Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Review of Sauvage, after an application on the skin.

I obtained a sample of Sauvage in a swap, and finally got around to wearing it normally, though that may not be the correct way to phrase it.  What I did was to apply such a tiny amount that I couldn’t feel it and didn’t see any liquid on my chest.  I was afraid I might really sicken myself if I applied more than that, and of course I could always apply more if necessary.  Well, the very good news is that it is outrageously strong.  A few ml of Sauvage might be enough for a lifetime, if you prefer a lot of variety, as I do!  And more good news – I didn’t sicken me (though my general sensitivity has been low for a while now), though after a while I wished I hadn’t tried it again, as it was not pleasant.

I didn’t get much in the way of fruity top notes – it seemed to just go straight to the drydown, at least within a few minutes, which could be good or bad news, depending upon one’s preferences.  The bad news is that it smells like something I tried back around 2008 and 2009, and thought was far too synthetic to take seriously.  It is “sticky”/blob-like and reminds me of chemicals one might smell in a hair products store.  I have tried to remember which scent it was that smelled like this nearly a decade ago, but I couldn’t seem to place it.  There was Samba Viva for Men, which I really disliked, but I think it was a bit different.  Could it have been something by Liz Claiborne?  Wait a moment – what about Adventurer II by Eddie Bauer?

This really surprised me.  I thought it might smell like a simplified Horizon by Guy Larouche, perhaps a a bit synthetic-smelling, because that was my impression of Sauvage on a smelling strip.  I also thought Sauvage’s composition was unique, in terms of using a lot of ambroxan in a “mainstream masculine” scent.  Another idea is X-Centric by Alfred Dunhill (which lists ambergris as a note) or John Sterling:

I decided to do an ankle sampling of X-Centric, Sterling, and Adventurer II, the idea being that even if they are not all that similar, there might be a similar strong accord, or that the experience might jog my memory regarding another scent I tried long ago that is more similar to Sauvage.  Starting with Sterling, this is the least like Sauvage, but it may indeed have a touch of ambroxan in it (I obtained my Sterling bottle early in my forays into this hobby and before I had sampled Green Irish Tweed, so to me Sterling is more GIT than GIT is, in terms of the name being consistent).  X-Centric is closer to Sauvage, but it doesn’t have nearly as much ambroxan either, and it has a clear fruity/sweet element either doesn’t exist or doesn’t last long in Sauvage.  Adventurer II is the closest, and probably what I was thinking about, as it does seem to contain quite a bit of ambroxan (though it’s got a bit of sweetness I don’t get in Sauvage).  After a couple of hours it seems fairly close, but not quite as strong (and so, possibly wearable by me).  On a positive note, I think that these three smelled more natural to me than at any time in the past, so I may want to wear them occasionally (they had been relegated to my “sell when the price is right” bin due to being too synthetic to be bearable for hours).

My opinion of Sauvage has changed with this regular wearing, from perceiving it as having a niche-like quality to it being unwearably synthetic-smelling (and not original in any significant way).  However, as I said when I only smelled the strip, it could still be good as a room spray.  After this “regular wearing,” though, I don’t think I want to smell it any more, at least if I can avoid it.  This is why I like to try a scent in different ways and on multiple occasions (spread out over months if not years).  In this instance, though, I would not wear it again because it was an unpleasant experience (even with the near “homeopathic” application!).  I wonder if we will see a few more “major” releases where a strong accord from generic scents of the past is “amped up” beyond belief and presented as something “edgy.”  My thought, though, is why would anyone want this?  Isn’t the point of a “designer” scent that it possesses some complexity?  Didn’t the “drug store” scents get criticized for being simple compositions (some called those “cheap and cheerful”)?  Also, I wonder if Sauvage was designed to smell better on a card, because it smelled a lot better to me that way!

NOTE:  I still think Playboy’s Berlin has some strong similarities to Sauvage, and may be best for those on a tight budget (if the person likes this kind of scent), but I’d say Adventurer II is clearly the most similar, in my experience, though it does seem to have some juniper berry included, so if you hate that note you might prefer Sauvage.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Which bouquet would you like, the Hammam or Edwardian one?

This was a decision I contemplated recently, as good deals arose, first for a bottle of Edwardian Bouquet and then Hammam Bouquet.  The former was marketed to women in 1901 and the latter to men (starting in 1872, not that it still smells exactly the same; several reviews claim it is noticeably different from the pre-2003 re-release).  As you might expect, I decided upon Edwardian Bouquet, though I could have purchased both.  The story of this choice may be helpful to others (I did not sample either one before the purchase) beyond my impression of Edwardian Bouquet, and so the reason for this post.

EB has “green notes” listed, and some reviews mention galbanum, which makes sense (I’m not sure what other “green notes” existed for perfumers in 1901), and I was seeking a scent with a fairly strong galbanum note in certain kinds of compositions (EB being one, from what I could tell by the reviews).  Here is the list of notes provided by

Top Notes Top Notes Bergamot, Green notes, Hyacinth, Mandarin
Heart Notes Heart Notes Jasmine, Rose, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes Base Notes Amber, Oakmoss, Musk, Patchouli, Powdery notes, Sandalwood

Some reviews called it “soapy” and there was a mention of a lot of jasmine, so I was a bit concerned, but with claims of it being “unisex,” I decided to take a chance on it.  There seem to be two bottle types, and since I thought I was getting the older formulation, that tipped the balance in favor of the purchase.  Here is my review of it:

I obtained a bottle of what I think is the older version (the smaller of the two pictures above). It’s definitely animalic, but not on the same level as vintage Kouros, for example. I also get the galbanum, but it’s stronger in vintage Halston 1-12. There’s a bit of the kind of chypre “bite” I have noticed in “feminines” from the 1970s, but again, it’s not as strong here. The florals seem heavy and perhaps a touch wet at first, but then feel drier and not as heavy after an hour or so. It is a bit musky and powdery, but I haven’t noticed any clear wood notes. And there was something that was almost but not quite minty. In any case, it reminds me a bit of vintage Aramis Herbal 900, in terms of the overall composition, and if you like that one I think you would find the drydown of this one to be at least somewhere around unisex. I like it and likely will keep it, despite having other, similar scents. I guess it’s the kind of scent that I would part with if a great deal came along, but I would prefer to keep it.

Though some claimed it was very strong, I did not get that impression at all, though I would not call it weak either.  My guess is that it came across as strong because it is an uncommon composition by today’s standards.  As one Fragrantica reviewer said:

What’s missing from this bouquet are the sweet florals…

Without much sweetness, the notes likely feel too strong to many who don’t have much experience with vintage.  With most vintage “feminine” chypres, there often seems to be something that’s irritating, perhaps strong aldehydes in most cases, but that’s not present in EB, thankfully.  I can appreciate the notes in a more straightforward way in EB, which is a major positive.  One Fragrantica reviewer said it has a strong “bite” to it but also that is has a milky quality.  I don’t know how a scent could have both – I certainly can’t remember one scent I have encountered that I would characterize this way, but EB is neither, for me.  Now, moving on to HB, there were some major concerns for me, based upon what I read.

Some pointed to a strong alcoholic or even whisky-like quality and at least one person spoke to the rose being more like geranium (which I tend to dislike).  I have encountered this before, in Acteur by Azzaro, and rarely am I in the mood to wear it, so I certainly don’t need another of this type (I have 100 ml of Acteur).  I also don’t like the comments about noticeable lavender.  The notes for HB are:

Top Notes Top Notes Bergamot, Lavender
Heart Notes Heart Notes Iris, Jasmine, Rose oil, Cedarwood
Base Notes Base Notes Amber, Musk, Sandalwood

Over time HB seems to go in a musky, animalic direction, but the strength falls off more than a little.  I wouldn’t be surprised if these are rather similar, compositionally, a major difference being a geranium-dominant rose note and lavender replace galbanum and a more floral rose.  If I was a huge fan of this sort of thing (or didn’t already possess bottles of vintage Acteur, Herbal 900, Halston Limited, etc.) I probably would have purchased the HB bottle too (another issue was that it was a splash bottle unlike the EB, which was a typical sealed spray bottle).  As things stand, I think I’ll layer EB with Acteur and say to myself, “this must be at least as good as HB by itself.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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:

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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

On, 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.


Filed under Uncategorized

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

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 and, 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

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?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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 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.


Filed under Uncategorized

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, 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?”

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

“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.”

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Criticizing the critics., Uncategorized