Category Archives: Fragrance Reviews.

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

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.

Can you “just say no” to IFRA ?

Rogue Perfumery Warning Label.jpg

Not long ago I was contacted (through the site) by a new perfumer who is launching a new line.  He wanted to know if I was interested in sampling his initial fragrances, and I agreed.  So, as for “full disclosure,” I was sent four samples that appear to be 1 ml or less each.  The perfumer is striving to recreate vintage compositions (and doesn’t adhere to IFRA guidelines), especially of that late 70s to early 90s period, it seems, so I was quite curious to sample them.  After doing so, he decided to launch one of them at first (Tabac Vert).  For those interested, here is where you can order samples or 30 ml bottles:

I’ll begin my reviews with Chypre de Siam, which I hope he releases soon.  The notes for this one are:

Benzoin, Kaffir Lime, Jasmine Sambac, Salacca Fruit, Oakmoss, Incense Wood.

The ingredients listed on the etsy page are:

Coumarin, Iso Alpha Methyl Ionone, Hydroxycitronellal, Benzyl Benzoate, Linalool, Limonene, Oakmoss, Citronellol, Geraniol, Citral, Eugenol, Isoeugenol.

I dabbed it on and I try to avoid top notes (though in this case I just blew on the area that was dabbed, rather than holding my breath or leaving the room), so keep that in mind.  It certainly feels “old school,” and those who don’t like dry “old school” scents that are sweet may find not enjoy it, but I could also see some of these people being won over to it, because it isn’t “musty” (I’ve read many who complained of this quality).  On the other hand, it’s possible that some would perceive it as musty.  I think what most mean by this is a dry yet musky quality, perhaps with a clear animalic element.  If you have tried Equipage, imagine it without the strong rosewood (and muskiness) and I think you’ll have a good idea what this is like (again, at the drydown stage).

What I was expecting was either a somewhat sweet base or a dry/woody one, but this is no more than a touch sweet and just a bit woody.  I think it would satisfy those who have said they wished they could find in vintage scents, which is a more straightforward (possibly simpler) and less “in your face” composition.  You don’t have to worry about any obvious aroma chemicals here, and I could imagine this being good for layering as well (lately, I have often layered a vintage scent with a recent release).  A criticism may be that it’s not daring enough, but unless someone claims that his/her scents were meant to be “groundbreaking” I can’t accept this as a valid complaint.

I was going to sample the others, but then before I did he told me that he decided to change the formulations/compositions, and only release Tabac Vert for the time being, until he gets the others exactly as he wants them.  The listed notes for TV are:

Cedar, pepper, bergamot, amber and sandalwood.

Fortunately (for me, at least), this is a “big” tobacco type scent, reminiscent of Creed’s Vintage Tabarome and Worth Pour Homme Haute Concentration (but without the lavender), so I’d classify it a bit closer to the former.  I like this one better than any non-sweet tobacco scent I’ve tried so far (I wouldn’t reach for this one when I wanted something like Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille, and vice versa).  And the tobacco quality  lasts for a very long time!  There’s no longer any reason to lament “high” vintage prices (such as for ones like Patou Pour Homme, Vintage Tabarome, and Egoiste Cologne Concentree).  Nor can one say (as I’ve heard on more than a few occasions) that vintage should be avoided because it may not be easily replaced.  It’s available now and you can buy as much as you like!  The base is reminiscent of Boucheron Pour Homme EdP (vintage formulation) but with tobacco rather than lingering citrus.

As to the oakmoss content in Tabac Vert specifically, the perfumer says it is just a hair under 1%, whereas IFRA only allows .2%.  I asked him about how Tabac Vert  compares to vintage scents that contained more tiny amounts and this was his response;

I recall seeing a Louis Appell demo formula for Chypre de Coty with 1% oakmoss. And I’ve also seen a (so-called authentic) formula for Mitsouko with a whopping 7%.

Without an actual gcms of these original juices we’ll never really know because perfumers are super secretive. We can only really gauge from these demo formulas and what works in our own lab.

But, for the record: I very adamantly DO NOT consider myself a perfumer but rather a perfume hobbyist. I’ve spent the last 8 years learning and familiarizing myself with the materials. I experimented with demo formulas and did A LOT of trial & error (mostly error), but I think to consider myself a perfumer marginalizes the real perfumers in their industry and their hard work, experience and education.

Overall, I was pleased to learn that there’s no reason why vintage type scents can no longer be produced.  Why so many niche companies want to market “iso e super overload” or “cashmeran overload” scents is an interesting question.  As I’ve said before, it may be that enough of the niche crowd now perceive a scent with a lot of iso e super or cashmeran as “special,” “expensive,” “high quality,” etc., and so it’s more likely to be a success (can you imagine what a “dihydromyrcenol overload” scent would be perceived by this demographic?).   Personally, and on the other side of the niche scene (that is, the “talented amateurs”), I liked these scents more than any of the Andy Tauer scents I’ve tried.  Why are some of AT’s scents so popular?  If it’s because of the “in your face” quality, then you might find the Rogue Perfumery ones to be “up your alley,” but to me TV is a composition that works perfectly, whereas the AT scents I’ve tried seem flawed in one way or another.  After I told him how much I enjoyed TV, he generously sent me 30 ml, so that should keep my non-sweet tobacco scent cravings in line for a quite a while, as it’s very strong (I think one full spray per wearing is all I need)!

NOTE:  TV is really “old school,” so some will likely perceive it as musty or even “old lady,” but they’d say the same thing about Vintage Tabarome, Patou Pour Homme, Egoiste Cologne Concentree, etc., I’d guess.





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Dior’s Sauvage or Leather Oud?

I’ve seen people mention these two scents in the same paragraph.  The point is usually one of two possibilities, along the lines of, “if you don’t like Sauvage, go ahead and wear Leather Oud and watch people run away from you,” or, “how could a house that released Leather Oud release Sauvage not long thereafter?”  The obvious thought here is that Sauvage was targeted at the masses, especially younger guys who think a scent will help them in their romantic quests, whereas LO is only for those who want something unique and don’t care what others think of the scent they are wearing.  One point I have made is that if Dior (or whatever corporate entity makes the decisions) is willing to release a scent like LO but has to also release a scent like Sauvage, why shouldn’t we all embrace this?  Sure, you might work in an office where one guys bathes in Sauvage, but that would likely be some other scent you don’t like (if Sauvage was never released)!

As of this writing, the last two reviews of Sauvage on do a good job of summing up the “two sides:”

in this non-innovative competitive market, being a market leader is a pretty difficult job and for this reason I admire this creation from Dior and the contemporary absolute genius perfumer Monsieur Demachy. Agree or Disagree this creation is a super crowd pleasing perfume around the world, making lots of money for Dior and changed the market rules and trends, brought up Ambroxan as a key ingredient to the industry as well. Dior Sauvage is not an easy forgettable perfume. It is a revolutionary product that won’t leave the scene for years.


How could the man who penned Leather Oud and the house behind a modern classic like Dior Homme and a portfolio of legends commit such a crime against humanity?

Sauvage is the scourge of this age, tailored to fit the shallow and self-absorbed trend of the time. Grace, manners, style, respect, balance, wisdom, and art? Out with all that, now all that matters is who is the loudest for the longest time. And Sauvage is loud. I long thought, that Paco Rabanne’s Evil Million was the ultimate olfactory WMD, but somehow Demachy and Dior trumped it by several lengths!

The ambrox overload puts everyone on the vicinity of the “wearer” in a death grip, that would make even Darth Julius Vader himself give a respectful tip of the helmet. Usually ambrox is a great material to work with, as it enhances everything with an organic, soft and exalting glow, but its beauty and purpose has been corrupted, transforming it into a piercing weapon from which there is no escape.

No escape…..

The reviewer in the first passage quoted is outright wrong.  Adventurer II by Eddie Bauer also has an intolerable (to my nose) dose of ambroxan, and I would be surprised if there wasn’t another scent that also has such a dose, but was released before Adventurer II.  No matter; if you like it, you like it – that’s fine with me.  What I do find strange is how so many who seem to think of themselves as aficionados (or at least very knowledgeable about scents) are so quick to think Sauvage is unique or special.  Instead, they should say something like, “I only really sample the major releases, and compared to the others this is quite different, at least in terms of the use of ambroxan.”  Even when people like myself point out that this is not a new idea, they keep saying the same thing, as if that will make it true (perhaps this is appropriate in this new age of “fake facts,” where a recent poll found that a clear majority of Republicans, for example, thought that the nation’s colleges/universities are doing more harm than good)!

But I don’t want to pursue this further; instead I want to talk about why I enjoy LO so much (note that I am referring to a 2011 formulation).  Fragrantica has the following notes for it:

…leather and civet with noble agar and other woody nuances (patchouli, sandalwood, birch, cedar and vetiver). There are also ingredients of cardamom, cloves, amyris, beeswax, amber and labdanum, which complement this warm composition.

So there’s a lot that can “go wrong” here, such as the usual ‘chemical oud” note, but what I get here is what I want in a designer scent, which is excellent balance among the notes, along with naturalness (the opposite of Sauvage, to my nose).  Over time, it gets better, and my “mind’s nose” is able to appreciate the nuances that such a scent possesses.  Just as I think one note might be a bit too strong, another note comes forward, which is what I think of as great dynamism.  Like Sauvage, a little goes a long way.  I have sampled so many oud, leather, etc. scents, but there simply is no comparison.  LO packs all kinds of “heavy” notes (no tobacco, though) together and makes it work exactly the way I want it to.

Of course, LO is more expensive than Sauvage, but there is a similar scent, One Man Show Oud Edition, by Jacques Bogart, that is selling for very low prices at the moment.  It’s goes on similarly, but after a while the chemicals become obvious to me (iso e super in particular).  However, it might work just as well for you!  For me this is an excellent example of why an aficionado (who isn’t poor, obviously) would pay more for a scent that is similar to a cheap one (I obtained some LO in a swap).  By contrast, I have so often thought to myself that a “cheapo” was just as good as an expensive niche scent.  And this is not a new phenomenon, for instance I enjoy Pierre Cardin Pour Monsieur more than Bois du Portugal (at least the Aladdin or older formulations of PCPM).  There’s another example of niche being much better (to me) than designer or below, and that is Cheat Day, by Haught Perfumes, which possesses powerful notes of waffle cone, chocolate, and coffee.  Rebelle by Rihanna has similar notes (no waffle cone but both have strawberry and the other two notes), but I have to strain to detect the notes I enjoy most in Rebelle.

What I get from Sauvage is a scent like Wings for Men by Giorgio of Beverly Hills, that is a “chemical nightmare” (though one that many think of as pleasant, fresh, etc.) that is very strong – it’s what I think of as a “drug store scent” (that, or an older scent that used to be quite good but has been reformulated and/or weakened significantly, is what I tend to think of as “drug store”).  As some have argued, the brains of many “youngsters” today seem to have been “wired” to appreciate chemicals like ambroxan and “laundry musks” in large amounts, so it’s really not fair to tell them they have bad taste (as some have), and olfactory fatigue can also play a major role (for those who nearly bathe in such scents).  Just like popular music today is often said to be awful by the older crowd, young adults need time to sort things out.  Many will say things like, “I can’t believe I ever enjoyed wearing that scent” (or listening to that music) when they get older, but others will persist with their preferences (as many wear Cool Water still, which seems to be loaded with dihyromyrcenol, at least in my “vintage” bottle).  Arguments can be made about why a scent is tasteful while another is not, but if you are going to say this to someone who can’t even comprehend your case, I would say you are wasting your time.  Just enjoy what you enjoy!


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Fake Niche versus Real Niche.

As I said in the last post, I’m not all that interested in debating the concept of niche with others.  I have my notions about what it should mean, and then there are several common concepts about it that others hold.  Here, I want to provide my sense of what niche, or at least niche-like, should mean.  It’s very simple (in my mind), because we all know there are quite a few scents that are widely available, starting (at the low end) with “drug store” scents (some of which are bad reformulations of great vintage ones), and going up to the “top” designers.  In order to compete with better-known niche companies, some designer brands decided to create “exclusive” lines, which to me should be considered niche, in terms of the marketing if not the smell itself.  By contrast, there are some “amateur outfits” like Andy Tauer or Smell Bent (as I call them), which tend to do a better job of being niche than the many of the more “professional” niche companies, in my opinion, of course.

If you read my last post you have a sense of what I think “fake niche” is.  Basically, it’s throwing a lot of iso e super, cashmeran, “white” musk” and or some other obvious aroma chemicals together with something that sounds like it should be in a niche scent, such as leather, oud, tobacco, or pistachio.  The problem, at least for me, is that the aroma chemicals overwhelm whatever “good” there is in it.  What I want from niche is a scent that is novel and enjoyable, and of course one that is not like any designer (or even “drug store”) that came before it.  I don’t want a niche version of Old Spice (I have the previous incarnation of it, Early American Old Spice) or English Leather (I have a pre-Dana version of that one), though some “authorities” speak glowingly about some niche scents that were apparently meant to be just this sort of thing (I devoted a post to that development, which I found rather strange)!

By contrast, I don’t mind if a scent does something different than vintage and is a little “synthetic” in some way.  And that brings me to another “celebuscent,” Unbreakable, which possesses notes of (from

Top Notes Top Notes Bergamot, Clementine, Green apple, Saffron
Heart Notes Heart Notes Geranium, Jasmine, Lily-of-the-valley, Red fruits
Base Notes Base Notes Dark chocolate, Tonka bean, Vanilla, Cedarwood


My bottle cost $11 or $12 total (100 ml with cap), and was a blind buy.  I don’t think of it as “niche quality,” but I do consider it “niche-like.”  The reason is that I do detect a slight “laundry musk” element, but because it is mild I find that it adds some complexity to the composition, whereas so much niche that I think of as “fake” contains irritating amounts of iso e super, etc.  And after a long time (I’d guess at least 10 hours), I do detect a “cheap” wood note in Unbreakable, though I’m quite surprised at how long the composition holds together (unlike some recent CK scents I’ve tried, where after half an hour or so a bare aroma chemical quality dominates everything).  On the other hand, there is a nice orange/apple element, along with some mild but detectable chocolate note.  Otherwise, I find it to be rather “tight,” which is not unexpected and fine here, since the notes that I wanted to smell are not a figment of the perfumer’s imagination.

The key point, for me if no one else, is to ask yourself what you are seeking.  You may never find a “niche version” of Unbreakable, for example (as newbies often ask about with quite a few designer scents), so are you willing to “settle” for one that is not quite “niche quality” (meaning something you’d expect from a Lutens)?  And if a niche scent with a load of iso e super is acceptable to you, why is a little laundry musk in Unbreakable a “dealbreaker?”  If the reason involves social perceptions, that’s fine with me, but then why bother to wear niche?  Most people either won’t recognize it as such or will dislike it?  The “crowd pleasing” niche scents are often mistaken for much cheaper designer ones, and ones that I’ll grant are unique (hypothetically, for the sake of the argument) are soon “cloned,” the most obvious case being Aventus.  Iso e super is not a “better” aroma chemical than dihydromyrcenol (which is found in large amounts in many “masculines,” including Cool Water) or various “laundry musks;” should people who think along these lines be called “niche snobs?”

Another example of a “cheapo” with a chocolate/cocoa note is 125 Years by Victorinox.  This one does not have any aroma chemical that could come across as “cheap,” AFAICT, and it’s composition is surely “niche-like:”

Top Notes Top Notes Grapefruit, Cardamom
Heart Notes Heart Notes Cocoa, Larch wood
Base Notes Base Notes Hay, Tonka bean


It’s not as strong as many niche scents of this type but at this price level (my 100 ml bottle cost less than $15 total), one can just spray more to make up for it (I don’t get much tonka, for those who dislike this note).  In some cases that may be an issue (bringing out a “chemical” quality), but that’s not the case here or in most if not all of my favorite “super cheapos.”  Yet how many who think Stash SJP is niche-like (if not outright niche) would say that about 125 Years?  Obviously, at least in the USA Stash has gotten much more publicity than 125 Years, so that might be a major reason.  However, I think another reason for some if not most who try it (and say it’s niche-like) is that the aroma chemicals in it (used in certain amounts) are now perceived as “niche” by enough people to make it something companies now know they can market as niche-like.

It almost seems as if these kinds of niche/niche-like scents were made with the notion that the vintage greats should be recreated using certain aroma chemicals rather than the typical naturals used in vintage.  That’s a huge problem, at least for me, because the reason why I have an interest in niche in the first place is because I want something simpler and without the melange of notes found in vintage (and often I often would like the lavender removed from vintage).  I don’t know how many times I’ve thought that a vintage scent would be outstanding if only the lavender was removed.  With the lavender present, it smells too much like dozens of other vintage ones!  A good example is the first Ungaro “masculine,” which I wore recently.  It’s got a whole lot of notes, but as usual, there’s that lavender note acting like it owns everything.  Replacing strong lavender with strong iso e super, for example, is a terrible idea, though of course I can’t speak for others.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t find “fake niche” to be an issue with all releases that seem to aspire to being part of the niche world (to me Lutens’ scents are “real niche,” though that doesn’t mean all that I’ve sampled are for me), but other niche companies seem to have gone in the opposite direction.  Clearly, some people agree with me, for example:

Pegasus was a scrubber for me. I agree that the almond note is nice (see also HdP 1725), but the base screams of chemicals. Pegasus smells very niche to me when first prayed, but the base smells like something I’d get at Ross or TJ Maxx, and no amount of scrubbing could get it off my skin. I was stuck with that nastiness for hours. I love the top, but the base is pure yuck. The base of Reflection is magic.

PdM tends to be heavy handed with synthetics in their bases, and that’s a shame. They seem to be only interested in top notes and performance, which leads to scents that smell amazing for a while but end up leaving you with chemical funk for hours. Well, maybe not you. But those with a ” with a superior olfactive sensibility” know what I’m talking about (sarcasm). I get that everybody uses chemicals, but I don’t ever want to smell like chemicals. Once the top notes of Pegasus wear off… Pegasus was just chemicals. Bummer. Scrubber.

NOTE:  I do not think it is right to cut down trees to “celebrate” anything (even putting the ecological consequences aside), but I think the picture does work for the content of this post.







Filed under Fragrance Reviews., The basics.

Stash SJP: Has the niche version of “Guerlinade” arrived?

I’ve been called a niche hater as well as a chronic niche sampler by those who seem to want to do anything in their power to deflect attention away from this question, but that will be the subject of this post (one can’t compel others to accept obvious reality, as is clearly the case in this age of “fake facts”).  First, because some people seem to want to continually “debate” what I consider to be unresolvable questions, such as “what is niche?” I’ll address that up front.  In this context, I’m not referring to the “amateurs” like Smell Bent, but instead to anything that possesses what I call a “niche Guerlinade” quality (see below) and where there seem to be niche pretensions, which brings me to “celebuscent,” Stash SJP.  The note list, taken from is:

fresh grapefruit, black pepper and aromatic sage. Its heart notes include Atlas cedar, patchouli, ginger lily and pistachios, laid on the warm woody base of olibanum, massoia wood, vetiver and musk.

When I began to write this post, the top review at Fragrantica included the statement:

…totaly genderless and niche type perfume.

which apparently was the idea behind it, though an interesting question is whether this was made to satisfy SJP herself or to see if there was a market for what I would call a “generic niche scent.”  After my first wearing of it, I wrote up this review:

I don’t see the point of this one, as there are others that smell similar. It’s like they took a hint of Terre d’Hermes, a dash of a CdG incense fragrance, etc. and said, “okay this smells niche-ish enough.” It certainly seems to have its share of iso e super, for those who would want to know. At first I thought I might enjoy this, as it seemed that something interesting was going to “break though,” but it just didn’t go anywhere that was interesting and the “chemical” quality began to irritate me.

UPDATE: The “chemical” quality lasted around 24 hours, if not more, and that was on skin, and I used the equivalent of a spray if not less. I bought two 4 ml vials but now I’ll definitely swap one of them off, as a tiny dab is all I would need if I want to experience this again (but I doubt if I’ll be willing to deal with that obvious “chemical” quality). For me, the reference dry, woody, smoky, incense type scent is Black Tourmaline, which doesn’t seem too “chemical” to me, by contrast.

I decided to wear it a second time, just to be sure my impressions would be the same, though rarely would I wear a scent like this again; once is a enough for such a “chemical” composition!  Often a second wearing will reveal some new things, and this time I used smaller dabs, but more of them (and I included the wrists as well as the chest), hoping that the “chemical” quality might be lessened that way.  At first, I was thinking “chemical wood, why did I waste another day with this one?”  However, this time I did detect a kind of gourmand element, though I can’t say it smelled clearly like pistachios.  It is nice, and I wish the whole scent was like this, but instead the “chemical wood” quality just keeps coming forward.  And here’s the “problem” that might arise for these companies: they are listing notes that either are barely detectable or are quite obvious, which might satisfy someone like myself (in this context) but then I’m just going to start thinking, why should I pay niche prices?  For example, I can buy “Crafters Choice™ Pistachio Macaroon Fragrance Oil 756,” which I saw at for less than $6 per two ounces (I have no affiliation with this company and have yet to buy anything from them, but there are plenty of other such companies if you do some searching)!  The feedback for this product was great, including:

I was trying to find a dupe for Laura Mercier Crème de Pistache fragrance and this is pretty darn close! Nutty and sweet with creamy vanilla notes this is sweet and delicious. I made a lotion for my friend and can’t wait until she smells it.

If I’m going to do some blind buying to find a pistachio scent, this is going to be it – I don’t even want to spend $3-4 on a niche sample that may be a “chemical nightmare,” and at best will likely be mediocre.  So, why are companies marketing scents like Stash?  One possibility is that companies that market scents that are considered niche or have decided to market at least one niche-like scent know there is a kind of niche version of Guerlinade they can use, which will be inexpensive to produce and sure to come across as “niche-like” (for those who buy niche), yet might be “tame” enough for some “mainstream” buyers.  If you don’t know about Guerlinade, you might want to read this before proceeding further:

On that page, you will find this statement:

In 2016, Thierry Wasser questioned the Guerlinade concept, saying that it is oversimplified and reductionist, like “a thing, plop, plop, that we more or less put into every bottle.”

Wasser’s sense of Guerlinade is the sense I’ve been encountering with the small number of niche scents I’ve sampled that have been released over the last two or three years.  IFRA guidelines may play some part in this as well, and there may not be any kind of conscious decision involved.  For example, my guess is that the same perfumers (or ones who have similar backgrounds/experiences) are asked to make a niche-like scent for various companies, and yet they are also told to stay within IFRA guidelines (and also have a budget to deal with).  After a while, certain types of compositions become common, which is where we may be at now, or things may be headed in that direction.  One can read many reviews at Fragrantica in which the reviewer says something about a niche (or niche-like) scent smelling clearly “synthetic” or “chemical,” such as this one about Stash:

Not bad definitely smells niche spicy though the balsamic musky notes are very prominent I’d have liked to smell more woody notes here. Drydown smells a little synthetic not really to my liking…

This is more or less my impression of such scents, that is, they usually seem like ones I should enjoy but then they quickly become too synthetic or chemical.  Often, I’ll be thinking, “what’s the point, I’ve got some vintage scents that are based on a similar idea but are entirely natural smelling?”  I have never gotten this impression from the several Lutens scents I have sampled (or own), by contrast, and those aren’t all that expensive, which is further support for the idea that some companies think they have found a common accord (s) that will lead to more than a few people thinking, “oh, that’s a true niche [or niche-like] scent!”

Over at the NST blog, Kevin (on March 3, 2017) reviewed Durbano’s Lapis Philosophorum, saying that it possessed, “decidedly phony [woody notes] (Iso E Super stands out).”  In the comments section he said, “The faux wood IS strong in this one,” and to another commenter he said, “Lizbee, ha! To get rid of Iso E Super you’d have to remove skin.”

Now if you enjoy Stash, that’s great!  After a second wearing, I do get a sense of why it appeals to some people (especially the mild gourmand element), and the “chemical” aspect wasn’t as irritating this time (but it certainly meant the overall experience was unpleasant).  I wish I did like it, at least when I could have obtained what for me would have been a lifetime supply at a very good price (not long ago).  Instead, I ‘ll likely pursue the inexpensive “fragrance oil” route.  I don’t think the “fine fragrance” world has much to offer me going forward, beyond enjoying what I already have.  Of course, I’ll continue to swap if possible (that’s how I obtained nearly all my niche bottles, decants, and samples), and if I see a great deal on ebay I’ll likely grab it, but otherwise, the “hype trains” are going to leave the station without me!

NOTE:  I have nothing against people I refer to as “chronic niche samplers” – if that’s the way they choose to enjoy scents that’s fine, and if I enjoyed scents that way, you would have certainly encountered at least one blog post by me in which I would have spoken about why I enjoy doing this (one can look at my Fragrantica reviews to decide whether you think I sample a few niche scents each week, if you think I’m lying, as at least one blogger seems to believe!).  In any case, I was critical of the reviews written by some of the people who impressed me as such, the reason being that they often made it sound like they loved the scent so much that they wore it almost every day.  Then I’d see another review that sounded the same, then another, etc.

Soon, it became clear that something was amiss; after quite a few of them either disappeared or expressed great disappointment (especially with niche) and then disappeared (sometimes returning for brief periods), I began to think that these people were not using these concoctions the same way I was.  Moreover, I came to realize that my impressions could change significantly over time, and that since the chronic niche samplers seemed to only wear a scent once, I thought I should let others know that they might not be the best reviewers to follow, especially when blind-buying expensive niche scents!  For those who don’t know, you can sample one scent while wear another in your usual way, just dab or spray onto the ankle (it’s best not to get any on clothing, such as your sock).  Then whenever you want to know how the ankle sample is developing, you just cross your legs and use one hand to waft the scent to your nose.  Thus, even if a person has written a lot of reviews, it doesn’t mean the person only wears that scent on a given day, but again, why not tell this to people (as I’ve done on numerous occasions)?  If you are writing a review, you are presumably trying to help others, but the “chronic niche sampler” review often seems to omit some important things for no good reason.


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Lonestar Memories: The Neglected Brother?

Not long ago I wrote about Andy Tauer’s L’Air du Desert Marocain, and subsequently wrote a post about niche fragrances, the idea being that these seem to be mostly divided into “professional” (but sometimes derivative and “chemical”) compositions and what I think are best called amateur efforts.  Now I don’t think any less of the amateur efforts, and I probably wear Smell Bent scents (which I think are an excellent example of amateur efforts) as often if not more often than any other niche I own.  Lonestar Memories was released in 2006 (a year after L’AdDM), apparently as a kind of Southwestern US/cowboy compliment to L’AdDM, in other words, another landscape evocation (leathery, as opposed to L’AdDM’s spicy).  Leather scents aren’t exactly unpopular among the aficionado and niche crowds, whereas there are a lot more orientals (including plenty of designer ones), so why hasn’t LM gotten anywhere near the attention (and likely sales) L’AdDM has?

Up front, I’ll say I really don’t know, other than L’AdDM apparently having a “sinus rocket” effect for some, whereas LM often comes across as burning industrial materials or overcooked meat to more than a few.  LM, though, has a special place in my memory of the early days of my research into this hobby.  When I first started reading about niche scents, no later than early 2008, LM is one that sounded the most intriguing, probably largely due to a blog post that included such praise as:

The scent is an invitation to voyage, perhaps to the Texas of Andy’s memories, perhaps to some other place of your dreams …It is guaranteed to give you the most acute feeling of wanderlust, a longing for far, far away lands and a hunger for adventure. This is the scent of conquistador’s glove, of the first settler’s saddle, of a well-worn but still elegant leather steamer trunk of a seasoned traveler…

Lonestar Memories makes me want to escape the mundane confines of my everyday world, it makes me want to travel I do not know where in search of I do not know what… has the notes for LM as:

The notes: green geranium, spicy carrot seed blended with clary sage. The heart features smoky leather, cistus and a hint of jasmine. The base notes includes finest woods and balms: myrrh, sandalwood, vetiver and tonka beans.

At the time, circa 2008, I had no idea if LM was something special, and could in fact evoke landscapes, at least to a far greater degree than anything else any perfumer had created prior.  In “Perfumes: The Guide,” Luca Turin states that LM has:

…a wonderful smoky base that he first used to great effect in L’Air du Désert Marocain. His second fragrance, LM is softer, a touch more carnation-like, and wonderfully warm while retaining a salubrious ambiance Joseph Lister would have approved of  Strange but nice.

First of all, I can’t imagine anyone calling LM “nice” in the sense of cute; perhaps he meant it in the context of the “art of perfumery.”  Second, I get nothing “antiseptic” in LM, and I certainly remember Lysol and other, similar products (however, the last couple wearings were from a dab sample vial, which may have obscured some top notes).  Instead, as a few others have noted, LM has a strong root beer or sarsaparilla quality at first, along with obvious leather and a kind of burning industrial element.  As a newbie I thought it had a burnt meat sort of element, but the last two times I wore it (recently) I did not get anything of the sort.  What’s interesting is that over time an old, “feminine” scent begins to assert itself.  I had worn one of that time not too long ago, but I don’t remember whether it was Ecusson or Intimate by Revlon (or possibly something else, for example Cabochard).

I don’t get anything “carnation-like,” but the listed jasmine seems right.  I would agree that this is a strange scent, and now that I’m thinking of it, the “problem” with LM may be that the base is too “old lady” for a lot of people, whereas this is not the case with L’AdDM.  For me, the problem with LM is that I prefer a few other leather scents to it, and all of those cost me less than what LM sells for, in some cases much, much less.  It’s not Mr. Tauer’s fault that one can go to yard sales or ebay and sometimes find an old leather scent that smells great, whereas that is highly unlikely to occur with one of his bottles, but it does factor into the buying decisions someone like myself makes.  On ebay, I’ve noticed that L’AdDM bottles get snapped up fairly quickly, even when the prices are not that much lower than retail, whereas recently an LM bottle that looked at least 80% full lasted for days on ebay at $75 total (and I hadn’t seen an LM bottle there for quite a while).

In any case, I decided to write about LM because yesterday I wore vintage Cabochard EdT, and one thought I had was, “this is LM without the ‘bells and whistles.'”  For me, once the drydown comes, Cabochard is actually less “old lady” than LM, and overall the composition is more coherent.  However, if you like LM and can afford a bottle, I’m glad you found something to enjoy.  I do wonder, though, how many who write reviews of LM on the major sites have had the opportunity to try scents like vintage Cabochard, The Knize Ten, Bandit, Bel Ami, etc.  Tauer’s idea seemed to be to include powerful and “statement-making” top notes in an effort to evoke a landscape or even a time and place (such as a garage someone walked through as a child), and many appear to relate to this.  But what can perfumers do that would be “groundbreaking” or “really special?”  Some seem content with a strong, odd top notes experience and a rather common drydown, but I prefer to sample scents by a company like Smell Bent if I want a very different kind of olfactory experience.  On that note, I’ll close with a quote from a review of SM’s Brussels Sprouted scent (I intend to write a post about some of these Smell Bent scents one of these days):

…Very very close [to] Pentachords Verdant (Tauer) but better AND cheaper… There is less soil tincture and more green notes softened by the musk.  It’s strange it can be a “green” perfume (a green house filled with dark earth) but maybe also the smell of a city after the rain, like a mix of dust,concrete,pollution and wet tar. That depend of your imagination…

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Two Recent Coty Prestige Creations.

Coty has been criticized for some “junk” releases or apparent reformulations (of other brand names) in recent years, though I’m not sure anyone outside the company knows if there’s a big difference between how a Coty scent is created or reformulated versus a Coty Prestige one.  In this post, I want to talk a bit about two original CP releases (released under two different names, one being a “celebuscent”) that are just as “good” as any other release since 2012, in my experience and in terms of my preferences.  The first I’ll address is Madonna’s “Truth or Dare Naked,” released in 2012 and with this list of notes (from

The top notes are honeysuckle, peach blossom and neroli. The perfume’s core includes vanilla orchid, cocoa flower and lily of the valley. The base is creamy with Texas cedar wood, benzoin from Laos, oud accord and Australian sandalwood.

This scent is very powerful and gives the impression of something “boozy.”  Think of vintage Pi by Givenchy but with a couple of “bells and whistles” added.  Though there are wood and oud notes listed, to me this is a syrupy, sweet, and nearly (but not quite) gourmand concoction, and it doesn’t come across as “synthetic” in any way, though I’d guess many will think “too much of a good thing.”  To me, that’s fine, because I can simply dilute it if my sensitivities are high (they happen to be low at the moment).  I’ve tried plenty of these kinds of scents, both niche, “semi-niche,” and various other types, and this one is unique and enjoyable (but I really need to be in the mood for it).  Not long ago it was being sold for next to nothing on ebay and at the major discounters, which is another big advantage for the consumer with such scents.  That is, when released by a company like Coty/Coty Prestige, there is likely to be a huge number of bottles, so if you have some patience you can often get a great deal.

And not only did I get a great deal on that one, but also on another CP release, the 2014 Cerruti “1881 Bella Notte for Men.”  The notes for that one are listed as:

The top notes are lemon, citron and lime, followed by jasmine and spices of Sichuan pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, juniper and coriander. The base includes cedar, patchouli, vanilla and musk.

One Fragrantica reviewer said it was very similar to Burberry’s Brit for Men, and I definitely understand that impression, but 1881BN goes in a slightly different direction, perhaps simply due to less patchouli, lavender, and certain wood aroma chemicals, though there isn’t the floral element in Brit (rose), which may be quite important as well (I didn’t detect the jasmine in 1881BN).  I haven’t been able to wear Brit in recent years because there is something about it that quickly becomes irritating, but that’s not the case for 1881BN.  It is true that Brit is a stronger scent, but considering the low cost of 1881BN (at the moment on ebay) for a 125 ml bottle, this is not an issue.  Also, I could see how some might compare 1881BN to L’Instant Homme, though is more of a spicy scent, as opposed to a lavender/gourmand.  What I really like about 1881BN is the balance existing among the spicy, sweet, woody, musky, and powdery elements (and the patchouli is noticeable but not very obvious).   If anyone said this was too sweet, for example, I would assume that person has very little experience with sweet scents.  1881BN is a fairly dry scent, but it doesn’t have that “chemical dry” aspect I’ve encountered with so many niche scents.  The longevity is excellent.

Speaking of niche scents, over at the NST blog there’s a review of “Spanish Veil” by Edward Bess today, which includes this paragraph:

…I’ve been impressed by Edward Bess’s foray into perfumery. In addition to being high-quality, these fragrances feel like they grew organically from the same creative process: instead of trying to check off as many boxes as possible with three totally different scents (e.g., something fruity, something oud-y, and a big white floral), Bess and Benaïm have produced a trio with a mature and unified aesthetic.

The company only lists sandalwood, tonka bean and guaiac as notes, yet the description is far more evocative (see the note at the end of this post).  The reviewer, “Jessica,” states that “there’s a lot more going on here than the three notes mentioned above, but the fragrance is so gracefully balanced that it’s difficult to parse. I think I detect some mimosa and iris as surprise floral notes, and there’s also an incense motif…”  At another blog, we are told, “It’s a woody oriental and only three notes are listed: tonka bean, sandalwood, guiac wood. There’s a lot more there, obviously, and I smell a sheer but prominent incense in the core of the perfume. The opening is very perfumy. Not powdery, nor is it sweet or aldehydic. But it says PERFUME in the best possible way. The wood notes are subtle. I’m not sure I would have picked sandalwood had I not known it was supposed to be there, because despite the smoothness the wood is neither creamy nor has it the pepperiness of a cedar (sandalwood’s common companion). I might have said cashmeran…”

She’s probably right about cashmeran (I can tolerate it better than guaiac, it seems, though it does come across to me as outright “chemical”); perhaps it should be called “the new iso e super,” but in any case I mention this scent, which I have yet to sample, as a contrast to ToDN and 1881BN, and not just because SV has a suggested retail price of $175 for 100 ml and is not likely going to be easy to find (used) for $20 or less (which is what I paid for the two CP scents).  Recently, somebody called me a “niche hater” or something to that effect on, which is simply false (though it’s true that I have little interest in niche scents that are “fresh,” “traditional cologne style,” etc.).  I wonder how many BN members who often post about niche scents own more niche bottles than I do!  The difference is that almost all my niche bottles came from swaps (with a few from really good ebay deals).  I am simply not going to pay “niche prices;” I’m not a rich person and I prefer variety, so if I were to buy niche bottles as I do “cheapos” (meaning temporarily cheap or always cheap), things might get “ugly” financially in the not-so-distant future!  Needless to say, I have no concerns about things like “a mature and unified aesthetic,” or whether other scents by the company “grew organically” with the one in question.

If a rich person doesn’t understand this, he or she does not have my sympathies.  In my experience, these two CP scents demonstrate why those who are “jaded about niche perfumery lately,” as Jessica said in that review of SV, have some great options (especially if price is a major issue).  Most of the time, I spend around $15 or less on at least a 50 ml bottle, and I don’t worry about how unique, artistic, emotionally evocative, etc. it is.  I’m either going to want to wear it once in a while or I’m not.  This may be why some think of me as a “niche hater,” that is, I don’t buy into ornate descriptions of niche scents and become emotional about the “specialness” of niche; I assess them as smells only.  And it is usually the case that I conclude that I have something that’s “good enough,” if I like the scent, of course.  You cannot bottle emotional involvement, but the niche companies know they need to do something to get people to pay the much higher prices, and so the appeal is often made; buy this bottle and you will be transported back to a Victorian era gentlemen’s club, or to a specific desert landscape, or to a…  No, I won’t, but if that helps you sell your highly synthetic smell concoctions to enough people to make it financially worthwhile, good for you (for as long as it lasts)!

NOTE:  This is the description for Spanish Veil, written by the company:

A second skin clings to the face, draped ever so carefully to reveal only a glimpse of flesh underneath. Steeped in alluring tradition of centuries ago, the veil’s sheer beauty possesses the feminine power to seduce great kings, conquistadors and Matadors unable to resist a single stare veiled in hypnotic mystery. Within this black web of wonderment rays of white light from the Spanish sun trickle in casting a kaleidoscope of intricately woven shadows that censor all signs of age. Scents of the outside world are trapped in the starched net, a magnet for the plumes of smoky incense wafting through ancient basilica walls that mix with the smells of savage animal hides in bullfighter rings and clouds of white dust native to the Latin land.


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