The “big turn” away from niche?

Image result for sharp turn

The title of this post is the same title to a thread I created at the site not long ago.  First, let me quote my first post to that thread:

I’m wondering how many others have made such a “big turn,” especially in light of the 2018 “Guide’s” main focus on obscure niche scents. For years, I sought out, mainly through swaps, specific ones, and I would go through swap lists to see if someone was willing to swap one that I thought might be of interest. Now I have very little interest in either endeavor. I think the main factor is that I think I have a good grasp on what I’m seeking, and today’s niche tend to be unsatisfactory for one reason or another, such as how “chemical” so many come across to me. Then there are so many “clone” type scents. A good example is Craze by Armaf (cost me less than $23 total for 100 ml). I haven’t tried Pegasus, but I enjoy Craze, and even if I would perceive Pegasus as a bit better, it’s not worth me actually knowing this (because there’s nothing to be gained, and only money to lose)! The other day I acquired some “vintage” Rochas Man, and my thought was, “this is certainly good enough for me – now I can swap/sell my bottle of New Haarlem!”

What can niche do for me at this point? What smell or combination of smells, assuming that they are rendered well in the composition (again, one factor being “naturalness”), could I find so compelling that I would even want a sample? I can’t fit the bottles I own (let alone the samples and decants) into a yearly “rotation” at this point, and I find myself mostly gravitating towards several fragrances, with the others being useful for the days I want something different. There’s probably a reason why scents like Old Spice are still around and selling, while so many oddball compositions have joined the dinosaurs, the key point being that while much if not most niche might be interesting, I question the “wearability” of them over the course of several hours. Yes, if sprayed on a small piece of cardboard, they might seem quite compelling for seconds or minutes, but that’s not why I buy a bottle. I wonder how many who are buying today’s niche are buying bottles based upon such a “test.”

My attitude towards niche now is mostly indifference, and if that market indirectly hikes up the prices on my many vintage bottles, that’s not a gift horse I’m going to look in the mouth. But I can sum up this attitude with the statement, “you had your chance and you didn’t get the job done.” Several years ago, more than a few BN members had apparently become disillusioned with niche, and at least a few “disappeared,”‘ never to return. I called them “niche samplers because they wrote reviews, and there were plenty of good/excellent reviews, at least for a while, but then the reviews took a turn towards the negative. What I didn’t understand is why they weren’t satisfied with all the niche they enjoyed/praised? How many bottles do you “need?” Of course, it likely wasn’t about how many bottles they wanted to own, but some abstract notion of “the art of perfumery” (I tend to see it more as a “craft”). And I think the “big name reviewers” also possess this view (as opposed to “wearability” over the course of several hours).

So, I’m wondering how many others are quite pleased with non-niche/non-designer exclusive offerings (including the vintage they can still obtain at non-ridiculous prices, which means the vast majority) that are available these days. Another good question would seem to involve variety. How much do you want and how much of it “needs” be niche? Also, do you feel “deprived,” in that you think there should be compositions that don’t exist or only exist at high prices (let’s say around $100 per 50 ml)?

Perhaps people like myself, that is, those who are going to spend a lot of time thinking and sampling, have satisfied themselves (or left the hobby due to disappointment), and over the last five years or so there are a lot more less thoughtful people who are likely to be quite influenced by “herd mentality.”  But whatever the case may be, I think at least a few interesting ideas were generated on this thread.  One of those is the question of why niche is “better” beyond generally possessing more unique, but possibly less wearable compositions, for those who believe this.  A person who posted on the thread claimed that niche is more “nuanced,” while another said niche used better materials.  The problem with the former claim is that vintage is more complex, nuanced, dynamic, and natural-smelling, so why not just buy the best of those fragrances?

Now the latter claim may be accurate, generally-speaking of course, but again, if that’s the main issue for you, aren’t you better off with vintage?  But let’s say the person is concerned about buying vintage for one reason or another, does this mean niche is therefore the materially-superior way to go, if that’s the best way to phrase it?  My first response would be, even if that were true, who cares?  People aren’t going to know how much the fragrance you are wearing cost to compose, and if you prefer a materially less expensive fragrance, why wouldn’t you wear it?  In some responses there were at least intimations that the hobbyist should know which fragrances are the most expensive to compose and then wear those because… I have no idea! I pointed out that much of the recent niche I tried was too “chemical” for me (iso e super and cashmeran dominant, in many cases) and even when it seemed rich and natural-smelling (such as with ambery/syrupy compositions), these fragrances tended to be too simple/boring, and lacking in compositional balance.

In short, I don’t think most niche perfumers  understand the point of “modern perfumery,” which differed from older endeavors in being long-lasting but “smooth” (not pungent).  Of course there is room for new compositions, but because almost all companies comply with IFRA now, it’s difficult to compete with the vintage greats, and so some to seem to think that the best approach is to “go on the offense,” using large amounts of aroma chemicals!  This is why I have come to conclude that many “cheapos” and “clones” do a better job in the context of “modern perfumery” than expensive niche fragrances – and if you are only going to smell a fragrance on a card for a few minutes (as it seems many reviewers, including Luca Turin, do for at least most of their reviews), then you aren’t really helping those who want a “modern perfume.”  Instead, there seems to have developed some “fine perfumery art” notion, which is mostly about oddball top notes compositions, and if that’s your “cup of tea,” fine, but I will contest that this should be classified as “modern perfumery.”  Call it post-modern fine perfume art, or whatever, but it’s something else.

One Basenotes member who is a scholar (I believe a historian) has argued that these post-modern releases are basically for the new wealthy (CEOs, “kleptocrats,” trust fund kids, etc.), and that it’s basically a scam, or similar to “modern art,” which has become a hot speculation-oriented market (there was a recent HBO documentary about it) more than any kind of traditional notion of “fine art.”  As I said on the thread, if I were a billionaire, I might buy a huge number of samples and have a personal assistant spray a card and bring me a new one every 10 minutes or so – that’s the only way one could sample all the new releases!  But that would have nothing to do with wearability.  I’d still probably have a few hundred that I’d want to wear in the usual way, but if I did that, how could I wear the fragrance that I know I enjoy?  And as to “clones,” it may be that some of these are made to be a big more wearable, such as to use less iso e super and more vanillin, which would likely fit my preferences better!

Now whatever is occurring is good for me, so I’m certainly not complaining, but it does seem like a lot of people are rushing into niche these days without an idea as to why.  Perhaps it’s a great example of “herd mentality,” though I certainly wouldn’t doubt that there is a percentage of the hobbyist population that does prefer many new niche offerings.  But it does seem like most are buying the sizzle rather than the steak, as the old saying goes.  And how does one even decide what to sample?  One person told me to do more sampling and less reading about fragrances, not realizing that he wanted me to do what he said!  The situation is therefore untenable for those who have some sort of facile notion of “doing some sampling” and deciding upon “what’s best for me.”  If you already enjoy quite a few scents on at least a fairly regular basis, you can’t sample a whole lot of new releases in the usual way, let alone all those that you think you might possibly enjoy.

However, if you have patience, and wait for the proverbial smoke to clear, you might find one or two that are unique and wearable (or even a really cheap “clone” of it that works for you, as was the case for me with Craze – and the fragrance company that made the “original” is said by some to be little better than designer, with clearly “synthetic” qualities to their releases, though I have yet to try any).  There are two other things I factors I think are worth mentioning here, the first being a change to one’s sensitivities.  In my case, I’m still quite sensitive to iso e super, calone, cashmeran, and dihydromyrcenol, though I usually can handle the latter two in reasonably large amounts if the composition is right.  Oddly, though, I seem to have lower sensitivity to other typical elements/ingredients.  For example, I used to have difficulty with one spray of Cadillac, but the other day I used three full sprays to the chest and kept my shirt open for a few hours, as an “experiment,” but it never became strong, let alone too strong!  If you say you only like niche today, that could change by tomorrow!

The other possible factor is what one Fragrantica member called “olfactory familiarity,” and I’d like to propose an expansion of that notion.  The basic idea is that as you become familiar with certain notes and/or aroma chemicals, you start to perceive other elements, while the ones you originally perceived as strong you may perceive as much weaker in subsequent wearings, if you perceive these at all!  I think there may be a kind of “bell curve” effect, in that the first time or two you wear the fragrance (in the “normal” way), it may seem unique, but then the next two or three times you perceive more, and this may be where you maximum appreciation for it exists.  Then, around the fourth or fifth wearing, you may still think it’s excellent, but no longer “special;” you may even think that another fragrance that you already own is “good enough.”  I have experienced that quite a few times, and I’m not the only one – here is just one example I’ve encountered (a Fragrantica review of Montale’s Red Flowers):

Well I’m glad I did not bought this blind!
It is lovely but it reminds me so much of l’heure blue (especially the edp) so that I dont need this one
It is a lovely fragrance but more powdery than I thougt, becomes a skin scent, but has good staying power, and no synthetic feel.
With l’heure blue in my wardrobe I don’t need this one, so I look further for another Montale…….

Another aspect to olfactory familiarity is that after a while, you “settle in” with a scent (or decide you don’t want to wear it any more, assuming you gave it a few wearings to make sure), and know when you are in the mood for it.  And the key point here is that if  you sample a very similar scent that in some way can be said to be “objectively superior,” you might still prefer the one you’ve worn many times in the past.  On the other hand, if you haven’t worn a fragrance in years, such as vintage Red for Men by Giorgio of Beverly Hills, then Preferred Stock might be good enough for you (at least the formulation I tried a few years back), whereas the new EA formulation of Red is an entirely different fragrance, IMO.

I suspect that may people who claim to think niche, especially recent releases, are producing the greatest scents these days have rarely worn those several times.  Many say they have a lot of decants and samples to keep the cost down, which suggests they might only wear them on rare occasion.  And I agree (and have suggested) that one not wear a scent for a couple months or so in order to keep the “magic” alive.  But that’s true of “drug store dreck” and all other fragrances!  I suspect that many who are entering into today’s niche world are not very experienced in fragrances other than the most common and available ones, so I can see why it might seem like a whole new olfactory universe has been opened up for them.  But that doesn’t mean that my perceptions make no sense for me (in terms of my experiences).  Another aspect to “olfactory familiarity” seems to be that a “clone” works just as well as the “original” most if not all of the time (especially when you wear vintage often, because then you wear the newer, less “natural-smelling” fragrances when you are in the mood for that particular composition).


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What can oakmoss do for a fragrance? The Rochas Man example.

Rochas Man Rochas for men

Not long ago I purchased a lot/group of fragrances, and one of the bottles was Rochas Man.  The liquid was brownish, unlike the bottle I already owned (2011), which is mostly clear, with just a slight pink tint, and I had read that recent bottles have this brownish coloration, so I assumed it wasn’t of much value (considering what I already own, how rarely I wear Rochas Man, and what the current prices are for it).  But before I go further, I’ll quote the note description at

…bergamot and gentle balsamic notes of lavender. Pure and intense jasmine pulses with the heart of perfume along with gentle grassy and fresh notes of lily-of-the-valley and the touch of sensual musk. The base is soft, creamy and warm together with vanilla, sandal, amber and the gourmand tone of coffee.

There may be a hint of something grassy but I never got lily-of-the-valley, nor much of any wood note.  Instead, it’s a lavender gourmand, quite similar to New Haarlem by Bond Number 9.  The obvious question is, “can I get something very close to NH if I buy a $20 bottle of Rochas Man?”  Of course, everyone has different thresholds for difference/similarity in these situations, but for me there was a major divergence in my two RM man bottles, which were formulated just one year apart!

The 2011 bottle (batch 1263) with the clear liquid/very slight pink tint is definitely harsher and less complex to me (and at least a bit “synthetic”).  As you might expect, they smell very similar, but the problem is that the 2011 becomes irritating after a while, whereas the scent from the 2010 bottle (batch code 0273) is enjoyable for hours!  While 2010 may be a bit more “masculine” than NH, which is fine with me, they are more or less on the same level, in terms of my ability to appreciate the scent for hours without irritation.  When I looked on the RM boxes, I noticed that “Evernia prunastri (oakmoss) is listed on the 0273 batch but not the 1263 one!  The other difference is that 79% volume is on the 0273 but 80% was on the 1263.

I’ve read that the very recent formulations of RM are a lot weaker than older ones, and I’d say the 1263 is certainly at least strong enough, but while that may satisfy most, the irritation factor is huge for me.  And in these situations, the great thing is that not only can I sell that 1263 bottle, but I would now certainly consider selling or swapping my New Haarlem bottle, which to me is a huge “bonus” to buying the lot, which I certainly didn’t buy because the RM bottle was included (I thought it was likely a newer bottle because the other bottles in it were released within the last five years).  Of course I can’t say that whatever amount of oakmoss in the 0273 bottle made the difference, but if it did, to me it’s a huge difference, and is consistent with those who lament the “death of perfumery” due to materials restrictions!

NOTE:  In 2015 someone posted this in a thread:

The bottle in the plastic moulded box (brown juice – early version) smells significantly bolder, thicker, dustier and sweeter – in a good way – than the version with the pink cardboard box (pinkish juice).

Both of mine come in regular cardboard boxes (pink).  On Fragrantica, there was this claim:

 It was reformulated in 2008/2009 by J.M Duriez.

So, it may be that they went with a cheaper box but my 0273 bottle is still of the original formulation.  It certainly seems that way to me, as there is nothing “cheap” about it and the “quality” is very close to New Haarlem, IMO.  And while Legend by Michael Jordan compares favorably to my 1263 bottle, I would rank the 0273 bottle as clearly superior to Legend.

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A reviews of reviews: I Puredistance.

Image result for i puredistance

My idea for this “review of reviews” (and I might do more of them – let me know what you think) is to give readers a sense of how I try to determine if I should try to obtain at least a decant of a scent I’ve never sampled.  However, I think there will be more interesting insights to come of it; you can just for yourself.  On another level, though, I think that I may have gotten to the point where I find how people perceive these olfactory concoctions to be more interesting than the scents themselves, with perhaps a few exceptions.  I want to start with I by Puredistance because it’s the first fragrance reviewed in the 2018 edition of “Perfumes: The Guide,” and it was given a 4 star review (by Luca Turn).  In that review, what he learn of the actual smell is that it’s a smooth, fresh powdery, abstract floral.  We also learn that the ingredients probably cost a lot, it is of a “classical” style, and that the perfumer was Annie Buzantian, whom LT considers one of today’s best perfumers.

What we don’t learn is if he will wear it sometimes, if he thinks it has “unisex potential,” at least for some male demographics, and what fragrances that cost a lot less it is similar to (and I’m sure more than a few readers would like to know these things!).  Over at, we can learn a few more things about this 2007 release:

The perfume opens as top note with a fresh, ozone-tangerine blossom blend with a hint of cassis, complemented with neroli bigarade and crisp watery nuances.

The heart of the fragrance warms to a sophisticated, modern blend of magnolia, rose wardia & jasmine; parmenthia & natural mimosa, before finally settling softly into the rich classical notes of sweet amber, vetiver and white musk.
The perfume extract contains 32 % perfume oil.

So, does LT want to smell this himself on at least a fairly regular basis?  What about on his wife?  Or other women?  Or children?  Or pets?  Could it be used as a room spray?  How about spraying it on a card, putting that card in a zip lock sandwich bag, and taking it out now and then, if you like it so much?  But my first question to him might be, who is going to want to buy a very expensive “late-sixties” type green floral scent who doesn’t already own one that is “good enough?”  But for the moment, let’s now turn out attention to the Fragrantica reviews, one of which provides us with a sense of the rationale for it (if you aren’t poor):

This perfume is definitely perfect for any special occasion. I would suggest this perfume for wedding, opera, ballet, meeting with important persons, etc. And this perfume is not just really nice, but it also lasts all day.

“Soapy” seems to be a popular way of describing it, for example:

…opening with its bright, fresh combination of neroli, orange and other white flowers: very natural and uplifting! It dries down a little more soapy…

Now what’s interesting about this to me is that the other day I was wearing Jaguar’s Excellence (the EdT), thinking (again) that the drydown is something I would expect from a niche scent.  The notes for that one are:

…grapefruit and mandarin combined with pink pepper. A heart provides floral notes of lily of the valley, iris and orange blossom, to warm you up and to enrich warm and cuddly base notes of vanilla, amber and tonka.

So what could I get from the Puredistance scent that I couldn’t get from Excellence (which cost me around $7 for a 100 ml bottle)?  There could be a touch of galbanum to create a green quality, though I might not like Excellence that way (and I could buy some galbanun, which isn’t expensive, and add a bit to a decant of Excellence).  What about Halston’s 1-12?  if you have patience you can get a vintage bottle on ebay for very little (as I did a few months back), and then you’ll get a green floral scent of a “classic” style.  If you are male, you might prefer these more “masculine” compositions.  Speaking of male perceptions, one Fragrantica reviewer who is also a long time Basenotes member said this about the Puredistance scent:

High-end anti-aging cream type of smell. Inoffensive watery/ozonic floral that’s nowhere close being even barely distinctive or interesting. Not to talk about the overall ozonic vibe.. Is this what you’d expect from an over 2000 bucks fragrance?

Do you like this smell? Get a Carita face cream. It’s cheaper and, at least, it moisturizes.

Now I’ve also got vintage White Shoulders, and White Linen (not that I wear them), along with Teint de Neige, along with a “masculine” that possesses this floral creamy/lotion with citrus type quality (Yang, by Jacques Fath), but I rarely wear them.  Why would I even bother to try a free sample of I?  And even if I liked the composition and thought it was unique relative to what I already own, it’s likely I could use layering to create a similar effect (does LT talk about layering at all in the book?).  And then when I look at the other reviews in the free Amazon preview for this book, I see that most were given 3 stars or less (5 is the highest rating).  My biggest criticism of this review, though, is that if this is a “classic” scent, then why can’t LT which ones form the 1960s (or 1970s, or 1980s, etc.) that it is similar to?  That would really help those who might want such a scent and also have the patience to look for a bargain on ebay or at a local garage sale or thrift shop.  Again, I get the sense that he and his wife are not considering the fact that most fragrance hobbyists are not millionaires.

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Is PS (Paul Sebastian) Fine Cologne similar to Heritage by Guerlain?

PS Fine Cologne Paul Sebastian for men

This question was  asked recently on a thread (and it’s possible that the most recent formulations are similar, for all I know):

While these two fragrances (I’m assuming the original formulations) are “in the same ballpark,” I don’t think of them as especially similar.  Putting aside note articulation (which is much better in the Guerlain, for the dominant notes), PS is simpler and cruder.  However, the notes in PS are also in Heritage, except for myrrh.  Those are (taken from

Lavender, Sage, Mugwort, Musk, Myrrh, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vanilla.

However, Fragrantica lists the notes as:

…amber, lavender, musk, jasmine, oakmoss, sage, ylang-ylang and rose.

The notes for Heritage, from, are:

…bergamot, orange, aldehydes, green accords, lavender, lemon, petit grain, violet, clary sage, nutmeg… pepper, coriander, orris root, along with rose, jasmine, carnation, honeysuckle, geranium and lily-of-the-valley…cedar, vetiver, patchouli, amber, tonka bean, oakmoss, sandalwood and powdery vanilla.

So, it  certainly doesn’t suggest a “newbie nose” if you were to perceive the two as similar. For me, Heritage is a complex sandalwood scent, whereas PS is more about myrrh, and the blending is quite different.  I decided to wear PS in order to contribute to the thread, and it struck me as being most similar to Third Man Caron.  Basenotes has the notes for that one as:

Lavender, Rosemary, Anise, Bergamot.
Geranium, Jasmin, Rose, Fern, Carnation.
Amber, Musk, Moss, Cedarwood, Patchouli, Tonka, Vanilla.

Again, I’d say PS is simpler and cruder, though Third Man is also less articulated than Heritage, which is perhaps why it seemed more similar to me. I don’t remember smelling any anise in Third Man; otherwise, I’d likely perceive it quite a bit differently.  Others have said it’s like the Eau de Parfum version of Old Spice, and yes, that also makes sense (but it doesn’t seem to be as spicy).  The great thing about PS is that you can still obtain a “vintage” formulation for low cost, at least on ebay (unlike vintage Heritage and Third Man), so it’s worth considering (and it’s not exactly like Third Man).    However, some have complained that the new formulation by EA Fragrances is too weak or in some other way quite bad, so you can look for the FFI/French Fragrances, Inc. version or the earlier Paul Sebastian, Inc. one.  I’ve seen some on ebay recently and the label on the bottom of the bottle reads:

OCEAN, NJ 07712
4 FL. OZ.

or something similar, and there should also be a batch code stamped over some of that text (four digits seems common).  Now if you are afraid of wearing an “old man” scent, you probably won’t like it.  The first hour or so is a bit chaotic for my tastes, but it does come together and and I like the myrrh note in particular.  To me, it’s the kind of scent worth buying if you can find vintage at a low price because you may come to enjoy it even if you don’t like it initially (which is my experience).  And with vintage prices rising, it may be a good “investment” if you decide you just can’t wear it, for whatever reason.  Another idea is to try the vintage aftershave, which may be weaker or a bit different.

PS does feel a bit like an “amateur effort” to me, due to how it’s blended to come across as one major accord, but I have no problem with that, so long as it’s enjoyable.  Is it really such an effort?  The “story” is that PS was “a potion [Leonard Paul] Cuozzo had been improving for over a decade together with New York perfumer Fritzsche Dodge:”

It would be interesting to hear what Dodge has to say, but is this a person or a company?  There is some information here that suggests the latter:

Overall, it sounds like a “right place, right time” type of story, but my main point is that PS is a scent like Stetson, in that it seems to often get dismissed out of hand as being “drug store dreck,” which in the case of PS is ironic, because their marketing strategy was to cultivate an “upscale” image.  However, the reality is that in at least “vintage” formulation, it’s not only “high quality” compared to today’s designers (and perhaps most niche at this point) but is very strong, so that a four ounce bottle of the “fine cologne” might last you many years!  And while the first couple of hours might be rather crude and simple compared to the vintage greats, the drydown definitely holds its own, and for me it’s just a matter of personal preferences at that point.

I’ve never liked Caron Pour un Homme, even in vintage formulation, which feels too unbalanced (with searing lavender), and I view PS as a “step up,” but I’d say that PS even fares well against Bois du Portugal, which is smoother but rather simple.  There are quite a few vintage scents in this same “ballpark,” so it’s a matter of personal taste, but PS should not be discounted in any way (at least in vintage formulation).  This could certainly be a niche scent today, though most don’t smell as natural as PS, the major “problem”  being associations with fragrances that are reminiscent of older male relatives.  I view PS in a “glass half full” way, that is, the great advantage of it for the aficionado is that it is similar to so many others, some of which being very expensive, so you can just go on ebay, do a little research, get a great deal on vintage PS, and then you are “set” for this type of scent.  Another example is Sartorial by Penhaligon’s, which from what I remember is also rather similar!

UPDATE:  I came upon an 8 ounce splash PS Fine Cologne bottle.  The box said French Fragrances, Inc. (with the “short list of ingredients”), but the label on the bottom of the bottle said Paul Sebastian, Inc.




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Is it “burnout” or something else?

Image result for snuffed candle

These kinds of dramatic statements are nothing new, to this or other hobbies, but I’ve seen a few of them lately, and since I’ve experienced a change in attitude as well, I though it would be a good time to post about it (probably for at least the second time).  Here is a recent example:

The extent to which EO No 2 impacted me was both a surprise and a major relief. If you’ll forgive a personal digression, I’ll explain why. For me, it’s been an exceedingly difficult three months in an equally difficult year and I’ve struggled extensively with both a disinterest in perfumery and in writing, in addition to some other personal issues. In fact, fragrance has provided little interest, comfort, or distraction. Reviewing even less so. I approached analyzing a fragrance with the same enthusiasm I would feel for a root canal. Neither new releases nor my personal old vintage favourites motivated me to put pen to paper…

And there is this post:

which began with:

…why do you continue to come here to Basenotes, even after it’s clear that no one (outside of those of us who continue to come here) cares about fragrances, outside of us?

…Do you also agree that the reason for the slowdown in the traffic on this website, and in this hobby in general, is due to IFRA regulations, and poor reformulations by “respected” houses?

A bunch of posts followed that brought up various issues about hobby “fatigue” of one kind or another.  But perhaps it’s just about change that were likely to occur, short of some sort of cataclysmic event.  And how many would be unhappy with the hobby if you got free samples of any scent that is available and then the most you would have to pay is $15 total for a 50 ml bottle?  I’m at the point where I would rather layer existing fragrances to get a novel effect than pay even $50 for anything new, but I don’t feel like I’m missing out on something special, or “deprived” in any way.  In fact, because I only buy or swap if it’s a “no brainer” I feel a lot less “burdened” by the hobby.  Regrets are unlikely and if there are any, they will be too minor to ponder for long.

What I see happening on ebay is that a few fragrances (such as Caesar’s Man, which is discussed in a recent FromPyrgos blog post) go into the “hype zone,” at least temporarily, which others sell for a lot less.  For example, I’ve seen a whole lot of Jo Malone, Etat Libre d’Orange, and Penhaligons bottles selling for great prices recently.  Perhaps a store closed and some stock was liquidated (for example, a couple years ago I bought three different partial Floris 100 ml bottles, as a lot, probably about 180 ml or more in total, for less than $30 total), but at least a few times per week a great deal seems to “pop up” (and I certainly don’t buy most of them; I’d guess  no more than 10%).  It’s the kind of fragrance I wish I would have encountered when I began to appreciate “oud scents,” but now I just think of it mostly as “swap bait,” because I have so many of these kinds of fragrances and actually like some “super cheapos” better (such as Classic Match’s version of Polo Supreme Oud).

And I purchased a lot of a few vintage scents, one of which was Canyon Cologne by Bath & Body Works.  It reminds me of somewhere between vintage Polo and L’Occitane’s Eau des 4 Voleurs, so that’s a “new discovery” that involved very little cost and I really like it.  With designer exclusives and niche, though, the prices are too high and so it raises my expectations too high.  Moreover, even if I like the fragrance, I usually think that it’s not “necessary.”  That is, I have something similar, can layer to create something similar, or I’m rarely going to wear it.  This is one reason why I don’t do much swapping any longer.  Perhaps it would be best for those who feel some sort of “burnout” to look inward rather than outward (especially if you own more than a few vintage bottles).  Do you really think some sort of incredible and unique composition is going to be released, with ingredients of the “quality” you think it at least good, so that you feel compelled to buy a bottle, more or less regardless of cost?  To me the answer it, I don’t even want to think about this stuff any more!

The author of the kafkaesque blog tells us that:

The Pure Parfum is, as you might expect, a lot more expensive. It is $795 for a 50 ml bottle as opposed to $395 for the EDP…

Having said that, I won’t lie to you: I could never afford to buy a bottle of the parfum… But would I buy a bottle for myself if I hadn’t been sent one by the company and if I had disposable income for scent indulgences? Yes, absolutely.

It’s easy to say this when you get free bottles sent to you, I’d guess.  The reason is that in my experience, after the first two or three wearings, the “magic” seems to diminish, sometimes considerably.  Then you ask yourself, “what was I thinking?”  But when you get the bottle for free, you can just put it aside and think that you just “need a break” and the magic will be back soon.  And indeed it sometimes does come back, but if it’s a very expensive scent, you might be thinking that a 5 ml decant could last you the rest of your life!  Could that be where so many mostly full niche bottles we see on ebay originate?  In the case of a seller who has listed a lot of different bottles, I wouldn’t be surprised (if they are listing a lot of Penhaligons bottles, for example, I’d guess it was a store closing or a store no longer offering a specific line).  But whatever the case, why not be happy that you explored modern perfumery and now you can “rest on your laurels” (in a good way), perhaps pursuing other things?




Filed under Criticizing the critics.

Some thoughts about a few brief reviews in the 2018 Turin/Sanchez “Guide” book.

Image result for reading newspaper cartoon

I thought it might be useful to some readers if I provided my impressions of some of the short reviews in the 2018 “Guide,” now that I received a copy of it as a gift (I’m having difficulty motivating myself to read the longer ones at this point).  Let’s begin with The Hedonist by Cult of Scent, which was given three stars by Turin (and described as “holy smoke,” which doesn’t help me much, other than to conjure up the smell of a Catholic Mass):

I love smoky perfumes, usually mostly the smoky part. The rest often seems like lipstick on bacon. This one wears no makeup.

My first thought is a question, what does he mean by smoky fragrances?  I’ve experienced ones that I think of as a kind of “clean” smoke (which I tend to like), but then there are ones like Encre Noire, which I think of as an “iso e super nightmare.”  There are also some scents with really harsh “white musk,” which I tend to detest.  Or is it like the incense at a Catholic Mass?  We may never know for sure, and then there’s the “lipstick on bacon” comment.  I guess I have some sense of the bacon aspect, but bacon and lipstick?  I wish he had furnished us with an example!  And then we’re told, presumably, that it’s a smoky bacon scent.  Does he like it?  At three stars it’s right in the middle of the five star classification scheme.  I find this review puzzling, and I’d be frustrated by it, except that since I read their first “Guide,” I expect reviews of this type and just “shrug it off.”

But we get yet another (Journeyman by Soivohle), which is described by Turin as smoky wood.  He reviews it as, “The obligatory smoky woody fragrance every niche line must have, for the bearded dude in a lumberjack shirt,” only in this case the scent only gets two stars!  The several Fragrantica reviews for it are quite positive, and this sounds like one I’d like to sample.  Apparently, it was fairly limited and the owner stated there are issues with re-releasing it, but it sounds a bit like As Sawira by Penhaligon’s (I recently obtained a 100 ml bottle of that one at a great price), except that AS doesn’t have much of a smoky quality, which often doesn’t work out well for me (it can become irritating rather quickly).  But the main point is that for someone who says he enjoys smoky fragrances, one has to question exactly what he means by this!  Does it have too much of a lipstick and bacon quality?  I wonder what is the point of such a review, considering the difficulty almost every read will have in sampling it?  My guess is that he thinks this brief review will amuse readers (or enough of them), but it just makes me question if he generally has issues with being consistent with the criteria he uses to assess things.

Next up is Hedonist, by Viktoria Minya).  It it is described as a tobacco vanilla and given one star (by Turin).  The review is simply, “Smells to me like spray furniture polish.”  I looked up the reviews at for this scent, and they are “all over the map.”  Did he spray it on a card and just take a quick sniff?   It seems like there’s more to it than how he describes it, even if it’s not well composed.  Another that gets one star, by Turin, is Hedonist Iris by Viktoria Minya.  He calls it a scitrus musk; the review is the short sentence, “Iris? Now you’ve pissed me off.”  It’s not uncommon for a fragrance to have something like lavender, vetiver, santal, etc. ion the name, but to not have that note in the fragrance (at least not to the degree that many can smell it).  Turin “called out” a Creed scent or two for this issue in the first “Guide,” so one has to wonder why he would think it surprising, let alone why he would become angered by it.  And in this edition, he says, “If any oud at all is used here, it’s wasted,” about Incense Oud by By Kilian (and other similar things are said about others, such as Iris Fauve and Iris Homme).

Next up is In the Woods by Cult of Scent, which was given three stars (by Turin) and described as cedarwood neroli.  The review is, “Lovely simple cedarwood accord.”  My problem here is twofold.  It’s not “readily available,” and on the company site the price is $130 for 30 ml.  The other problem is that if Turin is correct, why not buy cedar essential oil from a site like Bulk Apothecary (half an ounce for about $5), with a bunch of great reviews?  You can also buy inexpensive citrus type essential oils from them and combine these (in the reviews on the site you will sometimes find simple recipes, but you can just do some quick google searches to find plenty).  At the very least, a “perfume expert” should mention this possibility for those who aren’t going to spend $130 on a 30 ml bottle of a very simple scent, IMO.

Then there’s Indigo by Thorn & Bloom, which gets a sole star (by Turin) and is called “caraway lavender,” the review being, “Truly awful from beginning to end, a perfect instance of a natural perfumery fail.”  This was a great opportunity for him to use an example of what he tends to dislike with “natural perfumery” fragrances, but it is squandered.  Another missed opportunity (IMO) for Turin occurs with Itasca by Lubin, which received three stars and is described as a citrus fougère,” the review being, “Nice lemony vetiver, very presentable.”  It seems to sell for over $100 for 75 ml, so an obvious question is, can I save money by purchasing a similar scent that isn’t “lacking” in any major way?  But as Turin said in the first “Guide,” there are different kinds of fougeres, so why not tell us which one this is?  And this is a good example of a situation where Turin could be quite helpful, in that a couple of Fragrantica reviews talk of the aroma chemicals they think are used in a clumsy way (one claims there’s obvious iso e super present and the other says, “…the heavy hand in the use of some deodorant aroma chemicals started causing me headaches after a while).  These kinds of scents often have this issue, in my experience.  Thus, if Turin thinks the aroma chemical are barely detectable, at best, why not tell us?  It’s not like his review will then become too long!

The thought seems to keep entering my mind that people like Turin are “missing the forest for the trees” by focusing on “edgy” niche scents.  Yes, there are endless possibilities for minor variations on a bunch of themes, but especially if you are mostly concerned with drydowns, how much “better” do you expect a niche scent to be?  For example, tobacco scents are popular among many hobbyists (compared to the general public, at least in the USA), or perhaps the general public just can’t detect it unless it’s a really obvious note.  In any case, there are some excellent “cheapo” tobacco scents (or ones that were for a while), such as Lanvin’s Avant Garde.  Yes, you might be able to get one that is a bit more this or that, but if you bought AG for around $12 (as I did a while back, 100 ml new), do you really want to waste a lot of time and money chasing after the “niche version” of it?  There’s also Samba Skin for Men, which is a solid “pipe tobacco” scent (like Pure Havane), which cost me about $9 for 100 ml new.  However, I might have some interest in the “niche versions” if my experiences led me to think that would lead to me obtaining a “better” fragrance, but that rarely occurred!  Why not enjoy what you have, even if you only have a tenth of what Turin does?  That’s probably enough to keep you busy for decades, at least.

And it’s not like Turin never takes issue with some of today’s prices.  For example, his review of Kingdom of Bahrain is, “Decent citrus-woody with a well-judged touch of rose in the heart. Yours for £425 per 50 milliliters.”  Moreover, as was the case for the 2008 “Guide,” I don’t’ understand the mentality behind the reviews, other than these being an expression of his sense of humor.  I know some people have a tendency to leave things “half finished,” but many of his reviews aren’t even 10% finished, AFAICT.  And after he tells readers he enjoys smoky scents, they get the impression (I think) that he will spend a bit of time on the reviews of those, but in some cases we don’t get much of anything!  Is Journeyman or The Hedonist a good “beginner smoky scent?”  Or is he deliberately trying to frustrate readers, perhaps with the thought that will compel them to get a bunch of samples?  I know that I’ve encountered some teachers when I was younger who seemed to have this kind of attitude.  However, I think if that were the case all the reviews would have this quality.  Is this supposed to be a whimsical guide?  It often doesn’t sound that way, but why not call it that if it’s the case?  To me, it may be most interesting as a kind of mystery, trying to figure out how the mind of Mr. Turin functions!

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A review of reviews: Les Heures de Cartier: L’Heure Perdue XI Cartier (2015).

Les Heures de Cartier: L'Heure Perdue XI Cartier for women and men

This fragrance was one of two in the free preview of the 2018 edition of “Perfumes: The Guide” to receive a 5 star rating (from Luca Turin), and since I probably enjoy fragrances with a noticeable vanilla note as much as anyone, I thought this is one I needed to write about, though buying a bottle is a different matter (Cartier web site price is $275; on ebay I saw one for $179, both 75 ml).  And with this one, you don’t get a list of notes, but instead (on the Cartier site and elsewhere):

…powdered with HELIOTROPIN elegance, from someone else’s desire? Voluptuous and intimate MUSCENONE like the scent of knowledge. Perhaps because everything is ruled by science, so clever in posing as natural when in fact it is a feat of alchemy, exploring the artificial through a precipitate of large synthetic molecules, particularly VANILLIN. This aldehyde with sensual aromas and a silky aura floating over the 11th hour, the lost and progressive hour, demystifying the conventional idea that beauty is only worthwhile if it is NATURAL.

First I want to address Luca Turin’s review.  As you might expect, it was composed by a perfumer he has high regard for (Mathilde Laurent), and was recommended to sample by a reader of LT’s blog.  This person used evocative language when describing it, including “most evocative” and, “like a memory you can’t quite place, but are certain to have lived.”  How could such a scent not be magnificent (sarcasm alert!)?  LT tells us that it’s “heaven-scent and disquieting in equal parts,” and this reminds me of his review of Bvlgari Black (I liked the idea of BB, but found it just a bit too simplistic).  We are told it has an oriental drydown featuring vanilla, labdanum, and praline.  He says the praline is fresh, but I’ve never encountered such a thing; perhaps he means that some of the top notes persist, such as what he claims is grapefruit.

Now this is a fragrance I wouldn’t mind sampling; I might think it’s worth buying (if the price ever comes way down) or I might dislike it (heliotrope notes are not my favorite unless they are subordinate).  However, let’s take a look at the Fragrantica reviews, beginning with a negative one:

L’Heure Perdue opens both acidic and vanillic and a bit cardboardy musty. The scent alters between sour and cardboardy vanilla…  Not my thing, had to scrub it off due to the acidic notes underneath.

The review of another could be positive, if you like the smell of Dove soap:

This smells a bit like Dove soap. If you’ve been dying for the perfume version of this classic, give it a sniff.

One that is positive actually doesn’t begin with a description that sounds all that laudatory:

Generally, I can’t stand anything that smells too heavily of vanilla. But while L’Heure Perdue does smell sweet and vanillic, it also smells really weird. Like glue or rubber. But powdery. The parts are familiar, but they’ve been reconfigured in totally new ways…

Now to be fair the idea behind it seems to have been to use synthetics to create an “abstract” but not “synthetic” or “chemical” fragrance.  The problem there is that some are very sensitive to certain aroma chemicals, and so I would like the company to disclose if particular ones were used in large amounts (I’m not going to hold my breath on that happening, as you might guess).  But LT compares it to Jicky and Habit Rouge!  It sounds to me like it could be similar, in terms of the general idea, to Reveal by CK (the “feminine”), where there’s something familiar (vanilla and sandalwood) with something odd added (a marine type note, clearly an aroma chemical or chemials).  Spending more time/effort and money on such a composition might indeed result in something quite interesting, though I think for me if there are some strong aroma chemical elements to it (which seems to be the case) it might be an unpleasant experience.

This is also an example of the “disconnect” between people like LT and myself. From what he has written, it doesn’t seem like he will wear this scent at least a few times a year, if he ever wears it again, but he probably got at least a free sample of it.  If this scent was priced lower, I would likely try to swap for a bottle, and if that didn’t work out, I’d wait for it to get to that point where it was at its lowest and buy one.  But given the pricing, I might never be able to acquire a bottle reasonably, and so I would not be interested in sampling, because I already have so many vanillic fragrances I can’t imagine thinking that I “need” another, even if it is different.  The reviews do not sound good to me.  I’m not a fan of “oddball” fragrances, and I’ve already got a few of those, such as Perry Ellis for Men (2008), which lists notes of, “grapefruit, woody accords, resins, iris root, leather and musk.”  The drydown, however, features an ambery/vanillic element along with some sort of marine type chemical (reviewers have called it blood-like or copper-ish, as in an old penny).  It cost me about $8 for a nearly full 100 ml bottle.

Is L’Heure Perdue XI better than this Perry Ellis scent?  That’s where I have major problems with fragrance reviews.  Does anyone doubt that LT would say yes?  But to me what matters is whether I find the drydown to be pleasant (assuming they all have at least decent strength).  If I like both, and they aren’t similar to something I’ve already got, then I’ll try to obtain a bottle in what I consider a reasonable way.  If I could only buy the PE scent for around $12 or more I would not own it now.  I simply have too many at this point to place much emotional (or other) investment in any one.  If offered enough money (within reason, though) I don’t think I’d have a problem selling any or a bunch of my bottles.  By contrast, some people (apparently LT), sample a fragrance, find it to be “artistic” and then talk about how great it is, but do they wear it on any kind of regular basis?  I think we are back to my old post about the “niche sampler” phenomenon, which I believe I observed on Basenotes.  That involved people doing a lot of sampling of less common, more expensive scents, talking about how great they were, but over time a bitter tone to their reviews emerged, along with claims about the “death” of the “art of perfumery.”  My question to them would be, since you’ve claimed to enjoy so many fragrances in past reviews, why don’t you just wear them and stop sampling/complaining?  Clearly, they were not thinking about or using these olfactory concoctions the way I do, nor in a way I suspect most people do!






Filed under Criticizing the critics.