Which bouquet would you like, the Hammam or Edwardian one?

This was a decision I contemplated recently, as good deals arose, first for a bottle of Edwardian Bouquet and then Hammam Bouquet.  The former was marketed to women in 1901 and the latter to men (starting in 1872, not that it still smells exactly the same; several reviews claim it is noticeably different from the pre-2003 re-release).  As you might expect, I decided upon Edwardian Bouquet, though I could have purchased both.  The story of this choice may be helpful to others (I did not sample either one before the purchase) beyond my impression of Edwardian Bouquet, and so the reason for this post.

EB has “green notes” listed, and some reviews mention galbanum, which makes sense (I’m not sure what other “green notes” existed for perfumers in 1901), and I was seeking a scent with a fairly strong galbanum note in certain kinds of compositions (EB being one, from what I could tell by the reviews).  Here is the list of notes provided by Parfumo.net:

Top Notes Top Notes Bergamot, Green notes, Hyacinth, Mandarin
Heart Notes Heart Notes Jasmine, Rose, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes Base Notes Amber, Oakmoss, Musk, Patchouli, Powdery notes, Sandalwood

Some reviews called it “soapy” and there was a mention of a lot of jasmine, so I was a bit concerned, but with claims of it being “unisex,” I decided to take a chance on it.  There seem to be two bottle types, and since I thought I was getting the older formulation, that tipped the balance in favor of the purchase.  Here is my Fragrantica.com review of it:

I obtained a bottle of what I think is the older version (the smaller of the two pictures above). It’s definitely animalic, but not on the same level as vintage Kouros, for example. I also get the galbanum, but it’s stronger in vintage Halston 1-12. There’s a bit of the kind of chypre “bite” I have noticed in “feminines” from the 1970s, but again, it’s not as strong here. The florals seem heavy and perhaps a touch wet at first, but then feel drier and not as heavy after an hour or so. It is a bit musky and powdery, but I haven’t noticed any clear wood notes. And there was something that was almost but not quite minty. In any case, it reminds me a bit of vintage Aramis Herbal 900, in terms of the overall composition, and if you like that one I think you would find the drydown of this one to be at least somewhere around unisex. I like it and likely will keep it, despite having other, similar scents. I guess it’s the kind of scent that I would part with if a great deal came along, but I would prefer to keep it.

Though some claimed it was very strong, I did not get that impression at all, though I would not call it weak either.  My guess is that it came across as strong because it is an uncommon composition by today’s standards.  As one Fragrantica reviewer said:

What’s missing from this bouquet are the sweet florals…

Without much sweetness, the notes likely feel too strong to many who don’t have much experience with vintage.  With most vintage “feminine” chypres, there often seems to be something that’s irritating, perhaps strong aldehydes in most cases, but that’s not present in EB, thankfully.  I can appreciate the notes in a more straightforward way in EB, which is a major positive.  One Fragrantica reviewer said it has a strong “bite” to it but also that is has a milky quality.  I don’t know how a scent could have both – I certainly can’t remember one scent I have encountered that I would characterize this way, but EB is neither, for me.  Now, moving on to HB, there were some major concerns for me, based upon what I read.

Some pointed to a strong alcoholic or even whisky-like quality and at least one person spoke to the rose being more like geranium (which I tend to dislike).  I have encountered this before, in Acteur by Azzaro, and rarely am I in the mood to wear it, so I certainly don’t need another of this type (I have 100 ml of Acteur).  I also don’t like the comments about noticeable lavender.  The notes for HB are:

Top Notes Top Notes Bergamot, Lavender
Heart Notes Heart Notes Iris, Jasmine, Rose oil, Cedarwood
Base Notes Base Notes Amber, Musk, Sandalwood

Over time HB seems to go in a musky, animalic direction, but the strength falls off more than a little.  I wouldn’t be surprised if these are rather similar, compositionally, a major difference being a geranium-dominant rose note and lavender replace galbanum and a more floral rose.  If I was a huge fan of this sort of thing (or didn’t already possess bottles of vintage Acteur, Herbal 900, Halston Limited, etc.) I probably would have purchased the HB bottle too (another issue was that it was a splash bottle unlike the EB, which was a typical sealed spray bottle).  As things stand, I think I’ll layer EB with Acteur and say to myself, “this must be at least as good as HB by itself.”

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My Iso E Super Irritation Chart.

There was a recent thread on Basenotes. net about the aroma chemical, Iso E Super (IES), and I thought it would make sense to point out some of my observations.  First, though, I’ll mention others have noted the IES amounts in scents that contain the most of it (though it’s more “restricted” these days and hence the same scent may now have a different amount than when it was originally released; Terre d’Hermes seems to be a good example of this).  I’ll quote the Wikipedia page on IES:

The fragrance Eternity by Calvin Klein (1988) contained 11.7% Iso E Super in the fragrance portion of the formula…

The male fragrance Fahrenheit (Dior, 1988) is 25% Iso E Super. (of the fragrance compound)…

The men’s fragrance Encre Noire (Lalique, 2006) is 45% of the fragrance compound, Iso E Super…

The very popular Terre D’Hermes (Hermes, 2006) contains 55% Iso E Super (of the perfume compound)…

The men’s fragrance Fierce Cologne (Abercrombie & Fitch, 2002) is 48% Iso E Super…

Creed’s Aventus (2010) contains 18% Iso E Super in its fragrance compound.

I included these because I have tried them all, though I don’t remember Aventus that well.  I do have the “clone,” Club de Nuit Intense for Men, and that one does have a quality I associate with IES, but when I’m in the mood it is bearable.  However, Fierce, vintage Fahrenheit, Encre Noire, and TdH all have been overbearing, though a 2011 TdH batch seemed just a bit less irritating than the one I sampled in 2008 (IES seems to bother me as much now as it did back then, despite changes in sensitivity to other things or overall).  On that BN thread, I was criticized for pointing this out, since (obviously) Fierce was never 48% IES.  Instead, this refers to the fragrance portion of the liquid content of the bottle.  I didn’t think I had to point that out because it has been pointed out many times before, on several fragrance sites and blogs.  Do I have to mention that these are all alcohol-based scents too?  Note that it doesn’t really matter in terms of a chart, that is, if one has the percentages and can correlate those to personal irritation, that’s all that matters in this context!

In any case, Eternity for Men is an interesting example, because I have found that while it doesn’t have the overbearing quality that the “IES heavy hitters” do, there’s something about it I really don’t like that seems to go beyond the notes, as if there was a kind of fume-like element.  On the other hand, Aventus wasn’t especially irritating in that way, so it may have been a combination of aroma chemicals in Eternity, such as calone, dihydromyrcenol, a woody/amber, and/or some sort of “white musk.”  Clearly, there’s no way to know for sure without proper testing, and even so, that would only be useful for a particular individual.  What I can say with confidence is that the fume-like quality I detect in the IES heavy hitters is IES, because they are a rather diverse group of fragrances, and I don’t have a problem with the major components of those in other compositions that are similar.

For example, I have more than a few scents where vetiver is obvious, such as Guerlain’s, Vetiver de Puig, Monsieur Lanvin Vetyver, and vintage Carven Vetiver, yet none of these have anything remotely like that fume-ish quality in the IES heavy hitters.  I remember a very strong fume-ish quality in a bottle of Le Roi Soleil Homme (Dali) around 2008, and since it is similar to Eternity, my guess is that there is more IES in that one.  Of course, until someone tests it with MS/GC, only a few people probably know (and there may have been significant reformulations since that time).  In the meantime, one might want to consider the list of scents with lesser amounts of IES, which you can find on the Perfume Shrine blog:


Eau Duelle by Diptyque is listed, and I wore that not long ago.  I was surprised by how long it lasted without becoming too heavy, syrupy, or outright vanillic, and so I’d guess IES was used here in a subtle way.  And this is where I’d like to tie things in with my recent post about “niche Guerlainade.”  That is, there are quite a few scents that are dominated by a kind of fume-like, dry wood.  The Perfume Shrine blog lists Kyoto (55%) and Jaisalmer (51%), for example, and I don’t remember liking any of that series due to the dryness mainly.  However, I had dab samples and only dabbed a tiny amount on my wrists, which is a mistake I made as a newbie.  In any case, since then, a number of niche companies seem to think it’s a great idea to use this as a kind of base and add a little of this or that to the composition.  I think Stash is a good example of this, and since it should be widely available (if it isn’t already) you might be able to sample it a local stores.

NOTE:  The word “chart” in the title was used loosely.  The point I want to make is that it seems like it’s not just the amount of IES but how it’s handled, though my guess is that somewhere in the 10-20% range is where I begin to encounter irritation, and by 40% or so it’s unbearable.  Also, whenever there is a thread on this subject on BN it seems like one or more people mention scents that may not contain much if any IES (but may contain a lot of other aroma chemicals, such as calone or dihyromyrcenol).  This has led to some “doubters” claiming that one can’t smell IES or that it’s pleasant, as if there would be something major wrong with them if anyone found it irritating.  Apparently, they have never heard of chemical sensitivity syndromes!  On the other hand, some of us may still retain an ability to detect unhealthy substances – until more research is done, the picture might not be clear (at least to my reading of the existing evidence).  My grandparents, for instance, would never admit to being irritated by an odor.  When my grandmother burned something in the kitchen, it was “she’s got the fan on now, there’s ‘no problem.”  And when we drove in their car and it was sucking in fumes from a truck in front of us, they would say they couldn’t smell anything at all.

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They’re not just smells? Then what are they?

On Basenotes.net, a member started a thread recently, apparently in response to a comment I had made a few times in the past, which is that these concoctions are just smells.  He is the same person who thinks I’m a “niche hater,” or something along those lines, so his claim that these are not just smells is at least consistent.  Now I wouldn’t have written up this post from a scientific perspective, because there is no question these are just smells, if we are talking about the liquid portion of what we get when we purchase a “personal fragrance.”  Of course some might be carcinogenic if used in large amounts relative to others, or some may cause a rash on some people, but not others, etc.  That sort of thing is clearly not the point he apparently was trying to make.

Instead of addressing any one person in particular, with one exception (see below), I want to address the argument that these are more than smells.  First of all, there is marketing, which is often clearly designed to prompt strong emotional responses from at least some people.  By contrast, I am the kind of person who gets mildly irritated (for a very short period of time) and then goes into mockery mode when someone tells me that one of these concoctions really does capture an emotion, a specific landscape, a memory, a time period (Victorian seems to be one of if not the most popular in this context), etc.   You may think it does that for you, and you might be willing to pay a few hundred dollars for a 50 ml bottle because of this, but it doesn’t work that way for me, so keep in mind that not everyone has the same personality, background, etc. (and even if a scent could be evocative in one of these ways, why should it be worth that much to others? – this brings up differing priorities/value systems, yet another factor).

There are of course memories that might be associated with a scent.  For me, it’s my grandfather’s Brut (he passed away several years ago), but I still assess the scent as a scent.  I’m not going to wear it or not wear it because he did.  When I apply it I might think of him, but then I’ll move along with other things I want to do, and the scent will be assessed based upon how much I enjoy it.  So, does that mean that Brut is more than just a smell to me?  Well, I wouldn’t keep a bottle around if I didn’t like it; if I didn’t, I might recognize it on someone else and that would remind me of him, but how could I know if it wasn’t another scent that smelled similar?  When I first blind bought Sung Homme, for example, I thought to myself, “that smells exactly like my third grade teacher,” so he must have been using it.  The problem?  It wasn’t released until two or three years later!

So what do we then say, to keep this argument from sinking?  That a certain type of olfactory formula concocted by a major fragrance company is more than a smell?  Well, to them it is, meaning profits (if they get it right), but it certainly isn’t to anyone else, unless that person wants it to be.  I knew one woman who had a doll that she more or less viewed as her child.  It got lost during a move and she was really upset, and still thinks about it from time to time (as if it’s a child who died!).  Anyone can “cathect” to an object – this has been known for quite some time, and you don’t need a Ph.D. in psychology to realize this occurs with some people, if not most.  But to tell someone else they should cathect one particular scent because you do strikes me as absurd because it suggests the person doesn’t understand that not everyone feels the same way about all the objects in this world of ours!

How many new releases are there each year?  Should I be required to sample all of them, year after year, just so someone I don’t know can say that I have cathected with it, even if I have not?  One person on that BN thread said that scents are like food, so they must be more than smells.  Again, scientifically this is not true, because if you ate certain diets that you enjoy you might become nutritionally deficient and even die, whereas if you never use one of these olfactory concoctions you might be healthier than if you do!  And just because you are wealthy doesn’t mean you will prefer the “finest” caviar to a Big Mac.  Saying such things just shows how much some people have been influenced by socially constructed values.  Undeniably, more “care” or “quality” has been put into some scents, but we can only guess about which ones, because even some niche scents can smell like “chemical nightmares!”  However, some people really seem to buy into marketing campaigns aimed at getting more than a few people to cathect their scents, and so what can one say to such people?

NOTE:  Some like to argue that there is “art” involved with some scents but not others, though that is basically a philosophical claim, and as those of you with philosophical backgrounds know, philosophers have argued with other philosophers for their entire adults live without resolution, nor with hardly anyone else in the world being interested in their debates.  Of course, when one begins to learn about the industry and samples a large number of scents, one may get the idea that some are crafted or designed in a more thoughtful or unique way than most others, but how does that change the fact that these are just smells, unless for one reason or another a particular type of concoction gets cathected in our minds?  Obviously, we wouldn’t be talking about these scents if they were all literal; how many people argue that cedar essential oil is “better” than eucalyptus essential oil?  Clearly, that would be outright ridiculous!  It’s all about context, and your context is not likely to be exactly like mine, and it may not even be all that close.


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Fake Niche versus Real Niche.

As I said in the last post, I’m not all that interested in debating the concept of niche with others.  I have my notions about what it should mean, and then there are several common concepts about it that others hold.  Here, I want to provide my sense of what niche, or at least niche-like, should mean.  It’s very simple (in my mind), because we all know there are quite a few scents that are widely available, starting (at the low end) with “drug store” scents (some of which are bad reformulations of great vintage ones), and going up to the “top” designers.  In order to compete with better-known niche companies, some designer brands decided to create “exclusive” lines, which to me should be considered niche, in terms of the marketing if not the smell itself.  By contrast, there are some “amateur outfits” like Andy Tauer or Smell Bent (as I call them), which tend to do a better job of being niche than the many of the more “professional” niche companies, in my opinion, of course.

If you read my last post you have a sense of what I think “fake niche” is.  Basically, it’s throwing a lot of iso e super, cashmeran, “white” musk” and or some other obvious aroma chemicals together with something that sounds like it should be in a niche scent, such as leather, oud, tobacco, or pistachio.  The problem, at least for me, is that the aroma chemicals overwhelm whatever “good” there is in it.  What I want from niche is a scent that is novel and enjoyable, and of course one that is not like any designer (or even “drug store”) that came before it.  I don’t want a niche version of Old Spice (I have the previous incarnation of it, Early American Old Spice) or English Leather (I have a pre-Dana version of that one), though some “authorities” speak glowingly about some niche scents that were apparently meant to be just this sort of thing (I devoted a post to that development, which I found rather strange)!

By contrast, I don’t mind if a scent does something different than vintage and is a little “synthetic” in some way.  And that brings me to another “celebuscent,” Unbreakable, which possesses notes of (from Parfumo.net):

Top Notes Top Notes Bergamot, Clementine, Green apple, Saffron
Heart Notes Heart Notes Geranium, Jasmine, Lily-of-the-valley, Red fruits
Base Notes Base Notes Dark chocolate, Tonka bean, Vanilla, Cedarwood


My bottle cost $11 or $12 total (100 ml with cap), and was a blind buy.  I don’t think of it as “niche quality,” but I do consider it “niche-like.”  The reason is that I do detect a slight “laundry musk” element, but because it is mild I find that it adds some complexity to the composition, whereas so much niche that I think of as “fake” contains irritating amounts of iso e super, etc.  And after a long time (I’d guess at least 10 hours), I do detect a “cheap” wood note in Unbreakable, though I’m quite surprised at how long the composition holds together (unlike some recent CK scents I’ve tried, where after half an hour or so a bare aroma chemical quality dominates everything).  On the other hand, there is a nice orange/apple element, along with some mild but detectable chocolate note.  Otherwise, I find it to be rather “tight,” which is not unexpected and fine here, since the notes that I wanted to smell are not a figment of the perfumer’s imagination.

The key point, for me if no one else, is to ask yourself what you are seeking.  You may never find a “niche version” of Unbreakable, for example (as newbies often ask about with quite a few designer scents), so are you willing to “settle” for one that is not quite “niche quality” (meaning something you’d expect from a Lutens)?  And if a niche scent with a load of iso e super is acceptable to you, why is a little laundry musk in Unbreakable a “dealbreaker?”  If the reason involves social perceptions, that’s fine with me, but then why bother to wear niche?  Most people either won’t recognize it as such or will dislike it?  The “crowd pleasing” niche scents are often mistaken for much cheaper designer ones, and ones that I’ll grant are unique (hypothetically, for the sake of the argument) are soon “cloned,” the most obvious case being Aventus.  Iso e super is not a “better” aroma chemical than dihydromyrcenol (which is found in large amounts in many “masculines,” including Cool Water) or various “laundry musks;” should people who think along these lines be called “niche snobs?”

Another example of a “cheapo” with a chocolate/cocoa note is 125 Years by Victorinox.  This one does not have any aroma chemical that could come across as “cheap,” AFAICT, and it’s composition is surely “niche-like:”

Top Notes Top Notes Grapefruit, Cardamom
Heart Notes Heart Notes Cocoa, Larch wood
Base Notes Base Notes Hay, Tonka bean


It’s not as strong as many niche scents of this type but at this price level (my 100 ml bottle cost less than $15 total), one can just spray more to make up for it (I don’t get much tonka, for those who dislike this note).  In some cases that may be an issue (bringing out a “chemical” quality), but that’s not the case here or in most if not all of my favorite “super cheapos.”  Yet how many who think Stash SJP is niche-like (if not outright niche) would say that about 125 Years?  Obviously, at least in the USA Stash has gotten much more publicity than 125 Years, so that might be a major reason.  However, I think another reason for some if not most who try it (and say it’s niche-like) is that the aroma chemicals in it (used in certain amounts) are now perceived as “niche” by enough people to make it something companies now know they can market as niche-like.

It almost seems as if these kinds of niche/niche-like scents were made with the notion that the vintage greats should be recreated using certain aroma chemicals rather than the typical naturals used in vintage.  That’s a huge problem, at least for me, because the reason why I have an interest in niche in the first place is because I want something simpler and without the melange of notes found in vintage (and often I often would like the lavender removed from vintage).  I don’t know how many times I’ve thought that a vintage scent would be outstanding if only the lavender was removed.  With the lavender present, it smells too much like dozens of other vintage ones!  A good example is the first Ungaro “masculine,” which I wore recently.  It’s got a whole lot of notes, but as usual, there’s that lavender note acting like it owns everything.  Replacing strong lavender with strong iso e super, for example, is a terrible idea, though of course I can’t speak for others.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t find “fake niche” to be an issue with all releases that seem to aspire to being part of the niche world (to me Lutens’ scents are “real niche,” though that doesn’t mean all that I’ve sampled are for me), but other niche companies seem to have gone in the opposite direction.  Clearly, some people agree with me, for example:

Pegasus was a scrubber for me. I agree that the almond note is nice (see also HdP 1725), but the base screams of chemicals. Pegasus smells very niche to me when first prayed, but the base smells like something I’d get at Ross or TJ Maxx, and no amount of scrubbing could get it off my skin. I was stuck with that nastiness for hours. I love the top, but the base is pure yuck. The base of Reflection is magic.

PdM tends to be heavy handed with synthetics in their bases, and that’s a shame. They seem to be only interested in top notes and performance, which leads to scents that smell amazing for a while but end up leaving you with chemical funk for hours. Well, maybe not you. But those with a ” with a superior olfactive sensibility” know what I’m talking about (sarcasm). I get that everybody uses chemicals, but I don’t ever want to smell like chemicals. Once the top notes of Pegasus wear off… Pegasus was just chemicals. Bummer. Scrubber.


NOTE:  I do not think it is right to cut down trees to “celebrate” anything (even putting the ecological consequences aside), but I think the picture does work for the content of this post.







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Stash SJP: Has the niche version of “Guerlinade” arrived?

I’ve been called a niche hater as well as a chronic niche sampler by those who seem to want to do anything in their power to deflect attention away from this question, but that will be the subject of this post (one can’t compel others to accept obvious reality, as is clearly the case in this age of “fake facts”).  First, because some people seem to want to continually “debate” what I consider to be unresolvable questions, such as “what is niche?” I’ll address that up front.  In this context, I’m not referring to the “amateurs” like Smell Bent, but instead to anything that possesses what I call a “niche Guerlinade” quality (see below) and where there seem to be niche pretensions, which brings me to “celebuscent,” Stash SJP.  The note list, taken from Fragrantica.com is:

fresh grapefruit, black pepper and aromatic sage. Its heart notes include Atlas cedar, patchouli, ginger lily and pistachios, laid on the warm woody base of olibanum, massoia wood, vetiver and musk.

When I began to write this post, the top review at Fragrantica included the statement:

…totaly genderless and niche type perfume.

which apparently was the idea behind it, though an interesting question is whether this was made to satisfy SJP herself or to see if there was a market for what I would call a “generic niche scent.”  After my first wearing of it, I wrote up this review:

I don’t see the point of this one, as there are others that smell similar. It’s like they took a hint of Terre d’Hermes, a dash of a CdG incense fragrance, etc. and said, “okay this smells niche-ish enough.” It certainly seems to have its share of iso e super, for those who would want to know. At first I thought I might enjoy this, as it seemed that something interesting was going to “break though,” but it just didn’t go anywhere that was interesting and the “chemical” quality began to irritate me.

UPDATE: The “chemical” quality lasted around 24 hours, if not more, and that was on skin, and I used the equivalent of a spray if not less. I bought two 4 ml vials but now I’ll definitely swap one of them off, as a tiny dab is all I would need if I want to experience this again (but I doubt if I’ll be willing to deal with that obvious “chemical” quality). For me, the reference dry, woody, smoky, incense type scent is Black Tourmaline, which doesn’t seem too “chemical” to me, by contrast.

I decided to wear it a second time, just to be sure my impressions would be the same, though rarely would I wear a scent like this again; once is a enough for such a “chemical” composition!  Often a second wearing will reveal some new things, and this time I used smaller dabs, but more of them (and I included the wrists as well as the chest), hoping that the “chemical” quality might be lessened that way.  At first, I was thinking “chemical wood, why did I waste another day with this one?”  However, this time I did detect a kind of gourmand element, though I can’t say it smelled clearly like pistachios.  It is nice, and I wish the whole scent was like this, but instead the “chemical wood” quality just keeps coming forward.  And here’s the “problem” that might arise for these companies: they are listing notes that either are barely detectable or are quite obvious, which might satisfy someone like myself (in this context) but then I’m just going to start thinking, why should I pay niche prices?  For example, I can buy “Crafters Choice™ Pistachio Macaroon Fragrance Oil 756,” which I saw at http://www.wholesalesuppliesplus.com for less than $6 per two ounces (I have no affiliation with this company and have yet to buy anything from them, but there are plenty of other such companies if you do some searching)!  The feedback for this product was great, including:

I was trying to find a dupe for Laura Mercier Crème de Pistache fragrance and this is pretty darn close! Nutty and sweet with creamy vanilla notes this is sweet and delicious. I made a lotion for my friend and can’t wait until she smells it.

If I’m going to do some blind buying to find a pistachio scent, this is going to be it – I don’t even want to spend $3-4 on a niche sample that may be a “chemical nightmare,” and at best will likely be mediocre.  So, why are companies marketing scents like Stash?  One possibility is that companies that market scents that are considered niche or have decided to market at least one niche-like scent know there is a kind of niche version of Guerlinade they can use, which will be inexpensive to produce and sure to come across as “niche-like” (for those who buy niche), yet might be “tame” enough for some “mainstream” buyers.  If you don’t know about Guerlinade, you might want to read this before proceeding further:


On that page, you will find this statement:

In 2016, Thierry Wasser questioned the Guerlinade concept, saying that it is oversimplified and reductionist, like “a thing, plop, plop, that we more or less put into every bottle.”

Wasser’s sense of Guerlinade is the sense I’ve been encountering with the small number of niche scents I’ve sampled that have been released over the last two or three years.  IFRA guidelines may play some part in this as well, and there may not be any kind of conscious decision involved.  For example, my guess is that the same perfumers (or ones who have similar backgrounds/experiences) are asked to make a niche-like scent for various companies, and yet they are also told to stay within IFRA guidelines (and also have a budget to deal with).  After a while, certain types of compositions become common, which is where we may be at now, or things may be headed in that direction.  One can read many reviews at Fragrantica in which the reviewer says something about a niche (or niche-like) scent smelling clearly “synthetic” or “chemical,” such as this one about Stash:

Not bad definitely smells niche spicy though the balsamic musky notes are very prominent I’d have liked to smell more woody notes here. Drydown smells a little synthetic not really to my liking…

This is more or less my impression of such scents, that is, they usually seem like ones I should enjoy but then they quickly become too synthetic or chemical.  Often, I’ll be thinking, “what’s the point, I’ve got some vintage scents that are based on a similar idea but are entirely natural smelling?”  I have never gotten this impression from the several Lutens scents I have sampled (or own), by contrast, and those aren’t all that expensive, which is further support for the idea that some companies think they have found a common accord (s) that will lead to more than a few people thinking, “oh, that’s a true niche [or niche-like] scent!”

Over at the NST blog, Kevin (on March 3, 2017) reviewed Durbano’s Lapis Philosophorum, saying that it possessed, “decidedly phony [woody notes] (Iso E Super stands out).”  In the comments section he said, “The faux wood IS strong in this one,” and to another commenter he said, “Lizbee, ha! To get rid of Iso E Super you’d have to remove skin.”

Now if you enjoy Stash, that’s great!  After a second wearing, I do get a sense of why it appeals to some people (especially the mild gourmand element), and the “chemical” aspect wasn’t as irritating this time (but it certainly meant the overall experience was unpleasant).  I wish I did like it, at least when I could have obtained what for me would have been a lifetime supply at a very good price (not long ago).  Instead, I ‘ll likely pursue the inexpensive “fragrance oil” route.  I don’t think the “fine fragrance” world has much to offer me going forward, beyond enjoying what I already have.  Of course, I’ll continue to swap if possible (that’s how I obtained nearly all my niche bottles, decants, and samples), and if I see a great deal on ebay I’ll likely grab it, but otherwise, the “hype trains” are going to leave the station without me!

NOTE:  I have nothing against people I refer to as “chronic niche samplers” – if that’s the way they choose to enjoy scents that’s fine, and if I enjoyed scents that way, you would have certainly encountered at least one blog post by me in which I would have spoken about why I enjoy doing this (one can look at my Fragrantica reviews to decide whether you think I sample a few niche scents each week, if you think I’m lying, as at least one blogger seems to believe!).  In any case, I was critical of the reviews written by some of the people who impressed me as such, the reason being that they often made it sound like they loved the scent so much that they wore it almost every day.  Then I’d see another review that sounded the same, then another, etc.

Soon, it became clear that something was amiss; after quite a few of them either disappeared or expressed great disappointment (especially with niche) and then disappeared (sometimes returning for brief periods), I began to think that these people were not using these concoctions the same way I was.  Moreover, I came to realize that my impressions could change significantly over time, and that since the chronic niche samplers seemed to only wear a scent once, I thought I should let others know that they might not be the best reviewers to follow, especially when blind-buying expensive niche scents!  For those who don’t know, you can sample one scent while wear another in your usual way, just dab or spray onto the ankle (it’s best not to get any on clothing, such as your sock).  Then whenever you want to know how the ankle sample is developing, you just cross your legs and use one hand to waft the scent to your nose.  Thus, even if a person has written a lot of reviews, it doesn’t mean the person only wears that scent on a given day, but again, why not tell this to people (as I’ve done on numerous occasions)?  If you are writing a review, you are presumably trying to help others, but the “chronic niche sampler” review often seems to omit some important things for no good reason.


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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…


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…

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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.


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…”


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.


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