YMMV

I got two things in the mail recently that made the topic of today’s post glaringly obvious.

Not to drag up anything from the past, but one of the interesting pieces of fallout about Perfumes: The Guide was the frequent complaint that it’s just the writers’ opinions!   To which I would respond: well, yeah.  Any form of critical review is by definition opinion on some level, from Robert Parker on wine to the dine-and-vote masses of Zagat — Zagat being proof in my view that popular opinion is often contradictory, uninformed and wrong.  When it comes to criticism of anything, from food to movies to music, you can disagree with the bona fides of the reviewer, or you can nitpick individual reviews as uncharacteristically dimwitted mistakes made by normally sane individuals.  For me it’s easy, at least regarding fragrance:  if The Guide and I disagree on a fragrance, then they’re wrong.  Or another way to look at it:  YMMV, or Your Mileage May Vary, which to me jokingly acknowledges the very real possibility that we are smelling things, or describing them, differently.  For instance, what struck me about trying Serge Lutens’ new Serge Noire at the Chicago Scentsation was how cumin-y it was on me — an assessment other people I asked to sniff (on my skin) totally disagreed with.  I find these disagreements interesting and amusing rather than alarming; surely there’s room for your Borneo and my CB Musk Absolute, although possibly not in the same room.  In the spirit of toasting our differences, today I have:

1)  He Wood by Dsquared2, which I have been wanting to try since its release (that name!) and which Kevin graciously sent me a sample of.  Notes are fir, musk, amber, violet leaf, aquatic accord, cedarwood, vetiver. Kevin says: “He Wood produces a lovely blend of violet leaves and flowers and holds on to that accord for almost the entire life of the fragrance on my skin” and “He Wood provides a new take on ‘wood’ — its smooth, bleached woods float on sweet, cool, lightly flower-scented water.”  I say: only my fondness for Kevin kept me from posting the traditional Mr. Yuck symbol next to this review, although judging by Kevin’s writing the man has a great sense of humor.  I got a giant smack of sub-Mousson level melon-y aquatic that left me sprinting for the sink.   I think I am an aquatic-note magnifier. I did get to test the theory of stainless steel as a scent remover, though — you just use running water and the back of a spoon in place of one of those soap-shaped devices that are supposed to remove garlic and onion from your hands.  It didn’t get rid of it 100% but it definitely removed most of the scent.  Thank God.  Kevin — peace, and feel free to rag anything I love in a future review, like the Montale Jasmin Full on its way to you now.

2) Chanel Beige, which Marina says “is a cold, somewhat arrogant beauty, a “better than thou” scent … a Proper Perfume in that it is abstract, complex… I happen to adore this kind of dressed-up, ladylike, slightly bitchy, coldly intense floral fragrances… whether you are attracted by this concept or not, you should smell Beige anyway, if only to refresh a memory of what a Perfume is supposed to be like. In this age of Smells, when perfumes are not supposed to be perfumey anymore, Chanel should be applauded for sticking to their guns and (once in a while) doing what they do best- timeless classics.”  I bloglifted several quotes from her review because I love her point about Chanel issuing Perfumes in the age of Smells, but I disagree with her characterization of the scent as cold and bitchy.  In fact, one of the things that strikes me smelling Beige is the luminous warmth it shares with No. 5 Eau Premiere, a gentle embrace instead of the slap you might logically be expecting from such a scent.  Notes are hawthorn, freesia, frangipani and honey.  The opening ten minutes of Beige are some rough road, akin to choking to death on the world’s most expensive triple-milled French bar of fancy muguet soap — it smells like the death-tendrils of muguet to me, although maybe it’s just the hawthorn being petulant.  I was literally heading for the showers when the sun broke through — something expansively Chanel-floral, between Eau Premiere’s creamy ylang-ylang and 31 Rue Cambon’s raw-silk vigor.  The third part an hour later is even weirder and my favorite; the honey becomes so pronounced and the scent simultaneously takes on a strange metallic note, and it came to me — Versace’s The Dreamer!  Not the same, but something reminiscent of that wonderfully dissonant Tootsie-Roll auto-part accord, which I think most folks either love as I do or loathe.   As Patty commented, this beige-named scent is “anything but bland,” and the lasting power of this particular addition to Les Exclusifs (which have been criticized for their wan performances) is extraordinary — still going strong 24 hours later on the back of my hand.  Delicious.

PS For those of you who wanted it — I posted Musette’s Brownie recipe yesterday.

  • Patty says:

    Well, you saved me from the Wood squared thing, yeah!!!

    But that Beige, I just keep thinking about it. I think I’ve got to get a bottle.

  • KevinS says:

    March/Lee: I admit that He Wood is “aquatic-rich” and I don’t mind being contradicted! (Use any emoticon you please)…and March, sorry the sample sent you scurrying to the sink! The Jasmine Full package arrived today…en garde! HA! I decided not to smell it because in about 30 minutes I’m headed to the dentist to get four old mental fillings replaced with enamel…didn’t want PAIN associated with the Montale. T B C…. Kevin

    • March says:

      Oh, can’t wait to hear! No, you don’t want your jasmine associated with the dentist…. also assuming you’re heading to a medical building and, even as selfish as I can be, I try not to wear any detectable levels of fragrance to medical appts. People are there in chemo, etc. I don’t want to make anyone sicker. 🙁 Had to remember that yesterday, in fact — our main doctor bldg. utilizes the parking lot across the street for SAKS — the temptation is terrible! I spray myself afterward. 😡

  • Elle says:

    Hmmm. Will not be tripping over myself to sample He Wood. I think I magnify aquatic notes as well. And I agree w/ you about Beige – deliciously warm. *Love* it and was genuinely surprised that I did. Fantastic honey note. Am amazed to read that a number of people get no honey in it at all. Skin chemistry and/or olfactory perception fascinate me to no end. Just read on MUA that some people are getting no cumin in Aziyade. Amazing!

    • March says:

      I thought Beige would be … well, beige, and not of particular interest to me, although I was expecting it to be well done. Honey is such an interesting note, glad it didn’t go all … male essence on me 😉 particularly in conjunction with the hawthorne.

      Ayiyiyiiii, you get cumin from Aziyade? Clearly I need to try it.

      • Lindsey9107 says:

        I am a little concerned about the Beige-ness of this, too. I’m not exactly in a hurry to try it, although I will eventually.

      • Louise says:

        Truly amazing…no cumin from Azidaye??? 😮 After the brief dried fruit moment, that’s all I detect. And I had such high hopes 🙁

  • Shelley says:

    I should’ve known that simply a spoon would do the trick, and you wouldn’t necessarily have to invest in one of those stainless “eggs” you can get in kitchen catalogues and keep by the sink for that very purpose.

    (But one in the shape of a flacon would be an elegant “scrubber” for perfumistas, no?)

    I was sad to not be able to sniff Beige at Chicocoa, but am thrilled to have My First Chanel. So responsible, was I, going through two decants before biting the bullet…

    • Lindsey9107 says:

      Oooh, Shelley, what did you end up buying in Chicago? I am nearly done with some decants of Les Exclusifs. That’s inspirational, going through two decants!

      • Shelley says:

        Hi, Lindsey! 🙂
        I gulped and got Bois des Iles. It’s one that has no fail struck me as beautiful, no matter what the weather, what the mood. Plus, it had a sort of nostalgic appropriateness; I was wearing BdI for the first time in public at a concert I was playing last season–Tchaikovsky was on the program (a supposed inspiration for Beaux when creating the scent), and Anita/Musette was in the audience (when ChiCocoa was way early in the planning stages). It all seemed to point to “purchase.” No regrets. ;;)

        • Musette says:

          You were teetering precariously on the edge and I admit that I gave you just a bit of a push but, really, you LOVE that stuff (and I don’t think I actually gave you a push- I think I sort of breathed in your direction and you fell over into “gotta get it”) It comes up in conversation a lot and I swear you kind of :”> when you talk about it, like a shy middle-schooler with her first ‘serious’ crush. I think it’s absolutely delightful that you love it so. Sort of like me and you-know-what….I actually giggled with glee when I got my FB and at the rate I’m going I will have to restock before Christmas! Ain’t love grand?

          And the whole decant thing – let’s face it, if you’ve gone through all those decants and you’re still blushing….well, it’s LOVE!

          [email protected]};-

          • Shelley says:

            Yeah, you’re like a matchmaker yenta and/or bold girlfriend who hands me the phone and says “oh, call him already!” Maybe a little of both…with a helping of the Muse that “et” Anita… no matter; thanks to you and my bottle, for now I can happily sit here with a grin on my face. <):)

    • March says:

      I know, I’m so happy for you too! And on that funny, wet day. But in addition to your old, already strong feelings for BdI, now you can add in the memories of that spectacular day. 😡

      • Shelley says:

        :”> I forgot to mention the clincher. Yes, of course–to actually make the purchase on Chicocoa Day was the scrumptious top layer. Good memories, captured in one bottle. (And I know they’ll stay there, what with that luxuriously solid good-feeling magnetic top!)

        • Shelley says:

          (hey, where’s my red-cheeked dude?) /:)

        • pavlova says:

          It looks and sounds as if the ChiCocoa Sensation was a terrific success and lots of fun! I keep increasing the size of my decants of Bois des Iles as they are emptied….perhaps this is a sign that I should follow your lead and purchase a FB — I do love it so!!

  • Divalano says:

    Thanks for the reviews, March. Thanks for saving me from trying He Wood. I’m not sure I would have but being on a wood kick, maybe, you never know. And thanks for another reminder that yes, I must smell Beige. But mostly thanks for the steel spoon tip. That will be added to my bag of desmellifier tricks, oh yes it will.

    Happy Monday :)>-

  • silvia says:

    Close to being the last person in the perfume world to smell Serge Noire, I finally did at the w-e and I also got a lot of cumin. To be precise the cumin popped in an out, but when it was in, it was of the strong sweaty type (and cumin is not normally sweaty on me).
    I also went to Chanel to smell Beige only to be told that in Europe it’s out in March 8-|
    On the subject of the Guide, I heard that there has been an addendum to it with another 100+ reviews, not sure if in the form of an updated edition or a separate booklet. Does anyone know anything about this ?

  • Nava says:

    Speaking of things received in the mail, my October issue of Allure showed up the other day, and lo and behold, Tommy Girl was one of their top fragrance picks in their annual “Best of Beauty” extravaganza. Might a copy of “The Guide” been dropped into the hands of an Allure staffer? Methinks so…

    • March says:

      Shoot, I was reading Allure last night (should I put “reading” in quotes?) and didn’t make it to the frag hit list. Tommy Girl is pleasant enough, I guess, but I still can’t see what the fuss is about. I do think the mag has good fragrance coverage, but when they do the popular vote, you wind up with pretty much what you’d expect. I do think I saw them with a gal-on-the-street survey of Notorious, which I think *sucks* and people always say something like “not too spicy” or “I could wear this on a date.” How come nobody ever says “this makes me want to hurl”? I bet they do and Allure doesn’t publish those.

      • Nava says:

        Well, yours truly also slammed Notorious, and it does always give me a hearty chuckle to read those pithy one-sentence drive-bys. I believe I would fall off a chair (or out of bed) if I ever read one that stated, “It stank to high heaven!” That would most likely be followed with, “But I wore it on a date anyway!”

        At least they’ve stopped gushing about Bath and Body Works’ Cucumber Melon shower gel. Talk about wanting to hurl…:d

  • Tarleisio says:

    The entire subtext of this reminds me a little of what my grandmother used to say.

    “You’re not a grown-up until you stop wondering about what other people think of you and begin to wonder what you think about them!”

    In other words, perfumewise, you might not be there yet until you stick to your guns and what you like, whether or not Luca Turin, Patty, March, Lee or anyone else agree with you.

    In fact, that has to be, so far as I’m concerned, half the fun, right?

    I know what I love – they don’t call me the Green Fiend for nothing.

    Some of these many reviews I whole-heartedly agree with, and some I don’t. The opinions – and opinionated personages behind them – I adore. They’re part of what makes for some very entertaining reading. But it’s rather fun, isn’t it – that noses – or even Noses – can have such differing perceptions.

    The other day, my 14-year-old daughter was on the prowl for a new scent, something her current crush might like. Well, Eau de Bacon being rather out of the question, I pointed her over towards something that might fit a teenager. Right there, that eliminates every one of my SL bell jars – sorry, sweetie, but wait until you’re at least 25, or preferably 30.

    So she settled on Viktor and Rolf’s “Flowerbomb”, which is near the top of my “there are no words for how much I hate candy-floss scents” list. But she loved it. I was a good mom. I bought it for her.

    Such is love, even if we disagree.

    I have yet to stick my proboscis into either Beige or Eau Premiere, but I can’t wait to try.

    It blows my mind that Dsquared would call a scent “Hewood”. Apart from giving me the best laugh I’ve had all day, from your description it sounds like it would fare better being named “Be afraid. Be very afraid. This is what your mother warned you against!”

    😉

    • March says:

      Um … yeah. I have a 14YO too, and much of my stuff is just too old for her, even if she wanted to wear it. It’s like dressing too old for a teenager. And some of the stuff she likes (she tried my Addict when I reviewed it) I like too but am having trouble believing she’d have enough moderation not to gag me with it. She wears Light Blue right now and I can live with that, I bought it for her. So — you’re a good mom, and F-Bomb is a great choice! In fact, I have a dear friend who was on our Chicago sniffa who had a little atomizer of it and it smelled delicious on her, sweetly spicy and much better than it does on me. You could do so much worse. @};- It’s funny for the scent-nut moms, isn’t it? Just like there are things I wouldn’t let her wear out of the house, there are fragrances I wouldn’t put up with either. Angel being the first scent to come to me… fortunately she hates it too.

      And yes, as I said up there somewhere, I wanted to love He Wood just because the name is so great. But alas…

      • Shelley says:

        Well, my 14 year old is male, and for years has declared that he knows it’s weird, but he likes the smell of gasoline. Given that he’s a vegetarian, too, I’m thinking that I might need to find him Hyacinth and a Mechanic as soon as it exists in a bottle…given that it is supposed to be all vegetal and oil/gas.

  • Louise says:

    Isn’t there some She-Wood scent by D-Squared? Or am I hallucinating, yet and still :-s ?

    Beige just doesn’t sound like my thing at all, though intense longevity endears any scent to me. So if you get 24 hours, I might get 6 or so?

    Happy Monday, all :d/!

  • MattS says:

    HeWood…”giggles immaturely.”

    I’m just thrilled to finally know what YMMV means. All I could think of was LVMH, the people who own Guerlain and everything else. I knew that was right. These little abbreviations always throw me. And as long as I’m mentioning it, what does DH stand for? I see it all the time on blogs in comments and all I can think of is “damned husband.”

    • Louise says:

      Lord, I love when you wax immature :p !

      To really get immersed in deep acronym-land, try MUA. I like your “d” as “damned” better than “dear”, though YMMV :d

      • March says:

        Yeah, I think they did, that’s the one that they were “pretending to make a man’s scent” when they made it, I am pretty sure. Like something you’d borrow from your boyfriend. And the name makes sense in an eye-wink way (She Would) but I don’t find it as hilarious as He Wood for obvious reasons. In any case I’ve not smelled it, and if it smells anything like He Wood (i.e., aquatic) it’s not gonna work for me.

    • March says:

      Dude. I KNOW. That’s the whole reason I wanted to love He Wood — what a perfect name! I’m still waiting for a chance to smell Smalto’s Full Choke for the same reason. I want someone to release a fragrance called Big Tool (notes of cut grass, axle grease, ice tea, sweaty shirtless farmhand…)

      You can always ask about the abbrevations, you know. We forget. I’m happy to answer. Hey, sometimes I have to ask too! And yes, I am pretty sure DH is “dear” husband, although yours works fine.

  • carmencanada says:

    March, you know, it’s so weird, that huge muguet note in Beige didn’t hit me AT ALL, in three straight days of wearing it and nothing but, until Octavian from 1000fragrances drew my attention to it (in a real life sniffing session). As I wrote in my review, I got mainly the frangipani in the top notes, then some ylang-ylang, and found it tropical, and more than a bit sensuous, in a well-bred, insidious Chanel way. So, yes, perception is a weird thing, but as most of us know, it can flip on its back all of a sudden!
    That said, I tend to agree with you: both the new Chanels are rather amiable and joyful, and yes, luminous. I only read the copy for Eau Première after writing the review, but when I first smelled it (it isn’t out in Paris), I had the same impression as Octavian, something that’s in the copy: it’s like dawn.

    • March says:

      Do you think it’s muguet too?! Dang, I should go read your review. There’s something really green in there, though (seemed less tangy than galbanum). I was really really surprised that it worked itself out for me, the opening is so immensely soapy/green.

      I totally agree with that description of Eau Premiere. As I think I said in my Chi-Cocoa update, I find myself wanting a bottle of it. I thought it would be too rosey for me, but it’s not.

      • Musette says:

        How did I miss this?:-?

        • March says:

          Hon, they don’t have Beige in Chicago — it’s a NYC exclusive I hear (at least for the time being). I got a sample. The Eau Premiere is at Saks but I think you are asking about the Beige. They’re different fragrances but I would say related enough that your feelings for one might indicate your potential feelings for the other. :)>-

          • Musette says:

            No, I was asking about the Premier. I can’t believe you are swooning all over this and I missed it? Well ‘missed’ is sort of a misnomer as I can easily try it when I’m back at Saks next week but IT’S NOT THE SAME!:(( I wanna try it with Youuuuuu!:((

            Okay, enough whine.

            I’m just getting back into Chanel-land with Les E. I am taking Patty’s advice and going for the Cuir Edp (or parfum, forget which) as the cologne isn’t oomphy enough for me. Love Bois des Iles but not enough for a FB – my decant will do me just fine….I can easily wait for Beige to get here and by then Eau Premiere will have given me a hint of things to come.

            [email protected]};-

  • Lee says:

    ITA on the HeWood. Made me queasy.

    (sorry Kevin. I still think you’re smashing and super and lovely.)

    As for Chanel, I’ll wait and see. I never rush to Chanel as they never rush to get on well with me…