Category Archives: The basics.

This is where general information about personal fragrances is to be found.

Vintage Avon: the next “super luxury” item?

Trazarra Avon for men

Not long ago I was researching a vintage (1978) “masculine” Avon scent called Trazarra.  Having had good success with some others, such as Clint (and considering how cheap they can be had, if one has some patience), I decided to go for a blind buy.  Another reason was the notes: “…civet, heliotrope, oriental notes, woody notes, sandalwood and spicy notes.”  Yet another was this review from

…The good news is that Trazarra wasn’t really a late-to-the-party “me too” spin on an older established trope like Tai Winds (1972) or Clint (1976), even if those were still very high quality, and instead was a mild-mannered, familiar yet still distinct oriental, although a bit too light-weight to really compete in the nightlife circuit. Trazarra is a finely-tuned well-studied take on the style, but just doesn’t have enough bite heat up with a little sweat like the big boys, and just sits at the bar sipping happy hour well drinks. Luckily, this very same lightweight feel makes it remarkably more versatile in different weather conditions, and it allowed a bit more leeway with office use too, but it’s definitely no match on the dance floor to it’s designer contemporaries. That’s okay, it has it’s own quirks and qualities that still might make it a worthwhile addition to a vintage Avon collection…

The “lightweight” quality he refers to seems to common to these old Avon cologne formulations (the aftershaves are even lighter and I try to avoid those), and simply means using more is necessary for similar effect.  However, it’s not uncommon to find five to eight ounce bottles of the EdC formulation selling for around $10 to $15 total on ebay!  I applied Trazarra liberally to the chest,  and this is my review of that experience:

Tangy, animalic, powdery-floral, slightly sweet, spicy, and with a touch of dry woods. Sound appealing? I noticed that you can still get the cologne formulation on ebay for low prices, so after looking at the notes and year of release, decided to go for a blind buy. If you’ve had any experience with old Avons, especially orientals, I think you will get what you expect here. I’d also say this would be a unisex niche scent if marketed today. It’s quite far removed from today’s synthetics, so if you are seeking a break from the usual aroma chemical suspects, this might be a great, low cost option. The notes are a bit vague, so the use of phrases such as “oriental notes” makes sense. The projection isn’t along the lines of vintage Kouros, which might be an advantage for a lot of people, but it’s got a similar idea to it (though not nearly as “urinal cake” as Kouros). Something else you can do with this kind of scent is to layer it, so that you use a little of a similar but more powerful and synthetic fragrance underneath this one (on the chest) so that it enhances these older fragrances. Overall, if you want a true “dirty” oriental but without the synthetics of today’s niche and without the high prices, grab a bottle while prices are still low!  It lasts at least as well as an Eau de Toilette, but projection drops off quite a bit after no more than two hours.

Of course, subsequent wearings may reveal further nuances.  As to the “super luxury” in the title of this post, I was thinking about this after reading the 2007 book, “Deluxe,” which includes these passages:

[the super wealthy] have perfume made just for them, like Louis XIV did two centuries ago. Each year, Patou receives a handful of orders for in-house nose Jean-Michel Duriez to create a made-to-measure perfume bottled in a Baccarat crystal flacon. The service costs approximately $70,000…

[the super wealthy] don’t need the logo entry-level handbag or to wear labels or logos. We buy from luxury brands, but not ordinary products. Special items. There’s always something special. You can see what is mass and what is special. Luxury is not how much you can buy. Luxury is the knowledge of how to do it right, how to take the time to understand and choose well. Luxury is buying the right thing.”

My thought was that rather than having a perfumer make a scent for you, which you still might not enjoy all that much after a few wearings (that has happened to me), you can “choose well” if you have access to a lot of variety, especially ones that are “high quality” but nobody wears any long, such as these old Avons.  Now I don’t care about being regarded as “high class,” but I did find it amusing how so many seem to be buying the “big name” fragrances and don’t realize how the super wealthy might find that to be the mark of a “peasant!”  By contrast, if I told a super wealthy person that my friend was a perfumer and made a fragrance just for me (though it actually was an old Avon) that person might think that I’m more “high class” than the person wearing the latest Chanel, Tom Ford, Dior, Gucci, etc.  To be honest, I tend to think of most people as “intellectual peasants” (not in the sense of IQ but in terms of not being more curious and avoiding spending more time researching their interests), though I wish they would be as motivated to learn as I am, because then the world might be a more interesting place.

Also, I’ve noticed that some hobbyists don’t appreciate variety as much as I do, and to me that is the most important thing.  For example, in a Basenotes thread, one member seemed aghast that I would prefer to have access to all Balenciaga fragrances (in any formulation I wish) rather than Chanel, but even better would be Avon, due to the huge number of fragrances they have released over the years.  But Avon is the antithesis of luxury, apparently, though in this case, smells are smells; you like them or you don’t, you have specific uses for particular ones or you don’t, etc.  The attempt to attach the notion of luxury to these olfactory concoctions is just idiotic, IMO.  Are there different aesthetics?  Does Avon (and the “lesser houses”) generally follow rather than lead?  That certainly seems to be the case.  But this is about my “personal luxury” as opposed to “bragging rights” among pretentious friends and colleagues, a distinction rarely mentioned, probably because it would not result in massive profits for the major luxury brands!

Coincidentally, while I was composing this post, I noticed the reviews of a recent release by Amouage, Figment Man, at  This one reflects the opinion of many, IMO:

Right from the start you smell heavy animalic and earthy notes. Not much movement, it stays pretty much the same throughout its life. I don’t detect much complexity in this one.
Figment has a primal, raw vibe but sadly is very hard to find a suitable occasion to wear it as it can come off repulsing. Smells quite dirty 🙂 Sorry Amouage, I didn’t like this one.

If I could ask those who wrote these kinds of reviews a question, it would be, “suppose there was an old scent by Avon that you’d likely perceive similarly, but you can still get for around $20 for 4 ounces or more?”



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Projection, “sillage,” longevity, and an explanation for why reviews for certain fragrances might vary considerably.

Derby Club House Ascot Armaf for men

The example I’ll use is pictured above (by Armaf), which has listed notes (according to of:

Top notes are green notes, lemon and bergamot; middle notes are sage, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon; base notes are cedar, oakmoss, tobacco, amber, labdanum and musk.

This sounds like an “old school”/”powerhouse” fragrance, and it might be (I’ll get to that in a moment).  The first couple of times I wore it, my perceptions varied, which is not uncommon.  Sometimes it takes three or four wearings to really understand what seems to be occurring, but with this scent things were more difficult than usual, and it took me a while to figure out why.

The vast majority of reviews at Fragrantica are positive, with one person saying he feels like he threw his money out the window.  Why?  I’d guess he didn’t think it was strong enough, because the notes are certainly there and it’s not some sort of “chemical nightmare.”  The ratings of potency show that a small number of people think it’s weak, and with one spray on my first wearing I was thinking the same thing.  At first, there was a kind of competition between the fruit and “green notes” (I’m guessing galbanum) on the one hand, and a leathery woods/incense (I never got obvious tobacco and the spices seem rather mild), but eventually it settles mostly on the latter.

During my last wearing, I used four sprays to the chest, and I was thinking that while it’s stronger than past wearings, I still wasn’t getting much in the way of spices or tobacco.  Even the dominant notes weren’t that strong.  However, when I walked around other people, they said it was really strong, and that’s when I knew something odd was at work.  My guess is that it’s the kind of musk being used, which one can quickly become anosmic to, but others smell clearly (at least as you walk by them).  It did impart a kind of tingly quality, but not much in the way of scent (to me); however, when I used my hand to waft the scent directly into the nose, I could smell the notes much more clearly.

Is this a case of great projection but poor “sillage?”  Or vice versa?  The point, IMO, is that it seems it was formulated with weak notes that interest me (other than the leathery quality), but strong musk that doesn’t register much one way or the other, and may cause a certain amount of anosmia rather quickly.  The longevity seems really good, though, regardless of how much or what note you can detect.  Overall, this is an excellent fragrance if this is what you want, but it also may be a frustrating experience for some.  If you are used to the vintage greats, like me, you might think that it might work for layering purposes, but it’s best not to wear by itself, because you have the option of wearing a scent that allows you to smell the notes you want to smell clearly and with strength, for hours.


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Is this a fake Gucci Envy for Men EdT tester, and other “mysteries?”

On a recent thread, someone asked if this was a fake:

Gucci Envy Fake Tester.jpg

This is the thread in question:

Of course the biggest problem here is that Scannon was spelled incorrectly!  On ebay one can sometimes see a tester of this scent, and it always looks like this (in my experience):

Gucci Envy Men real tester.jpg

Of course I can’t say that it can’t be real, but if you believe it is, I’d guess you are quite a gullible individual in general.  The person who posted the top picture on BN said that it, “almost looks like an internal tester that never should have seen the public,” but how does he know what kinds of test product bottles they use?   Also, a tester isn’t a “refill.”  I’ve purchased refill bottles and the ones I’ve seen have always been at least 200 ml (and none were spray bottles).  None have had the word tester on the bottles or boxes.  And what is it going to refill?  Legitimate Envy for Men EdT testers are sealed spray bottles!  I’ll also mention that the color is likely incorrect too, though it could be due to the lighting.  There are two color variations in real bottles, one being paler than what you see in the bottle that has the correct design, but it doesn’t look that pale, nor does it have that slight brownish tinge (I have tried both colored liquids and can’t tell the difference between them, scent-wise).

I happen to have a tiny bit of insight into the possibility (however remote) that it is an “internal tester” because several years ago I purchased a Lagerfeld test bottle (from a former employee of the company), so I thought it would make sense to post a picture of it here in case anyone comes across something like this; they will have at least some more information at their disposal:

KL Lagerfeld Aftershave bottle.jpg

And though it’s an aftershave, I’d say it’s more like and EdC or even stronger (and smells right; I have a vintage sealed EdT spray bottle to compare it to).  But I’ve never tried the aftershave of this scent that was marketed to the public, so that’s the most I can say about the smell of it.  Also, at the time KL Lagerfeld for Men was selling for very little – the cost of this bottle probably wasn’t much less than what I paid for it (total).  At the time I didn’t know if it was valuable as a unique item, and since it was a buy it now ebay listing I decided to take the chance.

Not long ago I saw an ebay listing for an odd-looking 125 ml EdT Mark Birley bottle.  It wasn’t listed as a tester, but it had no box or cap.  There have been testers of this fragrance on ebay, but they had round stickers on the back that said Tester.  The most troubling thing is that these bottles (I saw two of them from different sellers) had black sprayers that appeared to screwed off, and they were aesthetically quite ugly.  And when I compared the tubing to a real bottle I noticed that these all black sprayer bottles were not all transparent; towards the top they were white.  I think someone might have taken off the original sprayers and used a plastic one that wasn’t so different as to look utterly ridiculous (perhaps using some kind of “crazy glue” to hold it on), as you can see:

Mark Birley possible fake bottle.jpg

One of these sold for less than $30 total and while the other sold for just over $40 total (both around 90% full), at a time when real ones were selling for a whole lot more.  One of the sellers seems to mostly sell “name brand” makeup while the other sold mostly used fragrances that are not known to be faked.  And both had over 500 feedback each with only one negative (a fragrance bottle broke during shipping but the buyer just left the negative feedback without trying to resolve things first, apparently) and no neutrals.  Here’s a real bottle – notice how much smaller the sprayer apparatus is and there’s not white part to the tube, and you can also see the tester sticker, which is on the back:

Mark Birley real bottle.jpg

So perhaps a reader will be able to clear up one of these two “mysteries” up for us!

UPDATE:  After I wrote the above I noticed someone selling the odd-looking Envy for Men refill/testers for $298, but on these Scannon was spelled correctly.  To me this is even more suspect, and the seller had nine of them!  So, just when prices for this scent appear to be hitting all time highs, a “hoard” of tester/refills (which I’ve never seen before) that look really weird and are inconsistent with known tester bottle designs appear on the market?  And if you wanted to create one, all you would need to do is to print out this kind of label, find some old bottles, and get some of the “dupe oil” for this scent (perhaps you’d also have to buy some dyes to get the color close).  As they say, it would be like printing yourself money!  Needless to say, it appears that only those with little patience and even less aversion to risk would buy such bottles.

NOTE:  If you would like to see more posts like this one and the previous one, let me know by commenting to that effect.

UPDATE:  I was contacted by someone who said that postal codes for Paris are 5 digits, beginning with 75, so the testers in the weird bottle with Scannon spelled correctly are almost certainly fake, because they still have the code as 7001.  Apparently, the person selling these read about the online discussion and changed the label to correct Scannon, but since nobody pointed out the postal code issue, that was kept the same.



Filed under The basics.

Is it time to “call it quits?”

Perfumes The Guide 2018 by [Turin, Luca, Sanchez, Tania]

I came upon a thread in the General forum at, which was about the new Perfume Guide book by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez.  You can find it here:

I then went to Amazon to see if there was a preview for it, and sure enough, it was quite good, even including many of the “A” fragrance reviews!  I read what was there, thinking that I’d likely buy the book (the Kindle version, which might be the only one, is $9.99), but as I read something coalesced in my mind.  Turin seems to think (at least this is what I’d guess, and agree with) that what has happened over the last roughly ten years is that enough people got tired of mainstream offerings, which became minor variations on a small number of themes, and so turned to niche, which then itself largely did the same thing.  A couple of things I’d say about this are that vintage fragrances often were similar to older, popular ones, and that while reformulations are often bad (as he stated), it’s still easy to get most of them at reasonable prices if you possess just a bit of patience!  Furthermore, there’s a lot more information now about how to identify a vintage bottle.

He more or less dismissed the great vintage masculines (especially those of the late 1970s to early 1990s) in their 2008 book, but didn’t explain why (at least to my satisfaction).  And in this 2018 book, he seems to be suggesting that now it’s highly likely you’ll get a bad reformulation if you go that route.  Obviously, if you started collecting them after you read the first book, you’d have quite a few that you obtained at very good prices, just like I did!  Turin then says that despite the lamentable state of things, there are still some perfumers providing us with fragrances that should be regarded as special.  Unfortunately, I have yet to encounter any of these, and I think the issue may be one of “artistry.”  Turin clearly believes in it, but to me, while I may really enjoy a scent for a short while (even one from the dollar store), it’s just going to register as “wear it once in a while” at some point in the near future, if it doesn’t rate even lower.  I’d rather just smell a new scent on a piece of paper, so that I’m not “stuck” with it for hours, and instead I’m usually content with a fragrance that has an obvious vanilla or amber note in the base, with just enough of something else to keep it from being too boring.  Moreover, I don’t seem to share his taste a good portion of the time in any case.

I guess it’s almost like a distraction to me these days, and what’s more, my sensitivity has been low for quite a while now, so I often don’t get much more than the top notes.  Even a powerful Jacques Bogart scent seems of just moderate strength.  Then, as I was reading through the reviews, I was thinking that there aren’t any fragrances that interest me!  If you told me you’d send me a sample of half of them, I wouldn’t want to waste the time reading about them!  The reason is that I just don’t care if a fragrance is a slightly different take on oud, oud/rose, leather, iris, gourmand, sandalwood, etc.  I’ve got so many bottles that I can’t even remember everything I’ve got, let alone try to figure out what I should wear on a given day!  Usually, something just pops into my mind and I decide to reach for this or that bottle.  I decided to write up a response to the BN post, which was:

I got involved in this hobby just before the first “Guide” was published, and a lot has changed for me, one of which is my thoughts about these olfactory concoctions. Back then, I got a copy of the book a couple of months after it was published (still have it), and read it within a few days. There was still so much to learn. Not long thereafter I developed chemical sensitivity and couldn’t go near anything with lavender in it. That lasted a few months before normality returned, and I was able to detect more and more notes. Since then, I’ve gotten involved in other pursuits and my sensitivity is rather low. I can appreciate Fahrenheit as well as traditional cologne type compositions now (unlike back then), but in general I don’t find the same enjoyment I did for those first several years, at least on most days.

And I’m just as happy wearing a cheap knockoff (that’s well done) as the “real thing.” When I read the free preview (at Amazon) of the new book by LT and TS, it was not a trip down memory lane. Most of the fragrances I had never heard of, and I didn’t have any interest in trying any of them. What’s worse, I really didn’t care what was said. What hasn’t been done? Or what has been done (and not yet sampled), but I don’t think I’d enjoy? When I decide what to wear (and once in a while I don’t use any!), there’s plenty to choose from. Sometimes I can’t even find the bottle! I still do some blind buying and swapping if the deal is too good to pass up, but I can’t say there’s any scent I’d really like to acquire. In fact, if someone offered me enough, I’d sell my entire collection tomorrow (I’d keep some “cheapos”). I’m glad to see that the magic is still there for a lot of people, but on some level I’m glad I don’t spend as much time thinking about this stuff any more!

In an introductory chapter, Sanchez tells us that celebrity fragrances are “effectively over,” but what does that even mean?  She tells us that sales are slipping, but people who read their book probably don’t care.  They either don’t wear fragrances marketed this way or, like me, they buy what they think they will like (or were able to sample, and liked).  And there is no discussion of layering, from what I understand (I think it might have been mentioned in the 2008 book), which is a way to deal with low sensitivity (for me).  If there’s a new scent with a unique combination of notes, guess what?  I can usually figure out a layering combination that is close enough for me (such as Born Wild Men or vintage Pasah layered with Red Sea by Micallef instead of Viking by Creed, which I prefer to the Creed, actually).

So, while I agree with some of what they say, I do think that they don’t distinguish between the different kinds of people who do much thinking about these olfactory concoctions.  I don’t remember reading anything about the effect Youtube reviewers have had, for example  At least they could mention that they don’t watch any and have no idea, if that’s the case.  It is mentioned that they have sampled thousands of fragrances since the first book was published, and as at that time, it seems to me that if you do that and do it competently, you wouldn’t have any time to enjoy your favorite ones!  Could it be that they find so much blandness because they don’t give many or even most of the fragrances they sample enough time to show what they can do over the course of hours?  It’s easy to dismiss a scent as “crude” if you just smell some rather strong and obvious top notes, but perhaps a few hours later things have really come together and it smells considerably better.  “Cheapos” often have this quality.

I’m not sure what this all means to this blog.  I think I’ll have enough motivation to  write up a post or two per month, but I’m not sure about the content.  I feel that I’ve explored as much as I want to, or perhaps 95% or more.  Will that other 5% or so be enough to sustain this blog?  If I don’t sell most of my collection in the near future, I should be able to write posts on just my reassessments for a long time to come, and I still have more than a few samples that I have yet to try!  So, I think the blog will keep going, but I wonder how much enthusiasm will exist, and whether it will be obvious to readers that there’s not much remaining, if that continues to be the case.  At least I often perceive the scent in at least a slightly different way than the prior wearing, but it’s also common for me to like it less than I did before.  One good thing is that I’m not spending much, even though I had mostly been buying $25 or cheaper bottles, and most of them were probably sub-$15!

Over at the NST blog, there’s a recent example of what I’m referring to, in Anela’s review of Musc Encensé by Aedes de Venustas:

Musc Encensé might be a non-musk musk. Me, I smelled a comfortable, warm musk like Coty Vanilla Musk, but much less sticky and thick…

How about incense? Any incense in Musc Encensé is subtle and not sharp or dank…

All in all, Musc Encensé is the ideal fragrance for someone who wants a warm, delicious, non-intrusive background scent to toss on. It doesn’t make a statement. It doesn’t demand attention — or detract from it. True, Musc Encensé might not break new ground.

The best part?  It’s “only” $245 for 100 ml!  Seriously, the industry has gone off the rails on the crazy train.  Why would anyone have any interest in such a fragrance who has at least a bit of experience with niche?  It seems like Angela is trying to make it sound better than I probably would, especially after all the excellent incense and musk fragrance releases in the last decade or so (most of which cost a lot less, such as the Molinard Musc that cost me $12/100 ml a couple years ago).  But what impression is she trying to give the reader?  Why not say something like, “this is a good scent for someone who wants to try niche out for the first time but probably won’t enjoy anything too edgy, and who is rich?”  She says it’s for someone “who wants a warm, delicious, non-intrusive background scent to toss on,” but how many such people exist?  Yes, I agree there are quite a few who will buy a scent like this, but not at $245 for 100 ml, or even $100.  Is Angela rich?  Perhaps she should tell us that she can go around buying these kinds of fragrances the way I buy dollar store scents, if that’s the case, and then it would make a lot more sense, IMO.

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

Image result for charlie chaplin modern times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Criticizing the critics., The basics.

The “nothing fragrance.”

Jil Sander Man Jil Sander for men

First let me make clear that what might be a “nothing fragrance” for me, might be a “masterpiece” for you, or vice versa.  As you might have guessed, this 2007 release, Jil Sander Man, is one such scent for me.  But what’s interesting is the glowing reviews for it.  Before I get to those, let me me disclose the notes (from

Top notes are lavender, violet and bergamot; middle notes are sage and vetiver; base notes are cedar, myrrh and russian leather.

Just as Fragrantica alone, we can read reviews that include the following:

…a remarkable fragrance.

…Rubbery? Yes. Smoky? Yes. Unique? absolutely.

…It opens with an aromatic flowery phase (bergamot, lavender & violet – one of my preferred flowery notes) then switch on a bitter rooty-spicy one (sage & vetiver). In the drydown, when the sweet woody-incensy combo arises (myrrth & cedar) it feels very smooth, elegant and also a bit leathery.

…I use this only at special occasions when I want to feel this wonderful smoke and leather.

…This is one of the most delicious scent I have ever felt!

…basically a woody-leathery violet scent with vetiver and cedar (“pencil”) notes and a slight smoky fog.

…It is too heavy sweet and without interesting individuality. Seems even unisex because of that sugar sweetness.

…Love this! What a nice smoke, vetiver, wood combo!

…This is such a overwelaming scent ! Truly a Masterpice.

…Very much like Cacharel NEMO, about the same sillage. Also, there are a few aspects of this fragrance that remind me of Vintage YSL M7. The biggest is the AWESOME powdery drydown, not a talc, but a wonderful leathery powder. It is just awesome!

…The drydown is good and surprising. Do not let the opening fool you.

…Truly a hidden GEM ! Dark…sexy…masculine…mysterious.

My review is:

For a while I was thinking, a smoother Rochas Man, but without a coffee note (or one that is very mild). However, there is also a “fresh” element (“old school” style, not a bunch of powerful/nasty aroma chemicals). I’d say the sweetness is moderate, and it’s not a strong scent overall, perhaps an “office friendly” version of Rochas Man. I’m not getting a smoky quality, as others have, and I certainly wouldn’t call it a remarkable scent, though I can understand how some might really enjoy it (“dark,” “sexy, or “masculine:” I’d say a “big no” to those descriptions). Don’t expect to clearly smell some or even most of the listed notes – this is more of a “classy” designer blend scent. This is not the kind of scent I’d wear often, if ever really, because when I want at least some of those notes I want them to be more obvious or stronger.

To be fair, there were a few reviews that included comments that I agree with, but overall I was thinking, “how could such a ‘meh’ scent be described in these ways?”  In some ways, I’d say this is a good example of a scent that was blended “into oblivion.”  But I can’t say anything else “bad” about it, other than it may have been a scent of its time (or perhaps the time had passed it by before it was released).  The youngsters would likely say it’s too “old” or “mature,” and it’s not what I would call an aficionado or “niche crowd” scent.  It certainly could be a good “office scent,” but only in the sense that it’s weak and nondescript, at least at this point in time.  Since it was released the same year I first started reading about fragrances (and in my case it was at the very end of 2007), I can’t say it was perceived as an “office scent” with a bit of an edge at that time.  However, I purchased a bottle as part of a lot, so I’m not too disappointed.  I’ll likely move it out by swap or sale soon, but I’m almost regretful that I “wasted” a day wearing it when I could have worn something I’d have enjoyed!

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Aggressively negative responses to reality: Are we now living in the age of “unhealthy skepticism?”

After learning that on a UK Creed web site, their Viking scent was described (in a highly misleading way, IMO) as 80% natural and that my 100 ml bottle of Yacht Man Victory (which cost me less than $3 total for 100 ml, new) had this stated on the box, “80% vol. alcohol of natural origin,” I decided to write this post.  Here is what that Creed page looked like (and perhaps it still does at time of publication):

Creed Viking 80 percent natural

I decided to post a thread at pointing this out.  I expected that a “Creed fanboy” or two might have something nasty to say, but it soon became clear that I had become some kind of negative emotion scapegoat for quite a few people there.  It’s not entirely surprising, as it’s a well-known psychological phenomenon.  Let’s start with:

Many of us take criticism more personally than we should, and that’s where we’re getting it wrong. Dr. Paulus says that it’s important for us to separate criticism from our sense of self. We don’t want to view it as criticism about who we are as a person, but rather, as feedback about an individual action, a specific event or a particular situation.

However, the “80% natural incident” reveals that some people can’t even accept obvious and deserved criticism of some of the products that they use!  Apparently, they can’t separate themselves from the product, which seems very similar to the way quite a few fans of sports teams act.  They also seem to personify the company, so that when a real person (like me in this case) rightfully criticizes that company, it’s as if they view it as a big muscular guy pushing around a child!  That is, they totally reverse the reality of the situation.  And in this case, the company in question has a history of making up history!  It also has a motivation, which is to try and “cash in” on the people who like to buy items with “natural ingredients.”  What’s my motivation?  I hate it when people try to mislead others, especially when it seems like “corporate greed” is the only reason, but I still have no interest in trying to make one company appear worse than is the reality of the situation.

The marketing of many fragrances is sometimes ludicrous, so singling out one company is not fair; it’s an “industry issue.”  However, Creed seems to try and market to those who think they can encounter “royal” experiences by spraying on one of their fragrances, which isn’t all that common, though plenty has already been said about such claims.  Nobody, to my knowledge, has yet to address this “natural” claim, so I wanted to make sure I got the word out about it, and then readers can decide for themselves.  In fact, that one Fragrantica reviewer (that I quoted two posts ago) was spreading this notion, which while perhaps not an outright lie, is an excellent example of a misleading statement, IMO.  If you can’t just accept this without getting very angry, I suggest seeking therapy, because you are “cheating” yourself, nobody else.  If you want to argue that it’s not all that misleading, then we can simply “agree to disagree.”  Why attack people personally, or act like you can read their minds (and conclude the person is a “hater” of a particular company), or go off on irrelevant tangents in an attempt to deflect attention, etc.?  Don’t cheat yourself!  Here is the thread in question, so that you can see what I’m referencing:!

In the case of Viking, there are some apparent wood aroma chemicals I found to be rather irritating, but I don’t hold that against them.  They’ve likely done quite a bit of testing and most people don’t have any issues with these.  However, it seems that many people react negatively to the fact that this is not the case for everyone, despite evidence suggesting this is just reality, for example:

Do you get a headache from the perfume of the lady next to you at the table? Do cleaning solutions at work make your nose itch? If you have symptoms prompted by everyday smells, it does not necessarily mean you are allergic but rather that you suffer from chemical intolerance…

The results were observed using methods based on both electroencephalography (EEG) and functional brain imaging technology (fMRI). The EEG method involved placing electrodes on the heads of trial subjects and registering the minute changes in tension in the brain that arise following exposure to smells. Unlike the people in the normal group, Linus Andersson explains, the intolerant people did not evince a lessening of brain activity during the period of more than an hour they were exposed to a smell. The inability to grow accustomed to smells is thus matched by unchanging brain activity over time.

“These individuals also have a different pattern in the blood flow in their brains, compared with those who perceive that a smell diminishes. A similar change can be found in patients with pain disorders, for example.”

Sensitivity to smell impacts the entire body A further finding in the dissertation is that chemical intolerant people also react strongly to substances that irritate the mucous linings of their nose and mouth…

Back to the point about the apparent attempt to mislead now.  As is stated on page 31 of Turin’s/Sanchez’ “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide:” “…synthetics usually make up more than 90 percent of fragrance;” this refers to the fragrance/parfum portion, as many scents are around 90% perfumer’s alcohol overall (“by volume”).  Thus, a “very natural” scent of this type (meaning not one that is made by “natural perfumers”) would be one that included naturals at more than 10% of the fragrance portion, perhaps even 15% or so, but now “things get really weird.”  That is, a Basenotes member emailed Creed (at the UK site, I believe), and received this response, or so he claimed:

We can confirm that the 80% of natural ingredients refers to the perfume concentrate rather than the final product.

We hope that the above information has been of use to you and that you enjoy trying our new Viking fragrance.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further queries,

With best wishes,

Customer Services
p: 020 7630 9400
a: 2nd Floor Peregrine House, 26-28 Paradise Road, TW9 1SE
w: e:

This is simply not consistent with modern perfumery, and note that we don’t even know who this person is or what his/her position at Creed is.  Even who marketed a vintage scent like Red for Men claimed that their concoction contained a “blend of 551 ingredients, including 35 naturals” in the press release.  And while Viking’s notes are a bit different, these are similar scents compositionally (though to me, vintage  Red clearly smells more natural), especially in terms of complexity,  and so note that the number of ingredients of synthetic origin in Red are much more numerous than the naturals.  If the fragrance portion of Viking is more than 80% natural (in the way most of us think of the concept and how it is applied to food items in the USA), then Viking would be an incredible new development in the history of modern perfumery.  Do you have any doubt that they would want everyone in the world to know?  In my next post I will provide more information, including what a fragrance chemist thinks about this claim (80% of the fragrance portion/concentrate).

NOTE:  I also believe that quite a bit of thought was put into making Viking and that they wanted to do something at least somewhat interesting and with good performance.  So, price aside, I have nothing “objectively bad” to say about the scent itself, at least relative to what one has come to expect these days from many “houses.”


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