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What do the “experts” have against “celebuscents?”

Image result for elvis cologne

Unlike the experience of many others, including some who are viewed or position themselves as experts, I have found “celebuscents” to be great deals.  They are often similar to popular scents that I like but are eventually they get sold at much lower prices, with very few exceptions.  An excellent example of an expert who has some harsh things to say about these releases occurs in the “Perfumes: The Guide 2018” book.  In it, Tania Sanchez states:

Celebrity perfume is effectively over.  While it gave us genuine grief to write the obituary for a lost world of fragrances in 2008, it gives us great pleasure to toll the bell for these cynical fame-monetization strategies.

First of all, aren’t the authors also quick to point out how the non-famous are trying to cash in on the niche craze?  And how are these fragrances so much worse that most of the designers that were released since 2008?  With celebuscents, at least you can eventually get great deals, which is much less likely the case for the “top designers.”  And there are so many “lesser designers,”‘ even if we leave aside the fake names, that one wonders why they aren’t criticized too, because most of them are just cheap clone type scents.  I’d guess there is more uniqueness to be found in celebuscents than in the lesser designers (some examples I’ve tried include Phoenix by Keith Urban, Adam Levine Perfume/EdP, KISS Him, IsaBella by Isabella Rossellini, Truth or Dare Naked by Madonna, both Queen Latifah scents, Kinski, Fancy Nights, the original Alain Delon, at least the vintage version of Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion for Men, and yes, Elvis Cologne!).

But things get even weirder in this book, as Sanchez then points out that celebuscents were very popular when the 2008 book was published, yet since 2011 there has been a steady decline in sales (in the US), with a 22% decline in 2016 alone (what about other markets?).  It may just be that sales had gotten ridiculous, and then there was a “natural correction.”  Notice that she doesn’t tell us how many bottles of celebuscents are sold relative to top designers, designers in general, and niche, and what the different world markets are like.  Now I’m certainly no fan of brainless celebrities who might have little or no talent, but does it really matter which CEOs or celebrities make money when I reach into the proverbial bargain bin to buy a bottle?  It seems to me that Ms. Sanchez is reading too much into these olfactory concoctions, and I have a feeling that she possesses a notion about “artistic” value, believing that this is not possible (or highly unlikely) among celebuscent offerings.  However, isn’t it likely that whether the scent is a lesser designer or a celebuscent, it is created by perfumers at the major fragrance companies?  And how many “top designers” and niche were created that way too?

Do celebuscents almost always cost less (meaning the liquid only) to make, and therefore can’t possibly smell as good as designers?  That certainly has not been my experience, but if so, the burden is on her to provide evidence that this is the case.  Some people seem to get irritated by the many clone type scents, but I’ve found that I like some of those better than the originals, and again, they often cost much less.  It’s the reality of our society, just like you can’t patent an idea.  You can copyright a slogan or simple logo, though – does that seem fair?  If you want me to buy my fragrances based upon your notion of fairness, then at the very least you need to articulate that notion!  I think much of the dislike is related to their statement (in at least the 2018 book) that “we are looking for beauty.”  This is an abstract concept, whereas these are not abstract creations.  Yes, some smell more literal while others smell very strange or abstract, and hard to “pin down,” but clearly most people don’t care.  Some want to “smell like everybody else,” while others want a “fresh, out of the shower smell, etc.  A tiny minority spray on a scent and think, “wow, this is a work of art,” or “this scent is the essence of beauty.”

To me the obvious question is, what do you want?  I want at least some of the listed notes to be detectable (I can usually tell if that’s the case if there are more than a few good reviews), and I want it to smell at least reasonably natural.  Then I can decide if I might like it.  One of the great benefits of many celebuscents is that a whole bunch of these have dozens of reviews just on Fragrantica alone!  And of course they often come down tremendously in value over time and are found at nearly every kind of sales outlet.  Of course, some are made in limited quantities and might soon be listed on ebay for prices that seem absurdly high, but usually there’s a time during which they are a great deal, so it’s really about taking the time/effort to do research and find those “diamonds in the rough.”  This is what I don’t think the “experts” will do, because it can be time-consuming.  And again, if you get free samples or even bottles, you’re probably going to be more interested in the “fancy” and expensive niche or designer exclusive offerings.  Moreover, if you are seeking “art,” then I don’t know what to tell you, because I just don’t think along those lines with these kinds of olfactory concoctions.

However, if you are looking for a really cheap bottle that gives you what you want, then celebuscents are worth keeping an eye on!  Another thing about them is because many are so cheap, they can allow you to try out fragrances you never thought you’d like, but for a few dollars you’ll give them a chance (not just spray once on paper and take a “quick sniff”).  In the new, 2018 “Guide” book, LT states that he usually wears Caron Pour un Homme and Mitsouko (why not tell us the formulation and/or “vintage,” if not the batch code?) when he isn’t sampling, and TS lists a dozen.  I would quickly get bored with just a dozen or so fragrances, but I question the mentality of people who apparently own a huge number of bottles (of a lot more than a dozen of the same), but wear so few on a regular basis.  If there is so much olfactory beauty in the world, why limit yourself to experiencing a tiny fraction?  Why do they do so much sampling if they would rather wear a small number of fragrances the overwhelming majority of the time?  Because they want to bestow their wisdom on us, such as that women should try wearing Kouros, etc?  Now I do think they have quite a bit to offer the “community,” but the definitive claims, such as the “death of celebuscents,” is not their strong suit, IMO.  I don’t value their reviews more than some anonymous person on Fragrantica, for example, because there is no reason for me to do so (their preferences seem different and their reviews are often vague, silly, too brief, or not even “on point.”

Coincidentally, I read a review of the new “Christopher Robin” movie that included the following:

McGregor is a perfectly likable actor, which helps soften the character’s shortcomings, but Christopher isn’t very interesting, and the film’s familiar lesson — conveyed via one of Pooh’s more ridiculous mantras, “Doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something” — feels more than a little bit unfair. The movie basically ingratiates itself with kids by scolding adults for losing track of what’s important, and yet, both in the 1940s and today, a responsible father doesn’t really have the option of quitting his job.

Film Review: ‘Christopher Robin’

And my thought was this is a similar situation, in that millionaires with personal assistants or “perfume experts” who get free samples or even bottles are similar to the message that a parent should quit his/her job to go talk to fantasy animals of his/her youth.  Yes, send me free samples and pay me a nice “advance” for a perfume guide book, and I’ll be happy to spray or dab one on a card each day, then write down my thoughts (sometimes quite brief or not even mentioning what the scent actually smells like).  Otherwise, I’ve got more bottles than I “need” for the rest of my life, though I’m sure I’ll continue to swap, buy incredible deals when they present themselves, and acquire free samples here and there.  No, I’m not spending $200 or more on the typical bottle, but if I win a “mega jackpot” lottery I might (though the only way I play the lottery is if someone buys me a ticket as a kind of gag gift).  And if you asked me to give star ratings to fragrances, I wouldn’t subtract one for a lack of originality, as TS and LT apparently do; instead, I’d grab that super-cheapo “knockoff” and be quite happy, even if it didn’t smell quite as “natural” (they might take another star off for that).  Yes, the difference between $200 a bottle and $10 is significant to me, especially when I might only wear that scent once or twice a year.

NOTE:  I haven’t tried that many “celebuscents,” and I have tended to avoid ones I don’t think I’d like.  In addition to ones mentioned above, I’ve got bottles of a few different McGraw, Beckham, and Mariah Carey bottles, which aren’t bad but I don’t consider special in any way.  I sampled Adrenaline by Iglesias and that wasn’t bad, but again, not special enough (or close enough to an expensive scent I’d like to own) to pay the low price for a bottle.  I also own the two Lady Gaga scents, again not bad but not special, and Purr by Kay Perry, which is certainly good for a change of pace, along with Heat Rush by Beyonce, which I certainly would consider wearing if I was going to spend a lot of time outside on a warm day (I rarely do that these days).

 

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You just can’t satisfy some people!

Image result for sliman covered in mud

The title refers to the frequent one reads about generic scents.  I have no problem with that criticism, if it seems to make sense, but then you can’t turn around and say that this or that scent is too weird or vile.  There are only so many things the average human in the world today is going to like, and there have been thousands and thousands of scents released in the last decade, so how much variation can there be without word getting out that a whole bunch of them smell weird, vile, or whatever?  They are mostly “variations on a theme” at this point, with perhaps a new aroma chemical providing a slightly different take on one of those themes.  If you want to complain about a weird or vile scent, why don’t you take a moment to tell us what you think a really unique scent would be like?

I decided to write this post specifically after reading reviews for Horizon Extreme by Davidoff.  No, I don’t think it’s anything special (for me), but it is a bit distinct.  Some seem to think it’s another kind of  type scent, for example, here’s one Fragrantica review of it:

I wish it could be exaggeration when I say this smells absolutely fecal off of the skin. stick to davidoff horizon (the non extreme version).

Even if this were true, why smell it up close?  It’s clearly not going to smell that way from a distance (a company like Davidoff/Coty wouldn’t market such a scent in their mainstream lines). The listed notes at Fragrantica.com are:

…top notes of grapefruit, ginger and rosemary cross into the warm heart of cedar, cypriol, leather and nutmeg. Accords of amber and creamy sandalwood are to be discovered at the base.

Here’s my review of it:

Fecal? Heavy leather? Vetiver? Fireside warmth? No, not for me. I can understand how one might detect this or that note, but none are strong. In any case, what I think this does well is to recreate those “old school” scents like Van Cleef & Arpels for Men, but without the lavender. I first did a dab sample, and after a while I could smell leather clearly, but then I wore it again, two sprays to the chest, and it’s mostly a “masculine” blend. At first I got something orangy, and the musk is there for a long time, first aiding with a dry/herbal quality and then after a couple hours it’s a bit powdery but otherwise quite blended. It’s never sweet and I never got anything fecal. Also, if you like the old school scents I doubt this one will be too much for you in any way. In fact, it might be a bit underwhelming. Now if I had used five or more sprays it might “bloom” differently. One person, I think at BN, said this was a dirty/oud type scent, but I have no idea where that perception could originate. I agree with the person who said there is a “coolness” to the drydown, and so I could not categorize this as an oriental. Overall, at a low price, it could be worth a blind buy for those who know what they want.

Just the diversity of the review suggest they were on to something with this composition, but when you go beyond generic you run the risk of not making enough sales because too few buy these concoctions for uniqueness!  Another scent of theirs, The Game Intense, also is anything but generic.  The notes for that one are:

Top note is gin; middle notes are orris and blackwood; base notes are labdanum and patchouli.

And here’s my review of it:

I agree with those who say to give this one some time and then it’s special. And while there may be a touch of this or that aroma chemical, it is blended very well, so that it’s not obvious. If you think you’ll like this, I’d say a blind buy is to be considered, but don’t think you are getting J. Bogart type strength here; instead, you are getting subtlety (something you don’t get with JB scents). Prices at the moment led me to a blind buy, and this is the kind of flanker that might not have been produced in large quantities, so waiting to find it in a bargain bin may not be wise! Also, as far as naming and marketing a scent is concerned, for me this would be best situated in the Varvatos Dark Rebel line; how about Dark Rebel Chain Smoker?

UPDATE: After several hours the chemical nature is apparent (though not strong), but it’s still a “dirty” scent with a touch of something sweet, and overall it holds together rather well, especially if price is taken into account (that is, comparing this one to similar niche).

So, if you want to complain about generic scents, then why don’t you tell us which ones you find so much more interesting and wearable?  At least then we would have a sense of your preferences and we could assess your reviews accordingly.  The same things goes when you say a scent is some sort of horror show.  I applaud Davidoff for releasing these two scents.  The original and Zino may not have been all that novel for the time, but both are among the all time greats, IMO, and while I don’t like Cool Water for Men, it certainly was a new kind of composition when it was released.  How many recent “masculine” designer releases are similar to 1 Million, Invictus, Bleu de Chanel, etc?  What would be the point of another one of those?  Truly novel releases are often related to new aroma chemicals, or at least the decision to use a huge amount of an aroma chemical that had previously been used judiciously.  Today, you can buy the aroma chemicals and more or less try to do it  yourself, if you have what you believe to be a unique idea that would work well.  But if, like most people, you’re not going to do that, don’t expect something incredibly novel and pleasant-smelling from mainstream designer lines.

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The “technically incompetent” scent.

A couple of recent “super cheapo” didn’t work out to well for me.  Now it’s one thing to outright dislike a scent, because then you can swap it, sell it in a lot of others you dislike, or give it as a gift (or to charity).    But what happens when you read about the notes and some decent (or better) reviews, and you like the scent, but can barely smell it, and it doesn’t seem to matter how much of it you spray on yourself?  This is quite irritating!  And it’s what I consider to be due to technical incompetence, because at this point we know that these kinds of scents are all rather inexpensive to create (the liquid portion), and so one has to ask why these kinds of scents are marketed when a few cents more would make them strong enough to satisfy a lot more people.  Why take the risk of turning people off to an entire “house?”

The worst example of this I’ve encountered so far is Swiss Army Rock.  The price was low, about $10 total for 100 ml, and the notes sounded great (other than the lavender, which I find to be too strong in many “masculines”).  Parfumo.net has the following note list:

Top Notes Top Notes Artemisia, Caraway, Lavender
Heart Notes Heart Notes Nutmeg, Cedarwood, Frankincense
Base Notes Base Notes Patchouli, Leather, Benzoin

Other than the lavender, I was also concerned that a nasty “white musk” might be used, but the musk is actually one of the few good things I can say about this one.  I could say it’s not woody, nor sweet, nor is there much if any patchouli, etc., but when I wore this (3 full sprays to the chest!), my thought was, What am I smelling here?  And then my next thought was, How can anyone release a scent like this?  Interestingly, it is similar (in terms of this quality) to another scent I’ve mentioned on my blog, Club Intense by Sergio Tacchini.  But compared to Rock, CI almost seems technically competent!  Now I have have some luck with recent blind buys; Playboy VIP Edition Black is great (about $7 for 100 ml), and not just for a super cheapo (though of course it might not be to everyone’s taste).  Bogart’s One Man Show Oud Edition is not too far from Dior’s Leather Oud (though after a while I do detect a little iso e super peeking through).

And speaking of iso e super, another blind buy that went wrong is Wild Forest by Armand Basi.  This one had a few reviews, which sounded good.  The notes for that one are:

Top Notes Top Notes Pepper, Nutmeg
Heart Notes Heart Notes Violet leaf, Cedar
Base Notes Base Notes Vanilla, Frankincense, Leather, Patchouli, Ambergris, Musk

There was talk of wood, frankincense, pepper, and violet leaf.  Someone (at Fragrantica.com) mentioned.  One person compared it to Armani’s Privé Bois D’encens:

I use it as a more economical alternative to my Giorgio Armani Privé Bois D’encens. I love the frankincense note, really masculine.

And the bottle looks great (if you don’t mind that trees get destroyed for this purpose) – even the cap is wood and has some heft to it.  But while there was a hint of a kind of sparkling green quality at first, it soon became a weak iso e super “nothing scent.”  Despite coming across as little more than iso e super, it was so weak it didn’t bother me at all.  I had to use my hand to waft it up to my nose in order to detect the iso e super.  Is this supposed to be “nouveau minimalism?”  What a great idea (bottle, name, and concept) ruined by an apparent attempt to put almost nothing that can be smelled into the bottle, other than a hint of iso e super.

And while I would be the first person to say, “perhaps my sensitivity is just really low now,” this has not been happening with other scents.  In fact, a couple days before I wore Rock, I wore Unlimited, also from Swiss Army/Victorinox, and it was not only strong enough with one spray, but I was also able to detect the mild patchouli in the base, which imparted a subtle but great “dirtiness” to the scent.  Now that is the kind of dynamism and note contrast I enjoy!  This leads me to think I should “quit while I’m ahead” in the blind buying game.  There were a few others I could have bought at really low prices, such as One Man Show Ruby Edition, but the reviews held me back.  I’m thinking this may be part of a trend, and I don’t want to waste any more money on it!

I think we need a new designation for these scents.  And while “pre-formulation” would be something a jaded aficionado might suggest, I think nearly everyone would agree on “light musk” (I don’t think “light chemical” is going to work, though that’s what I got from Wild Forest, essentially).  That way I know that the notes will be blended nearly into oblivion, but that I will at least get a pleasant, though almost imperceptible scent as a musk that will emanate in wafts (and last quite a while).  For all I know, a lot of people want exactly this kind of scent!  And I should mention, as I have in past posts, that these kinds of scents can function well in layering combinations (as Club Intense has for me), but that doesn’t make it technically competent as a “personal fragrance,” IMO.   As things stand, if you say the scent is an Eau de Toilette and list notes such as the ones for Wild Forest or Rock, you are going to look quite bad when people compare them to scents that might even cost less, such as ones by Cuba, Playboy, Bogart, Lapidus, Jovan, etc., and possibly even some “our impression of” type scents (I really like Dark Flower and Slam, by Dorall Collection, for example).

 

 

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An update on Halston 1-12 formulations.

Halston 1-12 Halston for men

I wrote up a long post about my perceptions of changes in Halston’s Z-14 and 1-12, which you can read here:

https://bigslyfragrance.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/the-disintegration-of-the-fabulous-halston-brothers-z-14-and-1-12/

The other day I had an opportunity to buy an EA formulation of 1-12 at a good price.  That’s not uncommon right now, but what was is that it was in a box with the “short list of ingredients.”  I did some research and found this in a review of 1-12 at Fragrantica.com:

It has, without a question been reformulated. The result is a lot thinner, weaker, less ‘gutsy fragrance’. The boxes look similar except for the fact that evernia prunastri (oakmoss) and evernia furfuracia (tree moss) are not listed as ingredients on the new box. Also, Benzophenone 2 ( a UV absorber) is not on the new box, while butylmethoxydibenzoylmethane, ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, ethyl salicylate are new ingredients listed. The first two are something to do with absorbing UV (they are used in sunscreens) and the ethyl salicylate smells like wintergreen. It seems that the Benzophenone 2 was removed as it is not approved for use in US sunscreens as it is a possible hormone disruptor.

I hadn’t sampled an older EA formulation of it, so I was curious, but after reading the above and also having learned that the short list of ingredients means the scent was made somewhere between 1998 and 2003 (or so many claim), I thought I’d get a “vintage” formulation.  The batch code is 3HA, and one of the batch code sites says 2013, which likely means 2003, because some companies reuse them every ten years.  Benzophenone 2 is listed but butylmethoxydibenzoylmethane, ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, and ethyl salicylate are not.

This does indeed smell like my “true vintage” bottle, with strong galbanum.  It may be at touch less complex, rich, and/or strong.  Prices on ebay can be great if you just have patience and wait for a listing that is “vintage.”  Other information about this box/bottle (125 ml size):

On the front of the box it says Natural Spray Cologne Vaporisateur.

The label on the bottom of the bottle says French Fragrances, not EA Fragrances, but it was sealed in plastic so the seller likely would not have been willing to open it up to look, though it may not matter.

The most important thing seems to be to find a box with the “short list of ingredients.”  This one has five items listed in total.

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Viking’s “naturalness:” let’s ask an expert.

expert-advice

This post is a continuation of the last one.  First, I’ll mention that the point is to address the claim that 80% of the non-perfumer’s alcohol content of a Creed Viking bottle is “natural.”  The “problem” is that this is not consistent with “modern perfumery,” which relies on synthetics to provide potency to these concoctions.  Without these, one is very limited in terms of the kinds of compositions one can create that will satisfy consumers’ expectations of longevity and projection.  And what makes the 80% claim especially ridiculous, IMO, is how powerful Viking is, and it doesn’t smell at all natural to me (the wood notes in particular seem highly synthetic), unlike some other Creed scents, which are impressive in terms of blending the naturals with the synthetics.  What percentage “natural” are those?  Perhaps a reader would like to contact Creed and ask them how natural this or that scent of theirs is, relative to Viking.  If nothing else, that might provide some humor.

The fragrance chemist I interviewed for a post on this blog a while back was willing to speak to this issue, and here’s what this person said:

I have not had the chance to try it yet, and the claim about being 80% natural is akin to the legal notion of being within the scope of the law but not in keeping with the spirit of the law. Technically they could be telling the truth because so many aroma chemicals are derived from natural sources, but to use that as a selling point is somewhat lazy and disingenuous (like saying that cheetos are made of whole grain, etc.) Also, it’s a very low stakes claim for them to make, because you’d need to do a great deal of leg room to disprove it (and would need some expensive equipment and a fairly deep knowledge of chemistry) so they clearly don’t mind casually throwing out claims that sound impressive to the average joe.

That said, Creed is known for their truth-adjacent marketing, so you’re right on the money to be skeptical.

It’s very rare that a company would use most of the naturals found in one of these blends for any commercial fragrance (or for the parfum in a functional product), for a number a reasons:

1. Cost. Most naturals have synthetic counterparts that are cheaper. Easy enough.

2. Sourcing. It’s very hard to ensure consistent quality when dealing with naturals and is very costly (see reason 1.)

3. Regulation. The rules on safety are tight (and getting tighter every day) for cosmetic products. A place like the perfumers workshops sell their stuff as educational tools and not functional products, which allows them to sidestep the testing you’d normally have to undergo to put a product to market.

4. Technical aspect. Naturals, while often providing a nice finishing touch to a composition (in small doses), can interact with each other in weird ways and tend not hold up as well over time (this applies mostly to high volatility stuff, hence why your vintage perfumes top notes tend to go off.) For companies looking to create a product that can sit in warehouses for years, this is not an ideal setup.

However, as perfumer Chris Bartlett points out, in the industry, a natural ingredient means:

Aroma chemicals isolated to various levels of purity from natural starting materials by means that do not involve chemical transformations. Also in this category are individual aroma chemicals produced by means of bacterial fermentation.

https://pellwall.com/product-category/ingredients-for-perfumery/natural-ingredients/naturalisolates/

So as I’ve said before, if Creed could produce Viking this way, they have done nearly the equivalent of deriving a pound of gold from a few pounds of lead!  If they haven’t had a major scientific breakthrough at their lab, then the list of ingredients on the box may help us out here.  For Viking it is:

alcohol, parfum (fragrance), aqua (water), limonene, linalool, ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, ethylhexyl salicylate, butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane, geraniol, eugenol, coumarin, cintronellol, citral, cinnamyl alcohol, farnesol, isoeugenol, benzyl alcohol, BHT.

Now this may not mean much to you, but I think that if we look at the labels of other scents, ones that are “mass market” and with no claims to 80% “naturals,” things might make more sense.  For example, the ingredients for Calligraphy Rose by Aramis are:

alcohol, parfum (fragrance), aqua (water), butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane, ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, cintronellol, ethylhexyl salicylate, geraniol, linalool, benzyl benzoate, coumarin, cinnamyl alcohol, eugenol, benzyl cinnamate cinnamal, benzyl alcohol, citral, limonene, isoeugenol.

Generally, the list of ingredients can provide some idea of what the scent smells like, but more importantly in terms of this blog post, such a list tells us that it’s likely the was made the way other mass consumer scents are.  My guess is that polysantol or another powerful sandalwood synthetic (perhaps more than one) was used in Viking, but that would not be listed unless it was considered a potential allergen, from what I understand.  And remember, there is something called “natural perfumery;” here is what one natural perfumer stated on his site:

As Luca Turin explained, mainstream fragrances simply cannot afford anymore to use them because of their price: “The big six perfumery firms are aroma chemicals manufacturers, and it is in their interest to keep naturals, with their attendant problems of price and quality fluctuations, to a bare minimum.

He discloses exactly what he uses to make his fragrances:

Absolute as defined by ISO 9235
Alcohol natural
Animal Extracts and tinctures: (civet, Castoreum, Hyraceum, Ambergris, Honey bee).
Concrete: as defined by ISO 9235
Essential oils: as defined by ISO 9235
Extracts: as defined by ISO 9235
Propylen Glicole (PG) (with my cocoa extract only) 
Resinoids
: as defined by ISO 9235
Tinctures: as defined by ISO 9235
Water

https://attarperfumes.net/guaranty-of-naturality/

Why can’t Creed tell us how they define natural?  If you are interested in natural perfumery, there’s a New York Times article about it that mentions this perfumer:

NOTE:  I have no affiliation with this or any perfumer, other than a small number of  messages exchanged with Chris Bartlett quite some time ago through the Basenotes.net message service, though that’s not an affiliation, as far as I know (and I also disclosed obtaining samples and a bottle from the M. Cross company when I reviewed his offerings).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The difference between magical thinking and reasonable assumptions.

Magical Thinking

First, I suggest you read this blog post before reading what is below the link:

https://frompyrgos.blogspot.com/2018/01/understanding-difference-between-terms.html

In graduate school, I learned to investigate phenomena beyond textbooks.  Basically, you learn about the existing notions, then study the primary sources for yourself or possibly do studies/experiments.  And you have several professors who serve as advisors, formally or informally.  Today, you can do much of this online, but a major problem is that many if not most people don’t appear to be able to distinguish between those who have expertise and those who are pretending to be experts (if they are able to gain access to someone with expertise).  In this online world, though, one can try a different approach (at least with the fragrance industry, that is, if it’s difficult to find experts who are willing to speak “on the record” if at all), which is to go to the relevant “online communities” and ask questions.  If you don’t useful responses (even if that is due to poor explanations rather than lies, misinformation, etc.), you can then present a tentative conclusion of your own.  If it turns out you are incorrect, that’s fine, because you want to learn something, not impress others with your “expertise,” which you don’t possess, at least officially, anyway!

Now as to the subject of claims about how these kinds of olfactory concoctions are being “debased” or otherwise modified significantly in recent years.  Perfumer Chris Bartlett, who has been willing to answer questions at Basenotes.net if not elsewhere as well, has stated that traditional chypres are no longer possible if current IFRA guidelines are used, for example.  But this is not only an issue for naturals; there have been complaints about the “restriction” of certain aroma chemicals going back at least about a decade!  And one in particular that comes up every once in a while is Terre d’Hermes; the claim is that the first formulation contained 55% iso e super (ies), but that it contains much less now (along with other ingredients, possibly).  This passage from a blog is often quoted in this context:

Here is a table of Top Ten Fragrances with Regard to Their Content in Iso E Super
No., Fragrance Name (Company, launch year), Iso E Super
[NB. the percentage is in regards to compound, not diluted ready to use product]

1 Molecule 01 (escentric molecules, 2005) 100%
2 Perles de Lalique (Lalique, 2007) 80%
3 Poivre Samarcande (Herme`s, 2004) 71%
4 Escentric 01 (escentric molecules, 2005) 65%
5 Terre d’Hermes (Hermes, 2006) 55%

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

And here is the kind of concern one might encounter (from nearly five years ago):

A lot of people are anosmic to ISO E Super, (as well as certain musks).

I own Encre Noir and sometimes have a hard time detecting part of it.

It has a lot of ISO E Super in it. Terre d’Hermes does as well and the amount of ISO E Super in that one used to be even more significant until regulations curbed the usage of the chemical somewhat.

https://www.fragrantica.com/board/viewtopic.php?id=68003

Are a lot of people anosmic to it?  I would guess that is the case and would be very surprised if it weren’t the case, but could it just be the amount that is the issue?  Anyway, the key point here is the obvious misinformation, apparently: TdH has not been restricted in terms of at least the ies content.  Most likely, this person saw somewhere that TdH is 55% ies and that ies was now restricted to 21.4%, and so assumed that recent formulations were much weaker.  And one has to question why IFRA bothered to create this new guideline, since if a scent is “100% iso e super,” and it’s 80% alcohol, that means it’s around 20% ies (a bit less due to the water, and possibly preservatives/dyes), still under 21.4%!  What is the purpose of a “restriction” that has no practical use?  It almost seems like it was intended to be misleading.

Before going further with TdH and the ies content, I think it’s worth addressing an area of misunderstanding.  When one looks at a list of ingredients on a typical EdT box of today, which would be something like “alcohol, water/aqua, parfum/fragrance, linalool, citral, eugenol, etc. (possibly a preservative like BHT would be included, towards the end, and dyes are common, such as “yellow 5,” or tartrazine).  This means there is more alcohol than anything else in the liquid (clearly, the glass that comprises the bottle is not relevant here).  Also, sometimes we see “alcohol, parfum/fragrance, water/aqua…” and then the other items.  On the box, we see a number with the percentage symbol next to it, usually somewhere between about 80 and 90 (for EdT and EdPs), which represents the alcohol content.  Thus, we know that everything else listed makes up about 20% or less of the liquid within.

So, why does anyone need to tell us that TdH isn’t or never was 55% ies; why don’t they say that the portion that is “parfum/fragrance” may be 55% ies?  Isn’t that obvious to those who know what “90% vol.” (or whatever amount) means?  But things get worse, for as you can read on the FromPyrgos blog page cited above, some people want to talk in terms of “of compound” and “in concentrate.”  This may be the way perfumers talk to each other, but it is not what consumers have been and are exposed to, and it obviously can be quite misleading!  For example, let’s say you buy some peach ice cream with this list of ingredients: “milk, cream, sugar,  artificial peach flavoring, peaches.”  When you eat it, you see bits of actual peach, but even in parts of the ice cream that have no visible peach bits, it still tastes strongly of peach.  You know that the artificial peach flavoring is responsible or largely responsible, because, being listed in front of peaches, there is more of it in the mix, and it’s not something you would be able to see, unlike the actual peach bits.  Do we need someone to talk of the elements that comprise the ice cream as “of compound” or “in concentrate?”  Wouldn’t that just make things very confusing for many if not most consumers?

Now let’s take a look at a comment by someone who was confused about this about a decade ago:

I was quite scared and angry until I read the comments. I thought it was a ban – I guess I jumped the gun. If comments by Alex (I’m guessing our Alex?) are correct, then the limitation on Iso E Super will be 20% of the final composition. He says that TdH is only 5% Iso E Super in the final product (based on 50% of concentrate, at 10% EdT strength). He says we should worry if the regulation was, say, 10%.

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/218008-IFRA-regulation-of-ISO-E-Super

But why does it need to be that complicated?  You can look at the box or label and see what the alcohol content is, and then you know the parfum/fragrance is going to be a percentage of whatever is left over, so if it says “90% vol.,” you know that the parfum/fragrance is less than 10% (since there is also water, probably other things that contribute to the smell – certainly the case with TdH – and possibly dyes and preservatives as well).  But now we need to understand what IFRA restricted, in terms of ies, and that apparently means that it can be used up to 21.4% of the entire content, not just the parfum/fragrance content.  Since TdH was one of the strongest ies scents of all time, “restricting” the ies content to about four times this is not what most people would consider any kind of “restriction” (especially compared to their most recent guidelines on oakmoss!).  Thus we have another area of potential confusion.  Also, if you want to blame someone for a reduction of ies in TdH, it would seem that would be Hermes.  Why not send them an email and ask, as a BN member did with Creed’s “80% natural ingredients in the parfum portion” claim” (to be addressed in my next blog post)?  And do we need to know about “dilution?”  Of course it’s diluted with the alcohol – otherwise when you sprayed it you would never know what you would be getting!  It would be like the peach ice cream, at least in terms of being able to pick out the peach bits and only eat those (if you decanted it and if the undiluted parfum/fragrance portion was visible).

As to claims that some people are imagining ies content, we only have to turn to the Wikipedia page on this aroma chemical to see the reality there:

…chronic exposure to Iso E Super from perfumes may result in permanent hypersensitivity

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetramethyl_acetyloctahydronaphthalenes

And as is stated there, it seems to be dangerous as well:

Iso E Super is toxic and bioaccumulative in aquatic organisms and the environment, and is suspected to be bioaccumulative in humans.

So, I certainly would be one to applaud more restrictions of iso e super (because I seem to be one of the people have become hypersensitized to it), but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be an issue with IFRA at the moment.  And now I’ll turn back to the title of this post.  There is no magical thinking on my part, nor has there been, in terms of at least ies.  That is, I have and am still trying to figure out what the reality is here.  For example, I still don’t understand why it’s necessary to talk in terms of “in concentrate” and “of compound” when we know the alcohol content is going to be so high, and we also know that of course it’s been diluted into the alcohol, or else it would smell differently when we sprayed it!

Misunderstanding that is due to experts not being able to explain well or not wanting to divulge “industry secrets” is like a poorly-written textbook that also may contain misinformation.  If that’s the case, you might want to investigate for yourself, and as part of that you might want to put forth a tentative hypothesis, to see what the responses are to it.  One of those responses might lead you to the truth, and so appearing to be “wrong” is a small price to pay.   If I was wrong, that involved making the reasonable assumption that the 21.4% ies “restriction” must refer to the parfum/fragrance portion, since otherwise it’s essentially a meaningless gesture, apparently.  Moreover, it’s often a good idea to continue to press the investigation forward, whereas magical thinking is characterized by a “closed mind.”  Overall, magical thinking seems to involve believing things that are inconsistent with what is known (in some cases including the “laws of nature”), as well as an inability to recognize that one’s  perceptions can vary significantly.  Perhaps worst of all, those who engage in it tend to persist stubbornly in their notions, assuming that what is at best a tentative hypothesis can’t possibly be wrong, which can mislead others too!

NOTE:  You might be asking yourself (as I did), whether certain aroma chemicals that appear on the ingredient list, such as linalool, are part of the parfum/fragrance portion but are just listed separately for some reason.  If so, doesn’t this violate the “rule” for listing ingredients, which is that the one that is most common is listed first and the one that is least common is listed last (and so forth)?  I asked a fragrance chemist whom I met during a swap, and this is the response I got:

They [that is, items like linalool, citral, and eugenol] are considered part of the parfum, but are listed for a number of reasons. The items listed tend to fall into a number of categories:  GRAS (generally recognized as safe), ubiquitous (long tail theory in action) and used primary as blenders/fixatives/stabilizers/preservatives. Listing them started as a way to show some transparency over what is going into their cosmetics while not giving much away at all. The industry was compelled to start the practice of throwing the consumer a bone a few decades past, and once rules get stuck in place they tend to take hold.

Apparently, “transparency” is not the real goal here, at least for those in the industry, but whatever the case may be, unless percentages are listed, we can’t know for sure (a GC/MS study can be useful here but is rarely done AND disclosed to the public) how much of anything is in the liquid, and when a percentage is given, as was the case with the ies content of TdH long ago, one might want to ask the source of the information (or misinformation) whether he/she is referring to all the liquid in the bottle or just the parfum/fragrance portion.

 

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How can one review a scent for newbies: the Dior Homme Intense example.

Dior Homme Intense 2011 Christian Dior for men

I’ve wanted to sample Dior Homme Intense for years, but every time I got close it alluded me, such as a few swap negotiations that fell through, and one ebay purchase that the seller refused to honor (she claimed her grandmother accidentally listed it at the wrong Buy It Now price).  Still, I decided it made sense to wait, because what would be the best result?  I’d like it and buy a bottle, then wear it once or twice a year?  But recently I was able to try the 2015 formulation, and while I was thinking about something else crossed my mind: would my review of it make sense to a newbie?

First, I’ll start with my Fragrantica.com review of DHI:

…I wore that 2015 batch of DHI. I’m getting a kind of neutered version of original DH (I used two sprays to the chest half an hour ago), but it does seem to have more of a gourmand element, though nothing all that special to me. So far, I’d say I’d buy this at a low price or swap for it, because it is reasonably pleasant, an okay winter office scent, but I think I’d rather wear something like Magnet for Men by Eclectic Collections because I prefer the notes in that one and the “quality” seems to be the same. I’ll update if I get something different as it develops.

UPDATE: I can understand the appeal, as the balance is nice, but I don’t find it especially interesting, and there’s a touch of what I perceive as “laundry musk.” What Luca Turin said about Jaipur Homme, that it feels like it’s part of a group of items that comprises a gift set (something to that effect) is how I think about DHI. Vintage Jaipur Homme, though (at least EdP), is something at least relatively unique, and it does take chances, so to speak. How things have changed since the Turin/Sanchez “guide” book was published, nearly a decade ago!  At this point, if asked, I’d have to say I prefer Halloween Man Shot to this 2015 batch of DHI, because it develops into a more compelling blend of similar notes, and also doesn’t have the lavender (which I think is just a distraction in DHI).

The listed notes for DHI are:

Top note is lavender; middle notes are iris, ambrette (musk mallow) and pear; base notes are vetiver and virginia cedar.

The notes for Halloween Man Shot are:

…brisk lemon daiquiri cocktail notes with spices of cardamom and black pepper. The aromatic – floral heart of iris and sage is placed on the intensive base of leather, vanilla and amber wood.

To be blunt, I have no idea why anyone would spend more than $20 or so for a bottle of DHI (let’s say at least 50 ml), and I would just swap or sell a bottle if I obtained one really inexpensively.  But how do most “newbie noses” experience DHI?  Is it some sort of olfactory revelation, since all he might know are Cool Water and its clones, Curve type scents, obnoxious party room clearers, and “grandfatherly” fougeres?  I remember not being ready for it in the early days – I couldn’t even detect sweetness in a scent!  Instead, I was more interested in the unique note combinations, not having even heard of a gourmand scent, for example.  It took me at least several months to detect “quality” differences, but then that was mostly about vintage versus recent.  I only rarely thought that a recent “top designer” was obviously “higher quality” than the best of the “lesser designers,” “celebuscents,” etc., from what I can remember.  Perhaps that was the thinking behind creating “exclusive”‘ designer lines.  But the most important thing (for me) was the decision not to spend too much before I thought I understood the significant differences.

I also remember seeing the vast price differences, but decided not to buy anything beyond the “cheapo” range, because I didn’t think I would be able to appreciate the supposedly significant differences that warranted the higher prices.  I did read a post or two at Basenotes.net, in which people were talking about how great this or that “cheapo” was, but I still couldn’t imagine it being “better” than a “top designer,” let alone niche, just very good for the price range.  But especially now, with IFRA guidelines more or less funneling any “mainstream” release into one of several directions, I see even less difference.  For example, inexpensive “oud scents” like Jovan’s Intense Oud, are fine for when I want that “punch in the face” synthetic oud experience (anything stronger wouldn’t work for me anyway).  And something like Magnet for Men by Eclectic Collections (which cost me around $8 for 100 ml, IIRC) is right up there with just about any other scent I’ve got (in terms of complexity, naturalness, dynamism, etc.), for my purposes (of course it’s not what I would reach for when I want to wear something like Leather Oud by Dior).

Now if I want some really rich and natural smelling notes, I’m going to reach for a vintage bottle, and I mean it’s probably going to be a batch from the early 1990s or earlier (or perhaps ten years later if made by a company like Guerlain, but of course there are some possible exceptions).  However, I usually want a more “modern” composition these days, and I’m quite content with the variety available at “cheapo” price levels.  I don’t know why anyone would seek to pay the higher prices, other than for psychological reasons that they are not aware of (or for “status” reasons that they are all too aware of!), again with a few possible exceptions.  But how do you communicate this to people who are convinced that the “big name” is meaningful?  I’m not sure there is a way, though a few of those people will likely “get it” and be very thankful once they realize what the reality is!  Again, why not wait until you are able to detect clear differences, and if you never can, why not just wear an inexpensive but similar scent?

 

 

 

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