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  1. #61

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    . . .
    Last edited by mr. reasonable; 7th November 2013 at 09:21 AM.

  2. #62
    Dependent heperd's Avatar
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    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    What???? I responded appropriately to the OP????
    I said that i can be objective regardless of "house, bottle, perfumer, history, ingredients, name, blah, blah, blah, blah" and then I gave two examples of where i cannot be objective.

    Despite what RP stated earlier, honesty IS NOT welcome on this board..........
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  3. #63

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Peace peeps.... this is a nice thread. There is no harm in all having a nice wordy ramble about perfume qualities. We don't have to agree.

  4. #64
    Ursula's Avatar
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    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    As in the path of perfume discovery the nose gets more educated, the members who have reached that level, may tend to become COLLECTORS instead of CONSUMERS.
    Collectors appreciate an item for what it is. For the different angle of how it is executed. In the realms of perfume, some of those items may not be actually wearable. Or, only for the advanced perfumista/perfumephile (I am still searching for an adequate description) a scent is great, and he/she wears it not caring whether the rest of the world likes it.
    There is a whole area of perfumes with oud (that subject is covered elsewhere).
    Suffice to say, the objectivity has left here. Is lacking. Because the Collector has been drawn in by a specialty item, whereas the rest of the world - with an uneducated nose - starts sniffing that person, "What is THAT?" That uneducated nose is not objective either, coming from a different platform, just saying that something foreign to their nose is unacceptable because it is unfamiliar.

  5. #65
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    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Quote Originally Posted by mumsy View Post
    Continuing with the performance, wearing the perfume is not the only part of the show, nor is the perception of it by the audience. In the process of wearing a particular fragrance, the wearer is also transported to an internal place which influences their own behaviour too. The whole show is both influenced by the perfumes effect externally yet is also created by it internally. A very neat chicken and egg syndrome.
    Ouch. My brain is hurting.


    Time to take a sniff of Serge Noire to clear these cobwebs...
    But yeah, I get it. How do you objectively review or critique a fragrance you love? Can you?

  6. #66

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Maybe.... only if there is no label on a blind sniff to reduce the external influences a bit.

  7. #67

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Quote Originally Posted by heperd View Post
    I like BBQ Lays potato chips as much as anyone, but i dont want to smell like them.
    I also dont want to smell like carne asada tacos with grilled onions and cumin.(Serge Noir)
    IMO this is a perfect example of the difficulty in judging a frag objectively... scent-memory associations that have nothing to do with reality. Or at least not the reality of most people. Reading amateur frag reviews can be incredibly annoying because people judge frags based on scent-memory associations... if it evokes a positive association they like it, if it's negative they don't.

    So, I think a prerequisite to objectively judging perfumes is actually knowing what the individual notes smell like. Otherwise you might say the perfume smells "just like baby powder", when it's actually chamomile, tonka, benzoin and styrax (I just made that up, I don't claim to be an expert). And the worst part is that it seems like people are oblivious to their limitations and think that everyone else must think this frag smells "just like baby powder" or whatever...

    As an analogy to music, it's like hearing an orchestra without knowing what any of the instruments sound like on their own. It can still be a great experience, but expecting an objective review of the orchestra's performance by someone like that is taking things a little far.

  8. #68
    Dependent heperd's Avatar
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    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    ...........
    Last edited by heperd; 22nd March 2012 at 11:24 PM. Reason: said the f word like 10 times
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  9. #69

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Quote Originally Posted by moore View Post
    I do like baby-powder-smell, and it's not difficult to imagine that; it's difficult to imagine the smell of Amalfi Coast on a rainy summer day when you never were there in this situation, but it's a good image, a valuable and valid association for me.
    Sincerely, any kind of review is valid for me; I rarely belittle one. Even these are valid as a comparision parameter. I only have to decide which ones I will utilize in a good way.
    I wasn't arguing that noticing a scent association and using that perception in a review isn't useful. The issue is that many times scent association obliterates the "true" perception of the scent. Often I hear that a frag smells "ONLY of baby powder", and the person smelling that cannot actually get past that and smell what is creating the baby powder accord.

    The other issue is the assumption that everyone perceives the frag the same way. So you get a review that states something like "I can't believe anyone likes this, all I smell is baby powder", without realizing that many people, even a majority of people, might not consider the frag powdery.

    And the next issue is that the frag gets judged "objectively" based on a scent association... which brings us to the whole point of this thread, and my answer to it: I think it is impossible to objectively judge a frag if you are "blinded" by your scent associations, and this is the biggest issue with trying to objectively review a frag. It is scientifically proven that scent has the strongest attachment or correlation to memory, and it is these associations that make objectivity difficult.

    heperd, I certainly did not mean any insult or imply that your views are less valuable because you gave us an example of scent association. I certainly don't like some frags and won't wear them because my scent associations are too strong, and there's nothing wrong with that. For example, I don't enjoy Amouage Homage Attar because it smells SO MUCH like women's shampoo... I can't handle it. However I know many people do not have this issue and I'm sure you know most people don't get BBQ chips and tacos from the frags you mentioned. However, it is not an objective view and I'm sure someone with your experience can differentiate between BBQ chips and the actual notes in the frag. So if you were upset with my post I apologize, I didn't intend to insult your scent associations, and as I said I think they are interesting and can be valuable to communicate your views.

  10. #70
    Dependent heperd's Avatar
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    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    What i wrote was just a oversimplified description of the smells and a dumb joke, you dont have to apologize. My whole point was that I cannot be objective with those because they are that bad to me. I am shocked that anyone likes them and it makes me think deeply about how perception can vary so much. I think that it is ok that i cant be objective 1% of the time.
    To me it is much better than saying "I cant believe your like that, it smells just like every one of the top 10 best selling fragrances in the world!".
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  11. #71

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Quote Originally Posted by Dorje123 View Post
    So, I think a prerequisite to objectively judging perfumes is actually knowing what the individual notes smell like. Otherwise you might say the perfume smells "just like baby powder", when it's actually chamomile, tonka, benzoin and styrax (I just made that up, I don't claim to be an expert). And the worst part is that it seems like people are oblivious to their limitations and think that everyone else must think this frag smells "just like baby powder" or whatever...

    As an analogy to music, it's like hearing an orchestra without knowing what any of the instruments sound like on their own. It can still be a great experience, but expecting an objective review of the orchestra's performance by someone like that is taking things a little far.
    I think this post steers things in the right direction. It brings the discussion back to fragrances and offers a suggestion that seems as close to objective as we've come. I know, Dorje's answer seems obvious. This area of TRULY knowing notes is one where I'm really a rookie. If we don't have a fundamental context we end up categorizing the quality of a perfume either through stereotypes, which assumes others share our bias, or personal experiences which may have nothing in common with the experience of others. From there we can get into a kind of faux connoiseurship which very often assumes knowledge not in hand and equates a certain intuitive experience with expertise.
    Dorje's comparison of learning the sound of the instruments of the orchestra to perfume notes is also apt. To appreciate and truly enjoy ANYTHING perfume, football whatever... requires baseline knowledge.

  12. #72
    Ursula's Avatar
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    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    In other words, one has to know the alphabet to write words, grammar to write correctly, and imagination to write poems.

    How that literature is judged, depends on the education and experience of the reader.

  13. #73

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    FANTASTIC thread. Absolutely fantastic. Symphonies, thank you for joining BN; thank you for your contribution and everyone who has added something throught-provoking.

    My take on this (a bit of background: I'm a lifelong perfume fanatic and currently a junior perfumer for an international cosmetics company):

    1. I don't actually believe humans are capable of judging anything totally objectively. Even the process of science has to go through a series of checks and methodology to attempt to correct for bias and errors. And even that process is influenced by human nature.
    2. We are biologically incapable of smelling the same smell exactly the same way. There are several genes responsible for odour reception and a unique set of them is expressed for each individual. We literally smell things 'differently'.
    3. Add to that, the various circumstances and conditions already well described here - scent memories, cultural preference, the era in which we happen to be experiencing the smell in, subliminal or conscious influences of branding, packaging, the person introducing the fragrance to you...

    So in that sense - how we physically experience the scent and how we emotionally react to it - there is no real objectivity.

    And whilst you could state that good materials are required to make a good fragrance, well, yes, to some extent that is true but you can give a bad cook the best foods and they will not be able to prepare them to the standard of a Michelin chef. On the other hand, you can get something creative, beautiful and original out of cheap materials.

    Here's the thing - the cheap materials in perfumery are so ubiquitous that it's not always the cheapness of them that makes us judge the fragrance overdosed in them as 'poor' but it's the unoriginality of them.

    And so, I come to what I think will give somewhat of an idea of how one judges a 'good perfume' - agreeing with many of you here in that it requires:
    - For it not to be 'broken' in its composition (no gaps in the smell, no unwelcome dischords and offnotes)
    - For it to create an emotional response beyond "meh" in the person smelling it
    - For it to smell good on the skin of at least some people
    - For it to represent what it set out to represent - or to create a story in the mind of the wearer

    Anything beyond that, I'm not sure about. I also like the additional criteria of whether a scent became influential or not but I don't think that's necessarily a 'must'. There are so many launches and so many independent perfumers these days that potential masterpieces could drown in the white noise.

  14. #74

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Quote Originally Posted by Nukapai View Post
    FANTASTIC thread. Absolutely fantastic. Symphonies, thank you for joining BN...Here's the thing - the cheap materials in perfumery are so ubiquitous that it's not always the cheapness of them that makes us judge the fragrance overdosed in them as 'poor' but it's the unoriginality of them...There are so many launches and so many independent perfumers these days that potential masterpieces could drown in the white noise.
    Agree. For this reason Bloggers and sites like Basenotes are so important; they can get the word out for companies without advertising budgets.

  15. #75
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    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    TAUER PERFUMES hardly advertise, other than in stores directly, or in Andy Tauer's personal blog. This blog has a few rather learned followers. Basically, his scents speak for themselves and were originally "advertised" by word of mouth. L'air du desert marocain really made the first big waves. I am one of his fans which may count as an subjective opinion. What makes me subjective ? The perfumes with their Tauerade harmonize with my skin chemistry.

    Objectively picking the formula apart ? To see the building blocks that make up the scent ? Only fellow perfumers or people working in the industry deciphering the innards can state an opinion. The consumer cannot, and is not supposed to. On the contrary, advertising fairy tales are told to the consumer to obfuscate any judgment that the nose could render.

  16. #76

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Quote Originally Posted by Ursula View Post
    Objectively picking the formula apart ? To see the building blocks that make up the scent ? Only fellow perfumers or people working in the industry deciphering the innards can state an opinion. The consumer cannot, and is not supposed to. On the contrary, advertising fairy tales are told to the consumer to obfuscate any judgment that the nose could render.
    I'm not so sure about that. There are a lot of people here who can identify notes in a perfume, and a lot of people who are educated enough to "know" hundreds of notes, aromachemical names and chemical structures. IMO, it doesn't take being a perfumer or working in the industry, it takes curiosity and the drive to have a better understanding of the art. While some people might have an aptitude for perfumery, I also think that most people can train their nose and be able to "pick apart" a composition at least to some degree.

    Back to objectivity, Nukapai mention ingredient quality, which would take someone with some experience to really differentiate. This would be like listening to a student level instrument and a pro level instrument. Played back-to-back even a complete novice can tell the pro level instrument sounds better, but they might not be able to say why, and if the instruments weren't played back to back they may not be able to tell them apart at all.

    I also think the best frags have some tension between the notes that creates a balance of notes that could go different directions depending on the person smelling it and skin chemistry. This requires a complexity seldom found in modern designer releases... they have a "nice" smell to them but they are too simple to hold interest for very long and I'd bet that there would be a HUGE majority of people that perceive the frag in almost exactly the same way. This makes them "safe" and you'll get good focus-group results, but it results in a frag that you'll get tired of by the time you've used 10 mL. An interesting and complex frag seems to be perceived differently by different people and the result is reviews that are all over the place, and scent associations that vary quite a bit. A good example IMO is Kilian's Back to Black. Reviewers say this frag smells like all sorts of stuff... baby powder, cherry pie, robitussin, that it contains oud (it doesn't), that it's leathery, and on and on...

    Also, the cheap synthetics in use in most designer frags aren't complicated enough in and of themselves to create interest. For example the basenotes of Terre d'Hermes is almost entirely iso-e super. Is this really considered a great frag? I used to think so, and in some ways it is, but it doesn't fit my criteria of what I find interesting anymore. So if we were to use this criteria for materials and the one in the above paragraph for tension, IMO 95% of modern designer frags and many to most niche frags would be objectively judged as quite poor... and this is the reason I don't like 95% of the frags I sample, or if I like them I tire of them quickly.

  17. #77

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Quote Originally Posted by Nukapai View Post
    My take on this (a bit of background: I'm a lifelong perfume fanatic and currently a junior perfumer for an international cosmetics company):

    1. I don't actually believe humans are capable of judging anything totally objectively. Even the process of science has to go through a series of checks and methodology to attempt to correct for bias and errors. And even that process is influenced by human nature.
    2. We are biologically incapable of smelling the same smell exactly the same way. There are several genes responsible for odour reception and a unique set of them is expressed for each individual. We literally smell things 'differently'.
    3. Add to that, the various circumstances and conditions already well described here - scent memories, cultural preference, the era in which we happen to be experiencing the smell in, subliminal or conscious influences of branding, packaging, the person introducing the fragrance to you...

    So in that sense - how we physically experience the scent and how we emotionally react to it - there is no real objectivity.
    Thanks Nukapai
    I'm afraid my constant refrain of "objectivity" might be taken more literallly than intended. Sorry!

    It's just that as I smell a perfume like Giacobetti's En Passant and marvel at it as a piece of art I have to wonder, "OK, what is it about En Passant that elevates it to art? What are the underlying qualities at play that create something so compelling to so many people?"
    I know, just get over it and enjoy the smell, right? Sorry... but I'll blame it on Dorje As he pointed out, to truly appreciate something there has to be a deeper understanding. Maybe I just need to take it on faith.
    Last edited by Symphonies; 24th March 2012 at 06:03 PM.

  18. #78

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Quote Originally Posted by Dorje123 View Post
    I also think the best frags have some tension between the notes that creates a balance of notes that could go different directions depending on the person smelling it and skin chemistry. This requires a complexity seldom found in modern designer releases... they have a "nice" smell to them but they are too simple to hold interest for very long...This makes them "safe" and you'll get good focus-group results, but it results in a frag that you'll get tired of by the time you've used 10 mL. ...the basenotes of Terre d'Hermes is almost entirely iso-e super. Is this really considered a great frag? I used to think so, and in some ways it is, but it doesn't fit my criteria of what I find interesting anymore. So if we were to use this criteria for materials and the one in the above paragraph for tension, IMO 95% of modern designer frags and many to most niche frags would be objectively judged as quite poor... and this is the reason I don't like 95% of the frags I sample, or if I like them I tire of them quickly.
    The big problem I have with so many "designer frags" is that all of the ingredient budget goes into the top note materials. There are so many offerings with terrific top notes that end with that generic (Boss, Axe, Paco Rabanne, etc.) chemical base, or worse yet, industrial shampoo/laundry detergent musk.

    One could actually have a good, and a bad fragrance in one. Td'H is a good example.
    Last edited by Kevin Guyer; 23rd March 2012 at 04:51 PM.

  19. #79

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Quote Originally Posted by Symphonies View Post
    As he pointed out, to truly appreciate something there has to be a deeper understanding. Maybe I just need to take it on faith.
    Noooo. He's right but you should do as you find you wish. I collect frags because I need to understand their construction and because I love to do so. One subjective and one objective.

    To understand more merely heightens a pleasure which doesn't necessarily need the extra understanding to be experienced.

  20. #80

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Guyer View Post
    The big problem I have with so many "designer frags" is that all of the ingredient budget goes into the top note materials. There are so many offerings with terrific top notes that end with that generic (Boss, Axe, Paco Rabanne, etc.) chemical base, or worse yet, industrial shampoo/laundry detergent musk.

    One could actually have a good, and a bad fragrance in one. Td'H is a good example.
    Absolutely spot on!

  21. #81

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Guyer View Post
    The big problem I have with so many "designer frags" is that all of the ingredient budget goes into the top note materials. There are so many offerings with terrific top notes that end with that generic (Boss, Axe, Paco Rabanne, etc.) chemical base, or worse yet, industrial shampoo/laundry detergent musk.

    One could actually have a good, and a bad fragrance in one. Td'H is a good example.
    That's true, it seems like the greatest weakness in most modern frags is the base, a super long lasting and a strong synthetic woody amber + musk smelling base will ruin any frag for me. I really liked Divine L'Homme Sage, but after going through a 1.5 mL sample I was already tired of it, and all because of the horrible base. But there are some pretty bad topnotes too, the lemon in Chanel Allure Homme Sport for example...

    So yeah... depending on your standards for a frag, I suppose many frags could be either rated very highly or very poorly and it's hard to say which one is right. That also makes judging frags more difficult... not in being objective, but in defining what criteria you use to make your judgement.

    It seems like this works out great for marketing designer frags though... people will get tired of them quickly, well before they are used up, and will go shopping for another frag. Eventually they have 50 frags that are 95% full. Since there are a bazillion new releases each year it is catering those who enjoy shopping and buying new things, which is most, if not all of us, lol.

  22. #82
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    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Quote Originally Posted by Nukapai View Post
    And so, I come to what I think will give somewhat of an idea of how one judges a 'good perfume' - agreeing with many of you here in that it requires:
    - For it not to be 'broken' in its composition (no gaps in the smell, no unwelcome dischords and offnotes)
    - For it to create an emotional response beyond "meh" in the person smelling it
    - For it to smell good on the skin of at least some people
    - For it to represent what it set out to represent - or to create a story in the mind of the wearer

    Anything beyond that, I'm not sure about. I also like the additional criteria of whether a scent became influential or not but I don't think that's necessarily a 'must'. There are so many launches and so many independent perfumers these days that potential masterpieces could drown in the white noise.
    Beautiful!


    • For it not to be 'broken' in its composition (no gaps in the smell, no unwelcome dischords and offnotes)
    • For it to create an emotional response beyond "meh" in the person smelling it
    • For it to smell good on the skin of at least some people
    • For it to represent what it set out to represent - or to create a story in the mind of the wearer
    Nukapai - I don't think that a panel of the world's best perfumers, most experienced evaluators, and most well-known critics could have come up with 4 basic criteria that would be any better than these. I think that almost every argument in favor of a fragrance can fall into one of those categories, or the things which flow from them:

    1. Artistic / structural / technical
    2. Emotional / impactful / sensory
    3. Empirical / popular / cosmetic
    4. Psychological / literary / marketable

    Fragrances which succeed on all of these levels are likely on their way to being classics.

    The four ideas are obviously not clear-cut.

    For it not to be 'broken' in its composition (no gaps in the smell, no unwelcome dischords and offnotes)

    The first idea ranges from the artistic to the technical, but it involves a coherent understanding of olfactory form and function and their relationship. This is where the practiced skills of the trained perfumer, as well as intuititive skills of the amateur, become obvious. I think that the first criterion may be more of what the OP was looking for - something like identifiable features of music. A lot of that is perfumer craft, but I think that critics like Turin and Burr frequently elucidate aspects of it. Our resident perfumers surely live and breathe these technical tweaks of olfactory beauty.

    For it to create an emotional response beyond "meh" in the person smelling it

    The second is so important, so variable, and so easily influenced by externals, that it is obvious why marketing cues are relied upon - with so much success. Olfactory yearning and satisfaction are easily paralleled to romantic and sexual desires, and those who want their fragrances to sell would be remiss not to take advantage of these kindred motivations. But the bottom line is that a fragrance has to first get an emotional reaction, for that reaction to be manipulated.

    For it to smell good on the skin of at least some people

    Science aids not only the first, but the third as well. Yes, we may damn the use of focus groups, but if making many people happy is the goal, then why not bring science to bear on it? Making something smell "good" on skin to a large enough number of people is right up science's alley.

    For it to represent what it set out to represent - or to create a story in the mind of the wearer

    Finally, we come back to art. Even if the literary part is only an enhancement of pleasure for the end user, and inspiration to the perfumer, then still - why not? The beauty of a fragrance and a story which close to a circle is undeniable - the fact that it means something to a portion of the buying public is good enough to make it part of the measure of a fragrance's greatness.

    Thanks for giving these to us!
    * * * *

  23. #83

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    "the bottom line is that a fragrance has to first get an emotional reaction, for that reaction to be manipulated."

    Exactly.

    Thank you for the, erm, rather flattering comments Redneck! I think you are being entirely too kind and extended my very simple suggestions to incorporate a very good set of thoughts.

    I suppose many of us have spent years thinking about these things but what's refreshing is being challenged to narrow it down to tangible criteria.

  24. #84
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    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    We come to the judging predisposed. By tradition, personal memories attached, lack of education, unwillingness to change.

    Let me throw in a far-fetched example: In the movie "Cast Away" the character that TOM HANKS played was forced to look at everything with new eyes in the effort of survival. Things intended for another purpose, like ice skates, were utilized. He desperately labored to make fire. He fashioned a raft to get off the island.

    He acted like human being struggling to survive. Where was his art appreciation ? Nil, nada. Did he sing ? Yes, in triumph "I made fire !!" Did he write poetry ? He buried the pilot and wrote a name on the rock. Did he interact with other humans ? There were none, he talked to a football "Wilson" not to go crazy. Did he remember his loving wife ? He looked at her picture and that gave him strength.

    What I am trying to say is that in order to appreciate something as fine as perfumery, the basic survival has to be in place. The cavemen had drawings. When did actually the appreciation of scents begin in history ? Enlighten me - with examples.

  25. #85

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Probably the garden of Eden... otherwise they would have been in the yard of Eden.

  26. #86

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Quote Originally Posted by Ursula View Post
    When did actually the appreciation of scents begin in history ? Enlighten me - with examples.
    Books and lectures on perfume history seem to start in ancient Egypt. I imagine that this is due to the availability of documentation, artefacts and so on; I can't imagine scents not being appreciated (beyond survival) if one is simply equipped with a nose. Now whether much conscious thought went into the appreciation, who can say. You can't get a more primitive sense than our sense of smell.

    In Egypt, we are told, the origins of what we could start to call perfume first formed; blends of oils and resins rubbed on religious statues and burned; used in the embalming process and so on. Only later did people start to wear scented oils themselves (and I imagine this would have been somewhat dependant on one's social status). Status, unobtainability and luxury of perfumes are a very key part of the entire thread of perfume history (and I personally believe behind even some of the modern-day snobbery about certain brands - by purchasing them, you are saying something about your ability to afford them). So when one considers survival one has to take into account the social structures of how modern perfumery evolved, and for whom perfumes were initially made. The first people to begin to analyse perfume may have been beyond having to worry about survival.

  27. #87

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    In my perception and opinion, no or, at best, hardly

    At least as far, as I can speak about myself. While I do see myself able to acknowledge some of the strengths of a scent objectively, it will eventually/ultimately be a range of subjective qualities (my personal liking for certain notes, for a certain interaction with my skin, a certain bottle design, a certain mood conjured etc.) which will make me interested to discuss a scent in the first place

  28. #88

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    I can't believe how generous everyone has been taking time to share their knowledge and expertise. Thanks especially to Nukapai, Redneck Perfumisto, Evangaline and Ursula. This thread really shows just how interconnected the arts are to the world at large and how indispensable the arts are to a deeper understanding of any discipline or endeavor. Conversely, the arts cease to be alive and vital if we believe they are above the most mundane aspects of our existence.

    One last rehash: We can deconstruct and analyze the structure (or form) of most art. We can then communicate a common understanding of that structure to others. It's obvious how this applies to literature, theater, cinema, architecture and visual arts. Even music is understable through it's structure. You can tell, for example, if a song is composed as a "chorus and verse" sequence. You might not know that term but on a simple, intuitive level you would know the objective quality of that structure if you heard it. You would also know intuitively if the composer used that structure well.

    With that in mind, I have held to a core belief in this thread regarding structure: understanding an art work's structure will often reveal why we have a strong emotional response to it. That's because structure creates tension and release (or stability). Tension and release work like a life force in art to help create a compelling narrative. Therefore, structure is often key to understanding why we qualify a work of art as "good". Structure certainly doesn't provide all the answers to the mysteries of creativity but it does provide a foundation for common understanding.

    On ther other hand, you've all persuaded me that, yes, the art of perfume is problematic when it comes to defining criteria for a discussion of quality. There's so much individual, emotional and experiential static. I had sense of this all along but I was hoping for some direction to a common set of values. If we could only start a discussion of a perfume's quality by simply saying things like...
    "This frag would have greater harmonic tension if Sheldrake had transposed the leather accord up a minor third to the key of c#."
    Or...
    "In chapter 7 Douchafour has the protagonist, oakmoss, reveal its secret too soon so the basenotes no longer play a role in the plot line."
    Or...
    "The second stanza of this Dior floriental sonnet feels awkward because it has too many syllables of sandalwood."

    For the time being I'm perfectly happy to live by the Serenity Prayer: "Accept the things I cannot change." I'll just embrace the mystery and ambiguity and continue to wear Terre d'Hermes even if the basenotes are bad
    Last edited by Symphonies; 27th March 2012 at 03:52 AM.

  29. #89
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    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

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  30. #90

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Quote Originally Posted by Asaskian View Post
    Symphonies:That is a sweeping statement mon ami.... :-)
    I won't argue the semantics, for it shall turn into another long diatribe. first and then debate.
    Asaskian, I should have put you in thank yous, too!
    As for your the rest of your post, no argument here! I'm just glad all of you have been so patient as I try to wrap my brain around a different form of art.

  31. #91
    Dependent heperd's Avatar
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    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    "Sense of smell, perfume/scent/odours and our reaction, our perception is so deeply entrenched/involved with our conscious and subliminal brain, affected by our hormonal systems, brain neurotransmitters, our health, forget about cultural influences, upbringing, and other social variables that most neuro-olfactory scientists/psychiatrists will tell you that to view perfume 'objectively' is not possible.
    And anyone who disagrees, you are welcome to peruse through medical literature first and then debate"

    Great point. Even if we think we are being objective, we have no idea what is actually forming that though. We can be somewhat objective, which really is not objective at all....

    Then again, we have no obligation to be objective in our opinions of any type of art.
    *BASENOTES SPLITS*
    Creed Green Irish Tweed, Millesime Imperial, AVENTUS
    http://www.basenotes.net/threads/289345-
    *CRYSTAL FLACON SPLITS*
    Creed Green Irish Tweed, Millesime Imperial, AVENTUS
    http://flacon.ambaric.net/viewtopic.php?p=927#927

    *BIG SALE- Chanel, Dior, Creed, Mona di Orio, Puredistance....
    http://www.basenotes.net/threads/383...re#post3178152

  32. #92
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    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    "Sense of smell, perfume/scent/odours and our reaction, our perception is so deeply entrenched/involved with our conscious and subliminal brain, affected by our hormonal systems, brain neurotransmitters, our health, forget about cultural influences, upbringing, and other social variables that most neuro-olfactory scientists/psychiatrists will tell you that to view perfume 'objectively' is not possible.
    And anyone who disagrees, you are welcome to peruse through medical literature first and then debate"

    Great point. Even if we think we are being objective, we have no idea what is actually forming that though. We can be somewhat objective, which really is not objective at all....

    Then again, we have no obligation to be objective in our opinions of any type of art.
    *BASENOTES SPLITS*
    Creed Green Irish Tweed, Millesime Imperial, AVENTUS
    http://www.basenotes.net/threads/289345-
    *CRYSTAL FLACON SPLITS*
    Creed Green Irish Tweed, Millesime Imperial, AVENTUS
    http://flacon.ambaric.net/viewtopic.php?p=927#927

    *BIG SALE- Chanel, Dior, Creed, Mona di Orio, Puredistance....
    http://www.basenotes.net/threads/383...re#post3178152

  33. #93

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Quote Originally Posted by Asaskian View Post
    Symphonies:That is a sweeping statement mon ami.... :-)
    I won't argue the semantics, for it shall turn into another long diatribe.

    One thing I can comment on since I've studied it in detail is the olfactory brain, its association with memory, emotion, subconscious, etc, etc. Whether you consider perfume/scent art or not-an-art-form depends on your definition of art (in truth), one can argue it to eternal death and still pull up a point to light the fire again.

    Sense of smell, perfume/scent/odours and our reaction, our perception is so deeply entrenched/involved with our conscious and subliminal brain, affected by our hormonal systems, brain neurotransmitters, our health, forget about cultural influences, upbringing, and other social variables that most neuro-olfactory scientists/psychiatrists will tell you that to view perfume 'objectively' is not possible.
    And anyone who disagrees, you are welcome to peruse through medical literature first and then debate.
    I think this is going off the deep end. There is an inherent contradiction in the title of this thread because a judgment of good/bad is inherently subjective and not objective. The objectivity comes in hindsight from critics and historians who reflect on what was groundbreaking, influential, recognized by many as beautiful, etc. You can say "I define art how I want to" and that's it's purely emotional or medical or whatever; but while you're doing so, many others are working through the vehicle of criticism to form a consensus around what truly deserves to be remembered and why. Individually, they will never all agree. But ultimately, hundreds of years from now, in the archives of the Osmothèque great effort may still be taken to preserve those that are considered true works of art. And the criteria they use, arguably objective criteria at that point, are not going to have anything to do with, for example, my irrational emotional attachment to Windsor because it reminds me of my childhood.

    Here are some objective criteria that can be used to judge perfumes:

    * Sales numbers
    * Numerical critical reviews
    * Number of similar fragrances spawned after the original's creation
    * Frequency of being faked
    * Frequency of being smelled in passing on the street
    * Price
    * Change in valuation after discontinuation
    * Quantity Produced
    * The critical evaluation of people we appoint to positions in academia or institutes of preservation
    * Feedback from ordinary people gathered by polling
    * Tallying of critical assessments from Basenotes and otehr critical forums
    (etc.)

    So, of course our subjective judgments are grounded in all sorts of irrational bases. But don't think for one second that the great machinery of Art won't bulldoze through them. It's only a question of whether you want to be included in the discussion.

  34. #94
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    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

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  35. #95

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Quote Originally Posted by Asaskian View Post
    Ah, there we go again. (grin)
    You can say however you want to say it, but objectivity in perfume has been a conundrum forever. Ask any well known perfumer....
    You are trying to separate olfaction (scent)'s very scientific/engraved in our brain aspects from its critique as an art form (perfumes).... (to me) it doesn't work; just doesn't.
    But as I said, I am not getting into it.
    And there is no going off the deep end here: we are in a deep ravine, perfume-to-nowhere, already.
    For you it doesn't work. That just means everyone else moves on without you.
    Last edited by Beranium Chotato; 27th March 2012 at 12:11 AM.

  36. #96
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  37. #97
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    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Looks like, "what comes first - the chicken or the egg ?"

    When establishing perfume as an object of value (a piece of art), we have to consider what went into it. Precious and rare raw materials ... How well was the scent executed by the crafty perfumer ... Is the perfume unique in its make-up ?

    Only after that foundation can we measure sales, popularity, worthy to be in the Osmotheque.
    There are no answers, only choices. (Stanislav Lem)

  38. #98

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Quote Originally Posted by Asaskian View Post
    So since when did you starting representing the white/grey matter of world intelligentsia, BC?
    You can say "I" will move on without.... everyone else is a "very" generalised statement.
    That is why I said, 'to me'. Others are free to process however they want to and welcome to it.
    I don't represent them, Asaskian. I too am just a helpless person with silly opinions standing in the way of their inevitable march toward decisions about what will be looked back upon as great (or not). I mean people like Luca Turin and other deeply knowledgeable people who today are shaping the views of how great perfumes will be reflected upon. But I would much rather that really smart people like you--instead of saying it's all subjective/irrational/personal/medical/etc.--actually stay in the conversation. Our influence is miniscule, but hey, at least we might help sway opinion in next year's awards toward something more interesting than Royal Oud. it's a start.

  39. #99

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Quote Originally Posted by Ursula View Post
    Looks like, "what comes first - the chicken or the egg ?"
    Well it's the chicken.........as it is the perfumer.........

  40. #100
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    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    BUMP

    I dug out this very old thread. Mainly for the newbies to read.
    There are no answers, only choices. (Stanislav Lem)

  41. #101

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    I think your Stanislav Lem quote addresses the OP quite directly and succinctly... "There are no answers, only choices."
    Simplex Sigillum Veri

  42. #102
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    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Then why are we here on Basenotes if not passionately argue, ponder, wonder about the miracle of well crafted scents.
    There are no answers, only choices. (Stanislav Lem)

  43. #103

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Quote Originally Posted by Ursula View Post
    Then why are we here on Basenotes if not passionately argue, ponder, wonder about the miracle of well crafted scents.
    Well, to ask what will get us laid, of course!

    Actually, I've really been enjoying the rose thread started recently by rubegon. That discussion has me thinking more about perfume in the context of other arts. Like the pulp short story v. the novel with so many layers that it rewards multiple readings with new perspective and insight. Both are of value, and you may want one or the other at any given time.

    I think it's the same with perfume, although the problem with perfume for me is that I still don't feel like I have the vocabulary to understand or express what's happening.

  44. #104
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    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    I dug out this very old topic, among others, to add some discussion material to the tapestry of the Board. Shortly after the Return Home from Huddler platform, the Boards seemed empty and like ghost town.

    The long standing members have already posted, time and again. This revived topic is for the benefit of newcomers and for them it may be new and novel. At least reading it might be enlightening.
    There are no answers, only choices. (Stanislav Lem)

  45. #105

    Default Re: Objectively judging the quality of a fragrance as good or bad

    Thank you. It's a good discussion!

    Quote Originally Posted by Ursula View Post
    Then why are we here on Basenotes if not passionately argue, ponder, wonder about the miracle of well crafted scents.
    Hope my post was not misunderstood. Pondering is good!

    My sentiments and personal philosophy on the matter re the OP coincide nicely with Lem's words, I think. On the continuum that is subjective/objective at the poles, I personally choose to see subjective=opinion and objective=cold hard fact that can be replicated by all. About the only thing objective re fragrance is how much the bottle weighs and, if you happen to have a gc/ms unit available, an itemized list of what it contains (perhaps there is some subjective analysis that goes on with that process as well, no?). All the rest is just subjective opinion on what accords exist, their quality, how strong they are perceived, how complex they are perceived, how long they are perceived, how well it is constructed, etc. All subjective opinion from our different olfactory systems off fragrance whose bottles/decants/samples could not possibly have been handled/stored identically and are constantly being reformulated or tweaked by those who manufacture. One can go to the best of schools, apprentice for years, and/or become a master but that doesn't change that it's still subjective opinion. Sure it becomes a more educated, informed, credible opinion, yet it remains but subjective opinion. I choose to see things this way because, simply put, fifty plus years of life experiences tell me that it makes most sense to see things this way. As I continue to learn I can always choose to change my thinking.
    Simplex Sigillum Veri

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