9/17/17

The Real Problem With Creed's New Fragrance



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They sent Daver a free bottle of Viking. That alone is proof that they want the hoi polloi to drool.

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

It would behoove others to quit acting like Creed is still an interesting brand. It has sold itself off to the donor class, and I no longer think it has the integrity to act as a star player in the niche realm. There has never been a better time than now to keep a Viking from our shores.


9/10/17

Shower Fresh (Clean For Men)




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

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

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



8/20/17

Body Kouros (Yves Saint Laurent)



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

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

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



7/2/17

Incredible Things (EA Fragrances)



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

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

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




6/3/17

What Kind Of Product Improves A Kiss?


"I'll send you a postcard."

In the quest for true love, many men aspire for exotic and expensive EDTs and perfumes, hoping that if their bodies smell like money, their girlfriends will melt in their arms. This is a worthy pursuit, and a good theory, but in practice there are some flaws.

It's true that a good fragrance will turn women on. Smelling like you just came off the farm is obviously a major no-no in 2017. And your body's odor reflects inarguably the quality of tenderness and care two people put into lovemaking. If you're disturbed or even disgusted by the other's smell, or if hygiene questions arise, that's trouble.

But perhaps less obvious to fragheads is what it means to smell romantic. What do two people do when they're in the mood? When they're not necessarily in the mood, but in a mood for closeness and a moment? They kiss! And that's when aftershave becomes a man's best friend. If his face smells good, then the kiss is something that draws her in on a few levels. I've had personal experience with this. The truth is that a clean-smelling face makes a woman want to kiss you longer, and the longer she wants to kiss you, the closer she feels to you. From that point you can pretty much explore other avenues of your relationship.

The best part about this is you don't have to smell expensive. Just smell good. Myrsol Formula K and Old Spice have been my two aftershaves of choice for the last few weeks, and the woman I'm seeing has noticed that and happily commended on it. I once wore Brut - she liked it. We're talking basic scents here. Mint, some lavender, some spiced powder. "You smell like baby powder," was her comment on Old Spice today, and when I told her it was just Old Spice, she laughed and said, "You always say that!" As if it smelled so much better than lowly Old Spice.

I'm skeptical in many ways of cheap aftershaves being used as SOTDs or hygiene substitutes. There are thousands of guys out there that think a few splashes of Florida Water and a cigar will attract women. I can say with total certainty that unless you prowl trailer parks, that's probably a bad plan. But if you put a little Florida Water on your cheeks and pair it with something like Versace L'Homme, you now have an invisible arsenal at your disposal, ready to weaken knees.

In the quest for true love, many men aspire for extravagance. Don't be that kind of guy. Just be yourself, and if you use aftershave (or scented balms) in your normal routine, don't change that for her. Continue it for her. It's a good thing.





5/21/17

Hot Spice (Arion Perfume & Beauty Inc.)



I did not expect to be writing this review, namely because I bought this fragrance at Dollar Tree for a whopping fifty cents an ounce. That's right - I bought a 2.5 oz cologne for $1. This is what people call a "dollar store scent." It is a dollar store scent. Why did I buy a dollar store scent? What could possess me to waste a dollar on an acrid, alcohol-scented piece of crap?

Well, for starters, I bought it based on how it smelled when I snuck a spray in the store. The plain grey box says, "compare to Spicebomb by Viktor & Rolf." I figured it would smell briefly like something in Spicebomb's ball park, perhaps for fifteen seconds, and then vanish into thin air. But it really doesn't smell anything like Spicebomb. What it does smell like is a sweeter version of Indian Old Spice, with a creamier shaving foam drydown. If you "stack" this thing and apply multiple sprays to the same spot, you wind up with a nutmeg-laden gingerbread cookie effect. Go lightly with it and it has a cumin, black pepper, and pink pepper top, which dries into a gentle sugared sandalwood, with that abstract powdery sweetness of Old Spice.

This could easily be considered a replacement for any iteration of Old Spice, and I like it a hell of a lot better than Vi-Jon Spice Scent, which is not bad but definitely overrated in the wetshaver community. Vi-Jon dries into a plasticky synthetic nastiness that ruins the niceness of its top notes, but Hot Spice never loses its subtle spicy sweetness to any overtly synthetic overtones. I do get a little bit of a Joop! Homme or Individuel type of sweetness in the blend, but it isn't overbearing and just complements the spice notes. The ingredients list says it has hydrogenated castor oil in it, and the liquid feels pretty soft on my skin, so I think it's a viable choice as an aftershave, which I will likely use it as in the coming months.

It's made in India, and I guess that explains the blast of skanky cumin accompanying the pepper notes on top. I'm shocked by the quality of this stuff, shocked that it smells complex enough for me to pick out eight different notes (cumin, pink & black pepper, nutmeg, vanilla, sandalwood, orange, and neroli), and completely shocked that it can compete with Old Spice for my affections.

If you live in the United States and have a Dollar Tree in your area, and you're into wetshaving and various "Spice Scent" aftershaves in the Old Spice vein, I suggest you get over there and see if they have a few bottles of Hot Spice. This stuff will make it into your shaving rotation, guaranteed.


5/20/17

Barbasol Brisk (Perio Inc.)



At least one Fragrantica member disagreed with me recently when I stated that Barbasol Brisk aftershave is basically a copy of Skin Bracer, which I thought was remarkable. If you're familiar with both aftershaves, you know that they both employ a fougere structure with prominent lavender and mint on top, a tingly coumarin in the heart, and a dry semisweet vanilla blended with a touch of clean musk in the base. Both are classic "wetshaver" scents with intensely cooling menthol that rivals even Myrsol's Formula K. Brisk may even have more than Formula K. It's a potent menthol splash, so if you're into menthol, you'll like this particular Barbasol product.

There are a few differences between Brisk and Bracer, not the least of which is Brisk's mintier quality; Skin Bracer has a mellowed top that focuses on lavender more than mint. Brisk truly lives up to its name, while Skin "Bracer," while indeed bracing after a morning shave, aims to give a guy more than just a briefly cold bite. I think of Mennen's formula as more of a thought out fragrance, with a distinct dynamism in the drydown that yields surprising depth, making it comparable to 1990s vintage Brut cologne. I always feel the smoothness of its lavender and vanilla accords "melding" into a subtle beauty. It's excellent stuff.

Brisk never quite gets that far for me. It makes a few of the same moves in the first five minutes, but eventually flattens out into a very one dimensional musky mint thing that feels good and smells nice enough, but isn't quite as arresting. Does it smell like Barbasol's original shaving foam? Not in the least. If you want a great reference for how the foam used to smell prior to reformulation, check out Rive Gauche Pour Homme. It's an anisic patchouli fern that accurately generates the familiar lavender, lime peel, and powder effect of a classic shave. Still, Brisk is fun if you can find it, and is recommended to anyone who enjoys old-school aftershaves.