Category Archives: Fragrance Reviews.

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.


Filed under Fragrance Reviews.

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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Filed under Fragrance Reviews.

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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Is Hummer really a “bummer?”

It’s interesting how some fairly good scents can get a bad reputation, at least among the online crowd, rather quickly.  And the opposite can happen as well; for example, I can’t understand the interest in Timbuktu, other than because it was “hyped” early in the online niche craze of several years ago (and got an excellent review by Luca Turin in his “Perfumes” book).  I’d much rather wear Hummer (vintage Riviera Concepts formulation, at least – I haven’t tried the EA version), and in fact, I never found any aspect of Timbuktu to be worthy of praise.  By contrast, an early review of Hummer included the claim that it was a “bummer,” and the most prolific reviewer there, Foetidus, agreed with this assessment (did they sample a non-vintage formulation? – it’s too bad they didn’t disclose this information!).

On, one reviewer had this to say:

Hummer was absolutely fantastic when it was first released, I was smacked up by a butch musk. Unfortunately, being contracted to Arden, it has been carted out with the bananas and put on special, but if youd been there a few years ago when [I first] tried it, you’d have bought a trolleyful lol
All I could say was WOW MUSKY!!!

I think we should all keep in mind, this fragrance is licensed to Elizabeth Arden. What that means to me: Every fragrance I have loved that I found was licensed to EA has turned cheap on the re-release. I bought Hummer and it was gorgeouse, the second bottle I bought was nowhere near the same, almost undetectable…

It is musky, though not in an “old school” unbearably strong way, and the caraway seems to impart what many might call a “sweaty” quality.  Fragrantica lists the notes as:

Top notes are pimento, caraway and cardamom; middle notes are leather, sandalwood, amber and patchouli; base notes are thyme and tonka bean.

The first time I used one spray, and got the caraway, thyme, musk, and a touch of sweetness, certainly not as sweet as I expected with amber and tonka listed.  The second time I used two full sprayed, but still didn’t get distinct leather, patchouli, or sandalwood, and there was still on a touch of sweetness.  It’s a bit dry, though, with some spice – at least a few people have claimed  strong lavender.  I’m not sure that’s the case, or if it’s the thyme and some combination of the other notes (perhaps with a relatively weak lavender note).  In some ways, my thought while wearing this is, “this is a better idea (but similar to) than the traditional fougere.”  Then there are the older “masculine lavender” scents, which don’t possess enough coumarin to come across as fougeres – these too can become irritating to me rather quickly.

In some ways, it reminds me of a softer, smoother, less discordant version of Original Musk by Kiehl’s (I think the florals in OM create a really sharp quality) – both share listed notes of patchouli and tonka, and there is an obvious muskiness to both.  Unfortunately, I just don’t find these kinds of scents to be especially pleasant (and the dryness only works in a small number of compositions for me).  By contrast, vintage Red for Men, which also has some of these strong notes (caraway in particular) is much more enjoyable.  My guess is that this is due to a number of factors: it’s sweeter, more complex, more dynamic, and doesn’t have the strong thyme/lavender type quality of Hummer.  But Hummer is certainly no “bummer,” at least not this formulation.  Like other scents that seem too “niche” for the company that markets it (KISS Him is another good example), I think that even “seasoned reviewers” may dismiss these too quickly, especially if the composition is not to their preferences.

Hummer 2 is more conventional and less interesting (a “fresh”oriental), though I think I can still enjoy that one when I’m in the mood.  There’s a kind of designer scent “fresh” aroma chemical haze that is too strong relative to the spice, patchouli, incense, leather, and amber (I’m not even sure I can detect some of those notes!).   The notes for it are:

Top notes are cinnamon, mandarin orange and bergamot; middle notes are fir, bourbon pepper, cardamom, patchouli and sandalwood; base notes are incense, myrrh, leather and amber.

I’m not sure if it was ever made by a company other than EA Fragrances, which is listed on the bottle I own, but if it was, I’d guess those notes are more prominent.  I can certainly understand how many would be disappointed after reading the note list and then spraying it on.  However, it may be more “disrespected” than is warranted; perhaps the association with gas-guzzling, “road hogging,” Hummers is part of this.  At “bargain bin” prices, though, these are certainly worth trying, and if you are a fan of these kinds of compositions, a “blind buy” would seem worthy of consideration.

UPDATE:  Someone wrote up a comment saying this scent doesn’t deserve a blog post because it is equivalent to excrement (not the actual word used). I won’t approve it because I don’t want to “feed the troll.”  Such a comment is not helpful, since there are already several negative reviews and the person isn’t adding anything to that perception.  Obviously, you need to explain why you don’t like a scent or else reasonable people are going to think your opinion is probably not worth a whole lot.  Furthermore, the notion that a “bad” fragrance should get no attention is very strange to me, especially in this case, because Hummer scents are the type you might find in a “bargain bin,” but not be able to sample.  Beyond that, why wouldn’t someone want to know to avoid a scent – I often see these scents at very low prices and I’m tempted.  In one case, I saw guaiac wood listed as one of three base note, so I didn’t go through with the possible blind buy, due to my previous unpleasant experiences with that note.  The other notes looked great, though, and it would have been very useful if there was a review that spoke to the strength of the guaiac note, no matter if the reviewer loved or hated the scent (or anything in between)!


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Is it time to take L’Air du Desert Marocain off of its pedestal?

One could argue that there are a ridiculous number of niche scents at this point (after all, how many releases are very similar to older ones, even in the niche world?), yet certain scents seem to be considered “must try” ones, at least in the minds of many online fragrance commenters/reviewers.  At or very near the top of this list is Andy Tauer’s L’Air du Desert Marocain.  I think it was released at the right time (2005), just when the niche samplers, as I call them, had seemed to reach an important plateau (from what I can tell).  Over the last few years I see that many newcomers to the hobby feel this is a scent that could be their “Holy Grail.”  There are a few questions I think are worth addressing here, the first being, is it worth the price?

Now if I were a billionaire of course it would be, since I’d be interested in seeing if my opinion changes and I’d have plenty of safe storage for hundreds if not thousands of fragrance bottles.  But even given my current situation it may be worth having a bottle around because not only could I sample it (probably on rare occasion) but I could make decants/samples for swapping, since so many want to try it.  That is one of the major positive aspects of this kind of scent (and because it is unisex there’s plenty of potential swap with women too!).  However, I really dislike keeping a bottle if I know I’m never going to wear it – I prefer to swap or sell it (usually keeping a small sample for reference purposes).

Another question is, does it evoke a landscape?  I wouldn’t bring this up if it weren’t for the many reviews that say it evokes some kind of dry landscape, even if not Morocco specifically.  I don’t find this to be the case, because it has no “transparent” quality that I think is required, but perhaps those who have never experienced a heavy yet dry scent would before trying it would be more likely to have this perception (prompted by the name of the scent, no doubt).  To me it is too dense and it’s too obviously a “personal fragrance.”  In fact, out of all the scents I’ve at least sampled once since late 2007 I can’t think of any that was especially evocative of a landscape.

And yet another question is, is its reputation a product of circumstances (one being already mentioned – the fortuitous year of its release)?  Often, there are “stars” simply because people tend to think along the lines of “the best.”  That is, with personal fragrances, a question some newbies ask is, what is the best scent I can buy?  Tauer’s scents, and especially this one, got a lot of good publicity/reviews at just the right time.  After that, it possessed a reputation, and perhaps it could be called the Mount Everest of personal fragrances (for those who don’t know, climbing Everest is not especially difficult, relative to a few other mountains – you have to be able to withstand a certain period of time in the “death zone,” which requires acclimation, and of course you have to be in at least fairly good health overall).  Perhaps one might call it the Everest of unisex niche fragrances, and considering how many scents have been marketed since 2005 that would be quite impressive, even if the scent itself is not.

Now I’m not claiming that it is a “bad” scent, and I’m sure it works for many, many hobbyists, perhaps on multiple levels.  However, as some have commented about Serge Lutens’ scents recently, these tend to be “too much of a good thing.”  I’ve often said one can dilute very strong scents, making them an excellent bargain in some cases, but I find L’AdDM to be a bit irritating, and without any element that is particularly appealing, so diluting wouldn’t help much if at all.  In fact, I swapped off my bottle of Ambre Sultan (by Lutens) not too long ago because I found a lighter and more interesting scent that is similar, Iceberg’s Amber for Men.  Amber adds a rum note yet is lighter, and since it cost me less than $10 for 100 ml new, I can just spray as much as I want (probably two or three to the chest, minimum) until it does what I want.

Some have said that L’AdDM is like a light, less interesting version of an Ambre Sultan type of scent, but what I think is quite revealing are all the neutral and negative reviews of L’AdDM at  I tend to be more interested in what BN members have to say about a niche scent (particularly when there are a lot of reviews) than a site like, one reason being they tend to be more specific and another being that the BN crowd has quite a few reviewers that I hold in higher regard than reviewers elsewhere.  Examining these non-positive BN reviews suggests more or less what I have said above (at least when taken as a whole).  Here are some that I think are especially worth considering, written by reviewers I think are more insightful than most others:

“A bit of a disappointment from the note pyramid and reviews I read. This opens with a blast of very dry powdered artificial orange drink mix from the Petitgrain. Coriander makes an appearance and as it dries down it takes on a vanilla and dry powder vibe…”


“…I hate the fact that the guy ‘hijacked’ this climate and place, which I’m sure doesn’t smell sweet at all, to make me associate it with a smell that’s so sweet and overplayed I can’t stand it. It actually invades my beloved mental archetype of the desert, and tries to corrupt it with a hideous and totally incorrect scent. Not only is it completely different from ambient desert smells (even imaginary ones), but I don’t find it any more middle eastern than most other orientals; it’s just more of the dreaded ‘old lady perfume’. What a waste.”


“…I could experience a similar aroma by donning a leather jacket and putting my nose into a bag of olibanum. Both are equally enjoyable, but they fall short of constituting an entire perfume. As a point of reference, Messe de Minuit is deeper, more complex, and accomplishes a greater range of contrasts, although it also can be difficult to wear. For use on the skin, I still prefer softer, sweeter, more traditional, skin-compatible scents.”


“…The scent starts in a very promising way. Intriguing spices are haunting and peppery-dry. The wood notes are well done. I am starting to imagine the dry scirocco winds conveying the air of a distant bazaar.

Then the doggone vanilla bumbles in and, like an unwelcome guest, never entirely leaves. The good notes retreat into the background.”

While I don’t enjoy the top notes,  unlike the last reviewer, I can understand why someone would find it unique and a portent of wonderful or at least interesting things to come.  Consistent with this view, in my BN review, I state:

“…It just sort of lies there, being strange and perhaps hinting at something pleasant now and then, but never really getting there.  Was it meant to have this teasing quality?  I  don’t get clear cedar, vetiver, or citrus (I did try to avoid top notes, however).  Instead, the notes that stand out for me are: “dirty” jasmine, dried potato skin, spices, amber, and vanilla.  Perhaps a combination of vetiver, cedar, and incense comes across as dried potato skins to me.”

By contrast, most of the other non-positive reviews tend to be inconsistent with my experiences with L’AdDM (or are vague), for example (the most specific ones):

“I’m bemused by all the raves about this frag. I thought it was a sad, watery Timbuktu wannabe that disappeared in 30 minutes. I’m honestly shocked by all the talk of 12 hours longevity. Are we talking about the same fragrance…”


“…To me, this scent isn’t about a Marocain desert; it is about spicy eggnog, fruitcake, and heavy wool turtleneck sweaters on an extremely cold Christmas evening.”


“Isn’t the experience of scent subjective? This was to me an instant flashback to visiting the Honda Motorcycle Dealership on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco, in 1984 when my roommate worked there. The thick miasma was rubbery, oily, smoky, nasty, mysterious, high testosterone and quite intimidating…”


“Um, OK… I’m a midwestern girl and this opening smells just like the pig barn at the county fair. Seriously. Nevertheless I gave it a go to see what the dry down would be like. Three hours later I see it never leaves the barn, it just opens the windows to let a fresh breeze blow through. I know this scent has it’s fans, but I’ll keep walking.”

Other non-positive reviewers said they didn’t know where they could go in public if they wore it, but that’s true for many niche scents, assuming you agree with them.  Those who consider buying niche scents should know that some are not “friendly” to the general public!  So, one thing I think can be said for certain is that there are plenty of reviews at BN alone that suggest this is only the “Holy Grail” scent for some people, and that blind buying isn’t a good idea.  Those who complain that they were misled by online hype are not being reasonable, IMO.  And I have never seen a bottle of this scent sell for very low prices (and the largest size is 50 ml), making it a really bad blind buy for those on a tight budget.  Yes, you might think it’s a great scent, and I’m glad for you, but the idea that this is a really special scent makes little sense to me, other than it being a dry oriental, which isn’t that common.  I’m not against dry orientals (though I couldn’t wear them often) but I already have 200 ml of Dark Flower (my cost was less  than $20 total for the 2 bottles), which has a dry, incense-dominant base.  I prefer it to L’AdDM by a wide margin, and I already mentioned Amber by Iceberg, so my proverbial bases are covered by the territory L’AdDM inhabits (and at a tiny fraction of the cost of it!).

NOTE:  As of late I’ve been thinking more about the “wisdom” of the “average person” in these matters.  That is, they will often say, “if it smells good I’ll wear it,” but of course they tend to be incredibly ignorant of the variety available.  I’ve been wearing lots of “cheapos” lately, and the reason is that I really enjoy so many of cheapos I own.  By contrast, I have worn few niche scents, despite having access to probably close tto 200 (well over half being samples or decants).  I intend to investigate more niche scents in the near future, because I have had many samples for a long time that I have yet to wear, and it will be interesting to see if I prefer the cheapos after doing so.



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Thoughts on some “super-cheapo” compositions.

A few months back, I purchased two 100 ml bottles, one being Arno Sorel’s Magman at about $5.50 and the other being Club Intense by Sergio Tacchini for about $10 (at ScentedMonkey – I have no affiliation with them).  I had never heard or Arno Sorel before, but a large number of scents are listed at  My guess is that this is another fake “designer fragrance,” such as the apparently mythical Jacques Bogart or Jean Louis Vermeil, but that doesn’t matter to me – sometimes these “brands” represent a great bargain.  I’ll begin with Magman – the notes for that one, at Fragrantica, are:

“…bergamot, pineapple, cumin, nutmeg, rosewood, prune, musk and amber.”

And this seems to be what you get.  Here’s my Fragrantica review of it:

This is nice, quite natural smelling considering the price range, and with fairly good note separation too! You get the prune, it’s certainly spicy, and there’s a touch of wood. The amber isn’t “niche quality,” but it softens things up and adds a bit of sweetness. Sort of a “mini-me” Lutens (perhaps Five O`Clock Au Gingembre without the tea note and weaker)! The longevity is good and the projection moderate, with two sprays to the chest. I’d certainly rather wear this than much more expensive recent designer ones, that’s for sure. It doesn’t go too far in any one direction, though, which might lead to some saying it is not distinct enough for their tastes. For example, I think I’d rather wear a scent like Night Time for stronger spice or Villain for Men for an added gourmand element. What different here is the cumin note. It’s not too strong but it’s there, and if you like it, this may be a great bargain (many seem to dislike cumin notes, and they are not common). Overall it has a kind of glaze effect, with the fruitiness sort of sitting on the outer surface, if that makes sense. It just goes to show that very little money is required to produce a very nice scent! The box is good quality too, though the bottle and cap are a bit of a joke (not that I really care about that).

If you can manage the olfactory equivalent of a squint (as Luca Turin might say), you might be able to imagine a “budget Lutens” here, so that’s certainly not too shabby for $5.50!  As to Club Intense, the notes for this 2015 release are: “bergamot, black pepper and basil; middle notes are nutmeg, cypress and tobacco; base notes are amber, patchouli and cedar.”

Here’s my Fragrantica review:

I saw the notes listed and the low prices so I went ahead with a blind buy – it looks like I may be the first online person to review this! First the good; it smells nice and it’s not “chemical.” It also has very good longevity (two sprays to the chest), and the sprayer works well. The bad is that it’s not strong and the blend is “tight” (so that you don’t get well-articulated notes) and a bit “synthetic” (meaning that I don’t think you’ll ever say something like, “wow that’s a really natural tobacco note” while wearing this one, unless it’s about someone else’s scent!). And don’t expect much depth here. I think with this kind of scent it’s best to spray more than usual but let it waft up (don’t smell it close up on the skin). I’ll wear it again and spray twice as much to see how that works out, then report back. You could certainly wear this one to the office or school, and it should work in all but very hot or very cold weather. Perhaps this is the best one can expect with what IFRA is “suggesting,” for this kind of scent, going forward!

The interesting thing, when comparing the two, is how different the compositions are.  CI reminds me of some recent CK “masculines” I’ve tried – those have a lingering synthetic element that really bothers me, I think because it’s so bare (the more natural-smelling elements dissipate, leaving only this).  Also, there’s a kind of totally unnatural texture to these; I guess it might be best described as lattice-work chemicals!  CL has a touch of that, but if not smelled up close on the skin it’s very mild.  The most disappointing thing to me about CL is that has almost no depth – everything is on the surface, so to speak.  Perhaps one can compare it to going to see a 3-D movie but not being able to discern any difference when compared to a “regular” 2-D movie.

However, I decided to layer it one day after first applying Pure Havane, as that one I found to be boring rather quickly.  This worked out very well, because the two seemed to “fix” the weaknesses in each other.  I’m still not sure about Magman and CL – I guess for $5.50 Magman is worth having just as a reference point, but I was hoping for more than a super-tight blend lacking (which lacks any kind of compelling quality) from CL.  Even at these prices there is competition from scents like “low end” as Cuba Prestige and Cuba Royal!   Then there are the “re-issues” such as Nicole Miller for Men, which was originally released in 1994 but you can find 75 ml bottles for less than $4 at some sites these days!  I bought one of these and after perhaps 45 minutes it came together very nicely, representing the not list rather well:

Top notes are honey and apple; middle notes are leather, vanilla and oakmoss; base notes are sandalwood, amber and musk.

So, at these prices, I probably should be thinking that they are already were worth the cost, in terms of having different compositions available (and sometimes one develops appreciation over time, after a few wearings).  On the other hand, some have argued that it’s better to just buy a scent like Avant Garde (2011), because these represent a big step up and the price is just a bit higher.  A 100 ml bottle of AG me less than $15 for 100 ml.  The notes for it are:

top notes combine Italian bergamot, Madagascar pepper, pink peppercorn and juniper. The heart is composed of lavender, nutmeg, cardamom and beeswax. Intensive vetiver blends with benzoin, tobacco and Georgywood molecule in the base.

“Objectively,” I would have to admit that AG is better than those other three, as it is strong and enjoyable all the way through (unlike NMfM), has good depth and complexity (unlike CI and Magman), and several notes are easy to detect (unlike CI).  But this does not mean that any specific person will like AG better than any of those three – it’s just too “subjective” to speak about personal preferences.  A good example is Sauvage; other than being strong, there’s really nothing “good” to say about it from a compositional/”art of perfumery” perspective – yet it will return huge profits, apparently.  But that takes us far from the “cheapos.”  The with these is that one can keep, “why not spend just a bit more and get ________” until you get up to some price point that most would view as too high for a “cheapo.”  But since it’s a near certainly that some people will call Magman cheap junk whereas others will view it as a budget Lutens, I think the key is to distinguish between what we perceive and what we enjoy on a personal level.  Even if we agree that a scent contains a “screechy” wood note, for example, some of us can overlook that whereas for others it’s a “dealbreaker.”

And then there are some who say that they acquired quite a few cheapos because they thought they’d wear those once in a while, but hardly ever do, and simply don’t want dozens of cheapo bottles lying around.  That makes sense, but it’s more about that person’s level of self-awareness than the scents themselves.  I do wear these fairly regularly, and I do enjoy them.  Some I didn’t like much at first but then came to really enjoy (such as KISS Him), whereas others fell out of favor for one reason or another.  With some cheapos, I find myself thinking that the “quality” is much higher than one would expect for the price I paid, but even with others that are clearly “low end,” there may be an occasional wearing that is pleasant.  I wish I could buy three or four 100 ml niche bottles and not think about any others (400 ml would last me for perhaps 20 years, assuming the scents are at least fairly strong), but I get bored with compositions quickly if I wear them often.  More than a few super-cheapos aid me in this task!

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