10/12/18

Creed Is Releasing Yet Another Aventus Flanker. Is This a Good Idea?


Oh, It's You Again.

Apparently Creed has decided, against its better judgment, that one Aventus isn't enough. The world desperately needs another. They came to this conclusion two years after the release of the first Aventus flanker, the clumsily-named Aventus For Her. And by the way, Aventus isn't the only Creed to get flanked - Love in White has LiW For Summer, in case it gets lonely. There are probably one or two other Creed flankers that I just haven't noticed, so if you happen to know them, please mention them in your comments below.

The thing is this: Creed is supposed to be a niche brand. I know there aren't hard and fast rules for marketing niche frags. It's not like the words "Thou shalt not flank" are etched in marble on the sidewalks of the Upper East Side. It's a free market. You can do as you please, and let the shareholders judge for themselves. But in a world where every designer label feels the need to flank incessantly, a world where Thierry Mugler's obsession with flanking has infected Chanel, Dior, YSL, Prada, and many others, eventually the question is raised: should a niche brand make flankers?

How does it look, exactly? I see Aventus, and I see Creed created another industry-changing behemoth, in the tradition of Green Irish Tweed and Millesime Imperial. At some point, a legacy designer will get smart and create a nearly identical clone of Aventus, in much the same way Davidoff and Armani did with Olivier's aforementioned perfumes, which is all the flanking a truly great fragrance needs. Creed should be setting an example for other niche brands by firmly reiterating their erudite approach to creative output as the ever-chic and simple "one-and-done."

Why riff off your own work? What more can you add to something done right the first time? Then there's the question of whether it's worthy of your brand's pedigree. Creed is supposed to be top shelf. We're talking $500 bottles here. Why should I see them on that level if they're following a designer trend, and making flankers? Brands at $90 per bottle issue flankers. Brands at $45 on the grey market issue flankers. Brands you buy in boredom at Marshalls and Walgreens for $16 issue flankers. Brands that make you choose between their perfumes and paying your mortgage should not be peddling cynical, money-grabbing flankers.

How do people perceive your brand when you start hedging your bets after critical letdowns? I perceive nervousness, with a dusting of panic. Creed got spooked by the underwhelming reception for Viking, lost the belly to chance it with something new, and decided to play it safe by releasing a variation of a sure thing. An understandable strategy, but not the best look. It's embarrassing, especially for Creed, and anyone with half a brain considers it a clue to how devastating Viking was to their bottom line. The combined efforts of keeping Viking on shelves and releasing Aventus Cologne right after seem more like vain attempts to save face than smart business.

I think Creed has done excellent work in the past, and hope they continue releasing incredible perfumes in the future. But I'm really hoping they don't go all lowbrow on us and start making flankers, and then flankers for flankers. Aventus Cologne might smell great, and might be a limited edition, which would be preferable to a permanent entry in the line. But then again, it might smell like another disappointment. And after Viking, I doubt Creed wants more perplexed and dissatisfied customers.


10/7/18

Lomani Pour Homme, A Review of the Latest Reformulation (Parfums Parour)


New and Improved Package, New and Improved Contents

I don't know when it happened, but sometime in the last three years, Parfums Parour reformulated Lomani Pour Homme, and significantly changed its packaging. I reviewed this fragrance many years ago on basenotes and Badger & Blade, and pointed out that its "fresh" dihydromyrcenol and slightly fruity top notes were more a progenitor to Cool Water than anything else, but here on this blog I aligned my opinion more with its being on the Drakkar Noir axis.

At this point, in late 2018, the Year of the Barbershop, I found myself wondering if Lomani PH was worth revisiting. Again, to recap prior opinions, I found its structure classically fougere, masculine to the hilt, but also remarkably cheap in both concept and execution. It smelled like the perfumer put dihydromyrcenol through an olfactory amplifier, and had dialed its synthetic facets to eleven in the top and early drydown stages, but then ran out of money. To close out the show, Parfums Parour settled on a very lonely tree moss note in the base, which made Lomani smell like a handful of stale wood chips after ninety minutes of wear.

I think this reformulation is a good opportunity for me to point out the key differences between oak moss and tree moss. Some fragrances benefit more from tree moss than oak moss, and some are the opposite. Two examples are Z-14 and Lomani Pour Homme. Z-14 belongs in the former camp; Lomani belongs in the latter.

Tree moss is dry, and aids in streamlining woody accords. It works beautifully in Z-14, among dry woods and woody citrus. Oak moss is much more diffusive, and amplifies any "fresh" chemical in its vicinity. It works like iso E Super, as a fixative and texturizing agent. Good fougeres marry cool aromatics to warm coumarin, and benefit from oak moss. Tree moss flattens aromatics and coumarin, leaving a one-dimensional drydown (Lomani circa 2010), but oak moss activates the aromatic connectivity between top and base, allowing crisp herbal notes to powder into a pleasantly clean (but still undeniably cheap) shaving foam effect.

Thus the reformulation of Lomani PH is a more successful fougere than its earlier iteration from several years back, and for one reason alone: they replaced the tree moss with oak moss. No longer does Lomani PH dry down to a hollow tree moss note of no distinction. It now dries down to a powdery, talc-like, vaguely herbal shaving foam effect. Lomani PH is arguably the cheapest fougere you can buy, now yours for literally $6.98 if you can catch Fragrancenet's 30% discount offer. That's actually cheaper than most sources for Pinaud Clubman.

That means you can be utterly broke, and still possess a modern aromatic barbershop fougere in Lomani PH, which I also still consider an unheralded entry in the Drakkar Noir axis of barbershop ferns. Will you smell sophisticated? No, you will smell like you shaved, and applied some mixture of aftershave and witch hazel.

Lomani PH is a celebration of synthetic barbershop chemicals. They even colored it the same as Barbacide. P-Parour isn't going for broke here. They're just putting out the most basic Reagan era fougere imaginable on a shoestring budget. The hilarious thing is that they tout its "new look" on the box with a red imprint (something no classy brand does), and yet the box and bottle are almost identical to their former selves. The box is still drab grey with 1980s font; the bottle is still clear glass with an elliptical cap. Except now it has a silver plastic atomizer, and silver shoulders separating cap from bottle. Great. It looks better than it did, but not by much.

I often read about how Lomani is such a great clone of Drakkar Noir. I'm not sure it's "great." Drakkar's use of dihydromyrcenol is clever, taking its freshness and using it to amplify pine, wood, leather, and lavender. Lomani has a hint of apple-like fruitiness, a hint of soapy lavender, a very vague hint of pine. Yet nothing materializes into an accord. Instead it smells like dihydromyrcenol is an ingredient in a shave soap from a dollar store. It smells good for the money, and you got a superb deal.

What more needs to be said?


9/29/18

Is Caesars Man Worth Big Bucks On Ebay?


Well, it's happening again. Instead of using their heads and basing their pricing of a discontinued masculine frag on the rate of inflation, merchants are pulling insane prices straight out of their asses. I saw this thread on basenotes, which rightly asks why prices for Caesars Man cologne have skyrocketed, and once again, I have no answers.

When a cheap and readily available frag is discontinued, merchants ought to follow a simple formula for post-market pricing. Instead of basing the price on what it was last sold for, you base it on its price when first released, and adjust for inflation. This is how you find a fair price. Let's assume Caesars Man was sold for $25 back in 1988. It's a resort brand, a popular casino, and thus a relatively specialized release. For the time, $25 would be considered pricy, but not "luxe." I think it's a reasonable guess that they wanted at least this much for 4 ounces of it.

Now adjust for inflation. Twenty-five dollars in 1988 adjusts to $54 in 2018. There's your discontinued Caesars Man price. Bottles ought to now sell for $54.48, to be precise. So why am I seeing them on eBay for $229? Why are they pricing this cheapie at Creed price points? Where are these numbers coming from? The average merchant wants $145 on eBay, and some are asking $150 and $170. At least one wants an insane $238, with shipping. Is this fragrance even remotely worth this sort of coin? Of course not.

I've only ever sampled it at discount stores like Marshalls and TJ Maxx, and I can tell you it's a blatant clone of Drakkar Noir. It's nice stuff, but nothing original. It's a cheap, old-school fougère. We should refrain from entertaining eBay fantasies about it being worth anything more than $60. It's just not original enough for big bucks. Not to mention it smells pretty synthetic. This isn't a "natural" version of Drakkar Noir. It's just another synthetic green fougère that guys have been buying for $9 at Marshalls for years.

In comparison, 3.3 oz bottles of Francesco Smalto Pour Homme are selling for $79 to $129, and that one is far more natural and distinctive. Also, it's been discontinued for much longer, and it was released a year before Caesars Man. I'm fairly sure FSPH was priced around $30 for the large bottle in 1987, which makes its inflation value $68 today. You can get a 1.7 oz bottle for less than that ($54), which is a little high, but not ridiculous - I would think that size would have sold for half that much back in the day.

Lomani Pour Homme, which is a decent alternative, is still available for $8 on several sites. It's a perfectly reasonable fougère in the Drakkar Noir style, with perky green top notes and a shave-creamy mid, but it dries down to a hollow and overly simple moss note, and thus isn't something I kept in my collection. And of course, you can still buy Drakkar Noir for around $40, and get the original scent without any embellishment, so why even bother with cheap clones?

If there's one thing that makes no sense in the fragrance world, it's seeking out cheap clones of a scent that's cheap to begin with. Looking to make crazy bank on something like Caesars Man suggests people are using customer ignorance for cost calibration, and I find that practice despicable.


9/22/18

A Tale of Two Bay Rums

Guess which one sucks.

I recently bought a bottle of Lucky Tiger Bay Rum, and tried it out. I can safely say that Lucky Tiger is currently being run by those useless Millennials I mentioned a few months ago in my Old Spice post. How do I know this, you might ask? Because Lucky Tiger Bay Rum smells absolutely nothing like bay rum. It smells crisp, and powdery, and "fresh," but has no discernible notes of bay or rum in its formula. It's basically a generic aftershave with a hint of powder in the drydown, and some vague green floral note that I can't make out.

This prompted me to sigh in frustration, and pull out my bottle of Clubman Virgin Island Bay Rum, which I consider a "reference bay rum" of sorts, due to the clarity of its notes, which are rendered in a traditional fashion. VIBR also has the advantage of about an hour of longevity on a temperate day (a bit more or less depending on the season), so it's a perfect measuring stick for other bay rums. I compared it to Lucky Tiger, and it's night and day. Where LT smells watery and only the slightest bit piquant, VIBR is bursting with cinnamon, clove, sweet rum, and heady bay notes.

Perhaps the most offensive thing about Lucky Tiger's aftershave is its pedigree; the brand dates back almost a hundred years, and its bay rum is supposed to be a robust throwback to the 1950s, when this particular style enjoyed a Rennaissance. Instead it smells like a 30 yr-old doof had no clue what bay rum is, and created a brief sometime in the 2000s that was equal parts puzzling and easy to fill. It smells like someone mixed a few drops of "green" with a few drops of "powder," and called it a day. It's like they bottled the smell of laziness.

For your own reference, consider VIBR a "can't go wrong" bay rum that can be had for less than $10, and which always works, regardless of the weather or circumstances. If you need something similar but much weaker, you can try Royall Bay Rum, or Lustray Bay Rum Compound, which literally lasts a minute before vanishing (your girlfriend might get a faint whiff when she comes in for a kiss, but otherwise forget it). If Lucky Tiger is on your radar, just know that it's not a bad smell, and it works fine as an aftershave, but it sure ain't no bay rum.


9/10/18

Irisch Moos Eau de Toilette (Mäurer & Wirtz)



This is a tricky fragrance. I've been wearing it for a week now, and have come to the conclusion that there's two ways to think about it. I could be super picky, parse through all the notes, break down accords piece by piece, and focus on the quality of the aroma chemicals that were used, and if I do it that way, I'll wind up with a review similar to the one I posted on Fragrantica. When I obsess over every stage and every accord, it kind of smells like a leather chypre that morphs into a green floral, before finally settling into a drugstore oriental, not unlike Old Spice.

But the other way to approach Irisch Moos is to appreciate the forest for the trees, and just shift my mental gears away from the question, "How is this barbershop?" Because when I first smelled this fragrance, its structure felt very eclectic as a "barbershop" scent, with too many notes and disparate olfactory concepts clashing. A couple days ago I wore it again, and this time it clicked in my brain: Irisch Moos is not a barbershop scent. It's supposed to be. It uses Irish visuals and the color green to imbue the buyer with a sense that he's purchasing an old-school "moss scent" aftershave from the sixties, back when brands like English Leather and Skin Bracer were releasing "moss" aftershaves of their own. Hey, Irisch Moos was just Germany joining the trend, right?

Wrong, totally, totally wrong. It has nothing to do with that old barbershop trope. When I shift gears and get very literal with what I smell, Irisch Moos reveals itself to be Mitsouko done on the cheap. This is an old-fashioned French chypre in the Guerlain mode - a massive slug of bergamot up top that pervades the entire drydown, a pine-like dusting of cistus labdanum soon after, which settles into a hefty wallop of synthetic oakmoss (actually a somewhat competent reconstruction) in the base, with a generous array of floral notes buttressing everything. It actually resembles the much dryer and "manlier" Aramis in the first ten minutes of wear, but rapidly softens into a feminine variation of the fruity chypre theme popularized by Guerlain in the 1900s.

When it hit me, I thought, "Holy shit, they've been selling this thing to guys for decades, and it's a Katherine Hepburn-in-Herringbone chypre." Then I suddenly remembered my Charlemagne, and realized that the great barbershop fragrances of a bygone era were feminines in disguise. Let's face it, Old Spice was a tweaking of Tabu, and English Leather was merely another sweet chypre that would have gone to the girls at any other price. So yeah, Irisch Moos smells pretty good, but also smells cheap, and the spicy clove and carnation in the dry down haven't won me over yet.

Lastly, the name is wrong. This isn't about Ireland. This type of scent is one hundred percent French. It should be called "French Mousse." But whatever.



8/31/18

Getting Priced On Irisch Moos, And Other Thoughts Of The Week



Just a few things I thought I'd mention: conceptually speaking, Ireland is the most expensive country for fragrances. For some strange reason, a premium rests firmly on the mere association with the emerald isle. Green Irish Tweed is one hundred dollars an ounce. Patrick by Fragrances of Ireland sets you back a cool forty greenbacks. And Irisch Moos is $30 for fifty milliliters. I've tried to find a bottle from a reliable source for under twenty dollars, but unless it's the aftershave, no dice. I would get the aftershave, but I'm more interested in the EDT. It should arrive on my doorstep in four days. Meanwhile, I'm nonplussed by the green given for this "green" frag. For a fifty year-old scent with a wet-shaver pedigree, you'd think it would be cheaper.

Earlier this week I applied a few sprays of Acqua di Selva, and it occurred to me that it's a clear progenitor to Drakkar Noir. The mint threw me off for a while, making me think more of minty aftershaves like Aqua Velva Ice Blue, but I realized there's a healthy dose of dihydromyrcenol in there, and the dry herbal accord that follows the minty top notes is a much rougher version of Guy Laroche's fougère. Now, whenever I wear it, I can't help but think of Drakkar. This is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I like that Victor's fougère (now Visconti di Modrone) has a historical reference point, even if that reference only points to the future. On the other, I rather liked thinking of AdS as its own beast, and find myself quietly cursing my expansive knowledge of old fashioned fougères now that the resemblance is clear to me.

My last thought this week (and this month) is on the idea of celebrity fragrances being a "bad thing" in the fragrance world. I have never considered them to be a negative, and must concur with a few of my contemporaries who find Turin and Sanchez's dismissal of them perplexing. What's wrong with celebrity scents? Liz Taylor's Passion for Men is no masterpiece, but it's yards better than Dior Sauvage, and Dolce & Gabbana's The One, which I think should win an award for most overrated juice on the planet. Adam Levine for men was an enjoyable citrus with some natural accents that exceeded expectations. Incredible Things by Taylor Swift (as if she actually authored the scent) isn't bad either, for a dumb grab. At least it smells like a real gourmand item, ambrosia, and not some vague gourmand frankenfood, like Thierry Mugler's shit.

So why all the joy for the demise of celebuscents? Me no comprende. Thus it gets filed right next to my confusion over Ireland's super expensive perfume prestige. Create any cheap swill and reference Ireland in its name, and a rich man you shall be.



8/16/18

Summer Vacation Report, 2018


My kitchen.

I'm nearing the end of a two week vacation, and learned a few things while relaxing. Last week I heard a podcast featuring Chandler Burr, in which he commented on the perfume industry, specifically the flourishing niche industry. He offered a few interesting tidbits of information about perfume, the cost of raw materials vs packaging expenses, etc, all of which was very interesting, but he also said something I found particularly disheartening - that he didn't know why, after the great financial crisis of 2008, the niche industry had burgeoned into the success we see today.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the success of the luxury market rides the wave of everyone else's economic hardship. The Martin Shkrelis of the world made out like bandits when the markets collapsed. They had been betting on people's misery for years, offering subprime predatory loans to folks who had no financial acumen beyond what they owed for lunch, and when collective ignorance threatened America's house of cards, the wealthy became wealthier, many in mere seconds.

Now, I'm not claiming that Burr is one of these robber baron elites, nor am I saying that he is intentionally obfuscating the correlation between plummeting middle class retirement accounts and rising luxury boutique profits. I'm saying that Burr, as an economist, should probably note that in times of financial hardship for the middle class, a curious and often remarkable uptick in luxury spending occurs. Likewise, he ought to mention that when the middle class begin seeing personal gains in an improving economy, luxury sales begin to suffer. It may behoove Mr. Burr to ask the question: why does this happen repeatedly?

In my opinion, he should ask how the ebb and flow of our economy parallels movements in luxury fragrance markets, and then offer reasoned answers. Simply expressing incredulity at what we've all witnessed in the past decade makes him look like he's just another armchair economist, which would make him like me. And I seriously doubt that I'm anywhere close to the level of Burr's understanding of economics. So if he's going to ponder the imponderables of the rich and fabulous niche industry, he should highlight the disturbing trends of its success. His comments on the podcast disappointed me, because I expect more from him as an economist (a real economist), and everyone should expect more from him when he discusses the economics of luxury perfumes.

This brings me to, well, me. I'm middle class, clinging to the rungs of that ladder rather perilously at times. Sure, I bought a house, and I have a luxury car (admittedly an older, often mechanically problematic luxury car, with incredible depreciation), and I work a full-time unionized job in the education field. I make enough money to pay my bills, eat well, and occasionally purchase a fragrance or two. But I also live in Connecticut, a flailing state with corruption so endemic to its litany of financial woes, that even the most conscientious citizen is burdened beyond belief. Taxes here are killing us, and there is no end in sight.

When my vacation began, I was staring at the expense of a potentially bank-account killing car repair. I had a serious issue with a wheel bearing on the front driver side, and given the nature of GM design flaws, and taking my past repair history into account, I wondered if I was looking at another summer of Ramen and rocking chairs. Fortunately the repair was relatively inexpensive, nowhere near as bad as I imagined. This enabled me to turn my attention to a few personal projects.

As a Connecticut Yankee, my lifestyle demands that I drive. Not just a little, mind you - a lot. I average twenty thousand miles a year, on a slow year. Thus, car maintenance is a primary concern, and learning how to maintain my own vehicle becomes a necessity. Not only does CT require me to truck hundreds of miles a week, but it offers precious few competent mechanics. I'm not joking about that. Fully one out of every ten mechanics knows what they're doing. My next door neighbor is a licensed mechanic who works from his property. Recently he left the keys to one of his client's vehicles in the ignition overnight, and the car was stolen and totaled. Either he forgot he lives in a city, or he's just a dimwit - either way, he's pretty typical of the mechanics I've crossed paths with in this state.

I've been spending almost a week now learning how to drain and flush my radiator and replace my thermostat, which in a 3.8L Series II engine is fairly straightforward and easy to do. I got around to doing it on Tuesday, with success. I already regularly change my own oil, which a five year old could do with my car. But my responsibilities don't end there. I also need to clean the throttle body, and replace the upper intake manifold plenum and gaskets before the inevitable happens, and antifreeze bleeds into the engine oil. The former project is going to be difficult, and I'll probably end up just replacing the throttle body altogether, since GM engineers have a sadistic love for designing things that cannot be cleaned and serviced easily. And since removing the throttle body exposes the upper intake, I may as well just make it all one big project and replace both at the same time.

Since this project is fairly huge for an amateur with minimal experience working on engines, I'm bucking up for it in a big way, and planning on tackling it during my Christmas break later this year. If I'm successful with these repairs, hopefully it will extend the life of my already ancient car by another three to five years, which is exactly the amount of time needed to pay off my student loans, and free up the funds needed to finance a new car.

Meanwhile I'm buttoning up a few things in my house. Today I'm finally sealing and polishing my kitchen floor with industrial Zep products, and having flashbacks to my college days as a janitor. I installed a Congoleum tile floor earlier this year with the help of my father, and that alone was a difficult project that spanned two years. A quick summary: in the early spring of 2016 I bought the last of a discontinued commercial-grade Congoleum tile, the kind installed in schools and hospitals, and a couple months later began the arduous process of removing the asbestos coverup job of the home's former owners. Egregiously, they had installed ugly white glue-on tiles to hide the 9"X9" asbestos (or suspiciously asbestos-like) original kitchen tiles.

The worst part about taking up those stick-on tiles was removing the glue, a hideous, waterproof, invasive material that managed to taint every corner of the house with its tack. But remove it we did, and then the equally ugly original floor tile sat exposed for eighteen months, sending its friable asbestos particles everywhere I eat, sleep, and blog. (I'm scheduled to be diagnosed with asbestosis sometime around 2030.) However, the new Congoleum floor, which is almost as toxic as asbestos, is now firmly cemented into place, and as I type this, I wait as Zep's Wet Look Floor Polish dries its first of four coats.

Why am I reporting all of this to you? It's August, I'm on vacation, a new school year awaits me less than four days from now, and it's the silly season, folks. Unfortunately for readers looking to learn new and amazing things about perfume, my trajectory this month struggles to stay on message for this blog. However, I'm working on it; later this month I'm hoping to acquire a bottle of Irisch Moos EDT, which I suspect will get a good review. Until then, I'm pretty busy watching mechanics go through what seems like an endless series of unimpeachable steps toward repairing Buicks, hoping to learn as much as possible, and I'm also busy around the house.

To end on an up note, my neighbor gave away a Weber grill, and I've been enjoying some terrific BBQ all season long. You're all invited to come by and have some, but for those of you who don't live in Connecticut, that would mean you'd have to come here. And put bluntly, I can't in good conscience tell you to do that. So I take it back. Don't come by. More food for me.