1/3/16

The "Confounding Factor"


Or maybe she put hers on twelve hours ago, and yours was just applied.


On this page of yet another very lengthy Badger & Blade thread about vintage Old Spice, member "GoneRetroInOH" writes:

"There is a lot of speculation as to whether any reformulation across time (old Shulton vis-à-vis new P&G) or distance (USA / India) ever occurred. IMHO the most confounding factor is aging on the shelf. I have Shulton bottles that I used from time to time. A little always went a long way and I used them only intermittently, so they have lasted 30-35 years. Your 1956 bottle has outlived a lot of people who were babies at the time. Even though the classic bottle stores well, the product still may have subtle changes with age. It is entirely possible that there were no formulation changes, yet the old would seem somewhat different from the new."

This statement nails it. The reason vintage lovers can't reconcile their appreciation of classic formulas with their feelings for reformulations rests simply with the issue of time. For whatever reason, they chronically ignore the issue mentioned above. Time can do incredible things to bottled fluids. Supposedly superior vintage formulas are credited with being "more natural," and "made of better quality materials," and "more complex," but are these traits the result of superior manufacturing weighed against the "cheapening" of classic brands, or are they attributable to their age alone?

Time is the inescapable third variable in comparisons between the qualities of old vs new. When it comes to judging something against its older self, you must consider the discrepancies between the two sets of conditions. On one side you have the "new" stuff, and on the other the "old," but theoretically they're still the same item. Despite this fact, something about the old stuff usually smells better or worse than the new stuff. Why?

Let's think about the "better" part first. Here we suppose that the vintage smells richer, more complex, and chemically superior to its counterpart, based on smell alone. Is this assessment objective? Unfortunately it can't be, because interpreting odors is subjective (smelling odors, on the other hand, is quite objective). You and your buddy will likely agree that the residual odor of the loaf he pinched in your bathroom is vile, but you may differ in opinion on just how good a particular vintage perfume smells. Perfume is harder to interpret than shit.

The reasons for this vary. You may have a broader frame of reference for perfume than he does. Your nose may be more sensitive than his. Your idea of what smells "good" may be, in an abstract sense, somewhat different. The social nature of the perfume may be an influencing factor. If you've had bad experiences with someone who wears the fragrance in question, your association with any version of it may be negatively biased. Conversely, positive associations are made with fragrances that correlate with positive experiences.

Now let's consider the "worse" part. What if you think the fragrance smells "spoiled," and he doesn't? What happened there? Apparently one basenotes member has decided that there are specific issues that preclude fragrance spoilage, and that these issues require consideration by people who might otherwise mistakenly suppose a perfume has spoiled on them. Of course, most of his points aren't based on anything factual. They are assumptions one should never make, and I'll get to them in a bit.

The criteria for assessing whether "spoilage" has truly occurred are simple: you must know what the same vintage of a perfume smells like when it is both new, and not new. If you can identify changes between new and old, and these changes detract from the experience of smelling the old, you have spoilage.

Though simple, this criteria is difficult for people to utilize. It's pretty common to have an isolated sample of a scent that you're generally unfamiliar with. This makes interpretation difficult. How do you know if what you're smelling is "spoiled" if you can't accurately interpret it?

And even if you are familiar with the fragrance, you can't compare accurately unless you have an infallible memory of the way a vintage smelled decades ago. Reformulations change how perfumes smell all the time, making it impossible to trust a direct comparison of vintage to today's formula (they're different vintages). Since you're not Marty McFly, you'll have to settle for an understanding of degrees of spoilage, and how they inhabit the "performance patterns" of vintage fragrances in general.

There are two degrees of spoilage: "extreme" spoilage, and "slight" spoilage. The first degree is very easy to recognize; the second is trickier because it relies on the employment of an inexact methodology to determine quality.

First, the "extreme" spoilage - in this instance, we're right back into objective olfactory territory, the same realm as your loaf-pinching friend. You spray the perfume, and wow! That stinks! Instead of Fahrenheit, your arm wafts extreme odors of sour florals, with a rapid drydown to burnt shoe. You have a recoil reaction, and instinctively recognize the odors as being inarguably bad.

Now, the "slight" spoilage - here the perfume seems wearable. It doesn't offend, but also doesn't impress, at least not as much as expected. There are fuzzy textural qualities, limited movements, and a surprising linearity. The sample appears to be fine, and projects fairly well, with some pleasant qualities, but something's off.

This is where the inexact methodology of recognizing "performance patterns," (otherwise known as the "drydown arc"), is necessary to determine the true nature of the beast. For example: your vintage Fahrenheit smells okay, but its excessively bitter floral top notes segue into a dry, hissy base within thirty seconds, and then this relatively flat accord remains static. You don't know Fahrenheit well enough to make a judgment as to whether or not this smells correct, and you have no other samples of this fragrance on hand. What do you do?

You may not know how to interpret what you smell, but you're trying to interpret the wrong thing. Forget about how your Fahrenheit smells. How does it perform? Make note of the transitions - super brief and unpleasant top, rapidly followed by clumsy base, with no heart to speak of. The fragrance seems very smooth, but also very linear.

Check out a bottle of vintage Cool Water. Does it perform similarly? Same short top, followed almost immediately by a droning, smooth base accord of barely distinguishable notes? How about vintage M7? Vintage Zino? Vintage Drakkar Noir? Do these exhibit the same performance patterns? Some vintages will seem to perform in distinct and measured triads of top, heart, and base, while others will collapse in on themselves within seconds. Those with triads are well preserved and minimally degraded; those that collapse are more severely compromised.

Compare the qualities of performances across a wide range of vintages to the performances of an equally wide range of new fragrances, and make mental (or literal) notes of your experiences. Remember, you're observing performance qualities, NOT material qualities. From this you can create some semblance of a "standard" to hold vintage fragrances against.

This methodology requires extensive experience with fragrances of all ages. You'll probably have to become familiar with at least a few hundred perfumes to really fine tune your nose into spotting degraded performance qualities. Once you've gained this experience, recognizing deterioration in perfumes that you are otherwise unfamiliar with becomes easier.

Most degraded vintages display attenuated or nonexistent top notes. You have vintage English Leather, and you're expecting citrus at the start. Instead you get a bitter epoxy effect, immediately followed by dry, smooth woods. The top notes are gone. With time, that nondescript and usually acidic top note characteristic becomes recognizable in itself, as you encounter it again and again in older perfumes. It gets to the point where you immediately recognize that a fragrance is missing its top notes.

Overly smooth, monochromatic base accords are also common in degraded vintages. These can be the most misleading, because they often smell good. However, they lack note separation, and tend to remain "frozen" on skin. Once this base arrives, it just stays there, unchanging, for hours. Good smell, but no distinct complexity, and very little evolution. In most of the vintages I've encountered, this effect is usually musky/woody, like an invisible finger smudged a handful of wood notes and a couple of sweet synthetic musks into one semi-sweet wood note, which usually resembles sandalwood. I've experienced this quality in vintage Feeling Man, Zino, Grey Flannel, etc.

Balance issues are also a recurring theme. This is really a question of compromised movement, not elemental deterioration. I once had a vintage bottle of Green Irish Tweed, dated to 2001. The crisp violet, powdery iris, warm amber, and clean sandalwood notes were offset by an unbalanced musk note, which had somehow pulled free of its tether and plowed its way to the front end of the drydown. The result was something that smelled like a musk scent with some light green nuances shimmering in the background.

When you employ the inexact methodology of performance patterns, don't miss the forest for the trees, as our friend on basenotes has. Sure, liquid in atomizer tubes could spoil sooner than the rest of the juice, but there's no evidence that this happens, nor is there any evidence people have recurringly had this issue. Sealed spray bottles are no more or less prone to spoilage than splash bottles, though the latter are easier to tamper with. I'm not sure where the idea that splash bottles should be excluded from these considerations came from, but suspect it's another instance of this particular basenotes member "moving the goalpost" of how to assess spoilage.*

In the end, weighing the merits of a vintage rests with how accurately you know a fragrance. Those who have smelled and compared fresh perfumes to aged perfumes of the same vintage can determine whether degradation has occurred with the greatest ease. But even then, they must account for changes. This brings us to the confounding factor in any study, scientific or otherwise, of vintage against new: the simple test of time.

If the supposition is that yesterday's perfumes are chemically superior to today's, I suppose a simple CG analysis could shed light on the veracity of this claim, but it wouldn't convey the nature of the drydown arc, or its variables. It wouldn't compare "performance patterns." As the B&B member quoted above aptly pointed out, time may very well explain why an illusion of higher quality persists with vintage fragrances like Old Spice. I hope that an improved understanding of this confounding factor will one day, with great irony, render condemnation of recent formulas obsolete.





* This particular basenotes member seems hell-bent on proving to the world that I'm wrong in my assertion that perfumes spoil. The thread he participates in (link here) is full of firsthand testimonies by people whose perfumes have spoiled.

16 comments:

  1. I can't believe there are people in this world who spend so much time discussing banalities such as Old Spice.

    "Natural" ingredients are generally not very long lasting & very susceptible to degrade in high temperatures. Quite a few synthetics will readily degrade also.

    Creed & Annick Goutal use high quality 'natural' ingredients & are famous for going 'off' & 'turning'. That's why I don't buy them. They aren't going to survive the extreme temps of the monsoon here.

    As far as Indian products go-
    Look, for 9 months of the year 90% of India is a broiling, HOT, humid cesspit. Not very much of India has 24 hr electricity & so even if a store or warehouse even has AC they don't have the power to run it.
    Think of that bottle of Old Spice made in a STEAMY HOT 95F+ Mumbai factory riding in an uninsulated truck or train car to frying pan hot Delhi, or 100F HOT & HUMID Kolkata then sitting out on a sizzling tarmac to get to the US by air freight or sitting on a dock packed in an uninsulated 10"x40" container & put on a barge for 3 months to get to the US over the Arabian or Indian ocean- under those conditions that fragrance WILL DEGRADE. PERIOD. AMEN.

    I don't think Americans realize how bloody hot India is. I've shipped oil paintings by barge to the US through Singapore & had the paint & lacquer sealer melt off them.

    That's why I don't buy the duty free stuff at Indian airports, even the duty free stores are so hot the M&M's are melted. The makeup is 'goners' too. Most of the perfumes are spoiled or well on their way to going 'off'.

    I keep my perfumes & make up in the veg bin of the fridge during the monsoon, even way up here in the Himalayas. I've lost too many bottles of $$$$ perfume due to the heat. Now when I lived in San Francisco - a very mild climate my perfumes & make up were fine on my vanity year 'round.

    HALLELUJAH!

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    1. The funny thing is the glaring hypocrisy on the pro-vintage side. In one moment they'll tell you that vintage perfumes were more natural than their reformulations. In the next, they'll insist that most (if not all) vintages preserve perfectly across twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or more years. Oh, maybe top notes get funny, but otherwise the drydowns are fine. Please.

      If you were to ask them to name one organic "natural" material, other than maybe honey in the right conditions, that doesn't spoil, they'd end the conversation. You'd hear crickets chirping.

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    2. Well, I laugh because they're right in a way.
      Indian Old Spice does probably smell more like vintage US Old Spice but not for the reasons they think.
      Indian Old Spice has probably degraded to a point where it does most likely smell more like the degraded vintage US Old Spice- but due to environmental insult not age.
      The Indian Old Spice aftershave & cologne I tried last month smelled a bit flat compared to what I recall my dad wearing in the 70's. No bright top notes like lemon, orange, nutmeg, & just a faint hint of star anise- more like straight cloves, cinnamon, cedar & musk with a vague hint of vanilla-ish tonka bean. That's exactly what I'd expect to smell in an aged & degraded bottle of Old Spice.
      If you don't like the top notes that's fine, OS is still a great classic scent even in it's degraded form.
      Shalimar ages to something nice also, I have my grandma's bottle from the 1930's. It doesn't smell like like Shalimar anymore, it is a lovely dark, resinous, deep vanilla though.
      I have many more perfumes new & old of varying price levels that did not age well AT ALL. My mom's 1940's bottle of Fame by Corday smells like mothballs & cat pee.
      I'd love to have these guys do a taste test between something natural & a synthetic to see if they can tell the difference. Just something simple like maple syrup- synthetic maple syrup tastes better than the real thing to most folks.

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    3. Some people prefer vintage because they don't care about top notes and are just looking for a specific drydown with perhaps a very specific note or effect. This is perfectly fine and completely understandable. Where I lose patience is when reformulations that clearly have good note complexity, good contrast and dynamism, are put down in reviews and forums by people who have "confounded" noses, i.e., a very poor note detection ability. Also can't abide chronic "dab" samplers who try a miniscule quantity of a newer frag (or even an older one), and then have ten critical lines to write about it, when it's clear they haven't the slightest clue what they're smelling. Good point about the syrup, btw - it actually is very similar to the one I made last year about the two different versions of Coca-Cola, in that people "felt" Mexican Coca-Cola was better, even when their own tastebuds disagreed with them in blind tests.

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  2. I agree with most of what you're saying, especially regarding top notes. I don't think it's any coincidence that so many criticisms of reformulatons go something like this: "The new version is a harsh, astringent, chemical mess!!" or, "The new version is so watered down". A lot of times, like you say, your old bottle of whatever has probably lost its top notes, which leaves you with a falsely "rich" smell of what is really just left over heart and drydown accords. Similarly, so many perfumes in old bottles slowly evaporate over time, which will result in a higher concentration of perfume. That's because it's the alcohol, not the perfume oils, that are evaporating.

    On the other hand, I think it would be very naive of us to think that perfumes aren't regularly reformulated, and that there is no detectable change in scent. What I don't like is how so many fragrance snobs feel they need to shit all over other people's enjoyment of a re-released fragrance. Is it really necessary to tell a newbie, "Hey, you may think you like that new bottle of Quorum, but it really sucks in reality. You haven't lived if you haven't tried the vintage version."

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    1. You've summed up my argument perfectly. Reformulations have always occurred in the industry, but time can change all things. My metric for recognizing and understanding this is Grey Flannel. A few years ago I finished an older bottle and bought the newest version at Marshalls. Upon trying it, I was immediately let down by how thin it seemed. I thought they'd monkeyed with it.

      Fast forward to today. Since that initial wearing, the smell has intensified, and it's identical to my previous bottle. Now I can think of a few people who might argue that my "sensitivity" has changed. However, that would not explain the other thing that has happened since I bought this bottle: its color has changed! When it was new, the juice inside was clear as water. Since then it has become a muddy greenish-brown. Has my visual sensitivity changed with my nose? No. The fragrance has, since being exposed to oxygen, changed for better or worse. No reformulation no necessary!

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  3. Having read more about chemicals and their properties I came to a somewhat shocking discovery. Chemicals like l-limonene for example are safe within their expiration date. In fact they may not only be safe but also beneficiary as they have anti-tumor effects, however once the compound start to oxidize or turn rancid because of exposure to light and/or air, then not only does it lose its beneficial effects, but instead promotes the growth of tumors, irritation of skin - lungs and eyes!
    In other words, it's not limonene itself that is a problem but the many compounds it turns into once it turns rancid!
    And this is only one ingredient.

    So all these urban myths about vintage perfumes being better are not only false but also exposes people to hazardous health risks!

    Here is the link where I got the info from: http://chemicaloftheday.squarespace.com/qa/2011/2/15/limonene.html

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    1. Vintage enthusiasts adhere to the philosophy that vintages are "better" because they're "more natural," but they also have a tendency to denigrate contemporary formulas for being "irritants" because they're "too synthetic." This demonstrates a significant misreading on their part of what constitutes an irritant in perfumery. A natural material like birch tar contains thousands of ancillary molecules that have nothing to do with how birch tar smells in a fragrance. A synthetic dry-woody molecule is just one molecule. Automatically the comparison favors the synthetic when you're discussing which is hypoallergenic. Yet vintage enthusiasts will claim that the Iso E or Suederal or whatever is being used to synthesize dry-woody notes are arousing negative reactions in them. Consider, for example, the sheer volume of complaints surrounding Sauvage and its use of Ambroxan (the excess use of which has never been publicly confirmed by its perfumer, btw). Had Dior used real ambergris and woody essential oils to comprise the ambery "fresh" element in Sauvage, it would possibly convey a greater sense of depth and dimensionality than it currently does with Ambroxan, but there would be a significantly higher number of credible complaints about allergies peppering the review boards.

      The paradoxical nature of trying to reason with vintage enthusiasts poses a conundrum of its own. I have no problem with people having their own preferences and discussing them. I have a huge, huge problem with them trying to convert naive newcomers to the belief that vintages are what they should seek out. Vintage enthusiasts disregard powerful variables: time and money. Top-shelf fragrances with expansive budgets (vintage Guerlain formulas from the 1960s and 1970s, Creed formulas from the 1980s and 1990s, Chanels from any era, etc.) pose a higher risk of being more variable over lengthy time durations than bottom shelf merchandise with very limited budgets (Avon, Coty, Dana, etc.), not because they're "more natural" than the cheap stuff, but because they're far more complex. The number of materials in a 1970s vintage Mitsouko probably eclipses the number in a 2010s Mitsouko simply by design. If I prefer the forty year-old vintage to the two year-old current stuff, I'm taking a bigger risk with each bottle purchased. Eventually I'm going to start engaging in confirmation bias with these risks, because the vintage Mitsouko with a spoiled (borderline undetectable) bergamot note would stymie the enthusiasm of anyone else, but I must act as though this note is "just a top note" and downplay its importance in the overall structure of the scent to sidestep the disappointment its absence elicits. When vintage enthusiasts encourage this kind of viewpoint, they mislead newbies in ways that are surprisingly hard from them to escape, once they've willingly fallen into the same behavior pattern.

      Now, one might point to my bottle of Mesmerize for Men, which is very cheap, and currently the only fragrance in my collection to have 100% spoiled, and say, "Bryan, what about that fragrance? It's CHEAP!" My answer is, yes, it's cheap, but it's also only a fraction of the complexity of my bottle of, say, Ungaro Pour L'Homme II. It has maybe 200 ingredients, and 98% of them are synthetic. But when you only have 200 ingredients, and 2% of them spoil, that has a very black and white effect on the fragrance as a whole. It can go from smelling "correct" to smelling like "dreck" pretty quickly, as has happened.

      With something like Mitsouko EDP from 1978, there's a different range of possible outcomes for the nose. It likely has somewhere between 600 and 700 materials, and I would say (just a wild guess) the percentage of synthetics is somewhere around 94% of the formula, with the remaining 6% being naturals (by number, not volume). With this many ingredients, there are more variable outcomes.

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  4. Well put! From my own experience on Basenote (as a reader that is, I never posted anything) I can say that I too was a naive newcomer and my preconception was that these people must know what they are talking about. However and that was something I didn't "get" in the beginning, there's a distinction between the articles mostly written by people who are professionally active and the reviews or comments written by the members.
    For example there's a very in depth article about IFRA and the EU regulations but once you read the comment section it's clear that a whole bunch of people simply don't agree and try real hard to discredit the article, bordering on conspiracy theories.
    And like you wrote there's the whole misunderstanding of terminology when it comes to "better, more natural, irritants and too synthetic".
    Unfortunately these people make so much noise that I noticed that lots of bloggers kind of just copy these opinions without doing the actual research. And these blogs have many followers who then also copy what those "misinformed" bloggers write and in the end we are left with a whole bunch of people who are simply misinformed but who are convinced they are telling the "truth".

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    1. Not only are they convinced they're telling the "truth," but they don't even believe their own noses! A good example is Halston Z14. Over the years, Z has been neutered ever so slightly (in much the same way Brut and other classics have been), to the point where today it is probably about 75% of what it was in 1976. I've smelled a version from about 20 yrs ago that was very intensely cinnamon heavy and also oddly "dank," with a gnarly vetiver note and a weird, boggy-woody base of oakmoss and musk. My most recent bottle (I currently own 4) is nowhere near as cinnamon heavy, far better balanced, lighter, yet somehow richer, with a more coherent cypress note, a beautiful aldehydic lemon note, and an incredible Iso-E Super-driven woody amber in the base. I've parsed Halston Z14 with very careful wearings over the last ten years, even going so far as to intentionally seek out both treemoss and oakmoss versions, and comparing batch codes in the process, and my conclusion is that, while it has changed a bit, Z14 still smells 100% like it always has. The differences are fractional and often deal more with variables in the batches than they do with changes to the fragrance.

      If you ask me, I'd tell you that Z14 is an excellent classic masculine to buy today, simply because it smells consistently like itself with every bottle purchased, and variations to its formula haven't degraded the quality of the wearing experience in any significant way. I'm telling you this with full knowledge that they've weakened it a bit in the last six years, and that they've dispensed with oakmoss in the last ten.

      If you go on Youtube, you'll find a channel called "The Fragrance Apprentice," with a video entitled: "Halston Z.14 (Reformulation) This is not a fragrance review." In the video, the prat starts out by saying, "This is not a fragrance review. This is an autopsy. What happened?" He then erroneously calls it a "classic 80s, cypress, oakmoss, beautiful smell" and then proceeds to tell viewers the video is a "warning" and that the latest formula is "terrible, horrendous," etc. Of course Z14 is a classic 70s fragrance, and it has always been (and hopefully always will be) a citrus chypre, primarily lemon and a hint of bitter orange. The cypress and oakmoss are merely bit players, there to lend character and depth to the citrus aldehyde (citral), around which the other notes orbit. I wouldn't mind if he just said he didn't like the latest version because of whatever reason, but instead we first get hyperbolic emotion (suggesting that Mr. Apprentice was emotionally wedded to an earlier incarnation of Z14, which is difficult to imagine), followed by factually incorrect descriptions of the fragrance (suggesting he doesn't really know what the fragrance is, even on a basic level), followed by the super-ego "warning," which suggests it's time to turn the video off, because if anyone heeds his warning to the letter, they'll likely never find out for themselves if he's correct, simply because he's telling you to not bother trying the new Z14.

      This sort of thing irks me to no end.

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    2. Indeed this kind of reviews are annoying and only add to the wrong perception that reformulations kill off fragrances. I agree that it would have been much more honest if the person merely voiced his personal opinion about the fragrance instead of trying to persuade us that the reformulation has destroyed a great classic that is now gone forever myth. This reminds me of a warning from one of my old teachers about some psychology effect when being overly negative about something, she said (I can't say it as well as she did)that more often than not it will tell more about the person itself rather than the object of its negativity. And it works on this video too, it's not the fragrance that is "a joke" but the person who presents it.

      Evidently, the whole "vintage is better" discussion is and will probably continue to exist no matter what proof are being held against it, because there's monetary reasons involved; those who actively seek many vintages don't want to hear their investments were based on bogus perception. And those selling vintages don't want to see their precious income devaluate.

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    3. I think vintage enthusiasts are operating on the principle of "complaint equals change." If they yowl loudly enough about their precious vintages being made into synthetic dreck, companies will see their bottom lines suffer, and eventually the industry as a whole will realize the mistakes they've been making by adhering to IFRA regs and substituting synthetics in their formulas. Why else would the constant throb of complaints about synthetics continue? Bring back the naturals! Bring back the "richness" and the "complexity" of the 1970s, 80s, and early 90s.

      The truth is that vintage enthusiasts are killing off the present to preserve their memories of the past. By constantly harping on reformulations, sometimes to epic levels (see the board commentaries on stuff like Z14, Red for Men, Drakkar Noir, even Polo), they're increasing the likelihood that companies will simply discontinue these brands forever. Bringing massive bucketfuls of oakmoss back to Z14 and Polo isn't going to happen. What could happen? Goodbye Z14 and Polo. Goodbye reissued Red for Men, which is actually a good scent, btw. Then you'll see the vintage enthusiasts say, "good riddance." NO, NOT GOOD RIDDANCE! I WAS ENJOYING THOSE SCENTS!!! My enjoyment of a reformulation is of no interest to vintage enthusiasts, but their enjoyment of 35 yr-old spoiled perfume is what the industry should listen to. Right. See how that goes for them.

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    4. Correct me if I'm wrong but are you suggesting that they would somehow influence the industry by their constant bickering about reformulations? I think it's pretty evident that companies are not gonna bring back bucketfuls of oakmoss, or all the banned "natural" ingredients from animal sources. It's not even wishful thinking but straight-up madness if they really think that.
      I also don't believe that they will discontinue said brands, a quick look at costumer reviews at perfume retail sites tells me that people are still actively buying these products and are actually quiet happy apart from a few exceptions.
      As a fragrance enthousiast I rather look forward to what magic a master perfumer like Thierry Wasser does with a classic like Mitsouko rather than trying to score a exuberantly priced spoiled "vintage"... and let us be honest about this; DOESN'T smell like it was intended to smell when it came out. So what's the point?
      Also the times have changed and the 80s era of powerhouse frags has been over for more than a several decades. We don't need to announce our presence in broad shouldered manner, nor does our fragrance has to fight the smell of cigarette smoke.
      Different times, different demands.

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    5. To clarify, I'm speaking figuratively here, a bit rhetorically. I'm not suggesting that they would actually influence the industry with their constant yammering about synthetics and vintages. I'm just illustrating the mindset, so to rephrase it a little, if they yowl loudly enough about their precious vintages being made into synthetic dreck, they think (inaccurately) that companies will see their bottom lines suffer, and eventually the industry as a whole will realize the mistakes they've been making, etc.

      This mindset is sometimes a bit pernicious. In several cases it seems to border on mental illness, so your comparison to madness isn't far off. Lately this temperament seems to have settled more on the supposedly dastardly over-use of those evil synthetics, rather than vintages per say. The number of comments in forums and reviews about Abroxan this, or Iso E Super that, leads me to believe that these people seriously need to get lives.

      If you take a look at Bigsly's blog this month, you'll see he has his fictional "fragrance chemist" weighing in on the Creed Viking "80% Natural" issue, which is an issue only Bigsly has cooked up. He is the logical endpoint to every amateur who sniffs Viking and thinks he can detect a synthetic that Creed abused in the formula. Most of these folks have spent the last three years harping on Dior, but now Viking is an object of contention beyond my wildest imaginings. It's a fragrance, people. Take or leave it, but it's not worth the mental gymnastics to argue about whether or not Creed uses more naturals than synthetics, I think we all know that perfumery rests its laurels on synthetics, and advanced perfumery (such as what we get with Creed) enjoys the budget to expand back into the modern extraction methods available (at a premium) to firms wishing to exploit naturals alongside quality synthetics.

      Your last point about the change in times is spot on. I've been saying that since I started this blog. It's not 1986 anymore. There are no longer smoking sections in restaurants, and filling the house with Givenchy Gentleman is not longer gentlemanly.

      I'll add that I find it eternally curious that folks in the Bigsly camp constantly complain about synthetics and the loss of naturals in contemporary designer frags, and vintage oldies, yet fall mysteriously silent when it comes to high-end niche, like Xerjoff and Roja Dove. Serge Lutens rarely gets shellacked for using too much dihydromyrcenol or Suederal or Evernyl. When was the last time you saw these people complain about a Xerjoff scent? I've never seen it. Luca Turin has an issue with some of these types of frags, but he ducks out of the conversations he starts, so that's not much help. The easy targets are the mid shelf designer stuff and the discounted and/or discontinued frags.

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    6. One other clarification: it was Fragrantica and Basenotes that brought Red for Men back to life, so in the sense that an endless barrage of negativity about specific frags on those sites has some sway on the industry, it's not inevitable, but not inconceivable either that certain brands could get the axe after years of bad press. Look at English Leather. People have been shitting on it for ten years now, and whoops, Dana discontinued it!

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  5. Indeed, I too believe that these people who keep yammering about so and said issues should indeed get over it and get a live and perhaps focus on what's good about fragrances they like instead of beating the proverbial dead horse. It does indeed resembles a form of mental illness.
    Sadly, when certain companies do the effort of using natural ingredients and extracts - then people start to complain about longevity issues, batch differences or susceptibility to spoil rapidly under less ideal conditions . Forgetting that natural ingredients are great and all but they come with their own set of problems. Yet then they expect their praised naturals to behave like synthetics.

    I too find it regrettable that Dana has discontinued English Leather, however we can only speculate on the reasons why and or if it's a permanent decision or not. What I do agree with is that the endless complaints may have influenced other people (instead of the industry itself) to stop buying a fragrance like English Leather resulting in a serious drop in the sales departement and THOSE numbers DO end up on the industry radar. But that is and stay speculation on our parts, it may be another reason altogether or a combination of things. Internal restructurings, relocation of said materials, change of staff and so fort and so on...

    If English leather is discontinued for good, it's indeed regrettable but I'm not gonna loose my sleep over it.

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