Is the “niche sampler” back?

Heat Wild Orchid Beyonce for women

No, the picture is not of a niche bottle but of a “celebuscent,” but I’ll get back to it below.  To begin this post, I want to mention that I don’t read reviews at nearly as much as I used to, usually because there are more at and I find those to be more “down to earth.”  Also, I can usually tell what kind of hobbyist/aficionado the person is, whereas the Basenotes crowd tends to be more difficult to decipher.  For example, one reviewer there writes long and thoughtful reviews, yet his preferences are very different than mine, and he seems to be much more tolerant of certain aroma chemicals than I am.  So, it’s easy to be misled by such reviews, whereas the “dis ding stinks” type of review is easier to dismiss or understand (such as if the scent is animalic).

What I’ve noticed on the few occasions in recent months that I clicked on the Reviews tab at Basenotes is that so many are of obscure niche fragrances.  In the “old days” of a decade or so ago, they were often reviewing the same fragrances, and there weren’t too many that were discussed all that much.  One was L’Air du Desert Marocain, of course, but nowadays not only have never heard of the fragrance, but I also have never heard of the company!  It’s very easy not to be interested in a fragrance that is very expensive when there are so many others that fit the same bill, so to speak.  Of course, I’ve sampled a whole lot of fragrances in the last ten years (I got serious in late 2007, which I started reading Basenotes and fragrance blogs), but back then there weren’t that many that seemed special and it was a lot easier to obtain samples, often for free or in a swap (and shipping costs were lower back then too – the USPS 2 pounds for $2.90 deal was great!).

I find myself thinking, “nah, I already have something that sounds close enough,” or “that’s probably a chemical mess,” or “that sounds like a ham-fisted attempt to reinvent the vintage wheel,” on the rare occasion that I read about one of the new, expensive niche fragrances that I am not likely to own (another factor being how swapping has dried up in recent years).  So, I have largely confined myself to buying lots at very good prices or taking advantage of an occasional deal from the major online discounters.  One example of the latter is Beyonce’s Heat Wild Orchid, which I actually sampled at a Walmart and though was okay, but hardly worth pursuing.  The notes for this 2010 release (from Fragrantica) are:

…opens with a fruity trio of pomegranate, coconut water and boysenberry. A bold floral bouquet of butterfly orchid, blooming magnolia and honeysuckle is the heart. Blonde woods, skin musk and amber contribute to the overall impression of a sensual perfume.

When I saw a super deal on a 100 ml bottle, I was hesitant, but figured I could give it as a gift if I didn’t think it was worth keeping.  It doesn’t smell much like the notes to me, which in this case was a great surprise!  The first time I sprayed it on, at Walmart, it had an almost chocolate/vanilla quality, but then the next time I recognized quite a bit of tonka, and not much in the way of florals.  Over time, a smoky type quality emerged, which usually irritates me, but here it was mild enough, and works great, providing me something that usually doesn’t work in much more expensive scents.  There’s also a hint of an almost minty quality that keeps things interesting.  I mention this because it seems like the “fragrance community” is going in two entirely different different directions, and it reminds me of how more than a few people I know will only do food shopping at the “better” stores or what we used to call “health food stores” 25-30 years ago (an example is Whole Foods Market).  They spend a whole lot more on food than I do (I get most of my food from Walmart and local dollar stores).

Speaking of which, when I was last in a dollar store, I bought an EAD fragrance called Divulge, which is “inspired by” CK’s Reveal for Him.  I had opportunities to acquire Reveal at a reasonable price, but I found at least a few CK scents to be too “chemical” for my tastes and decided against.  Dollar store versions, though, tend go go lighter on some aroma chemicals, and indeed that was the case here.  I really enjoyed Divulge and certainly would have paid a bit more for the 75 ml bottle.  What I smell seems consistent with the reviews I’ve read of Reveal, and it’s certainly unique in terms of my experience.  However, an effect it had on me was to plant the notion in my mind, “you just can’t spend much money on these concoctions any more – it’s just ridiculous!  The dollar store companies are too good.”  Of course, I already have plenty to keep me occupied the rest of my life, but that was the case years ago too, when I still found myself tempted to blind buy something that turned out to be a bad decision, but curiosity got the best of me.

Those days seem to be gone for me.  Sure, if the deal is ridiculously good I’ll throw a few dollars at a bottle, but overall I think of myself as going in the opposite direction of the “niche samplers.”  What are they seeking?  Yes, unique compositions will continue to be released, but then the question becomes, “are you ever going to enjoy what you have or are you going to continue to chase after pots of gold at the ends of rainbows?”  I can imagine some people buying a huge amount of samples and hardly ever buying a bottle – they are likely those who claim to be seeking “art” in fragrances, but of course this is a tiny fraction of a tiny fraction.  One issue seems to be a lack of patience, meaning that when one of these people hears about a “special” new release, there is a desire to try it within a month or less.  But what I find myself a lot more interested in lately is wearing fragrances that I have neglected for a while, to see what my perceptions of it are like after such a hiatus.  Often, it seems like a very different fragrance!  This supplies me with the novelty factor that I’d guess is a driving force for the niche samplers, and it allowed me to appreciate “super cheapos” like Heat Wild Orchid.


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Is a newbie “spontaneous fragrance modification” myth very common these days?

Image result for molecules

First, I’ll mention what led to my thought about a possible myth, which began with a review I posted on the Yatagan/Caron page on

I obtained a recent formulation (batch 402114), and it definitely is different from my 2010 bottle. The base is weaker and overall it seems simpler. However, that does make it more wearable for “modern sensibilities,” as they say. In this way it reminds me of my recent formulation of Kouros (as compared to vintage Kouros). It’s certainly still Yatagan (of perhaps 10 years ago), with that celery quality (which is not present in “deep vintage”), but it’s clearly less “macho.” The major “problem” for me is that I prefer deep vintage and so there’s no good reason for me to wear this.

Another reviewer, in 2012, said this about it:

…And by the way the reformulation is still quite strong and just as good, and this scent could easily become somebodies signature scent.

I respect this point of view, and my 2010 Yatagan bottle might be perceived as “better”‘ by a vast majority of people who compare it to “deep vintage,” which is fine with me.  There is nothing “bad” about the 2010 formulation, and I’m glad Caron didn’t try to “modernize” it.  The March, 2014 formulation (batch code 402114), however, does strike me as an attempt to save some money, though without tinkering too much with the composition (such as occurred with the huge cinnamon note in “modern” Z-14).  For me, deep vintage is great, whereas 2010 is unbalanced and therefore unwearable, with a bit of tweaking to the formula too.  In any case, not long after I posted that review, this one appeared:

@Bigsly: the difference of smell between a current bottle and an old one is not due to formulation differences, but to the fact that the old bottle has oxidized slightly, allowing the fragrance to develop and “open”.
If you smell your current bottle compared to one open since 10 or 20 years, it’s no surprise that the smell is slightly different, but nothing related to hypothetical reformulations. (a different batch doesn’t mean they changed anything in the formula, although here it may be possible in regard to oakmoss, because of the new 2014 IFRA regulations- but it’s not automatic).

After reading this, I added the following to my review:

Note that I disagree with Andy the Frenchy’s statement above this review and in fact consulted a fragrance chemist, who has this to say:

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

Oxidation makes such concoctions smell worse not better, and can lead to skin rashes, as this abstract makes clear:

“Terpenes are widely used fragrance compounds in fine fragrances, but also in domestic and occupational products. Terpenes oxidize easily due to autoxidation on air exposure. Previous studies have shown that limonene, linalool and caryophyllene are not allergenic themselves but readily form allergenic products on air-exposure…”

The source is Contact Dermatitis. 2005 Jun;52(6):320-8.

Limonene and linalool are among the most common ingredients, so anyone who wants their fragrance oxidized has no idea what they are talking about, IMO, but perceptions can be rather odd. For example, there was a shipwreck found a few years back – it was over 100 years old! There were two perfume splash bottles in it. Non-perfumers questioned thought it smelled fine but the perfumers said it was clearly “spoiled.” Not many years ago, when I said that I had never encountered a vintage bottle that had a “spoiled” drydown, at least one blogger and a perfumer (who had an obvious conflict of interest) disagreed. If the scent has volatile top notes, especially citrus, those might be “lost” over the years, but the problem for those who claim that their fragrances got considerably stronger or the smell got better don’t seem to realize that it would mean more of the same molecules were created in that sealed bottle or new molecules were created that smelled better, which is something fragrance chemists and perfumers would already know and incorporate into their compositions! Now if you think you “reinvented the wheel” then go ahead and try to demonstrate it scientifically so that you can be the next Einstein. Today’s fragrances are nearly all or entirely synthetic, so for anything that isn’t special (and really expensive), the only change will be for the worse. Of course, to save money sometimes the formula is cheapened, as people like Luca Turin have pointed out a long time ago. In any case, you can do your own research and decide for yourself.

Then a few days later, this review appeared:

This is not a forum about perfume composition, it’s a series of reviews about Yatagan, but I’d like to address a couple of points.
– Old bottles of fragrance will undergo a process of oxidization once they are used, so Andy the Frenchy’s comment as posted is likely to be accurate in the majority of situations (assuming the majority of vintage bottles on the market have been used at least once.)
– Oxidization and its effect on odour is hardly limited to whether some terpenes become catalyzed! And…. Just because oxidization results in a perfume material become a potential irritant hardly means that it does not smell good (or even better) for it. Plenty of wonderful materials are potential irritants, as anyone can find out by googling most of the ingredients on the back of any box of perfume (IFRA regulated or not). Time to reread Paracelsus on that one.

Anyway, I post too much about things I like but now I feel guilty for not respecting the purpose of this space so I will say (about Yatagan) –

Certain fragrances seem to ‘open up’ once opened, oxidized and aged a little. Speaking anecdotally (I’m no chemist), I’d say that with some bottles I have owned, aging and intermittent usage over several months helps to produce the ‘fuller’, ’rounder’ and ‘more natural’ experience many people look for from a composition like Yatagan… If your bottle feels a bit thin, try shelving it for a little while (:

Putting aside this person’s lack of understanding of the term “composition” in this context, it seems to me that something quite odd has taken hold in the “online fragrance community,” perhaps especially among “newbies, and perhaps mostly due to claims made by the major Youtube reviewers.  That is, many seem to think that there is no such thing as a reformulation, but rather that molecules in a sealed spray bottle interact significantly with air even after just a few sprays and the composition is magically transformed into something much better or much stronger.  Fortunately there is a test to determine this, though unfortunately, it’s expensive (for us non-1% people).  However, if you want to make this kind of incredible claim, perhaps you should be willing to “put your money where your mouth is.”

In this situation, that would mean the claimant is willing to pay for a GC/MS study done by a competent technician, if that person cannot detect any significant change in either the number of molecules or the “spikes” that denote the strongest aroma chemicals on the resulting graph.  I certainly would pay if I bought a new fragrance (100 ml) from a major company (in a sealed spray bottle), had the GC/MS study done, then stored it properly for a couple months and used a quarter ounce of it, then had another GC/MS study done and the technician found that the concoction had become much stronger or had changed and smelled much different (yet had not “spoiled”).  If you are not an expert, you should either do some research and/or try to consult one, before making claims that suggest something that would violate the “laws of nature!”

Interestingly, one doesn’t hear much about all the skin rashes one would expect if these extraordinary claims were true.  One of the mysteries of chemistry is that two molecules might be very similar yet have different scents, no scent, or other properties that are quite distinct.  Or two molecules can be structured very differently yet smell quite similar.  However, this is a major area studied by people who become professional perfumers!  If what is being claimed by these apparent newbies were true, fragrance chemists and professional perfumers would know this and they would incorporate these properties into the final product.  They would certainly let the person or company employing them know that there was a simple and inexpensive procedure (that only took a few weeks or so) that could make the finished product much stronger or smell much better.  But of course this is something that would likely have become well known long ago, perhaps in the nineteenth century!


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Is there an Error to Eros?

Eros Versace for men

I recently acquired an official spray sample of of this 2012 scent.  I wore it twice, the first being just a half spray to the lower leg.  I used my hand to waft it up to my nose, and thought it smelled quite good, though not especially complex or special.  Then I wore it again with two sprays to the chest, but this was not a pleasant experience at all.  I then wrote up my review, which is:

I can understand the appeal, but for me, this is a “poster child” fragrance for that “sticky/synthetic” quality I do not find pleasant. Perhaps more naturals would have made it work for me. As it is, I would rather wear some Jacques Bogart scents that are also on the synthetic side of things. The Parfumo site has this note “pyramid:”

Mint leaf, Italian lemon, Green apple.
Venezuelan tonka bean, Ambroxan, Geranium.
Madagascan vanilla, Atlas cedar, Virginia cedar, Vetiver, Oakmoss.

It’s an interesting question why some aroma chemicals seem easier to “hide” in a composition and in the case of scents like Eros, is the idea not to try and mask those molecules, especially ambroxan, but to go ahead and do product testing to see if the target demographic is actually attracted to the “chemical overload.  I’d guess that was the case for Cool Water for Men, with its hefty dose of dihydromyrcenol, and I certainly would admit that in some cases I can enjoy compositions where it’s easy to detect an aroma chemical that doesn’t smell “natural.”  Of course, doing so can create “abstract” compositions, which at the very least avoids the possibility of someone saying that you just smell like a dollar store bottle of imitation vanilla.

The target demographic for Eros seems to be the young, “party” crowd, which one Fragrantica reviewer points out:

Sweet club banger, like a fougere Joop, if I wore this in the late 90s when I started clubbing it would have had the same effect.
Ladies like sweet, bold stuff like this, it’s the male equivalent of what they would wear.
I’m too old for this shit.

However, one thing I noticed while sitting in a store near the exit for more than a few minutes, with dozens of people walking by, and that is the impression such scents can make on those nearby.  Often, we hear the phrase, “cologne guy,” and a few of them walked by, yet it wasn’t only the fragrance that made an olfactory impression, though of course it’s possible that I have a more “sensitive” nose than most people due to how much study I’ve devoted to these concoctions since late 2007.  In any case, these guys smelled like ambroxan and a pork and garlic dish – it was rather nauseating.  Now it may be that most Americans don’t smell that unappealing quality (since they eat typical American diets whereas I’m a vegetarian), and it’s also possible that these guys didn’t care about how they smelled going to a utilitarian store, but I do wonder whether they smell that same way when they go to night clubs and parties.

NOTE:  If I didn’t have so many fragrances already, I might buy a “clone” of Eros, such as Dionysus by Dorall Collection because I’ve found, at least with this company’s scents, the compositions tend to be a bit simpler, but also sometimes don’t use as much of the “offending” aroma chemical, so in this case I’d guess that Dionysus contains less ambroxan than Eros.  However, even if that’s the case here, I doubt that would mean it was $10 or so well spent, because the other notes are not ones that do much for me, unlike say CK’s Shock for Him, which contains a tobacco note.

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Why is it so difficult to get information about some releases these days?

Essence de Bois Precieux Cigar for men

It’s 2019, not 1999, so it’s strange to see a line of fragrances that doesn’t appear to be supported by the corporate web site.  I am referring to what appears to be the Remy Latour “niche” line.  The fragrances are in long, thin cylinder bottles made from brushed metal.  As you might expect, they tend to fall over easily, but otherwise the presentation is considerably better than you would expect from today’s Remy Latour releases.  Here is their web page for “masculines:”

Note that the “parent company” is Parour, which also markets Lomani, Giorgio Valenti, and other “cheapos.”  The bottles are 75 ml sprays, and there is a plastic wrap around the cylindrical container that houses it (there’s a brochure in there too).  I saw some very good prices on a couple of these and purchased two, Essence de Bois Pecieux and Essence de Cachemire.  The former’s notes are listed as (from

…saffron, oregano, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and incense; middle notes are papyrus and cashmere wood; base notes are sandalwood, cedar, patchouli, bourbon vanilla, ambergris and musk.

and for the latter:

…bergamot, rhubarb, watermelon and lotus; middle notes are sage, white rose, cashmere wood, sea water and iris; base notes are oakmoss, ambergris, tonka bean and musk.

EdBP reminds me of mostly of Perry Ellis Oud: Black Vanilla Absolute and Rich, Warm, Addictive by Zara, perhaps a touch more of the former.  It’s not super strong (though it’s certainly sweet) and it doesn’t have much in the way of note clarity, depth, or complexity, despite the long list of “dark” notes.  It’s pleasant and at least nearly unisex, but if you’ve already got something along these lines, I would not advise spending a King’s ransom on it.  Some might find it cloying as well.  And because it does have a touch of a tobacco-like quality, some might reference Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille when discussing it, but that’s the problem, that is, I have only seen one bottle for sale in the USA, and I now own it!  I’m guessing these were meant for another market, but who knows?  It’s a bit frustrating – what reason could there be for this in the “internet age?”

EdC is a Fahrenheit type of fragrance, but without the heavy gasoline/petrol, though with an aquatic note added.  It’s fairly strong and lasts well, so again, at a low price I could see those who enjoy Fahrenheit (or thinking they would if it could be “modernized”) wanting to own a bottle of this one.  I would consider wearing it in warm weather, but sitting in one place as it continually wafts up directly into one’s nose may not be a great idea – it has a bit of a note clash to me.  There seem to be at least seven other releases of this type under the Remy Latour name, five of which marketed to women.  Fragrantica has them listed as 2014 releases, so one has to wonder why there is so little information about them by now.  At one time, when I didn’t see any for sale, I thought they might be testing the market or had planned to release them but some problem delayed or prevented it.  However, it is clear that they are real, and one has to question what Parour was doing – why not create a short Youtube video about the line, for example?  If anyone knows more about this line, please comment and let us know!


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McGregor Cologne by Faberge – why do some fragrances “fly under the radar?”

McGregor Brut Parfums Prestige for men

If you have not noticed, the prices on some vintage and discontinued fragrances have risen to dizzying heights on ebay.  And I know it’s not nonsense because I have made a few of those sales in the last couple of months!  I was curious and figured, why not try and see what happens?  How much are Candies for Men, Phoenix by Keith Urban, Kirra by Pacsun, Blue Sugar, or V Pour Homme by Valentino, as examples, “really” worth?  Then there are ones such as Catalyst for Men, which had been selling for next to nothing for a long time – why did the prices suddenly rise?  It could be something like Youtube hype, but whatever the case may be, at least a lot of these sales are real because I listed a bunch of these types of fragrances for sale, starting at “high” prices, and made more than a few sales so far.  I also get offers; in one case the person wanted to pay around $25, and I tried to explain to him/her that I was holding out for more because from what had recently sold, I should be able to get closer to $100, which I did less than a week later!

I’ve noticed that people asking me about selling to them or swapping with them on Basenotes and Fragrantica often talk in terms of their “collections” these days, rather than something they are going to wear on a regular basis – that’s a huge difference than ten years ago, when I can’t remember one person talking about “collecting” fragrance bottles (other than a few who talked about antique ones that were empty).  And once a collectibles market gets established, it can be “off to the races” with prices.  I find it odd that some of those who really appreciate these olfactory concoctions would think that some collectibles markets are acceptable but one for fragrances is not.  As things stand, if you really want Patou Pour Homme, Egoiste Cologne Concentree, or even Kirra, you have to buy them and nothing else.  Yes, you might be able to get something close, but as I’ve found with many “super cheapo” recommendations I’ve made over the years, most people either don’t believe it or, for whatever reason, must have the “real thing.”  And then there are the speculators…

But then we come upon the example of McGregor Cologne, which I remember seeing years ago selling for around $12 or so, for 50 ml or more.  The notes for this early 1980s release are:

Top notes are lime and sage; middle notes are incense, anise and coconut milk; base notes are patchouli and vetiver.

Because I thought it was likely “drug store dreck,” I didn’t give it a second thought.  Nobody talked about it and it was by the company that released Brut (at that time I thought of Brut as a great example of the “low end,” though now I have some vintage Brut 33 can wear it occasionally – an interesting, natural-smelling, floral fougere).  Moreover, the note list suggested a possible irritating clash, in terms of my preferences (and I generally find a strong lime note to dominate compositions).  When I changed my mind and decided to purchase a spray bottle, not long ago, there were still hardly any reviews of it, and those left quite a bit to be desired, in terms of what I look for in a review.  The “best” contained this statement about what the scent is actually like (from Fragrantica):

…there really is a subtlety to this scent for which the knowledge that you’re smelling an early 80s release by Faberge in no way prepares you: the lime and sage notes dominate, but in harmony with a restrained patchouli darting in and out over top of a steady bass line of vetiver. Elsewhere, I’ve seen McGregor referred to as “harsh” but that’s the name and the company getting in the way of the scent: this isn’t Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting sequel (Begbie about to head butt), it’s the James Bond of Sean Connery in grey flannel, eyebrow cocked.

I did not get much patchouli nor anise, and while there was something sweetening it up a bit, it didn’t register as coconut milk to me (and I used to drink that once in a while).  The lime was obvious, though, and lasted a long time, sort of tied to the dry herbal element of sage.  Playing off that duo was the incense and vetiver, creating a slightly textured quality that’s very nice and lasts a long time.  It’s smooth yet distinct.  Projection was moderate after the first hour or two, but the overall strength is great for a cologne.  While wearing it I was thinking that this could pass for a 1980s Creed, such as Bois du Portugal, which is also simple revolving around lavender and amber.  I certainly think I’ll wear McGregor more than BdP, because the composition is rather unique.  And it’s fun to think, “this is niche-like, though better than today’s niche, and cost about how much a couple people would spend on a frugal meal at McDonald’s!”  If you are a “blind buyer,” there’s little reason not to try this one, so long as you don’t hate lime or actually are seeking a fragrance with powerful synthetics (such as the proverbial “party scent”).


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Vintage Avon: the next “super luxury” item?

Trazarra Avon for men

Not long ago I was researching a vintage (1978) “masculine” Avon scent called Trazarra.  Having had good success with some others, such as Clint (and considering how cheap they can be had, if one has some patience), I decided to go for a blind buy.  Another reason was the notes: “…civet, heliotrope, oriental notes, woody notes, sandalwood and spicy notes.”  Yet another was this review from

…The good news is that Trazarra wasn’t really a late-to-the-party “me too” spin on an older established trope like Tai Winds (1972) or Clint (1976), even if those were still very high quality, and instead was a mild-mannered, familiar yet still distinct oriental, although a bit too light-weight to really compete in the nightlife circuit. Trazarra is a finely-tuned well-studied take on the style, but just doesn’t have enough bite heat up with a little sweat like the big boys, and just sits at the bar sipping happy hour well drinks. Luckily, this very same lightweight feel makes it remarkably more versatile in different weather conditions, and it allowed a bit more leeway with office use too, but it’s definitely no match on the dance floor to it’s designer contemporaries. That’s okay, it has it’s own quirks and qualities that still might make it a worthwhile addition to a vintage Avon collection…

The “lightweight” quality he refers to seems to common to these old Avon cologne formulations (the aftershaves are even lighter and I try to avoid those), and simply means using more is necessary for similar effect.  However, it’s not uncommon to find five to eight ounce bottles of the EdC formulation selling for around $10 to $15 total on ebay!  I applied Trazarra liberally to the chest,  and this is my review of that experience:

Tangy, animalic, powdery-floral, slightly sweet, spicy, and with a touch of dry woods. Sound appealing? I noticed that you can still get the cologne formulation on ebay for low prices, so after looking at the notes and year of release, decided to go for a blind buy. If you’ve had any experience with old Avons, especially orientals, I think you will get what you expect here. I’d also say this would be a unisex niche scent if marketed today. It’s quite far removed from today’s synthetics, so if you are seeking a break from the usual aroma chemical suspects, this might be a great, low cost option. The notes are a bit vague, so the use of phrases such as “oriental notes” makes sense. The projection isn’t along the lines of vintage Kouros, which might be an advantage for a lot of people, but it’s got a similar idea to it (though not nearly as “urinal cake” as Kouros). Something else you can do with this kind of scent is to layer it, so that you use a little of a similar but more powerful and synthetic fragrance underneath this one (on the chest) so that it enhances these older fragrances. Overall, if you want a true “dirty” oriental but without the synthetics of today’s niche and without the high prices, grab a bottle while prices are still low!  It lasts at least as well as an Eau de Toilette, but projection drops off quite a bit after no more than two hours.

Of course, subsequent wearings may reveal further nuances.  As to the “super luxury” in the title of this post, I was thinking about this after reading the 2007 book, “Deluxe,” which includes these passages:

[the super wealthy] have perfume made just for them, like Louis XIV did two centuries ago. Each year, Patou receives a handful of orders for in-house nose Jean-Michel Duriez to create a made-to-measure perfume bottled in a Baccarat crystal flacon. The service costs approximately $70,000…

[the super wealthy] don’t need the logo entry-level handbag or to wear labels or logos. We buy from luxury brands, but not ordinary products. Special items. There’s always something special. You can see what is mass and what is special. Luxury is not how much you can buy. Luxury is the knowledge of how to do it right, how to take the time to understand and choose well. Luxury is buying the right thing.”

My thought was that rather than having a perfumer make a scent for you, which you still might not enjoy all that much after a few wearings (that has happened to me), you can “choose well” if you have access to a lot of variety, especially ones that are “high quality” but nobody wears any long, such as these old Avons.  Now I don’t care about being regarded as “high class,” but I did find it amusing how so many seem to be buying the “big name” fragrances and don’t realize how the super wealthy might find that to be the mark of a “peasant!”  By contrast, if I told a super wealthy person that my friend was a perfumer and made a fragrance just for me (though it actually was an old Avon) that person might think that I’m more “high class” than the person wearing the latest Chanel, Tom Ford, Dior, Gucci, etc.  To be honest, I tend to think of most people as “intellectual peasants” (not in the sense of IQ but in terms of not being more curious and avoiding spending more time researching their interests), though I wish they would be as motivated to learn as I am, because then the world might be a more interesting place.

Also, I’ve noticed that some hobbyists don’t appreciate variety as much as I do, and to me that is the most important thing.  For example, in a Basenotes thread, one member seemed aghast that I would prefer to have access to all Balenciaga fragrances (in any formulation I wish) rather than Chanel, but even better would be Avon, due to the huge number of fragrances they have released over the years.  But Avon is the antithesis of luxury, apparently, though in this case, smells are smells; you like them or you don’t, you have specific uses for particular ones or you don’t, etc.  The attempt to attach the notion of luxury to these olfactory concoctions is just idiotic, IMO.  Are there different aesthetics?  Does Avon (and the “lesser houses”) generally follow rather than lead?  That certainly seems to be the case.  But this is about my “personal luxury” as opposed to “bragging rights” among pretentious friends and colleagues, a distinction rarely mentioned, probably because it would not result in massive profits for the major luxury brands!

Coincidentally, while I was composing this post, I noticed the reviews of a recent release by Amouage, Figment Man, at  This one reflects the opinion of many, IMO:

Right from the start you smell heavy animalic and earthy notes. Not much movement, it stays pretty much the same throughout its life. I don’t detect much complexity in this one.
Figment has a primal, raw vibe but sadly is very hard to find a suitable occasion to wear it as it can come off repulsing. Smells quite dirty 🙂 Sorry Amouage, I didn’t like this one.

If I could ask those who wrote these kinds of reviews a question, it would be, “suppose there was an old scent by Avon that you’d likely perceive similarly, but you can still get for around $20 for 4 ounces or more?”


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Filed under The basics.

Another “angle” on the “niche sampler” phenomenon?

Euphoria Gold Men Calvin Klein for men

Not long ago there was a discussion of Calvin Klein’s Amber Gold for Men fragrance at  I have only tried Gold for Men (2014), the original for men, and Intense, the latter two I find not to my tastes.  The notes for Gold seem accurate; those are (from

…ginger and lemon. The heart is dominated by honey, cinnamon and basil, resting on a deep, warm base of amber, patchouli and vanilla

I got quite a bit of honey the first couple of wearings, and a bit of basil to offer contrast, then the third or fourth time I got more of the vanilla.  Each time I enjoyed it, though the first half hour may strike some as slightly chaotic.  I paid $15 for my first 99% full bottle (part of a 3 bottle lot for $45; each was worth at least $15, IMO), and I bought a back up for about $25, as I noticed the prices rising and I don’t have a honey-dominant scent that I really enjoy (months later, I acquired a partial bottle of Floris’ Honey Oud, which I also like – for me it’s different enough to possess both, though).  For those who don’t know, CK doesn’t exactly have a good reputation in the online fragrance hobbyist community, and some have pointed out that this may mean fragrances like Gold tend to get ignored or given poor reviews, though if marketed under a different name those reviews might have been positive!

As to the Basenotes thread, this is what someone said about Amber Gold for Men:

I’ve seen a couple bottles of this come and go at Marshall’s and TJ’s locally. It sounds intriguing but at $45 it’s not a comfortable blind buy. I own Liquid Gold and I believe both are Middle East exclusives; they’re miles away from the usual freshie snoozefests like Euphoria Gold.!

As you see, he used it as an opportunity to dismiss Gold for Men as a “fresshie snoozefest.”  I’m wondering what such a comment represents.  Clearly, Gold is not like Chrome Azzaro, Nautica Voyage, etc.  My guess is that such a person thought Gold should smell like something along the lines of “vintage” Ambra by Etro, with it’s dominant powerful and rich vanillic amber (perhaps with a touch of honey).  Or he might have thought it was going to be like Ambre Sultan, with it’s herbal note offering contrast to the strong amber.  However, if you like those scents, why are you seeking a slightly different version of it?  Perhaps more importantly, why are you not wearing those scents and ignoring all that is released under the CK name (all made by Coty now, from what I understand)?

It seems as though we are back to what I’ve called the niche sampler phenomenon in previous posts.  That is, there seem to be a percentage of the “fragrance hobbyist community” who claim that at least several scents are “masterpieces,” but then they continue sampling, apparently rarely wearing their “masterpieces.”  For such people, few new releases compare favorably to these scents, and so they write up one negative review after another, often talking about “cheapening,” “cutting corners,” “letting the accountants make the decisions,” etc.  If you want a scent to smell heavily of natural items like honey and vanilla, why not go to the natural perfumers?  Why are you seeking that in a CK scent?  This strikes me as at least somewhat absurd.

Sometimes a person will say that such a scent as Gold “lacks quality,” but again, it’s a relative issue, not an objective one, unless perhaps the only scents you’ve ever tried in the past are 100% natural.  I seem to know what aroma chemicals bother me and which ones I can tolerate in larger amounts, so that’s a key issue for me.  I also have yet to discover a vintage scent that is similar to Gold, and doubt there is one.  Moreover, even some recent releases that smell “high quality” and “totally natural” to me, such as 2012’s “Enchanted Forest: The Vagabond Price,” are a bit too much for me!  I’ve notice this with other niche type fragrances, and in some cases I actually prefer the inexpensive “clone” because these are often less “in your face,” regardless of whether the strong notes are synthetic or natural (meaning the balance is superior).  If you disagree, that’s fine, of course, but if you just dismiss fragrances without explaining exactly why, you aren’t helping to advance your point of view.

NOTE:  Obviously, some of us don’t want (or can’t) to spend “niche money” on fragrances, especially if one only wears the scent once a month or more (as is the case for me).  Halston’s Amber Woman is in the same general area as Enchanted Forest, to my way of perceiving, and a 100 ml new bottle cost me $12 total, as opposed to the high prices EF has always commanded.  Armaf’s Club de Nuit Intetnse (the one marketed to women) is yet another similar scent, which cost me around $18/100 ml, but that one has been too strong for me at times.  Some might say EF is clearly “higher quality,” but I mostly assess fragrances in terms of how enjoyable they are to me over a course of several hours, and I’ve found that the perception of “naturalness”/richness may be impressive at first, but after an hour or so that element if of much less important, due to the scent weakening.  If the scent does not weak, I’ve found many become cloying to me, including the expensive, “natural,” rich niche scents.  By contrast, this does not seem to happen with fragrances that I enjoy that were released in the early 1990s or earlier – those great perfumers apparently knew how to get the balance right (or else they were given more time to “perfect” the composition).


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Filed under Criticizing the critics.