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The Guide; New York

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I'm thinking about The Guide right now, as I suppose many Basenoters do from time to time. LT and Tania's seminal book, now a strapping four-year-old and into its second edition, indicated a new way of thinking and writing about fragrance much as (I am indebted to anomie for this insight) Robert Christgau's Village Voice columns fundamentally shifted the grounds of pop music criticism, tightening it, sharpening it, demanding that everything essential fit in one hook-laden paragraph.

I love the book and continue to love it, sometimes all the more so for the eccentricities and foibles of its authors, but on occasion its judgments just leave me scratching my head. At issue right now is my first outing with Luca's beloved New York, of which I obtained a sample vial. Oh, it's all right, certainly, a well-constructed and long-lasting scent made of top-drawer materials, but I can't help feeling that this is what the makers of Stetson would have done with a little less vanilla and a lot more money. I get cloves and cinnamon, cinnamon and cloves, some powder, and not much more, for a long time.

Is it me, then? I feel worried by my inability to discern the natural superiority of the aristocrat here, although perhaps, with time, I will come to my senses...

Updated 28th August 2012 at 12:08 AM by Hojji77



  1. Hojji77's Avatar
    As a codicil to the above, I should add that my experience with Tania's pet Bulgari Black was not much better--I got rubber (of course) for fifteen minutes, and then something passive, powdery, soft, and sweet for the duration. So much for the wonders of The Puck.
    Updated 28th August 2012 at 12:08 AM by Hojji77
  2. anomie et ivoire's Avatar
    I wasn't into New York either! I could see its solidity, but that citrus was so much, and I did feel it was referencing something more standard but with too much oomph: that reference may have been the familiar Stetson, now that you mention it. A possible problem: I hear New York was reformulated. I'm pretty certain my sample was from the reformulation, as it came from a busy online niche perfume retailer. Maybe yours was from the reform batch too, or maybe we both wouldn't have ever liked it?

    The Guide is still so much fun. Even when I completely disagree, the spirit of adventure and irreverence with which most of the reviews are approached is infectious. Turin can be campy and eccentric, but he does approach fragrance democratically and with honesty about reformulations while Sanchez balances out some of his outliers (ELdO's Secretions ... ). Have you read Turin's The Secret of Scent? I need to get around to it.

    As for Bvlgari Black: at first LOVED IT, and now I really only like it. It may well be that Bvlgari Black holds more appeal for ladies, since something rubbery and transgressive among all of the fruity florals really does stand out as a treat. It seems like context can account for a large amount of a scent's appeal.
  3. Hojji77's Avatar
    I have not read The Secret of Scent, and am not overmuch tempted to. Perhaps that is because I like the two authors together, and a steady diet of him alone seems less appealing. LT's prose is somehow very male, despite its many nods to cosmopolitan androgyny--even when it's funny it tends toward bombast and repetition of phrase and image (shampoo, airplanes, dismal Eastern European locales). He can be dazzling, but one marvels as much at the effort (which shows) as at the effect. She writes less, and if her effects are sometimes trivial, they delight by a kind of casual, Dionysian rightness that leavens her partner's Apollonian exertions.

    As to New York, I need to give it a second turn--I am quite certain that there are notes that I am missing, and I doubt the juice is at fault. Still, refo is likely in any case, or batch-to-batch issues.

    I really like your observations on context--I'm messing about with a post on SMN's Nostalgia and AdP Colonia Essenza that considers some of the same territory. Thanks for the nudge.


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