Category Archives: The basics.

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

The similarity of claims about similarity.

 

Red Twins.jpg

Back in 2001, I created a thread at Basenotes.com which began with this post:

In a recent Roaster thread, someone said that that these two smelled similar, but was dismissed by others (including myself, I think). However, last time I wore Roadster, far into the drydown, I thought to myself that it smelled like something else, and eventually it popped into my mind: L’Instant Pour Homme EdT. I took the cap off my L’Instant bottle and thought about the smell. Basically, Roadster is a trimmed down version of L’Instant. Instead of lavender and anise, the herbal mint in Roadster fills this role. The only major thing missing is the cocoa in L’Instant, which makes it considerably more gourmand for me (it seems that the vetiver in Roadster and the wood in L’Instant play similar, “supporting,” background roles, at least once you get beyond the first couple hours of L’Instant).

So, a few hours into L’Instant and it smells quite a bit like a few hours or more into Roadster. Then L’Instant goes into it’s boring musk stage, whereas Roasdster keeps going. What I find interesting here is that it seems like the one note, cocoa, led some of us to not be able to imagine that these two are at all similar, whereas “objectively” they are quite similar, relative to the other recent frags of this quality/price point. Of course, if you are keying in on the cocoa, or other notes, you may miss the forest for the trees, as I did, but that’s what makes this all so interesting! It’s not always easy to determine if frag X smells like frag Y, it seems, because it’s not only that you have to put preconceptions aside, but you also have to decide how much one of them needs to be similar to certain parts of the other in order to call the two similar.

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/283533-My-apologies!-Roadster-does-smell-like-L-Instant-Pour-Homme

A week or so ago, there appeared this thread about Creed’s Royal Oud:

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/445786-Royal-Oud-An-appreciation

My first two posts to this thread, respectively, were:

I sampled it the other day. The drydown reminded me of a weak version of HiM by Hanae Mori. As usual, I’d buy it for $25/100 ml or thereabouts, but I’m certainly content with HiM, which I think I prefer.

There’s a shared accord that becomes more obvious in RO as the top notes fade, but if people want to spend more money on a weaker but similar drydown, that’s entirely their decision. Let’s get someone to do a GC/MS study of the two!

Before writing up this post, I sampled both scents again, and I am still smelling the same thing.  I was quite surprised, actually, because I had a decant of RO sitting in front of my for a few months, and I’d just take the cap off and smell it once in a while, mainly because it was unusual (and didn’t remind me of HiM at all).

Now one reason for this post is because I wanted to suggest a Creed “MO” (though not true of all their scents), which is to create strong or interesting (if not entirely pleasant) top notes with a rather conventional/designer type base that is weak (or weaker than a similar designer).  Royal Oud has some powdery galbanum up front, as is not entirely pleasant to me, especially for the first few minutes, but then it becomes more and more like a weak version of HiM.  My suggestion, if you have at least a sample of both, is to place a tiny dab on each forearm (wear a short sleeve shirt when you do this); use less of HiM because it has a stronger base, from what I can tell.  And as someone on that BN thread about RO said:

Love the scent, but its very weak and lasts 4 hours tops on me…

Fragrantica.com has the note list for these two as (HiM first):

…bergamot, mandarin orange, gray pepper, violet leaves and cardamom seeds. The robust heart encompasses cinnamon bark, Mediterranean fig and tonka bean, while the base closes with teak wood, white cedar, fir balsam, musk and amber.

And for RO:

…lemon, pink berry and bergamot. The middle notes consist of cedar, galbanum and angelic root. Base notes are Regal Indian oud, sandalwood and Tonkin musk.

It’s true there are obvious differences for the first hour or two, with HiM having a tea-like violet and RO having the galbanum and angelica.  Interestingly, for me RO has a nasty note clash at first that has made me feel queasy!  I’d guess that if you want the RO drydown, spray HiM in front of you and walk through the mist and you’ll get something really close (not sure if the EdT of HiM is closer than the EdP as they both smell quite similar to each other to me).

And this brings me back to my original “mistake” about Roadster and L’Instant Homme, which is certainly something that can occur again because sometimes one doesn’t pay attention to a middle stage of development, for example.  With RO and HiM, though, there’s basically just an “opening” and a base, so I’m surprised that I appear to be the first who noticed the similarities in the bases (the scents are at least fairly popular among the online aficionados/fanboys and the accord is rather unique, with a “pumpkin pie spice” type quality).  Of course it’s possible that the angelica and galbanum notes hang around a lot longer for some people, but the claim about oud here is laughable, IMO (not that I don’t think it’s brilliant marketing on the part of the good people at Creed).

Now I’m not suggesting a person is “wrong” to spend the extra money on RO if they like those top notes. and perhaps they really don’t detect the similarities I perceive as obvious, but isn’t it worth comparing the two before spending those “big bucks” on RO?  No, for some there is a sense of specialness/exclusivity or whatever, and even if they aren’t entirely conscious of it, it does provide them with powerful positive emotions, which is what I think they are actually paying for.  And if I could buy powerful positive emotions that lasted indefinitely, I too might buy a bottle of it at current prices, but with consumer items (from what I’ve seen and read) the positivity doesn’t last all that long and then it’s on to another purchase (which is why I try to keep the purchase amounts as low as possible!).

UPDATE:  A few days after posting the above, a new review of RO appeared at Fragrantica:

If you dislike wearing oud, you will love this one, because it doesn’t smell like any oud I’ve ever smelled. In fact, it doesn’t smell like oud, period…

I don’t know whether this scent should be called “Royal,” but it definitely shouldn’t be called “Oud.” Maybe Royal Citrus or Royal Powder, or even Royal Musk or Royal Green. But not Royal Oud.

 I think this person is on to something, in that it might have been more appropriately called Green Angelica or something like that, but calling it an oud scent is beyond questionable, IMO.  Now I do like the fact that Creed does some things I consider really “oddball,” such as is the case with RO, but they are usually not pleasant or I prefer another scent that is similar, unfortunately.  And though some don’t seem to understand this, it shouldn’t have anything to do with whether other people enjoy RO or any other scent.  What I have seen (I think), though, is a situation where some people study an “okay” scent and try to find ways in which it is a “masterpiece” because it was released by Creed.  Of course, there’s probably no reasoning with such people so I what else can be said?

 

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It’s not just Creed, but are women smarter in this context?

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that as major perfume companies are more and more limited by IFRA, the claims made about their scents become more extravagant, though in the case of Creed, most of the claims (aside from the historical ones) are made by their fans.  Here are a couple new ones on that Basenotes.net thread devoted to Creed’s Viking:

…this scent is clearly an artistic ‘niche’ scent that smells different to so many people and you’ve got quite an achievement. Universal acceptance + artistic complexity giving divergent experiences = a very rare type of fragrance. Creed has done it again folks. So many people were thinking this one was going to bomb at the box office, but it’s a big hit.

And:

I’ve [had] it for a couple weeks and what I come to realize is that the very late dry down is where it’s at. I was in NYC on business this week, and so at nights I was walking around the city much more than I normally would in my hometown. This stuff, 12 hours later would literally re-ignite on my skin once I got my temperature up, and it smelled ridiculously good. It was obvious, in a good way. 12 hours later. There is just something about it that I can best describe as piquant. It’s not loud, it’s piquant, and that’s where the fire comes in. I know this is not gonna sound great, but it smells almost vinegarish during the late [dry] down, but in the best way possible way.

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/429631-The-Official-Creed-Viking-Thread/page15

Apparently, all the comments I’ve quoted in my last two posts, as well as the two above, were written by men.  In stark contrast, at the NST blog, a review of two new Jo Malone scents and the first two comments were written by women.  Here is part of what the reviewer had to say:

English Oak & Redcurrant is described as “[t]he forest at dawn. The juicy bite of redcurrant. The zest of green mandarin. The freshness of rose softened with white musk. Enveloped in roasted oak.” Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to that sensory evocation for me.

English Oak & Hazelnut, stepping deeper into the forest, is “[a]n enchanted walk. The crunch of green hazelnut. The spice of elemi. The earthy woodiness of vetiver cooled by emerald moss carpets. On a warming base of roasted oak.” It’s less gourmand than it sounds, and it does last much longer on skin than English Oak & Redcurrant. On the other hand, it seems to skip too quickly into a base of dry vetiver and wood — yes, definitely oak rather than sandalwood or cedar, and it’s sharp and a touch smoky in an way that interests me, but it feels a bit blunt.

And here are the first two comments:

Thanks for the review – this is one of the few times that I’ve been able to comment on something new! I tried both of these last weekend. I agree that that the Redcurrant is very fleeting – I sprayed it on as I went into the store, and by the time I’d looked at the shoe department, it was gone. I liked the Hazelnut, but it’s a bit similar to things I already have.

And:

Cool review, Jessica. I have tried them both and was a bit disappointed. I guess I was expecting the perfume equivalent of kicking through leaves and the woody-nuttiness of acorns, and maybe even a touch of sweet creaminess of hazlenuts ( a bit foody). I was surprised by the sharpness of the perfumes and also the paleness. I didn’t try layering them but it sounds like I should have. I have been reading The Hidden Life of Trees recently and oaks are incredible . It’s worth reading.

http://www.nstperfume.com/2017/09/21/jo-malone-english-oak-redcurrant-and-english-oak-hazelnut-fragrance-reviews/

My point here is that in the case of Creeds, it seems that there are quite a few men who think they are smelling specialness in scents that are reasonably good but not at all special.  And as I said in a comment to the last post, for every Creed scent I’ve tried, I’ve found one I liked better that was much cheaper, except for Vintage Tabarome, which I’m happy to own a large decant of (obtained in a swap, because the price is prohibitive to me).  I’ve liked all the Creed scents I’ve tried (perhaps 20), with the exception of Himalaya, but they just aren’t special, just variations on similar themes.  There are plenty of threads about which designer scent smells like a particular Creed, so this is certainly not my impression, and how many threads have there been comparing Green Irish Tweed to Cool Water for Men?

Women who are fragrance hobbyists seem to be much more discerning and skeptical, for whatever reason.  They may be a fan of a particular “house,” but when the house promises a special scent, it seems they are more likely to be disappointed if it is not, whereas for at least the “Creed fanboys,” all kinds of intellectual contortions will be utilized in order to maintain the fiction that Creed scents are special or head and shoulders above all others.  I guess it’s wonderful to live in such a mental universe, and perhaps the processes occurring in the brain are similar to a child watching a fantasy film that he or she is really enjoying.  But what if they were to learn that there are some great “super cheapos,” whether “clones” or not?  To me, that is truly special!  It means I get to have some olfactory enjoyment for next to nothing (for example, think of how many days one gets from one or two sprays from a 100 ml bottle as to seeing one movie at a theater, and in many cases one ticket to the movie costs more than the 100 ml bottle!).  But I guess a sense of specialness has a kind of narcotic effect that my way of thinking does not!

One last point that I have yet to address involves the claim that Viking is quite spicy at first, with claims of powerful cinnamon or pepper.  Guess what?  Halston’s Z-14 was reformulated within the last several years so that it would have a very strong cinnamon note at first!  However, that one was widely criticized for that quality.  At Fragrantica.com the notes for Z-14 are listed as:

Top notes are cypress, gardenia, green notes, basil, bergamot and lemon; middle notes are coriander, patchouli, cinnamon, jasmine, vetiver, cedar and geranium; base notes are leather, tonka bean, amber, musk, benzoin and oakmoss.

It’s possible the notes are the same but where modified, in terms of intensity, for the cinnamon-dominant formulation.  Viking has this note list:

Top Notes

Calabrian Bergamot,Sicilian Lemon, La Reunion Baie Rose

Middle Notes

Peppercorn, Bulgarian Rose, Peppermint

Base Notes

Indian Sandalwood, Haitian Vetiver, Indian Patchouli,

Lavandin Absolute

http://scentbound.co/viking-by-creed/

Why is it so difficult to some people to understand that to many others Z-14 (I bought an 8 ounce EdT bottle of the cinnamon-dominant formulation for about $12 a few years ago) might be preferred?  Even if Viking used “higher quality ingredients,” not everyone has the same sensitivity to this or that molecule, so it may not make any difference to a whole lot of people (especially if they blind tested both!).  I don’t get anything “synthetic” in any Z-14 formulation I’ve tried, and I’ve already got scents with strong peppermint, sandalwood, patchouli, and rose notes (the others in Viking I generally do not care for, unless perhaps they are weak background ones).  Moreover, quite a few reviews mention an aquatic or metallic element, and I dislike both of those qualities!  In fact, when I tried Z-14 the first time, my thought was that it was very niche-like, but of course (at least to me) the important thing is that I enjoyed it (I’m not looking to impress others with these concoctions).  To each his own, of course, but let’s try to refrain from making what are essential magical claims!

NOTE: I noticed that on another fragrance blog, a person commented:

Creed uses real ambergris, it is one of their signature notes you’ll recognize throughout nearly all their fragrances.

How does this person (apparently a woman!) know this? But let’s assume it is accurate. I could buy a tiny amount of ambergris and market a scent as containing real ambergris, simply by using enough so that there are a few molecules of it in each bottle. Nobody would be able to smell it (and if there was enough for them to smell it they might not like it!), but it might help stimulate magical thoughts about a particular company producing scents that are perceived as much “greater” than those released by other companies!

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Do we need to be discreet when discussing discreet scents?

On a recent Basenotes.net thread, a question was asked about “discreet” scents:

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/433269-Discreet-subtle-modern

The title was simply “Discreet/subtle modern.”  As one might expect, there were some rather questionable recommendations, such as Eau Sauvage, which is not only non-subtle, but it’s certainly not “modern.”  One person even suggested Pi, which is about as far from discreet as one can get!  I mentioned this, which seemed to offend him, and then I pointed out that if you are going to make such a suggestion you might want to ask yourself how that scent would fare if the opposite question were to be asked.  In this case, Pi would likely be suggested by many if the question involved the loudest scents that are widely available!

But the point I tried to make to the OP (and anyone who hadn’t thought of it previously) is that if you are like most people, and have a limited budget, then you might want to spend very little on a discreet scent that is “modern.”  I mentioned the $4 bottle of Cuba’s Silver/Blue (100 ml) I purchased recently.  It reminds me a bit of Allure Homme Sport, but simpler and more subtle, though of course one could spray more to achieve the desired effect (a major advantage of “super cheapos,” again, if you are on any kind of budget).  Someone took issue with my comment, at one point saying:

You’re not really asking why somebody would buy something nice for himself, are you? Yikes.

I guess some people see ‘discreet’ as being a bad thing. Not me. Not at all.

I never said it was “bad” to spend $80 or more on a scent that one likes, just that it might cause problems if another scent subsequently was desired but the budget had been “broken” on that discreet scent!  As most others might, I can go on a spending spree whenever I like, at least until the credit card is declined, but is that the standard for all such recommendation threads?  It sounds ridiculous to me, and what this person did was to set up a “straw man” argument, but he only made himself look desperate, for those who still respect logic to a large degree.  After all, if I could get a Lutens type scent at the dollar store, you can bet I’d stock up on them.  I wouldn’t say to myself, “I should buy something nice for myself, and there’s nothing nice at the dollar store.”  These are just smells.  You can either get what you want for let’s say $10 or less or you can’t.  If you can but you don’t you are wasting your money – at least admit it, for goodness sake!

My favorite approach lately to this “discreet scent” idea is to spray the back of my jacket with a scent that I think will be interpreted as “nice” by most people while I spray what I want to smell on my chest (when I go out in public), because to me the issue is the scent, not the strength.  One can always do things like spray into the air and walk through the mist to substantially lessen the strength – why not just wear what you want?  Just figure out how to make it subtle?  This brings me back to the Pi suggestion.  The person later claimed that one could simply wear Pi discreetly, which is true, but it’s not what the OP asked.  By contrast, my argument is that if one can barely smell a scent, why not spend very little on a “super cheapo” that gets the job done?  I can’t imagine that a subtle citrus/vanilla-dominant scent that is barely detectable is going to smell that much “better” if Lutens rather than Cuba released it (assuming Lutens would release such a scent)!  If it’s a tobacco-dominant scent, then by definition it would have to be quite subtle or else it would not be “discreet,” and again, Cuba has several scents that would function quite well in this context.

If one encounters an expensive, discreet scent that smells unique (and pleasant) then I think most of us would spray more, because we would not want to barely be able to spray it on rare occasion throughout the day.  Thus, it would no longer be “discreet!”  On the other hand, there are plenty of gourmand, oriental, etc. niche scents that people say are too weak, but it seems clear that the OP was seeking something like Prada’s Amber Pour Homme rather than something like Muscs Koublai Khan, and I’d guess this is the “modern” part of the request.  But this brings up another point I have made in the past, which is that if you want to ask for suggestions you should tell people what your experiences are – this person only mentioned two scents, and the obvious question is, if you found two that work for you, why not just wear those?  The OP’s question was actually:

What’s your preference in this area?

But everyone seems to have taken his post to mean what would they recommend to the OP.  For me, the suggestion would be the same.  In any case, I think there is often “subtext” to these kinds of threads, something along the lines of, “what do the people who really know great fragrances reach for when they are thinking they should smell modern but discreet?”  They don’t seem to want to know that there are really cheap alternatives, because when smells are really light not much is going to be detected – a musky vanilla is common, for example.  You don’t need to spend $400 per 50 ml bottle for that effect!  However, I do think there are more than a few people who do believe that there is a major difference between this and that very light scent of the same genre, as they may have been convinced by the marketing.  Nobody wants to admit this, though, and I’d guess that in most cases, once you have “bought the hype” it’s psychologically difficult to say to yourself, “you know, this Cuba scent would serve the same purpose and nobody’s going to be able to tell the difference, if they smell it at all.”  In many ways, life can be a constant struggle against self-deception.  For others, though, there is a preference to live in that happy land of nonsense businesses market to us all the time.  For those who have plenty of money, this may be less of an issue, but for those who don’t things can get bad in a hurry!

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My favorite scents are masterpieces, but yours are not!

A few years back, a Basesnotes.net member kept creating new posts, with titles such as, “Is Egoiste a masterpiece?”  After doing this a number of times, the person “disappeared.”  Clearly, it was likely a case of “trolling.”  Not long ago, someone (for whom English did not appear to be his/her native tongue) created a similar post about Terre d’Hermes.  There are a few interesting aspects to such a post, one being the question about whether these olfactory concoctions should be considered a craft rather than “fine art” (though, ironically, the concept of a masterpiece derives from the Western craft tradition).  Should a slightly innovative composition be considered for this status (assuming one accepts the application of the masterpiece concept in this context)?  Then there is this statement, from a response on that thread:

…I agree that contemporary is also a good description for Dior Homme Parfum, and that it is indeed the better masterpiece, or pièce de résistance, if one prefers.

That’s the first time I’ve ever heard someone say that a scent is a “better masterpiece,” but it goes to show how much confusion such claims can generate.  However, the aspect I want to address here is what creating a thread of this sort implies to readers.  And yes, I understand that many people tend to get “carried away” when they first experience a new scent that is very different and that they enjoyed.  That does not, however, explain why a small number of them create new threads about their experience on a site like BN.  And if you suggest this is the case, many will apparently get angry.  How dare you rain on their parades!  Do such people ever ask themselves, “what about the people who don’t think it’s a masterpiece – how will they feel – am I essentially calling them fragrance plebeians?”  By contrast, I either like a scent enough to want to own quite a bit of it (let’s say at least 50 ml of a strong one) or I don’t.  So, why do some people feel the need to “defend” the scents they view as masterpieces?

Coincidentally, I was reading a book at the same time that this TdH thread was created on BN.  It’s called “Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents” (by psychologist Lindsay C. Gibson).  I heard it referenced and my first thought was, “my parents were about as emotionally immature as I could imagine,” so I read some reviews and decided to acquire a copy.  It is very good.  It’s concise, provides plenty of professional references (many that I encountered in the past), and “hits the nail on the head” time and again.  For those interested, I think I was spared some of the worst effects of this situation because my parents were so over-the-top immature that even as a young child I could only take them so seriously.  Thus, I didn’t develop the guilt that many others apparently do (many such parents are rigid, stern, uncompromising, etc., but mine were literally like selfish, obnoxious teenagers much of the time!).

In any case, in this book, the author brings up a concept she called role coercion:

Role coercion occurs when people insist that someone live out a role because they want them to. As parents, they try to force their children into acting a certain way by not speaking to them, threatening to reject them, or getting other family members to gang up against them. Role coercion often involves a heavy dose of shame and guilt, such as telling a child that he or she is a bad person for wanting something the parent disapproves of.

I think this is what happened, at least to some degree, on that TdH thread.  And I was wondering how many who behaved in a way consistent with this quote were raised by emotionally immature parents!  Of course, it’s clearly immature to want someone to share your tastes, but that is what emotionally immature parents tend to expect of their children.  And that would seem to be what emotionally immature people do in their interactions with others, in general.  I think the fragrance hobby is a great place to see the differences in the emotional maturity of people.  Some have become quite upset by the undeniable reality that these are just smells, for example.  And this brings me to what seems to be a major distinction, which is that some people don’t seem to have much of a concept of the self.  They use the reactions of others to provide clues about who they are or what they should think or do.  In the book, Gibson articulates the concept of mirroring:

…emotionally immature parents expect their children to know and mirror them. They can get highly upset if their children don’t act the way they want them to. Their fragile self-esteem rides on things going their way every time.

It’s funny on some level that some people care so much about what anonymous internet people think.  The more mature approach, it would seem, is to state your case and not worry about it, but many if not most seem to need a sense of engagement, as if they belong to a kind of virtual family (one wonders how much of a role this played in the last Presidential election!).  In that thread, I made the point that it’s important to respect the opinions of others as opinions, even if one did not agree with it, but that is not the way the world is seen by emotionally immature people.  They also tend to think that they can read minds, whereas since I suspected the person who created the thread might have been a “troll,” I raised the issue but did not argue that he/she must be one.

Of course I can’t say this is what the creator of the BN thread was thinking, but the thread didn’t make a lot of sense.  If he wanted to know of a scent like TdH but that many thought was superior, he could has simply asked that question!  There’s no need to make the masterpiece claim without even explaining why you think that is the case!  At least the BN member from a few years ago asked if this or that scent was a masterpiece, rather than announcing it as if he she were some sort of unquestioned authority (as emotionally immature parents view themselves relative to their children).  So, I hope that this post will help others think about what might be going on in the minds of people who make odd claims, but it also might help some recognize that their parents are emotionally immature, and so there’s no reason to blame yourself or allow them to “guilt trip” you.  That would be a much greater accomplishment than criticizing yet another “masterpiece” thread posted to BN!

And it’s not just one’s parents who might be immature.  Your boss, friend, teacher, religious leader, “significant other,” etc. might possess some of these qualities, obviously.  In fact, in that BN thread (and also on an old post of mine here), I used an analogy that upset some people, which is not common; usually people simply agree or disagree that an analogy is useful).  The context was being asked to keep trying a “masterpiece” scent until I finally “got it” (which I did with Cool Water, at least five wearing spaced across years, and never liked it, though I do like some similar ones), and so I said something like, “we don’t ask people who are heterosexual to try gay sex until they enjoy it, do we?”  Of course, the opposite would apply to gay people, though unfortunately there are still more than a few people, apparently, who actually believe gay people just need to try heterosexual sex until they finally enjoy it!  The point is that there is no reason for a mature person to react with horror at such an analogy; you either think it makes sense or you don’t.  I think it’s a great analogy because I actually tried Cool Water several times whereas I simply have no intention of trying gay sex, as is probably the case for most people who think of themselves as heterosexuals.  I guess these people can’t stop themselves from imagining certain sex acts, and if that is the case, then it’s a clear indication the person has some maturity issues to work through.

On a side note, I have been asked how it was possible for someone like myself to exist after being raised the way I was, and Gibson has a statement in her book that again seems to be spot on:

If you had an independent, self-reliant personality, your parent wouldn’t have seen you as a needy child for whom he or she could play the role of rescuing parent. Instead, you may have been pegged as the child without needs, the little grown-up. It wasn’t some sort of insufficiency in you that made your parent pay more attention to your sibling; rather, it’s likely that you weren’t dependent enough to trigger your parent’s enmeshment instincts.
Interestingly, self-sufficient children who don’t spur their parents to become enmeshed are often left alone to create a more independent and self-determined life (Bowen 1978). Therefore, they can achieve a level of self-development exceeding that of their parents. In this way, not getting attention can actually pay off in the long run.

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Fake Niche versus Real Niche.

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

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

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

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.

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/435681-Amouage-Reflection-Man

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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 Basenotes.net 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.

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/432482-What-do-the-quot-big-guys-quot-have-that-you-don-t?p=4023091#post4023091

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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