Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Two Odd Ones

This won’t be very well thought-out, because it’s coming to you from Planet Nyquil. I’ve got a bad cold. (I know there are worse things than sore throats, but when you have one, it doesn’t seem as though too many things are worse!) Anyway, I’ve been considering writing about two perfumes for a while, but haven’t, because I haven’t come to firm conclusions about either of them.
Tell me, fellow bloggers and forum posters. When you evaluate a perfume, do you look at what others said about it first? I have to confess that I often do. I have my favorites -- writers who know, without a doubt, more than I do. But sometimes I “poll” -- look at forum posts, blogs and retail review sites -- because I’m still just not sure. I don’t mean Good vs. Bad. I mean, is it one of those which can only be appreciated by the cognoscenti? Is it aimed at the mass market, and is that always bad? Or is it something too sophisticated, too haute, for my evaluative abilities? That kind of thing. In other words, peer pressure.
One of my favorite houses is Parfums de Nicolai, because they make good stuff and price it fairly. I’ve tried quite a few of their offerings. But a few months ago I screwed up while ordering a decant, and wrote “Maharadjah” instead of “Maharadjih,” a nice amber scent which I’d sampled and liked, on the order form. When the decant finally arrived -- well, you know the drill: rip, spray, squirm with deligh...WTF, is that lavender?
A little research revealed that I’d messed up the order, not the decant house, so I was stuck with it. And I couldn’t imagine why a perfumer would plop a big gob of lavender -- although it is a nice, heady lavender -- on top of an amber and spice scent, like pomegranate syrup on chocolate ice cream. Was this simply too advanced a perfume for me? I hit the (virtual) books.
Some loved it; others hated it; all mentioned the dissonance of the lavender. Well, that was a relief. Here’s the thing, though: I still haven’t made up my mind. A little more research reveals that the home fragrance versions of this outsell all Nicolai’s other home scents. I can see that. The personal fragrance? I’ll give it a five out of ten. I’m wearing it right now, and I still don’t know if I like it.
Another one is Nicolai’s  “Eau de Turquoise Eau Fraiche.” I bought a partial bottle of this, unsniffed. It truly was one of the strangest fragrances I’d ever smelled. It’s listed as a fruit-based scent, but is so unique that I imagine that label was a best guess. This is to a frooty floral as a peppery, grassy Sauvignon Blanc is to a White Zinfandel. The “notes” mention mango, peach, citrus and sage -- I don’t believe I’ve ever read a stranger “notes” list -- but it works. 
This is not to say I loved it. I traded an ounce of it right away. Then, I started getting compliments whenever I wore it. Lots of them. A woman at the gym made me write down the name of the scent and where she could get it, and that’s the only time that has ever happened.
I began to like “Eau de Turquoise Eau Fraiche” better.
Although there may be one or two out there who’d say “Oh, heavens, no. I never take anyone else’s opinion into account when reviewing a perfume. I am a tastemaker, a leader, not one of a herd!” I bet there are others who’d admit to just a little bit of what-does-so-and-so-think investigation. We are, after all, social beings.
Anybody want to a chance to try these? Tell me: how do you make up your mind?
Leave me a comment by midnight, March 14, US Eastern time. I’ll do a random drawing and announce the winner March 15th.
The photo is by Diane Arbus, “Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967.” 


Ines said...

Strange you should mention Parfums de Nicolai in this context because I often struggle with those scents too. Especially Eau Turqouise which I swapped all away, as I bought it unsniffed, optimistically thinking I will love it. That wasn't the case and I still wonder at people who like it.
Regarding your question, I try and not read through other people's opinions before making up mine, although when a new release comes out, I am bound to read opinions on it before I even try it.
Usually, when I like something not very known and take a look at fora and similar, the opinions vary but seem to be more negative than positive so I no longer give them much credit. Besides, they mostly don't give very good arguments either pro or contra.

Hilary said...

If I have a scent that is new to me I like to try and form my own impressions and decide whether it's love/loathe or indifference. Then I obsessively read every single review I can find and test it again in light of those !

I adore Maharadjah because it reminds me very much of Jicky. Of course, Patricia de Nicolai's scents are often very 'Guerlainish' anyway but Maharadjah, with it's citrus and lavender on an oriental base is very evocative of that particular classic to my nose.

Eau de Turqoise is one of the few PdN's I haven't tried as the words 'fruity floral are an instant turn off for me. Your review has made me very curious now!

kjanicki said...

I did exactly the same thing!! I accidentally ordered a bottle of Maharadjah when I meant to order a bottle of sunny rose and amber Maharanih. When it arrived, I sniffed it and thought "ewww, lavender" - not a note I like. Thankfully, the shop let me exchange it. I also have Le Temps d'un Fete, which I adore.

I read all the reviews, since there are so many perfumes out there and I can only sample a few, i need help to narrow my choices down to the few I will most likely enjoy. But I don't always agree with the rest of the perfumistas when I finally get to try the latest thing. Like, Carillon pour un ange by Tauer. Every review said I would love it, but I didn't. I am grateful however that I tried Soir de Lune before I read Luca Turin's terrible review of it because I love it, and if I had read him first I might not have tried it.

Anonymous said...

I was too often disappointed buying blind something exclusively on someone's description/ review, having told myself I would never ever do it again. However, there are some Basenoters and MUA-ers that are very experiencesd with apparently similar teaste like me and I used to rely upon their opinion/ead their reviews and decide accordingly. But I should state that own testing is the only and best way to make one's mind and decide. Thanks for entering me - Alica - alica@cleis.net

olenska said...

I think it's fine to seek supportive opinions from other sources-- that's what books and blogs are for, to round out empirical knowledge with additional facts and opinions. My own personal procedure is very similar to what you describe here. I apply the perfume, jot down my impressions in my little notebook, check the perfume's scent elements as listed by its maker to see if I can identify what I'm experiencing, and then see if other bloggers have had similar experiences. Sometimes just ONE comment that another perfumista makes about a fragrance define its context better and helps me to come to terms with it. :)

The Left Coast Nose said...

Other people's opinions have been only general arm-swinging-in-that-direction for me--I appreciate reading about other people's experiences, and even more, their insights.

But I haven't found anyone whose taste is close enough to my own to function as a tastemaker. (Early on in my perfume obsession, I followed Chandler Burr closely, but only because he was the only person I knew who was actively writing about current niche. Once I found the blogs, I didn't need him anymore...)

As for the House of PdN-- there's gotta be some gene that I'm missing to get what that stuff's about-- I can't wrap my mind around any of it. (Note: as for lavender-- I love it alone, but it's like banana in a smoothie-- it just stands out at a right angle to everything else when it's in a blend.)

taffynfontana said...

I voraciously read all the reviews and try to make an educated purchase whenever possible, sadly when I try in real life I feel a twinge when others around me do not have a positive response about my new purchase. I guess it's the people pleaser in me. Would love to try Nicolai’s “Eau de Turquoise Eau Fraiche. Please enter me in the draw

Elisa said...

I love to read reviews, but they generally can't make a difference in whether I like something or not. For example almost everyone loves L'Heure Bleue but I just don't like it on me, knowledge can't change that. Positive praise may help me appreciate a scent, but generally my mind is only changed by wearing it and getting to know it.

Would love to try these -- I've only tried a couple from the PdN line and would like to know it better.

ScentScelf said...

Gosh. I'm in one of those moments where I'm feeling like if I were a better, more consistent person, I'd have a single answer. "I always do read up first," or "I totally ignore what others seems to say."

The truth is, some perfumes I have a strong and ready relationship with, and am either pretty confident in what my opinion is (whether or not it is "right") or so dealing with a whammy of a moment that I have no need or desire to consult others.

Other times, I feel more like I'm in a dialogue mode. Rather aware that I am in the process of placing my thoughts more as a contextual something than a definitive something.

Ironically, I am well aware that "definitive somethings" of opinion are subject to change or adjustment, and "contextual mode" may always be just that.

I read blogs voraciously, unless I am in break mode. So the full picture has to include that I am probably aware of what at least a few other people said about a given perfume, unless I missed that particular post, or unless I am so enmeshed in my own experience that other input is just set aside. The degree to which I take that other input, when taken into account, varies, but I suppose should be acknowledged in the spirit of full disclosure.

Such is the pattern of my vagaries. :)

As for Nicolai, I outed myself as a fangirl a while ago. Though to be sure, I have had strong reactions to one side or another with her stuff. I'm so glad you brought up the Maharadjah v Maharadjih, to which I will add Maharinih. Unless one of your duo was supposed to be that... augh. Been there, done that, as far as that trap goes. As a result, I STILL can't remember which is what. I would like to try that lavender at some point, though. I thought I had it, but...you guessed it...I had one of the other of the morphing named ones.

Nancy said...

Kiss Me Tender is one I enjoy but only have bought the sample so far.
Wide range on "love it" to "forget it' on this site.
I love to read the reviews and check the perfumes out that have moved me.
But please enter me in the draw.
Thank you.

sean's jo said...

I know that when I am on the fence about a perfume that I can be swayed by others. Unfortunately, the result usually disappoints me and I once again think...why did I listen to someone else. Perfume really is so very personal.

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