November 14, 2008

"It was the olfactory equivalent of a Coen Brothers' film."

"It was a flop, perhaps (but not necessarily) because it was essentially unwearable, with hints of burning rubber, smoking tar, the pitch in fresh asphalt and charred guiac wood."

Chandler Burr writes perfume reviews. I admire that capacity. To perceive odors and to put it in writing. Impressive! The quote above is about M7. Here's what Burr says about Déclaration:
I smelled it again recently and was shocked by the degree to which it is, in fact, a hard-core French masculine. It’s a tiny bit X-rated (the sensual, unwashed-armpit thing; this is simply a serious dose of cumin, which smells like sweat) and elegant in the way that Frenchmen can be elegant: rather strong come-on, slightly overpowering, narcissistic, but alluring if you’re into that sort of thing.

Suddenly, I am!


ElcubanitoKC said...


Original George said...

"I Am King"

The New Fragrance from Diddy.

We know we're not alone when we say this, but we completely heart Diddy. His brazen love of self, propensity for speaking in the third person, how much he enjoys being rich. Some have called him "arrogant," and his grand displays of nouveau riche wealth "vulgar" but, to paraphrase Diana Vreeland, better to be vulgar than boring. And Diddy is definitely not boring (case in point: his recent YouTube dispatch warning that levels of global "bitchassness" are reaching record highs).

Claims $100 million in first year revenue. Pfft!

Palladian said...

Burr is a horrible perfume writer. Most of his reviews are laughable, bad writing combined with an almost complete ignorance of perfume and the sensibility and taste of the bored aging queen that works the Arden counter at the local Bon-Ton. Burr's whole career as a perfume critic stems from his chance meeting with and subsequent biography of scientist and perfume writer Luca Turin. Burr's book about Turin is admittedly a good read, but since publication, Burr has basically paid the bills by doing a poor impersonation of Turin. Read some of Turin's reviews and then read some of Burr's and you'll see what I mean. Turin is the only great perfume writer that I've ever read, and I'd suggest that you read his and Tania Sanchez's book Perfumes: The Guide if you want to see the source of Burr's imitation. It irks me, but doesn't surprise me, that the New York Times hired Burr as their perfume critic. Irks because it just perpetuates ignorance of an interesting subject; unsurprising because it's the New York Times, which seems to value sloppy journalism, misinformation and marketing over truth and beauty.

Palladian said...

In the interest of full disclosure, Luca Turin is a personal friend of mine, though he doesn't necessarily share my personal opinions of Burr's writing.

Palladian said...

Here you can read a sample of Turin's writing. An added bonus is that the piece is partially about me.

Paddy O. said...

seems to value sloppy journalism, misinformation and marketing over truth and beauty.

An icon of our present, contemporary culture.

Truth and beauty are but manipulable perceptions, after all. Assumptions of goodness, then, follow quickly behind. For the sophisticated at least. The unwashed masses don't resonate at all and wander off to their consolation in Kinkade and Old Spice.

Ann Althouse said...

Based on that sample, Palladian, Turin's writing is completely different from Burr's. Turin is not attempting to describe how something smells, which is what amused me about Burr.

Now, it's also obvious that -- unless I smell the perfume, and probably even if I did -- I have no idea whether Burr's description is accurate. But it amused me, and it would have amused me in a work of fiction, as a description of something that did not even exist.

Palladian said...

"Turin is not attempting to describe how something smells, which is what amused me about Burr."

and which is why Burr's writing about perfume fails. But I agree with you, it certainly is amusing.

Christopher said...

That was an interesting little piece, Palladian, though I admit except for Guerlain, the names are over my head.

I recall a while back, while I was a lurker at Althouse, you had a long, detailed post about perfumes and colognes, though for the life of me I can't find it. So, despite the fact that I'm about to sound like a slobbering tool who asks "hey, can I have some ketchup on this hot dog?" let me ask -

For years I've used Lagerfeld as my daily scent (I'm a sucker for sandalwood), but I'd like to try something different. What would you advise a swarthy garlic-scented WASP-poseur Italian-American fellow to try?

ElcubanitoKC said...

Palladian, my dearest, how is the new line coming along? And where are my samples...?

veni vidi vici said...

Funny thing about M7, which I've worn from time to time: it strikes one as a bit strange out of the bottle, but it mellows into a really nice, rich fragrance after a few minutes on the skin.

If you like Gucci Pour Homme I (the dark brown liquid with the woody, vanilla, etc. tones), or Maurer & Wirtz's Tabac, you would find M7 irresistable.

Burr's comment on M7 demonstrates that he's opinionated but doesn't really know much of what he's speaking.

Palladian said...

Christopher,is this the comment you're looking for? I don't know Lagerfeld that well, I think I smelled it once. As for recommendations, try to find Monsieur Balmain. It's an old perfume by one of the greatest perfumers ever, Germaine Cellier, and has been reformulated a bit, probably to remove nitromusks which have a bad rap, but it's still good. It's a citrus/sandalwood scent and it's wonderful. If my memory serves me correctly regarding Lagerfeld, you might like Must de Cartier pour Homme, which I like a lot. And I always suggest men try Caron's "Third Man" (Le Troisième Homme) and Caron's Yatagan.

Ernie, the line's ok, though we're stuck in packaging decision hell at the moment. You'll have to wait a while for samples (though we did select packaging for those!).

Christopher said...

Ah, that was it, thanks so much, Palladian. And thank you for the list - I've got a shopping trip planned this weekend, so I'll do my best to find at least one of the scents on your list.

And OT - elcubanito, I haven't forgotten I owe you a copy of "Cleopatra," I just haven't had it burned to DVD for me yet.

cardeblu said...

Can that be considered "flowery" language?


Although I and other family members have tried over the years to get my husband to use something else, about the only thing he likes (and, more importantly, likes him) is...ta-dat-ta-dah..."English Leather." Heh!

Palladian: "It's a citrus/sandalwood scent and it's wonderful." I would like that for myself. I remember walking past some Somalian women who had this absolutely scrumptious scent about them--very clean, citrusy and spicy. I wanted to turn around and follow after them just to sniff (I didn't).

I went to high school with a girl who so loved the smell of "Brut" that she wore it herself. I wouldn't go that far...

ElcubanitoKC said...

Christopher, merci!

Palladian said...

cardeblu, try to get your husband a bottle of Knize Ten. It's much, much, much better than English Leather yet still in the same vein.

ElcubanitoKC said...

Palladian, I'm glad the line is coming along! I look forward to seeing it/smelling it and perhaps wearing it. ;)

Melissa said...

Cumin smells like sweat?

I double checked mine, and no, it does not.

cardeblu said...

Thanks for Christmas gift idea, Palladian!

Palladian said...

"Cumin smells like sweat?

I double checked mine, and no, it does not."

Well, the essential oils extracted from cumin seeds have a somewhat different smell than the spice, but I wouldn't exactly say it smells like sweat, more like a vegetarian man's skin after a few bowls of curry. It's a decidedly animalic smell, but with a strong spice tone, which is why I characterize it as a vegetarian animalic. Burr is simply imprecise in his definition of smells because he's a hack. As far as I can tell, he doesn't even have a nose. It seems like he constructs his reviews from the perfume's press materials and things Luca Turin told him 7 years ago.

His quote about M7 is nonsense. It's hardly unwearable, and if he remembered back to "The Emperor of Scent", his own book about Turin, he might recall the chapter about Turin going through the perfume souk in India trying to find authentic oud, the extract of agarwood, which is what M7 was going for.

Because of the prominent use of the word "flop", I suspect Burr first read Luca Turin's review of M7 and then worked his "magic", turning Turin's straightforward prose and informed opinions into opaque, meaningless blather. Here's Turin's review of M7. Compare and contrast.

"The recent fashion for oud (the noble rot of Aquilaria trees) took flight when YSL released M7, where the oud accord was center stage. It came with an advertising campaign featuring a naked hairy guy, a sight rated “beautiful” by my co-author. Real oud is a complex material, with honey, tobacco leaf, minty-fresh and castoreum animalic notes all mixed together. M7 does a good job at covering all the bases, but cannot quite get away from a certain brown-study grimness inherent in oud itself. For some reason, possibly this excessive gloom, M7 was a flop. It did not deserve to be, and may yet turn out a slow but perennial seller like Guerlain’s Derby."

Christy said...

I made a most successful butternut squash soup last night using cumin. Guests asked for seconds. More successful than the salmon en croute with dill pesto, even. Sweat has no place at my dinner parties.

Doesn't "de-Frenchified" scream hick? Oh, excuse me, doesn't the phrase scream provencial?

How many can relate to the smell of charred guiac wood? Google guiac and discover a world of fecal occult blood tests.

Google Nombre Noir and discover an entire world of perfume bloggers. Who knew?

Palladian said...

"How many can relate to the smell of charred guiac wood? Google guiac and discover a world of fecal occult blood tests."

Burr misspelled it (natch). It's guaiacwood oil he's talking about. The reason you get all those fecal occult blood tests when you search is because one of the tests uses an extract of a tree of the same species as the perfumery guaiacwood.

There's actually a closer link between perfumery and feces than you'd probably like to think. A traditional and valuable perfumery material called civet was/is literally a paste scraped from the anal glands of an angry carnivore called a civet. Nowadays a synthetic substitute is usually (!) used.

"Google Nombre Noir and discover an entire world of perfume bloggers. Who knew?"

Eh, don't bother with most of them unless you happen to collect bad purple prose. Most of them are terrible.

Palladian said...

If anyone is curious about what "Nombre Noir" is and why it's so important to Luca and other perfume people, read this.

T Mack said...

"serious dose of cumin,"
Is this what I think it is; cum, jizz, man sap?

That is disgusting. A new low in the Althouse blog. At least the you could have wrote the latin word for it.
I have to wash myself now.
Eww, yuck.

Ann Althouse said...

"Because of the prominent use of the word "flop", I suspect Burr first read Luca Turin's review..."

I suspect Luca Turin ghostwrote "Dreams from My Father."

Paddy O. said...

I suspect Luca Turin ghostwrote "Dreams from My Father."


It's not everyday Ann caps off her own comment threads.

Palladian said...

"I suspect Luca Turin ghostwrote "Dreams from My Father."

If that were true it would have been a lot better.

Palladian said...

So what fragrance does Barack Obama wear anyway?

Darcy said...

Fascinating thread. Thanks for the articles, Palladian.