He answers to the handle "Mattmeleg." Recently, Mattmeleg posted a homespun perfume formula for an old-school chypre in a thread in the basenotes DIY forum, in what appears to be a hearty (and headstrong) creative spirit. His formula contains an accord called "Mousse de Saxe," and according to this article the term "Mousse de Saxe" has "lapsed into the public domain," which I suppose suggests its meaning could be taken a bit more liberally than it has been in years past.
Matt's contribution was stark, direct, without much bravado. The formula speaks for itself: this shit is bold. Compose it, wear it, and you might repel everyone within a three mile radius. Then again, you might not. You might smell fantastic. I have no idea because I'm not a perfumer. When it comes to how chemicals are diluted and mixed, I'd be more helpful landing a 737 in the middle of the Pacific during a hurricane.
When someone posts their ideas in a public forum, the decent thing to do is approach them in an inviting, open-minded, and just plain friendly manner, like member "Alysoun" did when she threw Matt a link to another thread on chypres. Member "gandhajala" quibbled a little over the applicability of the term "Mousse de Saxe," because Matt's accord lacks isobutyl quinoline, apparently a key component, which from my experience smells very stark and leathery, almost like an old chapped saddle covered in wood varnish, if you can imagine that!
Gandhajala's input was a little less enthusiastic than one might have expected, but he qualified his concerns rather constructively, saying:
"I'm not a perfumer, but looking at your materials I can't help [but] think it is a long way off the actual Mousse de Saxe specialty. For that reason, I'd suggest giving it a different name and, if you want Mousse de Saxe for your formula, order some of Christine's re-creation (assuming it is still available)."
Matt had responded to Gandhajala's concern about the missing material by saying:
"Yes, you are correct, isobutyl quinoline was traditionally used in Mousse de Saxe. And if you don`t have any isobutyl quinoline you can replace it with castoreum . . . Try mixing my formula, and smell and you`ll see that it still fits the odour profile of Mousse De Saxe."
Then along comes someone who goes by "David Ruskin" on the forum, and yeah, that's his real name. His input to Matt:
"No you can't, they smell nothing like each other."
That's all David says. No exposition on why, no alternatives are offered, no other information was proffered by this man. He simply tells Matt that he's wrong, and puts a period after it.
Maybe he thought this wouldn't piss the newbie off, but I know it would piss me off. His comment seemed antagonistic, and it wasn't the first time it seemed this way when addressing Matt. Ruskin had similar words for him in an earlier thread when the youngster wrote:
"Co2`s only dilute in water. not alcohol. I have the same agar wood. You can use it with 100% essential oils, just do not add ANY alcohol."
To which Ruskin replied:
"NO NO NO. Absolutely wrong. Many CO2 extracts are not very soluble in alcohol, a less polar solvent is required, but never water."
Ruskin is probably right about this, but whether or not he's right isn't the point. He seemed rude, and when people behave this way on the internet they set themselves up for unnecessary conflicts with others. Bigsly was rude to me six years ago and look how that turned out for him.
So who is David Ruskin, anyway? He was a perfumer for a company called CPL Aromas, which from the looks of its deliberately vague website is basically a functional fragrance development firm, although I'm not certain of that. Soaps, detergents, and reed diffusers are what I'm gleaning from their site. Prior to that he worked for Bush Boake Allen, which developed flavors, aroma chemicals, spice extracts, and essential oils. It was acquired several years ago by IFF.
One thing that has always concerned me a little about David is that he has established himself as a teacher, having coached aspiring noses at the London College of Fashion, and in 1998 he was the president of the British Society of Perfumers, yet to date I have no clue as to what he has created. What are his perfumes? Oddly enough, his interview on basenotes, which was conducted by Grant himself, yielded no information on that. This makes me wonder if his tenure at BBA was served as a chemist who simply created the materials used by perfumers, before graduating into CPL Aromas as a perfumer for soaps and reed diffusers.
I'm not denigrating Mr Ruskin here. He has clearly had a distinguished career in the field of perfumery, enough so that the BSP would elect him to be their president. However, without a clearer idea of the impact Mr. Ruskin has had on the field (his exact accomplishments are unknown to the public), it's a bit difficult to adopt an awestricken countenance in his presence. As far as I can tell, he's just another guy commenting on basenotes, and oh yeah, he's worked in a lab composing fragrances for thirty years, whatever that means.
Matt responds to David in kind, but goes a few steps further:
"isobutyl quinoline and castoreum smell nothing like each other David? Not even if the goodscent suggests they do? Perhaps the goodscentcompany is erroneous? Perhaps David is more well versed in perfumery then the collective minds behind thegoodscentcompany database, a database which thousands of perfumers turn to from around the world, on a nearly daily basis. From now forthwards, most of the worlds perfumers should turn to David for advice, and not the goodscentcompany."
What I find interesting here is that instead of stepping into the woods with David, Matt backs his position with a supported source, something I've also done repeatedly over the years. He's right, the database does suggest that castoreum fits the same odor profile as isobutyl quinoline. To an objective observer of this thread, we have Matt's word, with a citation, versus David's "just take my word for it" opinion, and unfortunately I can only classify it as an opinion because I have no clue if David Ruskin knows what he's talking about just by reading his comments.
Given that Matt has sourced his information, you would think David would just say something like, "Ok, maybe I'm off on this one," but no. Instead we get:
"I have not looked at the Good Scents' opinion, I do not have to. I have smelled and used both iso Butyl Quinoline, and various Castoreum bases, as well as genuine Castorium,and I know that IBQ , which is bitter green, and Castoreum, which is animalic and leathery, do not smell the same, or even similar. If you were to take a fragrance containing IBQ and replaced it with a similar amount of any Castoreum, you would notice the difference. Please do not be sarcastic with me when I express my opinion, an opinion that has formed over many years of Perfumery."
Basenotes groupthink kicks in, with a few members supporting what David says, and one member states:
"From a neutral standpoint, I will say that (from my personal experiences) TGSC is a immensely helpful resource. However, I wouldn't take everything there as gospel. Numerous times have I found information there to be 'off' or just not entirely accurate."
This is also interesting. I've noticed in the fragrance community that people tend to downplay or discredit established sources of information when they disagree with them, instead of wondering if they themselves are wrong. This happened when I interviewed Jeffrey Dame, and he supported my theory that fragrances spoil over time. Instead of just saying, "Ok, I was wrong," the blogger who disagreed with him attempted to discredit him as someone who didn't know what he was talking about. Unlike David Ruskin, Dame's credentials and career accomplishments are all over the internet for everyone to see, so this attempt to discredit him failed miserably (and was later followed by an interview with an "anonymous fragrance chemist," which was funny).
My personal experience with these two materials is limited, but I can say that isobutyl quinoline and castoreum are in the same ballpark, even if they don't really smell all that similar. The dark leathery aspect of isobutyl quinoline seems more at home in L'Air du Desert Marocain and Parfums Retro Grand Cuir than anything I've smelled castoreum in, but I could see the two materials being used side by side in either of those perfumes, or in castoreum-heavy fragrances like Dali Pour Homme or Antaeus. Castoreum has a dry, woody, earthy tone, and that isn't very far from the similarly dry, leathery hue of isobutyl quinoline. These aren't apples and oranges, people.
The biggest difference is that castoreum is a bit funky and musky, with a little bit of a "spoiled fruit" vanillic quality, and isobutyl quinoline is much starker and earthier, rather like vetiver root or raw fermented tobacco, without a hint of anything edible or animalic.
In any case, the thread rapidly devolved to the point where David wrote this:
"'mattmeleg' you have, on several occasions now, accused me of deliberately trying to confuse you, of patronising you and of trying to put you down. Despite my sincere denial of this, and my asking you to apologise for your gross libelling of me, you have not but continue in your wild and unpleasant attack on me. Again I repeat, how dare you. Well done 'mattmeleg' you have succeeded in doing what many others before you have failed to do. You have made this site so toxic to me that I no longer wish to continue contributing to it."
Surprisingly, a basenotes moderator did not jump onto the bandwagon of browbeating Matt, and instead wrote:
"New members have no obligation to genuflect to senior Basenoters no matter how skilled they are. We will not tolerate that senior members throw a fit and threaten libel just because they are being challenged. If you cannot treat each other with kindness and respect what are you doing here?"
This was quickly followed by a new thread by David, in which he said:
"Recent events here on Basenotes have stopped me enjoying myself. I always said that if that ever happened I would leave. I shall no longer be contributing to Basenotes. I wish all of those that I have shared my love of Perfumery with all the very best; goodbye."
The fact that David Ruskin threatened Matt with libel was the final nail in his basenotes coffin. First of all, you must have a reputation for yourself to have your name dragged through the mud, and beyond being a basenotes member, David has very little public reputation. To my knowledge nobody has heard of him; I certainly had never heard of Mr. Ruskin prior to my membership ten years ago. As I said earlier in this post, Mr. Ruskin clearly has a reputation within the profession, but he has never clarified that, and oddly enough nobody has ever asked him to. The fact that he was challenged by another member is hardly grounds to threaten that person with libel, and it's disturbing that this happened.
Secondly, what's with senior basenotes members acting like their word is the last? When David says, "Please do not be sarcastic with me when I express my opinion, an opinion that has formed over many years of Perfumery," we must wonder why he's capitalizing the "P" there. What are his "many years of Perfumery" supposed to bestow upon him? What are his actual years of perfumery, anyway? Why should his opinion be valued when it is directly contradicted by a database created and used by professionals in the field? Had Matt not cited the TGSC, his argument would have been much weaker, but without another citation from David to nullify Matt's sentiments, the "newbie" wins.
The moral of the story here is a simple one: you may have decades of experience, and a razor-sharp, encyclopedic knowledge of a certain subject matter, with all the winning points under your belt. However, if you can't be kind to people, if you're unnecessarily rude, mean spirited, and prone to temper tantrums when people don't automatically lick your boots, then being "right" won't help your argument in the least. You'll wind up looking unhinged, and in the absence of reinforcement for your bad behavior you'll have few options left but to sulk out and disappear. I'm not sure how the thread could have gone differently, but I'm willing to wager that if Mr. Ruskin had been nicer to Matt, he'd still be enjoying basenotes today.