Kouros Silver (Yves Saint Laurent)

Himalaya wants its packaging back.

Roughly one year after its release, I finally find the time to convey my definitive impressions of Kouros Silver. I say "definitive" because it's taken me a long time to decide how I feel about this fragrance, and why I feel the way I do. There has been some waffling, some head-scratching, some more waffling, some chin rubbing, and I may have ground a millimeter from my molars trying to put this into words, but as the Bee Gees once said, "words are all I have," so here it goes. Bear with me.

I want to hate this fragrance without any reason for it, other than a personal dislike for the scent alone, but it's more complicated than that. You see, when you smell and wear as many fragrances as I have, you reach a point where your response to things can't be summed up by the Yes/No sign behind Robert De Niro in Casino, but not because a simple "yes" or "no" fails for you personally. It just gets, well, a little deeper than that, or maybe a better way to put it is to say it gets a little more technical.

Kouros Silver, in my personal opinion, is a terrible fragrance, but if we're going to dwell on the personal for more than a sentence or two, I'd add that I dislike this "type" of fragrance more than any individual scent representing it. I can't stand the "sweet," the "sticky," the blatantly "chemical," and all the motherfucking Aryan Nations musks that are both front AND backloaded into these things. What scares me is that the lineage for Kouros Silver traces back in the short term to equally terrible fragrances, which is bad enough, but when you continue to follow the bloodline, you actually get to some truly great perfumes that every hardcore enthusiast loves, and that's what changes the tone from a Sesame Street bedtime story into something the Brothers Grimm crept themselves out with and didn't even want to publish.

In the short term, the fragrance that started this madness was Versace's Eros, back in 2012, when someone decided to sweeten a stock formula woody amber accord with some vaguely fruity ester, and called it "apple." Between Eros and Silver are minor travesties like Joop! Homme Wild (which I actually don't dislike), Man.Aubusson Intense, and Cool Water Night Dive, with the latter two being circular reasonings on why vaguely synthy-fruity woody ambers buttressed between shitloads of laundry musks are "youthful" and "contemporary," as if these terms mean the same thing.

So yeah, a big yawn. And if we go back further than Eros, we touch on - oh hey, wait, WAIT A MINUTE HERE! Wait just ONE FUCKING MINUTE. Fruit? Woody ambers? White musks? Weird, synthy, gourmand-ish olfactory illusions using wood notes and musks that are so sweet they almost smell edible? Individuel? Witness? Aubusson Pour Homme? Feeling Man? Joop! Homme? Balenciaga Pour Homme? SKIN BRACER???? How did we get here? This can't be right. No, break out the map again, we gotta double-check. There must be a mistake. I must've - wait, no, no, no, no, no. No. STFU. WTF? And any other letter combo that annoyingly turns a foul-language phrase into an awkward acronym.

Eventually, the realization crystallizes: yes, unfortunately yes, there are classic underpinnings to these grotesque chemical designers. From deep within terpene-laden green-woods accords, found in things like Yatagan and Quorum, were coumarin-tinged musks that whispered sweet whimsies on winds that grew ever muskier with time. By the late eighties and early nineties, the musks had become so animalic and multi-faceted that their interaction with piney notes, incense, and woods developed illusory fruity aspects, with apple and pineapple effects in Balenciaga and Feeling Man, apple pie hallucinations in Aubusson PH and Witness, and sweeter, violet-like heliotrope in Joop! Homme and Individuel, all perfumes that smell incredible on their own terms.

This is how my mind shifted through its gears with Kouros Silver wafting from my collar. All of my personal experiences with fragrances, both new and old, somehow connected to this oddball contemporary style of masculine perfumery that I've grown to detest. It's as if, after all the wonderful experiments with truly skanky musk molecules ceased, the perfumers decided to pare everything down to two adjectives, "sweet," and "clean." The result is something that smells, to me anyway, very thick, unpleasant, blob-like, chemical, and unbearable after five minutes.

And yet, despite that, some objectivity kicks in. I consider the qualities of this style, gleaned from various frags, that appeal to me in even the most fleeting way. The clarity of the green apple in Man.aubusson Intense. The synthetic, Skin-Bracery fougères in Joop! Homme Wild and Night Dive. The ghost of animalism in that extra layer of musk that baaarely makes it into the first ten seconds of Kouros Silver. Despite all its repulsiveness, I can kinda, sorta get why the youngsters like this sort of thing. It's generational. This fragrance really erupted four years ago, and now it's becoming its own thing, and guys a lot younger than me are wearing it. I don't really understand why they prefer Kouros Silver to something like Balenciaga Pour Homme, but maybe that doesn't matter. Maybe I'm not supposed to get it. Maybe it's enough that I just acknowledge that someone, somewhere, likes this shit.

I don't like it, and I'd never wear it, and I could get into how, for me, this style is better found on drugstore shelves in aftershaves in much lower concentrations, or how sad it is that L'Oréal is stooping to this kind of boardroom-tested "safe" formula approach with a brand as gargantuan and legendary as YSL, but that's what Fragrantica and basenotes are for. On my blog, I'm satisfied with telling you that I understand Kouros Silver's existence, and maybe even its appeal to a certain demographic. But between you and me, with everything I know and understand about perfume fully in check, I don't approve of it at all.


The "Sauvage S**t Show" Goes On. What Fun!

Still A Stupid Game.

In the last few months, Sauvage's price has become a hot topic for some folks in the blogosphere. The fact that Dior's new scent is a "designer" fragrance isn't the least bit alarming to most. Dior has been around for decades, and its pricing decisions have rarely been a subject of conversation. Yet it seems that a few can't help but talk around the issue of Sauvage's price, which in some ways is being equated with its "worth."

Fragrantica's veteran master troll has been repeatedly using the review section for Sauvage as a "discussion thread," which of course it was never meant to be, to badger other members for having certain opinions of Sauvage. This is the same troll who has spent years contending that nothing I say makes any sense, that I'm mentally ill, and more recently (on basenotes) that he's "bested" me on all debate fronts, despite a considerable numerical difference in the sizes of our devoted readerships, which count 88 here, and only 51 there. (If this is "besting" me, keep it coming.)

This character read the following comment by Fragrantica member "Gazza97":

"It's almost impossible to dislike this fragrance. Yes it may be slightly 'generic', but come on, this just smells amazing. The performance is really good too. I got a solid 7 hours from this and it was still projecting pretty well from the 4 hour mark! This surpasses Bleu de Chanel IMO."

And responded to it with his usual, near-indecipherable histrionics:

"@Gazza97: What I don't understand is all the reviews saying it's a great performer and it smells good. There are thousands of other 'masculine' scents that have excellent longevity and projection, and smelling good is obviously subjective (Sauvage uses a lot of ambroxan, so if you find that aroma chemical irritating, it's highly likely you will dislike the scent, perhaps intensely!). I have several Playboy scents that cost me $5 or less per 100 ml and I enjoy them (and they are also excellent 'performers'), and I don't have to deal with a lot of ambroxan with those. So, if you really enjoy Sauvage, that's great for you and I'm glad to hear it, but to act like it's the only scent that is an excellent 'performer' or that smells 'nice' is ridiculous, IMO."

This is called, conservatively, "framing the debate with straw." I won't delve into how unhinged and bizarre it reads. At no point in his brief review did "Gazza97" suggest that Sauvage is "the only scent that is an excellent performer." Nor did he ever suggest that it's the only one that "smells nice." So why is "Gazza97"'s review - and it is a review - under attack?

"Gazza97" responded with clarity:

"@Bigsly: Once again people are taking my review out of context. I never stated that it is a unique, one of a kind fragrance. There may well be fragrances out there that have the same vibe and performance as Sauvage, albeit at less the price. I haven't smelt those ones that you mentioned because they are less well known than something that comes from the house of Dior, and I'm allowed to voice my opinion on the latter. So please read my review thoroughly before you accuse me. Thank you."

What I like about Fragrantica is that the merits of member comments are "voted on" by others in the forum, with general consensus indicated via "balloons" that accumulate next to content. "Gazza97"'s review, and his response to an unwarranted attack, hold full clutches of balloons, while his attacker's comment hold none at all. A lack of balloons should not be considered a searing indictment of one's opinion, but it gives a vague idea of where people in the forum stand on a subject. In this case, I'd hazard to say that other members felt the same way as "Gazza97" when it came to his ideas on Sauvage being "unique" and "nice."

His attacker has taken to conflating Sauvage's price with its worth, for some reason. Playboy scents, usually Berlin, are frequently mentioned in this context, with statements like "Why should I pay for Sauvage when I can get Berlin for five dollars?" floating around rather freely. My guess is he thinks Berlin smells like Sauvage, which I suppose is fair, although you should note that this is the same person who once suggested that Amouage's Memoir Man smells like Burberry Brit, so if you're interested in heeding his comparison skills, do so at your own risk! But I can't help wondering what his point is here? If you like Playboy's Berlin, fine. If you can't afford Sauvage at retail, no biggie. But these factors have absolutely nothing to do with other people liking Sauvage.

If I had to guess, I'd say that maybe the idea being "sold" here is this: pricy designer scents like Sauvage are being undermined by inexpensive drugstore scents like Playboy Berlin because of vast price differences, without commensurate differences in quality. That is, Sauvage and Berlin's quality are almost entirely on par, while their prices are wildly different. There is some merit to this argument, if it is indeed the argument being made. (Because of how poorly the main champion for this idea writes, I can't verify that this is definitely what he's saying, but it's what I've pieced together thus far.) It's fair enough, but there are also a few problems.

The main merit here is that Playboy scents are relatively high quality for their price-point, although I doubt anyone can acquire a Playboy scent for five dollars or less, contrary to what Berlin's number one spokesman constantly says. A 1.7 oz bottle of any Playboy scent retails in stores at about sixteen dollars. This isn't "expensive" by most measures, but it's hardly a "dollar store" price point. You can get things by Italian-imported Krizia for less on Amazon.

To be fair, you can get 1.7 oz bottles of Playboy scents on Amazon for about ten dollars without shipping included, maybe nine if you trust the more obscure sellers. I haven't seen any deals for the brand at under six dollars, and don't know why anyone would suggest Playboy scents can be had for five dollars or less. Usually merchants asking under ten dollars want at least six dollars for shipping, so these tend to be pointless purchases in my opinion. Show me a five dollar Playboy scent (shipping included) and I'm in! I suspect this deal does not and never did exist, and is a product of a certain someone's imagination, being conveniently used to support whatever the position of the day is. When I make certain surprising purchases, I post pictures of my receipts to prove the prices I paid exist. So far the troll hasn't posted any of his receipts, and I simply don't believe him when he talks about "five dollar or less Playboy scents."

But I digress - yes, if you like inexpensive fragrances, and respect the Playboy brand (i.e., you're not turned off by its being a soft-core porn name), Playboy's Berlin is probably a good purchase. I've never tried it, and can't vouch for it personally, but I don't doubt that it's a decent scent, especially for the money. I happen to have VIP in my collection, and it's a very nice little wetshaver fern with a slight gourmand aspect to it, and its quality is solidly "good." It was well worth the sixteen or so bucks I paid for it.

One could also argue that the aroma chemicals used in pricy designer scents like Sauvage are also being used to varying degrees in things like Berlin. This is a fair assessment, although it's hardly enlightening. It's like saying dihydromyrcenol is used in both Green Irish Tweed and Cool Water. Wow, you don't say?

That's where the merits stop, in my opinion. The logic gets shakier when I start to consider what is actually being argued here: that for some people, owning and wearing "five dollar" Playboy scents like Berlin make owning and wearing eighty-five dollar scents like Sauvage pointless. Why, exactly, would that be? Playboy scents smell much "cheaper" at a distance than more expensive designer scents by YSL, Chanel, and Dior in my collection, and my bottle of VIP is nowhere near as complex as my bottles of Antaeus and Bleu de Chanel, for example. The "quality" test for these things isn't hard to conduct. "Cheaper" often relates to lower concentration of scent by volume, so you'll smell a relatively close degree of complexity between Playboy and designer for the first ten minutes, and then the budget differences rapidly come to light.

Also, Sauvage is unique in that it gets compared to dozens of other fragrances all the time, yet really only smells like itself - not unlike Bleu de Chanel. Does this make Sauvage "great?" No, but it makes it unique. Few fragrances in recent memory have caused men and women to speculate so wildly about its comparatives. Few have managed to generate such heated discussion, for that matter.

Likewise, Sauvage's quality is at least close to where it should be, if not a bit above average. My experience with it yielded a surprisingly clear and durable bergamot note, absolutely no "marine" or "aquatic" elements (which at this point I consider trite), and a distinct (if unexciting) woody-amber base that at least was not "cheap." It registers as a Dior-funded suede leather scent to my nose. I certainly don't consider Sauvage anything great, and my personal feelings for it are pretty limited in that regard, as it's not something I seek to buy and wear. But I'm not confused by the enthusiasm it generates in others. I understand their view. It's a very good fragrance, rather "safe" in the same way that Bleu de Chanel is, and it smells clearly of a few things, so it's not like the scent is overly "abstract" or difficult to rate.

If you want to wear Sauvage, you buy it and wear it. You can't reliably look to the comparisons made by other people and use them as a substitute for Sauvage, because thus far no consensus has been reached as to which scent is closest to Sauvage. This isn't Paco Rabanne's One Million. This isn't Le Male. This isn't Allure Homme. This is a fragrance that has created some "camps" of people who feel certain things smell closer than others, and there are certainly some comparatives that are more accurate than others, but ultimately Dior has sired something that raises more lineage questions than it answers.

With this taken into account, what's the point of suggesting that anything else is a spoiler here? If anything, Sauvage should be generating discussions about how nothing is an apt substitute for it!

People also get hung up on specific aroma chemicals, as if they could ever identify these chemicals in isolated blind tests. When Terre d'Hermes was popular, Iso E was inexplicably the "bad chemical," despite its being one of the gentlest materials in the organ. Now with Sauvage, everyone is suddenly down on Ambroxan. They weren't down on Ambroxan when it was used in Green Irish Tweed, and at least with GIT it's been confirmed by people like Luca Turin that the material is present. Having worn Sauvage, the last thing I worried about was that it contained Ambroxan.

Fragrantica member "Josh839" responded to the troll with his own thoughts, which I think sum up the true nature of both arguments pretty well:

"@Bigsly: I respect your point of view about variety and price. My budget for fragrances is not unlimited either. I have read some of your reviews that I have truly appreciated. It shows clearly that you are an experienced amateur . . . Sauvage is commercial? Yes! But 'commercial' is not synonymous with 'cheap' or devoid of creative content . . . "

"Creative content" is a term that some folks openly deride, as if perfumers' intentions in the creation of perfumes are irrelevant. That's hard to fathom, because they're the only things that are relevant. I'll write more about that another time, but I'll finish here by saying that any hypothetical five dollar fragrance, if held against an existing eighty-five dollar fragrance for comparison, ought to achieve the same level of popular enthusiasm if it's to be considered a genuine comparative. Thus far, for reasons that are not a mystery to me, things like Playboy's Berlin are simply "scents other than Sauvage." And if you don't want to spend the money on Sauvage, and don't want to wear Sauvage, by all means, don't!

It's helpful to understand though that this means you don't want to smell like Sauvage. It means that you want to smell like whatever you've chosen to wear instead. Any argument that places one scent over the other in the context of price conjures an "apples and oranges" scenario that isn't worth exploring. So I ask you, can we finally bring this ridiculous show to a close? If you like Sauvage, and you can afford it, buy it, wear it, enjoy it. More power to you.

If you don't like Sauvage, and your reasons range from the practical (it's too expensive), to the pedantic (too much Ambroxan), fine, but do we really need to keep talking about it? Enough already. Dior created and issued Sauvage. Some people like it, and others don't. The world continues to turn. Call me crazy if you must, but I think this discussion has gone far enough.

Update 6/21/16: Apparently the troll was incensed by my article, and he wrote up a rambling blog post that addresses yet another Fragrantica review of Sauvage. He seems to ponder not whether it bears any accuracy for others, but whether it accounts for (drumroll please) price differences between Sauvage and other fragrances.

"The reviewer seems to think it is good for garnering compliments, but that it is repulsive if smelled close up on the skin, though this is true of a large number of scents, so the question is, why spend $90 or thereabouts on it when there are other options? For example, a three ounce bottle of Cuba Prestige (which is similar to A*Men but without much if any of the tar note) cost me less than $10 total., and it has excellent performance! Wouldn’t such a scent garner compliments too?"

You could say the same of Animale Animale for men, which is similar to A*Men without the tar, and 100 ml can be had for less than twenty dollars. By why in the name of Grace would I even bring up an A*Men comparative when discussing Sauvage? And how does the fact that an $85 designer fragrance costs more than cheaper "off-brand" fragrances mean anything in particular here?

He really "goes down the rabbit hole" in his next paragraph:

"There seems to be an interesting psycho-social element to the 'Sauvage debate,' and so that’s why I’ve spent more time on a scent that I have no interest in wearing than on many others (that probably deserve more attention). It seems to function like this; someone tries Sauvage after reading a bunch of bad reviews, then says to himself, 'it’s not that bad, and I did get a compliment, so there must be a group of irrational haters out there!' Then he goes on a site like Fragrantica and makes such points in the review section, totally ignoring some of the points made, such as what I’ve said about there being thousands of other scents to choose from at lower prices! . . . Obviously, there is no other scent exactly like Sauvage, but that can be said of nearly every scent on the market too!"

Try to figure on what is being said here, if you can: because people are ignoring this person, and claiming that Sauvage is garnering compliments (and craziest of things, smelling good), they are falsely identifying "haters" who think what he thinks, whatever that is. This is followed by the grossly inaccurate statement about there being countless fragrances with no exact comparatives.

Of course there are very few fragrances out there that smell exactly like something else. But that's not what was being argued by anyone - certainly not me! What has been clearly stated here is that Sauvage is exceptional because it has no comparatives at all. No one comparative can be gleaned with any accuracy from the majority of preexisting perfumes. At least with many other designer fragrances, you can point to something else that smells similar. Le Male has dozens of comparatives, Perry Ellis 360 White among them. Drakkar Noir has so many comparatives that it has become its own genre of fragrance. Allure Homme has things like Joop! Jump and at least a half dozen other similar fragrances to match it.

But Sauvage, thus far, has little to no accurate comparative. So to argue that "every scent on the market" lacks an "exact" twin is beside the point. We're talking about things that are "similar," not "exact."

Well, I'm talking about that, anyway. To round it all off, we get back to the "unhinged" nature of this person's thinking:

"Getting back to the review, I don’t understand why someone would think that $90 for 100 ml of such a scent is 'the going rate.' How could someone not know about ebay, discounters, and the fact that a large number of new scents are put on the market each year?"

This suggests that Dior Sauvage enthusiasts are possibly unaware of the existence of eBay, discount grey market sites, and the ever-rising tide of new perfumes that flood our shores each season, which is not a very realistic comment, in my opinion. But he continues to be hung up on price, price, price. He thinks it's absurd that anyone would accept Dior's asking price for Sauvage, at what he contends is $90 (I've seen it for $85 here in Connecticut, and can't comment on the rate elsewhere).

Eighty-five to ninety dollars for Sauvage is Dior's retail price for 100 ml, as far as I know. This is what Dior wants for it. Since you can get older Dior fragrances on Amazon for a bit less than retail (occasionally), one might be better off waiting a year or two to see if that happens. You could always hop onto eBay and see if someone is hawking their partially-used bottle on there for less than retail, but if so, they'd be taking a loss, which should raise red flags for any buyer. As for the grey market, you can hope to find things by Chanel and Dior on random sites for good prices, but you enter into the realm of counterfeit risk, particularly with these two brands. This is how they're able to maintain their retail department store rates without much competition.

It seems to me that any seasoned perfume enthusiast knows these things without having to go over them. They are the reason the current sticker price for Sauvage is the "going rate." If I want something else that smells nothing like Sauvage, and it only costs ten or fifteen dollars, so be it, but that does little to undermine Dior's asking price.

I really don't know what else to say. I'll leave you with one last entertaining "histrionic" from our friend, who apparently takes umbrage at being called a "troll":

"Some people seem to think they can call people 'trolls' because they state an opinion the person doesn’t like. This often appears to be a substitute for 'hater,' perhaps because the person realizes how silly the hater claim is when it involves someone stating an opinion about an olfactory concoction (and the supposed hater isn’t even saying anything hateful!). In fact, to know for sure if someone is trolling one would have to be a mind reader, and I’d guess that if Socrates were alive today many would call him a troll for saying the same kinds of things he said in ancient Greece!"

Ouch. You'd think he'd have the decency to leave poor Socrates out of this.

Further Update: At this point it's a dead horse being flogged to the bone, but there was this humorous anecdote added to the blog post in question:

"I am confident in my opinions, though I’m certainly not always correct, but what’s interesting to me is that some people seem to want to argue what one might call 'semi-facts' . . . I’m simply pointing some things out, which are either undeniably facts or probably should be regarded as such ('semi-facts')."

Semi-facts? Good grief.


Witness (Jacques Bogart)

"Another View Of The World"

Stylistically, Witness is an embodiment of early nineties poise, a complex structure replete with evergreen balsams, lavender aromatics, and a crisp cedar base. It bears similarities to Aubusson Pour Homme and Balenciaga Pour Homme, but unlike its congeners, which celebrate artful contrasts between green and musky notes, Bogart eschews pungent musks, favoring instead a more staid arrangement of cinnamon, fir, incense, and woods. The result is something that lacks animalism, and smells much darker and drier than expected, but is nonetheless quite good.

The nose for this scent is Dominique Preyssas, who according to Fragrantica authored Jaguar for Men, an aromatic fougère that preceded Witness by four years. I've heard that Thierry Wasser co-authored Witness, but can't confirm it, though the wonderful Art Deco bottle design is credited to Joel Desgrippes, the genius designer for Revillon's French Line and Kenzo's Jungle, both packaging masterpieces. It's interesting that the color scheme for Witness' bottle is identical to Aubusson's, and I wonder if Desgrippes did both. My personal feelings for Witness (the perfume) echo those for Balenciaga and Aubusson, and I'm certain that Bogart's interpretation of this theme is the most "oriental," and also the most "mature." The key is the incense.

Witness' mossy cedar base isn't far removed from that of Krizia Uomo, but a haze of cool, smoky incense focuses my nose on the lushness surrounding it. Gentle nuances of old-school lavender, basil, artemisia, geranium, sandalwood, and jasmine are lifted by quiet aldehydes, lending charm to what could have been a woefully dated formula. The blend is subtle and a bit sweet, the ingredient quality is high, and the balance between spice, greens, and woody amber is flawless. As with Aubusson, I briefly get an abstract apple pie effect in the first minute of Witness, but once the cinnamon segues into artemisia, the gourmand impression goes with it.

If (and only if) you enjoy this style of fragrance, Witness is something you should add to your collection. It's vintage Bogart, and thus is stylistically superlative and very well made. I have yet to encounter anything less by this brand. One should note that it's a bit of an acquired taste; nectarous accents are woven into heady classical accords in a manner that might, if you are unfamiliar with this approach, seem too unconventional and "out there." It may be difficult to determine the appropriate occasion for Witness.

To me, this sort of thing is good for casual Fridays at work, and weekend nights out on the town. It may not be suitable for black-tie dinner parties or first dates, but it's perfect for deal-closing phone conferences and gallery art shows, pairing well with wool sport coats and Chardonnay-fueled conversations about touch and form.


The Peculiar Reviews Of Vermeil For Men

Burning Questions

There's an unusual little trend in the ever-growing community of fragrance reviewers, and I thought I'd share my thoughts about it here. It seems that recent reviews for Vermeil's signature masculine all have something in common: they suggest the fragrance lacks a tobacco note. They are in stark contrast to earlier comments about this scent, most of which acknowledge a distinct tobacco note in the composition. I attribute these differences of opinion to a social trend in how people perceive certain fragrances, with another example found in a thread about Zino.

You can see in the thread that there are divergent opinions about the reformulation of Zino, with a few members claiming to smell no change in the scent, while others complain about extremely noticeable changes. Both parties acknowledge that the packaging of the formula in question is the same, but disagree on the fragrance itself. What makes for interesting discussion is how firmly both parties believe what they're saying. The participants feel their experiences are only relatable as self-evident truths.

With Vermeil for Men, the issue is a bit more vague, and raises a few more questions. First, let me quote the following reviews from Fragrantica members "Ray Achnioach," "Spankrabbit," and "Chicago Tony T," respectively, and please bear in mind that the original Davidoff scent is what Vermeil is usually compared to in the blogosphere:
"While this is supposed to be a 'tobacco' scent, the bottle looking like a classic lighter, I don't notice anything tobacco like here. It certainly isn't at all like the 'Cuba' type frags . . . It starts off just very 'perfumy' in a nice way but dries down to a balanced bittersweet, floral, herby scent."

"I didn't get any tobacco from this at all. Has this really been reformulated or is the bottle design making us think tobacco is a note? . . . What I do get is a lighter version of Salvador Dali Pour Homme with just a little more sweetness in the opening. The middle floral notes and the patchouli, sandalwood dry down are almost identical . . . but Vermeil Pour Homme isn't as heavy and the berry notes in the opening burn off quickly. Not a bad scent but you have to love patchouli to appreciate this one."

"There is a bunch of notes going on here. Tobacco is not one of them. I don't know which version I have but it's more floral than anything. Also some earthiness due to the [patchouli] and vetiver."

With these sentiments in mind, I turn your attention to these reviews by "Omar.melmo," "Rerik," and "NobleRoman," respectively:
"For the price, the natural rendition of tobacco and the [brilliance] of the composition are really stunning! . . . what I get is soft tobacco and flowers."

"Vermeil is a soft, sweet tobacco scent."

"[Vermeil for Men] is a semi-sweet tobacco scent with 7 hr longevity and medium projection. Linear, but I like it. I've read it has been discontinued, so if you enjoy tobacco scents, get it while you can."

In the "Vermeil Has No Tobacco" camp, three guys say they don't smell tobacco, and attempt to elaborate on what they smell instead. Ray Achnioach's description is pretty vague, but says he smells something "bittersweet, floral, herby." "Spankrabbit" says he smells a lighter Dali PH in Vermeil. I guess this means he isn't identifying similarities to the original Davidoff, or perhaps he hasn't smelled the Davidoff, since Dali PH is rarely compared to Davidoff, if at all. He also detects patchouli and sandalwood, which is interesting. "Chicago Tony T" mentions that he smells vetiver, but says nothing about sandalwood. Only one person out of the three uses the unusual (and inaccurate) descriptor of "herby," a word I would sooner associate with ferns like Aramis Tuscany and Francesco Smalto PH, or certain types of "fresh" scents, like L'Eau Bleue d'Issey and Agua Brava, but not with something as dry and musky as Vermeil.

These guys all agree that they smell no tobacco in Vermeil. What they'd have a harder time agreeing on are the notes they do smell.

"Spankrabbit" thinks patchouli is what "you have to love" to wear Vermeil. But "Chicago Tony T" thinks it's "more floral than anything." Also strange is how "Spankrabbit" likens Vermeil to Dali. So is this just a case of "Spankrabbit" not knowing what he's talking about? If I read through, do I believe the Davidoff comparisons (having never smelled the Davidoff myself), or put stock into the Dali comparison (a scent I own)? Is it possible that Dali PH and Davidoff are similar in some way?

To me, these confusing descriptions are indicative of amateur noses. There's no shame in being an amateur nose. I'm an amateur nose. As far as perfumery goes, Luca Turin and Chandler Burr are amateur noses. Few of us who write about perfume actually make a living as perfumers, so the default setting here is decidedly that of "amateur." However, there are degrees of amateurism.

There are floral facets to Vermeil, although they're "compressed," and don't jump out at me as smelling green. I can't smell this scent and say, "Yes, there's the rose, there's the jasmine." These notes aren't separable in the blend. However, I detect clear floral accents in the woody-aromatic thrust of the overall composition. There are certainly deft suggestions of floral materials in Vermeil's drydown.

I'd also agree that there are strong musky elements, which I think are over-blended and nondescript. Dali is also quite musky. I'd say there's a very loose, threadbare similarity between them in this regard, but wouldn't suggest Vermeil is a "lighter" Dali PH. I don't think they're close at all. Vintage Dali PH is intensely musky and woody, a very dark, austere composition. It's difficult to wear, and feels dated.

Vermeil is also musky and woody, but it's much smoother, more inviting, a bit fruity, somewhat floral, and yeah, there's a definite tobacco vibe. Stylistically, it's a fragrance from the early nineties, but the subtle interplay of semi sweet fruits and bitter tobacco give it a timeless feel. Dali PH isn't fruity, and its wood notes are so burly and saturnine in nature that tobacco, if there, would be superfluous. To my knowledge, few if any reviewers mention tobacco in Dali PH. Not many mention any fruit at all in Dali, not even citrus, so that's also a non-starter.

I don't smell vetiver in Vermeil, and don't know why anyone would mention it. Perhaps there's a touch of Iso E in the mix, but I'd connect that to the cedar note in Vermeil's heart. It's a robust note, and maybe it smells darker and "rootier" on "Chicago Tony T," but I can't verify that. Then again, maybe there is vetiver, and I just don't smell it. Only one person makes note of it. It doesn't seem to jump out at anyone else. I think it got one vote in the Fragrantica pyramid. It's ranked pretty low on there, so I suppose this isn't a big deal, but it rounds out these disconcerting perceptions.

If we turn to the "Vermeil Is A Tobacco Frag" camp, there's a big difference in how the opinions are stated. They're clearly the impressions of amateurs, but these amateurs are not as ambitious as their counterparts. They're not trying as hard to impress the reader. They've kept it simple. There's continuity. There's a shared language. These three guys smell Vermeil as being "soft," and "sweet," and all detect tobacco. There's very little in the way of divergent remarks. You could draw a fairly straight line to connect these reviews, while the other camp is all over the map.

I wish I could sit down with the "tobacco doubters." I would have each of them sample Cigarillo by Rémy Latour. It's similar to Vermeil. Cigarillo is what they're describing when they cite a supposed tobacco frag with no tobacco. I suspect there's a very faint tobacco note beneath Cigarillo's musky fruits and dessicated woods, and I smell this element clearly for a few minutes, but if you put a gun to my head, I'd say Cigarillo is true to its packaging copy, and really just a woody cedar frag, with no emphasis on tobacco at any stage of its development.

I would then pass along my bottle of Vermeil - my bottle, as this is what I've been going on - and see if they can smell the biggest difference between it and Latour's scent. Both are conceptual fragrances. I've grown to think of them as being niche fragrances, actually. They appeal to a small subset of men who enjoy inexpensive tobacco scents, and are the kind of frags that highlight sweet, "treated" tobaccos, which are found in certain types of cigars. Both have highly suggestive packaging, and this aspect of the perfume "experience" is done beautifully with these two. Cigarillo is a masterpiece, and Vermeil is good fun to look at.

If these guys were to tell me that they still don't smell tobacco in Vermeil, even after smelling a similar frag that really doesn't have much (if any) tobacco, I'd focus on how they're smelling it. Are they burying their noses in their arms? Are they doing quick, close passes with their noses, where they're inhaling audibly, and then jerking their heads back? Or are they relaxing and "wafting" the scent up to their noses? Are they not doing anything, and simply letting the air carry the scent?

If they're burying their noses where they sprayed, that would explain why they're not smelling a tobacco note in Vermeil. You can't really "dig in" with this kind of scent. It's conceptual. The overall vibe has to come through, and one must allow that to happen on its own time. You could argue that there's no actual separable tobacco note, but Vermeil's fruits are a bit too dry, its "florals" too wilted and sour, and its wood notes smell somewhat burnt. To me, these three qualities create a tobacco reconstruction. Because the drydown arc is tight, almost linear, and each effect is experienced as one, they meld into a tobacco essence, and I smell it consistently with each wearing.

Just as I can't pinpoint a singular floral note, I can't find where, exactly, the tobacco resides. Still, I smell smoke. It pervades the experience of wearing Vermeil, filtering through its formulaic masculine elements, and imbuing them with a uniqueness and quality that you would never expect in something that costs five dollars per ounce.

Cigarillo, in contrast, simply smells like a bunch of non-tobacco notes that may have a very, very light (and singular) tobacco note accenting them for a few minutes, before disappearing. Latour's scent is accurately advertised as a "woody" experience.

In closing, I think the pattern in these reviews revolves around there being a common note that reviewers say they "can't smell," followed by a laundry list of other things they smell instead. It's problematic, as these "other things" rarely align across the different reviews. Meanwhile, those who buy into the concept generally agree on what they smell (tobacco), and how they smell it (softy). Sure, the packaging might plant the impression in our brains beforehand, and the power of suggestion might be overwhelming here. But what if Vermeil for Men really does have at least a detectable essence of smoky tobacco in it? If some reliably smell it, do they cancel out the impressions of those who don't? Or is every opinion equally valid here?

If you're interested in Vermeil for Men, and base your blind buys on internet reviews, these questions are food for thought.