7/18/18

Pino Silvestre Original (2018, Parfums Mavive)



Whenever a fragrance is reformulated, I ask myself, what changed? Presumably a reformulation is indicative of a scent being altered somehow. With Pino Silvestre, I was interested in whether its pine and honey notes had retained their calibration, and whether its drydown had been edited, or expanded. My experience with early 2000s vintage was mixed. It yielded wonderfully lucid Christmas tree pine notes, followed rapidly by a salubrious honeyed amber, but longevity clocked in at a meager ninety minutes, even with excessive application.

The 2018 formula of Pino Silvestre reveals a few significant changes. First, the top notes are slightly different. Parfums Mavive did something I rarely encounter in this business - they added notes. Vintage was mainly an intense blast of lemon, lavender, basil, geranium, and mint. These notes dazzled my nose with their brightness, and almost instantaneously coalesced into a clear analog of natural Scots Pine. New Pino adds dihydromyrcenol and cedar, which achieves a contrasting effect, illuminating the green notes, and dilating a generous swath of cool shade. Unlike earlier iterations, the fragrance now embarks on a distinctly woodier path. Pino Silvestre is my favorite postwar Italian barbershop fern because its accords are harmonious in ways that evoke nature, and not men's cologne. Parfums Mavive upheld that tradition here.

The other change I noticed is the removal of honey. They took a risk and switched the honeyed amber of vintage with a hay-like woody amber of mostly coumarin and cedar. The overall result is a fragrance with immensely improved longevity and presence. Instead of ninety minutes, I now get seven hours out of Pino Silvestre. Its pine aspect never really disappears, and its base is now a distinct woody amber with aromatic nuances. I can't express how much I love this fragrance. It's on par with Grey Flannel and Original Vetiver as one of the best "green" fragrances I've ever smelled.



7/9/18

Recognizing Faces (Part Two): How Youtube and Fragrance Guides Compete For Relevance While Leaving Classic Masculines In The Dust


'TV Static Screenshot 2' by Justin March at www.justinmarch.com

Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez have authored a new 2018 perfume guide, and having read the preview, I can say that it's as good as their first book. Meanwhile on Youtube, "MrSmelly1977" has offered a list of his "Top 5 Discontinued Fragrances." I won't ruin his video for you by revealing which frags he's listed, but hint, hint: a few are masculines by largely forgotten brands, frags that were on shelves over twenty years ago.

I have a few complaints, though. Let me preface them by telling you a little about myself. Look, I'm not a sensible guy. I have a very unusual habit. I tend to pick favorites in life, and then return to them in lieu of trying new things. This extends to many interests, especially fragrances and movies. With film, it's quite maddening to people. They'll ask me what I want to watch. They'll have extensive libraries of movies from the last five or ten years, they'll ask if I've seen any of them, and I'll say, "No, but why don't we watch Lovers Like Us?" Which is something I've seen about fifty times.

Turin and Sanchez's new guide is a little like my friends' movie collections. It's chock full of new. Which means it's chock full of fragrances I have no desire to try. If I did try a few dozen of them, I'd probably wind up buying a bottle of Lapidus Pour Homme afterward. These frags boast all the latest special effects in olfactory technology. Many are "smoky," or "oud," or esoteric picks from established lines like Acqua di Parma or Guerlain. Yet Sanchez writes of department stores, "the luxury floor has been having a hard time." Really? Doesn't look that way to me. Reference the ever-growing catalogue of Acqua di Parma and Guerlain. As usual, there's a logical disconnect between what I see and what they write in their book. Sure, the grey market has stumped Creed, Caron, and Guerlain (you can get Mitsouko far cheaper on Fragrancenet), but that hasn't really hurt them, unless the "La Petite Robe Noir" line is indicative of "a hard time."

An interesting thing that T&S do is discuss the historical arc of perfumery as a type of evolution, as if perfumes are biological species that have either gone extinct, or evolved into something new. The implication is that many (or most) twentieth century fragrances have failed to evolve, have been overtaken by newer and bolder predators, and have gone the way of the dinosaurs. Is this analogy fair? Have Lacoste's and Bogart's eponymous masculines been killed off and fossilized by brands like Maison Violet and Aedes de Venustas? If so, why? More to the point, why in all these years has nobody published an incisive historical analysis of the most interesting kind of perfume, the postwar masculine?

According to Sanchez, new frags don't have complex, enduring drydowns, and don't possess the complexity of bygone classics, yet many attempt to replicate the same smoky, spicy, woody, and musky scent profiles of their predecessors. Doesn't that make them inferior? Doesn't that make the superlative craftsmanship of a $10 fragrance like Halston Z14 more interesting than a $165 fragrance by Le Galion? I'm not sure why I should bother with any of these new niche scents. By omitting any expression of love for classic masculines, yet showing a lukewarm interest in frags that attempt to replicate them, I wonder if Turin and Sanchez wrote the wrong kind of guide.

My main complaint is that very few of the fragrances in the new guide are things I've ever heard of before. Turin is turgid about his love for "smoky" fragrances, "spicy" fragrances, things rich in "drydowns" and "soft, balsamic-salicylate" accords, which is all fine and well. But there's an irony here. Despite his proclivity for rich, woody, floral, and smoky frags, Turin appears to have little interest in reviewing classic twentieth century masculines from the golden era of the 1950s to the 1980s, frags that actually smelled rich, woody, etc. Rather than discuss classic gems like Acqua di Selva, Pino Silvestre, the first Davidoff scent, Oscar de la Renta Pour Lui, Jaguar for Men, Sung Homme, and hundreds of others, he would rather ponder fragrances that often cost far more money for the same effect, and which hold little interest for me.

I'm not alone; many guys share my taste. We populate the fragrance boards and tirelessly explore vintage beauties, things like the Ungaro series, tobacco frags like Vermeil and Havana, fougeres like Tsar, the Aramis line, Boss, No. 1, and any Bogart scent released before 1995. We know many of these fragrances by heart, and we continue to wear them, yet we hunger for a respected author like Turin to acknowledge their mark in the annals of history, and "guide" us through his opinions of them. Many are still available, inexpensive, and well made. Many embody the same qualities as the scores of brand new niche frags reviewed in the new guide. Yet there is no love for any of them. They are considered "cigar box" by Turin, as he wrote of them ten years ago.

So instead of reading the guide, I turn to Youtube. Oh Christ, Youtube. As I mentioned earlier, guys like Chris at "Scent Land," Dan, and Lex Ellis are still talking about classic masculines. But they're not the majority. I mean, that's ok, I totally get it. Times have changed. It's not 1989 anymore. We're living in the post designer, post niche, postmodern era. Obscure Italian companies are buying up niche lines, and in a manner not unlike the mega designer conglomerates of yesteryear, they're distributing them under umbrella licenses across Europe and select parts of North America. These fragrances often cost around $180 a bottle, sometimes over $200, and in fewer cases over $300. Many are true niche, smelling of very specific notes with intensity and attention to detail, but many others are just smelling like rehashes of vintage greats, without oakmoss and coumarin to fix the drydowns into "beastmode" territory.

These fragrances are expensive, have little to no legacy beyond a one or two year existence, and they're often discontinued before any real loyalty for them can form. This doesn't stop Youtubers from going on and on about them. Problem is, none of these frags interest me. And the new designer stuff they're talking about? Really don't care either. I don't care about Alien Man. I don't care about Parfums de Marly. I don't care about Xerjoff. I've been spending the summer meditating on midcentury fresh fougeres like Acqua di Selva and Pino Silvestre, which I just bought a new bottle of (updated review pending). I've been spending the last three weeks obsessing over Italian barbershop fragrances like Silvestre by Victor. I'd love for Youtubers to devote hours to these kinds of frags on their channels, but almost no one bothers with them.

If you asked me who has more cache online, Turin and Sanchez or Youtubers, I'd have to give it to T&S. Despite floating in a lake of olfactory obscurity, they are talking about fragrances that resemble the classics I've written about here. The fact that these new fragrances are judged against a hulking skein of multicolored and endlessly layered historical threads is what draws readers by the millions to their guide.

Youtube comes in a distant second place. I'm not interested in dupes of new Creed frags. I'm not deeply invested in "Top Five" lists. Someone needs to stop and breathe, and pull out a bottle of something by Parfums Mavive, or Antonio Puig, and wax poetic about it for fifteen minutes, while exhaustively discussing the fragrance's history, and offering new information, things never before disseminated to the public. Someone needs to have a channel with researched content, worthy of NPR programming, a kind of documentary series. Someone needs to stop leaving classic masculines in the dust.


6/27/18

Acqua di Selva (Visconti di Modrone)


Pine for the past.

Even if you're unfamiliar with Acqua di Selva, a quick glance at the ever-informative H&R Genealogie chart explains its characteristics with near perfect accuracy, sandwiching it neatly between Silvestre by Victor (1946), and Pino Silvestre by Vidal (1955). That's the "Italian Barbershop" section of the chart, a place where midcentury Mediterranean EdCs enjoyed a quiet little Rennaissance.

Acqua di Selva was introduced in 1949, and soon afterward became an archetypical 1950s masculine accoutrement, symbolizing post-war affluence, and the open-collared ease of the mad men era. How does it smell? The short answer is, it smells like pine. Italian colognes tend to smell like pine, usually garnished to varying degrees with kitchen herbs and lemon oil. Pino Silvestre is arguably the best of these earthy fresh fougeres, a bracing slug of sharp citrus and cedar that coalesces into a photorealistic rendition of pine needles and moist sap. I believe Acqua di Selva was its inspiration; Victor's version of this theme was minty, with significantly more lemon and oakmoss, and it has been well preserved by Visconti di Modrone's reformulation. You can occasionally find vintage Victor AdS on EBay and in shops, but I see no reason to embark on that quest. The new stuff smells right.

What makes this fragrance "barbershop?" In my opinion, the composition says it all. When I sniff its top notes, I recognize a familiar interplay between camphoraceous peppermint, lemon, and lavender, and am immediately reminded of vintage Aqua Velva Ice Blue, a minty herbaceous chypre from a few years earlier. This arrangement segues rapidly into a darker, mossier heart, and from there the pine, oakmoss, vetiver, and subtle shimmers of indistinct herbs recall shave soaps and talc, smelling green, dry, and natural, an effortless expression of manliness. Within two hours the whole affair rustles down to a toasted tobacco and oakmoss accord, like unlit pure tobacco cigarettes with a healthy dose of menthol in their filters. The man who shaves with AdS aftershave and applies the EdC afterward is essentially declaring to the world that his "dadness" is inspired by David Niven.

My only complaint, and it isn't mine alone, is that Acqua di Selva doesn't last as long as I'd like it to. I get one hour out of it before it fades down to a skin scent, and even sweat doesn't do much to reactivate it. Many guys complain about this. The truth is, it's a testament to the naturalness of the composition. These old Italian colognes were well made, and still are. They tend to use lucid materials, and there's precious little confusion over what the perfumer meant to say. There is no detectable synthetic musk molecule to help the scent drone on for hours, just a diluted composition of citrus, terpenes, and real oakmoss.

An added perk: my bottle may or may not be defective - the atomizer unscrews and lifts out, leaving an old-school splash. So the longevity issue has an upside, as it can be splashed liberally to double as an aftershave.


6/17/18

Rant: P&G Takes Shortcuts With Nonsensical 80th Anniversary Old Spice Products


A Sad Joke.

It's pretty galling to think that after eighty years of Old Spice's existence on the world market, the best Proctor & Gamble could do to celebrate its anniversary was a minor tweak of the labels for limited edition deodorants and body washes. On its website, they state:
"[The] 80th Anniversary scent smells like 80 years of crisp, clean awesomeness."
Yeah, ok. Great grammar. Apparently they couldn't even be bothered to check the copy editing on their own site. But more importantly, after eight decades of providing a legendary oriental masculine to millions of wet shavers everywhere, and about fifteen years after switching the cologne and aftershave bottles from Egyptian ceramic to plastic, my question is, that's it? No limited edition Egyptian ceramic commemorative "retro" bottle? No brief return to the classicism that made this scent an icon? Not even an attempt to advertise the anniversary beyond a quiet product list on the site? What the hell is going on over there?

I have a theory as to what happened, and it doesn't bode well for anyone under the age of 35. I'm looking at you, Millennials. It's clear you have invaded American industry. You were born in the late 1980s and 1990s, and you were raised on TV, computers, cell phones, and the Internet. You have a "Swipe Left" mentality about literally everything you encounter. You're soft, you're weak, you're pretty stupid (most of you couldn't find Brazil on a globe), but you grew up entitled. Your parents told you that you were wonderful, that you could do anything you wanted to, that you could change the world, because you are special.

And as you moved through the 2000s, your middle school and high school years, you gradually began permeating American culture. It started sometime after The Matrix, but before Avatar, roughly the time Obama was elected, that you took positions of power in the manufacturing sector, and suddenly everything really started going to shit. Pop music, movies, clothing styles, furniture styles, cars, and fragrances all started looking cheap and undesirable. The Millennial mindset - a short attention span, an unwillingness to read books and learn, a self-esteem fueled binge of crude postmodernist creativity - began rendering everything, even simple things like aftershave, as less than they were before.

I would wager that whoever is in charge of the budget for the North American Old Spice Classic division at P&G is under the age of 35, a Millennial, and I'd also bet that he or she is pretty stupid. This person was likely raised to believe that their decisions are always worthy of praise, and therefore thinks their short-sighted decision to take shortcuts in the eightieth anniversary packaging of Old Spice was no big deal. Why should Old Spice fans expect anything to celebrate over?

I'm here to tell you, whoever you are: you really screwed up. You disappointed millions of loyal consumers who yearn for a return to the glass bottle, even if only for a few short weeks, and you made guys like me, born on the furthest fringe of the 1970s, wonder how his contemporaries could be so dumb. Do you think life is an App? Do you think that it's a great idea to end relationships when they begin to get challenging, when they begin to demand more of you and your precious time? Do you think it's a good thing that almost every other movie that comes out these days is from Marvel Studios, the least edifying movie culture phenomenon in the history of film? Do you look forward to the next Taylor Swift song, because you think pop music is fun?

Congratulations, you're a stupid Millennial, and if you're working at P&G, you probably have no appreciation for vintage Old Spice packaging, or for the long history of traditional celebrations that Old Spice has enjoyed over the last eight decades. That anyone over the age of forty who works for P&G would think that just going on Photoshop and revamping a pre-existing deodorant label was enough is nearly impossible to swallow. More likely some simple-minded moron who graduated from college in 2013 told the design department to just cut a new look on existing plastic, and called it a day.

Of course, I could be wrong about this. Maybe the design department and bean counters are all grizzled old guys in their fifties and sixties who just don't want to be bothered. But that wouldn't make much sense, would it? Guys that age would have more interest in reviving their own memories of a wonderful bygone era, when Old Spice was still popular among young men. A time when quality was looked upon as a source of pride in the manufacturing and commercial sectors, and high-grade materials mattered. They'd be cringing at the reality of their favorite cologne being packaged in plastic, and waiting for the day when they could justifiably break free of that financial constriction, even if only for a few weeks, and offer celebratory revival bottles on the anniversary of the product.

To the execs at P&G in charge of Old Spice, whoever you are, read this: your cheap, crappy shortcut approach to your flagship men's fragrance is embarrassing and unacceptable. I know you think it doesn't matter, because reasons, because this apparently forgotten "legacy brand" is just there to make you members of the nouveau rich, and everyone around you thinks you're wonderful anyway. But you're not wonderful, and you're not helping your bottom line, because had you spent a few million dollars and issued glass bottles of cologne and aftershave, you would have seen an incredible return on your investment. As it stands, you're seeing nothing, because you haven't offered this fragrance's faithful users anything at all.

Wise up. The 90th anniversary better be conceptualized by someone with an attention span significantly greater than that of a fruit fly. If you think manufacturing grey stoppers for 1930s styled ceramic bottles is a bad idea, you're a disgrace to the brand, and if I could, I'd fire you immediately. Would someone please create a startup page for an acquisition of P&G? I don't care if it takes you fifteen years to raise the capital; it's worth it. An icon like Old Spice deserves so much better. This nonsense needs to end.



6/3/18

Aqua Velva Musk (Combe Inc.)



Back in the late 1950s, Max Factor released a fragrance for men called Signature, and it smelled like a cross between Royal Copenhagen and Creed's Orange Spice, with the cheapness of the former subdued, and the richness of the latter abundant. Signature was "cheap" by 1950s standards. It was meant to be a fresh citrus musk oriental, and in lieu of real ambergris, it contained very potent, powdery aldehydes. But it also boasted several gorgeous nitro-musks, which undergirded the woody sweetness of orange and bergamot with a smooth, slightly animalic element.

Aqua Velva Musk reminds me of Signature, as a modernized version of it. The same basic structure is present: woody citrus, aldehydes, musk. But instead of powdery citrus richness, AVM offers a very taut, postmodern, reductionist approach. The citrus is neutered from fruit down to suggestive sweetness; powdery notes are just textural dessication; there is musk, but it's cheap skin musk, which Coty crated into the 1990s by the barrel. If Signature is the oil painting, AVM is the college dorm room poster, framed by a vintage-styled amber color to the fluid.

It makes me wonder if Aqua Velva Musk is actually the original Aqua Velva, released before Ice Blue took over the market. Has it simply been reissued as Musk? Given its similarities to a sixty year-old predecessor, I'm tempted to think this is the case. I also wonder if Olivier Creed considered American aftershaves (in addition to Kouros) when he hired Pierre Bourdon to make Orange Spice. It would explain why the Creed smells so disarmingly simple and versatile, as opposed to the complex masterpiece by YSL. All told, AVM is a very good offering, and worth checking out if you need another alcohol-based lotion with glycerin.



5/20/18

Recognizing Faces: How Youtube's Fragrance Culture Has Grown, Improved, Diversified, and Become Quite Crowded (Part One)


'TV Static Screenshot 1' by Justin March at www.justinmarch.com

Ten years ago, Youtube's fragrance community had room for improvement. Reviewer "Robes08" epitomized the drawbacks of amateur reviews, with blurry video, a long-winded delivery, and occasional lack of knowledge of what he was reviewing, sometimes fumbling info on release dates and notes. "BradW," or "bpwool," was arguably worse, offering short, low-res vids from his bedroom. "MyMickers" was so-so, worshipping Green Irish Tweed and hating Grey Flannel in the same breath. Remember "The Grey Flannel Challenge," which dozens of hair-gelled, inarticulate guys participated in? Yeah, that was all Dan. Thanks Dan.

I appreciate his enthusiasm, but watching a middle class guy with a family blow thousands of dollars on perfume is weird. Last but not least, "dracdoc" used to annoy me by frequently saying things like, "Really, the bottle is nothing impressive, or anything like that," and "It gets the job done." He fumbles for perfumers' names, talks with his hands, and has a very "low budget" approach.

These guys had something in common: they made me wonder why I should watch them. Why should I care? They're obviously just a few enthusiasts who enjoy fragrances, and they've taken the initiative to share their thoughts, but their chosen medium is video. Creating channels of blurry, unscripted videos is like attending a business meeting with bedhead and an untucked shirt. They're making a visual impression that is unpolished and uninteresting. Perhaps they could have been more helpful writing blogs, or just communicating their ideas in threads.

I think the limits to video technology that existed a decade ago are partially to blame for lackluster content from reviewers. Let's face it, even if you know what you're doing, it's hard to attract viewers with a channel in 360p. From 2013 onward, Youtube's digital video improved and became unerringly hi-def, giving more sophisticated content providers a means by which to showcase their wares.

It was around that time when the "Fragrancebros" caught my attention, and I enjoyed the silly banter between Daver and Jer (and now lament Jer's departure), and learned a few things from them. Unlike their predecessors, D&J knew they were being watched. They had scripted presentations with accurate corporate information about what they were reviewing, and could draw relevant comparisons between scents, brands, and fragrance categories. "Redolessence" has a well-enunciated delivery, and more importantly, screen charisma. His videos aren't perfect, and his collection is obviously a money pit, but unlike "MyMickers," I get the impression that he fully understands every fragrance in his collection. And Lex Ellis, a Scottish brawler with a comical tough guy attitude, injected some much needed sincerity with his unpretentious reviews and surprisingly well composed theme music.

The current crop of reviewers is, weirdly enough, more polarizing than anyone who came before them. They inhabit a spectrum of being truly entertaining, all the way down to being blatantly boring. The two that I feel are currently worthy of subscription are "MrSmelly1977" and "Brooklyn Fragrance Lover," for their humor and "refined casualness." What do I mean by that? They make it look like they're just a couple of guys with cameras pulling amateur hour, but it doesn't take long to realize that they're savvy about their productions. "Brooklyn Fragrance Lover" employs original piano themes and conveys accurate info, and "MrSmelly1977" has a succinct delivery that cuts right to the chase, and he peppers his reviews with sardonic jokes. His humor is clean, dry as a bone, and quintessentially British. More importantly, he appreciates vintage greats, things like Kouros and Paco Rabanne PH.

Other very good reviewers worthy of a look are "Simply Put Scents," "Gents Scents," and Tiff Benson. Emitsu of "Simply Put Scents" doesn't take himself too seriously, which makes me take him seriously. Production value of his videos is high, his knowledge of fragrance is quite good, and he isn't afraid to say when he dislikes something, nor does he shy away from criticizing the fragrance community. "Gents Scents" is just OK, but it's the high end of OK. Ash's channel is also called "The Binge," and it got a little confusing when he opted to diversify his subject matter with reviews of movies and video games. I understand his desire to cover other topics, but it detracts from his channel; I visit channels with a focus. If I want movie and game reviews, I go to "Cinemassacre" or Rob Ager, and I'm good. I don't need media content clouding what was solely a fragrance channel.

Tiff Benson has a great channel, and she definitely has a keen grasp of light and camera. Women tend to inject a more human tone into their reviews, and that extra layer of subjective thought is valuable when regarding perfume. Tiff's combination of sharp wisdom and technical know-how lends her channel that little extra quality I look for on Youtube.

I get a little worried about the state of Youtube when I consider other channels in the fragcom, however. There are a few contributors who have me wondering if we're seeing a bit of a Youtube cultural hiccup. Among them are "Jeremy Fragrance," "The Fragrance Apprentice," and "CubaKnow." Now, bear in mind that all of the channels I criticize in this post warrant viewing, but I don't think their contributions to the culture have been as successful as the other channels mentioned.

One example is "Jeremy Fragrance." Jeremy is an odd case. He started out as just another guy talking about fragrances, with a competent grasp of light and camera. Over the years he has changed into a true showman, often dressing in a tailored suit and featuring gorgeous women on both arms, and he has essentially made the viewing experience something of a farce. You're not visiting Jeremy's channel to learn about fragrances. You're visiting to ogle his girlfriends. Another demerit is his misuse of Patreon funds. Instead of putting the money entirely into his channel, he used some of it to lease a Ferrari, and then made a vid thanking his viewers for making the Ferrari possible. This is a head-scratcher.

"CubaKnow" is perhaps a personal gripe more than a true gauge of our culture, but I take issue with the language on that channel. Everything he likes is "sexy," and (insert expletive), and everything he dislikes is a series of disgusted faces with multiples of "no," and (insert expletive). I feel that "Cubaknow" likes the idea of being a fragrance reviewer, and enjoys being on camera, but doesn't have much to say about fragrances. I'm not even sure he knows anything, even basic things, about the fragrances he discusses. And maybe I'm old fashioned, but being called a "ballsack" by a nobody on Youtube makes me want to exit. That said, I'm fairly certain he wouldn't care if I tuned out, so I suppose it doesn't make any difference what I think of "Cubaknow." His channel isn't to my taste.

The channel that makes me wonder if the culture is truly on stilts is "The Fragrance Apprentice." I don't think this channel, or its creator, are bad. I think it has very good (and recently upgraded) production value, with some notable camera and editing skill. I think George is a good guy, and quite talented. I applaud that he goes on camera and braves the world of Youtube, and its endless torrent of weird and sometimes abusive comments. But his philosophy about the fragrance world, his views on "fragrance politics," and his understanding of fragrances makes his channel one of the hardest for me to watch.

I didn't appreciate his video on the reformulation of Halston Z14. He mischaracterized the fragrance, inaccurately described the reformulation, and suggested Z14 has been destroyed, when in truth it's doing just fine. I wonder if he knows that Z14 is a pioneer of Iso E Super, and always has been? This isn't some super-natural vintage that was transformed into synthetic dreck. It has always relied heavily on synthetics. He doesn't contextualize the fragrance in his critique, and acts like it's a gorgeous brunette who died tragically in a plane crash. Newsflash: this beauty is still alive.

There are some things about George's defense of "Jeremy Fragrance" that also give me pause. He has it all wrong. Aside from making a slew of excuses for someone of questionable character, he suggests that content providers should offer something new in their reviews, and that they should review new stuff, because, and I'm heavily paraphrasing here, "We all know about the IFRA, we all know about reformulations, and we don't need another review of Original Santal, we know it smells like Mont Blanc Individuel." I'm not attuned to the finer points of cultivating an internet video audience, but I think George misinterprets his relationship with his viewers, and misunderstands its potential.

George describes fragrance reviewing as though it were cable TV. The problem is, Youtube is the opposite of cable TV. I make this claim as a dedicated member of the audience. Instead of having to make do with whatever cable decides to broadcast, I can tell Youtube what I want to watch, and have it instantly. If, on a whim, I want to see what people think of Brut, I just type it in, and I have videos for days. Youtube is fueled by whims. There is no competition in the traditional sense, because there is no need to fight for airtime. You can be the most technically inept person on earth, and your videos will still be aired. It certainly doesn't take millions of dollars to create content. As long as you have a camera and a decent computer, you have a channel. Maintaining a channel will cost some money, true, but we're not talking anything close to "big budget" here.

When I visit channels, I'm visiting to see straightforward reviews that are competently shot, and well informed. Humor, extra production value, graphics, music, all of that is nice, but not necessary if the reviewer knows his frags. And you can't assume that there are too many videos about older fragrances, or that viewers "already know." There is an endless, cyclical, generational supply of viewers from hugely diverse backgrounds and experience levels who have never heard of a chypre or fougere, and they appreciate new video about those scents. To assume the world is full of potential viewers who already know about IFRA regs is rather silly. Believe me, outside of the very small world of obsessed fragheads, and a handful of more than casual observers, nobody knows the IFRA exists.

George also suggests that pedigree comes with being a good fragrance reviewer on Youtube, as if it's earned. But the reality is that it isn't earned at all. George's opinion is one of tens of millions available, and nobody earned it. That's the point of YouTube. It's about you, and you upload content because you want to. You didn't have to fight for it. It wasn't a struggle. I mentioned guys who barely tried, and guess what? I still watched their videos. They're not on TV; they didn't have "bad press" to stop me from "tuning in."

Is it a struggle to get one million subscribers? Sure, that's an accomplishment, and that can make you real money. But let's not pretend that having a million subscribers on Youtube makes you the Roger Ebert of the fragrance world. You didn't toil for decades in the syndicated newspaper business to make a name for yourself. You bought a camera and voluntarily offered content after coming home from your day job. This is what makes Youtube great, and exciting to watch, but it also makes it very different from watching a movie or regular TV. It's not a competitive landscape. It's an endless landscape. Every 24 hours, Youtube has 68 years worth of viewable content uploaded to its servers. Good luck competing in that arena.

Videos will always be available. They're not competing for time slots. And it's no biggie if nobody watches your video this year. Decades from now, you'll have at least a thousand views. That sounds like nothing, but you're part of something so large that it eludes human understanding, which makes you pretty amazing.



5/12/18

Kirk's Original Coco Castile Pure Botanical Coconut Oil Soap (Kirk's Natural LLC)



A few years ago, I reviewed a scent by Penhaligon's called Castile, which was based on vegetable oil soap scents of the last few centuries. Released in 1998, Castile was an ode to a few of its themes: citrus, white floral, chemical, detergent, clean, fresh, etc. I disliked it, and felt that a soap scent is best relegated to soap itself. However, a faithful reader suggested that Castile is in fact a very good representation of Castile soap, and that it can be generalized from the mountains of Aleppo to any truck stop on Route 95.

The other day I found a few bars of Kirk's Castile soap at Walmart, and figured I'd try it in the shower. The company recently reformulated their standard Castile. It used to be simply coconut soap, water, vegetable glycerin, coconut oil, and "natural fragrance," presumably a little neroli and laundry musk. My packaging reads: sodium cocoate, water, glycerin, sodium chloride, sodium gluconate, fragrance. Translated, that reads as coconut soap (fatty acids of coconut), water, salt, and a natural byproduct bonding agent. The "fragrance" part still represents a hint of neroli and synthetic musk. Why Kirk's changed the formula is beyond me, but I see no reason to fret about it.

Why am I writing about Kirk's Castile? Simple. This soap works surprisingly well for shaving. I should warn you that I have very oily skin, with large pores, and a very delicate, damage-prone epidermis. Many have tried Kirk's for shaving and found it overly drying, to the point of burning their skin, but my experience is far better. Kirk's lathers exceptionally well, with a rich, creamy foam that penetrates hairs and softens them, while also offering a slickness that makes DE shaving easier than usual. The shave itself is astonishingly close and very efficient, requiring only one pass for large portions of my face, which is rare for me.

Do I think you should trash your other shave soaps and just use Kirk's? No, but I recommend trying it this summer, when skin is clogged with sweat and grime, and all you want is a quick, cleansing shave. Generally, for showers and baths, Kirk's is an excellent soap, and it does smell like synthetic neroli (truck stop style), but guys, you can get dual usage out of it for only a few dollars at any online merchant or at your local Walmart, and it will leave your skin like mine, smooth and clean.