to come here) cares about fragrances, outside of us?

…Do you also agree that the reason for the slowdown in the traffic on this website, and in this hobby in general, is due to IFRA regulations, and poor reformulations by “respected” houses?

A bunch of posts followed that brought up various issues about hobby “fatigue” of one kind or another.  But perhaps it’s just about change that were likely to occur, short of some sort of cataclysmic event.  And how many would be unhappy with the hobby if you got free samples of any scent that is available and then the most you would have to pay is $15 total for a 50 ml bottle?  I’m at the point where I would rather layer existing fragrances to get a novel effect than pay even $50 for anything new, but I don’t feel like I’m missing out on something special, or “deprived” in any way.  In fact, because I only buy or swap if it’s a “no brainer” I feel a lot less “burdened” by the hobby.  Regrets are unlikely and if there are any, they will be too minor to ponder for long.

What I see happening on ebay is that a few fragrances (such as Caesar’s Man, which is discussed in a recent FromPyrgos blog post) go into the “hype zone,” at least temporarily, which others sell for a lot less.  For example, I’ve seen a whole lot of Jo Malone, Etat Libre d’Orange, and Penhaligons bottles selling for great prices recently.  Perhaps a store closed and some stock was liquidated (for example, a couple years ago I bought three different partial Floris 100 ml bottles, as a lot, probably about 180 ml or more in total, for less than $30 total), but at least a few times per week a great deal seems to “pop up” (and I certainly don’t buy most of them; I’d guess  no more than 10%).  It’s the kind of fragrance I wish I would have encountered when I began to appreciate “oud scents,” but now I just think of it mostly as “swap bait,” because I have so many of these kinds of fragrances and actually like some “super cheapos” better (such as Classic Match’s version of Polo Supreme Oud).

And I purchased a lot of a few vintage scents, one of which was Canyon Cologne by Bath & Body Works.  It reminds me of somewhere between vintage Polo and L’Occitane’s Eau des 4 Voleurs, so that’s a “new discovery” that involved very little cost and I really like it.  With designer exclusives and niche, though, the prices are too high and so it raises my expectations too high.  Moreover, even if I like the fragrance, I usually think that it’s not “necessary.”  That is, I have something similar, can layer to create something similar, or I’m rarely going to wear it.  This is one reason why I don’t do much swapping any longer.  Perhaps it would be best for those who feel some sort of “burnout” to look inward rather than outward (especially if you own more than a few vintage bottles).  Do you really think some sort of incredible and unique composition is going to be released, with ingredients of the “quality” you think it at least good, so that you feel compelled to buy a bottle, more or less regardless of cost?  To me the answer it, I don’t even want to think about this stuff any more!

The author of the kafkaesque blog tells us that:

The Pure Parfum is, as you might expect, a lot more expensive. It is $795 for a 50 ml bottle as opposed to $395 for the EDP…

Having said that, I won’t lie to you: I could never afford to buy a bottle of the parfum… But would I buy a bottle for myself if I hadn’t been sent one by the company and if I had disposable income for scent indulgences? Yes, absolutely.

It’s easy to say this when you get free bottles sent to you, I’d guess.  The reason is that in my experience, after the first two or three wearings, the “magic” seems to diminish, sometimes considerably.  Then you ask yourself, “what was I thinking?”  But when you get the bottle for free, you can just put it aside and think that you just “need a break” and the magic will be back soon.  And indeed it sometimes does come back, but if it’s a very expensive scent, you might be thinking that a 5 ml decant could last you the rest of your life!  Could that be where so many mostly full niche bottles we see on ebay originate?  In the case of a seller who has listed a lot of different bottles, I wouldn’t be surprised (if they are listing a lot of Penhaligons bottles, for example, I’d guess it was a store closing or a store no longer offering a specific line).  But whatever the case, why not be happy that you explored modern perfumery and now you can “rest on your laurels” (in a good way), perhaps pursuing other things?

 

 

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Some thoughts about a few brief reviews in the 2018 Turin/Sanchez “Guide” book.

Image result for reading newspaper cartoon

I thought it might be useful to some readers if I provided my impressions of some of the short reviews in the 2018 “Guide,” now that I received a copy of it as a gift (I’m having difficulty motivating myself to read the longer ones at this point).  Let’s begin with The Hedonist by Cult of Scent, which was given three stars by Turin (and described as “holy smoke,” which doesn’t help me much, other than to conjure up the smell of a Catholic Mass):

I love smoky perfumes, usually mostly the smoky part. The rest often seems like lipstick on bacon. This one wears no makeup.

My first thought is a question, what does he mean by smoky fragrances?  I’ve experienced ones that I think of as a kind of “clean” smoke (which I tend to like), but then there are ones like Encre Noire, which I think of as an “iso e super nightmare.”  There are also some scents with really harsh “white musk,” which I tend to detest.  Or is it like the incense at a Catholic Mass?  We may never know for sure, and then there’s the “lipstick on bacon” comment.  I guess I have some sense of the bacon aspect, but bacon and lipstick?  I wish he had furnished us with an example!  And then we’re told, presumably, that it’s a smoky bacon scent.  Does he like it?  At three stars it’s right in the middle of the five star classification scheme.  I find this review puzzling, and I’d be frustrated by it, except that since I read their first “Guide,” I expect reviews of this type and just “shrug it off.”

But we get yet another (Journeyman by Soivohle), which is described by Turin as smoky wood.  He reviews it as, “The obligatory smoky woody fragrance every niche line must have, for the bearded dude in a lumberjack shirt,” only in this case the scent only gets two stars!  The several Fragrantica reviews for it are quite positive, and this sounds like one I’d like to sample.  Apparently, it was fairly limited and the owner stated there are issues with re-releasing it, but it sounds a bit like As Sawira by Penhaligon’s (I recently obtained a 100 ml bottle of that one at a great price), except that AS doesn’t have much of a smoky quality, which often doesn’t work out well for me (it can become irritating rather quickly).  But the main point is that for someone who says he enjoys smoky fragrances, one has to question exactly what he means by this!  Does it have too much of a lipstick and bacon quality?  I wonder what is the point of such a review, considering the difficulty almost every read will have in sampling it?  My guess is that he thinks this brief review will amuse readers (or enough of them), but it just makes me question if he generally has issues with being consistent with the criteria he uses to assess things.

Next up is Hedonist, by Viktoria Minya).  It it is described as a tobacco vanilla and given one star (by Turin).  The review is simply, “Smells to me like spray furniture polish.”  I looked up the reviews at Fragrantica.com for this scent, and they are “all over the map.”  Did he spray it on a card and just take a quick sniff?   It seems like there’s more to it than how he describes it, even if it’s not well composed.  Another that gets one star, by Turin, is Hedonist Iris by Viktoria Minya.  He calls it a scitrus musk; the review is the short sentence, “Iris? Now you’ve pissed me off.”  It’s not uncommon for a fragrance to have something like lavender, vetiver, santal, etc. ion the name, but to not have that note in the fragrance (at least not to the degree that many can smell it).  Turin “called out” a Creed scent or two for this issue in the first “Guide,” so one has to wonder why he would think it surprising, let alone why he would become angered by it.  And in this edition, he says, “If any oud at all is used here, it’s wasted,” about Incense Oud by By Kilian (and other similar things are said about others, such as Iris Fauve and Iris Homme).

Next up is In the Woods by Cult of Scent, which was given three stars (by Turin) and described as cedarwood neroli.  The review is, “Lovely simple cedarwood accord.”  My problem here is twofold.  It’s not “readily available,” and on the company site the price is $130 for 30 ml.  The other problem is that if Turin is correct, why not buy cedar essential oil from a site like Bulk Apothecary (half an ounce for about $5), with a bunch of great reviews?  You can also buy inexpensive citrus type essential oils from them and combine these (in the reviews on the site you will sometimes find simple recipes, but you can just do some quick google searches to find plenty).  At the very least, a “perfume expert” should mention this possibility for those who aren’t going to spend $130 on a 30 ml bottle of a very simple scent, IMO.

Then there’s Indigo by Thorn & Bloom, which gets a sole star (by Turin) and is called “caraway lavender,” the review being, “Truly awful from beginning to end, a perfect instance of a natural perfumery fail.”  This was a great opportunity for him to use an example of what he tends to dislike with “natural perfumery” fragrances, but it is squandered.  Another missed opportunity (IMO) for Turin occurs with Itasca by Lubin, which received three stars and is described as a citrus fougère,” the review being, “Nice lemony vetiver, very presentable.”  It seems to sell for over $100 for 75 ml, so an obvious question is, can I save money by purchasing a similar scent that isn’t “lacking” in any major way?  But as Turin said in the first “Guide,” there are different kinds of fougeres, so why not tell us which one this is?  And this is a good example of a situation where Turin could be quite helpful, in that a couple of Fragrantica reviews talk of the aroma chemicals they think are used in a clumsy way (one claims there’s obvious iso e super present and the other says, “…the heavy hand in the use of some deodorant aroma chemicals started causing me headaches after a while).  These kinds of scents often have this issue, in my experience.  Thus, if Turin thinks the aroma chemical are barely detectable, at best, why not tell us?  It’s not like his review will then become too long!

The thought seems to keep entering my mind that people like Turin are “missing the forest for the trees” by focusing on “edgy” niche scents.  Yes, there are endless possibilities for minor variations on a bunch of themes, but especially if you are mostly concerned with drydowns, how much “better” do you expect a niche scent to be?  For example, tobacco scents are popular among many hobbyists (compared to the general public, at least in the USA), or perhaps the general public just can’t detect it unless it’s a really obvious note.  In any case, there are some excellent “cheapo” tobacco scents (or ones that were for a while), such as Lanvin’s Avant Garde.  Yes, you might be able to get one that is a bit more this or that, but if you bought AG for around $12 (as I did a while back, 100 ml new), do you really want to waste a lot of time and money chasing after the “niche version” of it?  There’s also Samba Skin for Men, which is a solid “pipe tobacco” scent (like Pure Havane), which cost me about $9 for 100 ml new.  However, I might have some interest in the “niche versions” if my experiences led me to think that would lead to me obtaining a “better” fragrance, but that rarely occurred!  Why not enjoy what you have, even if you only have a tenth of what Turin does?  That’s probably enough to keep you busy for decades, at least.

And it’s not like Turin never takes issue with some of today’s prices.  For example, his review of Kingdom of Bahrain is, “Decent citrus-woody with a well-judged touch of rose in the heart. Yours for £425 per 50 milliliters.”  Moreover, as was the case for the 2008 “Guide,” I don’t’ understand the mentality behind the reviews, other than these being an expression of his sense of humor.  I know some people have a tendency to leave things “half finished,” but many of his reviews aren’t even 10% finished, AFAICT.  And after he tells readers he enjoys smoky scents, they get the impression (I think) that he will spend a bit of time on the reviews of those, but in some cases we don’t get much of anything!  Is Journeyman or The Hedonist a good “beginner smoky scent?”  Or is he deliberately trying to frustrate readers, perhaps with the thought that will compel them to get a bunch of samples?  I know that I’ve encountered some teachers when I was younger who seemed to have this kind of attitude.  However, I think if that were the case all the reviews would have this quality.  Is this supposed to be a whimsical guide?  It often doesn’t sound that way, but why not call it that if it’s the case?  To me, it may be most interesting as a kind of mystery, trying to figure out how the mind of Mr. Turin functions!

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A review of reviews: Les Heures de Cartier: L’Heure Perdue XI Cartier (2015).

Les Heures de Cartier: L'Heure Perdue XI Cartier for women and men

This fragrance was one of two in the free preview of the 2018 edition of “Perfumes: The Guide” to receive a 5 star rating (from Luca Turin), and since I probably enjoy fragrances with a noticeable vanilla note as much as anyone, I thought this is one I needed to write about, though buying a bottle is a different matter (Cartier web site price is $275; on ebay I saw one for $179, both 75 ml).  And with this one, you don’t get a list of notes, but instead (on the Cartier site and elsewhere):

…powdered with HELIOTROPIN elegance, from someone else’s desire? Voluptuous and intimate MUSCENONE like the scent of knowledge. Perhaps because everything is ruled by science, so clever in posing as natural when in fact it is a feat of alchemy, exploring the artificial through a precipitate of large synthetic molecules, particularly VANILLIN. This aldehyde with sensual aromas and a silky aura floating over the 11th hour, the lost and progressive hour, demystifying the conventional idea that beauty is only worthwhile if it is NATURAL.

First I want to address Luca Turin’s review.  As you might expect, it was composed by a perfumer he has high regard for (Mathilde Laurent), and was recommended to sample by a reader of LT’s blog.  This person used evocative language when describing it, including “most evocative” and, “like a memory you can’t quite place, but are certain to have lived.”  How could such a scent not be magnificent (sarcasm alert!)?  LT tells us that it’s “heaven-scent and disquieting in equal parts,” and this reminds me of his review of Bvlgari Black (I liked the idea of BB, but found it just a bit too simplistic).  We are told it has an oriental drydown featuring vanilla, labdanum, and praline.  He says the praline is fresh, but I’ve never encountered such a thing; perhaps he means that some of the top notes persist, such as what he claims is grapefruit.

Now this is a fragrance I wouldn’t mind sampling; I might think it’s worth buying (if the price ever comes way down) or I might dislike it (heliotrope notes are not my favorite unless they are subordinate).  However, let’s take a look at the Fragrantica reviews, beginning with a negative one:

L’Heure Perdue opens both acidic and vanillic and a bit cardboardy musty. The scent alters between sour and cardboardy vanilla…  Not my thing, had to scrub it off due to the acidic notes underneath.

The review of another could be positive, if you like the smell of Dove soap:

This smells a bit like Dove soap. If you’ve been dying for the perfume version of this classic, give it a sniff.

One that is positive actually doesn’t begin with a description that sounds all that laudatory:

Generally, I can’t stand anything that smells too heavily of vanilla. But while L’Heure Perdue does smell sweet and vanillic, it also smells really weird. Like glue or rubber. But powdery. The parts are familiar, but they’ve been reconfigured in totally new ways…

Now to be fair the idea behind it seems to have been to use synthetics to create an “abstract” but not “synthetic” or “chemical” fragrance.  The problem there is that some are very sensitive to certain aroma chemicals, and so I would like the company to disclose if particular ones were used in large amounts (I’m not going to hold my breath on that happening, as you might guess).  But LT compares it to Jicky and Habit Rouge!  It sounds to me like it could be similar, in terms of the general idea, to Reveal by CK (the “feminine”), where there’s something familiar (vanilla and sandalwood) with something odd added (a marine type note, clearly an aroma chemical or chemials).  Spending more time/effort and money on such a composition might indeed result in something quite interesting, though I think for me if there are some strong aroma chemical elements to it (which seems to be the case) it might be an unpleasant experience.

This is also an example of the “disconnect” between people like LT and myself. From what he has written, it doesn’t seem like he will wear this scent at least a few times a year, if he ever wears it again, but he probably got at least a free sample of it.  If this scent was priced lower, I would likely try to swap for a bottle, and if that didn’t work out, I’d wait for it to get to that point where it was at its lowest and buy one.  But given the pricing, I might never be able to acquire a bottle reasonably, and so I would not be interested in sampling, because I already have so many vanillic fragrances I can’t imagine thinking that I “need” another, even if it is different.  The reviews do not sound good to me.  I’m not a fan of “oddball” fragrances, and I’ve already got a few of those, such as Perry Ellis for Men (2008), which lists notes of, “grapefruit, woody accords, resins, iris root, leather and musk.”  The drydown, however, features an ambery/vanillic element along with some sort of marine type chemical (reviewers have called it blood-like or copper-ish, as in an old penny).  It cost me about $8 for a nearly full 100 ml bottle.

Is L’Heure Perdue XI better than this Perry Ellis scent?  That’s where I have major problems with fragrance reviews.  Does anyone doubt that LT would say yes?  But to me what matters is whether I find the drydown to be pleasant (assuming they all have at least decent strength).  If I like both, and they aren’t similar to something I’ve already got, then I’ll try to obtain a bottle in what I consider a reasonable way.  If I could only buy the PE scent for around $12 or more I would not own it now.  I simply have too many at this point to place much emotional (or other) investment in any one.  If offered enough money (within reason, though) I don’t think I’d have a problem selling any or a bunch of my bottles.  By contrast, some people (apparently LT), sample a fragrance, find it to be “artistic” and then talk about how great it is, but do they wear it on any kind of regular basis?  I think we are back to my old post about the “niche sampler” phenomenon, which I believe I observed on Basenotes.  That involved people doing a lot of sampling of less common, more expensive scents, talking about how great they were, but over time a bitter tone to their reviews emerged, along with claims about the “death” of the “art of perfumery.”  My question to them would be, since you’ve claimed to enjoy so many fragrances in past reviews, why don’t you just wear them and stop sampling/complaining?  Clearly, they were not thinking about or using these olfactory concoctions the way I do, nor in a way I suspect most people do!

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Criticizing the critics.

Should a guy get insensate if sprayed with a “feminine” scent ?

Image result for charlie chaplin modern times

I’ve found it interesting how some “veteran” members of Basenotes seem to think there is a sharp “gender line” with these olfactory concoctions and that the friendly people in control of multinational corporation X, Y, or Z know exactly where that line is drawn! Some others, such as Luca Turin, argue that these gender distinctions mostly involve top notes. And of course, most aficionados know that if you toss in a lavender note that is quite noticeable, you can turn a “feminine” into a “masculine,” especially these days, with so many super-sweet “masculine” scents on the market. I have come to conclude that while such generalizations are interesting to ponder on an abstract level, these aren’t all that useful in practice.

Instead, I prefer to think about actual scents, and one that immediately comes to mind is the 1993 release, Insense, by Givenchy (I’ve only worn the original formulation, I believe on three occasions separated by more than a month) . Turin and others seem to think this was too “daring” for its time, but is it less daring today? And is it daring in terms of the actual smell or the marketing? After all, plenty of aficionados will buy a “feminine” scent with a strong leather note, such as Cabochard, for instance. Another notion is that a “masculine floral” is highly problematic, though plenty of aficionados seem quite positive about Amouage’s Lyric Man. Is it the case that if a scent is clothed in the garment of “niche” it’s acceptable to be “floral?”

I could not understand the appeal of Insense. The florals are strong and sharp, as is a fruity/citrusy quality, which I don’t enjoy either. After that it slowly dissipates over time, with a resinous quality becoming more and more obvious, though it never distinguishes itself. Fragrantica.com lists thse notes for it:

Top notes are aldehydes, black currant, lavender, mandarin orange, bergamot, lemon and basil; middle notes are magnolia, lily-of-the-valley and iris; base note is fir.

The reviews for it on Fragrantica are quite interesting. Few mention the “feminine” element, at least one person calls it “delicous” (this is the opposite of delicious to me!), and most talk in abstract terms. This one is interesting:

Top notes are horrible. Acrid. But after 10 minutes, it transform into a floral for men. Strong sillage, longevity is also good (around 5 hours). I was actually imagined I was taking a nap under a shady tree beyond the yellow meadow field…

What is a “floral for men?” Is it that there is a fir/resinous quality that is a bit stronger than it might be in a similar, yet “feminine” scent? If so, that is strong evidence for the claim that these notions are entirely due to “cultural conditioning” (including marketing efforts). In any case, fifteen years later David Yurman’s first scent is released, with these notes:

…mandarin, and fresh green notes of black currant leaf and petals, followed by floral notes of peony, water lily, rose otto, patchouli, exotic woods and musk.

To me, though the compositions are not the same, the underlying idea is. That is, you get the fruity quality that is not especially “feminine” and the sharp florals, though these are not as sharp in Yurman (which is an improvement, IMO)., to begin the proceedings. Then over time a base that is at least “unisex” comes forward. In Yurman, this is a woody/oudy and somewhat chemical-smelling accord. Yurman has more of a watery than fruity texture at first, but what I dislike in both is the strength of the lily-of-the-valley type notes. Also, if I want that fir/resinous quality, I can opt for vintage Ferre for Men or Nino Cerruti’s 1979 “masculine” offering without having to deal with strong florals (I generally like florals as supporting notes or to counterbalance another strong note or accord).

In Yurman, the florals eventually are balanced by the woody/oudy element, but I can’t say I enjoy this combination all that much. It’s interesting, but not all that enjoyable to me. However, I do look forward to wearing the Yurman scent again, when I think I am really in the mood for it. I don’t intend to wear Insense again (I have a small decant right now), but since my preferences have changed multiple times, I’ll keep an open mind. There are quite a few reviews of Yurman at Fragrantica, but other than mine, I’m not sure if any others were written by men! And this is just one “feminine” scent that I happen to come across at a big discout – I have no idea how many others might be similar, at least in some significant way, to Insense! In other cases, I have found some scents one might consider clearly “feminine,” such as the 2010 Mariah Carey release, Lollipop Splash Vision of Love, to be more “masculine” than Insense. Here are the notes for that one:

Top Notes: juicy mandarin, coconut and star neroli. Heart: French macaroon, purple jasmine and white peach. Base: sandalwood, vanilla infusion and creme de musk.

I’m not sure if I’d wear any of these in public, but that’s simply because I have so many to choose from there’s really no reason to do so, as I’m not a “statement-making” kind of person, at least when it comes to things like clothing, hairstyle, and fragrance. I’ll conclude here by saying that it’s likely the case that those who have convinced themselves that the good folks at multinational corporation X, Y, or Z know what they should smell like, at least in terms of “gender” (has there been a scent released that was marketed to the “trans” community yet?), are not going to sample a scent like Yurman or the Carey, but that won’t stop me from trying to “open some minds” with this blog !

NOTE: For those who don’t know, the general idea behind Insense may be said to date back at least to a number of mid/late 1970s scents: Halston’s 1-12, Devin by Aramis, and Nino Cerruti’s 1979’s “masculine.” All feature some sort of strong “green” element (galbanum and/or fr/pine), along with citrus up front and obvious florals (usually jasmine and carnation), with the usual lavender as well. And in 1992 Salvador by Salvador Dali was released, again with a similar idea. Yes, Insense goes further than those, but it’s certain not a composition one should associate with a perfumer who lost his mind! For me the problem is “wearability,” not taking “gender issues” into account, as Insense is harsh at first but really doesn’t do anything better than the others mentioned (and it’s not especially complex, which doesn’t help).

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Filed under Criticizing the critics., The basics.

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 Fragrantica.com:

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.

And:

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.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151116143602.htm

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.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150608213028.htm

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:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyatlov_Pass_incident

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?

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/432653-Do-Creed-fragrances-quot-Mature-quot-in-the-bottle-Royal-Oud

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 Fragrantica.com 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 !!
Wow!

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.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180109112417.htm

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

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161207101433.htm

 

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Filed under Criticizing the critics.

The similarity of claims about similarity.

 

Red Twins.jpg

Back in 2011, I created a thread at Basenotes.com which began with this post:

In a recent Roaster thread, someone said that that these two smelled similar, but was dismissed by others (including myself, I think). However, last time I wore Roadster, far into the drydown, I thought to myself that it smelled like something else, and eventually it popped into my mind: L’Instant Pour Homme EdT. I took the cap off my L’Instant bottle and thought about the smell. Basically, Roadster is a trimmed down version of L’Instant. Instead of lavender and anise, the herbal mint in Roadster fills this role. The only major thing missing is the cocoa in L’Instant, which makes it considerably more gourmand for me (it seems that the vetiver in Roadster and the wood in L’Instant play similar, “supporting,” background roles, at least once you get beyond the first couple hours of L’Instant).

So, a few hours into L’Instant and it smells quite a bit like a few hours or more into Roadster. Then L’Instant goes into it’s boring musk stage, whereas Roasdster keeps going. What I find interesting here is that it seems like the one note, cocoa, led some of us to not be able to imagine that these two are at all similar, whereas “objectively” they are quite similar, relative to the other recent frags of this quality/price point. Of course, if you are keying in on the cocoa, or other notes, you may miss the forest for the trees, as I did, but that’s what makes this all so interesting! It’s not always easy to determine if frag X smells like frag Y, it seems, because it’s not only that you have to put preconceptions aside, but you also have to decide how much one of them needs to be similar to certain parts of the other in order to call the two similar.

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/283533-My-apologies!-Roadster-does-smell-like-L-Instant-Pour-Homme

A week or so ago, there appeared this thread about Creed’s Royal Oud:

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/445786-Royal-Oud-An-appreciation

My first two posts to this thread, respectively, were:

I sampled it the other day. The drydown reminded me of a weak version of HiM by Hanae Mori. As usual, I’d buy it for $25/100 ml or thereabouts, but I’m certainly content with HiM, which I think I prefer.

There’s a shared accord that becomes more obvious in RO as the top notes fade, but if people want to spend more money on a weaker but similar drydown, that’s entirely their decision. Let’s get someone to do a GC/MS study of the two!

Before writing up this post, I sampled both scents again, and I am still smelling the same thing.  I was quite surprised, actually, because I had a decant of RO sitting in front of my for a few months, and I’d just take the cap off and smell it once in a while, mainly because it was unusual (and didn’t remind me of HiM at all).

Now one reason for this post is because I wanted to suggest a Creed “MO” (though not true of all their scents), which is to create strong or interesting (if not entirely pleasant) top notes with a rather conventional/designer type base that is weak (or weaker than a similar designer).  Royal Oud has some powdery galbanum up front, as is not entirely pleasant to me, especially for the first few minutes, but then it becomes more and more like a weak version of HiM.  My suggestion, if you have at least a sample of both, is to place a tiny dab on each forearm (wear a short sleeve shirt when you do this); use less of HiM because it has a stronger base, from what I can tell.  And as someone on that BN thread about RO said:

Love the scent, but its very weak and lasts 4 hours tops on me…

Fragrantica.com has the note list for these two as (HiM first):

…bergamot, mandarin orange, gray pepper, violet leaves and cardamom seeds. The robust heart encompasses cinnamon bark, Mediterranean fig and tonka bean, while the base closes with teak wood, white cedar, fir balsam, musk and amber.

And for RO:

…lemon, pink berry and bergamot. The middle notes consist of cedar, galbanum and angelic root. Base notes are Regal Indian oud, sandalwood and Tonkin musk.

It’s true there are obvious differences for the first hour or two, with HiM having a tea-like violet and RO having the galbanum and angelica.  Interestingly, for me RO has a nasty note clash at first that has made me feel queasy!  I’d guess that if you want the RO drydown, spray HiM in front of you and walk through the mist and you’ll get something really close (not sure if the EdT of HiM is closer than the EdP as they both smell quite similar to each other to me).

And this brings me back to my original “mistake” about Roadster and L’Instant Homme, which is certainly something that can occur again because sometimes one doesn’t pay attention to a middle stage of development, for example.  With RO and HiM, though, there’s basically just an “opening” and a base, so I’m surprised that I appear to be the first who noticed the similarities in the bases (the scents are at least fairly popular among the online aficionados/fanboys and the accord is rather unique, with a “pumpkin pie spice” type quality).  Of course it’s possible that the angelica and galbanum notes hang around a lot longer for some people, but the claim about oud here is laughable, IMO (not that I don’t think it’s brilliant marketing on the part of the good people at Creed).

Now I’m not suggesting a person is “wrong” to spend the extra money on RO if they like those top notes. and perhaps they really don’t detect the similarities I perceive as obvious, but isn’t it worth comparing the two before spending those “big bucks” on RO?  No, for some there is a sense of specialness/exclusivity or whatever, and even if they aren’t entirely conscious of it, it does provide them with powerful positive emotions, which is what I think they are actually paying for.  And if I could buy powerful positive emotions that lasted indefinitely, I too might buy a bottle of it at current prices, but with consumer items (from what I’ve seen and read) the positivity doesn’t last all that long and then it’s on to another purchase (which is why I try to keep the purchase amounts as low as possible!).

UPDATE:  A few days after posting the above, a new review of RO appeared at Fragrantica:

If you dislike wearing oud, you will love this one, because it doesn’t smell like any oud I’ve ever smelled. In fact, it doesn’t smell like oud, period…

I don’t know whether this scent should be called “Royal,” but it definitely shouldn’t be called “Oud.” Maybe Royal Citrus or Royal Powder, or even Royal Musk or Royal Green. But not Royal Oud.

 I think this person is on to something, in that it might have been more appropriately called Green Angelica or something like that, but calling it an oud scent is beyond questionable, IMO.  Now I do like the fact that Creed does some things I consider really “oddball,” such as is the case with RO, but they are usually not pleasant or I prefer another scent that is similar, unfortunately.  And though some don’t seem to understand this, it shouldn’t have anything to do with whether other people enjoy RO or any other scent.  What I have seen (I think), though, is a situation where some people study an “okay” scent and try to find ways in which it is a “masterpiece” because it was released by Creed.  Of course, there’s probably no reasoning with such people so I what else can be said?

 

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