Lonestar Memories: The Neglected Brother?

Not long ago I wrote about Andy Tauer’s L’Air du Desert Marocain, and subsequently wrote a post about niche fragrances, the idea being that these seem to be mostly divided into “professional” (but sometimes derivative and “chemical”) compositions and what I think are best called amateur efforts.  Now I don’t think any less of the amateur efforts, and I probably wear Smell Bent scents (which I think are an excellent example of amateur efforts) as often if not more often than any other niche I own.  Lonestar Memories was released in 2006 (a year after L’AdDM), apparently as a kind of Southwestern US/cowboy compliment to L’AdDM, in other words, another landscape evocation (leathery, as opposed to L’AdDM’s spicy).  Leather scents aren’t exactly unpopular among the aficionado and niche crowds, whereas there are a lot more orientals (including plenty of designer ones), so why hasn’t LM gotten anywhere near the attention (and likely sales) L’AdDM has?

Up front, I’ll say I really don’t know, other than L’AdDM apparently having a “sinus rocket” effect for some, whereas LM often comes across as burning industrial materials or overcooked meat to more than a few.  LM, though, has a special place in my memory of the early days of my research into this hobby.  When I first started reading about niche scents, no later than early 2008, LM is one that sounded the most intriguing, probably largely due to a blog post that included such praise as:

The scent is an invitation to voyage, perhaps to the Texas of Andy’s memories, perhaps to some other place of your dreams …It is guaranteed to give you the most acute feeling of wanderlust, a longing for far, far away lands and a hunger for adventure. This is the scent of conquistador’s glove, of the first settler’s saddle, of a well-worn but still elegant leather steamer trunk of a seasoned traveler…

Lonestar Memories makes me want to escape the mundane confines of my everyday world, it makes me want to travel I do not know where in search of I do not know what…

http://perfumesmellinthings.blogspot.com/2006/06/perfume-review-andy-tauer-lonestar.html

Fragrantica.com has the notes for LM as:

The notes: green geranium, spicy carrot seed blended with clary sage. The heart features smoky leather, cistus and a hint of jasmine. The base notes includes finest woods and balms: myrrh, sandalwood, vetiver and tonka beans.

At the time, circa 2008, I had no idea if LM was something special, and could in fact evoke landscapes, at least to a far greater degree than anything else any perfumer had created prior.  In “Perfumes: The Guide,” Luca Turin states that LM has:

…a wonderful smoky base that he first used to great effect in L’Air du Désert Marocain. His second fragrance, LM is softer, a touch more carnation-like, and wonderfully warm while retaining a salubrious ambiance Joseph Lister would have approved of  Strange but nice.

First of all, I can’t imagine anyone calling LM “nice” in the sense of cute; perhaps he meant it in the context of the “art of perfumery.”  Second, I get nothing “antiseptic” in LM, and I certainly remember Lysol and other, similar products (however, the last couple wearings were from a dab sample vial, which may have obscured some top notes).  Instead, as a few others have noted, LM has a strong root beer or sarsaparilla quality at first, along with obvious leather and a kind of burning industrial element.  As a newbie I thought it had a burnt meat sort of element, but the last two times I wore it (recently) I did not get anything of the sort.  What’s interesting is that over time an old, “feminine” scent begins to assert itself.  I had worn one of that time not too long ago, but I don’t remember whether it was Ecusson or Intimate by Revlon (or possibly something else, for example Cabochard).

I don’t get anything “carnation-like,” but the listed jasmine seems right.  I would agree that this is a strange scent, and now that I’m thinking of it, the “problem” with LM may be that the base is too “old lady” for a lot of people, whereas this is not the case with L’AdDM.  For me, the problem with LM is that I prefer a few other leather scents to it, and all of those cost me less than what LM sells for, in some cases much, much less.  It’s not Mr. Tauer’s fault that one can go to yard sales or ebay and sometimes find an old leather scent that smells great, whereas that is highly unlikely to occur with one of his bottles, but it does factor into the buying decisions someone like myself makes.  On ebay, I’ve noticed that L’AdDM bottles get snapped up fairly quickly, even when the prices are not that much lower than retail, whereas recently an LM bottle that looked at least 80% full lasted for days on ebay at $75 total (and I hadn’t seen an LM bottle there for quite a while).

In any case, I decided to write about LM because yesterday I wore vintage Cabochard EdT, and one thought I had was, “this is LM without the ‘bells and whistles.'”  For me, once the drydown comes, Cabochard is actually less “old lady” than LM, and overall the composition is more coherent.  However, if you like LM and can afford a bottle, I’m glad you found something to enjoy.  I do wonder, though, how many who write reviews of LM on the major sites have had the opportunity to try scents like vintage Cabochard, The Knize Ten, Bandit, Bel Ami, etc.  Tauer’s idea seemed to be to include powerful and “statement-making” top notes in an effort to evoke a landscape or even a time and place (such as a garage someone walked through as a child), and many appear to relate to this.  But what can perfumers do that would be “groundbreaking” or “really special?”  Some seem content with a strong, odd top notes experience and a rather common drydown, but I prefer to sample scents by a company like Smell Bent if I want a very different kind of olfactory experience.  On that note, I’ll close with a quote from a Fragrantica.com review of SM’s Brussels Sprouted scent (I intend to write a post about some of these Smell Bent scents one of these days):

…Very very close [to] Pentachords Verdant (Tauer) but better AND cheaper… There is less soil tincture and more green notes softened by the musk.  It’s strange it can be a “green” perfume (a green house filled with dark earth) but maybe also the smell of a city after the rain, like a mix of dust,concrete,pollution and wet tar. That depend of your imagination…

Leave a comment

Filed under Fragrance Reviews.

Two Recent Coty Prestige Creations.

Coty has been criticized for some “junk” releases or apparent reformulations (of other brand names) in recent years, though I’m not sure anyone outside the company knows if there’s a big difference between how a Coty scent is created or reformulated versus a Coty Prestige one.  In this post, I want to talk a bit about two original CP releases (released under two different names, one being a “celebuscent”) that are just as “good” as any other release since 2012, in my experience and in terms of my preferences.  The first I’ll address is Madonna’s “Truth or Dare Naked,” released in 2012 and with this list of notes (from Fragrantica.com):

The top notes are honeysuckle, peach blossom and neroli. The perfume’s core includes vanilla orchid, cocoa flower and lily of the valley. The base is creamy with Texas cedar wood, benzoin from Laos, oud accord and Australian sandalwood.

This scent is very powerful and gives the impression of something “boozy.”  Think of vintage Pi by Givenchy but with a couple of “bells and whistles” added.  Though there are wood and oud notes listed, to me this is a syrupy, sweet, and nearly (but not quite) gourmand concoction, and it doesn’t come across as “synthetic” in any way, though I’d guess many will think “too much of a good thing.”  To me, that’s fine, because I can simply dilute it if my sensitivities are high (they happen to be low at the moment).  I’ve tried plenty of these kinds of scents, both niche, “semi-niche,” and various other types, and this one is unique and enjoyable (but I really need to be in the mood for it).  Not long ago it was being sold for next to nothing on ebay and at the major discounters, which is another big advantage for the consumer with such scents.  That is, when released by a company like Coty/Coty Prestige, there is likely to be a huge number of bottles, so if you have some patience you can often get a great deal.

And not only did I get a great deal on that one, but also on another CP release, the 2014 Cerruti “1881 Bella Notte for Men.”  The notes for that one are listed as:

The top notes are lemon, citron and lime, followed by jasmine and spices of Sichuan pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, juniper and coriander. The base includes cedar, patchouli, vanilla and musk.

One Fragrantica reviewer said it was very similar to Burberry’s Brit for Men, and I definitely understand that impression, but 1881BN goes in a slightly different direction, perhaps simply due to less patchouli, lavender, and certain wood aroma chemicals, though there isn’t the floral element in Brit (rose), which may be quite important as well (I didn’t detect the jasmine in 1881BN).  I haven’t been able to wear Brit in recent years because there is something about it that quickly becomes irritating, but that’s not the case for 1881BN.  It is true that Brit is a stronger scent, but considering the low cost of 1881BN (at the moment on ebay) for a 125 ml bottle, this is not an issue.  Also, I could see how some might compare 1881BN to L’Instant Homme, though is more of a spicy scent, as opposed to a lavender/gourmand.  What I really like about 1881BN is the balance existing among the spicy, sweet, woody, musky, and powdery elements (and the patchouli is noticeable but not very obvious).   If anyone said this was too sweet, for example, I would assume that person has very little experience with sweet scents.  1881BN is a fairly dry scent, but it doesn’t have that “chemical dry” aspect I’ve encountered with so many niche scents.  The longevity is excellent.

Speaking of niche scents, over at the NST blog there’s a review of “Spanish Veil” by Edward Bess today, which includes this paragraph:

…I’ve been impressed by Edward Bess’s foray into perfumery. In addition to being high-quality, these fragrances feel like they grew organically from the same creative process: instead of trying to check off as many boxes as possible with three totally different scents (e.g., something fruity, something oud-y, and a big white floral), Bess and Benaïm have produced a trio with a mature and unified aesthetic.

http://www.nstperfume.com/2017/02/23/edward-bess-spanish-veil-fragrance-review/

The company only lists sandalwood, tonka bean and guaiac as notes, yet the description is far more evocative (see the note at the end of this post).  The reviewer, “Jessica,” states that “there’s a lot more going on here than the three notes mentioned above, but the fragrance is so gracefully balanced that it’s difficult to parse. I think I detect some mimosa and iris as surprise floral notes, and there’s also an incense motif…”  At another blog, we are told, “It’s a woody oriental and only three notes are listed: tonka bean, sandalwood, guiac wood. There’s a lot more there, obviously, and I smell a sheer but prominent incense in the core of the perfume. The opening is very perfumy. Not powdery, nor is it sweet or aldehydic. But it says PERFUME in the best possible way. The wood notes are subtle. I’m not sure I would have picked sandalwood had I not known it was supposed to be there, because despite the smoothness the wood is neither creamy nor has it the pepperiness of a cedar (sandalwood’s common companion). I might have said cashmeran…”

http://www.thenonblonde.com/2017/01/edward-bess-spanish-veil.html

She’s probably right about cashmeran (I can tolerate it better than guaiac, it seems, though it does come across to me as outright “chemical”); perhaps it should be called “the new iso e super,” but in any case I mention this scent, which I have yet to sample, as a contrast to ToDN and 1881BN, and not just because SV has a suggested retail price of $175 for 100 ml and is not likely going to be easy to find (used) for $20 or less (which is what I paid for the two CP scents).  Recently, somebody called me a “niche hater” or something to that effect on Basenotes.net, which is simply false (though it’s true that I have little interest in niche scents that are “fresh,” “traditional cologne style,” etc.).  I wonder how many BN members who often post about niche scents own more niche bottles than I do!  The difference is that almost all my niche bottles came from swaps (with a few from really good ebay deals).  I am simply not going to pay “niche prices;” I’m not a rich person and I prefer variety, so if I were to buy niche bottles as I do “cheapos” (meaning temporarily cheap or always cheap), things might get “ugly” financially in the not-so-distant future!  Needless to say, I have no concerns about things like “a mature and unified aesthetic,” or whether other scents by the company “grew organically” with the one in question.

If a rich person doesn’t understand this, he or she does not have my sympathies.  In my experience, these two CP scents demonstrate why those who are “jaded about niche perfumery lately,” as Jessica said in that review of SV, have some great options (especially if price is a major issue).  Most of the time, I spend around $15 or less on at least a 50 ml bottle, and I don’t worry about how unique, artistic, emotionally evocative, etc. it is.  I’m either going to want to wear it once in a while or I’m not.  This may be why some think of me as a “niche hater,” that is, I don’t buy into ornate descriptions of niche scents and become emotional about the “specialness” of niche; I assess them as smells only.  And it is usually the case that I conclude that I have something that’s “good enough,” if I like the scent, of course.  You cannot bottle emotional involvement, but the niche companies know they need to do something to get people to pay the much higher prices, and so the appeal is often made; buy this bottle and you will be transported back to a Victorian era gentlemen’s club, or to a specific desert landscape, or to a…  No, I won’t, but if that helps you sell your highly synthetic smell concoctions to enough people to make it financially worthwhile, good for you (for as long as it lasts)!

NOTE:  This is the description for Spanish Veil, written by the company:

A second skin clings to the face, draped ever so carefully to reveal only a glimpse of flesh underneath. Steeped in alluring tradition of centuries ago, the veil’s sheer beauty possesses the feminine power to seduce great kings, conquistadors and Matadors unable to resist a single stare veiled in hypnotic mystery. Within this black web of wonderment rays of white light from the Spanish sun trickle in casting a kaleidoscope of intricately woven shadows that censor all signs of age. Scents of the outside world are trapped in the starched net, a magnet for the plumes of smoky incense wafting through ancient basilica walls that mix with the smells of savage animal hides in bullfighter rings and clouds of white dust native to the Latin land.

Huh?

Leave a comment

Filed under Fragrance Reviews.

No! Just, no…

The title of this post refers to the thought that crossed my mind when I read the following (a review of L’Envol by Cartier at Basenotes.net):

I sampled this at Nordstrom and was pleasantly surprised. I have been looking for a replacement for Patou Pour Homme, and it looks like I FOUND IT!!! This smells very similar to Patou Pour Homme. Is also smells very similar to Versace’s The Dreamer. The bottle is beautiful also. This is definitely a formal fragrance, suitable for a black tie event or for a CEO/VP/EVP of a Fortune 500 company. I absolutely LOVE IT!!!

What is one to make of this?  There’s simply no way any scent made in 2016 is going to smell “very similar” to the original Patou Pour Homme, and he must not mean the re-release of it because that is still available (more about this below).  Even if he did, the notes are quite different.  For 2013 PPH (from Fragrantica.com and Parfumo.net, respectively):

Top notes provide us with a blend of bergamot, lemon, galbanum and pepper, which give way to lavender, jasmine, rose, tarragon and violet in the heart. Robustness and crudeness come from base notes of patchouli, olibanum and amber.

For L’Envol (from Parfumo.net):

Honey, Gaiac wood, Patchouli, Musk, Iris.

Now if some “dis ding stinks” reviewer had written it, I wouldn’t have bothered to write this post, but it was written by someone who was writing reviews in the early days of BN and has written 165 reviews there alone.  It’s also worth noting that the many other reviews of L’Envol are inconsistent with his comparisons.  It’s one thing to say that part of a scent smells like this or that other one, but to say any scent is very similar to PPH and The Dreamer is difficult to believe.  With a complex scent, such as Claude Montana’s Parfum d’Homme (“red box”), one can say it’s similar to a whole bunch of fragrances, in this or that way (especially when those kinds of complex fougeres were being marketed by just about every major “house” at the time).  But to say that 1980 PPH could bear any significant similarity to L’Envol, let alone be very similar, is beyond comprehension – here are the notes for 1980 PPH (from Fragrantica):

Top notes are lavender, clary sage and basil; middle notes are patchouli, geranium, vetiver and fir; base notes are leather, civet, vanilla and tonka bean.

Another reason I thought I should write this post is because I have not sampled either the 2013 PPH or L’Envol – both are beyond my budget as blind buys at this point, but if I thought I’d like either of them I’d try to obtain a sample, especially for the less expensive L’Envol.  What I fear in L’Envol is the musk and gaiac wood in particular.  The former can have a piercing quality that doesn’t let up for hours (especially as some reviewers call it “white” or “clean” musk – those are the ones I can’t tolerate), and the latter seems to take over a composition and render it irritating after a while.  Thus, I would totally disregard his review of it, but what about his other reviews?   Obviously, after reading his L’Envol review, I would be very wary of anything else he had to say.  I looked through some of his other reviews and found a few other claims I would take issue with, though some other opinions were “on target,” in my experience.

The “moral of the story” may be that even if you find a reviewer whose preferences are similar to yours, you probably should still read all the other reviews (and consider the listed notes, year it was released, reputation of the “house,” perfumer, etc.), then think about the possibilities.  Is any 2016 scent going to smell very similar to “vintage” PPH?  Come on!  Does vintage PPH smell anything like The Dreamer?  Perhaps to someone who is having some major olfactory issues, but not the rest of us “experienced noses.”  As “newbies,” we tend to smell something similar and think, “these two scents are similar,” but when we gain more experience we realize it may have been an accord or note, but that the scents are not especially similar, let alone very similar.  For example, in 2005 this reviewer (who might have been a newbie at the time) wrote this review for Yatagan at BN:

whatIn one word, CHEAP. I sent the bottle back to the company. It was very cheap-smelling and smelled like the inside of particle-board kitchen cupboard in a mobile home. Ugh! Yes, there’s also some kind of “celery” scent in there too, kind of like old celery salt that was kept in that old particle-board kitchen cupboard. There are better fragrances out there than this. If you want a woody type of fragrance, go with Gucci pour Homme or Gucci Rush, both are woody and nice. Perhaps Caron was trying to copy M7 by Yves St. Laurent, as there is a slight similarity between the two smelling like particle-board cupboards.

I can’t understand how 2005 Yatagan could smell cheap (I have a newer formulation and that’s the last thing I would think, even though I’m not much of a fan of it).  And what is this “particle-board” thing?  Does he think it smells that way, or that it was just a bunch of spice/herb notes thrown together without much thought?  And M7 came after Yatagan (2002 versus 1978)!  Like another “old time” reviewer at BN, I think this individual sometimes has difficultly keeping his emotions under control while thinking about these concoctions.  From what I’ve read, that seems to be a major problem, even for those who are considerably more thoughtful than the “dis ding stinks” reviewers.

Though I may never have read reviews by some of the other reviewers ofL’Envol, they seem to do a much better job of describing it (and their perceptions are consistent with each other and the notes), for example:

…It opens with an earthy blast of patchouli followed by a beautiful honeywood combo with an earthy patchouli vibe on the background. Towards the dry down the Iris shines bringing the typical powderiness to the composition.It literally smells like a piece of hard timber coated with honey with a powdery earthy background…

…this is not the iris that is more “common” nowadays, with the famous lipstick smell. The iris here is also sharp… it reminded me of the signature smell of vintage Must for women…

Honey, but not the usual sweet, spicy and warm. This indeed reminds me of mead, fermented, bubbly, sweet and sour at the same time.

Plus woods, warm round woods, and something vaguely soapy and powdery.

Honeyed iris on a bare untreated wooden table.

..its pleasantly opulent almost velvety not overly sweet its almost dry in a subtle ambery vanilic white woody way with hints of iris and maybe some sort of resin…

On me it starts out somewhat cloying (too sweet), and then the honeyed scent sours somewhat on my skin…

Sweet unisex, woody and honey.

…Towards the dry down the Iris shines bringing the typical powderiness to the composition.It literally smells like a piece of hard timber coated with honey with a powdery earthy background…

On BN there are fewer reviews but these are mostly similar, for example:

I get honey, musk and wood, just as described…

Airy musk, honey, patchouli and iris gives a classy aroma.

L’Envol starts with slightly powdery florals (woody ionones/iris), musk and honey. The musk is clean and modern and the honey devoid of any heavy sweetness or animalic nuances…  I was struck by a lightning when the fragrance revealed a fougere vibe, a short of Cool Water/Or Black mix paired with a slug of smoky gaiac and some patchouli. Things here turn soapy but with a strong woods presence.

Putting aside all the talk of honey and powdery patchouli (of which there is a lot, in a subtle, sheer way), what really struck me about L’Envol was the strong violet leaf presence it has…

It sounds like a scent I’d like to sample, but I’d guess there is no better than a 20% chance I’d want a bottle (and would likely wait for prices to come down even then).  I don’t like strong wood notes, especially gaiac, and I can’t say that strong honey sounds appealing here, nor do I like what I call “steely iris” notes (when too strong), which seems to be the kind in L’Envol (and the soapy/fougere comment is alarming – I have no interest in another scent with that element!).  Note that there are also some comparisons to Fahrenheit, which presumably is strong violet or violet leaf (perhaps a combination), but again, what would this have to do with 1980 PPH?  The 2013 PPH might have a similar violet or violet leaf quality, so he could be especially sensitive to this note/aroma chemical, but when one looks at his reviews on BN, he has only reviewed the 1980 one!  In that review, he claims that he found a replacement for it in The Dreamer. The best analogy I can think of for his L’Envol review is to consider two people.  One might like vanilla ice cream and the other chocolate, or they both might like the vanilla or the chocolate.  But one likes vanilla ice cream with mustard as the topping.  It gets worse, though, because he also claims the mustard makes it taste sweeter!  Who can “make heads or tails” of that?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Quick Note on the “Panty Dropper” scents.

So yet again, I encounter a review of Sauvage that I consider to be largely ridiculous:

I find this one hard to wear myself, maybe it’s just my skin. But when I smell this one on other people, god[darn]! I can’t stop sniffing (and yes I’m a straight guy hahaha)!
That being said, this juice only smells nice when it lingers in the air. Don’t smell to close!

Scent: 9,5/10
Projection and longevity: 10/10
Compliments: 10/10

There’s even some fat less attractive guy at my uni who wears this, and even he pulls tons of compliments from the ladies!

I agree with the lingering in the air/smells nice opinion, which is why I’d use it as a room spray for rooms, sheds, garages, basements, etc. (if I had a bottle) that I don’t stay in for too long, because it does get irritating to me quickly.  And I do use these kinds of scents, such as to spray the back of a winter coat (and I also spray a scent that I enjoy to the chest). I’ve already got so many of those scents that I certainly wouldn’t spend Sauvage money on yet another one.  Again, it seems that so many of the positive reviews are written by guys who don’t have a lot of experience with fragrances, and perhaps not with women either.  One person said she bought it for her teenage son because it smelled so good – would you want your teenage son to be approached by women who wanted to have sex with him because of the fragrance he was wearing?  I know I certainly would not (if I had a son, obviously)!

None of these people ever seem to talk about anything but “compliments” or “panty dropper” possibilities (some of the latter talk about their perception that they “get more sex” with Sauvage – make of that what you will – when I was in my late teens and early twenties there was a lot of talk but there didn’t seem to be nearly as much “action”).  There’s another issue here, which I have yet to see anyone write about, and that is what the compliment means.  Are they complimenting you for having “good taste” or are they complimenting the fragrance itself, and perhaps they are thinking that you are wearing it because the salespeople at the local mall got you to buy it?  And another question that’s worth asking is, would the women who complimented you on Sauvage give you a similar compliment if you dressed like the Austin Powers character?  Would that “get you action?”  Why not give that a shot and see what happens?

I don’t doubt that the people at Dior did their proverbial homework and formulated a scent that was targeted in its appeal, most likely the under 35 or 30 crowd, and so far it seems they have been very successful, if this is the case.  People of my “middle-aged” generation (who I know) seem to either wear too much of whatever fragrance they like (and they tend to like one, or a small number), or they not only don’t wear any, but dislike any that they can smell on other people (and none who smelled Sauvage liked it).  I don’t know what the “younger generation” is like in this context, but if commentary on just Sauvage is any indication, they really like to spray strong fragrances on with abandon (or enough of them do to make it a “social phenomenon”).  It could be that certain demographics are more interested in these concoctions, as well as their supposed “panty dropping” properties, but I think it would make more sense to get a sample, see if it “drops panties” like nothing ever has for you in the past, and then make a decision to buy a bottle, or not.  If it doesn’t, you could always try a change in attire!

Leave a comment

Filed under The basics.

Is Hummer really a “bummer?”

It’s interesting how some fairly good scents can get a bad reputation, at least among the online crowd, rather quickly.  And the opposite can happen as well; for example, I can’t understand the interest in Timbuktu, other than because it was “hyped” early in the online niche craze of several years ago (and got an excellent review by Luca Turin in his “Perfumes” book).  I’d much rather wear Hummer (vintage Riviera Concepts formulation, at least – I haven’t tried the EA version), and in fact, I never found any aspect of Timbuktu to be worthy of praise.  By contrast, an early Basenotes.net review of Hummer included the claim that it was a “bummer,” and the most prolific reviewer there, Foetidus, agreed with this assessment (did they sample a non-vintage formulation? – it’s too bad they didn’t disclose this information!).

On Fragrantica.com, one reviewer had this to say:

Hummer was absolutely fantastic when it was first released, I was smacked up by a butch musk. Unfortunately, being contracted to Arden, it has been carted out with the bananas and put on special, but if youd been there a few years ago when [I first] tried it, you’d have bought a trolleyful lol
All I could say was WOW MUSKY!!!

I think we should all keep in mind, this fragrance is licensed to Elizabeth Arden. What that means to me: Every fragrance I have loved that I found was licensed to EA has turned cheap on the re-release. I bought Hummer and it was gorgeouse, the second bottle I bought was nowhere near the same, almost undetectable…

It is musky, though not in an “old school” unbearably strong way, and the caraway seems to impart what many might call a “sweaty” quality.  Fragrantica lists the notes as:

Top notes are pimento, caraway and cardamom; middle notes are leather, sandalwood, amber and patchouli; base notes are thyme and tonka bean.

The first time I used one spray, and got the caraway, thyme, musk, and a touch of sweetness, certainly not as sweet as I expected with amber and tonka listed.  The second time I used two full sprayed, but still didn’t get distinct leather, patchouli, or sandalwood, and there was still on a touch of sweetness.  It’s a bit dry, though, with some spice – at least a few people have claimed  strong lavender.  I’m not sure that’s the case, or if it’s the thyme and some combination of the other notes (perhaps with a relatively weak lavender note).  In some ways, my thought while wearing this is, “this is a better idea (but similar to) than the traditional fougere.”  Then there are the older “masculine lavender” scents, which don’t possess enough coumarin to come across as fougeres – these too can become irritating to me rather quickly.

In some ways, it reminds me of a softer, smoother, less discordant version of Original Musk by Kiehl’s (I think the florals in OM create a really sharp quality) – both share listed notes of patchouli and tonka, and there is an obvious muskiness to both.  Unfortunately, I just don’t find these kinds of scents to be especially pleasant (and the dryness only works in a small number of compositions for me).  By contrast, vintage Red for Men, which also has some of these strong notes (caraway in particular) is much more enjoyable.  My guess is that this is due to a number of factors: it’s sweeter, more complex, more dynamic, and doesn’t have the strong thyme/lavender type quality of Hummer.  But Hummer is certainly no “bummer,” at least not this formulation.  Like other scents that seem too “niche” for the company that markets it (KISS Him is another good example), I think that even “seasoned reviewers” may dismiss these too quickly, especially if the composition is not to their preferences.

Hummer 2 is more conventional and less interesting (a “fresh”oriental), though I think I can still enjoy that one when I’m in the mood.  There’s a kind of designer scent “fresh” aroma chemical haze that is too strong relative to the spice, patchouli, incense, leather, and amber (I’m not even sure I can detect some of those notes!).   The notes for it are:

Top notes are cinnamon, mandarin orange and bergamot; middle notes are fir, bourbon pepper, cardamom, patchouli and sandalwood; base notes are incense, myrrh, leather and amber.

I’m not sure if it was ever made by a company other than EA Fragrances, which is listed on the bottle I own, but if it was, I’d guess those notes are more prominent.  I can certainly understand how many would be disappointed after reading the note list and then spraying it on.  However, it may be more “disrespected” than is warranted; perhaps the association with gas-guzzling, “road hogging,” Hummers is part of this.  At “bargain bin” prices, though, these are certainly worth trying, and if you are a fan of these kinds of compositions, a “blind buy” would seem worthy of consideration.

UPDATE:  Someone wrote up a comment saying this scent doesn’t deserve a blog post because it is equivalent to excrement (not the actual word used). I won’t approve it because I don’t want to “feed the troll.”  Such a comment is not helpful, since there are already several negative reviews and the person isn’t adding anything to that perception.  Obviously, you need to explain why you don’t like a scent or else reasonable people are going to think your opinion is probably not worth a whole lot.  Furthermore, the notion that a “bad” fragrance should get no attention is very strange to me, especially in this case, because Hummer scents are the type you might find in a “bargain bin,” but not be able to sample.  Beyond that, why wouldn’t someone want to know to avoid a scent – I often see these scents at very low prices and I’m tempted.  In one case, I saw guaiac wood listed as one of three base note, so I didn’t go through with the possible blind buy, due to my previous unpleasant experiences with that note.  The other notes looked great, though, and it would have been very useful if there was a review that spoke to the strength of the guaiac note, no matter if the reviewer loved or hated the scent (or anything in between)!

2 Comments

Filed under Fragrance Reviews.

Living in this new era of “fake facts.”

One thing I used to emphasize to students is the importance of learning to communicate clearly and concisely.   You begin with a statement of your purpose, for example.  You can then explain why you came to your conclusions, as mention the evidence to support it.  After that you could examine the evidence in detail.  In the conclusion, you could argue why other explanations are not sufficient.  A key element here is to always make distinctions whenever it seems helpful to do so.  So, in the case of fragrances, it’s important to distinguish between “modern perfumery” and other kinds of notions about generating odors designed to please. Modern perfumery includes aroma chemicals that extend the experience beyond a few minutes to up to several hours (compared to something like traditional “rose water”).

This brings me to a passage from a Fragrantica.com review of Sauvage:

It is expensive, like all Dior fragrances, but I’d say it is worth every cent because it is really high quality (I don’t mean that it is natural smelling, because it is not, but it smells like it has quality ingredients and it performs that way too).

Now the odd thing here is not that he is “wrong,” but that if he can be said to be “correct,” I don’t think he would realize why!  For instance, what could Sauvage have in it that is “high quality?”  Nothing, but it might have large amounts of some ingredient that isn’t especially cheap by the industry standards of today.  That’s not exactly high praise by any measure, but it may be accurate.  To me, this is a major problems with “mainstream” designer releases, that is, the aroma chemicals seem to be used in such large amounts that these soon become incredibly irritating, even if one could argue these are not objectively “strong” (perhaps to those walking by).  An analogy would be makeup.  If a woman puts on too much, she looks ridiculous, but there is a certain range of social acceptability, depending upon a number of factors.  Nobody looks at a woman who nearly everyone thinks applied too much makeup and thinks that the makeup is “high quality” because it doesn’t run off her face or do something that demonstrates a major quality control issue!

Of course we could criticize the reviewer by asking an obvious question, how do you know how much it cost Dior to create the fragrance portion?  The fragrance chemist I spoke to didn’t believe much thought went into Sauvage, and you don’t need to be a fragrance chemist to notice how “chemical” it is (as the reviewer himself does) – more than a few have pointed out how deodorant-like it is, for example.  One could argue that it might have been tested to make sure it didn’t irritate the public so much it would soon garner a terrible reputation, but again, this is a low bar, and not exactly “the stuff of greatness.”  Instead, this kind of comment comes across to me as someone who, for whatever reason, experienced strong positive emotions when he tried Sauvage.  On some level it’s like the reviewer who said that nearly every scent he reviewed was “so fresh and warm.”  One of my main criticisms of Sauvage is that it basically shouts out, “I am totally chemical, now hear me roar!”  No, I can go get a bottle of Lysol and smell something better!  Why?  It’s just as “chemical” but I prefer the citrus/pine combination to whatever Sauvage wants to be when it grows up.  Would Green Irish Tweed be “better” if more dihydromyrcenol was included?

And to be clear, yet again, I don’t hold anything against a person who enjoys Sauvage (or who has a social use for it), but it’s time to stop talking about it being great or special or unique or a breakthrough or a masterpiece.  It is unique in the same way that the other 2000 or so releases last year were – it doesn’t smell exactly like another of these olfactory concoctions (though supposedly there is a now a Zara scent that is very close).  Another point argued is that Sauvage is “worth every cent,” which could lead to a very long discussion about how individuals value objects in a society like ours.  I’ve addressed this in the past, mentioning that some just go to the local department stores and buy what seems “new,” “fresh,” or whatever the conceptualization of the moment is.  And of course nobody is going to spend money of any kind on a smell product that makes them feel ill.  Here I’ll just say you can’t tell other people how to perceive “money well spent.”  Someone might go on a job interview reeking of Sauvage and get the job of his dreams, and so he might think it was worth a small fortune, but does the guy who didn’t get the job think that Sauvage cost him his opportunity to obtain the “American Dream?”  Don’t worry about trying to “take care of others” with your fragrance recommendations.  Just explain why you like or dislike it  I think this reviewer should have just said, “I feel fresh and invigorated when I spray it on, and I know almost everyone around me will think I smell good – that’s all I want.”  If you make claims that are clearly specious, though, you open yourself up to mockery, ridicule, etc.

Now as to the title of this post, suppose one were to encounter this:

The best of the vintage scents cannot be replicated today.  Niche is like a joke – imagine a bad version of a “Star Wars” type of film and the director says this is the best he or she can do under the circumstances, and that viewers should be very pleased with a what he/she considers a close approximation.  Who is going to take such a person seriously?  It’s a matter of probably something like $1.25 fragrance cost per 100 ml bottle versus $5, and they don’t want to pay that extra money, despite the retail price of a couple of hundred dollars or so.

Is is a fact, a fake fact, a likely notion, something that could be true in some cases but definitely is not in all?  This is the problem with the fragrance industry, and it’s why I was so glad to be able to speak to a fragrance chemist, even if he/she may not have all the information we’d like to know.  We have to constantly “play detective,” trying to fit the pieces that seem to be true together into a “big picture.”  Remember that this is the original “fake facts” industry, with various ludicrous historical claims being made by companies that only seem to become more popular as the apparent lies are discussed in more and more detail!  And then there are the fake facts being invented mostly by anonymous internet people, such as to decant a quarter ounce from your sealed bottle and in a few months it will smell the same but much stronger!  And not long ago we witnessed Andy Tauer complaining about bloggers and the cost of “free” samples – how am I to assess that?  The age of going to the local library and finding a book on a subject in order to develop some expertise is over – in this new age it seems like we need to first learn how to evaluate claims before we should think to study the actual subject.  And few are willing to spend time on “process” – they want to get to the “good stuff” quickly, even if it’s mostly false.  Perhaps the only positive element here is that as “fake facts” get more attention, there will be more interest in debunking these claims rather than spreading them.

UPDATE:  I just noticed a new review of Club de Nuit Intense for Men that includes the following:

This cologne doesn’t always smell great with the first few sprays out of the bottle, but it gets better after it’s been sprayed a few times. Check the YouTube reviewer impressions, it seems they’ve experienced this as well. Also, I mentioned this in my review below as well!

Is this a fake fact?  It is certainly true that with older scents that have been lying around for years, there may be some liquid in the tube that indeed smells very bad, and so that needs to be sprayed out in order to avoid the unpleasantness.  Could that be what this person is referencing?  It’s highly unlikely in a recently-marketed scent that is obviously almost all synthetic, especially if the claim is being made by several people, but it’s certainly not impossible.  Moreover, the reviewer implies that it goes from mediocre to good or excellent, not from rancid/spoiled to at least good, which is further support of perceptual changes that are being mistaken for physical ones, presumably because the person is lacking in self-awareness in this context (which is very common – as I’ve said before, just watch one episode of “Brain Games” to get a sense of the “games” the mind can “play” on one!).  In this case of this scent in particular, I think that the strong “chemical” element can be off-putting to those who are not used to it, and so their minds need time to “process” it as potentially pleasant in the context of the overall composition.

UPDATE #2:  On another fragrance blog, this post was heavily criticized, in ways that are incomprehensible to me (for example, I never claimed that my site was “news,” but have always said it is my opinion), and therefore I’m not going to address it in detail.  I will mention that a few commenters made equally bizarre claims, this being one:

Let’s even assume for a second that the “fragrance chemist” and his quote are real, then we can safely assume that this chemist was taking the proverbial piss out. I mean: chemist notes the composition is chemical?!

I don’t know what “taking the piss out” means here, but the chemist didn’t say Sauvage was “chemical.”  The reviewer himself did, as I stated explicitly (and I agree that it smells highly “chemical” – is there anyone with just a bit of experience who would say otherwise?).  Instead, the chemist thought the perfumer more or less just “signed off” on the composition after it was made by others.  This blogger seems obsessed with the notion that he is some sort of gatekeeper (I’m not sure of what) but then he encourages readers when they state obviously wrong things!  I guess it’s fun to have an “echo chamber,” but I’d rather listen to constructive criticism and try to improve my understanding of a subject.

UPDATE #3:  Chuck Todd speaking to Kellyanne Conway on “Meet the Press,” 1/22/17:

…Four of the five facts he uttered were just not true. Look, alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods.

…you sent the press secretary out there to utter a falsehood on the smallest, pettiest thing.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Why does “small house” niche smell different?

If you have read quite a few fragrance reviews, even on major blogs, this question is not even raised, let alone addressed.  That is, they usually talk in generalizations and often there is some appeal to emotions.  As I mentioned a while back, there was a member of Basenotes.net some years ago who wrote more than a few reviews.  In all or nearly all of them, the scent was described as “so fresh and warm,” even in cases where I thought this was not at all the case.  My guess is that he was thinking with his heart, so to speak.  In fact, the only scent I can imaging being “fresh” and “warm” at the same time would be one involving chili pepper, and that note makes me feel ill for some reason.

One thing I was thinking, by contrast, as I tried a few Andy Tauer scents and a couple of Kerosene ones recently, is that there seems to a major difference between these and ones released by the “big guys.”  These tend to be heavy, simple/crude, straightforward, etc., whereas those by major perfumers often don’t.  If we compare Kerosene’s Copper Skies or Tauer’s Lonestat Memories or Incense Extreme (which I’ve sampled recently) to something like Olivier Durbano’s Black Tourmaline, for example, the difference is striking, as BT has a transparent quality and I kind of fluidity missing in those others.  It also has a kind of shifting dynamism, whereas those others feel leaden to me.  I have also felt this leaden quality with other “smaller” niche companies such as Eva Luxe, though I have enjoyed her scents a bit more, especially Kretek.  And while reading BN reviews of Elixir by Penhaligon, I encountered this one, which is along the lines I have been thinking in some cases:

Light oriental. Those two words aren’t mentioned that often when talking about mens’ frags. Contrary to some of the negative reviews here, I find this lightness very bearable and even refreshing. In fact, I think that Giacobetti did an excellent job to meld the spices, florals and sweet notes into a very interesting fragrance. Could Lutens or Malle ever put something like this out? I think not!

I was starting to ask myself, why have so few have suggested that there seems to be an “amateurish” quality to certain niche “housese.”  And let me make clear that I don’t think this is necessarily bad (I have a Kretek decant and wouldn’t mind have more, for example), but I think the difference should be discussed more on the major fragrance sites.  It would save more than a few people a lot of money, for example, if they wanted to avoid the “amateur” type of compositions.  Then I was thinking about why this was the case.  Of course, some do not have the extensive perfumery school training, but I was thinking that there was likely “more to the story,” so I asked the fragrance chemist I interviewed several months ago what he thought, and this was his response:

You’re right to have picked out the less smooth compositions of indie/niche fomulae vs. larger outfits, which is due to something we call fixatives or blenders. These aren’t the main accords used, but rather, are added after the bulk of the work is done to smooth out the edges of a parfum and add technical properties.

Most big companies have a catalog of blender formulae that you can pick and choose from depending on the end result you’re looking for (an eau de cologne will have a different blender than an oriental, etc.) and these tend to be pretty standard amongst the larger outfits. Because of the ubiquity of the blender ingredients, you often see them printed on the back of the retail packaging as a faux attempt at transparency (as you otherwise only get to hear about the “notes” which are very much open to interpretation.)

That said, little companies can buy these from the big guys ready made, but they are not cheap and have to be purchased in huge quantities, which doesn’t always work for independent perfumers, which is to say that these folks tend to have to work a lot harder to make an idea come together, because you kind of have to use the brute force method to figure out if something is going to work, rather than slapping something together, adding a blender and then tweaking accordingly.

This also might explain why some of us, including myself, tend to prefer “cheapos” made by “big companies” to many scents I’ll call amateur niche.  However, I’ll be the first person to admit that I like more than a few of these amateur niche scents, such as some by Smell Bent.  And I certainly dislike quite a few professional niche ones, such as those that seem to contain a lot of iso e super.  Speaking of which, the SJP scent, Stash, is one such scent.  Yes it seems “professional,” but I don’t enjoy anything about it.

I posed a similar question on the Basenotes DIY Forum and these were a couple of the the responses (apparently by those who create their own fragrances):

Access to captives, lab assistants, large databases, evaluators, formal training.

… and time, experience (from the formal training), deeper knowledge of the materials, a vending and promoting structure around them, and maybe even a set of family heritage accords. Still they use a lot of Hedione, Iso E Super and Galaxolide.

http://www.basenotes.net/threads/432482-What-do-the-quot-big-guys-quot-have-that-you-don-t?p=4023091#post4023091

Note that this doesn’t mean the “pros” put more effort into a new creation; if anything it seems as though the opposite may be the case!  However, it might help to understand this apparent distinction not just for “blind buys” but also to get a sense of how the scent was composed, which is certainly of interest to some aficionados.  And for all I know Lutens and Malle might be seeking a certain “heavy” quality for stylistic reasons rather than practical ones – the scents I’ve tried from these “houses” seem more “pro” than “amateur” to me.

Leave a comment

Filed under The basics.