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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The “nothing fragrance.”

Jil Sander Man Jil Sander for men

First let me make clear that what might be a “nothing fragrance” for me, might be a “masterpiece” for you, or vice versa.  As you might have guessed, this 2007 release, Jil Sander Man, is one such scent for me.  But what’s interesting is the glowing reviews for it.  Before I get to those, let me me disclose the notes (from Fragrantica.com):

Top notes are lavender, violet and bergamot; middle notes are sage and vetiver; base notes are cedar, myrrh and russian leather.

Just as Fragrantica alone, we can read reviews that include the following:

…a remarkable fragrance.

…Rubbery? Yes. Smoky? Yes. Unique? absolutely.

…It opens with an aromatic flowery phase (bergamot, lavender & violet – one of my preferred flowery notes) then switch on a bitter rooty-spicy one (sage & vetiver). In the drydown, when the sweet woody-incensy combo arises (myrrth & cedar) it feels very smooth, elegant and also a bit leathery.

…I use this only at special occasions when I want to feel this wonderful smoke and leather.

…This is one of the most delicious scent I have ever felt!

…basically a woody-leathery violet scent with vetiver and cedar (“pencil”) notes and a slight smoky fog.

…It is too heavy sweet and without interesting individuality. Seems even unisex because of that sugar sweetness.

…Love this! What a nice smoke, vetiver, wood combo!

…This is such a overwelaming scent ! Truly a Masterpice.

…Very much like Cacharel NEMO, about the same sillage. Also, there are a few aspects of this fragrance that remind me of Vintage YSL M7. The biggest is the AWESOME powdery drydown, not a talc, but a wonderful leathery powder. It is just awesome!

…The drydown is good and surprising. Do not let the opening fool you.

…Truly a hidden GEM ! Dark…sexy…masculine…mysterious.

My review is:

For a while I was thinking, a smoother Rochas Man, but without a coffee note (or one that is very mild). However, there is also a “fresh” element (“old school” style, not a bunch of powerful/nasty aroma chemicals). I’d say the sweetness is moderate, and it’s not a strong scent overall, perhaps an “office friendly” version of Rochas Man. I’m not getting a smoky quality, as others have, and I certainly wouldn’t call it a remarkable scent, though I can understand how some might really enjoy it (“dark,” “sexy, or “masculine:” I’d say a “big no” to those descriptions). Don’t expect to clearly smell some or even most of the listed notes – this is more of a “classy” designer blend scent. This is not the kind of scent I’d wear often, if ever really, because when I want at least some of those notes I want them to be more obvious or stronger.

To be fair, there were a few reviews that included comments that I agree with, but overall I was thinking, “how could such a ‘meh’ scent be described in these ways?”  In some ways, I’d say this is a good example of a scent that was blended “into oblivion.”  But I can’t say anything else “bad” about it, other than it may have been a scent of its time (or perhaps the time had passed it by before it was released).  The youngsters would likely say it’s too “old” or “mature,” and it’s not what I would call an aficionado or “niche crowd” scent.  It certainly could be a good “office scent,” but only in the sense that it’s weak and nondescript, at least at this point in time.  Since it was released the same year I first started reading about fragrances (and in my case it was at the very end of 2007), I can’t say it was perceived as an “office scent” with a bit of an edge at that time.  However, I purchased a bottle as part of a lot, so I’m not too disappointed.  I’ll likely move it out by swap or sale soon, but I’m almost regretful that I “wasted” a day wearing it when I could have worn something I’d have enjoyed!

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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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Aggressively negative responses to reality: Are we now living in the age of “unhealthy skepticism?”

After learning that on a UK Creed web site, their Viking scent was described (in a highly misleading way, IMO) as 80% natural and that my 100 ml bottle of Yacht Man Victory (which cost me less than $3 total for 100 ml, new) had this stated on the box, “80% vol. alcohol of natural origin,” I decided to write this post.  Here is what that Creed page looked like (and perhaps it still does at time of publication):

Creed Viking 80 percent natural

I decided to post a thread at Basenotes.net pointing this out.  I expected that a “Creed fanboy” or two might have something nasty to say, but it soon became clear that I had become some kind of negative emotion scapegoat for quite a few people there.  It’s not entirely surprising, as it’s a well-known psychological phenomenon.  Let’s start with:

Many of us take criticism more personally than we should, and that’s where we’re getting it wrong. Dr. Paulus says that it’s important for us to separate criticism from our sense of self. We don’t want to view it as criticism about who we are as a person, but rather, as feedback about an individual action, a specific event or a particular situation.

https://crew.co/blog/handling-criticism-better/

However, the “80% natural incident” reveals that some people can’t even accept obvious and deserved criticism of some of the products that they use!  Apparently, they can’t separate themselves from the product, which seems very similar to the way quite a few fans of sports teams act.  They also seem to personify the company, so that when a real person (like me in this case) rightfully criticizes that company, it’s as if they view it as a big muscular guy pushing around a child!  That is, they totally reverse the reality of the situation.  And in this case, the company in question has a history of making up history!  It also has a motivation, which is to try and “cash in” on the people who like to buy items with “natural ingredients.”  What’s my motivation?  I hate it when people try to mislead others, especially when it seems like “corporate greed” is the only reason, but I still have no interest in trying to make one company appear worse than is the reality of the situation.

The marketing of many fragrances is sometimes ludicrous, so singling out one company is not fair; it’s an “industry issue.”  However, Creed seems to try and market to those who think they can encounter “royal” experiences by spraying on one of their fragrances, which isn’t all that common, though plenty has already been said about such claims.  Nobody, to my knowledge, has yet to address this “natural” claim, so I wanted to make sure I got the word out about it, and then readers can decide for themselves.  In fact, that one Fragrantica reviewer (that I quoted two posts ago) was spreading this notion, which while perhaps not an outright lie, is an excellent example of a misleading statement, IMO.  If you can’t just accept this without getting very angry, I suggest seeking therapy, because you are “cheating” yourself, nobody else.  If you want to argue that it’s not all that misleading, then we can simply “agree to disagree.”  Why attack people personally, or act like you can read their minds (and conclude the person is a “hater” of a particular company), or go off on irrelevant tangents in an attempt to deflect attention, etc.?  Don’t cheat yourself!  Here is the thread in question, so that you can see what I’m referencing:

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/448296-The-quot-naturalness-quot-of-fragrances-don-t-be-fooled-!

In the case of Viking, there are some apparent wood aroma chemicals I found to be rather irritating, but I don’t hold that against them.  They’ve likely done quite a bit of testing and most people don’t have any issues with these.  However, it seems that many people react negatively to the fact that this is not the case for everyone, despite evidence suggesting this is just reality, for example:

Do you get a headache from the perfume of the lady next to you at the table? Do cleaning solutions at work make your nose itch? If you have symptoms prompted by everyday smells, it does not necessarily mean you are allergic but rather that you suffer from chemical intolerance…

The results were observed using methods based on both electroencephalography (EEG) and functional brain imaging technology (fMRI). The EEG method involved placing electrodes on the heads of trial subjects and registering the minute changes in tension in the brain that arise following exposure to smells. Unlike the people in the normal group, Linus Andersson explains, the intolerant people did not evince a lessening of brain activity during the period of more than an hour they were exposed to a smell. The inability to grow accustomed to smells is thus matched by unchanging brain activity over time.

“These individuals also have a different pattern in the blood flow in their brains, compared with those who perceive that a smell diminishes. A similar change can be found in patients with pain disorders, for example.”

Sensitivity to smell impacts the entire body A further finding in the dissertation is that chemical intolerant people also react strongly to substances that irritate the mucous linings of their nose and mouth…

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120120182914.htm

Back to the point about the apparent attempt to mislead now.  As is stated on page 31 of Turin’s/Sanchez’ “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide:” “…synthetics usually make up more than 90 percent of fragrance;” this refers to the fragrance/parfum portion, as many scents are around 90% perfumer’s alcohol overall (“by volume”).  Thus, a “very natural” scent of this type (meaning not one that is made by “natural perfumers”) would be one that included naturals at more than 10% of the fragrance portion, perhaps even 15% or so, but now “things get really weird.”  That is, a Basenotes member emailed Creed (at the UK site, I believe), and received this response, or so he claimed:

We can confirm that the 80% of natural ingredients refers to the perfume concentrate rather than the final product.

We hope that the above information has been of use to you and that you enjoy trying our new Viking fragrance.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further queries,

With best wishes,

Customer Services
creedfragrances.co.uk
p: 020 7630 9400
a: 2nd Floor Peregrine House, 26-28 Paradise Road, TW9 1SE
w: http://www.creedfragrances.co.uk e: customerservices@creedfragrances.co.uk

This is simply not consistent with modern perfumery, and note that we don’t even know who this person is or what his/her position at Creed is.  Even who marketed a vintage scent like Red for Men claimed that their concoction contained a “blend of 551 ingredients, including 35 naturals” in the press release.  And while Viking’s notes are a bit different, these are similar scents compositionally (though to me, vintage  Red clearly smells more natural), especially in terms of complexity,  and so note that the number of ingredients of synthetic origin in Red are much more numerous than the naturals.  If the fragrance portion of Viking is more than 80% natural (in the way most of us think of the concept and how it is applied to food items in the USA), then Viking would be an incredible new development in the history of modern perfumery.  Do you have any doubt that they would want everyone in the world to know?  In my next post I will provide more information, including what a fragrance chemist thinks about this claim (80% of the fragrance portion/concentrate).

NOTE:  I also believe that quite a bit of thought was put into making Viking and that they wanted to do something at least somewhat interesting and with good performance.  So, price aside, I have nothing “objectively bad” to say about the scent itself, at least relative to what one has come to expect these days from many “houses.”

 

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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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