I tried searching for a thread on the subject but couldn't find any. If someone knows the URL for such a thread I'd appreciate it.
When I write review on a scent, I base it strictly on my experience (my nose, my skin, my mental perception), which is obviously very subjective. Is there a better way of reviewing?
Also, and please correct me if I'm wrong, I know that perfumers cater to different tastes, so they may make a perfume that they wouldn't necessarily wear as long as they know enough people will wear it. So this makes me wonder: how does a perfumer critique a perfume? What's "good" to a perfumer? Is it about complexity, harmony, ingredient quality? All of the above?
Thanks in advance!
I think a review ought to both give a sense of what a frag smells like and convey the reviewer like/dislike. A like and dislike can be based on purely personal criteria. A description of the frag will certainly involve personal experience, but in the sense of making associations, metaphors, and what else to explain how something smells. There are cases where people actually perceive things differently (because of anosmias, hypersensitivity, etc), but most of the times, we smell the same thing; whether we like it is a different story.
In any case, I do like a "personal" approach that relates to personal experiences. It is usually more illuminating than a review that lists the official notes, which, typically, doesn't really communicate much.
Thanks, cacio and hednic, for reassuring me that a review based on personal perception is ok. From reading fragrance reviews, I know that if a certain feature is repeated across multiple reviews for the same fragrance (like: "this is a blast of citrus") then it's usually true to my nose. I guess my main concern with a "personal" review is that this is a worldwide forum where reviewers may have vastly different perceptions on what smells good and what doesn't, what reminds them of nice things and what doesn't, ..etc. Different environments, plants, climates, and even diets will result in a different perception of fragrance across geographical regions.
On the other hand, one great advantage of a "personal" critique is that, to me, it's a writing exercise. To be able to convey accurately the way one feels about a fragrance takes talent and skill. Unraveling the I-don't-know-how-to-explain-it elements in a fragrance and translating them into words also requires delving into one's own mind and perhaps asking serious questions that could reveal things of which we weren't aware.
But I still would like to know how a professional perfumer critiques a fragrance. What would they look for? Or it is also a subjective ruling just like the rest of us?
Some professional critics I have read are Turin and Sanchez, and Burr. All of them, I think, try to convey how a frag smell by making associations in various ways, whether to substances people should be aware of or conveying a mood or impression such a fragrance could do, often putting it into its historical context or within the perfumery development. Then they give a rating, which depends on their taste, to a large extent. In fact, their ratings often disagree.
Criteria one could use for a rating include novelty, complexity, richness, structure, "smelling natural", longevity, and so on, but in the end, "smelling good" is personal.
To make a concrete example. I strongly dislike marine notes. To me they smell like decaying shellfish. A good review would convey the idea that a frag smells marine ("like a beach") or the like, and put into the context of other marine frags ("in the tradition of Aqua di Gio' etc). This gives me the right information. Then if they guy, like me, strongly dislike, he can then associate to decaying shellfish and give a zero rating. If he likes, he might describe it as invigoratingly fresh, and give a top score.
the best way to write a review is to express your opinions and no one elses.
One of the best ways is to be honest with yourself.
Thank you all, especially cacio, for the excellent and informative responses. Now, please excuse me as I edit many of my reviews
All you've got is your own personal taste and experience (and perhaps some expertise about perfume, but I don't know), so you have to use those. It's how you do it that counts. Maybe the best reviewers are the ones who think about the reader when they do reviews.
Read or watch people who do it well: Katie Puckrik is brilliant at conveying the feeling of a fragrance in her own personal terms without alienating the viewer. The Candy Perfume Boy and Victoria at Bois de Jasmin write really well. Persolaise isn't too bad, but his writing is a bit stilted and feels like hard work. The Les Senteurs blog is a fun read, too.
The other thing is that a "good" reviewer doesn't necessarily mean one you agree with all the time. I don't think it's about trying to convince someone that a fragrance is bad or good. Just set out your impressions and let people take what they like from them.
There's a blogger named The Non-Blonde that i like to read her reviews of perfumes from time to time.
Perhaps you could stop by her's blog to check out some of the reviews and writings.
As long as you give your honest opinion, it's all good IMO.
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I think some context is helpful - it's one thing to express how one might 'feel' about it, but the reviewers I return to are able to communciate something of the effect, the construction, the mood, the actual scent in a way that is actually helpful to me, at least, and presumably to others going by the responses. An educated comparison to other works from earlier eras or similar pieces from other houses is great, but only reviewers who have some knowledge of the larger canon of work released over the last few decades and who have assessed a lot of perfumes can offer this sort of context . . .
Put it this way - a 'review' requires a deeper knowledge than an 'impression'. It doesn't guarantee it will be any good, of course, or 'correct' - but it will at least frame the composition being discussed in a more coherent way.
There isn't one "correct" way to write a perfume review. It is not a scientific article based on an empirical study. When it comes to perfumes, our impressions are influenced by our individual, subjective experiences with scents, emotions, memories, so it is perfectly natural that we have different opinions and different writing styles. Personally, if I want to write or read about perfumes, it's because it's allowing me an aspect of creativity that I might not otherwise have in other genres. I wouldn't like to be forced in a formula of listing chemical ingredients or notes to be objective. I also wouldn't like to think that only someone with the status and knowledge of a perfume historian would be encouraged to write and post reviews.
Last edited by catnip_too; 12th April 2013 at 05:24 PM.
Also agree with most of other the posts above, esp. about giving an honest opinion. However, at the risk of being a pedant, I don't necessarily equate an opinion or an impression, no matter how heartfelt or well written, with a review if the writer clearly doesn't know what he or she is talking about
I don't think in terms of 'correct / incorrect', rather there are good reviews that keep the focus on the fragrance and the reviewer's perceived scent odors in terms of the standards most of us are familiar with (e.g. floral, minty, musky, etc.).
Reviews that delve into 'calgon take me away moments' of a reviewer's past, sharing the memory of an aunt or grandfather, or an abstract comparison to something like beavis and butthead or gone with the wind... these all do little to help me understand the scent and lend more to a distraction more involved with the reviewer instead of the fragrance. Generally, I ain't got time for that.
HOWEVER, with that said and to be honest about it, in the final analysis any particular well-structured review is only as good to me as it corresponds in a direct and positive way to my experience, or eventual experience, with that fragrance. For instance, if a review of Fresco doesn't give me reason to conclude, or expressly state, that there are similarities to Aventus then, upon hindsight, it would become a useless review to me, no matter how well written. So, in the end it all depends on how close it aligns with my own perception/experience.
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I love reading reviews about perfumes i did not smell yet!! and love writing them when i finally smell them:-)
but i think beeing honest is the best thing, then you add something to the mosaic.....and the more reviews the better, its like chorus singing, one off voice will not ruin the overall music......so one off review will not lead me on the wrong track as long as there are many reviews to read:-) ......
The fragrance world will be a much poorer place if everybody reviews fragrances in the exact same style.
That said, I don't think it's a good idea for professional perfumers to do fragrance reviews. Something tells me they are more apt to review fragrances in terms of structures and synthetic components e.g. "Oh, that's probably 25 parts hydroxycitronellal, 50 parts iso-E-Super,..." etc. I'm probably wrong though. I believe their fragrance vocabulary is much more developed than that of the average reviewer.
I am not like some of the better BN with rgds to writing reviews, although, I truly enjoy reading some of the reviews here, quite a few whose writings are prob even better than their fragrance knowledge, or maybe its the frag that's making them write so...
IMHO --- A good nose is someone who combines the creativity aspect and the laboratory aspect and produces a masterpiece and u can probably sense it in the way they describe their frag.
---------A professional perfumer on the other hand is more like the physical chemist - looking to see which molecules added to the mix provide the desired result, its more like they know already what they want and are using their knowledge with rgds to the lab molecules to get there. Now I'm not putting down these guys in any way, as this w/o doubt requires extensive knowledge and skill nonetheless...