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My Iso E Super Irritation Chart.

There was a recent thread on Basenotes. net about the aroma chemical, Iso E Super (IES), and I thought it would make sense to point out some of my observations.  First, though, I’ll mention others have noted the IES amounts in scents that contain the most of it (though it’s more “restricted” these days and hence the same scent may now have a different amount than when it was originally released; Terre d’Hermes seems to be a good example of this).  I’ll quote the Wikipedia page on IES:

The fragrance Eternity by Calvin Klein (1988) contained 11.7% Iso E Super in the fragrance portion of the formula…

The male fragrance Fahrenheit (Dior, 1988) is 25% Iso E Super. (of the fragrance compound)…

The men’s fragrance Encre Noire (Lalique, 2006) is 45% of the fragrance compound, Iso E Super…

The very popular Terre D’Hermes (Hermes, 2006) contains 55% Iso E Super (of the perfume compound)…

The men’s fragrance Fierce Cologne (Abercrombie & Fitch, 2002) is 48% Iso E Super…

Creed’s Aventus (2010) contains 18% Iso E Super in its fragrance compound.

I included these because I have tried them all, though I don’t remember Aventus that well.  I do have the “clone,” Club de Nuit Intense for Men, and that one does have a quality I associate with IES, but when I’m in the mood it is bearable.  However, Fierce, vintage Fahrenheit, Encre Noire, and TdH all have been overbearing, though a 2011 TdH batch seemed just a bit less irritating than the one I sampled in 2008 (IES seems to bother me as much now as it did back then, despite changes in sensitivity to other things or overall).  On that BN thread, I was criticized for pointing this out, since (obviously) Fierce was never 48% IES.  Instead, this refers to the fragrance portion of the liquid content of the bottle.  I didn’t think I had to point that out because it has been pointed out many times before, on several fragrance sites and blogs.  Do I have to mention that these are all alcohol-based scents too?  Note that it doesn’t really matter in terms of a chart, that is, if one has the percentages and can correlate those to personal irritation, that’s all that matters in this context!

In any case, Eternity for Men is an interesting example, because I have found that while it doesn’t have the overbearing quality that the “IES heavy hitters” do, there’s something about it I really don’t like that seems to go beyond the notes, as if there was a kind of fume-like element.  On the other hand, Aventus wasn’t especially irritating in that way, so it may have been a combination of aroma chemicals in Eternity, such as calone, dihydromyrcenol, a woody/amber, and/or some sort of “white musk.”  Clearly, there’s no way to know for sure without proper testing, and even so, that would only be useful for a particular individual.  What I can say with confidence is that the fume-like quality I detect in the IES heavy hitters is IES, because they are a rather diverse group of fragrances, and I don’t have a problem with the major components of those in other compositions that are similar.

For example, I have more than a few scents where vetiver is obvious, such as Guerlain’s, Vetiver de Puig, Monsieur Lanvin Vetyver, and vintage Carven Vetiver, yet none of these have anything remotely like that fume-ish quality in the IES heavy hitters.  I remember a very strong fume-ish quality in a bottle of Le Roi Soleil Homme (Dali) around 2008, and since it is similar to Eternity, my guess is that there is more IES in that one.  Of course, until someone tests it with MS/GC, only a few people probably know (and there may have been significant reformulations since that time).  In the meantime, one might want to consider the list of scents with lesser amounts of IES, which you can find on the Perfume Shrine blog:

http://perfumeshrine.blogspot.com/2009/03/iso-e-super-its-merits-its-faults-geza.html

Eau Duelle by Diptyque is listed, and I wore that not long ago.  I was surprised by how long it lasted without becoming too heavy, syrupy, or outright vanillic, and so I’d guess IES was used here in a subtle way.  And this is where I’d like to tie things in with my recent post about “niche Guerlainade.”  That is, there are quite a few scents that are dominated by a kind of fume-like, dry wood.  The Perfume Shrine blog lists Kyoto (55%) and Jaisalmer (51%), for example, and I don’t remember liking any of that series due to the dryness mainly.  However, I had dab samples and only dabbed a tiny amount on my wrists, which is a mistake I made as a newbie.  In any case, since then, a number of niche companies seem to think it’s a great idea to use this as a kind of base and add a little of this or that to the composition.  I think Stash is a good example of this, and since it should be widely available (if it isn’t already) you might be able to sample it a local stores.

NOTE:  The word “chart” in the title was used loosely.  The point I want to make is that it seems like it’s not just the amount of IES but how it’s handled, though my guess is that somewhere in the 10-20% range is where I begin to encounter irritation, and by 40% or so it’s unbearable.  Also, whenever there is a thread on this subject on BN it seems like one or more people mention scents that may not contain much if any IES (but may contain a lot of other aroma chemicals, such as calone or dihyromyrcenol).  This has led to some “doubters” claiming that one can’t smell IES or that it’s pleasant, as if there would be something major wrong with them if anyone found it irritating.  Apparently, they have never heard of chemical sensitivity syndromes!  On the other hand, some of us may still retain an ability to detect unhealthy substances – until more research is done, the picture might not be clear (at least to my reading of the existing evidence).  My grandparents, for instance, would never admit to being irritated by an odor.  When my grandmother burned something in the kitchen, it was “she’s got the fan on now, there’s ‘no problem.”  And when we drove in their car and it was sucking in fumes from a truck in front of us, they would say they couldn’t smell anything at all.

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They’re not just smells? Then what are they?

On Basenotes.net, a member started a thread recently, apparently in response to a comment I had made a few times in the past, which is that these concoctions are just smells.  He is the same person who thinks I’m a “niche hater,” or something along those lines, so his claim that these are not just smells is at least consistent.  Now I wouldn’t have written up this post from a scientific perspective, because there is no question these are just smells, if we are talking about the liquid portion of what we get when we purchase a “personal fragrance.”  Of course some might be carcinogenic if used in large amounts relative to others, or some may cause a rash on some people, but not others, etc.  That sort of thing is clearly not the point he apparently was trying to make.

Instead of addressing any one person in particular, with one exception (see below), I want to address the argument that these are more than smells.  First of all, there is marketing, which is often clearly designed to prompt strong emotional responses from at least some people.  By contrast, I am the kind of person who gets mildly irritated (for a very short period of time) and then goes into mockery mode when someone tells me that one of these concoctions really does capture an emotion, a specific landscape, a memory, a time period (Victorian seems to be one of if not the most popular in this context), etc.   You may think it does that for you, and you might be willing to pay a few hundred dollars for a 50 ml bottle because of this, but it doesn’t work that way for me, so keep in mind that not everyone has the same personality, background, etc. (and even if a scent could be evocative in one of these ways, why should it be worth that much to others? – this brings up differing priorities/value systems, yet another factor).

There are of course memories that might be associated with a scent.  For me, it’s my grandfather’s Brut (he passed away several years ago), but I still assess the scent as a scent.  I’m not going to wear it or not wear it because he did.  When I apply it I might think of him, but then I’ll move along with other things I want to do, and the scent will be assessed based upon how much I enjoy it.  So, does that mean that Brut is more than just a smell to me?  Well, I wouldn’t keep a bottle around if I didn’t like it; if I didn’t, I might recognize it on someone else and that would remind me of him, but how could I know if it wasn’t another scent that smelled similar?  When I first blind bought Sung Homme, for example, I thought to myself, “that smells exactly like my third grade teacher,” so he must have been using it.  The problem?  It wasn’t released until two or three years later!

So what do we then say, to keep this argument from sinking?  That a certain type of olfactory formula concocted by a major fragrance company is more than a smell?  Well, to them it is, meaning profits (if they get it right), but it certainly isn’t to anyone else, unless that person wants it to be.  I knew one woman who had a doll that she more or less viewed as her child.  It got lost during a move and she was really upset, and still thinks about it from time to time (as if it’s a child who died!).  Anyone can “cathect” to an object – this has been known for quite some time, and you don’t need a Ph.D. in psychology to realize this occurs with some people, if not most.  But to tell someone else they should cathect one particular scent because you do strikes me as absurd because it suggests the person doesn’t understand that not everyone feels the same way about all the objects in this world of ours!

How many new releases are there each year?  Should I be required to sample all of them, year after year, just so someone I don’t know can say that I have cathected with it, even if I have not?  One person on that BN thread said that scents are like food, so they must be more than smells.  Again, scientifically this is not true, because if you ate certain diets that you enjoy you might become nutritionally deficient and even die, whereas if you never use one of these olfactory concoctions you might be healthier than if you do!  And just because you are wealthy doesn’t mean you will prefer the “finest” caviar to a Big Mac.  Saying such things just shows how much some people have been influenced by socially constructed values.  Undeniably, more “care” or “quality” has been put into some scents, but we can only guess about which ones, because even some niche scents can smell like “chemical nightmares!”  However, some people really seem to buy into marketing campaigns aimed at getting more than a few people to cathect their scents, and so what can one say to such people?

NOTE:  Some like to argue that there is “art” involved with some scents but not others, though that is basically a philosophical claim, and as those of you with philosophical backgrounds know, philosophers have argued with other philosophers for their entire adults live without resolution, nor with hardly anyone else in the world being interested in their debates.  Of course, when one begins to learn about the industry and samples a large number of scents, one may get the idea that some are crafted or designed in a more thoughtful or unique way than most others, but how does that change the fact that these are just smells, unless for one reason or another a particular type of concoction gets cathected in our minds?  Obviously, we wouldn’t be talking about these scents if they were all literal; how many people argue that cedar essential oil is “better” than eucalyptus essential oil?  Clearly, that would be outright ridiculous!  It’s all about context, and your context is not likely to be exactly like mine, and it may not even be all that close.

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No! Just, no…

The title of this post refers to the thought that crossed my mind when I read the following (a review of L’Envol by Cartier at Basenotes.net):

I sampled this at Nordstrom and was pleasantly surprised. I have been looking for a replacement for Patou Pour Homme, and it looks like I FOUND IT!!! This smells very similar to Patou Pour Homme. Is also smells very similar to Versace’s The Dreamer. The bottle is beautiful also. This is definitely a formal fragrance, suitable for a black tie event or for a CEO/VP/EVP of a Fortune 500 company. I absolutely LOVE IT!!!

What is one to make of this?  There’s simply no way any scent made in 2016 is going to smell “very similar” to the original Patou Pour Homme, and he must not mean the re-release of it because that is still available (more about this below).  Even if he did, the notes are quite different.  For 2013 PPH (from Fragrantica.com and Parfumo.net, respectively):

Top notes provide us with a blend of bergamot, lemon, galbanum and pepper, which give way to lavender, jasmine, rose, tarragon and violet in the heart. Robustness and crudeness come from base notes of patchouli, olibanum and amber.

For L’Envol (from Parfumo.net):

Honey, Gaiac wood, Patchouli, Musk, Iris.

Now if some “dis ding stinks” reviewer had written it, I wouldn’t have bothered to write this post, but it was written by someone who was writing reviews in the early days of BN and has written 165 reviews there alone.  It’s also worth noting that the many other reviews of L’Envol are inconsistent with his comparisons.  It’s one thing to say that part of a scent smells like this or that other one, but to say any scent is very similar to PPH and The Dreamer is difficult to believe.  With a complex scent, such as Claude Montana’s Parfum d’Homme (“red box”), one can say it’s similar to a whole bunch of fragrances, in this or that way (especially when those kinds of complex fougeres were being marketed by just about every major “house” at the time).  But to say that 1980 PPH could bear any significant similarity to L’Envol, let alone be very similar, is beyond comprehension – here are the notes for 1980 PPH (from Fragrantica):

Top notes are lavender, clary sage and basil; middle notes are patchouli, geranium, vetiver and fir; base notes are leather, civet, vanilla and tonka bean.

Another reason I thought I should write this post is because I have not sampled either the 2013 PPH or L’Envol – both are beyond my budget as blind buys at this point, but if I thought I’d like either of them I’d try to obtain a sample, especially for the less expensive L’Envol.  What I fear in L’Envol is the musk and gaiac wood in particular.  The former can have a piercing quality that doesn’t let up for hours (especially as some reviewers call it “white” or “clean” musk – those are the ones I can’t tolerate), and the latter seems to take over a composition and render it irritating after a while.  Thus, I would totally disregard his review of it, but what about his other reviews?   Obviously, after reading his L’Envol review, I would be very wary of anything else he had to say.  I looked through some of his other reviews and found a few other claims I would take issue with, though some other opinions were “on target,” in my experience.

The “moral of the story” may be that even if you find a reviewer whose preferences are similar to yours, you probably should still read all the other reviews (and consider the listed notes, year it was released, reputation of the “house,” perfumer, etc.), then think about the possibilities.  Is any 2016 scent going to smell very similar to “vintage” PPH?  Come on!  Does vintage PPH smell anything like The Dreamer?  Perhaps to someone who is having some major olfactory issues, but not the rest of us “experienced noses.”  As “newbies,” we tend to smell something similar and think, “these two scents are similar,” but when we gain more experience we realize it may have been an accord or note, but that the scents are not especially similar, let alone very similar.  For example, in 2005 this reviewer (who might have been a newbie at the time) wrote this review for Yatagan at BN:

whatIn one word, CHEAP. I sent the bottle back to the company. It was very cheap-smelling and smelled like the inside of particle-board kitchen cupboard in a mobile home. Ugh! Yes, there’s also some kind of “celery” scent in there too, kind of like old celery salt that was kept in that old particle-board kitchen cupboard. There are better fragrances out there than this. If you want a woody type of fragrance, go with Gucci pour Homme or Gucci Rush, both are woody and nice. Perhaps Caron was trying to copy M7 by Yves St. Laurent, as there is a slight similarity between the two smelling like particle-board cupboards.

I can’t understand how 2005 Yatagan could smell cheap (I have a newer formulation and that’s the last thing I would think, even though I’m not much of a fan of it).  And what is this “particle-board” thing?  Does he think it smells that way, or that it was just a bunch of spice/herb notes thrown together without much thought?  And M7 came after Yatagan (2002 versus 1978)!  Like another “old time” reviewer at BN, I think this individual sometimes has difficultly keeping his emotions under control while thinking about these concoctions.  From what I’ve read, that seems to be a major problem, even for those who are considerably more thoughtful than the “dis ding stinks” reviewers.

Though I may never have read reviews by some of the other reviewers ofL’Envol, they seem to do a much better job of describing it (and their perceptions are consistent with each other and the notes), for example:

…It opens with an earthy blast of patchouli followed by a beautiful honeywood combo with an earthy patchouli vibe on the background. Towards the dry down the Iris shines bringing the typical powderiness to the composition.It literally smells like a piece of hard timber coated with honey with a powdery earthy background…

…this is not the iris that is more “common” nowadays, with the famous lipstick smell. The iris here is also sharp… it reminded me of the signature smell of vintage Must for women…

Honey, but not the usual sweet, spicy and warm. This indeed reminds me of mead, fermented, bubbly, sweet and sour at the same time.

Plus woods, warm round woods, and something vaguely soapy and powdery.

Honeyed iris on a bare untreated wooden table.

..its pleasantly opulent almost velvety not overly sweet its almost dry in a subtle ambery vanilic white woody way with hints of iris and maybe some sort of resin…

On me it starts out somewhat cloying (too sweet), and then the honeyed scent sours somewhat on my skin…

Sweet unisex, woody and honey.

…Towards the dry down the Iris shines bringing the typical powderiness to the composition.It literally smells like a piece of hard timber coated with honey with a powdery earthy background…

On BN there are fewer reviews but these are mostly similar, for example:

I get honey, musk and wood, just as described…

Airy musk, honey, patchouli and iris gives a classy aroma.

L’Envol starts with slightly powdery florals (woody ionones/iris), musk and honey. The musk is clean and modern and the honey devoid of any heavy sweetness or animalic nuances…  I was struck by a lightning when the fragrance revealed a fougere vibe, a short of Cool Water/Or Black mix paired with a slug of smoky gaiac and some patchouli. Things here turn soapy but with a strong woods presence.

Putting aside all the talk of honey and powdery patchouli (of which there is a lot, in a subtle, sheer way), what really struck me about L’Envol was the strong violet leaf presence it has…

It sounds like a scent I’d like to sample, but I’d guess there is no better than a 20% chance I’d want a bottle (and would likely wait for prices to come down even then).  I don’t like strong wood notes, especially gaiac, and I can’t say that strong honey sounds appealing here, nor do I like what I call “steely iris” notes (when too strong), which seems to be the kind in L’Envol (and the soapy/fougere comment is alarming – I have no interest in another scent with that element!).  Note that there are also some comparisons to Fahrenheit, which presumably is strong violet or violet leaf (perhaps a combination), but again, what would this have to do with 1980 PPH?  The 2013 PPH might have a similar violet or violet leaf quality, so he could be especially sensitive to this note/aroma chemical, but when one looks at his reviews on BN, he has only reviewed the 1980 one!  In that review, he claims that he found a replacement for it in The Dreamer. The best analogy I can think of for his L’Envol review is to consider two people.  One might like vanilla ice cream and the other chocolate, or they both might like the vanilla or the chocolate.  But one likes vanilla ice cream with mustard as the topping.  It gets worse, though, because he also claims the mustard makes it taste sweeter!  Who can “make heads or tails” of that?

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Living in this new era of “fake facts.”

One thing I used to emphasize to students is the importance of learning to communicate clearly and concisely.   You begin with a statement of your purpose, for example.  You can then explain why you came to your conclusions, as mention the evidence to support it.  After that you could examine the evidence in detail.  In the conclusion, you could argue why other explanations are not sufficient.  A key element here is to always make distinctions whenever it seems helpful to do so.  So, in the case of fragrances, it’s important to distinguish between “modern perfumery” and other kinds of notions about generating odors designed to please. Modern perfumery includes aroma chemicals that extend the experience beyond a few minutes to up to several hours (compared to something like traditional “rose water”).

This brings me to a passage from a Fragrantica.com review of Sauvage:

It is expensive, like all Dior fragrances, but I’d say it is worth every cent because it is really high quality (I don’t mean that it is natural smelling, because it is not, but it smells like it has quality ingredients and it performs that way too).

Now the odd thing here is not that he is “wrong,” but that if he can be said to be “correct,” I don’t think he would realize why!  For instance, what could Sauvage have in it that is “high quality?”  Nothing, but it might have large amounts of some ingredient that isn’t especially cheap by the industry standards of today.  That’s not exactly high praise by any measure, but it may be accurate.  To me, this is a major problems with “mainstream” designer releases, that is, the aroma chemicals seem to be used in such large amounts that these soon become incredibly irritating, even if one could argue these are not objectively “strong” (perhaps to those walking by).  An analogy would be makeup.  If a woman puts on too much, she looks ridiculous, but there is a certain range of social acceptability, depending upon a number of factors.  Nobody looks at a woman who nearly everyone thinks applied too much makeup and thinks that the makeup is “high quality” because it doesn’t run off her face or do something that demonstrates a major quality control issue!

Of course we could criticize the reviewer by asking an obvious question, how do you know how much it cost Dior to create the fragrance portion?  The fragrance chemist I spoke to didn’t believe much thought went into Sauvage, and you don’t need to be a fragrance chemist to notice how “chemical” it is (as the reviewer himself does) – more than a few have pointed out how deodorant-like it is, for example.  One could argue that it might have been tested to make sure it didn’t irritate the public so much it would soon garner a terrible reputation, but again, this is a low bar, and not exactly “the stuff of greatness.”  Instead, this kind of comment comes across to me as someone who, for whatever reason, experienced strong positive emotions when he tried Sauvage.  On some level it’s like the reviewer who said that nearly every scent he reviewed was “so fresh and warm.”  One of my main criticisms of Sauvage is that it basically shouts out, “I am totally chemical, now hear me roar!”  No, I can go get a bottle of Lysol and smell something better!  Why?  It’s just as “chemical” but I prefer the citrus/pine combination to whatever Sauvage wants to be when it grows up.  Would Green Irish Tweed be “better” if more dihydromyrcenol was included?

And to be clear, yet again, I don’t hold anything against a person who enjoys Sauvage (or who has a social use for it), but it’s time to stop talking about it being great or special or unique or a breakthrough or a masterpiece.  It is unique in the same way that the other 2000 or so releases last year were – it doesn’t smell exactly like another of these olfactory concoctions (though supposedly there is a now a Zara scent that is very close).  Another point argued is that Sauvage is “worth every cent,” which could lead to a very long discussion about how individuals value objects in a society like ours.  I’ve addressed this in the past, mentioning that some just go to the local department stores and buy what seems “new,” “fresh,” or whatever the conceptualization of the moment is.  And of course nobody is going to spend money of any kind on a smell product that makes them feel ill.  Here I’ll just say you can’t tell other people how to perceive “money well spent.”  Someone might go on a job interview reeking of Sauvage and get the job of his dreams, and so he might think it was worth a small fortune, but does the guy who didn’t get the job think that Sauvage cost him his opportunity to obtain the “American Dream?”  Don’t worry about trying to “take care of others” with your fragrance recommendations.  Just explain why you like or dislike it  I think this reviewer should have just said, “I feel fresh and invigorated when I spray it on, and I know almost everyone around me will think I smell good – that’s all I want.”  If you make claims that are clearly specious, though, you open yourself up to mockery, ridicule, etc.

Now as to the title of this post, suppose one were to encounter this:

The best of the vintage scents cannot be replicated today.  Niche is like a joke – imagine a bad version of a “Star Wars” type of film and the director says this is the best he or she can do under the circumstances, and that viewers should be very pleased with a what he/she considers a close approximation.  Who is going to take such a person seriously?  It’s a matter of probably something like $1.25 fragrance cost per 100 ml bottle versus $5, and they don’t want to pay that extra money, despite the retail price of a couple of hundred dollars or so.

Is is a fact, a fake fact, a likely notion, something that could be true in some cases but definitely is not in all?  This is the problem with the fragrance industry, and it’s why I was so glad to be able to speak to a fragrance chemist, even if he/she may not have all the information we’d like to know.  We have to constantly “play detective,” trying to fit the pieces that seem to be true together into a “big picture.”  Remember that this is the original “fake facts” industry, with various ludicrous historical claims being made by companies that only seem to become more popular as the apparent lies are discussed in more and more detail!  And then there are the fake facts being invented mostly by anonymous internet people, such as to decant a quarter ounce from your sealed bottle and in a few months it will smell the same but much stronger!  And not long ago we witnessed Andy Tauer complaining about bloggers and the cost of “free” samples – how am I to assess that?  The age of going to the local library and finding a book on a subject in order to develop some expertise is over – in this new age it seems like we need to first learn how to evaluate claims before we should think to study the actual subject.  And few are willing to spend time on “process” – they want to get to the “good stuff” quickly, even if it’s mostly false.  Perhaps the only positive element here is that as “fake facts” get more attention, there will be more interest in debunking these claims rather than spreading them.

UPDATE:  I just noticed a new review of Club de Nuit Intense for Men that includes the following:

This cologne doesn’t always smell great with the first few sprays out of the bottle, but it gets better after it’s been sprayed a few times. Check the YouTube reviewer impressions, it seems they’ve experienced this as well. Also, I mentioned this in my review below as well!

Is this a fake fact?  It is certainly true that with older scents that have been lying around for years, there may be some liquid in the tube that indeed smells very bad, and so that needs to be sprayed out in order to avoid the unpleasantness.  Could that be what this person is referencing?  It’s highly unlikely in a recently-marketed scent that is obviously almost all synthetic, especially if the claim is being made by several people, but it’s certainly not impossible.  Moreover, the reviewer implies that it goes from mediocre to good or excellent, not from rancid/spoiled to at least good, which is further support of perceptual changes that are being mistaken for physical ones, presumably because the person is lacking in self-awareness in this context (which is very common – as I’ve said before, just watch one episode of “Brain Games” to get a sense of the “games” the mind can “play” on one!).  In this case of this scent in particular, I think that the strong “chemical” element can be off-putting to those who are not used to it, and so their minds need time to “process” it as potentially pleasant in the context of the overall composition.

UPDATE #2:  On another fragrance blog, this post was heavily criticized, in ways that are incomprehensible to me (for example, I never claimed that my site was “news,” but have always said it is my opinion), and therefore I’m not going to address it in detail.  I will mention that a few commenters made equally bizarre claims, this being one:

Let’s even assume for a second that the “fragrance chemist” and his quote are real, then we can safely assume that this chemist was taking the proverbial piss out. I mean: chemist notes the composition is chemical?!

I don’t know what “taking the piss out” means here, but the chemist didn’t say Sauvage was “chemical.”  The reviewer himself did, as I stated explicitly (and I agree that it smells highly “chemical” – is there anyone with just a bit of experience who would say otherwise?).  Instead, the chemist thought the perfumer more or less just “signed off” on the composition after it was made by others.  This blogger seems obsessed with the notion that he is some sort of gatekeeper (I’m not sure of what) but then he encourages readers when they state obviously wrong things!  I guess it’s fun to have an “echo chamber,” but I’d rather listen to constructive criticism and try to improve my understanding of a subject.

UPDATE #3:  Chuck Todd speaking to Kellyanne Conway on “Meet the Press,” 1/22/17:

…Four of the five facts he uttered were just not true. Look, alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods.

…you sent the press secretary out there to utter a falsehood on the smallest, pettiest thing.

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Why I usually don’t respond to recommendations posts.

These kinds of posts seem to be quite popular, in terms of the number of responses that are usually generated (at least on Basenotes.net), yet I am often confounded by many of those responses.  Some seem to have the “subtext” of, “welcome to our exclusive club – you must buy this $200 scent or else you are not worthy.”  I’ve addressed that kind of thing in other posts, saying that when a high school student asks about what he should wear during his Prom, suggesting vintage Kouros makes no sense, for example.

Of course, those who create such posts are often at least partially to blame,  because it’s common for not enough information to be furnished, and so they get so many different kinds of recommendations – usually, they would be better off just going to whatever local store has some testers available.  Often, they don’t even provide a general price range.  One such thread was created not long ago, with the title of, “Fragrances similar to LDDM that are more wearable?”  The original post to that thread is:

“I really like the dry down to LDDM, but I feel like the dryness before then precludes me from wearing it more/as on office scent. What are some fragrances that are similar but more wearable that I could add to my wardrobe instead?”

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/419675-Fragrances-similar-to-LDDM-that-are-more-wearable

I decided to try and “probe” the person into supplying more information with this post:

“Perhaps vintage Acteur? I’m not sure what kind of scent you are seeking, as I found it to be quite dry all the way through.”

Someone else then wrote this post:

“Please no offense Bigsly, but LDDM is one of my favorites and Azzaro’s Acteur is a total scrubber for me.
It would take someone with far more catholic tastes than I to like both.”

First, whether this person enjoys one but dislikes the other is totally irrelevant here.  Second, there is  a substantial difference between vintage and recent Acteur, the recent one having a kind of “sticky” quality that does not possess the note separation or “naturalness” of the vintage formulation.  Thus, this person did not address my recommendation – we do not know which formulation to which he refers!  His claim about “catholic tastes” suggests an attempt at being offensive after saying “no offense,” but I really don’t care – I don’t have to interact with this individual in “real life” and he can be as ridiculous as he likes in this context, AFAIC.

However, let’s get back to the person who wanted the advice.   The notes for “LDDM” are:

“The top is combined of coriander, cumin with a hint of petitgrain. The heart features rock rose and jasmine. The base includes cedar, vetiver and ambergris.”

And for Acteur these are the notes (both taken from Fragrantica.com):

“Top notes are fruity notes, nutmeg flower, bergamot and cardamom; middle notes are carnation, patchouli, jasmine, vetiver, cedar and rose; base notes are leather, amber, musk and oakmoss.”

Comments about the drydown in reviews vary, with some talking about woodiness or incense while others talk about amber.  The person who created the post seems to think that LDDM becomes less dry and presumably at least a bit softer/ambery, but the key point here is that he said he wanted something that he could recognize as similar but solved the issues he had with LDDM.  In the past I had suggested Black Tourmaline, and I would have done that here if the question was along these lines.  I asked him about vintage Acteur because there are some similarities, and IMO it’s not nearly as dry as LDDM, but it is spicy and woody.  After 24 hours, this person did not respond again to his own thread, so I just “closed the book,” but I wish others would be more mindful of what is actually being asked!

And the reality is that so often we see posts such as this very recent one:

“So i am a 22 year old college student. I’ve been looking to get some kind of fragrance just because im not a fan of scented body washes and i want to at least smell good and be a bit different. I have done a lot of research and i think ive done way too much because now i dont know what the hell to get. its like once you enter the black hole of fragrance you cant find your way out lol. For now since its winter i want something that is better for colder weather. I know i want something a little more mature than something like 1 million but i still want to retain that slightly sweeter vibe since i am in college and the girls around are in the 18-24 age range. I want something thats sexy but not a clubbing scent and still has that masculine mature vibe but has that sweetness to it that girls in my age range will like. I really lean towards D&G the one as it seems to encompass all of that and is something the girls love, but im aware its performance sucks and i do want something thats going to preform since i am a busy college student running around all day. I also obviously dont want something that everyone else is wearing like ADG and so on. I know its cheap but perry ellis 360 black is catching my eye simply due to the notes and appearing very similar to D&Gs the one based on reviews. Ed hardy villain is supposed to be close but i saw it doesnt have the tobacco which seems like it would take away that mature masculinity The one has. Anyway i would appreciate it if anyone could at least guide me in the direction i should be going because after all my research, i am all over the place.”

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/431783-Beginner-who-is-lost-in-the-black-hole-of-fragrances

Someone suggested Egoiste, which seems entirely inappropriate, but at least there were mostly reasonable suggestions.  One that was not was Pure Malt, which doesn’t seem appropriate for mature/school environments.  I think it would be best for such a person to sample at a local mall/Ulta/Sephora, but otherwise (if blinding buying is going to be done) I’d say there couldn’t be a better example of someone who should be looking for excellent “cheapos.”  I decided to not just give some advice but to also try to get my point across about inappropriate recommendations – this is my post to that thread:

“First, asking this kind of question here is bound to make you more confused, and might get a bunch of suggestions for $200+ scents that are not at all appropriate for your demographic (assuming you care about that – not everyone does). There are plenty of great and inexpensive scents, but it seems like people who come here as newbies and ask such questions usually want to think they are getting something ‘special,’ as if there were such a thing as a special smell (it’s good to see you may not be one of them!). To be sure, some smell more complex, unique, etc., but at this point the difference between the best ‘cheapos’ and really expensive scents is not vast, and personal preference of course matters to most people. So, my advice would be Police Gold Wings if you like absinthe/licorice notes (was about $10 at Notino not long ago, for 50 ml) and Magnet for Men by Eclectic Collections ($8/100 ml at Perfume Emporium not long ago).

NOTE: I have Villain but I’d be concerned about reformulations. If you can get the one made by New Wave it might work for you, though the strong sandalwood note might be too ‘old’ for your demographic.”

I’m not sure why sandalwood notes are considered “old,” but I’ve read that so many times I thought I should mention it.  I remember that when I was a newbie I created this kind of thread at least once, asking about scents with a strong cinnamon note.  I’m not sure I could even distinguish a strong cinnamon note from a strong spice note of a different type at that time, but I can’t assume someone who creates a post like this is in that same position.  To me there’s a kind of “first, do no harm” to these kinds of recommendations.  A low cost scent that seems to be much higher in “quality” than one would expect and that meets the person’s criteria is an obvious candidate.  Egoiste and Pure Malt are much more “risky,” by comparison, and such recommendations appear to be based upon that person’s preferences rather than a thoughtful consideration of what the person is seeking.

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My interview with a fragrance industry chemist.

https://i1.wp.com/www.northeastern.edu/careers/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/art-of-interviewing.jpg

A while back I swapped with someone who mentioned he’s a fragrance industry chemist (after I asked why he was swapping it – he said he got it for free at work), so of course I had to ask if he didn’t mind answering some questions. At first he agreed, but then he spoke to someone at his company and was concerned about contract violations, so I told him I’d keep his identity anonymous, and I decided to wait as well, just in case someone in the company he works for decided to poke around after talking to him about this.  He did say that a sense of secrecy pervades the industry, and I got the impression that it might go into the realm of paranoia in some cases, just as it seemed to when I asked the former L’Oreal representative (from whom I bought a test bottle of KL Homme Lagerfeld) for an interview several years ago (she agreed at first, I submitted questions, telling her she could answer whichever ones she wanted, however she wanted, and then never heard from her again).  I had a few more questions, but I am glad this person was willing to answer quite a few, if not all.  Of course, just because someone worked in the industry or is a fragrance chemist doesn’t mean he/she is correct all the time, and it may be that there are differences from one “house” to another.  That’s why I used an identity checker web site (which I paid for) and asked probably the most well-known writer about fragrances (at least in English) to review this exchange, and I was told that there wasn’t anything that looked strange or inconsistent.  Nevertheless, I certainly would prefer to name the chemist, but I won’t renege on a promise, and my belief is that it’s worth “putting it out there” – readers can decide for themselves what to make of it.

B (Bigslyfragrance) indicates a question I asked and C (chemist) is his response.

________________________

B:  What does your job entail?

C:  My job is to create parfum within very specific parameters, the most important being PPK (Price per kilo.) You get a creative brief that tells you what it needs to do and what its for (product application) and you go from there.

B:  Do you have any preferences in terms of notes, genres, etc.?

C:  I tend to enjoy gourmands and classic leather compositions (think knize ten) for personal use, but I really enjoy just about everything when done well. Also, I wear what is categorized “women’s” about as often as I do men’s fragrance: sometimes you get a double take on the street if you’ve got a particularly floral scent on, but the overlap of notes (or long tail, rather) in modern fragrance application has created a really wide swath of what is considered socially acceptable for both men and women.

B:  How much thought is put into changes that might occur within the first year after someone purchases a fragrance in a bottle that is sealed (such as the typical bottles marketed these days)?

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

B:  Have you read anything online that you consider to be common misconceptions?

C:  Whenever I read about testers having different juice from retail bottles I tend to chuckle, as that would require an entire reformulation, and would cost an obscene amount to accomplish and would be very impractical. To be fair, that’s the view from a larger outfit, and smaller Niche companies might engage in that sort of thing, but I doubt it very much.

B:  Do you have any predictions/thoughts about where the fragrance industry is heading over the next five years or so?

C: Really hard to say, as the industry is extremely trend driven (notice how much Oud has shown up on the radar? Agarwood is not a new material) and companies spend huge amounts chasing trends over three year cycles.

B:  What do you look for in a fragrance?

C:  Tricky question to answer, but I suppose when it comes down to it I look for compositions that aren’t top heavy in extremely volatile compounds (generally used for top notes) as that’s sort of a cheap way to get someone at a fragrance counter to fall in love and purchase a bottle on the spot. Those tend to dissipate after a few hours, and that’s not really the idea behind fragrance (at least in a classical sense.)

B:  “Spoilage” in a major concern of some people, yet these seem to be people who either don’t buy many fragrances that are say, over ten years old, or who have conflicts of interest, while others (including myself) have a great deal of experience with vintage bottles, including splash ones, and have yet to encounter a “spoiled” drydown.  Do you have any experience and/or opinions on the subject?

C:  Spoilage is for the most part a non-issue. In general, the parfum in the juice has two main enemies: heat & light. Within your parfum there are a handful of highly volatile compounds that can be damaged most by heat and light (top notes) so worst case scenario is that your top notes burn off and you’re left with the rest of the composition. This will make the first few minutes smell like acetone (because the first to evaporate in the juice is the alcohol and some other chemicals) but after that goes away the rest of the composition will start to come out. Bottom line, keep them in cool, dark places and they’ll last for an extremely long time. I have 20 year old bottles that smell identical to when I bought them.

B:  If you had to guess, what do you think happens when a major company (Chanel, Dior, Guerlain) decides to do a “major’ launch, such as Sauvage, in terms of trying to figure out what the final scent will be?  In particular, I’m curious about how much decision-making power someone like Francois Demachy may have had, as opposed to the product testing that must have taken place.  Would he have likely produced several variations and then those were product tested?  Or can you imagine a different kind of process?

C:  I can’t really speak to corporate testing structure or procedure, but I can tell you that in pieces like Sauvage, Demachy acts more like a hands off director. Most designer level stuff for big companies are just cash cows, so they spend more time and money on marketing and design than making sure the juice is great. Most companies simply license out their names for use so that the big players (i.e. Estee Lauder) can launch various fragrances under different names to create the appearance of variation, and just keep a “nose” on hand to sign off on the final product and give the appearance of authenticity, while technicians and computer algorithms do most of the heavy lifting.

B:  According to the press release, Red for Men by Giorgio of Beverly Hills originally had 551 ingredients, over 35 of which are “naturals.”  Assuming this is accurate, how does this compare to fragrances today that you know about, whether or not you worked on them yourself or not?  If one wanted to do a “knockoff” of this kind of “old school” fragrance today, what would you estimate the number of ingredients to be?  And how many “naturals” might be used, if any?

C:  The claim of 551 ingredients is a well known piece of showmanship in the industry, because it’s not untrue in the strictest sense, but is somewhat dishonest in its application. The number of ingredients is easily padded when you use naturals in any formulae- a tomato contains a little over 200 aromatic chemicals, but the human nose can only detect 6 of them when isolated (a dog can smell nearly all of them) so using any sort of extract in its natural form is going to pad your numbers.

As far as trying to recreate “classic” style fragrances, you run into one major: regulation. Most older fragrances leaned heavily on a handful of natural ingredients to produce the classic chypre or fougere skeletons from which to build on. Strict regulations have crippled the reliance on the older style of perfumery, making it hard to copy out and out what was available in the past. Worse yet, it’s become much more costly to produce a lot of the older style juices, as synthetics (contrary to popular belief) tend to cost a great deal more to produce than naturals (however, this is a bit inverted when dealing with certain resins and tree based naturals.)

[Note here that one blogger has argued that the above is ridiculous because sandalwood essential oil is expensive – didn’t he read the entire statement?  The fragrance chemist did say this is “inverted” when dealing with particular essential oils, and used the phrase”tree based” to provide an example!  Obviously, there must be some that are not resins or “tree based” yet are very expensive, but the person is clearly talking in general terms, so I suggest reading my blog post about “semi-facts,” for those who want to ponder how to deal with “difficult people” – hardly anyone is going to say something like, “for all intents and purposes” after every other sentence!  Some people seem to enjoy making nonsensical statements – I’m just glad I don’t have to deal with them on a daily basis.]

B:  I’m still wondering how they decide to put out a release with a whole lot of ambroxan (Sauvage), for example.  Who probably had that thought?  Wouldn’t that have likely been based upon product testing?  Did you see that BBC perfume documentary?

C:  Stuff like Ambroxan and Iso E Super are the sugar of the perfumery world (they make everything more palatable to the vast majority of consumers), so they get jammed into stuff that they would like to ensure are big sellers (at least initially.)  And yes, I have seen that documentary, I liked it quite a bit!

B:  What about the issue of “cloning.”  As a chemist in general, would you say it’s rather easy to do a reasonably close job, so long as you have a MS/GC unit to test against the original.  Or is it actually a bit difficult to create a good “clone?”  Thanks.

C:  The ease of cloning is directly correlated to the passage of time- most competitors use a Mass Spectrometer (or “shoot the juice” as we say) the day something new comes out, but it takes time untangling how things are arranged, which is very tricky when using captives that were discovered by someone else. However, once they’ve cracked the code the market tends to get flooded with similar products (see Aqua di Gio/Coolwater and the flood of aquatics that came after).

B:  I’m curious about whether it would it be possible to market a scent such as “vintage” Pi now or does it have too much coumarin or something else that has gotten restricted significantly.

C:  It would be very easy to make something similar in today’s market: the restrictions on coumarin are a non-issue in that there are tons of options when trying to produce the scent of tonka bean (coumarin has been synthesized for a very long time, and we’ve had ample opportunity to replace it.)  A lot of people bemoan (myself included) the shift towards lighter, less persistent parfums, but blame it (mistakenly) on over zealous regulations. It’s really more a function of the market: people report wanting less invasive scents, and so the companies produce what they think will sell. We are more than capable of producing knock-out potency stuff, but there is very little demand for them in today’s market.

B:  The other day, I was thinking about the notion of complexity/simplicity, and wondering if you always can detect if a scent is a rather complex or simple composition, or are they almost all rather simple these days?

C:  Complexity is impossible to ascertain without having all the pertinent information (unless something is overloaded with a single ingredient, but even then it might have involved some technical wizardry to make the smaller end pop.)  Something might smell like a high quality rose oil and you think “simple” but it might have been done all synthetic, which takes a ton of work and troubleshooting when trying to match a natural accord flawlessly.

That said, you can often tell when corners have been cut when there has been a clone or when a reformulation is botched, so it’s not really a matter of complexity per se, but more a function of cheaping out.

B:  There’s someone who claims that many if not most cheap fragrances were made (or just happen) to smell rich, complex, etc. up close but smell bland, generic, nondescript, etc. from a distance at which others will likely be smelling the scent.  I’ve only encountered really cheap fragrances that smell “okay” up close, but they all need at least several inches to smell really good (for those that do), so I’m curious to know what you think of this idea.

C:  You’re absolutely correct: cheap fragrances aren’t made to smell different up close vs. from a distance, their whole function is just to provide a decent scent at a low cost, and his notion that there is some kind of conspiracy to trick people with scent duality is pretty far fetched.

And yes, I totally agree that they are playing fast and loose with the idea of blandness/general smells, because there are so many cultural factors and societal factors that go into the perception of a smell (like how in the North America we strongly associate lemons with cleaning products, while the French do the same with Lavender and the Japanese do the same with Roses) that it creates a subjectivity that can’t be easily explained away with the argument that “this fragrance is cheap.”

Conversely, I feel like you could make the argument just as easily in the other direction: so many expensive niche fragrances are made to smell bland in a general sense so as not to offend, and just smell “conventionally good” to please a wider audience (and justify their price point.) I find this to be the case with brands like Amouage, where they are vehemently opposed to stepping outside the formulas you learn in perfumery 101, so the idea that it’s a cheap perfume problem doesn’t wash.

NOTE:  I don’t necessarily agree with everything this person has said above, and one thing I find interesting is the idea that Red for Men’s supposed 551 ingredients is a marketing ploy, because I can’t remember any other scent where such a claim was made so overtly by the company.  Did they try this “ploy,” fail, and then nobody every tried it again?  That seems highly unlikely, but what I find so interesting about Red is that the synthetics seem to be used expertly, whereas in so many other compositions I find myself thinking about whether I’m going to be able to tolerate the synthetics (usually it varies from one wearing to another).  One could describe it as a wood and amber dominant scent, and a great lesson in perfumery is wearing it one day then wearing a “cheap” scent with a typical/generic “woody amber” the next.  This is the difference “quality” can make, even if it is largely the use of more synthetics in a more subtle way.  Whether or not they actually decided to use 551 distinct ingredients, it seems to have a certain quality one finds in a few designer scents in which there is a lot of complexity (but it’s clearly got strong synthetic elements), such as 24, Faubourg.  The thing is, this is quite uncommon in “masculines,” from what I can tell.  Kouros could be another, but in that scent there isn’t the balance I get in Red.  It would be nice if someone subjected these scents to a MS/GC test!

UPDATE:  One response by the chemist, responding to the notion of “sexiness” in a scent, was misplaced for a while, but since I found it I’ll post it here:

The whole idea of fragrance “sexiness” is so balkanized depending upon when (and where) you grew up. Most women over a certain age consider old school fougeres & musks to be the pinnacle of masculine sexiness (classics like old spice, Brut, jovan musk, etc.) but the younger generations brought up in modern, antiseptic environments are more drawn to the smell of cleanliness as a signifier of desirability (“he smells clean, so he must be doing well.”)…

UPDATE #2:  Another statement by the fragrance chemist, coming after the above and after publication of this post, may be of interest also:

…the IFRA has gone really draconian on many naturals for fine perfumery: the legal amount of citrus oil (for an entire 50 ml bottle) is less than you might get on your fingers peeling an orange, so the basic ingredients of perfumery are having to be replaced wholesale.

UPDATE #3:  After posting this. someone has argued (badly, IMO) that the above is fictional, and it certainly could be that someone is claiming to be a fragrance chemist, which is why I wrote a disclaimer in the first paragraph.  However, I feel I’ve done my “due diligence” in consulting an “expert” about it and using an identity checker web site, and just because someone is in the industry doesn’t mean he/she is always correct.  As my readers know, I have no reservations about making my opinions clear, and I also point out when I don’t know something but would guess that something is the case.  I have absolutely no need to invent a person and would never jeopardize my reputation doing something like that – I just wish it were possible for me to bet all my assets that this person does exist!  However, I remembered that something which speaks to this point was said, so I went back to our message exchanges and found this statement by the fragrance chemist:

…I’m on a obscenely strict NDA because I tend to work with captive molecules, and I’m not even allowed to list my place of business on social media because of corporate espionage, and can be sued for the smallest of infractions (and then you tend to get blackballed by all the firms.)…

UPDATE #4:  One blogger has questioned whether inert gas is used in the usual sealed sprayed bottles one finds at dept. stores, Sephora, etc.  Long-time/respected Basenotes and Fragrantica member, “lovingthealien,” had this to say (in 2013):

Many people do this already with their perfumes. This is how they are stored in the osmotheque. Many (most?) factory sealed parfums are already full of inert gas…

http://www.fragrantica.com/board/viewtopic.php?id=55512

Considering how incredibly synthetic most recent releases appear to be, especially designers, and how they use powerful preservatives (BHT seems to be listed on every box I’ve got), I was quite surprised that inert gases would be used.  Also, wouldn’t they be happy if the scent “went bad” after a few years (or less), as many in the industry seem to at least imply?  My guess here is that they want to make sure the scent is fine up until the time they sell it at retail (I doubt they care much about “gray market” sellers), especially with scents that are popular due to the top notes experience (which, again, seems to be especially true for recent designers).  But it seems to be the case that not everyone can “reason through” such things and instead they automatically see a “conspiracy” whenever they learn of something that contradicts their existing notions (does that remind you of anyone who has been in the news quite a bit lately?).

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No Need to Get Angry – Just Explain Your Point of View!

On Fragrantica.com’s review page for Armaf’s Club de Nuit for Men, there is this recent review:

As others have mentioned this opens with a slightly weird lemon and pine/fern note in place of the pineapple of Aventus. Some have said it reminds them of Pledge, I would say more like a car air freshener. The opening is only about 70% Aventus because of this.

Once the lemon/fern note has evaporated, it does begin to smell closer to Aventus BUT it still has this spicy thing going on that is not found in Aventus. The dry down I would say is about 80% Aventus, and for the price, that’s quite amazing.

If they replaced the lemon note with pineapple and removed the spice, this would almost be a 100% replica and no one would need to buy Aventus again.

For the money this is a quality fragrance, but like wearing a fake Rolex, it’s going to burn at your soul.

My advice; get a split of the real deal.

This reviewer did not explain his point of view, but I think it’s not difficult to discern it.  He thinks Aventus is the “real deal” and wants a “clone” that is perhaps 95% or even 99% similar (I don’t think along these lines because I know how much my sensitivities can vary, even from one day to the next, making it difficult to posit such a precise assessment).  He also is clearly concerned about the top notes experience.  As I’ve said several times in the past, I don’t take any one person’s review all that seriously,  unless it’s the only one available (and there’s an apparently good description of the actual smell) and the scent is inexpensive.  He says nothing about the drydown, other than it’s supposed to be 80% similar to Aventus, so this doesn’t help much in that context.

I’m more interested in the smell of the scent in question, and in that regard he does say it’s spicier than Aventus, which is fine with me and would likely be an improvement (in terms of my preferences).  Knowing that most who have tried this scent have also at least sampled Aventus, I wrote up this review of the Armaf:

I have forgotten exactly what Aventus smells like but this does seem very close, perhaps somewhere between the Lomani “clone” and Aventus (I haven’t tried the others). The Lomani is more smoothed out whereas this one is sharper and seems to have more dimension/complexity. However, it’s not a complex scent overall so for many the Lomani might be fine, if you want to save a few dollars. If someone wants to pay Creed prices that’s fine with me, but I can enjoy this one and don’t need another that’s quite similar, which is the way I usually judge scents when there is a vast price difference (I bought my bottle used so I paid even less than retail for it, making the difference between it and Aventus simply too wide to even consider paying Creed prices).

I could have mentioned the birch note specifically, which is quite noticeable, and has an almost burnt quality, but I just said “sharp” because my previous experience with birch notes has been a bit different, so there may be another aroma chemical at work here.  My 98% or so 100 ml bottle of the Armaf cost me well under $20 total; otherwise I would not have purchased it because I have 100 ml of the Lomani and I’m not a big fan of this type of composition.  It would be helpful if the reviewer said something like, “if you’re a huge Aventus fan I’m not sure this Armaf is going to get the job done for you, but if not, the only major issue might be the sharp top notes.”  I like that first half hour or so, actually, and I’m not a fan of strong pineapple notes (though I don’t dislike them; however, I can’t imagine wearing such a scent on a regular basis, as many seem to do with Aventus).

Moreover, a few weeks before buying the Armaf I purchased a 50 ml bottle of Fresh Pineapple, by Bath and Body Works.  The notes for that one (on Fragrantica) are:

Top notes are orange, coconut milk and lemon; middle notes are peony, pineapple, fruits and rose; base notes are sandalwood, vanilla and caramel.

This one is more of a lemon/pineapple blend, but it doesn’t have as much sharpness as the Armaf.  The drydown is rather different, though, but it might work for those who like the idea of Aventus except would prefer a sandalwood drydown with more sweetness.  In terms of what guys, especially young ones, are wearing these days, I’d certainly classify this 2007 release as “unisex.”

I’ve swapped off quite a few “fresh,” aquatic, “sport,” etc. scents over the years, and though I still have a few, I never seem to wear them.  Occasionally I’ll spray one on my ankle so that I can waft it up to my nose every once in a while yet don’t have to deal with it until I want to, and it seems that every time my thought is that it’s too “chemical” and there’s not much, if anything, to make up for it.  Sometimes I’ve sprayed these kinds of scents on the back of a coat/jacket (if the sprayer generates a nice mist effect), and I can appreciate the scent that way to some degree, but that’s only for when the weather is cooler.  The point is that I think the Aventus type scent is one that attracts the fresh/aquatic/sport scent crowd as well as at least a decent percentage of the niche/aficionado/tobacco/leather/”heavy” scent crowd, so when one reads reviews it’s important to consider this (I often point out that I’m mostly a gourmand, oriental, “heavy” scent fan).  Few will disclose their preferences in their reviews, and probably just as few will provide a good explanation about why they assess scents the way they do!

Another interesting example is a blogger’s comparison of Grey Flannel to Bowling Green.  His conclusion is that, “Grey Flannel, which is ten years older, is resoundingly superior in quality and composition.”  I have vintage (or perhaps “semi-vintage,” in the eyes of some) bottles of both these scents.  I have difficulty wearing GF, probably due to the aroma chemicals rendering the violet leaf note.  I have always enjoyed wearing BG, even though it is not as unique as GF, and this is another instance of the issue of personal enjoyment versus “artistic appreciation.”  I don’t disagree with the blogger’s general impression (other than claims about “quality,” since one would have to have “insider information” and I perceive both – that is, what’s in the bottles I possess – as being at least reasonably good quality), but not everyone is going to spray on a scent and then walk around thinking, “I really find this smell irritating but my appreciation of its artistic elements more than makes up for that!”

I think of BG as a pared down rendition of Parfum d’Homme by Claude Montana (sometimes called “red box” online), with less of a fougere accord in particular (I sampled Red before BG).  It’s still rather complex, which goes to show how “busy” the Montana is.  But the key point is that I do find myself in the mood, once in a while of course, for that BG, whereas that strong fougere accord in the Montana has led me to hardly ever wear it (over the last several years).  In the fine art world, “less is more” is not exactly an unknown sentiment!  The blogger has also called BG “cheap,” which is not my impression at all (suggesting, again, that there is a “quality issue”).  One thing I really like about it is that the pine note has been sort of tamed to just the right degree, whereas in many other “pine scents,” it’s either too weak or so strong that it’s irritating.  I’ve also found that while my preferences have changed a bit, so that I’m more drawn to sweet scents, BG has enough complexity  (and a hint of sweetness), so that boredom is preventede.  And since BG was released about three years before the Montana, it is a case where the original was not “overtaken” by later variations on this theme (Havana by Aramis was released in 1994), unlike many others!

 

 

 

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