Category Archives: The basics.

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

Is a newbie “spontaneous fragrance modification” myth very common these days?

Image result for molecules

First, I’ll mention what led to my thought about a possible myth, which began with a review I posted on the Yatagan/Caron page on

I obtained a recent formulation (batch 402114), and it definitely is different from my 2010 bottle. The base is weaker and overall it seems simpler. However, that does make it more wearable for “modern sensibilities,” as they say. In this way it reminds me of my recent formulation of Kouros (as compared to vintage Kouros). It’s certainly still Yatagan (of perhaps 10 years ago), with that celery quality (which is not present in “deep vintage”), but it’s clearly less “macho.” The major “problem” for me is that I prefer deep vintage and so there’s no good reason for me to wear this.

Another reviewer, in 2012, said this about it:

…And by the way the reformulation is still quite strong and just as good, and this scent could easily become somebodies signature scent.

I respect this point of view, and my 2010 Yatagan bottle might be perceived as “better”‘ by a vast majority of people who compare it to “deep vintage,” which is fine with me.  There is nothing “bad” about the 2010 formulation, and I’m glad Caron didn’t try to “modernize” it.  The March, 2014 formulation (batch code 402114), however, does strike me as an attempt to save some money, though without tinkering too much with the composition (such as occurred with the huge cinnamon note in “modern” Z-14).  For me, deep vintage is great, whereas 2010 is unbalanced and therefore unwearable, with a bit of tweaking to the formula too.  In any case, not long after I posted that review, this one appeared:

@Bigsly: the difference of smell between a current bottle and an old one is not due to formulation differences, but to the fact that the old bottle has oxidized slightly, allowing the fragrance to develop and “open”.
If you smell your current bottle compared to one open since 10 or 20 years, it’s no surprise that the smell is slightly different, but nothing related to hypothetical reformulations. (a different batch doesn’t mean they changed anything in the formula, although here it may be possible in regard to oakmoss, because of the new 2014 IFRA regulations- but it’s not automatic).

After reading this, I added the following to my review:

Note that I disagree with Andy the Frenchy’s statement above this review and in fact consulted a fragrance chemist, who has this to say:

“This question brings up Perfumery 101 lessons about the nature of chemical composition and how smell works. At it’s very core, perfumery is about volatility, or the rate in which things evaporate. When sealed in an airtight container with compounds that extend shelf life (and inert gases are always used to make sure it it stays fresh) you’re going to get almost zero change in chemicals involved.”

Oxidation makes such concoctions smell worse not better, and can lead to skin rashes, as this abstract makes clear:

“Terpenes are widely used fragrance compounds in fine fragrances, but also in domestic and occupational products. Terpenes oxidize easily due to autoxidation on air exposure. Previous studies have shown that limonene, linalool and caryophyllene are not allergenic themselves but readily form allergenic products on air-exposure…”

The source is Contact Dermatitis. 2005 Jun;52(6):320-8.

Limonene and linalool are among the most common ingredients, so anyone who wants their fragrance oxidized has no idea what they are talking about, IMO, but perceptions can be rather odd. For example, there was a shipwreck found a few years back – it was over 100 years old! There were two perfume splash bottles in it. Non-perfumers questioned thought it smelled fine but the perfumers said it was clearly “spoiled.” Not many years ago, when I said that I had never encountered a vintage bottle that had a “spoiled” drydown, at least one blogger and a perfumer (who had an obvious conflict of interest) disagreed. If the scent has volatile top notes, especially citrus, those might be “lost” over the years, but the problem for those who claim that their fragrances got considerably stronger or the smell got better don’t seem to realize that it would mean more of the same molecules were created in that sealed bottle or new molecules were created that smelled better, which is something fragrance chemists and perfumers would already know and incorporate into their compositions! Now if you think you “reinvented the wheel” then go ahead and try to demonstrate it scientifically so that you can be the next Einstein. Today’s fragrances are nearly all or entirely synthetic, so for anything that isn’t special (and really expensive), the only change will be for the worse. Of course, to save money sometimes the formula is cheapened, as people like Luca Turin have pointed out a long time ago. In any case, you can do your own research and decide for yourself.

Then a few days later, this review appeared:

This is not a forum about perfume composition, it’s a series of reviews about Yatagan, but I’d like to address a couple of points.
– Old bottles of fragrance will undergo a process of oxidization once they are used, so Andy the Frenchy’s comment as posted is likely to be accurate in the majority of situations (assuming the majority of vintage bottles on the market have been used at least once.)
– Oxidization and its effect on odour is hardly limited to whether some terpenes become catalyzed! And…. Just because oxidization results in a perfume material become a potential irritant hardly means that it does not smell good (or even better) for it. Plenty of wonderful materials are potential irritants, as anyone can find out by googling most of the ingredients on the back of any box of perfume (IFRA regulated or not). Time to reread Paracelsus on that one.

Anyway, I post too much about things I like but now I feel guilty for not respecting the purpose of this space so I will say (about Yatagan) –

Certain fragrances seem to ‘open up’ once opened, oxidized and aged a little. Speaking anecdotally (I’m no chemist), I’d say that with some bottles I have owned, aging and intermittent usage over several months helps to produce the ‘fuller’, ’rounder’ and ‘more natural’ experience many people look for from a composition like Yatagan… If your bottle feels a bit thin, try shelving it for a little while (:

Putting aside this person’s lack of understanding of the term “composition” in this context, it seems to me that something quite odd has taken hold in the “online fragrance community,” perhaps especially among “newbies, and perhaps mostly due to claims made by the major Youtube reviewers.  That is, many seem to think that there is no such thing as a reformulation, but rather that molecules in a sealed spray bottle interact significantly with air even after just a few sprays and the composition is magically transformed into something much better or much stronger.  Fortunately there is a test to determine this, though unfortunately, it’s expensive (for us non-1% people).  However, if you want to make this kind of incredible claim, perhaps you should be willing to “put your money where your mouth is.”

In this situation, that would mean the claimant is willing to pay for a GC/MS study done by a competent technician, if that person cannot detect any significant change in either the number of molecules or the “spikes” that denote the strongest aroma chemicals on the resulting graph.  I certainly would pay if I bought a new fragrance (100 ml) from a major company (in a sealed spray bottle), had the GC/MS study done, then stored it properly for a couple months and used a quarter ounce of it, then had another GC/MS study done and the technician found that the concoction had become much stronger or had changed and smelled much different (yet had not “spoiled”).  If you are not an expert, you should either do some research and/or try to consult one, before making claims that suggest something that would violate the “laws of nature!”

Interestingly, one doesn’t hear much about all the skin rashes one would expect if these extraordinary claims were true.  One of the mysteries of chemistry is that two molecules might be very similar yet have different scents, no scent, or other properties that are quite distinct.  Or two molecules can be structured very differently yet smell quite similar.  However, this is a major area studied by people who become professional perfumers!  If what is being claimed by these apparent newbies were true, fragrance chemists and professional perfumers would know this and they would incorporate these properties into the final product.  They would certainly let the person or company employing them know that there was a simple and inexpensive procedure (that only took a few weeks or so) that could make the finished product much stronger or smell much better.  But of course this is something that would likely have become well known long ago, perhaps in the nineteenth century!


Filed under Criticizing the critics., The basics.

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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Filed under The basics.

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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Filed under Fragrance Reviews., The basics.

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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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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