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Is Frédéric Malle going off the boil?

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There has been grumbling for a while now, niche houses sell out to corporations and the quality of the perfume goes down; both in the back catalogue and, most likely – but harder to gauge, in new releases.

By comparing old and new samples you can often find out if a perfume has been tweaked, but the quality of new releases - compared to the back catalogue - is more difficult to judge. One approach is to look at the ratings a house gets, before and after being sold to a corporation. The one I chose is Editions Frédéric Malle which was bought by Estée Lauder in 2015.*

The method is very simple. Using the Basenotes database, I totalled the Thumbs Up percentages for the Malle era, and for Lauder, and then divided each figure by the number of perfumes. At the time of writing, the results are as follows :

22 perfumes were released while Frederic Malle was an independent house and they get an average Thumbs Up of 65.9%. Nine have been released since Lauder took over, and they get an average of 51.8%, a drop of 14.1.

The highest rated perfumes are: Le parfum de Thérèse 84.8%, Portrait of a Lady 81.4 and Lys Méditerranée 80.5, all under Frédéric Malle. The lowest are Dawn, released by Lauder and getting 20%, but that’s on the strength of five votes, and Outrageous 26.9, a rare lack of judgement by Malle.

A revealing statistic is the number of works that get 60% or higher, which these days, politicians think is a decisive victory. Under Frédéric Malle 81% of releases were clear winners, with eight of the first nine in this category. Under Lauder, only one third have reached this goal.

Even though this is a crude survey, the results are clear. According to Basenotes reviewers, the quality of new perfumes has declined since Lauder bought the company.

* Estée Lauder on a Spree, Buys Frédéric Malle … The deal is expected to close in January
Women's Wear Daily 07-Nov-14


Notes :

To be fair, this is not a sophisticated analysis and there are a few problems:
Only positive ratings have been taken into account and they have been compiled using the arithmetic mean, which is probably the simplest measure.
The results only look at headline statistics.
The grumbling about Lauder - and corporations in general buying niche houses, could have influenced reviewer sentiment, possibly causing Lauder perfumes to be downgraded.
One perfume has been left out because it only has one review.
Cologne Indélébile (2015) is included in the Lauder section, even though it was probably in development before the sale.
Newer perfumes with few votes may not have reached their final percentage, and so their ratings should be seen as more provisional.

Thanks to all readers. Your comments are welcome.

Updated 27th March 2021 at 05:11 PM by Wild Gardener

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Loving perfume on the Internet since 2000