Saturday, August 11, 2012

"Fragrance reviews are silly. Fragrance marketing is even sillier."

Thus pronounces and proposes to do some crowdsourcing on how things smell to offer an alternative viewpoint on some of our favorite fragrances.
Intriguing one to appear? Coromandel by Chanel Les exclusifs (and check on my comparison link with some other similar scents).
 Do drop by the styleite site to read and witness your jaw drop on the floor in disbelief (Descriptions range from the incomprehensible “[smells] Like teenage girl mall perfume. Or country club bathrooms” to the equally weird “It’s interesting. It’s almost a little candy-like. But also has some soapiness too. Kinda fruity.”)

Goes to show you: People (layman folks for our purposes, not die hard parfumistas) interpret objective effects in completely subjective ways. It all depends on context and association, I guess.
What do you think?


  1. brie12:21

    oh goodness I had a great laugh reading those descriptions! I have had similar experiences with some of the things I have worn. A gorgeous violet scent described as a "clean diaper" smell (my lovely co-worker), straight up high quality patchouli oil described as "woody mushrooms" and a sandalwood blend described as 'fishy smell" (my daughter!). Perfumes and perfume descriptions can be so subjective and our "scent memories" and "scent associations" can be either pleasant or unpleasant which I believe influences how certain fragrances with certain notes are perceived. Then again, if we took the Channel juice out of its gorgeous bottle and did away with its prestigious name (sound familiar?) perhaps even our parfumistas and experienced reviewers might experience it differently (and vice versa-as in a cheap drugstore brand might be viewed as a masterpiece!).

  2. I am forever grateful to you put to our attention those things.
    Perfume Shrine helps keep my jaw in place :) have a great Saturday1!

  3. Damn I've apparently been going to wrong the bathrooms considering I don't think I have ever been to Coromandel smelling bathroom. Although after reading a handful you have to give it to the bathroom cleaner fragrancing department for stealing so many perfume formulas and putting them into cleaning products because everything now smells like a cleaning product.

  4. Anonymous15:46

    I think it's all about context and experience. The first time I smelled Fleur de Cassie I hadn't smelled many perfumes, and I thought it smelled almost identical to Chanel no. 5 (!!!). Silly in retrospect, sure, but it's interesting (and often depressing) to see how people react to fragrance when they aren't conversant with it.

  5. Anonymous16:33

    I think you've just shown us why well thought-out reviews are important and anything but silly.

  6. solanace16:48

    I think I want to keep reading your studious reviews.

  7. MariaA18:44

    I think it does make a difference to whom you give the perfume to smell. The unfamiliar nose will not try to inhale and detect the ingredients will not go back to see how it developed, etc. They will only stick to the initial impression and draw their conclussions instantly. This is why I guess that mainstream fragrances tend to smell the same. companies have narrowed down what people like and with small changes they market again ang again pretty much the same product. I have not smelled coromandel but is seems to me highly unlikely that it smells like bathroom!!

  8. Anonymous21:46

    It's a silly article b/c none of these people were asked beyond their first impression to try to more accurately describe Coromandel's qualities - "alcoholic" is accurate, it's an EDP, "hotel/country club bathroom" = probably means powdery/french style which it is. And more people than not seem to like it, probably b/c it's a good perfume. All they showed here is that Coromandel is a competent, classy powdery EDP. And that a *perfume review* would be needed to elucidate what specifically it is that made these people responding this way, or to describe what about Coromandel specifically would make someone choose it over other competent, classy powdery EDPs. Mission accomplished if the "author" was trying to show why perfume reviews are helpful.

    Also, anyone else notice that the responses are what people at the Styleite "office" thought? Wonder if they are so casual in describing runway and fashion trends - if they write "It looks like a crumpled trash bag. It looks like something my aunt would wear." when writing about Miyake and Prada.


  9. Miss Heliotrope01:31

    I do wonder whether somehow their perfume sponsors annoyed them - or stopped funding & this is a way of getting them back. & maybe they're trying get into being hip & have what they think blogs do - many newspapers seem to do this sort of thing on politics blogs...

  10. Among the many silly things, funny how they chose a frag that has not really been marketed much.

    Alcoholic? Technically accurate, if you will, there's 85% of it. And in which mall do girls smell like this? Not around here.


  11. Haha! This makes me think of what the editors for the Zagat must have to sift through when assembling their restaurant guides.

    All fun aside, I can kind of see where the person who said, "It’s interesting. It’s almost a little candy-like. But also has some soapiness too. Kinda fruity," is coming from.

    Coromandel is kind of edible (to me it has an almond-y note). The musk is probably what they are interpreting as the soapiness. Not sure what they mean about the fruit though . . .

  12. I think it makes me sad. These kinds of reviews are helpful, I suppose, if you don't like perfume any more than, say, the wax you use for your car and, when shopping for it, the only important distinctions are whether it comes in green or blue. I've read movie reviews like this and find myself wondering, Why would these people write about movies, let alone bother watching one, when clearly they have better things to do?

  13. Helg -- when they get sick of reviewing perfumes they can go over to wine!!!
    Mossy , old socks etc, etc !!! LOL

  14. Back at you all shortly!! Very interesting comments :-)

  15. Anonymous23:51

    Well, I will now have to sample the Serge Normant Avah! Hairspray, Licorice and Gasoline! Sounds good. ;)

    I loved reading the opinions. Funny.


  16. Anonymous05:03

    I think what you call laymans reveiws are th best thing to happen no matter what they are. Its where you the most honest answers you could want nsteadof having a perfumista tell you in five paragraphs what they don't like it a layman can tell in two words.

  17. Anonymous05:09

    And I think there only about a hand full of people who know what they are talking about and they are not perfumistas.

  18. kiki08:15

    These "layman's" reviews seem pointless to me, because very few of them seem to be able to describe at all what they are smelling. They are almost all just personal impressions. So who exactly are these meant to be read by? They aren't specific enough to be useful or interesting to people who like perfume, and who else wants to read perfume reviews??

    But I'd definitely be a happy camper if I lived somewhere where the bathrooms smelled like Coromandel!

  19. Anonymous17:09

    This is hilarious! Coromandel is one of my top favorite scents, so it is especially interesting to read people's first impressions. It always trips me out when my non-perfumista friends come up with perfume descriptions that seem completely off. I am surprised that no one mentioned patchouli... a lot of "normal" folks can identify that note.

    Seriously, I want a laundry detergent that smells like Coromandel!

    ~Amy Bella

  20. Irene17:22

    I think the piece on styleite caters to people who don't have any real interest in perfume but are aware that you are "supposed" to wear it but then again, having no real interest and/or inclination to delve into the perfume world, can't perceive the olfactory nuances, can't be bothered to evolve the vocabulary for what they do perceive and therefore can't understand what on earth those perfume reviews even talk about. So this little piece of text tells them they are not missing anything, "frangrance reviews are silly and if you don't understand them that makes you smart" - readers are feeling better about themselves, mission accomplished for the site. :)
    I have a little anecdote to tell re: perfume perception by non-perfumistas. I couple of years ago I read an article on a Russian perfume blog about Estee Lauder's Pleasures (one of my favorites) that compared the scent to an American housewife who is a paragon of housewife virtue but then one fine day she takes a gun with her when going to a supermarket or to pick up kids from school and discharges it at innocent by-standers. I thought this description was hilarious (though I wouldn't subscribe to it) and quoted it to a friend of mine, a journalist who has been writing about cars for a long time, and he said: "How can you even read such things into something like a perfume, for God's sake!" My reply was of course that I could not imagine why you would wax lyrical about, say, an Audi prototype - it's just a car, even if it's a very expensive car. :) To each his own, that's all.

  21. what utter tosh people can utter, and what depressing reference points they will use to illustrate their "opinion"...Mr Polge, look away now!

  22. Brie,

    violets can smell like diapers or wipes because manufacturers of those products do aromatize them with violet blends, so it's not unheard of (they also used to aromatize them with some musks a la Shalimar which explains the "diaper" claim on Shalimar).
    I am curious on the fishy smell on the sandalwood, though I suppose what you say is true ;-)

    Now, I have again and again come up with interesting examples doing blind tests; the only honest from the gut tests. :-D

  23. Violaine,

    thanks!! I thought it was a hoot!

  24. Jen,

    we're obviously frequenting the wrong bathrooms!!!


    Seriously, since when do bathrooms smell of delicious patchouli cocoa?

    The very thing you're saying however does account for a lot of association on general folk. You're absolutely right!

  25. Anon,

    I believe there is a reality to what you're saying, because people need to have a frame to reference when describing something: so it's not totally out of place to try to pry out segments of what one knows and then relate it to find similarities with something unknown. It makes sense and shows a sense of logical thinking.
    With experience it gets more nuanced. :-)

  26. Anon #2,

    thanks, it's heartening to hear you say so. :-)

  27. Solanace,

    thanks, I will be glad to keep reading your commentary as well!

  28. Maria,

    indeed! The first impression is very hard to get past by especially when one isn't very attuned to perfume. And most very complex or vintage perfumes require time, a short commodity these days. So it makes sense that it happens the way it happens, I guess.

    Coromandel is a cocoa-powder and patchouli juice, very smooth, very good, very nice. More kitchen than bathroom, at any rate, I think!

  29. L,

    an astoundingly acute and intelligent comment. Thank you!!

    Yup, it sounds like there is a programmatic "gut response no matter what makes sense" plan on this and I bet the fashion people are influence more by fashion clout than perfume intricacies. Still, interesting in its own way, I don't dispute that.

  30. C,

    hadn't thought of the getting back angle (hope it wasn't that though!) but there's a good point on this being considered "hip". Interesting viewpoint! :-)

  31. M,

    beats me...I can't understand some of the stuff written there (fruity? bathroom? mall girls?) but then, what do I know? :-D

  32. Daisy,

    ha ha true!

    Well, the fruity thing baffles me as well. Candy...hmmm I can see that in a way (it's yummy). Bathroom....why do I go to the wrong bathrooms?? :-O

  33. Brian,

    thanks for chiming in.

    Movie critical writing is even more exasperating I usually find, since most people consider since they have eyes they're qualified to write a review, when in fact they know jack shit about cinema to begin with (so how can they catch subtleties and not think it's just the director and screenwriter doing silliness on screen?)
    It baffles me why some things are considered moire "accessible" in a critical way and perfume seems to be one of them. I always thought if one is serious about something they try to educate themselves about it before pronouncing an opinion (in writing at least for the world to read) but it's probably what you say: they don't have the interest to begin with. Which leaves us with the "everyone's a critic" culture thing of today. It's probably one of the signs of contemporary culture and the encouragement of a "democratic" opinion, if one that is a little tiny bit misguided. Agree?

  34. Dawn,


    I kinda like the gasoline, hairspray and all the other stuff thing too. I'm intrigued! (by the way I loved a few hairsprays I used a while ago, need to find out what they're made of)

  35. Anon,

    I'm all for honest reviews. This is why I believe negative reviews and reviews on MUA are invaluable (they give a gauge on how the general public feels).

    But sometimes they can be uninformed for obvious reasons (or they can be very casual and quick, which makes them seem so!) and they need a very careful "translating" into what they actually mean, which beats the purpose of the exercise. What is "soapy" to one is "musky" to another; where do you define lines? How are words defined universally? Hundereds of shades, of nuances, of associations...

    Wordiness can be a deterrent into reading longer reviews, true. I'm guilty as charged, I suppose. :-)

  36. Anon,

    may be!! Not disputing that!! :-D

  37. Kiki,

    exactly: that's the crux of the matter. The one with the interest needs more, the one without needs none of this to get steered (unless they want to hear a "sample" "don't sample" consensus when out shopping).

  38. Lady Jikcy,

    hhahaha!!! Wine is a prime field. :-D

  39. Amy Bella,

    crossing my fingers for a laundry detergent with the yumminess of Coromandel. :-)

    (or maybe not, on second thought!)

    I'd think patchouli would be a well known note too. Perhaps that's the "mall girls" association coming in? Who knows, there's not enough elaboration to see this.

  40. Irene,

    thanks for chiming in and for sharing that most excellent anecdote!!

    You know, I can see how Pleasures does conjure all these things up, if one has in mind to see it that way. The clean, the speckless, the immaculate and then the little bit hysterical because of it? Making you go out of your way to alleviate the pressure of perfection?
    LOL, it's one way to view it, I guess. There are many others. I find it a very well composed perfume.

  41. Irene,

    thanks for chiming in and for sharing that most excellent anecdote!!

    You know, I can see how Pleasures does conjure all these things up, if one has in mind to see it that way. The clean, the speckless, the immaculate and then the little bit hysterical because of it? Making you go out of your way to alleviate the pressure of perfection?
    LOL, it's one way to view it, I guess. There are many others. I find it a very well composed perfume.

  42. Laurinha, each their own, I suppose. Polge shouldn't be too concerned as that's not the market he's addressing.
    Still, hilarious sometimes to read these.


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