Category Archives: The basics.

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

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.

A Quick Note on the “Panty Dropper” scents.

So yet again, I encounter a review of Sauvage that I consider to be largely ridiculous:

I find this one hard to wear myself, maybe it’s just my skin. But when I smell this one on other people, god[darn]! I can’t stop sniffing (and yes I’m a straight guy hahaha)!
That being said, this juice only smells nice when it lingers in the air. Don’t smell to close!

Scent: 9,5/10
Projection and longevity: 10/10
Compliments: 10/10

There’s even some fat less attractive guy at my uni who wears this, and even he pulls tons of compliments from the ladies!

I agree with the lingering in the air/smells nice opinion, which is why I’d use it as a room spray for rooms, sheds, garages, basements, etc. (if I had a bottle) that I don’t stay in for too long, because it does get irritating to me quickly.  And I do use these kinds of scents, such as to spray the back of a winter coat (and I also spray a scent that I enjoy to the chest). I’ve already got so many of those scents that I certainly wouldn’t spend Sauvage money on yet another one.  Again, it seems that so many of the positive reviews are written by guys who don’t have a lot of experience with fragrances, and perhaps not with women either.  One person said she bought it for her teenage son because it smelled so good – would you want your teenage son to be approached by women who wanted to have sex with him because of the fragrance he was wearing?  I know I certainly would not (if I had a son, obviously)!

None of these people ever seem to talk about anything but “compliments” or “panty dropper” possibilities (some of the latter talk about their perception that they “get more sex” with Sauvage – make of that what you will – when I was in my late teens and early twenties there was a lot of talk but there didn’t seem to be nearly as much “action”).  There’s another issue here, which I have yet to see anyone write about, and that is what the compliment means.  Are they complimenting you for having “good taste” or are they complimenting the fragrance itself, and perhaps they are thinking that you are wearing it because the salespeople at the local mall got you to buy it?  And another question that’s worth asking is, would the women who complimented you on Sauvage give you a similar compliment if you dressed like the Austin Powers character?  Would that “get you action?”  Why not give that a shot and see what happens?

I don’t doubt that the people at Dior did their proverbial homework and formulated a scent that was targeted in its appeal, most likely the under 35 or 30 crowd, and so far it seems they have been very successful, if this is the case.  People of my “middle-aged” generation (who I know) seem to either wear too much of whatever fragrance they like (and they tend to like one, or a small number), or they not only don’t wear any, but dislike any that they can smell on other people (and none who smelled Sauvage liked it).  I don’t know what the “younger generation” is like in this context, but if commentary on just Sauvage is any indication, they really like to spray strong fragrances on with abandon (or enough of them do to make it a “social phenomenon”).  It could be that certain demographics are more interested in these concoctions, as well as their supposed “panty dropping” properties, but I think it would make more sense to get a sample, see if it “drops panties” like nothing ever has for you in the past, and then make a decision to buy a bottle, or not.  If it doesn’t, you could always try a change in attire!

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Why does “small house” niche smell different?

If you have read quite a few fragrance reviews, even on major blogs, this question is not even raised, let alone addressed.  That is, they usually talk in generalizations and often there is some appeal to emotions.  As I mentioned a while back, there was a member of some years ago who wrote more than a few reviews.  In all or nearly all of them, the scent was described as “so fresh and warm,” even in cases where I thought this was not at all the case.  My guess is that he was thinking with his heart, so to speak.  In fact, the only scent I can imaging being “fresh” and “warm” at the same time would be one involving chili pepper, and that note makes me feel ill for some reason.

One thing I was thinking, by contrast, as I tried a few Andy Tauer scents and a couple of Kerosene ones recently, is that there seems to a major difference between these and ones released by the “big guys.”  These tend to be heavy, simple/crude, straightforward, etc., whereas those by major perfumers often don’t.  If we compare Kerosene’s Copper Skies or Tauer’s Lonestat Memories or Incense Extreme (which I’ve sampled recently) to something like Olivier Durbano’s Black Tourmaline, for example, the difference is striking, as BT has a transparent quality and I kind of fluidity missing in those others.  It also has a kind of shifting dynamism, whereas those others feel leaden to me.  I have also felt this leaden quality with other “smaller” niche companies such as Eva Luxe, though I have enjoyed her scents a bit more, especially Kretek.  And while reading BN reviews of Elixir by Penhaligon, I encountered this one, which is along the lines I have been thinking in some cases:

Light oriental. Those two words aren’t mentioned that often when talking about mens’ frags. Contrary to some of the negative reviews here, I find this lightness very bearable and even refreshing. In fact, I think that Giacobetti did an excellent job to meld the spices, florals and sweet notes into a very interesting fragrance. Could Lutens or Malle ever put something like this out? I think not!

I was starting to ask myself, why have so few have suggested that there seems to be an “amateurish” quality to certain niche “housese.”  And let me make clear that I don’t think this is necessarily bad (I have a Kretek decant and wouldn’t mind have more, for example), but I think the difference should be discussed more on the major fragrance sites.  It would save more than a few people a lot of money, for example, if they wanted to avoid the “amateur” type of compositions.  Then I was thinking about why this was the case.  Of course, some do not have the extensive perfumery school training, but I was thinking that there was likely “more to the story,” so I asked the fragrance chemist I interviewed several months ago what he thought, and this was his response:

You’re right to have picked out the less smooth compositions of indie/niche fomulae vs. larger outfits, which is due to something we call fixatives or blenders. These aren’t the main accords used, but rather, are added after the bulk of the work is done to smooth out the edges of a parfum and add technical properties.

Most big companies have a catalog of blender formulae that you can pick and choose from depending on the end result you’re looking for (an eau de cologne will have a different blender than an oriental, etc.) and these tend to be pretty standard amongst the larger outfits. Because of the ubiquity of the blender ingredients, you often see them printed on the back of the retail packaging as a faux attempt at transparency (as you otherwise only get to hear about the “notes” which are very much open to interpretation.)

That said, little companies can buy these from the big guys ready made, but they are not cheap and have to be purchased in huge quantities, which doesn’t always work for independent perfumers, which is to say that these folks tend to have to work a lot harder to make an idea come together, because you kind of have to use the brute force method to figure out if something is going to work, rather than slapping something together, adding a blender and then tweaking accordingly.

This also might explain why some of us, including myself, tend to prefer “cheapos” made by “big companies” to many scents I’ll call amateur niche.  However, I’ll be the first person to admit that I like more than a few of these amateur niche scents, such as some by Smell Bent.  And I certainly dislike quite a few professional niche ones, such as those that seem to contain a lot of iso e super.  Speaking of which, the SJP scent, Stash, is one such scent.  Yes it seems “professional,” but I don’t enjoy anything about it.

I posed a similar question on the Basenotes DIY Forum and these were a couple of the the responses (apparently by those who create their own fragrances):

Access to captives, lab assistants, large databases, evaluators, formal training.

… and time, experience (from the formal training), deeper knowledge of the materials, a vending and promoting structure around them, and maybe even a set of family heritage accords. Still they use a lot of Hedione, Iso E Super and Galaxolide.

Note that this doesn’t mean the “pros” put more effort into a new creation; if anything it seems as though the opposite may be the case!  However, it might help to understand this apparent distinction not just for “blind buys” but also to get a sense of how the scent was composed, which is certainly of interest to some aficionados.  And for all I know Lutens and Malle might be seeking a certain “heavy” quality for stylistic reasons rather than practical ones – the scents I’ve tried from these “houses” seem more “pro” than “amateur” to me.

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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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How swap negotiations can get a bit heated !

A while back I was negotiating a swap with a member, and I encountered something that I found strange, but that I have heard others say.  Basically, the idea is that if you “blind” swap for let’s say a 90% full 50 ml bottle, and if it’s quite expensive and you think it smells great, you’ll be very unhappy because you won’t be able to stop thinking that once it’s used up, you won’t be able to afford to buy a bottle.  First of all, this is a really negative way to go through life.  Why not just use the scent judiciously?  You can get several years of enjoyment that way!  During that period, there’s a good chance you’ll find another at a reasonable price, or arrange another swap.  The alternative is to keep scents that you think of as mediocre, so to me this is just a ridiculous way to talk yourself out of making a swap.  But “to each his own.”

I can “live” with a large decant of something I really want and I don’t worry at all about using it up and feeling like a great loss has occurred because I may not be able to find another decant or bottle at a reasonable price, if at all.  The reason is that while there may not be an identical scent available at much lower prices, I feel that I can layer what I’ve got to achieve an effect that is close enough, for me if .  Of course, it’s quite common to enjoy a scent the first few wearings and then think it’s fairly good but certainly not special or even great.  The issue of valuation is probably the one most likely to rear its head.  In one swap negotiation, for example, I told the person (because just such an issue arose) about an experience I had several months before:

When it comes to swapping, everyone has their own way to evaluate scents, and I have tried to explain that to many BNers, not always with success. A good example is a guy who wanted to swap his 80% full 100 ml bottle of V.O. by Jean-Marc Sinan. Now I have a sample of it and don’t think it’s anything special, but I was still willing to get rid of some things I didn’t want but that he did want. He insisted on using ebay sales prices as a guide, but in the case of V.O., at that time, there were a bunch of unsold items with a few that sold a fairly high amounts. So even though I didn’t value it highly, one could still make a case that it’s probably not that easy to sell at the amounts he was valuing it at. I certainly would have swapped him for a similar scent, that is, one that has a few high sales on ebay with mostly unsold auctions, but he wanted more popular ones that were selling with frequency at about the same price levels, and he got angry at me because I didn’t value the potential swap the same way he did.

Perhaps the most absurd thing to hear in this kind of negotiation is something along the lines of, “you can get around X dollars for it on ebay,” because if that were true the person should have sold it himself and then made offers on scents he wanted (or he  could try to find a good deal on ebay, perhaps waiting a bit). I have told such people to simply pay me what I want and then sell the supposedly expensive scent (that he wants to swap me) on ebay. If he doesn’t have the money I’m more than willing to wait a week or two, holding the bottle for him/her, to see if it sells on ebay.  The key point here is that you simply can’t tell other people how to evaluate a swap.  If you don’t agree, just “move on.”

A good example of this occurred when I offered someone a whole bunch of bottles (to choose from) for his 99% full 75 ml bottle of Dark Obsession.  He wasn’t interested in the list of  40 to 50 (IIRC) bottles I offered (and I said I’d go 2 for 1 or 3 for 1 if that made sense to me), but said he’d swap for a 100 ml Acqua di Gio bottle or a 15 ml bottle of an expensive niche scent.  Here, I could have said, “well what do you want for your Dark Obsession bottle,” but on his sales page that was already listed, at $30.  The “problem?”  There were quite a few selling on ebay for less than $19 total for 4 ounce bottles (new).  I also  read more reviews and thought twice about swapping it for some of the bottle I offered him, so even if he had wanted to swap at that point, I think I would have declined (I always ask for 24 hours to “sleep on it”)!

He said that he didn’t care what the bottles were selling for on ebay, but in this case one has to ask, “then aren’t you taking advantage of someone if he/she buys it from you?  He didn’t claim his bottle to be “vintage,” and I don’t think it’s old enough for that to be an issue, but considering the cost of shipping and what he wanted, I would at least question whether his attitude should be placed in the “rip off” category.  It’s certainly legal, but is it ethical?  This negotiation didn’t become hostile, like the one for V.O.; I thanked him for his time and then he did the same, but I do wonder what such a person is thinking.  By contrast, I don’t know how many times I’ve told a person, “I won’t even try to sell this to you because the ebay prices are now so low – just go buy it there.”  I don’t want to feel that I’ve “ripped someone off,” and in these cases the monetary gain is minimal, if there is any.

I could have said to him, “well, don’t you think you should adjust your price, or at least delete your listing until the stock on ebay dries up and it’s selling at about the level you want?”  After all, don’t most people check prices on ebay, if not on ebay and several other sites?  Do you want people to think you take advantage of those who respond to your BN sales page?  In this case, the difference is significant (and I checked back to see what he did but he didn’t lower his asking price after I told him about the ebay listings).  On quite a few occasions I’ve found that people don’t understand that it’s often the case that for the other person it’s a “take it or leave it” situation.  He or she has to pay for shipping and may be “blind swapping,” so it’s possible that he/she will dislike the new scent more than the one that was swapped!

Then there is possible loss during shipping or being “ripped off,” so the person might just decide it’s only worthwhile if he/she gets a “better” deal.  This was the case for me not long ago.  I swapped a 100 ml bottle of Force Majeure for a 50 ml bottle of vintage Furyo. At the time the ebay listings suggested my bottle was worth more, but I didn’t think I’d wear it often and I wanted a vintage Furyo bottle, so I was willing to pay for shipping and get something that seemed to be worth less (taking the other risks as well).  I didn’t complain or tell the person that he should include something else – if you really want something then I suggest not getting fixated on the “ebay value,” so long as it isn’t a big difference.  Be glad that you are getting something you really want (and if you don’t really want it, you can just decline).  No need to get “hot under the collar” and begin to think that the person is a crook or idiot – just make a “yes or no decision.”

Note that even if Dark Obsession’s prices rise substantially in the near future, that doesn’t mean anything to a swap at the time you are considering it.  I’ve seen prices go up and down on more than a few scents, and one certainly shouldn’t assume a price rise on a CK product, with the huge number of bottles that likely were produced (of a non-limited edition release).  Moreover, in this case at least, even if I really wanted his DO bottle, there would be no reason for  me to give him an Acqua di Gio bottle, which isn’t difficult to sell on ebay, nor a 15 ml bottle of an expensive niche scent.  I would buy the DO bottle on ebay now, and put the bottle he wanted up for sale on ebay.  That way, at the very least, the new 4 ounce DO bottle should cost me nothing once the other scent is sold.  He gave me absolutely no reason to swap with him, even if I had what he wanted and was willing to swap it!

NOTE:  The V.O. bottle referenced in the highlighted quote was splash and the one he wanted was spray, which is yet another consideration!  My general rule of thumb is that if I want a scent, then that pays for the shipping cost, but if I just swapping to get rid of something I don’t think I’ll ever like, I want the value to be tilted a bit in my direction if the person really wants what I have (and I can live with a “vice versa” situation).  And if I really want a scent I might give up quite a bit to obtain it, the issue again being if it would make more sense to sell what I’d be giving up on ebay and then just buying the bottle new from a retailer.  Most of the time, though, it’s just two people who want to get rid of some things and have some notion that the ones being obtained won’t be as unappealing.

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Has the “Sauvage riddle” been solved?

In a recent post I asked if there was any rational argument to make for buying a bottle of Savuage (this is/was during a time before bottles began/begin to sell at significant discounts, if that occurs any time soon).  The “problem” is that those who write positive reviews for it don’t seem to know a few potentially important things, such as that there are much cheaper alternatives.  They claim it’s a great “compliment getter,” yet people have and continue to say that about many inexpensive scents.  And these are usually often the same people who say they want to smell unique, which isn’t the case with Sauvage, since it has become very popular very quickly.  So, it’s not cheap, it’s not unique, and there are very cheap alternatives.  One reasonable argument would be, “I just want to go to the department store and buy something I like that’s there.  I don’t want to do any research, and $80 for a 100 ml bottle is not a financial issue to me.”  But nobody ever seems to make an argument like this!

However, since then I realized that there is at least one thing that should be added to this “riddle,” and this realization occurred when I read this review of Dylan Blue by Versace:

Finally got cool enough here today, for me to go ahead and do my first full wearing of Dylan Blue after sampling a couple times.

To me this is along the same lines as Sauvage, only MUCH better to my nose. Sweeter/fruitier and more youthful, instead of just a dusty ambroxan and pepper bomb after the Dior’s likable initial opening. Neither one really develops much IMO, but this one does a little bit more.

Jury is still out on performance as it’s only been 3hrs since putting it on, but it’s still chugging right along and I’m getting these glorious fruity citrus/ambrox wafts!:)

It’s not just this review, though, as I remembered people saying they had to use more than a few sprays of Sauvage or that it was weak.  I found one spray on a card to be overwhelming,  by contrast (and that was after at least an hour, which is when someone brought it into my house!).  And so I think people who enjoy these kinds of scents tend to have very low sensitivity to aroma chemicals (in the case of Sauvage I’d guess musk molecules are crucial to generate the overall effect, much as in some of the “old school” musky “masculines”), though the musks used today are generally different.  I sent the person a message, because I wanted to know how many sprays he used, and he said:

I used 4 from a 10ml travel atomizer…2 on my torso under 2 layers of clothing, one to the back of my neck/shirt collar and the final one to the front of my shirt:).

I don’t think I could handle four sprays of Sauvage – it might feel like a form of torture, and most seem to think others smell it even if they think it’s weak or gone (almost certainly olfactory fatigue in those cases).  The obvious possibility here is that those who don’t detect much of a base or who are satisfied with it (as in the way this person reviewed DB) in these kinds of scents are having a very different experience than I am, and this person’s sensitivity may be even higher than mine:

It’s a chemical nightmare for me. After smelling it, it gives the effect on my olfactory that bleach does, where for hours everything else I smell is unidentifiably awful. Even the fragrance itself smells like burnt tires and transmission fluid. No joke, that is what the chemical opening does to my sense of smell. Just like bleach alters everything I smell after exposure, this fragrance has that effect on my nose. Fresh citrus oranges smell AWFUL after exposure to this, just like bleach does to me. And, my sense of smell is largely paralyzed/blinded for many common smells. I MIGHT be able to identify something like cinnamon after exposure but citrus smells like toxic poison (indescribable).

Sauvage was a HORRIBLE experience for me. I ONLY get this effect from MODERN designer fragrances at Macy’s/JC Penney such as Invictus and other modern ones from YSL too, have the same effect. Old school designer scents are no problem. So, SOMETHING (chemical(s)) these designer fragrances are using are absolutely AWFUL for my nose. It’s depressing and I would like to volunteer my sensitive nose to these houses so they can reformulate these into acceptable levels of tolerance for sensitive people. And I’m not saying my nose is “sensitive” as in “snob”, but rather, vulnerable to being hurt by chemicals that are simply too strong. I’m not good at picking out notes or anything like that…

And there is a scientific explanation.  For example, a person who lost his sight at age 3.5 and got it back about 40 years later has yet to adjust well (after a decade with sight)!  If you want other examples, you might be able to watch the documentary, “The Brain with Danny Eagleman: What is Reality?” on Youtube (I had to click on a few different links before I found one that worked).  It is pointed out that not everyone’s brain is “wired” the same way, and an obvious example are the people who have synesthesia:

One thing I’ve found very interesting about scents is how my sensitivities have changed over the years, sometimes to particular molecules, presumably (“notes”) and sometimes in general.  My guess is that fragrance industry researchers not only product test but also are thinking about how to create a “new and special” perception among enough people to make their releases successful. Now an interesting thing to look for in the future is whether a lot of people start saying that a Sauvage smells “old,” “mature,” “out of date,” “played out,” etc.  It might take at least a few years, but my sense is that “the shock of the new,” as an art critic titled his book about “modern art” is the one of two key factors, for those who like scents such as Dylan Blue or Sauvage.  However, it’s more compelling with fragrances because the person not only enjoys the scent but gets compliments from others who also find the “newness” intriguing even if not something they’d want to smell all day long.

The other key factor would seem to be “house appeal” (some  might call it “snob appeal”), meaning that if a bottle has a name on it like Chanel or Dior many are looking for something “special,” which of course explains why so many in the aficionado crowd were disappointed with Sauvage.  If it’s a Playboy scent the “newness” is much more likely to be viewed as unpleasant, it would seem, but Playboy scents don’t have a presence in major department stores, Sephora/Ulta, etc., and beyond not being present, such scents don’t get the full salesperson “push” that scents like Sauvage get.  Going back to “fine art” for a moment, how many of you know about the (very expensive) paintings of Francis Bacon:

Probably most Americans have not seen any of his paintings (other than perhaps there being one illustrated in his or her college textbook, which they might not even read), but I doubt many would argue that if you asked Americans to tell you who painted one of these works, the minority would say Francis Bacon, despite these being obviously unique and “shocking.”  What most people definitely don’t know is why these kinds of paintings are considered “great” or “masterpieces.”  One reason is that very wealthy people decide to “back” an artist, and at some point a kind of threshold is reached and the artists is considered a “major” one.  You can ask yourself how similar this is to marketing fragrances, but one significant difference is that few scents are purchased for speculative purposes, and this is usually done with ones that are recent, like Perry Ellis’ Oud: Black Vanilla Absolute, which rose in price but then came back down after stores were restocked.  Because of this, most fragrance wearers buy what they like, though so many don’t seem to realize how they are being influenced.  By contrast, major art buyers often hire an “art advisor.”  If you are interested, this documentary explains the fine art market very well:

So, to “wrap it all up,” I’d say that Sauvage apologists, for the most part of course,  don’t know why they like it, and so they can’t put forth a reasonable explanation.  It wasn’t “online hype” that made it a bestseller, but rather a combination of factors that the good folks at the perfume companies must have known, perhaps in the way that certain Hollywood blockbuster sequels are almost certain to turn a profit, if not be outrageously profitable.  And that might be a better comparison, because most people don’t have the time (or want to use it) to do a lot of film research.  It’s easier to just decide on a movie based upon personal tastes (as is true with fragrance genres) and “buzz.”  It also doesn’t cost that much and serves a social function, though like fragrances, it’s not a social necessity.  But the buyers (presumably those with a low sensitivity to certain aroma chemicals) believe they are experiencing something special/unique, and like very strange-looking fine art, want to be part of it.  There’s a kind of excitement about it, and that is difficult for people to describe in these contexts (other than to say things like, “wow this scent just blew me away,” which doesn’t help readers much).  By contrast, when I “blind buy” a scent, I am only interested in the scent itself (other than rare occasions when I get such a great deal that I think I can sell/swap very profitably).

NOTE:  Some of those who really wanted to be part of the “excitement,” it seems, were also among those who may have high sensitivities to certain aroma chemicals, but there’s also another possibility, such as what might be illustrated in this comment about Bleu de Chanel:

Sold off all BDC and for the last time. It’s just not for me even though I like it, I just won’t wear it.

BdC is supposed to be a great “all rounder,” so one wonders how someone could like it enough to buy multiple bottles over a period of time, yet can’t bring himself to ever actually wear it.  There seem to be strong emotions at work, which many people don’t recognize at all, it would appear!





Filed under The basics.

The High Cost of Getting a Great Deal ?

Well, I have to admit that I thought claims about these olfactory concoctions couldn’t get much stranger,  but I encountered a new one that may be the “winner” here:

We wear the frag and enjoy it, but in the back of our minds wonder, what’s the catch? Did I really just get a fresh-fruity cheapie that I like? Or am I paying for its cheapness somehow, in some manner less obvious to me, but not others?

First, I’ll point out that I’ve read on several occasions (and experienced it myself) that many of the “cheapos” from several decades ago were known to have no real top notes, and in fact to sometimes smell unpleasant for a minute or two – that was the “catch” with these, and I certainly have no problem “paying” what to me is a nearly non-existent price (since I’m not like a “Creed fanboy” who is mostly buying the scent for the top notes, which is his right and I hope he enjoys the experience).  Now the new “cheapos” vary considerably, and it’s not even clear what one should call a “cheapo” because some were selling at non-cheapo prices at places like Sephora or Ulta (an example being Everlast Original 1910), yet then had a long run (years) of selling for very low prices.  Then there are the Cuba scents, for example, that apparently were meant to sell at low prices from the outset.

In both cases, however, I would not agree with this blogger, who thinks that:

With very cheap fragrances, there’s a higher chance that the headspace off the fruit will emit something bland, clean, and nondescript. Close up, with your nose mere millimeters from where you sprayed, you may get a very complex blend of lucid accords and individual notes.

Note that “headspace” usually refers to a test that was used to construct the scent, but this person seems to be saying that if you wear some “cheapos” they will smell “bland, clean, and nondescript” to others who might walk by you and smell it, for instance.  I find this humorous because I thought that is what most people were seeking!  Moreover, I can’t remember a “cheapo” that struck me as a “very complex blend of lucid accords and individual notes” when smelled at any distance, though smelling any scent very close to the skin is generally a bad idea because perfumers construct their scents to be smelled at a distance of more than “mere millimeters.”  Of course, this kind of claim screams out for a couple of examples, but this person simply mentions a few companies, not the scents in question.  If you have a complaint about a large number of scents, why can’t you name just one or two?  I’d really like to buy that “cheapo” that smelled like a “very complex blend of lucid accords and individual notes” close up or from some other close distance!

I wonder if any perfumer would say that he/she could construct a scent that smelled like a “very complex blend of lucid accords and individual notes” up close but “bland, clean, and nondescript” from a few feet away (or whatever the claimant is suggesting).  What I have found is that some “cheapos” seem reasonably natural, reasonably complex, etc., and I’ll provide an interesting example, Magman by someone I’m guessing is fictional in this context, Arno Sorel.  The notes are listed (at as:

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

In my review I said, among other things:

Sort of a “mini-me” Lutens (perhaps Five O`Clock Au Gingembre without the tea note and weaker)!

I mention this one because the blogger said “fresh-fruity cheapie,” yet later in the post states:

Cheapies like Caron Yatagan and Krizia Uomo don’t suffer this fate because their profit margin is modest.

First, how does this person know about the profit margins from these two scents relative to “cheapos” in general?  One would have to at least mention a “cheapo” in question and then provide evidence demonstrating a significant profit margin difference!  Second, why bring in two non-“freshies” in this context (and the bottles of KU I’ve had seemed to possess quite a bit of castoreum!)?  If it hadn’t been for this claim, I wouldn’t have written this post, because I have little interest in “freshies” and to me they all smell “bland, clean, and nondescript” and/or “chemical,” “synthetic,” harsh, etc. to some degree, though it depends upon how the person is using the term “freshie.”  Again, this is where some examples are crucial.  Do Creed “freshies” have nicer top notes that Playboy “freshies?”  I’d be very surprised if that wasn’t the case, but who would argue otherwise?  And so many complain about poor Creed longevity (apparently this being the case mostly for the “freshies”) that one might ask if it’s a question of smelling something versus smelling nearly nothing!  Such people are clearly buying the scent for their own enjoyment or else they would be more concerned about whether other people could smell it, and if so, what those people were perceiving.

But back to Yatagan and scents of that sort.  I’d probably rather wear Jovan’s Intense Oud or Magman, simply because to me those smell better.  I’m not wearing them for others and I wouldn’t mind it if such scents smelled  “bland, clean, and nondescript” (to other people), because most people don’t like cumin notes, Yatagan in general, and the kind of “oud scent” that is Intense Oud (I’ve called that one something like a mini-me Black Aoud by Montale)!  There is no “price to be paid” here, other than the very cheap one to buy a large bottle of these “cheapos,” assuming you like them, obviously.  Now if I didn’t like Intense Oud, for instance, and really liked Black Aoud (I dislike that one because it’s too strong/harsh) then I would have to decide whether it was worth the price.

Fortunately, I can’t remember being in a position to make that kind of decision, because I’ve been able to acquire the expensive scents I’ve sought through swapping.  There seems to be a notion in the minds of some individuals which assumes that people like myself think along the lines of, “gee, I really like scent X but I’ll settle for cheapo X clone and save some money, even though I know I’ll almost certainly regret it.”  That doesn’t happen, at least with me.  I genuinely enjoy many “cheapos” I’ve purchased, in some cases more than very similar ones that are a lot more expensive.  Then there is an example like Cuba Prestige, which is similar to A*Men.  I have bottles of both.  There’s no reason to swap Prestige because I wouldn’t get much in return and would have to pay for shipping, but if I could swap A*Men for something I wanted that cost let’s say at least $50,. then I would not hesitate to do it because Prestige satisfies my interest in this kind of scent, when it arises (perhaps once a month).

I never think that I’d rather wear A*Men instead, and can appreciate them both roughly in the same way.  This isn’t true in all such cases, of course, an example being Preferred Stock, which is a good “cheapo” version of vintage Red for Men, but it doesn’t provide what I seeking when I want to wear Red (the company claimed it contained over 550 ingredients, so it would seem to be unreasonable to expect it to).  In other cases I prefer the “cheapo” because it’s not as harsh or “chemical,” an excellent example being Dorall Collection’s Mankind Bravo, which was apparently meant to be a Kokorico clone.  Kokorico is difficult for me to wear at times because it can come across as “synthetic/chemical,” but Mankind Bravo is just right (I think I paid $6.35 total for 100 ml).  Sure, not everyone is going to devote that much time to figuring out such things, and that is what the major companies are likely “banking on” with new releases that cost $80 or more per 100 ml bottle, yet don’t seem all that unique (but can smell quite harsh, “chemical,” etc., Sauvage being an obvious example).  Of course if you are more concerned about what others think, go ahead and ask them!  I hope this blogger adds an update and clarifies his position (and offers a few examples).

In the meantime, I noticed that a Fragrantica member seems to have the opposite notion:

It is a fragrance you spray to get “Oh, you smell nice” or “Oh, you smell good.” You do not wear this fragrance to show off it’s complexity or quality of notes. It just a good cheapie to garner compliments, and with that said it is a good cheapie!!!

This is a review for Karen Low’s Pure Blanc, which I haven’t tried, but at the very least this shows that you should think things through for yourself and try to give any scent you sample a chance to impress you (or others), without assuming that the price is going to be a major factor, one way or the other.

NOTE:  One person who commented on this individual’s blog post said:

I agree with you completely on this. A few days ago, I tested Adidas Victory League. It smells nice at first but develops into a cheap and headache inducing mess. I would never wear this, but I’d use it as laundry freshener.

Again, AVL is not a “freshie;” perhaps fruity masculine oriental would be as far as one could go in a “fresh” direction with that one, but much more importantly, the blogger was not addressing “headache in a bottle” type scents!  The post was supposedly about “freshies” that smell a lot less impressive from a distance than more expensive “freshies” (with no price range nor any other guidance given).  If one reads the reviews of AVL, one does not get the impression that it is a “headache in a bottle” type of scent, but who would wear such a scent in the first place?  One wouldn’t care if it was less impressive from a distance to others if was making one ill – one would simply avoid wearing it!  And get this, the blogger had a fairly positive review of it back in 2013:

…it does remind me of Allure Homme (original), except lighter and less dimensional, sort of an Allure Lite. It’s a nice fragrance with a pleasant orange-citrus lift on top, followed by a vanillic amber, affectingly soft and clean. Again, Adidas proves that inexpensive “sport fragrance” need not be cheap-smelling and trite. If you like sporty ambers (there aren’t many), you could do much worse than this.

I more or less agree with this view, though I’m not sure what “clean” would mean here other than it doesn’t have any animalic notes.  In fact, if he used my language he might have called it a “mini-me Allure Homme!”  But the key question is, how does AVL support his claim, particularly in light of his own review (since he provided no examples, it was quite helpful that one of his readers did)?  The commenter didn’t say the scent developed into a “bland, clean, and nondescript” scent!  And the blogger didn’t say anything about highly irritating, “headache inducing” drydowns.  Thus, the blogger was not successful in conveying what it was he was trying to communicate, apparently.

And it’s also interesting to ask what the better alternative is if others think you smell “bland, clean, and nondescript” while you are wearing a “freshie.”  Would it be, “wow, you smell fresh, clean, and distinctive?”  I have never read anything online other than comments like, “you smell very nice (or very good)”or “you smell sexy” when a scent is described as a “compliment-getter,” and I have yet to get compliments of any kind, other than when I ask someone about a scent (and so they say they like or don’t like the scent itself), perhaps because I don’t use many sprays, often just one.  The point is that I find it unlikely that more than a tiny percentage of the population would make such linguistic distinctions in their commentary (assuming they say anything at all).  In any case, there is no such thing as a “cheap smell.”  Whether or not the vast majority of people in the area you inhabit think you are wearing something “cheap,” something “classy,” something “sexy,” something “generic,” etc. would require quite rigorous study.  When those results are published, I’d be very interested to see them, but in the meantime, views about what “smells good” seem to vary significantly, and the possibility that one blogger knows everything there is to know about such things seems rather remote.


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