12/8/18

Taking A Break


Ancient Greek perfume bottle

When I started this blog in 2011, my circumstances were very different. I was living at home with my parents, employed part-time, and adrift in a lake of financial insecurities and relationship problems. Fragrance was an escape, and blogging was a useful creative outlet for those days when there was little else to do.

In the subsequent seven years, my life has changed dramatically. I'm now over-employed, working a full time job with an additional stipend attached to its salary, I own a house, my financial outlook has improved significantly, and I've managed to make friends with my ex. But fragrance and fragrance blogging are no longer escapes for me, at least not in the way they were.

I've seen a fair few fragrance blogs die in the last ten years (I've been reading them since 2008), and what always surprises me is the finality of their demises. There was a very good blog called Pere de Pierre that very suddenly died and was cremated altogether - you can't even visit the URL anymore - and it was ended with a post, titled "Perfume is Boring." That's just one example - there were at least ten or fifteen other blogs that met similar fates, often without warning. It's as though their authors just died. One day they're posting something interesting to read, and the next, there's nothing. And that nothing stretches on for days, then weeks, then months, and finally years, and at that point you know the blog is finished.

This will not happen on From Pyrgos. This blog will not die. I will not forget that I am its author, nor will I abandon the URL. I will not delete the blog, or let it be labeled "dead" by anyone who wishes to replace it.

However, I'm entering a stage in life right now where I'm not as interested in shouldering the persistent cost of maintaining the blog. It takes money to buy fragrance, and to keep reviewing new and interesting things, and I'm getting tired of spending that money. I've recently grown interested in saving and diversifying my wealth. I'm looking carefully at investing in the stock market. I'm considering buying some gold coins from the mint. I need to contribute to my 401K. And I'm looking to put together a few stacks of hundreds, maybe save a few grand in cash.

Do I think perfume is boring? Absolutely not. It's always interesting. At some point in the next year, I'll purchase something, and it'll probably be something expensive. When that happens, I'll take note of it as something to write about. But meanwhile, I'm officially taking a year off. I know that doing this will reduce my page views and subscriber count significantly, but that's no longer a concern of mine. Hopefully faithful readers will return in the future. Consider this the last blog post you will read here until 2020, unless something cataclysmic happens in the news (and I hope it never does). I'm signing off for now. Keep smelling awesome.

Bryan

11/24/18

The Razor's Hedge: Why I Play It Safe and Stick With Two Types of Blades (and The One I Prefer)



When it comes to pre and post-shave ablutions, my shave game is flexible to a fault - I have a dozen aftershaves and several soaps I use on a regular basis to "condition" my skin for optimal shaving. The key to wet shaving isn't to have the best "technique," or the most expensive and exotic gear. It's actually about familiarity, and keying in on what you know.

I often wonder at the dudes who make videos about their "first time" using a straight razor, or any razor. I also shake my head at the ones with collections of fifty razors and two or three dozen different blades. I get the enthusiasm, I totally understand the "collector's mentality," and it's no mystery that wet shaving is an addictive practice. After doing it for ten years, I can never see a return to an electric razor. There's just no way it's ever happening.

In my experience with wetshaving, choosing a razor from a customized, velvet-lined drawer, and fumbling through a mound of razor packets isn't how I want to "mix it up," and lend variety to the morning. Aftershaves are safe for that, but razors? Not so much. With blades, getting adventurous ends in pizza face. I see no reason to have a razor collection, or to get gung-ho over a "shave den" stacked with paraphernalia. But then again, I learned to wet shave with Feather DE blades in a Feather razor. My only paraphernalia were band aids and tissue paper.

Trust me on this: there's nothing harder to use than a Feather DE, even one with a closed comb. It can slice through a gourd like hot butter, and mine had a stunted top, with way more blade exposed than your average three piece DE. Ten months into a regular routine, and I was still skewering my cheeks, but you know what? I learned. When I switched to Gillette and Astra blades, it was like going from Chess to Checkers. Suddenly the focus on precision shifted to a focus on handling, on wrist action, on easy angles, and as my fear of slicing flesh diminished, my eagerness to practice various strokes increased. I developed a sense of pressure sensitivity and grain patterns, with every knick and slit aiding the process of mapping out my face and neck. Now all I had to do was accelerate the process and become more efficient with my time.

I probably struggled through a dozen different blades before my Feather razor broke (shoddy craftsmanship, surprisingly), which forced me to seek out something similar, but better. Enter my trusty 1960s vintage Gillette Travel Tech, a notoriously easy daily shaver with a very simple three piece, closed comb design, and much better unibody molding that will likely last me the rest of my life. With that razor, it suddenly got much easier to settle into a blade. For a couple of years I used Derby Extras exclusively, and though I was aware of their crappy reputation, I wasn't dissatisfied with their performance. They're Turkish blades, known for being a bit duller than average, and even perhaps a bit of an underperformer in the closeness department. But for my three or four-day stubble, they work fine.

Occasionally I'll notice with Derbys that my skin gets a bit chaffed. Not sliced, not knicked, but chaffed, like someone rubbed sandpaper across my cheeks. This is a result of their dullness. Duller blades are a trade-off, as are sharp blades. When the edge is too mild, the shave might be safer, but the wrist does a subconscious trick, and sends the blade angle closer to ninety degrees than it would if the follicles were shorn with more ease. The end result is skin well shorn, with little visible irritation, but with more long-term, delayed irritation, which is a dramatically negative sensation. After a few shaves like that, I develop redness, patches of rash-like irritation that linger for weeks, which aren't easily assuaged by menthol or balms.

When a Derby shave goes well, it's usually because (A), I softened my hairs prior, or (B), I allowed for an extra day or two of growth. Hard to say why, but when my hairs are longer, Derbys work better. They cut closer, and rarely leave irritation. In these cases, I'm happy to follow up with some Old Spice, particularly Indian OS, or Pinaud Virgin Island Bay Rum, mainly because I can afford the burn. A perfect shave happens maybe once out of every five shaves, and in that case it's almost like I never touched my face with metal at all. It's the aftershave that reminds me.

Still, shaving with just one blade (and following it with just one aftershave, for that matter) is a bad idea. My skin has a mind of its own, and it "learns" what I'm doing. After a month or two of the same routine, it suddenly doesn't matter how carefully I go about things - my skin will begin to rebel. I'm not sure why this happens. My best guess is that its chemistry adapts, and begins to institutionalize against external conditions, which is to say that it registers a uniform treatment despite changing weather, humidity, seasons, etc., and thus has adverse reactions.

When this happens, I'm reminded that it's time to change things up a little, although not by much. When I'm repeatedly reaching for Skin Bracer or Osage Rub, it's time to reevaluate what I'm doing. My second razor of choice is Astra Superior Platinum, which is a more well regarded blade in the community. ASPs are sharper than Derbys, are better made (straighter lines, fewer defects, a good Russian blade), and are arguably more versatile. Astras are more agile after two or three days growth, but they're a blade of precision customization. They're easy to use, but easier if you have the right kind of razor. The Gillette is perfect, it has a fairly narrow comb with just enough metal exposed, perfect balance, and no aggressive stroke risk, unless you're a real novice who thinks he has to karate chop his jowls apart.

The plus side to Astras is their quality - overall, these are well made and effective blades. It's hard to find fault with how the factory is churning them out. Derbys are also decently made, but occasionally (maybe in one out of ten shaves) I get one with an uneven edge, the slightest depression in the metal, or a slightly crooked edging, and that can add to whatever irritation I'm at risk for. This risk is lessened when I use Astras - I can't think of a single time I've encountered a noticeable defect, although I do notice that they warp easier than Derbys.

Warping blades isn't a "thing" per say, but it is for me. That's because I tend to leave a blade in the razor for a day or two after using it, or put it in the razor a day before the shave, thinking I'm going to use it sooner. By the time I get to it, the metal has bent ever so slightly under the pressure of the three piece Gillette, and that can be no big deal, or it can yield some surprises, depending on hair length. I've had instances where Astras were warped a little too flush to the comb plate, rendering its cutting power virtually useless. It's something to watch out for.

Which blade do I prefer? If I had to choose, I'd say I prefer the Astras. I like Derbys, and still use them, and probably always will use them, but Astras are a better default, and in the last year or so, I've switched from using Derby to using Astra as my default blade. I'll never return to Gillette or Feather, although I certainly wouldn't object to the occasional Gillette in a pinch (they're overrated in my opinion), and Feathers are, well, Feathers. No use mincing words. The blade has already minced them for me.

The toggle between the two blades keeps my skin from getting too institutionalized into a learned routine, and for every six or seven Astra shaves, I can get a couple of Derby shaves in, and find little to no irritation in that pattern.

If you're a novice, just starting out in the world of wet shaving, and you've chosen your first DE razor, my advice is this: try the sharpest blade first. This might be something like a Feather, Gillette Seven O'Clock SharpEdge, or Wilkinson Sword for you, or it could be another brand, depending on where you live, but if it has a reputation for being aggressive and tough to use, all the better. You'll develop a sense of the physicality of shaving, and the feedback you get with your styptic will be a postgame rundown of what went wrong. It'll be a few months of ugliness and pain (your face will persistently resemble a Papa John's stuffed crust pepperoni pie), but when you feel like you've mastered the hardest blade, you'll have earned the way to more comfortable blades, and you'll have developed, on a subconscious level, a set of skills for minimizing the nefarious pitfalls of duller blades.

Why not start with milder blades, you ask? Sure, go ahead. But the issues with milder blades are exactly like what I've described with my Derbys - they're sneakier, latent, harder to correct if you're new and don't know the angles - literally. My experience with post-shave pain has consistently been that delayed razor burn, rashes, and chronic irritation are far worse than getting cut by a super sharp blade. Cuts and knicks hurt like hell, but the pain fades fast, and styptic takes care of the rest. So really, start with the hard stuff, and then work your way to something friendlier. You won't regret it.


11/14/18

"Outdated" vs. "Dated" Fragrances


Is the telephone outdated? Not in the least.

In a recent basenotes thread, the OP pondered Habit Rouge, and wondered if fragrances of its ilk are truly "dated." The general consensus was that fragrance appreciation is mostly subjective, and the conceptualization of something "dated" could apply within this broad framework, if one looks closely enough at it.

As I perused the responses, I noticed that no one made the rather important distinction between "dated" and "outdated." This tends to happen frequently whenever I discuss classic fragrances, especially masculines. Recently a faithful and valued reader challenged my attribution of the word "dated" to Zino, and wrote at great length that by today's niche-friendly standards, something like Zino is merely ahead of its time. I concur wholeheartedly, but admit that describing something as lovely as Zino in such a succinct way can lead to misinterpretations of my words, and my definitions.

There is also a greater danger. If fragrance appreciation is to be considered entirely subjective, then definitions become meaningless, and we begin to head down the road of misunderstanding how perfume fits into the endless narrative of our history. Take telephones, for example. Can we view the telephone from a purely subjective standpoint and say that whatever charms your average landline telephone hold are whatever you make of them? Or can we objectively identify a difference between contemporary cell phones and antique rotary dials?

If you ask me whether telephones are "outdated," my answer would be surface-level negative. Smart phones are technically telephones, and therefore the concept of the telephone isn't "outdated," because we still need telephones, and still use them. But ask me if a Northern Electric Company candlestick telephone, like the one on my desk, is "outdated," and you'll get a much different answer.

The same applies to fragrances. Zino is "dated." It smells like a direct ancestor of Brut, adjusted to suit 1980s fashions. It also smells like a fragrance that spawned a zillion other fragrances, which means it has its own lineage. (It's similar to people that way.) The fact that contemporary niche frags, which are full of ambery, woody, animalic, tobacco-inspired, "smoky" notes, smell right at home next to Zino, speaks to a return to the sensibilities that introduced this template in the first place, which also makes contemporary niche frags susceptible to being labeled as "dated."

But it is these very contemporary niche frags that insulate Zino from being "outdated." Like I said, Zino is related to Brut, but is an updated, improved, and ultimately more successful iteration of that which Brut represents: the quintessential ambery fougere. Nothing has superseded Zino in excellence, but many have imitated and expanded upon it. So if Zino is "dated" but not "outdated," what does that make Brut? Wait for it . . . . Wait for it . . .

Yeah, Brut is "outdated." Make no mistake, it's still relevant, it's still wonderful, it's still fun to wear, and it's still entirely wearable, and it even garners sincere compliments from women (I got one not long ago), but if we refer to Brut, we are referring to a fragrance that has been eclipsed and contextualized firmly within its time period, the mid 1960s. Another fragrance that is "outdated" is Jovan Musk for Men. One can enjoy MfM, one can love MfM, one can wear MfM til the cows come home, but in the end, it represents a time when sweet, somewhat acrid and animalic musks were all the rage. Fortunately, they are no longer the rage.

Now, if you were to present me with something cast from the Musk for Men mould, perhaps something like Ungaro Pour L'Homme II, and tell me II is "outdated" by whatever standard you hold, that's fine, but I would vehemently disagree. Despite its being rich with synthetic musks (not the least of which is a hearty dollop of Civetone), and cast in the bourbon-barreled style of the late 1980s, I would merely refer to it as "dated," and even go so far as to suggest that it's barely that.

Ungaro Pour L'Homme II represents that rarest of rarities in the masculine canon - an endpoint to a specific evolution. The species in question? Guerlain's Jicky (in the abstract); Pierre Cardin Pour Monsieur (for practical discussion). From Jovan Sex Appeal, we trace a handful of similar ambery fougerientals, until we reach the sleekest, most efficient, and most impressive creation, with the biggest budget, and with the biggest contemporary designer brand behind God's curtain (Chanel). Though it smells of a bygone era, and elicits nostalgia, II is still viable as a contemporary creation by dint of its never being surpassed.

And so I say to those who fear these terms, fear not. Greatness, cultural relevance, and lineage all factor into how these things are defined. We can inhale Mitsouko and consider it "dated," a thing of postwar decadence, but we can also consider it eminently viable as a contemporary fragrance (although this is arguable). We can do the same with something like Zino, probably with greater ease, despite its age, simply by considering what Zino is - a great fragrance. And Habit Rouge can also sustain the ironic considerations of those who appreciate its time period, without needing to relive its time while wearing it.


10/25/18

Unplanned Obsolescence: Do Millennials Lack the Attention Span For Perfume?


A suitable replacement for any Creed.


I recently read an article by Sarah Wu on Glamour.com, entitled "I Replaced My $215 Perfume With This $6 Body Wash," and it intrigued me.

Sarah writes:
"Twenty seconds into trying on my first perfume (the classic, spicy Paloma Piccaso), I got bored and proceeded to add a few generous spritzes of Bath & Body Works Cucumber Melon . . . I wear something different almost every day, flitting between bottles as often as my mood changes (aided largely by magazine testers, blogger swaps, and free samples from department stores)."
When I read this, I had to rub my eyes and reread it twice before believing what was actually on my screen. Paloma Piccaso couldn't even hold her attention for twenty seconds? Twenty seconds??

It surprised me for two reasons, the first being that it suggests our attention spans have become so poor that we can't even maintain interest in our own personal fragrance, which presumably has ever-changing top, middle, and basenotes. It also reminded me of my ex, who was given to "layering" perfumes, and randomly spraying new ones, often blending cheap body mists with pricier fare.

It now makes sense why she did that: she was bored. In the age of iPhones and apps, social media immersion, and the Internet of Things, we are officially becoming the insipid children of tomorrow, in an age when everyone, in chronic fits of technological withdrawal, seeks stimuli so forced, detached, and fleeting, that worldly pleasures no longer satisfy even brief moments of exhaustion.

Sarah apparently fell in love with Grand Soir by Maison Francis Kurkdjian, but when it was confiscated at an airport on her way to a country where it was unavailable, she discovered Dove Cream Oil Intensive Body Lotion, and felt that the soft, vanilla skin scent of that stuff was an excellent substitute.

This is a very strange thing to say. This isn't the same as someone saying their interest in niche perfume has been diverted to a greater interest in cheap drugstore lotions. It's not like saying that well-crafted perfumes are no longer your taste. It isn't even saying that a lifestyle change necessitated such a bizarre substitution; in the age of the interenet, we no longer need to worry about sourcing products, as any online merchant can ship them directly to us.

No, what Ms. Wu is saying is that she enjoyed the ambiance of the Dove cream enough to not miss, or even long for, Grand Soir. She is essentially saying that she doesn't see the need to ever purchase Grand Soir again, thanks to Dove. Now, if she had said this in an intellectual vacuum, where this topic alone was addressed, I would understand. But with the paragraph quoted above preceding her story, I can't help but think that Sarah Wu can't sustain interest in a luxury perfume, and thus prefers an almost undetectable skin scent lotion, upon which she can parade a myriad of different scents.

If I ever said I'd replace my Green Irish Tweed with Nivea Men aftershave lotion, because it's green and fresh enough to always make me smile, I'd ask you to take me to the emergency room.

Sarah's article fills me with despair. On her embarrassingly pathetic twenty second trajectory, we are headed for a different world, with a different kind of perfume. Instead of having perfumes as individual scents with legible drydowns, the future will bring us perfumes marketed as chameleons, strange creatures that are labeled as being "3-in-1" scents, each drydown phase so disparate from the others that they will save wearers the trouble of layering, or changing scents mid-day. It is conceivable that the young woman of tomorrow will purchase something like a "summer mélange mist," with top drydown of lime and coconut, middle drydown of watermelon and sea salt, and base drydown of lemon, grapefruit, and cherry blossom.

Each drydown will happen abruptly, spaced out by two hours, and in the course of six hours, the young lady will have worn the equivalent of three distinct perfumes, after only applying one. The old rules of citrus and aromatic top notes burning off and leaving a sturdy base of woody florals and musks will no longer apply, as new (and some not so new) advancements in technology will enable perfumers to attach formerly transient accords to late phases of wear. And instead of each drydown phase assembling into one beautiful composition, their transitions will intentionally diverge in character and tonality, stark enough to leave no trace of a single preceding note.

While this may sound like a good idea to some, I fear it would mark the beginning of a dire age. Imagine a world where people have so little attention and patience that they can't even bear the thought of wearing one perfume all day? What else would they have no time for? Reading a book? Watching a movie? Having a conversation? Eating a meal at the dinner table? Answering childrens' questions about life? Having a single original thought?

I keep waiting for the day when it will become obvious that technology is synonymous with progress, but after a lifetime, I'm still waiting.


10/12/18

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


Oh, It's You Again.

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

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

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

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

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

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


10/7/18

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


New and Improved Package, New and Improved Contents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What more needs to be said?


9/29/18

Is Caesars Man Worth Big Bucks On Ebay?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


9/22/18

A Tale of Two Bay Rums

Guess which one sucks.

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

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

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

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


9/10/18

Irisch Moos Eau de Toilette (Mäurer & Wirtz)



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

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

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

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

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



8/31/18

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



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

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

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

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



8/16/18

Summer Vacation Report, 2018


My kitchen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


8/6/18

Norwegian Wood (Kanøn)



I recall a post about Grey Flannel a few years back, in which I commented about its use of alpha-isomethyl ionone, and how it resembles Indian sandalwood when skillfully blended with similar materials. I have a-ionone in isolation, and can report that at one percent concentration, it smells of wood with a hint of violet flower. There is little doubt that jugs of the stuff resides in a large number of masculine frags produced over the last forty years.

Norwegian Wood gets some buzz online for smelling of "sandalwood." A number of basenotes, fragrantica, and YouTube reviews mention a heavy sandalwood essence. Having worn the fragrance for a day, my take is far simpler: this is a pretty spare and uneventful a-ionone scent, and it is almost completely linear. Aside from a pinch of black pepper on top, and a drop of vanilla down below, there's nothing else to it. Pretty disappointing, especially since it barely projects (I might be anosmic to it, actually), and seems to last ten minutes on my skin.

Despite Shamu's glowing review on his Pour Monsieur blog, and some chatter about it on B&B, I don't think Norwegian Wood deserves any attention. It's priced at $29 for 100ml on Palm Beach Beaute's web site, which is a complete joke, and even at six dollars on discount shelves, it's a rip-off for anyone intending to use it as an EDT. On the plus side, it's a worthy alternative to English Leather aftershave (also an a-ionone bomb), which is where I think this one excels. Still, with Skin Bracer out there, you could do better. This frag is the definition of dull.


7/25/18

The Nature of Manipulated Markets, Badger & Blade Gets Touchy, and the Interesting Idea of "Category Over Content"


So many close shaves.

One of the best things about having a blog is that it almost doesn't matter what you write - you're bound to piss somebody off. As an amateur fragrance writer, I'm entrenched in the fragrance world, without actually having to fight on the front lines. I'm not being paid by Fragrantica or some larger publishing organization, so I'm free to shake off the philosophies and ideologies of others, and instead write exactly what I think and feel. The down-side to this is that not everybody who visits From Pyrgos actually reads what I've written, which leads to misinterpretations of my posts, which leads to other problems.

But before getting too deeply into that, I thought I'd mention a recent thread on basenotes entitled "Carven Homme price gouging on eBay?" (And by the way, I'm not linking to anything in this post: I'm writing it on an iPad.) I have a few thoughts on the content of this thread. The OP writes that he sought a backup bottle of Carven Homme, which he purchased for thirty dollars, but comments that most of the stock on eBay was fifty dollars or more, with some bottles priced over one hundred. He asks if this is normal, or if he searched incorrectly.

This leads to a response by a member named "Zealot Crusader," who writes:
"There are 2 kinds of perfume sellers on eBay:
-Folks looking to offload stock . . . they'll sell at a fair price . . .
-Folks who know the zeal and sometimes deep pockets of fanatical perfumistas/collectors (especially vintage). They'll price as high as possible and just sit . . . They even end and relist higher if everyone else marks up or cancel/refund/relist auctions or use shill bids to get what they want. The predatory side of capitalism for sure."
I have been writing about this to varying degrees over the years, and it sums up the picture pretty well to me. It's almost impossible to cogently argue against this framing of eBay fragrance sales. Anyone who has dealt with sellers knows the "two kinds" that populate the site. I've encountered fair sellers who will answer any question and even offer samples if your knowledge of the product contradicts their listing details. Then there are the jerks who think a bottle of Jules by Dior is worth $300. Yeah . . . no.

But as long as basenotes exists, there will be members who can't handle an accurate summation of this sort of thing. Enter member "richfisher6969," who retorts:
"That's a very one-sided and biased opinion of capitalism (what America is all about) and on some eBay sellers. First, the eBay sellers are not charity. Nobody is putting a gun to your head to purchase any of their items. Why wouldn't they raise the price an additional $20 if the market dictates? . . . Sellers have to deal with crazy eBay selling fees, shipping/handling costs, post office fees and losses, flakey buyers who only have to scream the word "fake" and they get their item for free, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention they have to sit on their stock and absorb all that cost upfront . . . If a seller wants to sell vintage/discontinued items for $1000 and someone out there wants to buy it, God bless them . . . "
Here we have someone who begins his argument by singing an anthem about the wonders of capitalism, yet he immediately follows it with a litany of complaints about capitalism, the thrust of his point being that people should just accept ridiculous prices and market manipulation, because selling stuff is hard, though apparently there's an ass for every seat. This was written without even the faintest twinge of irony. Amazing.

He then adds an anecdote about selling a wallet for $400, even though he bought it on clearance for $50, and pisssed off the buyer by stuffing the clearance tag in the product when he shipped it. Again . . . no. Just, no. That isn't how capitalism works. Markets aren't created by speculators who hope suckers will come along and validate extortionate prices. That isn't what happens in the real world, and it isn't even what happens on eBay, but nice try to "richfisher6969" for making his case, and then using himself as an example of who "Zealot Crusader" was referring to when he described the type of eBay seller everyone should beware of.

This brings me to Badger & Blade, and another recent thread. I won't detail the thread here, because B&B is a relatively small community, and its members know the thread I'm referring to (it's under the "Fragrances" category, and asks if you're guilty of wearing "cheap" wetshaver scents).

I will simply sum up the gist of the thread. It started out as a fairly neutral topic, with the OP addressing "A Note To Newbies," which I wrote in August of 2016. In that post, I basically stated that newcomers to the fragrance world should keep an open mind, and not limit themselves to what they know. I used members of B&B as a very broadly stated example of what not to do if you're new to fragrance, and wrote:
"Another danger is what I call 'collection confirmation bias.' You have a fully formed opinion of a certain type of fragrance, and only partially formed opinions of others, and your collection is limited to your bias, and you automatically assume you smell terrific. Chances are only 50/50 that you're right. I see this all the time on Badger & Blade. That community is full of guys who collect cheaper 'wetshaver' fragrances . . . Many of these fellows wear this stuff exclusively, and they think they smell terrific. But do others agree? With such a limited range in their collections, it's likely they appeal to other people half of the time, and the other half they're actually annoying everyone around them. They've stopped on the one kind of fragrance they enjoy, and failed to diversify. A stopped clock is only right twice a day."
Now, had this been read ten years ago, my point would have been well taken on B&B. Back then the forum was almost exclusively older gentlemen in their fifties and sixties, and they had an unvarnished sense of collective self deprecation. But today, it was a bit of a flameout. Some members took my point in stride, having completely read it. Others just scanned a couple lines of interest, took offense, and contended that I was myopic, a "bell end," and completely off the mark.

To clarify for the slightly touchy members of B&B, my point was not that wearing wetshaver cheapies is a bad idea. My point was that wearing one kind of thing all the time is pretty evenly good and bad. By just wearing Pens Blenheim Bouquet, Florida Water, and Floid, you're appealing to an older set, and probably annoying anyone under thirty. That's more a reflection on the character (or lack thereof) of the millions of twenty-somethings out there, but it doesn't change the fact that you've limited your appeal. By wearing one category of fragrance on Monday, another on Tuesday, and so on, you increase your odds of having a positive impact on a broader range of people. The person who dislikes your Monday scent may love your Tuesday scent, and their love for your Tuesday scent may make them rethink your Monday scent. In short, treat your fragrance collection like a financial portfolio, and diversify.

If I'm going to start categorizing scents by the days of the week, I may as well wrap things up by mentioning some blowback I've received from my criticism of the new 2018 Guide. One guy on basenotes asked (rather rhetorically, and I'm paraphrasing), "Can you imagine how pissed people would be in 2018 if they released a book about scents from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s?" The general idea is that, as an enthusiast, I've subjectively prioritized the category of vintage classics over the content of the Guide. In other words, peppering in a few classics is ok, but publishing a guide about contemporary niche is more useful.

This is a legitimate argument. I would respond by asking, if niche is what really matters in 2018, why are only rich people wearing it? Why are 85% of the general public in North America and Europe wearing designer and classic designer frags? Why are only a small percentage of the general population interested in mainstream niche, like Creed, while an even smaller number possess the wealth to invest in large collections of obscure niche and indie bottles, each averaging $60 - $100 an ounce?

Turin recently commented that he thinks the original Guide has been discontinued. This is dismaying, and challenges the notion that any official "guide" for fragrance is useful. Still, an illustrated guide of at least one hundred masculine fragrances from the twentieth century might have a large, cross-generational audience.


7/18/18

Pino Silvestre Original (2018, Parfums Mavive)



Whenever a fragrance is reformulated, I ask myself, what changed? Presumably a reformulation is indicative of a scent being altered somehow. With Pino Silvestre, I was interested in whether its pine and honey notes had retained their calibration, and whether its drydown had been edited, or expanded. My experience with early 2000s vintage was mixed. It yielded wonderfully lucid Christmas tree pine notes, followed rapidly by a salubrious honeyed amber, but longevity clocked in at a meager ninety minutes, even with excessive application.

The 2018 formula of Pino Silvestre reveals a few significant changes. First, the top notes are slightly different. Parfums Mavive did something I rarely encounter in this business - they added notes. Vintage was mainly an intense blast of lemon, lavender, basil, geranium, and mint. These notes dazzled my nose with their brightness, and almost instantaneously coalesced into a clear analog of natural Scots Pine. New Pino adds dihydromyrcenol and cedar, which achieves a contrasting effect, illuminating the green notes, and dilating a generous swath of cool shade. Unlike earlier iterations, the fragrance now embarks on a distinctly woodier path. Pino Silvestre is my favorite postwar Italian barbershop fern because its accords are harmonious in ways that evoke nature, and not men's cologne. Parfums Mavive upheld that tradition here.

The other change I noticed is the removal of honey. They took a risk and switched the honeyed amber of vintage with a hay-like woody amber of mostly coumarin and cedar. The overall result is a fragrance with immensely improved longevity and presence. Instead of ninety minutes, I now get seven hours out of Pino Silvestre. Its pine aspect never really disappears, and its base is now a distinct woody amber with aromatic nuances. I can't express how much I love this fragrance. It's on par with Grey Flannel and Original Vetiver as one of the best "green" fragrances I've ever smelled.



7/9/18

Recognizing Faces (Part Two): How Youtube and Fragrance Guides Compete For Relevance While Leaving Classic Masculines In The Dust


'TV Static Screenshot 2' by Justin March at www.justinmarch.com

Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez have authored a new 2018 perfume guide, and having read the preview, I can say that it's as good as their first book. Meanwhile on Youtube, "MrSmelly1977" has offered a list of his "Top 5 Discontinued Fragrances." I won't ruin his video for you by revealing which frags he's listed, but hint, hint: a few are masculines by largely forgotten brands, frags that were on shelves over twenty years ago.

I have a few complaints, though. Let me preface them by telling you a little about myself. Look, I'm not a sensible guy. I have a very unusual habit. I tend to pick favorites in life, and then return to them in lieu of trying new things. This extends to many interests, especially fragrances and movies. With film, it's quite maddening to people. They'll ask me what I want to watch. They'll have extensive libraries of movies from the last five or ten years, they'll ask if I've seen any of them, and I'll say, "No, but why don't we watch Lovers Like Us?" Which is something I've seen about fifty times.

Turin and Sanchez's new guide is a little like my friends' movie collections. It's chock full of new. Which means it's chock full of fragrances I have no desire to try. If I did try a few dozen of them, I'd probably wind up buying a bottle of Lapidus Pour Homme afterward. These frags boast all the latest special effects in olfactory technology. Many are "smoky," or "oud," or esoteric picks from established lines like Acqua di Parma or Guerlain. Yet Sanchez writes of department stores, "the luxury floor has been having a hard time." Really? Doesn't look that way to me. Reference the ever-growing catalogue of Acqua di Parma and Guerlain. As usual, there's a logical disconnect between what I see and what they write in their book. Sure, the grey market has stumped Creed, Caron, and Guerlain (you can get Mitsouko far cheaper on Fragrancenet), but that hasn't really hurt them, unless the "La Petite Robe Noir" line is indicative of "a hard time."

An interesting thing that T&S do is discuss the historical arc of perfumery as a type of evolution, as if perfumes are biological species that have either gone extinct, or evolved into something new. The implication is that many (or most) twentieth century fragrances have failed to evolve, have been overtaken by newer and bolder predators, and have gone the way of the dinosaurs. Is this analogy fair? Have Lacoste's and Bogart's eponymous masculines been killed off and fossilized by brands like Maison Violet and Aedes de Venustas? If so, why? More to the point, why in all these years has nobody published an incisive historical analysis of the most interesting kind of perfume, the postwar masculine?

According to Sanchez, new frags don't have complex, enduring drydowns, and don't possess the complexity of bygone classics, yet many attempt to replicate the same smoky, spicy, woody, and musky scent profiles of their predecessors. Doesn't that make them inferior? Doesn't that make the superlative craftsmanship of a $10 fragrance like Halston Z14 more interesting than a $165 fragrance by Le Galion? I'm not sure why I should bother with any of these new niche scents. By omitting any expression of love for classic masculines, yet showing a lukewarm interest in frags that attempt to replicate them, I wonder if Turin and Sanchez wrote the wrong kind of guide.

My main complaint is that very few of the fragrances in the new guide are things I've ever heard of before. Turin is turgid about his love for "smoky" fragrances, "spicy" fragrances, things rich in "drydowns" and "soft, balsamic-salicylate" accords, which is all fine and well. But there's an irony here. Despite his proclivity for rich, woody, floral, and smoky frags, Turin appears to have little interest in reviewing classic twentieth century masculines from the golden era of the 1950s to the 1980s, frags that actually smelled rich, woody, etc. Rather than discuss classic gems like Acqua di Selva, Pino Silvestre, the first Davidoff scent, Oscar de la Renta Pour Lui, Jaguar for Men, Sung Homme, and hundreds of others, he would rather ponder fragrances that often cost far more money for the same effect, and which hold little interest for me.

I'm not alone; many guys share my taste. We populate the fragrance boards and tirelessly explore vintage beauties, things like the Ungaro series, tobacco frags like Vermeil and Havana, fougeres like Tsar, the Aramis line, Boss, No. 1, and any Bogart scent released before 1995. We know many of these fragrances by heart, and we continue to wear them, yet we hunger for a respected author like Turin to acknowledge their mark in the annals of history, and "guide" us through his opinions of them. Many are still available, inexpensive, and well made. Many embody the same qualities as the scores of brand new niche frags reviewed in the new guide. Yet there is no love for any of them. They are considered "cigar box" by Turin, as he wrote of them ten years ago.

So instead of reading the guide, I turn to Youtube. Oh Christ, Youtube. As I mentioned earlier, guys like Chris at "Scent Land," Dan, and Lex Ellis are still talking about classic masculines. But they're not the majority. I mean, that's ok, I totally get it. Times have changed. It's not 1989 anymore. We're living in the post designer, post niche, postmodern era. Obscure Italian companies are buying up niche lines, and in a manner not unlike the mega designer conglomerates of yesteryear, they're distributing them under umbrella licenses across Europe and select parts of North America. These fragrances often cost around $180 a bottle, sometimes over $200, and in fewer cases over $300. Many are true niche, smelling of very specific notes with intensity and attention to detail, but many others are just smelling like rehashes of vintage greats, without oakmoss and coumarin to fix the drydowns into "beastmode" territory.

These fragrances are expensive, have little to no legacy beyond a one or two year existence, and they're often discontinued before any real loyalty for them can form. This doesn't stop Youtubers from going on and on about them. Problem is, none of these frags interest me. And the new designer stuff they're talking about? Really don't care either. I don't care about Alien Man. I don't care about Parfums de Marly. I don't care about Xerjoff. I've been spending the summer meditating on midcentury fresh fougeres like Acqua di Selva and Pino Silvestre, which I just bought a new bottle of (updated review pending). I've been spending the last three weeks obsessing over Italian barbershop fragrances like Silvestre by Victor. I'd love for Youtubers to devote hours to these kinds of frags on their channels, but almost no one bothers with them.

If you asked me who has more cache online, Turin and Sanchez or Youtubers, I'd have to give it to T&S. Despite floating in a lake of olfactory obscurity, they are talking about fragrances that resemble the classics I've written about here. The fact that these new fragrances are judged against a hulking skein of multicolored and endlessly layered historical threads is what draws readers by the millions to their guide.

Youtube comes in a distant second place. I'm not interested in dupes of new Creed frags. I'm not deeply invested in "Top Five" lists. Someone needs to stop and breathe, and pull out a bottle of something by Parfums Mavive, or Antonio Puig, and wax poetic about it for fifteen minutes, while exhaustively discussing the fragrance's history, and offering new information, things never before disseminated to the public. Someone needs to have a channel with researched content, worthy of NPR programming, a kind of documentary series. Someone needs to stop leaving classic masculines in the dust.


6/27/18

Acqua di Selva (Visconti di Modrone)


Pine for the past.

Even if you're unfamiliar with Acqua di Selva, a quick glance at the ever-informative H&R Genealogie chart explains its characteristics with near perfect accuracy, sandwiching it neatly between Silvestre by Victor (1946), and Pino Silvestre by Vidal (1955). That's the "Italian Barbershop" section of the chart, a place where midcentury Mediterranean EdCs enjoyed a quiet little Rennaissance.

Acqua di Selva was introduced in 1949, and soon afterward became an archetypical 1950s masculine accoutrement, symbolizing post-war affluence, and the open-collared ease of the mad men era. How does it smell? The short answer is, it smells like pine. Italian colognes tend to smell like pine, usually garnished to varying degrees with kitchen herbs and lemon oil. Pino Silvestre is arguably the best of these earthy fresh fougeres, a bracing slug of sharp citrus and cedar that coalesces into a photorealistic rendition of pine needles and moist sap. I believe Acqua di Selva was its inspiration; Victor's version of this theme was minty, with significantly more lemon and oakmoss, and it has been well preserved by Visconti di Modrone's reformulation. You can occasionally find vintage Victor AdS on EBay and in shops, but I see no reason to embark on that quest. The new stuff smells right.

What makes this fragrance "barbershop?" In my opinion, the composition says it all. When I sniff its top notes, I recognize a familiar interplay between camphoraceous peppermint, lemon, and lavender, and am immediately reminded of vintage Aqua Velva Ice Blue, a minty herbaceous chypre from a few years earlier. This arrangement segues rapidly into a darker, mossier heart, and from there the pine, oakmoss, vetiver, and subtle shimmers of indistinct herbs recall shave soaps and talc, smelling green, dry, and natural, an effortless expression of manliness. Within two hours the whole affair rustles down to a toasted tobacco and oakmoss accord, like unlit pure tobacco cigarettes with a healthy dose of menthol in their filters. The man who shaves with AdS aftershave and applies the EdC afterward is essentially declaring to the world that his "dadness" is inspired by David Niven.

My only complaint, and it isn't mine alone, is that Acqua di Selva doesn't last as long as I'd like it to. I get one hour out of it before it fades down to a skin scent, and even sweat doesn't do much to reactivate it. Many guys complain about this. The truth is, it's a testament to the naturalness of the composition. These old Italian colognes were well made, and still are. They tend to use lucid materials, and there's precious little confusion over what the perfumer meant to say. There is no detectable synthetic musk molecule to help the scent drone on for hours, just a diluted composition of citrus, terpenes, and real oakmoss.

An added perk: my bottle may or may not be defective - the atomizer unscrews and lifts out, leaving an old-school splash. So the longevity issue has an upside, as it can be splashed liberally to double as an aftershave.


6/17/18

Rant: P&G Takes Shortcuts With Nonsensical 80th Anniversary Old Spice Products


A Sad Joke.

It's pretty galling to think that after eighty years of Old Spice's existence on the world market, the best Proctor & Gamble could do to celebrate its anniversary was a minor tweak of the labels for limited edition deodorants and body washes. On its website, they state:
"[The] 80th Anniversary scent smells like 80 years of crisp, clean awesomeness."
Yeah, ok. Great grammar. Apparently they couldn't even be bothered to check the copy editing on their own site. But more importantly, after eight decades of providing a legendary oriental masculine to millions of wet shavers everywhere, and about fifteen years after switching the cologne and aftershave bottles from Egyptian ceramic to plastic, my question is, that's it? No limited edition Egyptian ceramic commemorative "retro" bottle? No brief return to the classicism that made this scent an icon? Not even an attempt to advertise the anniversary beyond a quiet product list on the site? What the hell is going on over there?

I have a theory as to what happened, and it doesn't bode well for anyone under the age of 35. I'm looking at you, Millennials. It's clear you have invaded American industry. You were born in the late 1980s and 1990s, and you were raised on TV, computers, cell phones, and the Internet. You have a "Swipe Left" mentality about literally everything you encounter. You're soft, you're weak, you're pretty stupid (most of you couldn't find Brazil on a globe), but you grew up entitled. Your parents told you that you were wonderful, that you could do anything you wanted to, that you could change the world, because you are special.

And as you moved through the 2000s, your middle school and high school years, you gradually began permeating American culture. It started sometime after The Matrix, but before Avatar, roughly the time Obama was elected, that you took positions of power in the manufacturing sector, and suddenly everything really started going to shit. Pop music, movies, clothing styles, furniture styles, cars, and fragrances all started looking cheap and undesirable. The Millennial mindset - a short attention span, an unwillingness to read books and learn, a self-esteem fueled binge of crude postmodernist creativity - began rendering everything, even simple things like aftershave, as less than they were before.

I would wager that whoever is in charge of the budget for the North American Old Spice Classic division at P&G is under the age of 35, a Millennial, and I'd also bet that he or she is pretty stupid. This person was likely raised to believe that their decisions are always worthy of praise, and therefore thinks their short-sighted decision to take shortcuts in the eightieth anniversary packaging of Old Spice was no big deal. Why should Old Spice fans expect anything to celebrate over?

I'm here to tell you, whoever you are: you really screwed up. You disappointed millions of loyal consumers who yearn for a return to the glass bottle, even if only for a few short weeks, and you made guys like me, born on the furthest fringe of the 1970s, wonder how his contemporaries could be so dumb. Do you think life is an App? Do you think that it's a great idea to end relationships when they begin to get challenging, when they begin to demand more of you and your precious time? Do you think it's a good thing that almost every other movie that comes out these days is from Marvel Studios, the least edifying movie culture phenomenon in the history of film? Do you look forward to the next Taylor Swift song, because you think pop music is fun?

Congratulations, you're a stupid Millennial, and if you're working at P&G, you probably have no appreciation for vintage Old Spice packaging, or for the long history of traditional celebrations that Old Spice has enjoyed over the last eight decades. That anyone over the age of forty who works for P&G would think that just going on Photoshop and revamping a pre-existing deodorant label was enough is nearly impossible to swallow. More likely some simple-minded moron who graduated from college in 2013 told the design department to just cut a new look on existing plastic, and called it a day.

Of course, I could be wrong about this. Maybe the design department and bean counters are all grizzled old guys in their fifties and sixties who just don't want to be bothered. But that wouldn't make much sense, would it? Guys that age would have more interest in reviving their own memories of a wonderful bygone era, when Old Spice was still popular among young men. A time when quality was looked upon as a source of pride in the manufacturing and commercial sectors, and high-grade materials mattered. They'd be cringing at the reality of their favorite cologne being packaged in plastic, and waiting for the day when they could justifiably break free of that financial constriction, even if only for a few weeks, and offer celebratory revival bottles on the anniversary of the product.

To the execs at P&G in charge of Old Spice, whoever you are, read this: your cheap, crappy shortcut approach to your flagship men's fragrance is embarrassing and unacceptable. I know you think it doesn't matter, because reasons, because this apparently forgotten "legacy brand" is just there to make you members of the nouveau rich, and everyone around you thinks you're wonderful anyway. But you're not wonderful, and you're not helping your bottom line, because had you spent a few million dollars and issued glass bottles of cologne and aftershave, you would have seen an incredible return on your investment. As it stands, you're seeing nothing, because you haven't offered this fragrance's faithful users anything at all.

Wise up. The 90th anniversary better be conceptualized by someone with an attention span significantly greater than that of a fruit fly. If you think manufacturing grey stoppers for 1930s styled ceramic bottles is a bad idea, you're a disgrace to the brand, and if I could, I'd fire you immediately. Would someone please create a startup page for an acquisition of P&G? I don't care if it takes you fifteen years to raise the capital; it's worth it. An icon like Old Spice deserves so much better. This nonsense needs to end.



6/3/18

Aqua Velva Musk (Combe Inc.)



Back in the late 1950s, Max Factor released a fragrance for men called Signature, and it smelled like a cross between Royal Copenhagen and Creed's Orange Spice, with the cheapness of the former subdued, and the richness of the latter abundant. Signature was "cheap" by 1950s standards. It was meant to be a fresh citrus musk oriental, and in lieu of real ambergris, it contained very potent, powdery aldehydes. But it also boasted several gorgeous nitro-musks, which undergirded the woody sweetness of orange and bergamot with a smooth, slightly animalic element.

Aqua Velva Musk reminds me of Signature, as a modernized version of it. The same basic structure is present: woody citrus, aldehydes, musk. But instead of powdery citrus richness, AVM offers a very taut, postmodern, reductionist approach. The citrus is neutered from fruit down to suggestive sweetness; powdery notes are just textural dessication; there is musk, but it's cheap skin musk, which Coty crated into the 1990s by the barrel. If Signature is the oil painting, AVM is the college dorm room poster, framed by a vintage-styled amber color to the fluid.

It makes me wonder if Aqua Velva Musk is actually the original Aqua Velva, released before Ice Blue took over the market. Has it simply been reissued as Musk? Given its similarities to a sixty year-old predecessor, I'm tempted to think this is the case. I also wonder if Olivier Creed considered American aftershaves (in addition to Kouros) when he hired Pierre Bourdon to make Orange Spice. It would explain why the Creed smells so disarmingly simple and versatile, as opposed to the complex masterpiece by YSL. All told, AVM is a very good offering, and worth checking out if you need another alcohol-based lotion with glycerin.



5/20/18

Recognizing Faces: How Youtube's Fragrance Culture Has Grown, Improved, Diversified, and Become Quite Crowded (Part One)


'TV Static Screenshot 1' by Justin March at www.justinmarch.com

Ten years ago, Youtube's fragrance community had room for improvement. Reviewer "Robes08" epitomized the drawbacks of amateur reviews, with blurry video, a long-winded delivery, and occasional lack of knowledge of what he was reviewing, sometimes fumbling info on release dates and notes. "BradW," or "bpwool," was arguably worse, offering short, low-res vids from his bedroom. "MyMickers" was so-so, worshipping Green Irish Tweed and hating Grey Flannel in the same breath. Remember "The Grey Flannel Challenge," which dozens of hair-gelled, inarticulate guys participated in? Yeah, that was all Dan. Thanks Dan.

I appreciate his enthusiasm, but watching a middle class guy with a family blow thousands of dollars on perfume is weird. Last but not least, "dracdoc" used to annoy me by frequently saying things like, "Really, the bottle is nothing impressive, or anything like that," and "It gets the job done." He fumbles for perfumers' names, talks with his hands, and has a very "low budget" approach.

These guys had something in common: they made me wonder why I should watch them. Why should I care? They're obviously just a few enthusiasts who enjoy fragrances, and they've taken the initiative to share their thoughts, but their chosen medium is video. Creating channels of blurry, unscripted videos is like attending a business meeting with bedhead and an untucked shirt. They're making a visual impression that is unpolished and uninteresting. Perhaps they could have been more helpful writing blogs, or just communicating their ideas in threads.

I think the limits to video technology that existed a decade ago are partially to blame for lackluster content from reviewers. Let's face it, even if you know what you're doing, it's hard to attract viewers with a channel in 360p. From 2013 onward, Youtube's digital video improved and became unerringly hi-def, giving more sophisticated content providers a means by which to showcase their wares.

It was around that time when the "Fragrancebros" caught my attention, and I enjoyed the silly banter between Daver and Jer (and now lament Jer's departure), and learned a few things from them. Unlike their predecessors, D&J knew they were being watched. They had scripted presentations with accurate corporate information about what they were reviewing, and could draw relevant comparisons between scents, brands, and fragrance categories. "Redolessence" has a well-enunciated delivery, and more importantly, screen charisma. His videos aren't perfect, and his collection is obviously a money pit, but unlike "MyMickers," I get the impression that he fully understands every fragrance in his collection. And Lex Ellis, a Scottish brawler with a comical tough guy attitude, injected some much needed sincerity with his unpretentious reviews and surprisingly well composed theme music.

The current crop of reviewers is, weirdly enough, more polarizing than anyone who came before them. They inhabit a spectrum of being truly entertaining, all the way down to being blatantly boring. The two that I feel are currently worthy of subscription are "MrSmelly1977" and "Brooklyn Fragrance Lover," for their humor and "refined casualness." What do I mean by that? They make it look like they're just a couple of guys with cameras pulling amateur hour, but it doesn't take long to realize that they're savvy about their productions. "Brooklyn Fragrance Lover" employs original piano themes and conveys accurate info, and "MrSmelly1977" has a succinct delivery that cuts right to the chase, and he peppers his reviews with sardonic jokes. His humor is clean, dry as a bone, and quintessentially British. More importantly, he appreciates vintage greats, things like Kouros and Paco Rabanne PH.

Other very good reviewers worthy of a look are "Simply Put Scents," "Gents Scents," and Tiff Benson. Emitsu of "Simply Put Scents" doesn't take himself too seriously, which makes me take him seriously. Production value of his videos is high, his knowledge of fragrance is quite good, and he isn't afraid to say when he dislikes something, nor does he shy away from criticizing the fragrance community. "Gents Scents" is just OK, but it's the high end of OK. Ash's channel is also called "The Binge," and it got a little confusing when he opted to diversify his subject matter with reviews of movies and video games. I understand his desire to cover other topics, but it detracts from his channel; I visit channels with a focus. If I want movie and game reviews, I go to "Cinemassacre" or Rob Ager, and I'm good. I don't need media content clouding what was solely a fragrance channel.

Tiff Benson has a great channel, and she definitely has a keen grasp of light and camera. Women tend to inject a more human tone into their reviews, and that extra layer of subjective thought is valuable when regarding perfume. Tiff's combination of sharp wisdom and technical know-how lends her channel that little extra quality I look for on Youtube.

I get a little worried about the state of Youtube when I consider other channels in the fragcom, however. There are a few contributors who have me wondering if we're seeing a bit of a Youtube cultural hiccup. Among them are "Jeremy Fragrance," "The Fragrance Apprentice," and "CubaKnow." Now, bear in mind that all of the channels I criticize in this post warrant viewing, but I don't think their contributions to the culture have been as successful as the other channels mentioned.

One example is "Jeremy Fragrance." Jeremy is an odd case. He started out as just another guy talking about fragrances, with a competent grasp of light and camera. Over the years he has changed into a true showman, often dressing in a tailored suit and featuring gorgeous women on both arms, and he has essentially made the viewing experience something of a farce. You're not visiting Jeremy's channel to learn about fragrances. You're visiting to ogle his girlfriends. Another demerit is his misuse of Patreon funds. Instead of putting the money entirely into his channel, he used some of it to lease a Ferrari, and then made a vid thanking his viewers for making the Ferrari possible. This is a head-scratcher.

"CubaKnow" is perhaps a personal gripe more than a true gauge of our culture, but I take issue with the language on that channel. Everything he likes is "sexy," and (insert expletive), and everything he dislikes is a series of disgusted faces with multiples of "no," and (insert expletive). I feel that "Cubaknow" likes the idea of being a fragrance reviewer, and enjoys being on camera, but doesn't have much to say about fragrances. I'm not even sure he knows anything, even basic things, about the fragrances he discusses. And maybe I'm old fashioned, but being called a "ballsack" by a nobody on Youtube makes me want to exit. That said, I'm fairly certain he wouldn't care if I tuned out, so I suppose it doesn't make any difference what I think of "Cubaknow." His channel isn't to my taste.

The channel that makes me wonder if the culture is truly on stilts is "The Fragrance Apprentice." I don't think this channel, or its creator, are bad. I think it has very good (and recently upgraded) production value, with some notable camera and editing skill. I think George is a good guy, and quite talented. I applaud that he goes on camera and braves the world of Youtube, and its endless torrent of weird and sometimes abusive comments. But his philosophy about the fragrance world, his views on "fragrance politics," and his understanding of fragrances makes his channel one of the hardest for me to watch.

I didn't appreciate his video on the reformulation of Halston Z14. He mischaracterized the fragrance, inaccurately described the reformulation, and suggested Z14 has been destroyed, when in truth it's doing just fine. I wonder if he knows that Z14 is a pioneer of Iso E Super, and always has been? This isn't some super-natural vintage that was transformed into synthetic dreck. It has always relied heavily on synthetics. He doesn't contextualize the fragrance in his critique, and acts like it's a gorgeous brunette who died tragically in a plane crash. Newsflash: this beauty is still alive.

There are some things about George's defense of "Jeremy Fragrance" that also give me pause. He has it all wrong. Aside from making a slew of excuses for someone of questionable character, he suggests that content providers should offer something new in their reviews, and that they should review new stuff, because, and I'm heavily paraphrasing here, "We all know about the IFRA, we all know about reformulations, and we don't need another review of Original Santal, we know it smells like Mont Blanc Individuel." I'm not attuned to the finer points of cultivating an internet video audience, but I think George misinterprets his relationship with his viewers, and misunderstands its potential.

George describes fragrance reviewing as though it were cable TV. The problem is, Youtube is the opposite of cable TV. I make this claim as a dedicated member of the audience. Instead of having to make do with whatever cable decides to broadcast, I can tell Youtube what I want to watch, and have it instantly. If, on a whim, I want to see what people think of Brut, I just type it in, and I have videos for days. Youtube is fueled by whims. There is no competition in the traditional sense, because there is no need to fight for airtime. You can be the most technically inept person on earth, and your videos will still be aired. It certainly doesn't take millions of dollars to create content. As long as you have a camera and a decent computer, you have a channel. Maintaining a channel will cost some money, true, but we're not talking anything close to "big budget" here.

When I visit channels, I'm visiting to see straightforward reviews that are competently shot, and well informed. Humor, extra production value, graphics, music, all of that is nice, but not necessary if the reviewer knows his frags. And you can't assume that there are too many videos about older fragrances, or that viewers "already know." There is an endless, cyclical, generational supply of viewers from hugely diverse backgrounds and experience levels who have never heard of a chypre or fougere, and they appreciate new video about those scents. To assume the world is full of potential viewers who already know about IFRA regs is rather silly. Believe me, outside of the very small world of obsessed fragheads, and a handful of more than casual observers, nobody knows the IFRA exists.

George also suggests that pedigree comes with being a good fragrance reviewer on Youtube, as if it's earned. But the reality is that it isn't earned at all. George's opinion is one of tens of millions available, and nobody earned it. That's the point of YouTube. It's about you, and you upload content because you want to. You didn't have to fight for it. It wasn't a struggle. I mentioned guys who barely tried, and guess what? I still watched their videos. They're not on TV; they didn't have "bad press" to stop me from "tuning in."

Is it a struggle to get one million subscribers? Sure, that's an accomplishment, and that can make you real money. But let's not pretend that having a million subscribers on Youtube makes you the Roger Ebert of the fragrance world. You didn't toil for decades in the syndicated newspaper business to make a name for yourself. You bought a camera and voluntarily offered content after coming home from your day job. This is what makes Youtube great, and exciting to watch, but it also makes it very different from watching a movie or regular TV. It's not a competitive landscape. It's an endless landscape. Every 24 hours, Youtube has 68 years worth of viewable content uploaded to its servers. Good luck competing in that arena.

Videos will always be available. They're not competing for time slots. And it's no biggie if nobody watches your video this year. Decades from now, you'll have at least a thousand views. That sounds like nothing, but you're part of something so large that it eludes human understanding, which makes you pretty amazing.