Category Archives: Criticizing the critics.

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

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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Filed under Criticizing the critics., The basics.

Fabricating an argument about the use of the word fabricated?

Black is Black Sport by Nu Parfums

On another fragrance blog I was criticized for stating, in the comment section (replying to someone’s initial comment):

…I think that was a largely fabricated market, for those who want to feel “special…”

This was in reply to the initial comment in which the author argued that it was a case of demand being met by supply:

Ya’think maybe it’s because people like those sorts of scents?

No, I made my opinion quite clear in the previous post:

My perception is that some companies are using iso e super overload or cashmeran overload to market a scent as “niche.” If others disagree, that’s fine, but you can’t say someone is wrong about a perception that involves “industry secrets,” unless you are an “industry insider.” We simply don’t know if the people who make decisions about what scents to release and how to market them are doing this intentionally or not…

Of course, once a new kind of composition demonstrates it can be successful, we’ll see at least some “clone” type scent marketed to “cash in,” but the whole notion of a “niche” fragrance is clearly a fabrication. These are just smells; there is no such thing as a “high class” or a “low class” smell, outside a cultural context. There do seem to be smells that people tend to think of as pleasant or unpleasant (“natural programming?”), and some niche companies have marketed scents that are unpleasant-smelling to most people (at least at “first sniff”) usually in order to garner publicity, apparently.

But there’s a problem: most people don’t want to smell like rotting cabbage and burning plastic, so how do you cash in on people who don’t want to “smell like everyone else” but also want to smell “good?” It seems that for the most part, a “less is more” approach was the one found to be most worth pursuing, which is possible with aroma chemicals like iso e super and cashmeran. Now I own more than a few niche bottles, and they tend to be “heavy” scents: gourmands, orientals, leathers, and tobacco-oriented ones, but I don’t care about “smelling good” for others; I want to experience smells that I personally enjoy (and last for several hours). So, niche seems to be mainly focused on these two kinds of consumers.

But as I made clear, these are my perceptions. We are not likely to see top executives or owners from niche companies as well as Chanel, Hermes, Dior, Tom Ford, etc. hold a press conference and disclose their marketing strategies to us. Instead, we see a scent by Tom Ford with a two word name, the first being an obscenity and the second being Fabulous. Is that an attempt to “fabricate” a demand? One can disagree with someone’s perception, but when the person is clearly speculating about a reasonable possibility, why should that be criticized?  If you have information to the contrary, then go ahead and disclose it, but otherwise just just state what seems most likely to you!

Now it may be that the person is a total newbie and should take some time to learn about how things work, but that’s not the case here. On the other hand, one could argue that any non-necessity market is “fabricated,” though in some cases there can be debate about what constitutes necessity (and then there’s the issue of the amount of stress one might have to endure without access to something, such as trying to take the local buses rather than owning a car in suburban or rural areas where one would have to walk a mile or so just to get to the bus stop). There seems to be a trend in American society today in which people spend a lot of time arguing about what used to be a tempest in a teapot (or arguing about arguing!).  This may allow people to vent strong negative emotions they are feeling, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be doing much good for society!

With that said, I thought I’d mention Black is Black Sport.  The listed notes for that one are (from Parfumo.net):

Top Notes Top Notes Wild mint, Peppermint, Spearmint
Heart Notes Heart Notes Mandarin, Lemon
Base Notes Base Notes Ginger, Vetiver, Amber

Though not as strong as some niche scents that prominently feature a dry, woody/vetiver, and at least somewhat “chemical” base, the composition here strikes me as more unique.  The minty quality is obvious, and there’s a touch of citrus and spice, but for me it’s mainly mint and that dry/woody/chemical quality.  If this kind of composition was released by a niche company with a “cool” name and over-the-top description, it might be the talk of Basenotes, Fragrantica, and some of the blogs!  It might need to be made a bit stronger, but it’s along the same lines as so many with a similar base.  Though I sprayed five times, it was actually interesting and enjoyable at times, unlike scents such as SJP’s Stash is (to me), probably because the chemical quality was more like a minor note (and it was weak) that contrasts with the mintiness.  And it costs about $6 per 100 ml at the moment at a major online fragrance retailer!

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Criticizing the critics., Fragrance Reviews.

A short post about a couple of issues that seem to resurface every so often.

It seems that sometimes a notion has to sort of burn itself out over time, as more and more people realize that what they believed was incorrect or misunderstood. One issue is the use of aroma chemicals to market scents. One fragrance blogger seems to think that if any amount of an aroma chemical is used, then it is “common” and not noteworthy. The point I have made over and over again throughout the years is that sometimes a scent is “overloaded” with this or that common aroma chemical. This doesn’t seem to be “controversial” within the industry; for instance Cool Water for Men included a large amount of dihydromyrcenol. If such a scent becomes popular, after a while the chemical overload goes from smelling “new” and “exciting” to “common” and “generic,” as has occurred with this scent (whether all the “clones” greatly aided in this process or not is an interesting question). My perception is that some companies are using iso e super overload or cashmeran overload to market a scent as “niche.” If others disagree, that’s fine, but you can’t say someone is wrong about a perception that involves “industry secrets,” unless you are an “industry insider.” We simply don’t know if the people who make decisions about what scents to release and how to market them are doing this intentionally or not, but I have little doubt this is the reality in recent years!

Another issue is the one I’ve been speaking about recently, that is, the mental contortions some people go through so that they feel “justified” in spending a huge amount of money on one of these olfactory concoctions. In the Basenotes.net thread concerning Creed’s Viking I’ve been referencing in the last few posts, there are these two new statements:

…It projects and lasts quite well thruout the day for me. Everyone has a different experience with Viking so far. Is it overpriced ? Absolutely , but most creeds work on my skin and if I enjoy it , I’ll wear it. Not to mentioned the positive reactions I’ve received already wearing this.

And:

I think this fact makes Viking a very well made, artistic niche and what’s even better is that it’s still highly nose-pleasing to all of these differing opinions. Fantastic development. I bet Creed tested this exhaustively to achieve broad appeal while still trying to remain a niche scent. Remember this was 7 years in development. It’s pretty remarkable.

Now what I find even more amusing is that when I commented on this thread that it seemed as though to some people Viking smelled like the latest formulation of Halston’s Z-14, one person said:

Those people are wrong. It smells nothing like Z-14 in even the remotest way. I own 2 bottles of Z-14.

I think it’s highly questionable to claim that Viking is “artistic niche” and at the same time “highly nose-pleasing to all,” but you certainly can’t claim that “everyone has a different experience with Viking,” and then claim that a person who perceives it as being similar to Z-14 is “wrong.” I know these are not the same people, but they are making the same kinds of arguments about Viking on this thread.  Just in these early days alone, many have said there’s a strong cinnamon quality to Viking, and there is clearly a lavender note in both (apparently not strong in either), which is listed for Viking.  Why can’t some people believe that those notes may be “spiking out” for some people, even if that is not the case for themselves? Such claims suggest that a person is trying “right fight” perceptions of these concoctions, rather than simply stating their own opinions about it. The same is true for scents that are “overloaded” with this or that aroma chemical. I have a friend who thinks that scents seem to have huge amounts of dihydromyrcenol smell the “freshest,” for example, and he has no perception of any chemical element; to him it smells totally natural. To me, these are a strident, simplistic compositions that apparently were made for those who share his perception. If you read the reviews for the recent Stash release, that same kind of perception appears to be operating, but about different aroma chemicals (s). I certainly wish I didn’t smell “chemical overload” in Stash, but we clearly do not all perceive these concoctions in the same ways.

NOTE:  Right before publishing the above, I saw this post in the major Viking thread at Basenotes:

In sampling Viking, I found that I was one of several reporting that the more you wear it and become familiar with the way the notes evolve, the more you’ll tend to really like it. The cinnamon and clove combo, to me, is really appealing. The way they use the slow dry down of the clove is really nice and rather creative. Now…if only I could smell it noticeably after a few hours, all would be grand and I’d buy a bottle of it. But this just doesn’t appear to be the case.

What such people don’t seem to realize is that if one were to somehow put perhaps half (or even more) of the recent “masculine” releases by designer names into a Creed bottle they would say the same thing.  That is, if you keep studying a “decent” scent (and most are at least that, by the standards of the last decade or so), you are going to find those “subtle facets,” “nuanced complexity,” etc.  How many of these people study the scent of any other company the way they do a Creed?

UPDATE:  Several hours after I published the above, this was posted to that BN Creed thread:

…I have to say that it’s complex and it kept changing from the opening to drydown. It really is bold, edgy, confident and masculine . Even though I was reminded of the 90s at first , it doesn’t mean that it’s a designer like scent or anything. It’s high quality.

No, even though it seems to be like a 90s “masculine,” there’s no way that’s more or less what it is, right?  Then that would mean hundreds of dollars were wasted!  Of course, no 90s designer scent changed at all from top notes to base, and there weren’t any “bold, edgy, confident, and masculine” scents back then, or were there plenty of them?  Ah, the mental contortions we engage in to justify our behavior or perceptions!

Another person said that the small samples don’t contain enough liquid but that if he sprays himself several times to the chest the scent is much better.  Again, does he do this with every scent he samples?  Most likely he’s seeking the “hidden Creed magic” and doing everything he can think of to find it, regardless of whether there is anything especially unique about Viking.

 

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More about Creed’s new Viking release.

There’s one major Viking thread in the Men’s Forum at Basenotes.net, and one post to it (responding to someone else’s comment) that may get to the crux of the matter, in terms of Creed’s appeal to some people.  First, the original comment:

it’s interesting how people rush to tag any new release to an existing fragrance. this happens most often/fervently with Creed. reading over the initial Aventus thread from 2010, many commented that it was a “Zara clone”.
I looked with this “initial Aventus thread”‘ but did not find it.  However, the person is confusing two different issues!  It’s one thing to compare a scent to one that has already been released, because so many of the same aroma chemicals are used, and probably quite a few of the essentials as well (vanilla/vanillin, patchouli, etc.), but it’s another to claim that a scent that might be an attempt to “clone” a popular one is in fact the original (that’s just aggressive ignorance, if it occurred).  Here’s the key question for me, “why would someone criticize someone else’s perception, especially when a site devoted to these olfactory concoctions is by its very nature mostly going to focus on individual perceptions?”  On a practical level, some of us also have to consider Creed’s price, but along the same lines, for someone like myself (who has a few hundred bottles of many different kinds of fragrances), why shouldn’t I try to save quite a bit of money by wearing what I already own (even if that is achieved by layering)?  Now let me move on to the comment by the person who created the post:

Viking is to Pasha was Aventus was to Zara.Surely that’s a pretty ‘human’ thing to do though isn’t it? Let’s face it – how many times have we smelled a new fragrance and it’s reminded us of another? Creed is an odd one as some of the line is strongly reminiscent of other fragrances – Green Irish Tweed = Cool Water, Bois du Portugal = Pierre Cardin Pour Homme, Original Santal = Joop Pour Homme etc yet many of their fragrances are original and ground-breaking ie: Aventus, Silver Mountain Water, Virgin Island Water etc. I find the comparisons very helpful in terms of forming an idea of what I’m going to smell. The magic of Creed is that they manage to create the best smelling ‘version’ pretty consistently. Cool Water is a fine scent but Green Irish Tweed is something much more special. I’m betting Viking will remind me of other fragrances but I’m also betting I’ll be working out how to justify buying a bottle too…!

It’s hard to believe that Creed would always create the “best” version of a certain type of scent, considering how we are talking about perceptions only.  They may have a good idea of what a certain demographic will perceive as “high class,” “rich and smooth,” or whatever, but the men I’ve asked to try a Creed have not liked it.  These were people who enjoyed cheap aftershaves and would never spend much on one (I didn’t tell them how much it cost until after they provided their opinions).  To me, Creed has never created the best version of a type of scent (and Pierre Cardin was released more than a decade before Bois du Portugal, so they don’t even get credit for being original there!), which is why the only Creed I possess more than a few ml of is Vintage Tabarome (and I would swap the decant if the right deal came along, but I do like it and likely will keep it).

So, the obvious question here seems to be, “do people allow themselves to be mesmerized by the Creed name?  If you haven’t seen it already, the researchers of a  recent study about wines have concluded that this is the case in that context:

A new study found that a high price tag on a bottle of wine tricks our brains into thinking it tastes better than a lower-priced bottle, even when the wines are identical…

http://www.foodandwine.com/news/expensive-wine-doesnt-taste-good-we-think-it-does

Furthermore:

“The reward and motivation system is activated more significantly with higher prices, and apparently increases the taste experience in this way,” said researcher Bernd Weber, acting director of the University of Bonn’s Center for Economics and Neuroscience in Germany…

This is known as the “marketing placebo effect,” explained the researchers, referring to health benefits people often feel when they’re given a “placebo,” or dummy, medication.

The measurements of brain activity in the MRI scanner confirmed this effect.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/sc-hlth-expensive-wine-tricks-brain-0823-story.html

So, should we call it the “Creed placebo effect?”  I do think there is one more element that may be involved in some of these kinds of situations, which might be best called the “expensive-smelling molecule effect.”  A great example is how large amounts of calone or dihydromyrcenol in a scent probably leads to a lot of people thinking it’s “cheap.”  On the other hand, load up a scent with iso e super or cashmeran while slapping a niche label on it, and you’ve got something that “smells expensive” to a certain demographic.  Of course, over time this can change, as more people smell such scents and as much cheaper “clones” are marketed.  It sounds like with Viking, the perfumer decided to try and combine at least two different genres in order to create a scent that many would deem unique (while others might call it a mish-mash).

But do I “need” a unique scent, or at least one that will be unique until the “clone” companies market their versions of it?  Some apparently feel that they do, but I have a very large rotation, so even my favorite scents only get a few wearings a year.  Thus, while I can understand how someone might want a unique “signature scent,” this is likely a minority of even those who post to sites like Basenotes and Fragrantica, judging by how much praise scents like Sauvage and Bleu de Chanel have received (in spite of quite a bit of initial criticism).  Indeed, how often has someone written that those who want truly unique scents (such as “vintage” Leather Oud by Dior) are only worn by a few “snobs” or weirdos?  Again, it seems as though Creed is exempt, for some people, from the “usual logic.”  This reminds me of claims in sports that certain players are given more leeway by officials than the vast majority of the rest of the players in that league.  And how many of those who said they “kept trying” a Creed they initial didn’t find especially compelling gave “lesser” scents the same opportunity?  I’d guess that around 25-30% of the scents I eventually decided I wanted to own a bottle of I initially didn’t like (or like enough to buy a bottle of at that point), but I was judging on merit, not name.

A recent example is Sensation Midnight for Men by Nu Parfums.  It cost me less than $4 for 100 ml and is by a company that would likely be regarded poorly by those who visit sites like Basenotes.  Moreover, the first time I tried it I did not like it at all, and thought it was too “chemical.”  However, the second time I tried it I thought it was somewhat interesting, sort of an “amped up” Midnight in Paris, though definitely not exactly the same (other than being stronger, of course).  And the third time I wore it my thought was that it was important to let it waft up to the nose rather than smelling it up close or using my hand to waft it up to the nose.  What would most Basenotes’ members think if it was marketed as niche and there was a label saying it had been “expertly formulated” so that it would only smell right if one allowed it to waft up to the nose from a distance of more than a foot?  Some tried to “defend” their decisions to buy Viking by comparing it to other consumer items, such as bicycles, but the obvious problem is that others can see the “specialness” of the bicycle, whereas people don’t carry their Creed bottles around showing them off to others (and would anyone care but a “Creed fanboy” or person who buys niche?).  I’d guess that most people could create their own “unique” scents with very little study (all of it free from online sources) and very little cash, or one could just try some different layering combinations (if you already have a whole bunch of different types of fragrances).

One comment I made on that Basenotes’ thread was:

For me, considering the price and what at lot of BNers already own (I’ve got plenty of “warm/spicy” and a few salty scents, and I don’t want an aquatic note in any scent), why not try a layering combination to figure out something that will be quite close to Viking? If you know your notes, do you really even have to sample Viking? LOL.

The last statement was meant to be a joke (hence the “LOL,” but someone took it seriously!  To clarify that here, I’d say that if a whole bunch of people are saying it’s like a salty Pasha, and you’ve already got a salty scent and vintage Pasha (that you can layer), and the notes don’t look like anything you’d regard as special, do you really want to even bother considering a very expensive scent (assuming you aren’t afflicted with the “Creed placebo effect?”  Even if I really liked it, after a few wearings it would just be another scent in my rotation, right next to Sensation Midnight and a bunch of other “super cheapos.”  We only have limited time and limited budgets (assuming you aren’t super wealthy), but unfortunately it may be true that a majority of people have very limited self-awareness (and so don’t realize that they are susceptible to these kinds of “placebo effects,” nor foresee how certain kinds of scents may become boring, or just one among many, in short order).

Note that the Basenotes post I addressed above can be found here:

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/429631-The-Official-Creed-Viking-Thread/page11

And here’s an “added bonus!”  I came upon the following comment on this same thread, and thought I’d do a “running commentary” on it (my comments are in brackets).  The person starts out by saying, “it is pretty good,” and then we get:

I feel like a lot of people look at the price tag of this fragrance and then immediately write it off because of that or smell it and go “This isn’t the best smelling fragrance ever so therefor it’s trash at this price”. But I feel that’s a completely wrong way to review a fragrance. How can anyone else give a value based judgement for another person? What is a reasonable price for me might not be for another or vice versa. What I tried to do was ignore completely the price and just review the fragrance for what it is. Each person has to make the value assessment themselves on what they are willing to spend on a fragrance.

[That’s a reasonable sentiment, but then you have to subject all scents you sample to the same reveiw protocol (and not only sample the “big names”); what I’ve seen with Creeds is that some peope will keep going back to it, even after an initially negative impression, until they find the “Creed magic.” They are definitely not going to do this with a Playboy or Remy Latour level scent, and may not do this with a Gucci, Calvin Klein, etc.]

If you strip everything else away from Viking and just focus on the smell the large large majority of people would find it good. It’s a people pleaser fragrance and is really really different from basically anything I’ve ever smelled. It also does changes that make it hard to pin down and evolves a decent amount over it’s life.

[Hold on now! It’s a great all around/people pleasing scent and yet it’s “really really different” from everything else you’ve ever smelled? Well, either you have very little experience with these concoctions or it sounds like absolute nonsense one would expect from a “fanboy.”]

For example, today I sprayed it on and I got less mint in the opening and a good bit more of the spice but also a bit of freshness that wasn’t there in the opening yesterday. It has a bit of an original santal vibe but also not. There’s woods and lavender and vetiver in it and still mint. That’s one reason I said this fragrance could be someone’s signature scent. If I was blindfolded and someone sprayed this and any other fragrance I’ve ever smelled, I think I would be able to pick this every time. Does that make it better? That’s up to the individual person to decide. But it does make it unique in my book.

[The notes for it are not very unique, nor are any of the comments I’ve read so far. Some say it’s like Pasha, or Pasha with a salty note, or like Shelter Island, etc. Yes, if you study a scent in great detail, you likely will be able to distinguish it from others, but again, that’s probably true of just about any release.]

Another note on performance. When I woke up this morning I could *still* smell it on my skin. I honestly feel like people finding this fragrance lacking in the performance department are going nose blind to it. Is it a powerhouse 12+ hours later? No. I think most people in a warm climate will feel it projects well for 5ish hours and then it stays as a skin scent for 8 or more. But let me say this, as someone who owns multiple bottles of Aventus from ’15 and ’16, some considered the best batches of the moderns – Aventus doesn’t perform any better on my skin and I routinely go nose blind to it. I’ve never personally gotten the beast mode Aventus claims that others have. Not on skin at least.

[If it’s just an “okay” scent selling for $500 a bottle, one can just reapply a weaker, but very similar scent.]

I wish more people would just judge the fragrance itself and leave their own personal value assessment out of it. Objectively speaking, Viking is a great release, especially for people who always scream that they want something different than the usual stuff. Viking takes common notes but matches them in an interesting different way. Is it my favorite fragrance ever? No, but I would rock it out without a second thought and expect to get good responses to it.

[Yes, I too want the scent to be judged on its own merits, but you only want this intense study done on Creeds, or if you would like to see it done on other scents, you don’t seem to want to participate or encourage others to do so. And if another company “takes common notes but matches them” in a different way, it often gets heavily criticized (such as occurred with Bleu de Chanel soon after it was released). Creed gets credit for this but when another company does it, people don’t like the “mish mash”/generic offering. Now let’s say I sample Viking and think it’s quite good – I’m still not paying those prices, and the reason is that I don’t feel deprived (as apparently people like this do) if I can’t have this particular scent. If I want something similar I have little doubt I can figure out a layering combination with fragrances I already own plenty of. So, thanks Creed (and other companies), for giving me new layering ideas, but no, I don’t need a “round up the usual suspects” and do something a little different (at best) scent for those kinds of prices!]

Here is the thread in which the comment was posted:

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/429631-The-Official-Creed-Viking-Thread/page13

 

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My favorite scents are masterpieces, but yours are not!

A few years back, a Basesnotes.net member kept creating new posts, with titles such as, “Is Egoiste a masterpiece?”  After doing this a number of times, the person “disappeared.”  Clearly, it was likely a case of “trolling.”  Not long ago, someone (for whom English did not appear to be his/her native tongue) created a similar post about Terre d’Hermes.  There are a few interesting aspects to such a post, one being the question about whether these olfactory concoctions should be considered a craft rather than “fine art” (though, ironically, the concept of a masterpiece derives from the Western craft tradition).  Should a slightly innovative composition be considered for this status (assuming one accepts the application of the masterpiece concept in this context)?  Then there is this statement, from a response on that thread:

…I agree that contemporary is also a good description for Dior Homme Parfum, and that it is indeed the better masterpiece, or pièce de résistance, if one prefers.

That’s the first time I’ve ever heard someone say that a scent is a “better masterpiece,” but it goes to show how much confusion such claims can generate.  However, the aspect I want to address here is what creating a thread of this sort implies to readers.  And yes, I understand that many people tend to get “carried away” when they first experience a new scent that is very different and that they enjoyed.  That does not, however, explain why a small number of them create new threads about their experience on a site like BN.  And if you suggest this is the case, many will apparently get angry.  How dare you rain on their parades!  Do such people ever ask themselves, “what about the people who don’t think it’s a masterpiece – how will they feel – am I essentially calling them fragrance plebeians?”  By contrast, I either like a scent enough to want to own quite a bit of it (let’s say at least 50 ml of a strong one) or I don’t.  So, why do some people feel the need to “defend” the scents they view as masterpieces?

Coincidentally, I was reading a book at the same time that this TdH thread was created on BN.  It’s called “Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents” (by psychologist Lindsay C. Gibson).  I heard it referenced and my first thought was, “my parents were about as emotionally immature as I could imagine,” so I read some reviews and decided to acquire a copy.  It is very good.  It’s concise, provides plenty of professional references (many that I encountered in the past), and “hits the nail on the head” time and again.  For those interested, I think I was spared some of the worst effects of this situation because my parents were so over-the-top immature that even as a young child I could only take them so seriously.  Thus, I didn’t develop the guilt that many others apparently do (many such parents are rigid, stern, uncompromising, etc., but mine were literally like selfish, obnoxious teenagers much of the time!).

In any case, in this book, the author brings up a concept she called role coercion:

Role coercion occurs when people insist that someone live out a role because they want them to. As parents, they try to force their children into acting a certain way by not speaking to them, threatening to reject them, or getting other family members to gang up against them. Role coercion often involves a heavy dose of shame and guilt, such as telling a child that he or she is a bad person for wanting something the parent disapproves of.

I think this is what happened, at least to some degree, on that TdH thread.  And I was wondering how many who behaved in a way consistent with this quote were raised by emotionally immature parents!  Of course, it’s clearly immature to want someone to share your tastes, but that is what emotionally immature parents tend to expect of their children.  And that would seem to be what emotionally immature people do in their interactions with others, in general.  I think the fragrance hobby is a great place to see the differences in the emotional maturity of people.  Some have become quite upset by the undeniable reality that these are just smells, for example.  And this brings me to what seems to be a major distinction, which is that some people don’t seem to have much of a concept of the self.  They use the reactions of others to provide clues about who they are or what they should think or do.  In the book, Gibson articulates the concept of mirroring:

…emotionally immature parents expect their children to know and mirror them. They can get highly upset if their children don’t act the way they want them to. Their fragile self-esteem rides on things going their way every time.

It’s funny on some level that some people care so much about what anonymous internet people think.  The more mature approach, it would seem, is to state your case and not worry about it, but many if not most seem to need a sense of engagement, as if they belong to a kind of virtual family (one wonders how much of a role this played in the last Presidential election!).  In that thread, I made the point that it’s important to respect the opinions of others as opinions, even if one did not agree with it, but that is not the way the world is seen by emotionally immature people.  They also tend to think that they can read minds, whereas since I suspected the person who created the thread might have been a “troll,” I raised the issue but did not argue that he/she must be one.

Of course I can’t say this is what the creator of the BN thread was thinking, but the thread didn’t make a lot of sense.  If he wanted to know of a scent like TdH but that many thought was superior, he could has simply asked that question!  There’s no need to make the masterpiece claim without even explaining why you think that is the case!  At least the BN member from a few years ago asked if this or that scent was a masterpiece, rather than announcing it as if he she were some sort of unquestioned authority (as emotionally immature parents view themselves relative to their children).  So, I hope that this post will help others think about what might be going on in the minds of people who make odd claims, but it also might help some recognize that their parents are emotionally immature, and so there’s no reason to blame yourself or allow them to “guilt trip” you.  That would be a much greater accomplishment than criticizing yet another “masterpiece” thread posted to BN!

And it’s not just one’s parents who might be immature.  Your boss, friend, teacher, religious leader, “significant other,” etc. might possess some of these qualities, obviously.  In fact, in that BN thread (and also on an old post of mine here), I used an analogy that upset some people, which is not common; usually people simply agree or disagree that an analogy is useful).  The context was being asked to keep trying a “masterpiece” scent until I finally “got it” (which I did with Cool Water, at least five wearing spaced across years, and never liked it, though I do like some similar ones), and so I said something like, “we don’t ask people who are heterosexual to try gay sex until they enjoy it, do we?”  Of course, the opposite would apply to gay people, though unfortunately there are still more than a few people, apparently, who actually believe gay people just need to try heterosexual sex until they finally enjoy it!  The point is that there is no reason for a mature person to react with horror at such an analogy; you either think it makes sense or you don’t.  I think it’s a great analogy because I actually tried Cool Water several times whereas I simply have no intention of trying gay sex, as is probably the case for most people who think of themselves as heterosexuals.  I guess these people can’t stop themselves from imagining certain sex acts, and if that is the case, then it’s a clear indication the person has some maturity issues to work through.

On a side note, I have been asked how it was possible for someone like myself to exist after being raised the way I was, and Gibson has a statement in her book that again seems to be spot on:

If you had an independent, self-reliant personality, your parent wouldn’t have seen you as a needy child for whom he or she could play the role of rescuing parent. Instead, you may have been pegged as the child without needs, the little grown-up. It wasn’t some sort of insufficiency in you that made your parent pay more attention to your sibling; rather, it’s likely that you weren’t dependent enough to trigger your parent’s enmeshment instincts.
Interestingly, self-sufficient children who don’t spur their parents to become enmeshed are often left alone to create a more independent and self-determined life (Bowen 1978). Therefore, they can achieve a level of self-development exceeding that of their parents. In this way, not getting attention can actually pay off in the long run.

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Why I usually don’t respond to recommendations posts.

These kinds of posts seem to be quite popular, in terms of the number of responses that are usually generated (at least on Basenotes.net), yet I am often confounded by many of those responses.  Some seem to have the “subtext” of, “welcome to our exclusive club – you must buy this $200 scent or else you are not worthy.”  I’ve addressed that kind of thing in other posts, saying that when a high school student asks about what he should wear during his Prom, suggesting vintage Kouros makes no sense, for example.

Of course, those who create such posts are often at least partially to blame,  because it’s common for not enough information to be furnished, and so they get so many different kinds of recommendations – usually, they would be better off just going to whatever local store has some testers available.  Often, they don’t even provide a general price range.  One such thread was created not long ago, with the title of, “Fragrances similar to LDDM that are more wearable?”  The original post to that thread is:

“I really like the dry down to LDDM, but I feel like the dryness before then precludes me from wearing it more/as on office scent. What are some fragrances that are similar but more wearable that I could add to my wardrobe instead?”

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/419675-Fragrances-similar-to-LDDM-that-are-more-wearable

I decided to try and “probe” the person into supplying more information with this post:

“Perhaps vintage Acteur? I’m not sure what kind of scent you are seeking, as I found it to be quite dry all the way through.”

Someone else then wrote this post:

“Please no offense Bigsly, but LDDM is one of my favorites and Azzaro’s Acteur is a total scrubber for me.
It would take someone with far more catholic tastes than I to like both.”

First, whether this person enjoys one but dislikes the other is totally irrelevant here.  Second, there is  a substantial difference between vintage and recent Acteur, the recent one having a kind of “sticky” quality that does not possess the note separation or “naturalness” of the vintage formulation.  Thus, this person did not address my recommendation – we do not know which formulation to which he refers!  His claim about “catholic tastes” suggests an attempt at being offensive after saying “no offense,” but I really don’t care – I don’t have to interact with this individual in “real life” and he can be as ridiculous as he likes in this context, AFAIC.

However, let’s get back to the person who wanted the advice.   The notes for “LDDM” are:

“The top is combined of coriander, cumin with a hint of petitgrain. The heart features rock rose and jasmine. The base includes cedar, vetiver and ambergris.”

And for Acteur these are the notes (both taken from Fragrantica.com):

“Top notes are fruity notes, nutmeg flower, bergamot and cardamom; middle notes are carnation, patchouli, jasmine, vetiver, cedar and rose; base notes are leather, amber, musk and oakmoss.”

Comments about the drydown in reviews vary, with some talking about woodiness or incense while others talk about amber.  The person who created the post seems to think that LDDM becomes less dry and presumably at least a bit softer/ambery, but the key point here is that he said he wanted something that he could recognize as similar but solved the issues he had with LDDM.  In the past I had suggested Black Tourmaline, and I would have done that here if the question was along these lines.  I asked him about vintage Acteur because there are some similarities, and IMO it’s not nearly as dry as LDDM, but it is spicy and woody.  After 24 hours, this person did not respond again to his own thread, so I just “closed the book,” but I wish others would be more mindful of what is actually being asked!

And the reality is that so often we see posts such as this very recent one:

“So i am a 22 year old college student. I’ve been looking to get some kind of fragrance just because im not a fan of scented body washes and i want to at least smell good and be a bit different. I have done a lot of research and i think ive done way too much because now i dont know what the hell to get. its like once you enter the black hole of fragrance you cant find your way out lol. For now since its winter i want something that is better for colder weather. I know i want something a little more mature than something like 1 million but i still want to retain that slightly sweeter vibe since i am in college and the girls around are in the 18-24 age range. I want something thats sexy but not a clubbing scent and still has that masculine mature vibe but has that sweetness to it that girls in my age range will like. I really lean towards D&G the one as it seems to encompass all of that and is something the girls love, but im aware its performance sucks and i do want something thats going to preform since i am a busy college student running around all day. I also obviously dont want something that everyone else is wearing like ADG and so on. I know its cheap but perry ellis 360 black is catching my eye simply due to the notes and appearing very similar to D&Gs the one based on reviews. Ed hardy villain is supposed to be close but i saw it doesnt have the tobacco which seems like it would take away that mature masculinity The one has. Anyway i would appreciate it if anyone could at least guide me in the direction i should be going because after all my research, i am all over the place.”

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/431783-Beginner-who-is-lost-in-the-black-hole-of-fragrances

Someone suggested Egoiste, which seems entirely inappropriate, but at least there were mostly reasonable suggestions.  One that was not was Pure Malt, which doesn’t seem appropriate for mature/school environments.  I think it would be best for such a person to sample at a local mall/Ulta/Sephora, but otherwise (if blinding buying is going to be done) I’d say there couldn’t be a better example of someone who should be looking for excellent “cheapos.”  I decided to not just give some advice but to also try to get my point across about inappropriate recommendations – this is my post to that thread:

“First, asking this kind of question here is bound to make you more confused, and might get a bunch of suggestions for $200+ scents that are not at all appropriate for your demographic (assuming you care about that – not everyone does). There are plenty of great and inexpensive scents, but it seems like people who come here as newbies and ask such questions usually want to think they are getting something ‘special,’ as if there were such a thing as a special smell (it’s good to see you may not be one of them!). To be sure, some smell more complex, unique, etc., but at this point the difference between the best ‘cheapos’ and really expensive scents is not vast, and personal preference of course matters to most people. So, my advice would be Police Gold Wings if you like absinthe/licorice notes (was about $10 at Notino not long ago, for 50 ml) and Magnet for Men by Eclectic Collections ($8/100 ml at Perfume Emporium not long ago).

NOTE: I have Villain but I’d be concerned about reformulations. If you can get the one made by New Wave it might work for you, though the strong sandalwood note might be too ‘old’ for your demographic.”

I’m not sure why sandalwood notes are considered “old,” but I’ve read that so many times I thought I should mention it.  I remember that when I was a newbie I created this kind of thread at least once, asking about scents with a strong cinnamon note.  I’m not sure I could even distinguish a strong cinnamon note from a strong spice note of a different type at that time, but I can’t assume someone who creates a post like this is in that same position.  To me there’s a kind of “first, do no harm” to these kinds of recommendations.  A low cost scent that seems to be much higher in “quality” than one would expect and that meets the person’s criteria is an obvious candidate.  Egoiste and Pure Malt are much more “risky,” by comparison, and such recommendations appear to be based upon that person’s preferences rather than a thoughtful consideration of what the person is seeking.

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No Need to Get Angry – Just Explain Your Point of View!

On Fragrantica.com’s review page for Armaf’s Club de Nuit for Men, there is this recent review:

As others have mentioned this opens with a slightly weird lemon and pine/fern note in place of the pineapple of Aventus. Some have said it reminds them of Pledge, I would say more like a car air freshener. The opening is only about 70% Aventus because of this.

Once the lemon/fern note has evaporated, it does begin to smell closer to Aventus BUT it still has this spicy thing going on that is not found in Aventus. The dry down I would say is about 80% Aventus, and for the price, that’s quite amazing.

If they replaced the lemon note with pineapple and removed the spice, this would almost be a 100% replica and no one would need to buy Aventus again.

For the money this is a quality fragrance, but like wearing a fake Rolex, it’s going to burn at your soul.

My advice; get a split of the real deal.

This reviewer did not explain his point of view, but I think it’s not difficult to discern it.  He thinks Aventus is the “real deal” and wants a “clone” that is perhaps 95% or even 99% similar (I don’t think along these lines because I know how much my sensitivities can vary, even from one day to the next, making it difficult to posit such a precise assessment).  He also is clearly concerned about the top notes experience.  As I’ve said several times in the past, I don’t take any one person’s review all that seriously,  unless it’s the only one available (and there’s an apparently good description of the actual smell) and the scent is inexpensive.  He says nothing about the drydown, other than it’s supposed to be 80% similar to Aventus, so this doesn’t help much in that context.

I’m more interested in the smell of the scent in question, and in that regard he does say it’s spicier than Aventus, which is fine with me and would likely be an improvement (in terms of my preferences).  Knowing that most who have tried this scent have also at least sampled Aventus, I wrote up this review of the Armaf:

I have forgotten exactly what Aventus smells like but this does seem very close, perhaps somewhere between the Lomani “clone” and Aventus (I haven’t tried the others). The Lomani is more smoothed out whereas this one is sharper and seems to have more dimension/complexity. However, it’s not a complex scent overall so for many the Lomani might be fine, if you want to save a few dollars. If someone wants to pay Creed prices that’s fine with me, but I can enjoy this one and don’t need another that’s quite similar, which is the way I usually judge scents when there is a vast price difference (I bought my bottle used so I paid even less than retail for it, making the difference between it and Aventus simply too wide to even consider paying Creed prices).

I could have mentioned the birch note specifically, which is quite noticeable, and has an almost burnt quality, but I just said “sharp” because my previous experience with birch notes has been a bit different, so there may be another aroma chemical at work here.  My 98% or so 100 ml bottle of the Armaf cost me well under $20 total; otherwise I would not have purchased it because I have 100 ml of the Lomani and I’m not a big fan of this type of composition.  It would be helpful if the reviewer said something like, “if you’re a huge Aventus fan I’m not sure this Armaf is going to get the job done for you, but if not, the only major issue might be the sharp top notes.”  I like that first half hour or so, actually, and I’m not a fan of strong pineapple notes (though I don’t dislike them; however, I can’t imagine wearing such a scent on a regular basis, as many seem to do with Aventus).

Moreover, a few weeks before buying the Armaf I purchased a 50 ml bottle of Fresh Pineapple, by Bath and Body Works.  The notes for that one (on Fragrantica) are:

Top notes are orange, coconut milk and lemon; middle notes are peony, pineapple, fruits and rose; base notes are sandalwood, vanilla and caramel.

This one is more of a lemon/pineapple blend, but it doesn’t have as much sharpness as the Armaf.  The drydown is rather different, though, but it might work for those who like the idea of Aventus except would prefer a sandalwood drydown with more sweetness.  In terms of what guys, especially young ones, are wearing these days, I’d certainly classify this 2007 release as “unisex.”

I’ve swapped off quite a few “fresh,” aquatic, “sport,” etc. scents over the years, and though I still have a few, I never seem to wear them.  Occasionally I’ll spray one on my ankle so that I can waft it up to my nose every once in a while yet don’t have to deal with it until I want to, and it seems that every time my thought is that it’s too “chemical” and there’s not much, if anything, to make up for it.  Sometimes I’ve sprayed these kinds of scents on the back of a coat/jacket (if the sprayer generates a nice mist effect), and I can appreciate the scent that way to some degree, but that’s only for when the weather is cooler.  The point is that I think the Aventus type scent is one that attracts the fresh/aquatic/sport scent crowd as well as at least a decent percentage of the niche/aficionado/tobacco/leather/”heavy” scent crowd, so when one reads reviews it’s important to consider this (I often point out that I’m mostly a gourmand, oriental, “heavy” scent fan).  Few will disclose their preferences in their reviews, and probably just as few will provide a good explanation about why they assess scents the way they do!

Another interesting example is a blogger’s comparison of Grey Flannel to Bowling Green.  His conclusion is that, “Grey Flannel, which is ten years older, is resoundingly superior in quality and composition.”  I have vintage (or perhaps “semi-vintage,” in the eyes of some) bottles of both these scents.  I have difficulty wearing GF, probably due to the aroma chemicals rendering the violet leaf note.  I have always enjoyed wearing BG, even though it is not as unique as GF, and this is another instance of the issue of personal enjoyment versus “artistic appreciation.”  I don’t disagree with the blogger’s general impression (other than claims about “quality,” since one would have to have “insider information” and I perceive both – that is, what’s in the bottles I possess – as being at least reasonably good quality), but not everyone is going to spray on a scent and then walk around thinking, “I really find this smell irritating but my appreciation of its artistic elements more than makes up for that!”

I think of BG as a pared down rendition of Parfum d’Homme by Claude Montana (sometimes called “red box” online), with less of a fougere accord in particular (I sampled Red before BG).  It’s still rather complex, which goes to show how “busy” the Montana is.  But the key point is that I do find myself in the mood, once in a while of course, for that BG, whereas that strong fougere accord in the Montana has led me to hardly ever wear it (over the last several years).  In the fine art world, “less is more” is not exactly an unknown sentiment!  The blogger has also called BG “cheap,” which is not my impression at all (suggesting, again, that there is a “quality issue”).  One thing I really like about it is that the pine note has been sort of tamed to just the right degree, whereas in many other “pine scents,” it’s either too weak or so strong that it’s irritating.  I’ve also found that while my preferences have changed a bit, so that I’m more drawn to sweet scents, BG has enough complexity  (and a hint of sweetness), so that boredom is preventede.  And since BG was released about three years before the Montana, it is a case where the original was not “overtaken” by later variations on this theme (Havana by Aramis was released in 1994), unlike many others!

 

 

 

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