Rose 31 (Le Labo)

Le Labo is one of those super famous niche lines with a reputation preceding it, and very problematically at that. Approaching their perfumes, I'm reminded that their fragrances rarely smell like what they're named after. I'm also conscious of their subtler reputations for being a bit synthetic, and a bit weak, and perhaps more damningly, not especially complex. None of this dissuades me from liking Le Labo (Iris 39 is excellent), but it doesn't engender confidence. Expectation is the enemy of enjoyment, and if I expect to be disappointed, confirmation bias becomes a risk.

I needn't have worried with Rose 31. I like it. Not enough to ever buy it, or even to wear it again, but I appreciate what was achieved here. In a perfect world it would be called Vetiver 31, because it strikes me as being a vetiver fragrance with a hint of dry rose. That must be the reputation about names catching up with it. But the vetiver is well done, smelling very rooty and a bit green, with a smooth, woodsy character. Adding to the smooth woodiness are very clean notes of cedar, a hint of oud (synthetic oud, similar to the stuff found in Dirty English), and cool incense. The romance is delivered via musks, greens, and spices: white pepper, carrot seed, cumin, castoreum, and a bit of cold, powdery galbanum balance into a gauzy veil of earthiness, throwing shadow across the bright wood notes.

Poking through it all is the dry, bitter rose note. This is the same rose found in Van Cleef & Arpels PH, but here it's less intense, less prominent, more a suggestion than a statement. If you're a traditionalist about your rose fragrances, you won't care much for Rose 31. If you're interested in the mood that a dry, masculine rose note can evoke, this stuff is for you. I'm neither here nor there. I like or dislike rose frags as they come, and rarely do I find myself pining for this one. Is it too synthetic? It's obviously not natural, but I'm not bludgeoned by harsh aroma chemicals, either. Too weak? Yeah, maybe. Complex? Yes, in a linear way. It's nice, and well worth a sniff.


English Leather Appears To Be Discontinued

Looks like it'll have to be nothing at all.

Just a holiday observation: if you try to find a bottle of English Leather online, you are out of luck. Apparently stock is dried up, and Dana is no longer producing this classic. The bottle prices range from $24 to $120 depending on size, with the 8 oz jug costing about $100, and the 3.4 oz bottles anywhere from $23 to $75. This is sad, and frankly astonishing. EL used to be the easiest to find and cheapest to purchase. Even Dana's site has none available.

I can't believe that a seventy year-old fragrance, originally produced by Javier Serra and successfully sold by MEM until Dana's acquisition about twenty years ago, is suddenly no more. How could Dana drop the ball like that? What went wrong? Clearly this kind of fragrance is no longer popular, but then again neither are Old Spice and Brut, and they're surviving. What's Dana's excuse? They didn't want to bother lifting the brand up out of the dust of the 20th century, and now, instead of having it as a branch to profit from, it no longer exists.

I happen to have an 8 oz bottle of the cologne, which still contains about 7.5 ounces, and I guess I'll be holding on to it for years to come, as I rarely wear it. The color of the liquid has darkened considerably since I bought it, and upon sampling it yesterday, I found its sharp citrus notes and stark woody drydown have mellowed into a closer representation of the vintage scent. Hopefully another company revives the English Leather name, as it would be awful to think this scent is gone for good.


A Brief Note On Decanting Clubman Aftershave Into Glass, And Shaving Off 2018

"It smells better decanted." Anyone who frequents wetshaver circles knows that Pinaud Clubman aftershave has a reputation for smelling just a tiny bit like the plastic it's housed in. This never bothered me tremendously, but I always wondered if the introductory statement of this post was true - does it smell better decanted into glass? With the porous plastic chemicals removed from the equation, and just enough aeration of the aftershave occurring during the decanting process, I figured it was possible, so I bought a two dollar flask from TJ Maxx and decanted my Clubman.

The result is interesting. While it seems to lighten up (aerate?) the overall fragrance and accentuate the floral notes a bit, I still notice a slight plastic smell. However, the smell is greatly reduced, to the point where I have to look for it to notice it. That's in stark contrast to my experience straight from the factory bottle, where the plastic odor kind of smacks you right in the nose just after the sweet citrus top, but before the powdery oakmoss settles in. It reminds me of why P&G went to great lengths to devise a specially coated plastic bottle for Old Spice: no plastic odor. I would judge there's a seventy to eighty percent reduction in the plastic element when Clubman is decanted into a clean glass bottle. Given that the plastic problem was minor to begin with, I consider this a successful outcome and recommend decanting to anyone who enjoys using this particular Pinaud product. (I don't really get a plastic odor from the Classic Vanilla version, which is surprising.)

Before I go, I'll mention something that might interest my regular readers. You may have noticed a significant decrease in the number of posts this year compared to other years. One reason for this is that 2017 was an unusually busy year for me personally. But a bigger reason is that my interest in conventional EDTs and high end fragrances has waned a bit. I've owned and worn many of the classics, tested and sampled a slew of feminines, tried my hand at quite a few niche frags, and now find myself drawn to the concept of the "barbershop scent." Therefore 2018 will be focused entirely on classic barbershop aftershaves.

Expect to see one or two reviews per month, with things like the Lustray line and Osage Rub being reviewed. I've seen many experienced noses in fragrance forums, guys who enjoy their Tom Fords and Xerjoffs, turn green at the term "barbershop," saying they don't understand the label. What does a barbershop smell like? What makes a fragrance a "barbershop frag?" What does it mean to embrace 14 ounces of something that costs fifty cents an ounce? How did these dinosaurs of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s survive into the 21st century?

Stay tuned.

Update 1/14/18:

My decanted Clubman now smells completely free of plastic. It has been in glass for a month, and was my aftershave of choice today. During application, I noticed a couple of things. First, the overall scent has softened, becoming more powdery, and a vanilla note that I was previously unaware of has become evident. Second, the scent is a bit more evanescent. Altogether, I think the aeration of the aftershave was a good thing, and the benefits of decanting it are indisputably significant.


Clubman Classic Vanilla (Pinaud)

As I approach 2018, the alarming thought that I may have become outmoded seems increasingly prevelant. Consider this: I am a heterosexual white male in his mid thirties, I own a house and a full-sized Buick, I use a flip phone, I work full time but spend weekends with my girlfriend and family, and I keep cigarettes in the house in case guests forget theirs. By social justice warrior standards, I am a fucking dinosaur.

The hip(ster) kids of the perennially insulted twenty-teens believe in renting, freelancing, iPhones, Hondas, and vaping. I can't tell you how many twenty-something guys I've met who speak with a feminine lilt in their voice, punctuating every other word with "like," rarely making direct eye contact. They often wear skinny jeans, weirdly groomed facial hair, and never smell of anything, except maybe a dash of Axe deodorant, perhaps because they feel personal fragrance is offensive.

The landscape is populated with these "men" (and their vapid partners), and sometimes, in humorous attempts at small talk, they ask me what fragrance I'm wearing. I usually wonder what would happen if I were to break out a bottle of my SOTD and offer them some. Would I see their genitals instantly shrivel up into peanut M&M-sized knots under their skintight denim? Would the shock of being confronted with such unabashed testosterone cheesiness traumatize them enough to whiten their Keanu beards? Would they call me xenophobic? Would I have to apologize?

Clubman Classic Vanilla is the stuff of dinosaurs like me, but it's our secret weapon. It's the reason we still have our self respect. The shameless beauty in its simple melodic chord of lime peel, lavender, jasmine, coumarin, tonka, vanilla, and talc recalls Caron's Third Man and YSL's Rive Gauche, only simpler, quieter, more direct. This aftershave has wrinkled its share of powdered noses, but its cool talcum drydown is the purest incarnation of a wetshaver scent. When the last of the male SJWs is hospitalized for testicular torsion, the meek shall inherit the Earth.


Suede (Bath & Body Works)

Fragrantica user "Robinsda" wrote of Suede:
"This may seem weird, but I get a similar vibe from this to Aqua Di Gio Profumo."
Now, if you're familiar with AdGP, you know that it has a reputation for smelling not like a flanker to the original, but like the actual original formula of Acqua di Gio from the 1990s (Essenza ticks that box, too). This suggests that Suede smells like a floral citrus aquatic scent, which is counterintuitive for anything professing to focus on leather.

To me Suede smells like a basic citrus cologne with an English Leather-style dyrdown, except with an oversized white musk standing in for EL's wood notes. Is this worth $35? Yes and no. If you're looking for a tenacious cologne with a fairly harmless (non-animalic) drydown, and you can't afford to spend $85 on 100ml of AdG, I suppose you could get Suede. However, I can think of better citrus scents: Adam Levine's signature masculine is an excellent grapefruit cologne with a bit of a clean woodsy base, Ed Hardy's Love & Luck is still a great dupe of Creed's MI (by proxy a dupe of AdG), and Aqua Quorum has a piney richness under all the calone that makes it infinitely more "suedy" than Suede for half the cost.

My issue with fragrances like this is that there are too many similar comparatives to make a purchase worthwhile. Why should anyone drop $35 on an average citrus-woody cologne when there are better colognes for the same price or less? Bourbon is at least a somewhat unique concept, but "citrus leather" barely registers anymore.

Noir (Bath & Body Works)

There is no shortage of young men who are eager to smell of vanilla, and in the nineties it was Givenchy Pi that satisfied the collective sweet tooth. A zillion reincarnations and extensions of the theme have since come and gone, and B&BW's current interpretation is no better or worse than the lot.

While smelling this fragrance, I was struck by how minimalistic it is. I expected it to be a soapy fougere like Drakkar Noir, and was pleasantly surprised. I'm accustomed to encountering mid-shelf designer frags that attempt to impress, with at least two or three notes that aren't necessary and don't quite pass muster, but Noir knows its limits. It opens with a cardamom and burnt sugar accord that is at once sweet and robust, a rather nice spin on the ethyl maltol cliché, and rapidly dries down to an arid vanilla with a healthy dollop of white musk. Much like the Bourbon scent, Noir thins out pretty quickly and hangs close for about three hours, but it's nice while it lasts.

For a simple and cheap vanilla oriental, I'd say you're still better off getting Pi. It costs the same (or less) and smells richer and more interesting than Noir, plus it lasts a solid seven hours or more. But I guess if you're interested in being consistent and wish to use the cologne in tandem with the body lotion and deodorant, Noir is Noir.


Bourbon (Bath & Body Works)

In my opinion there are two kinds of fragrances: intellectual perfumes, like Ocean Rain, The Dreamer, Chanel N°5, Diorella, and Green Irish Tweed, and functional hygienic fragrances, like everything found in The Body Shop and Bath & Body Works. The former category contains hundreds of complex concepts executed with attention to form; these are efforts to create new scents not found in nature.

The latter category is devoted to mimicking known smells in nature and combining them into simple and pleasing compositions. They are aimed at casual fragrance wearers who want to recognize everything they smell, and associate positive attributes to smelling "good." People who primarily wear B&BW fragrances take pleasure in selecting specific scents based on identifiable materials, and rarely attach abstract meaning to how they smell. They don't wear peppermint body lotion to make a statement. They wear it to smell clean and inviting while snuggling by a fire. Nobody dons White Citrus to impress upon coworkers a citrusy identity. It is worn to keep your cubicle fresh while you're in it.

Of the five fragrances in B&BW's Men's Signature Collection, I found Bourbon to be closest to an intellectual masculine. It has distinct notes of white pepper, oakwood, amber, and musk, and if I focus on the fragrance in the first twenty minutes, I get good note separation. But when I let the composition speak for itself, an interesting thing happens: the notes coalesce into a smooth, dry, corn-fed bourbon liquor, warmed by a soft musky amber, which gets stronger over the course of three hours. Longevity and projection are a bit meek, with the first clocking in at about four hours, and the second getting you maybe five inches of attention beyond the limits of your shirt collar, but still, this fragrance is unique, well made, and a good value at about $10 an ounce.

Another bonus to this fragrance is that it comes in a variety of forms, ranging from a shea body lotion (which my girlfriend got me), to a shower gel and deodorant spray. If you intend on using the body lotion and don't have the EDT to go with it, fear not. Any number of old-school, woody, "cigar box masculine" fragrances should go well with it. If you're a fan of The One by D&G, this is probably for you, as it is most often compared to that scent on Fragrantica.


Only The Brave Wild (Diesel)

It was the summer of 2014, and Diesel felt the need to issue another Only The Brave flanker. Let me quickly say that the summer of 2014 was a good one for me: I bought my first house. The low point of the year was probably this fragrance, although it is successful enough on its own terms.

Summer frags usually go in one of three directions: chemical aquatic with sugary "froot" notes, chemical "grey citrus" with a sour, sometimes salty aftertaste, and derivative balmy suntan lotion scents with varying adjustments to what is basically just Coppertone. (I like the smell of Coppertone, especially since it was reformulated into jasmine-infused Brut). OTB Wild, with its ugly green fist punching at my face yet again, is arguably the most sophisticated fragrance in the OTB line, as it eschews the bland, overly blended approach of its predecessors in favor of a slightly more daring herbal affair. My favorite Fragrantica review, by member "Voodoochild82," reads:
"Tried this out in Kohl's today. Please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks this smells like pickle juice?"
No Voodoochild82, you're not the only one. I also got a bit of a spiced pickle feeling off the very top (on paper), but this scent has some depth and direction. The fragrance boasts a crystal clear peppered lemongrass accord, its liveliness smudged together with lavender. This kind of totally unexpected seriousness is something that I'd sooner seek out in something by Jacomo or Puig. I thought I'd smell a dull grapefruit citrus top, and instead got bitter greens. Cool.

It doesn't take long for a tonka, nutmeg, and somewhat vanillic (but still rather green) coconut accord to push through the lemongrass. This all sounds pretty good as you read it, but it's more than a little dull, and the coconut never fully materializes into the floral creaminess I've come to expect in good summer lotions. The whole thing remains overly staid and wispy, as if the perfumers self consciously wished their dilettante approach to Diesel's standard brief could be taken by forgiving Europeans as being artistic and mature. They did an OK job, but really, just put Vanilla Fields in your beach bag, and move on with your day.


Only The Brave Tattoo (Diesel)

In an age where smoking is all but criminalized, it's both predictable and sad to see tobacco marketed as a subversive note. Joop! Homme Wild did this with their tobacco flower approach, and Diesel does it in Tattoo, where a sweet pipe tobacco element dominates the drydown. This fragrance smells somewhat similar to the original OTB, emitting generous wafts of syrupy citrus, candied red apple, peppered amber, and an omnipresent synthetic patchouli note that I believe also snuck into the heart accord of the first release. Where it diverges is in its focus. Instead of fruity citrus sweetness, this time we get tobacco sweetness. Is it an improvement?

Yes and no. I appreciate tobacco in fragrances. Anything with a clear tobacco note gets a wink and a nod from me. Good on whoever threw this thing together for including that note, as it lends a little maturity and sophistication to a fragrance that is far from mature and sophisticated.

Still, the presence of tobacco alone can't make up for what's missing here. The main problem with OTB Tattoo is that it's too blended to be effective. Instead of presenting clear analogs of identifiable materials, everything is fused together in a big, overly sweet blob. Eventually a few impressions stand out, like black pepper, tobacco, and amber, but they lack punctuation, and it all just runs together.

In the plus column, the fragrance does smell generically "fresh," and therefore good in an objective sense, and I can't see anyone wrinkling their nose in disgust upon sniffing it, but with such a prominent tobacco note there should be more going on. Adding to the pain is the knowledge that for a third of the price I can enjoy a much better composition with a more realistic (and less sweet) tobacco note in Vermeil for Men. I'll be a little perverse here and also point out that a much better "soapy-fresh" fragrance with a far more realistic tobacco note in its base can be had in VC&A Pour Homme.

Maybe it's time for designers to explore other themes in the realm of tobacco notes. Instead of always relying on the same sugared pipe tobacco idea with its now played-out sweetness, perhaps we can get more renditions of bitter unflavored cigar tobacco, or maybe even someone's interpretation of menthol cigarettes. It's time to usher the age of A*Men's ethyl-maltol tobaccos out, and bring Winston Churchill's stogies back in.


Only The Brave (Diesel)

In the world of perfume writing, price is often a mind changing component. Only The Brave is about ten dollars an ounce, which put simply is a little too much for something as "safe" and forgettable as this is. If I could get a 4.2 oz bottle for twenty-five dollars, I'd feel a whole lot better. I guess forty dollars (on Amazon) isn't terrible, but I can get 1.7 ounces of Prada Amber for thirty-eight dollars, and that's a richer, classier, and much "safer" bet! Sure it's less juice, but it would last me longer (it's stronger) and smell infinitely better, so why bother spending more than five bucks an ounce on Diesel?

How does it smell? Here is where both price and packaging effect perception, arguably more than they should. Consider this review from "Way Off-Scenter" on basenotes for a glimpse of how extreme tackiness can backfire:
"Only the Brave consists largely of two accords. One, a blend of aquatic notes and caustic, sinus-piercing woody ambers, is meant to smell 'clean,' but actually smells like something I’d use to disinfect my toilet bowl. The other, a potent artificial 'froot' flavor, no doubt meant to smell 'fresh,' in fact smells like the solid air freshener in the nearest public men’s room. Together, they smell just plain bad."
Now if OTB came in a subdued Green Irish Tweedy bottle, with gentle black matte and a no-frills cap, and the whole affair cost half as much as it does, I'd bet Mr. Scenter would consider it on better terms, perhaps as an unexpectedly tame and casual "drugstore scent." Then again, maybe not, but it's hard to see the Avon inspired glass fist with its knuckle iron name tag and not retch a little in your mouth.

My point is that despite smelling a bit cheap and generic, OTB doesn't really smell that bad at all. Yes, it does smell "synthetic," with no natural notes leaping forward at any stage, and sure, its "fresh" accords mimic the smells of bathroom cleaners, but you have to use a little context here. Kerosene's Copper Skies smells like blood-soaked cloves and wood varnish, and I wouldn't wear it to a pig roast. Next to Copper Skies, Only The Brave smells like a Creed.

Its greatest sin is its blandness. Its sugary mandarin top note, followed by a nondescript "blonde woods" middle on a base of violet leaf and sweetened amber is a recipe for whateverdom. Smell it on a collar in a smoky Czech pub after a few pints, and I guess it projects a youthful everyman vibe, but one spray too many on a car ride cross country might lose you some friends.

If you're looking for a "modern" masculine that is intentionally generic and "safe," and favor a soapier, sweeter approach to that idea, I'd sooner refer you to the aforementioned Prada Amber, Clean Shower Fresh, Davidoff Horizon EDT, Dior Sauvage, and Dior Homme Eau. They're all quite different, but generally fit a "modern" and "safe" profile, being scents you can just throw on and forget about.

Still, if you're under 25 and want a good pub crawler, OTB is worth a sniff. Sidenote: I've seen reviews that compare it to the original Allure Homme. That fragrance is something closer to Cool Water than OTB, and is far better than OTB. Tangentially, if you want something that is truly similar to Allure Homme for a third of the price, get Joop! Jump.


David Ruskin Leaves Basenotes

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.


Is The Market For Perfumes Containing Significant Quantities of Iso E Super "Fabricated"?

Over at Wordpress our friend published an article about an artisanal perfumer who is apparently defying IFRA regulations via Etsy. An interesting exchange took place in the comments section, where a blogger who goes by "Bibi Maizoon" wrote:
"Why so many niche companies want to market 'iso e super overload' or 'cashmeran overload' scents is an interesting question. Ya’think maybe it’s because people like those sorts of scents? And then because people like those sorts of scents they’ll buy them. And niche companies are companies like any other company & want to sell product & make $$$? So if they make products that people like then people will buy them and lo & behold the cash will come rolling in!"

The article's author responded:
"No, I think that was a largely fabricated market, for those who want to feel 'special.' There is no way to demonstrate that cashmeran or iso e super (in 'overloaded' formulations) is better, superior, special, etc. compared to calone or dihydromyrcenol heavy scents, but you can say that this or that scent smells like or doesn’t smell like laundry detergent, scented deodorant, etc."

Is this true? Where is the evidence that perfumers and design houses have fabricated the market for specific aroma chemicals? To my knowledge, iso e super is a material that has been used to great commercial success, perhaps most notably in the original Fahrenheit, which contains 25% iso e super in its compound. One can read more about its practical applications here.

It's interesting to note that iso e super is used as an additive in cigarette tobacco, where few market fabrications are necessary due to the addictive nature of the product. Again, is the market for cigarettes that contain iso e super fabricated? And what about the incredible success of Terre d'Hermes, Encre Noire (which has 45% in its compound), and Fierce by Abercrombie & Fitch? Are these not enormous sellers? Or was the market fabricated? Have we been "faked out" by the use of iso e super?

Creed Aventus has 18% iso e super in its formula, Halston Z-14 has, according to Frederic Malle, "probably 10-15 percent" in its formula, CK Eternity for Men from 1988 had almost 12%, and Lancome's Trésor also made good use of the stuff. One can wonder if those odd earlier batches of Aventus that were criticized for smelling too "ashy", like a burnt cigarette, utilized iso e super in a way too similar to how cigarette makers use it in their formulas.

Is the market for Aventus among Creed fanatics and niche-heads fabricated? And what about the idea that people buy fragrances with iso e super to feel "special"? In what way does the aroma chemical confer "special" qualities to the wearer? By all educated accounts, this is a material with very little aroma on its own, and it is used as a sort of "texturizer" for perfumes, creating a very blended woody quality. This is why it features so prominently in woody classics like Fahrenheit, Eternity, and Terre d'Hermes.

As for cashmeran, it's also one of those atmospheric chemicals that simply creates a deeper warmth to fragrances, and to my knowledge nobody is exclusively seeking cashmeran for the purpose of "standing out" in the crowd. Fragrances that use cashmeran use it because it works in their compositions, and obviously it smells good enough to move merchandise!

I wish the blogger who dismissed Bibi's comment would elaborate on what he meant in his response to her. As things stand now, his remarks are unfounded. How can a market be "fabricated" based on aroma chemicals? Are people distorting the popularity of things that prominently use iso e super and cashmeran? If so, how?

At this point I doubt that anyone can view popular fragrances containing significant quantities of iso e super as products of a commercial lie, and I'm willing to bet that anyone familiar with how these materials smell in isolation would prefer them blended in what are otherwise successful compositions.


Nautica Classic (Coty)

Fragrantica attributes twenty-one notes to the pyramid of this fragrance, yet when I smell it I get roughly three: synthetic citrus, synthetic woods, and white musk. One would argue that this makes the fragrance simple to the point of smelling "cheap," but I would counter with an impression of something stereotypically nineties in the post Drakkar and Cool Water style that led the industry from 1983 to 2003. Nautica Classic doesn't smell complex or original, but it smells good in a bland handsoap sort of way.

There are fragrances for "connoisseurs" of fragrance, and then there are EDTs that people just wear because they want to wear something. Think of job interviews, informal Friday night dinners with the in-laws, taking your children to weekend birthday parties (that require you to stay), and even just doing chores around the house in your blue jeans. In these cases you could reach for any fragrance, but if you reach for Clive Christian, Acqua di Parma, or Creed, you have more money than brains.

I am reminded of Drakkar Noir and Cool Water in the same way that Passion for Men reminds me of Old Spice. All the same basic elements of this fragrance type are there, but they're tweaked a bit differently, and the result is inferior to its template. I get a blast of hand-soapy lavender, window-cleaner citrus, and a touch of that dry, smoky pine and patchouli accord found in Drakkar, but this basic woody dihydromyrcenol effect is enveloped in an opaque (and sweet) Cool Watery cloud of fruity white musk.

On a side note, people are claiming that Coty reformulated this into utter swill. It's hard to imagine that any concern could take such an abject failure to be original and make it even less original. My super vague recollection of nineties Nautica matches what I smell today, and if sharp chemical citrus top notes and scratchy chemical sandalwood basenotes were rich Grey Flannelesque citrus and Creed-like sandalwood in the nineties, I stand corrected. I suspect though that this was just as boring then as it is now.


A Few Thoughts On "Fragrance Derangement Syndrome", Super NES vs. Vintage Fragrances On Ebay, and The "Panty Dropper Scent"

I remember a few years back, when Dior released Sauvage, there was the usual trepidation from bloggers about the scent being too commercial and generic, along with a healthy smattering of optimistic writers who looked forward to trying a new release from an esteemed brand with a long history of successes. As more time passed, polarities of opinion were easier to distinguish than any majority concensus, and thus Sauvage became a "love or hate scent," with haters holding an edge.

By the end of 2016, one thing was crystal clear to me: the haters had won. Sauvage was to be critically lambasted at any opportunity, its pedigree as a Dior scent was to be dissected and demeaned, and any suggestion that it was a "good" release was fair game. Personally I found the fragrance a bit dull, although I thought it was a pleasantly coherent citrus leather masculine done in the current postmodern style, every bit worthy of faint praise, if not outright damnation.

And then I began to see the "fringe element" of the critique circles take shape. From the long lines at the complaint department emerged a very particular yowl, that of people suffering what I call "Sauvage Derangement Syndrome." Such voices were not content to simply criticize Dior for their unabashedly boring release, nor were they satisfied to do as I had and damn it with similar faint praise. These critics had to dwell on their negative criticism, and even dwell on any positive reviews people had for Sauvage. One blogger wrote thirteen articles about the scent, with many posted before he even smelled it!

Creed has recently released Viking, and although I have said my piece on that one, others are perseverating on Viking the way they perseverated on Sauvage. Apparently one or two critiques aren't enough; the point isn't adequately made unless a complete volume of sarcasm and negativity has been penned. I wonder if in 2020 we'll still be reading blog posts about how niche lovers and "Creed fanboys" delude themselves into loving Viking when there are hundreds of "super cheapos" that smell the same or better.

Perhaps I can dispatch at least one blogger's derangement by simply saying this: if you can't afford to purchase a bottle of Viking, just admit it and move on. Stop pretending your criticisms of the fragrance (and of how people review it) are predicated on an actual distaste for the fragrance. You were writing negatively about Sauvage before you ever smelled it, and apparently the same is happening with the Creed. You constantly compare expensive scents to drugstore fare, and are obsessed with singling out specific aroma chemicals, as if you could discern their identities in isolation (identifying them in complete fragrances is apparently too easy for you), so just admit that you wish people would heap the same praise on your cheap Playboy collection as they do on Sauvage and Viking and be done with it already.

Now on to the Super Nintendo Classic Edition, which is currently being sold through brick and mortar outlets like Walmart and Target. Why is this video game system (and the 8 bit NES Classic from last season) so interesting to a fragrance connoisseur like me? What I find fascinating about the NES Classic Editions is not that they're selling out within hours of each shipment's arrival, nor that they're getting all kinds of hype on blogs and news articles.

What interests me about them is why they're being purchased. I happened to watch a recent review of the Super NES on the YouTube Channel Cinnemassacre, and in that video one of the reviewers remarked on an experience he had while waiting in line to buy a Super NES. He said he overheard many of the conversations going on around him in the store as he waited, and he noticed something incredible: none of the people in line were talking about wanting to own the Super NES. They were talking about how excited they were to sell it on eBay for at least twice as much money as they were about to spend in the store.

This dismayed the reviewer, who went on to say that he felt like he was the only one in line who actually wanted to buy the Super NES to play it and enjoy it. Why weren't there more people like him in line? Where were all the other video game enthusiasts, eager to acquire a digitized HD repackaging of their favorite childhood games? Why was everyone around him focused solely on buying the product to resell it at a profit?

This Cinnemassacre video reminded me of my position on vintage fragrance sales on eBay. This person's experience in a line at wherever he purchased the Super NES reflected the exact reason why I put so little stock in claims that vintage fragrances are actually selling to their "fan base" for hundreds of dollars on eBay. Despite its advanced age and good reputation, the Super NES isn't selling to its "fan base" anymore, and neither are super-expensive vintage fragrances on eBay. The same economics that apply to the NES apply to vintage frags.

People are mostly disinterested in playing their Super NES because it's 2017, and 16 bit video games are essentially perishable goods that spoiled two decades ago. Video games have moved on. But that doesn't change the fact that people see the Nintendo brand as a "vintage" product. There is no question that the name "Nintendo" evokes nostalgic memories of the eighties and nineties, of playing games in your pajamas on a rainy Saturday with friends.

This nostalgia creates an internet presence of its own. Video game bloggers and news articles unite in making excited prognostications about the fate of these game systems. A renewed interest is kindled, and before you know it, people are poking around stores, looking to buy them.

Nintendo stokes the fire by issuing an egregiously limited quantity of systems to stores, knowing they'll be sold out within hours, or even (in the case of the 8 bit Classic) mere minutes. The perception among people who aren't interested in video games is that there is still a huge fan base for vintage Nintendo, because hey, look at that, the units are sold out!

But then something really interesting happens. Ebay postings for Nintendo Classics shoot through the roof, as do their prices. Before you know it, units are selling on eBay for $100, $120, $180, $200, $250, and so on. The number of eBay listings for Nintendos far outstrips the supply in stores, but the prices have more than doubled. Even now, the units are posted for outrageous prices.

For a while it seems that people really do enjoy these vintage games. But then a sliver of truth slips out, like the one in the Cinnemassacre video, and it all becomes clear: people aren't interested in playing these vintage games at all. This isn't a vintage to be enjoyed in your pajamas on a Saturday morning. This is a vintage to be resold at a steep profit. This is what I call a "currency vintage," i.e., an older item prized solely for its resale market value.

I've been saying for years now that this is what happens in the fragrance market. We see vintages like Molto Smalto, Fendi Donna, and Patou PH being posted on eBay at luxury price points, and it's tempting to think that these fragrances have significant fan bases that wish to purchase, wear, and enjoy, but in reality things bear out in much the same way as they do with vintage Nintendo. It isn't the fan base that keeps these vintages in circulation. If it were, they wouldn't stay in circulation, because within a few years all remaining bottles would be used up.

What keeps these bottles circulating is a subset of buyers who are simply looking to make a profit. They buy a bottle of Patou PH for $300, hold it for a few months, then post it on eBay for $500. These are currency vintages that are really more like olfactory Bitcoins or shares of stock than bottles of perfume.

On this note, I thought I'd end today by mentioning that my girlfriend loves Chrome Legend. She comments favorably every time I wear it, to the point where I must get another bottle (she has excellent taste). However, I've worn a number of far more sophisticated fragrances around her - she happens to really like Versace L'Homme, and even gifted me a bottle - which I find remarkable given how old that one is. Yet she also lights up around Chrome Legend, and tends to gush when I wear it. Versace's scent is the epitome of old-school citrus, while Azzaro's is a very good example of postmodern "fresh." They couldn't be more different, yet they garner the same response.

One of the more misogynistic terms used in the community is "panty dropper scent," which is the implication that a fragrance can make a woman want to have sex with you. I tend to think that when it comes to "dropping" things, this term needs to be dropped from our broader lexicon.

Let's not diminish the ways in which women show their partners affection by reducing their desires and emotional responses to olfactory reactions. The difference between Chrome Legend and Versace L'Homme is pretty stark, and a simple acknowledgement that a woman in my life appreciates both is a quick example of how fragrance appreciation is an intellectual pursuit for both genders, and not an expression of female sexual desires.


Horizon (Davidoff)

Sometimes a guy just wants to smell good, and on those occasions guys with good taste reach for something like Horizon by Davidoff. What surprises me about this fragrance is that despite being a very recent release, it smells organic. There aren't "fantasy accords" or super modern, overly-blended soapy notes. Horizon, though relatively innocuous and smooth, conveys clear tonalities of ginger, vetiver, cinnamon, nutmeg, cedar, and mandarin orange. It isn't particularly natural, and ingredient quality is pretty middle of the road, but I have to give it its due and praise it for at least smelling well balanced, mature, and thoroughly pleasant. Wearing it is a nice experience.

What does sadden me a little is seeing Horizon as evidence that a part of the Davidoff fragrance division wants to return to the glories of their eighties and nineties frags. Clearly the desire to bring back the herbal woody powerhouses of the Reagan era is there, but they aren't sure of how to go about it. If they were more confident, Horizon would have "extreme" intensity to begin with, nullifying the need for an "extreme" flanker. Ingredient quality would also be better, as would the pyramid. Instead of watery "fresh" violet leaf, which feels a little out of place in a spicy woody scent like this, they could have added more patchouli and moss.

The semisweet kitchen spices lend decent warmth to the proceedings, but why not get a little Wall Street and add a hit of skanky musk? A little pinch would do - no need to go full Kouros here. I can't help but think of Bogart's Witness as being a better option, along with Z-14, Aubusson, and Balenciaga Pour Homme.

If you're looking for a light, fresh, spicy, woody, gentlemanly EDT, and you're a professional father of two with a wife in real estate and a weekend time share on Cape Cod, Horizon is a very good, inoffensive choice, the sort of scent that emits patriarchal authority without going too far. If you're looking for an alpha male powerhouse reminiscent of popped collars and Members Only jackets, look elsewhere.


The Real Problem With Creed's New Fragrance

I read a recent Wordpress post about Viking by Creed, and realized that in my absence one of the fragrance community's turgid crazies had taken to the internets to publish his pointless yowlings unchecked. Early in his article he posed a question that answered itself:
"Here's the key question for me, 'why would someone criticize someone else's perception, especially when a site devoted to these olfactory concoctions is by its very nature mostly going to focus on individual perceptions?'"
If a site is "by its very nature" focusing on individual perceptions, it's not hard to see why this would be the nexus of all contention therein. Isn't that obvious? If the focus were on objective general populace perceptions, with vague census numbers clouding the landscape of debate, then injecting subjective, individualized interpretions would be trickier. But given that personal opinions are all you have to go by prior to experiencing a fragrance for yourself, your thoughts and criticisms are likely to be directed into that lane of traffic.

The real craziness appears later in the article, in which the following is said:
"I do think there is one more element that may be involved in some of these kinds of situations, which might be best called the 'expensive-smelling molecule effect.' A great example is how large amounts of calone or dihydromyrcenol in a scent probably leads to a lot of people thinking it's 'cheap.' On the other hand, load up a scent with iso e super or cashmeran while slapping a niche label on it, and you've got something that 'smells expensive' to a certain demographic."
It makes my eyes hurt to read ideas as poorly conceived as this one is. Large amounts of calone and dihydromyrcenol were never, ever perceived as cheap by anyone. If they were, the industry would never have increased the amounts of these chemicals in what remain bestselling fragrances. Acqua di Gio, Cool Water, Green Irish Tweed, Drakkar Noir, Azzaro Chrome, and many other similar fragrances continue to sell to millions every year. They all contain considerable amounts of calone and dihydromyrcenol, and to my knowledge their presence in these scents is (a) unknown to the wearers, or (b) in no way a hindrance to the wearers' enjoyment.

Cheapness is usually perceived when a fragrance is too sweet and simplistic. A better argument could be made from a chemist's standpoint that the overuse of ethyl-maltol and coumarin account for negative value perceptions among consumers, given the number of downmarket products that exploit these materials. The entire Playboy line is a great example of how large amounts of sweet sugared cocktail "froot" notes and exaggerated fougere accords cheapen a brand.

In contrast, something like Aspen for Men is cheap to purchase at about three dollars per ounce, yet it is endlessly compared to one of the priciest fragrances on the market, Creed's Green Irish Tweed. The abundance of synthetic muguet, calone-driven green apple, and dihydromyrcenol have not in any way dampened enthusiasm for Aspen.

Iso e super and cashmeran are found in abundance in things like Abercrombie's Fierce, Encre Noire, Burberry Weekend for Women EDP, Paco Rabanne Sport, Sexy Graffiti by Escada, Womanity, Dazzling Darling by Kylie Minogue, and Burbuerry Body. Can you also find these materials in Terre d'Hermes and Dans Tes Bras by Malle? Sure. But you can find calone in New West for Men and dihydromyrcenol in Green Irish Tweed, two top shelf scents, so what is the Wordpress author's point? The economic usage of all materials in the industry varies, and quality is on par with the competition at all prices. If the "expensive-smelling molecule effect" is supposed to be the use of a specific material, then I would ask which chemical is used exclusively in expensive fragrances and develop my theory from there.

The Wordpress author asked these questions tangentially in his discussion of Creed's newest release, in what appears to be a verbose effort to address the worthiness of the scent itself. Is Viking even worth the time and effort? Should I or anyone else bother to try this fragrance? Is there a new masterpiece sailing to our shores with horned helmets on an orange flask? There are dozens of questions one could ask about Viking. But Viking, and more specifically the Creed brand itself has a very real problem on its hands: they've priced guys like me out of their market.

It's nice to know that the rich are making so much money nowadays that they no longer need to court the middle class buyer. While the majority of the working class and middle class flounder in debt and dire financial straits, a teeny-tiny top percentile of the population enjoys ever increasing gains. Creed wants their business. Ten years ago, when a 4 ounce (yes, 4 ounce, not 3 ounce) bottle of Creed cost $250, I thought Creed was pushing it, but at least somewhat accessible. Back then I paid that amount for a fresh bottle.

But today's prices are insane. Even if I were making $100K a year and had another $80K in investments, I wouldn't drop $500 on a bottle of Creed. You have to be a millionaire to think that's a decent value. You'd have to be a stupid millionaire. Why should I punish myself for having more money by spending more on something that everyone else in a lower tax bracket gets for a tenth of the amount?

If millions of people are happy to get a good fragrance like Acqua di Gio for $50, why should I spend ten times as much for something only a few people (my wealthy friends) think is a better value? Millesime Imperial should be the opposite of what I want to own, not the primary "fresh" frag on my radar! Ditto for Viking, although right now it isn't entirely clear what part of the designer market Creed is aping with Viking. Some are saying it is the Sauvage demographic that might like it, but this isn't certain yet.

Creed is competing with other brands by courting reviewers, many of whom aren't in their buying class (like Daver on Fragrance Bros), and banking on word of mouth through YouTube and basenotes. But they used to want people to buy their fragrances as soon as possible. Now they just want most of the buying public to aspire for their fragrances, while those who can actually afford them make them their profits. By raising their prices far beyond the rate of inflation, Creed has basically taken their products away from the majority of potential buyers and now sees fit to dangle their wares in our faces.

They sent Daver a free bottle of Viking. Proof they want the hoi polloi to drool.

This is the problem with Creed's new fragrance, and I personally feel it is the reason why I no longer need to review any Creed fragrances. If they were using Guerlainesque techniques in creating traditional old world perfume extraits, I might consider that a worthy enough reason to pursue the brand. But just continuing the Creed-water Millesime trend at an exaggerated price point in no way induces me to seek out their products.

It would behoove others to quit acting like Creed is still an interesting brand. It has sold itself off to the donor class, and I no longer think it has the integrity to act as a star player in the niche realm. Now is the time to keep a Viking from our shores.


Shower Fresh (Clean For Men)

This is one of those scents that I was pleasantly surprised by. The Clean line doesn't generally get good press, and I've been bored by a few myself, but this one was above average. It doesn't open with shampoo "blue" notes and descend into heavy synthetic ozone and salt accords. It's simply a brisk citrus cologne that dries down to a fairly lucid and "fresh" lime. And everyone knows I like lime colognes.

Limes are a standard scent for a wet shaver. You have your candied limes, sour limes, barrel aged limes, spiced limes, West Indian limes, and in this case your "bright" limes, made translucent and durable via deftly blended synthetics. Unlike most lime aftershaves, which usually last about ten minutes, Shower Fresh gives you four hours of solid limyness before becoming a persistent skin scent. The lime note is pretty much the star of the show. There's no pretense, no attempt at anything fancy or "modern," and much like Royall Lyme, Shower Fresh smells like a throwback to the sixties.

If you're the sort of guy who enjoys lathering up and applying a single Gillette blade to your whiskers, you'd probably benefit from having a bottle of Shower Fresh in the rotation. It's a good aftershave scent that adds a little green freshness to your morning. Good on Clean for at least tossing this fairly simple and effective formula into their lackluster lineup.


Body Kouros (Yves Saint Laurent)

The press for Body Kouros confuses me. I get it: Annick Menardo was doing Annick Menardo à la Bulgari Black, which hit shelves two years prior in 1998. It has been called an "oriental spicy fragrance," an incense fragrance, a eucalyptus bomb, etc. My problem stems not from these descriptions, but from what I actually smell. Granted, I'm talking about the version of BK pictured here, which is the "lame reformulation," all chrome shoulderless and neutered. But given my distaste for eucalyptus in perfumery, my general apathy towards orientals, and the need to smell something without a candied chemical apple note, BK came as a surprise.

This stuff smells pretty good, and surprisingly mature for what I always considered a club scent (from reading the "panty dropper" comments on basenotes years ago). It starts off with a burst of eucalyptus and anise, followed by a warmer benzoin and incense accord that manages to smell comfortable without losing its gentle sense of humor. Yet nowhere do I smell a masterpiece of the late twentieth century. The "fresh" component on top is attenuated, definitely from reformulation, and now is little more than a thin hiss. If BK was once a blushing spicy oriental, those days are gone; the composition relies heavily on two scant notes of ambery benzoin and silvery incense, neither of which lend the scent significant body or complexity. And I don't even get much of a youthful feel. If anything, BK is staid and gentlemanly, the mark of a mature scent.

Perhaps the only way to understand this version of BK is to compare it to the original Kouros. That scent used to be a carnival of testosterone, brimming with all the charisma and romance of an eighties powerhouse fougeriental. Today it still paws the dirt and lowers its horns, but the rush is diminished, and we're forced to make do with an overdose of eugenol where once we enjoyed civet and raw honey. I guess a similar fate met Body Kouros, which I imagine delivered considerable swagger in the semisweet powder puff style of its era. It's still a very good scent, and still worth checking out if you're into modern orientals, but if I want something with powerful aromatics and strong incense, I'll stick with Jacques Bogart's Furyo or Roccobarocco's Joint Pour Homme.


Incredible Things (EA Fragrances)

I'll admit to some bias with Incredible Things; my girlfriend wears it and it smells terrific on her. I don't believe in "skin chemistry" (although I do believe in hygiene), so I'm not saying that there's anything about anyone's skin that makes a fragrance smell differently. This scent seems to be tailored for her though; it fits her personality, her liveliness, her beauty, and I'm impressed with this inexpensive celebuscent. I can't deny that it smells great, and the body lotion works well with it.

Taylor Swift apparently likes eating ambrosia for dessert, because that's what Incredible Things smells like. It's an appetizing gourmand featuring soft analogs of pineapple, coconut, mandarin orange, and vanilla. The sweetness gently drifts into marshmallow, without being obvious and overbearing. There are no piercing accords, no loud ethyl maltol notes, and nothing that screams DRUGSTORE into my nostrils. It's a very happy scent, and yes, it's sweet, but it's also a touch green (a little minty), and it comes together as something classy and mature. It doesn't smell like teeny-bopper crap. It's not "sneaker juice." It's sexy, it's demure, and it works.

When it comes to fragrance, the label and box mean nothing. Taylor Swift's association begins and ends with the ink they used to print her name. Nothing about Incredible Things evokes Ms. Swift, nor should it. What you find is that celebrity scents are just like the rest: they smell good or they don't, and the marketing is irrelevant - it's the quality that matters. I don't know who is really behind this fragrance, but I applaud them for having the sense of off-kilter romance to take an old-fashioned dessert and make it into a perfume.