When enough is enough?

 

A while ago Kafka (Kafkaesque) wrote in one of her letters:

Question: just how much must one torment oneself with a perfume that one really dislikes (but doesn’t rise to the level of TOTAL revulsion) before one says, to hell with the review, I want this off me? Normally, I scrub only when in agony and with a headache, but I have much less patience these days and this White Cristal makes me feel as though I’m in a hospital and they’ve just rubbed antiseptic on me.

With her permission I decided to answer the question here.

My knee-jerk reaction was: you shouldn’t suffer at all through testing a perfume you do not like, scrub it off immediately and forget!

Stop

But then I stopped myself and looked deeper.

I think it boils down to one’s intent. If you’re looking for the next perfume to like, buy and wear; or you’re writing only about those perfumes you like; or the extend of the negative writing about it in the blog will be: “Here are the notes and the pedigree; tested but it didn’t work for me; next!” – then of course, off it goes after the initial half-test. After all, it’s just a hobby and not a paid job to work through whatever comes your way.

But if you take it upon yourself to write both positive and negative reviews, it comes with some responsibilities. Of course, people are free to do it on their blogs any way they see fit. I’m talking strictly from the moral prospective, how I see it.

While it doesn’t really matter that you write an ode to a perfume you’ve just met, I think chastising a perfume requires a longer courtship. I always remember that negative images and characteristics might be very powerful and much stickier than positive ones. Go and try to shake off the “bathtastic“, “fancy Axe” or an image of Birgit relentlessly checking her son’s diaper.

I’m not saying bloggers shouldn’t do that; I enjoyed all the above-mentioned snarks and, if anybody, those brands can definitely withstand a dozen of such “hits” without even registering their occurrence on the PR seismic scale. But with smaller players it’s important to be mindful.

My position is: we, bloggers, shouldn’t write bad reviews for small niche or indie brands because even a single bad review will represent non-proportionally large segment from the total exposure whereas it’s very subjective and might be influenced by a writer’s mood, weather, stress level and hundreds of other factors. What can come from a subjective positive review for a “bad” perfume? Ten more people decide to pay for a sample and figure out on their own if they like it or not. Most people will not give it a chance after reading a bashing review – even though they might have loved the perfume in question.

But if bloggers want to write negative reviews, to be fair they have to go through at least several testing sessions, no matter how much they dislike the perfume. We are not doctors but since perfumes are our passion and we care about the industry I think we should follow the same principle: Primum non nocere.

Rusty And Sunflower

 

Images: my own.

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73 thoughts on “When enough is enough?

  1. Great post. I think most of us tend not to write scathing reviews of niche company perfumes: it’s just mean-spirited. There’s one scent company in particular, United Scents of America, that is small and has a great concept, and I get the impression that their inventive perfumes will be great with more money and more time.

    I wouldn’t mind bringing down a big, pompous company that’s hocking a cynically bad fragrance though.

  2. You make a very good point. It’s easy to get caught up in the ‘fun’ of writing a bad review but it has consequences worth considering -especially if it’s a small niche or indie brand. As we all know, nothing could be more subjective than perfume and even our own tastes can change indiscriminately. I will say though that I trust bloggers more if I sense they’re being honest – and if they’re always positive, I get suspicious…

    • I do not think that one has to be only positive. But there is a huge distance from positive to negative and, I think, with tiny brands it’s just not necessary to go all the way into the full-blown dedicated negative review. It might be a paragragh in a quick-sniff post or a mentioning of a particular parfume in the line-up of perfumes with some positive, some negative impressions.

  3. This is an interesting post Undina, and one that I think could generate a lot of different views and debates. I think in principal your views are very sound. On the other hand, one might ask the question is where is the line drawn between when a blogger is simply a fan (hobby) and a critic, and if there is a role of blogger as critic. If one is a critic, then theoretically there shouldn’t be a ‘protection’ of indie perfumers and their product should be judged on merit alone.

    As I am not a critic nor a trained perfumer, I know I am merely a hobbyist and thus I would probably fall in the former and perhaps not be so quick to judge perfumes.

    • When somebody considers himself a critic, of course they have to write both positive and negative reviews, including small(er) companies. But every time I think of a critic and a perfumer, I can’t help but remember Luca Turin and Mona di Orio… Did he really have to be that dismissive? Were here perfumes really that much worse than most he reviewed in The Book?

      • Undina, I agree. That was an extreme example (and unpleasant one). I’ve seen that in critics of other art forms, such as music and literature. I always get the feeling there is something more personal in that that makes those sort of people biased.

  4. As a big supporter of artisanal and indie brands I totally agree. But I also agree with Joan that I would not mind nocking down a large “pompous company” if the juice is not good…but then again who am I to be the judge on that :)?
    a very thought provoking article, Undina…thanks!

    • For a big brand, especially those that are widely available in B&M stores, online word of the mouth, even a bad publicity, is still a publicity: there always will be people who’ll decide to try a perfume others didn’t like. Why not if it’s free? For a small brand it might be the difference between making it and not.

  5. Undina’s wisdom has spoken!
    You know I read this article with my cheeks turning red with a weird excitement.
    You’ve seen I have never written a 100% negative review. If I don’t like perfume I either don’t review it or I write a review in “good, but not for me” style. Maybe it is time to change that and write some negative stuff too?
    I remember bloody Frida talked about how important negative reviews can be, especially when everyone else says a perfume is gorgeous and I find it to be totally opposite.

    Lately I had a talk with Kafka about Chanel Coromandel which is a painful fragrance for me as its notes represent many of my perfume fears and the scent itself acts very strangely on my skin. And I was quite scared of reviewing it at Chemist in the Bottle because it gets so much love from others. But I promised her I will review it and I will… one of these days.

    • Lucas, I agree with Carol that it’s important to express the opposite opinion when everybody else praises a perfume. A negative review on the backdrop of multiple positive, if anything, makes a perfume to sound controvercial and thus more interesting. So even a small brand might benefit from that situation. But if everybody else follows the trend De mortuis nil nisi bonum, I thnk it’s better not to say anything negative.

      As to Coromandel, if you’re sure your sample is good (everything might happen), critisize away! Trust me: Chanel can take it ;)

      • Thanks for a good word of advice.
        I’m sure my Coromandel sample is fine, I got at at Chanel boutique just a few months ago and kept in in a proper place.
        One of these days when I feel confident to write a negative review, I’ll do it.

  6. U – such a good debate subject. Negative reviews can be tabled with a reminder that it is the reviewers own opinion and the reader may not have the same reaction to the fragrance. If you are a perfumista, you know that not everything works for you, but that same perfume may be a love for another. Funny thing is that the bad reviews and the really good reviews are the most fun to read. I have to admit that I do table some negative reviews for smaller niche houses. I dont know if that’s really fair though. Thanks for the food for thought. Steve

    • I think it is fair to keep silence (at least for a while) about smaller perfume houses’ releases: absence of positive reviews gives enough information to those who knows how to read blogs but, at the same time, it doesn’t influence negatively those who still might try the perfumes on their own. If all you see are positive reviews and praises – this is your cue to voice a different opinion.

  7. This is indeed a very thought-provoking post and one I have been mulling over lately as it happens. I don’t have a firm stance on the issue yet, though I completely agree about the multiple attempts before saying anything.

    I have definitely held back from reviewing perfumes that I have not liked from small houses, but like Michael, it bugs me a bit to constrain myself this way. There’s one in particular that I don’t think is good whereas with a number of the others it is more a case of me not caring for them. In fairness, even the former could just be misbehaving on my skin.

    But the imbalance of wholly good reviews for small houses as a matter of principle can be misleading I feel. I am sure there are readers who would trust the opinion of their favourite bloggers to the extent that they would spring for a full bottle after reading nothing but glowing reviews. I occasionally read in comments on blogs that people buy more than just a sample unsniffed based on recommendation. In fact I would love to see a post about the subject of whether people have bought on this basis and regretted it! So it is a tricky issue, and thanks for raising it.

    • Sorry I misread Michael’s comment which was to do with critics having more right to judge a perfume’s merits than mere hobbyists like us, which is a fair point.

      I guess I still do lean to the view that somebody should be permitted to voice a contrary view, or else we might end up with an overly self-regulated cult of all things small and indie – if we don’t already have that to a degree.

    • Vanessa, I do not know if there are many people who based their blind purchases on a mass of positive review and regretted it – as an opposite to just a single good one from a trusted blogger but in that case it wouldn’t matter if there were negative ones, right? But, if you remember, Birgit had one of her Monday questions about reviews ruining a perfume for her readers and there were many people who acknowledged being impressionable – and there we were talking about perfumes that people already knew and liked!

      BTW, now would be a good time to publish a not-so-enthusiastic review about NVC: the volume of positive reviews is considerable enough to counteract negative ones.

      • I am genuinely finding I like the whole trio of NVC better now, so I probably shan’t feel the need to add to the glut of good reviews!

        I think some people take the absence of positive reviews as a sign that something is not well received in the perfume community, but others – myself included – may not always twig to that / notice it. So I still think the bias towards positive ones is unhelpful, and the notion of protectionism raises other issues that don’t sit well with me. I think I will adopt a “this is not for me” approach if I sense a small company might be damaged by a review, though one small house told me to go right ahead and write what I liked, even if I didn’t care for their scent. I admire them all the more for that, and ironically have yet to pen a negative word!

        And as I say, I would be so curious to know to what extent people have bought blind decants and even FBs from any good reviews – whether multiple or just the one voice they trust – and regretted it. I certainly have!

        • I have too, Vanessa. I bought a full bottle of Caron’s Nuit de Noel because of overwhelming love for it on the blogs. The love seemed to carry over to the current version, not only the famous vintage version. I hugely, hugely regret buying it. Perhaps the vintage is better but now I have a barely touched bottle that I can’t stand to look at. Same thing with Annick Goutal’s Grand Amour — which I hate with a seething passion. So incredibly disappointed and I wish I’d found some reviews which accurately describe the less pleasant sides of it.

    • I agree with everything you have said, Vanessa. I’ve been struggling with this of late, because I do feel constrained by the need to be respectful of people’s work. Especially niche companies, but lately that has been expanding out to mainstream companies as well. I have not come to a definite opinion, but this is a great topic for discussion, Undina!

  8. I have definitely tried to convince myself to love a few well-loved classics, but mostly to no avail (Mitsouko, looking at you). I have no problem scrubbing. But as I embark on blogging, I am very aware of being kind to the indie/artisinal world. I also find myself influenced by others’ opinions. If I test something and really like it, I scour blogs and books to see other reviews. Insecurity? Maybe. But in the end, I always stick to what I love (D &G red cap, anyone?).

    • Mitsouko, Shalimar and No 5 can take all the negativism – and then some (btw, all three just refuse to be beautiful on my skin).

      I almost never read reviews for those perfumes I haven’t tried but plan to: I don’t want to be influenced. Once in a while, when I’m anxious to know what the perfume I’m waiting foris like, I might read areview by one of the trusted bloggers.

  9. Very thought provoking topic, Undina! I have come to learn after reading several perfume blogs for about a year that if someone doesn’t review something after it has been out for awhile they probably didn’t like it enough to warrant a full review and I take that as criticism in itself. And I completely agree that the niche and indie perfumers probably get hurt much more by a negative review than the big houses do so, it is worth it to really think twice (or three times) before writing a scathing critique of one of their scents. On the other hand, I don’t think they should take it personally if someone writes diplomatically about how it is not for them. Even when referencing a child’s dirty diaper the review is still not awful, for example.
    On another note, even though I own and enjoy many Montale scents I can’t look at their bottles without thinking of the “fancy Axe” comment :-)

  10. I’m going to be really interested to read everyone’s opinion on this. :) As for myself, I’m still struggling with the issue and that was far before the issue of indie brands came into it. As you know, I try to test out things I don’t like at least twice in order to be fair and thorough. There are exceptions when things are truly unbearable but, yet, not quite to the level of a torturous scrubber. I will last as much as I can but fairness doesn’t require that I go through *that* much misery, after all.

    But lately, I’ve been thinking about the impact of a negative review on smaller brands, especially start-ups or truly Indie ones. I don’t think I could ever write something positive if I didn’t like a perfume. It’s just not me. Plus, I think negative reviews are important and serve a definite purpose. But, for a really brand-new, start-up with absolutely no money and no real chances of competing, I think I simply wouldn’t write anything at all. I simply wouldn’t feel good about myself or be able to sleep at night if I wrote one of my typically scathing reviews for a company like that.

    Unfortunately, that raises a whole new set of questions of just how small is small enough for some protection, and where do you draw the line? Perhaps it all depends on cost. If the company’s products are affordable enough *and* offer reasonably priced samples so that a not-so-negative review results in people spending just a tiny bit, then it may be okay to offer them some protection. If, however, it’s an indie company whose products are over $100 or €100 with no accessible way for affordable samples, I don’t think they should *automatically* get the benefit of a cushy, protective review. In those case, I think that one’s first obligation of honesty is towards the reader.

    • To be fair ;), fairness doesn’t require scolding a perfume you couldn’t endure to test, right? You can always do a mini-review with “not my cup of tea” resolution.

      Since I do not write reviews per se, I can’t always come up with what to write even about a perfume I liked very much – let alone those I didn’t.

      I agree that price goes into the consideration. The higher the company aims, the more I expect from them.

      • To me, a small sniff with “not my cup of tea” would be completely dishonest for a perfume that I didn’t think was good at all. I do the “not my personal taste” thing for fragrances that I think are good and that others would enjoy, but which don’t suit my personal tastes. But the ones I hugely dislike and which were actual scrubbers, or ones which I endured repeatedly with my usual 2-tests but still thought were horrible? No. I couldn’t do it. :(

      • I should add to my comments below about being unable to do a passing “not my cup of tea” thing & honesty: that pertains to the big perfumes or established company. As I said in my initial comment, for tiny or just starting brands, if I hated the scent, I would opt instead not to review it at all. I can’t seem to do the in-between thing. :)

        • I agree with Kafka – I would do an outright negative review if I thought a niche perfume smelt cheap, say. But if it is clearly well blended and made from quality materials, but contains a note or three I don’t care for, then I would default to ‘not for me’. I think there are still too many glowing reviews washing around the blogosphere, and a few too many holy cows, and an overly reverential status accorded to certain houses for reasons I fail to fathom, unless it is some kind of snowballing bandwagon (if I may mix metaphors slightly). And given that every blog post is always going to be just one person’s opinion, and readers know that, I don’t see the problem with a bit of grit in the mix here and there. I once called an Amouage scent ‘Attila the Attar’, but the brand is still going from strength to strength. :-) While Honour Woman was in my top scents of whatever year that was – 2011. I bet there are more readers out there with disappointing blind buys than are ever going to come forward and say so, and we bloggers are in a way collectively responsible for that…that said, if a perfume only got three reviews from the few people in whose hands a sample happened to land, I agree with you that that would not be right either. But given the PR effort that even the smallest brands put in, I don’t suppose such a situation would obtain for long. And sorry to have taken three bites at this particular cherry! It is an excellent topic for debate and has clearly touched a nerve in me!

          • I see your point and agree with almost everything. I just can’t feel bad for those “blind buys” that you keep referring to: I think that people shouldn’t be doing that in principle, so maybe one or two unsuccessful purchases will teach them not to throw away money that could have been spent with much more enjoyment without an impulse buy based on somebody else’s opinion ;)

  11. Undina – this is so well timed. As I prepare my third ever review for APJ, I find myself absolutely challenged. You have inspired me.
    Thanks for such a great piece of writing. I have a long way to go. Have a good Easter.
    Love from a still very wintery Austria.
    CQ xxxxxxx

  12. Similar to Vanessa and others, I have mixed feelings on this topic, Undina. I think negative reviews, if done well, can be helpful to both the perfumer and to the perfume lover. But one has to be really thoughtful in doing it, and in the past, I’ve written some knee-jerk negative statements I’ve regretted.

    This story illustrates how I handle things these days: Over the recent fall and winter months, a company was routinely sending me (and other bloggers) samples of their latest perfumes, most of which were perfumes I didn’t care for. There was only one I thought was beautiful, and accordingly, I wrote what I would like to think is a beautiful review to match it. But I also then wrote an email to the rep and told her I wouldn’t be reviewing any of the other perfumes — and suggested to her that I was not a good fit for the brand. I thought this might upset her, because the perfumes had been sent at great cost. But you know what? She was appreciative of me being honest with her, and she made it clear that she’d leave a door open for me … that if any of their future perfumes sounded like a fit, I could always write her and she’d be happy to send a sample.

    • I always try to warn perfumers in advance that I might never review a perfume even if I like it.

      Though if a company has a budget on marketing their perfumes, I think that giving samples to bloggers and perfume enthusiasts makes more sense than distributing them rendomly in stores.

      If I do not get to try it at all, there will be no story at all. If I do – who knows? Also, even if I do not review a perfume, having tried it, I’ll be able to maintain a conversation on other blogs, FB or twitter about that perfume.

  13. First, a big hug to the most handsome Rusty!

    Very good question, Undina and I’ll start by asking several questions.

    1. If one doesn’t “own” a blog but comment in one or more, does that make one a blogger? Does a commenter have the same “obligation” as a blog owner? Should a comment be censored if it’s contrarian and/or, expresses an opinion that may disadvantage a “protected” niche/indie perfume company?

    2. Do perfume bloggers avoid negative reviews due to a fear of reprisal from either a well-established company or the indie/niche company that may become successful?

    3. If a blog derives ad revenue, will it lose its objectivity?

    4. Hypothetically, if Etat Libre d’Orange started with Secretions Magnifique and the company qualifed as one of the protected niche/indie category, should bloggers have stayed silent about it? (Note: The only reason I brought up Secretions was I smelled it for the first [and will be THE ONLY) time yesterday and it took so much willpower for me not to throw up on the spot, but I digress.)

    5. How is a book review different from a perfume review other than the thing being reviewed? Should one avoid writing negative reviews of a book written by a first time author?

    Speaking from a perfume blog reader’s soap box, I prefer perfume review bloggers to write the good, the bad and the ugly in accordance with their opinion without regard to the type of company that came up with the perfume. As a consumer, I try to ignore the marketing drivel and would rather read “real life” reviews AND the comments they generate. Have I ever been influenced by a negative review? Sure, but it has not stopped me from deciding for myself if and when I encounter the perfume. As to for how long / how often one has to try a perfume to be able to write a review, it really is up to the writer what s/he is comfortable with. As a commenter, I have no qualms expressing a first impression opinion.

    • A big hug and a treat goes to Rusty.

      I do not have answers to all of your questions since I cannot speak for all bloggers but I’ll try to answer some as I see that.

      1. I do not think that commenters (or bloggers who comment on other blogs or write in forums) have the same obligations. When it’s just a conversation it’s an exchange of opinions and tastes, not an “expert’s opinion” (most of us do not pass our opinions as such but the longer one is in the field, the more recognized and influential he/she becomes).

      2. There are might be bloggers out there who might have those motives or fears. But I don’t think that too many of us get that many perks from being a blogger so the risk of loosing any of them is pretty slim.

      3. If a blogger pushes products from affiliated programs, I think everybody understands the limits of objectivity. On the other hand, if the reveneu comes from ads placement negative reviews and reviews of celebuscents (doesn’t matter, positive or not) generates a much better traffic, so we can definitely trust their objectivity on reviewing some indie company’s scents enthusiasticly.

      4. I didn’t try to put down the law, so you cannot expect that everything makes 100% sense and works for all the cases. Also, “one’s intent” rule should work in both directions: if company’s intent is to produce a beautiful perfume, we should give it some slack – maybe others will think it’s beautiful; if a company tries to shock, they feel confident enough and can take the blows.

      5. I’m sure that there is a difference between a book (movie, painting, music, etc.) and a perfume review but I think it’s a bigger topic and I’m not prepared to discuss it yet. Maybe in another post one day?:)

      Readers’/users’ objectivity is also a bigger discussion. If you haven’t read it yet, take a look at Birgit’s topic a link to which I gave in the reply to Vanessa above and think of how much you would be inclined to pay for a sample of a perfume from a company about which you haven’t heard before if you read only a couple of negative reviews and no positive – just because a company isn’t too good with their marketing to provide a perfume to more bloggers and those two who happen to test it just didn’t like the perfume? Yes, it wouldn’t have stopped you from trying it if you came across it, but would you pay to try it?

      • Thanks for your thoughtful response, Undina. Perhaps, I am too rigid in what I consider “fair” and to me, a perfume should be judged on its own merits regardless of the size of the company or the specific perfumer. Also, a large company may not necessarily be doing well while a small company may not necessarily be THAT small as small companies may have big company / wealthy investors and it is just not publicly known.

        I went back to read Birgit’s topic and now I want to try a few more perfumes :-)…but all kidding aside, my real life example of a perfume house that I’ve read nothing about from the perfume blogsphere (but which I saw in one NST comment) was Slumberhouse. I don’t think I tried very hard to find reviews but even if I did, I don’t believe there were many (and even now, there are barely any reviews). I went ahead and ordered a full set of samples and fell in love with Pear + Olive. I know APJ reviewed Pear + Olive very positively and if it weren’t so positive and I read it, I probably would still have tried the line since it made sampling very easy (not free, but easily available).

        Anyhow, I think this is a good topic and definitely food for thought.

        • No information is a different animal. But can you be sure that you would have still bought those samples if there had been still no positive and just a couple of snarky reviews along the line: “For twice less money you can buy one of Kiehl’s perfumes and you won’t notice much difference”? (I’ve never tried any of the perfumes from the line, so it’s just an example)

          • If I am curious enough about the line and the only way to access them (assuming the need for almost instant gratification) is through a paid sample program, I will probably take my chances despite the lack of positive reviews. Also, below a certain $ threshold, half the cost vs. twice the cost makes no difference. Methinks we have to remedy your Kiehl’s drought :-)

        • But why would you be interested in that particular line? Based on what? So, NST announces a new line; for a while thereis no information about it; then all that there is out there are two dismissive reviews. What will make youcurious enough about that particular line to pay yourmoney for their samples and not for samples of any of the other dozen of new companies or newly released perfumes?

          I know Kiehl’s perfumes (and do not think much of them), I was referring to Slumberhouse – I haven’t smelled a single perfume from the line yet.

  14. Dear Undina, I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s answers very much, it has been very enlightening and a very civilised discussion :-). Overall I suppose there are those who enjoy reading negative reviews, because they are often rather fun (as your examples state), but after the fun what then? As has been said a few times, if it’s a small house, a snark can become a big issue. If it’s a big company which looks like it just hasn’t bothered to create something exciting, or every perfume blogger and his cat ;-) loves a special frag, so a questioning review would actually do the conversation good, perhaps it’s another matter. But personally I am not a fan of negative reviews, because, in general, I don’t see what they add to the conversation. Surely we all know by now how different our perception of smell is, and a well written blog-post (as I prefer to call most ‘reviews’) I feel should be able to describe a fragrance in such a way that a blog-reader is in a position for him/ herself to figure whether or not the fragrance would be something worth seeking out.

    • I agree with you.

      Also, I planned to mention negative reviews for samples sent by friends who love those perfumes – but then it escaped the topic flow.

      • I agree that a very negative review of something send to you by a friend is rude and unnecessary, unless of course you’ve discussed it before in private.

        • Oh, and see a negative review of something a friend loves is, I think, completely “on the table.” (To anyone reading this, feel free to pan anything I have sent you!)

          • I think there is a difference between critisizing just a sample sent by a friend and publicly bashing a perfume that you know your friend loves and shared with you hoping you’d love it too.
            I mean, I don’t think there is anything wrong with not liking that perfume and mentioning it on one’s blog. But I would have been probably hurt somewhat if, for example, you wrote about one of the perfumes you know I love: “I’d rather be caught dead than be caught wearing a headband.” It’s not like it’s your job to review every perfume and you just cannot be silent on such an important matter ;)

          • Ooh, that’s a good point. I have held off as far as possible from slating perfumes I know that friends of mine love, and never have I knowingly done that with samples someone sent me. But if I slipped up here and there, may I take this opportunity to issue a blanket apology!

          • Vanessa (sorry, Natalie, my nesting clearly didn’t count on such discussions :) ), scolding just another sample is totally fine, I love reading your musings. I’m talking only about situations when a friend shared precious mls of something she loves. I think in these cases the World will survive without our negative review of that particular perfume.

  15. Hello! Thought provoking. Honestly, it never occurred to me that I had a “responsibility” to try something fairly if I’m going to write a review, negative or positive. Especially with perfumes that someone sells, whether they’re a home concoctor or a big commercial company, they have a responsibility to make it smell good in exchange for my money. If it doesn’t, well, pffft.

    No, I would not wash it off for another reason: I find that in the far drydown, or on second wearing, or in different weather, the perfume gives me something that I would have missed out on if I’d gone too fast. I don’t want to miss out on all those notes or elements and I want to learn that they’re there and how to enjoy them (if I can enjoy them). That’s partly why I save all my samples. Like rereading a poem or a book I didn’t care for, sometimes there’s something rewarding.

    Which isn’t to say I haven’t just washed off some things and tried to forget them!

    • Please tell me you aren’t one of those spontaneous anarchists who negates any notion of “responsibility”, “obligation”, etc. :)

      Of course these are not laws and nobody can make you follow those “rules” – whether you agree with them but do not want to follow or disagree. But would you have had the same reaction if I had written something like: “A blogger shouldn’t write a positive review just because a company sent it for free”? It is becoming a law now but it wasn’t until recently. And yet we came to expect that from bloggers we respect and read.

      The fact that something is somebody’s business (read: they make money doing that) doesn’t mean that a customer can be mean. We can disagree on what constitutes that mean behavior but I think we’ll agree on principle itself.

      You (and anybody else) are free to write anything about anything/anybody (within the law). But I think that we, as a community that cares about the perfume industry, have some responsibilities. And in some cases I’d qualify writing a negative review without a proper testing as a mean behavior that might harm our community rather than serve any positive goals.

  16. Undina, I think your post has raised more questions than answers, to be honest, and I think that is a good thing! One other thing occurred to me – critical assessment of perfume and perfumery is a very new concept and trend. It’s only really started in the last decade, off the back of people like Burr, Sanchez, Turin, etc. However, critics of literature, music, art and film have been around for decades and in some cases even longer. What I’m trying to say is that we are all finding our feet to an extent with meaningful and balanced critical reviews of perfumes.

    Obviously the media in which (with which?) we operate is vastly different to more traditional means (and I guess is now the same for all forms of review of art) – it is far more immediate, and possibly wider-reaching in some cases, with the potential for greater damage of the creator.

    • Michael, I agree with you on the comparison with more established fields’ critique practices, technics and customs. We’re getting there. We’re trying to figure out the adequate way of doing that. And these discussions are important for the development of the proper approach to this new area.

  17. I’m late again. :)
    After reading your post, I wanted to say I completely agree with what you said. Then I read the comments and now I’m not really sure what I think. :)
    I don’t think I ever write a truly negative review, one of the reasons being I don’t feel my knowledge is vast enough that I could stand behind my proclamation that something is really bad perfume. Although, there are some perfumes I think that of. The other thing is, I caught myself almost hating some perfume only to be turned to their case. So, I would be extremely careful before writing a bad review.
    Then again, as was the case with Birgit, she didn’t bash the perfume but honestly said what she thought only to have it backfire straight to her blog-face for no good reason I could see.
    As for small indie brands, I try and write honestly what I smell and why I like them – or possibly why they might not be to my liking as my taste isn’t objective and I don’t try to hide that fact.
    I do hope it’s visible from my writing that I look for pleasure in perfumes.

    • You’re never late! It’s a slow moving conversation on my blog and I do not mind going back even a year if you have anything to say on any of the topics ;)

      I think that most blogs I read follow some sort of these internal rules. Probably with some variations and in many cases just instinctively, without putting the whole theory under it. I just wanted to state my position and see different opinions.

  18. You have stirred up a a perfect storm of opinions.

    Recently posted on the phenomenon of the good perfume that I personally just don’t like. And you can’t win there. We may be able to agree on what constitutes a well made fragrance but some of us are just going to hate certain scents no matter what. It complicates reviewing. What exactly is objectivity when it comes to scent? Gas Chromatography? Focus groups? Sales figures? None of the above?

    Also, can I have Kafakaesque’s bottle of Nuit de Noel? I mean, if I promise to be good and all?

    • As I was reading that your post I thought it was a good illustration to my argument about subjectivity of our perception which, if we’re not careful with words, might read as an authoritive disapproval of perfumes from a small new brand.

      I’m glad that my blogo-friends had a variety of opinions: it made us all think about the subject so in the end it will influence (I hope for the better) how we write (and read) about perfumes.

  19. Hello, Undina!

    I thought of another point which has not been touched upon (unless I missed it). There has been an explosion in new niche launches and houses over the last couple of years. My sense is that some of these houses are fly-by-night operations and the “creative directors” are more like business people than true designers/artists. In other words they’re just in it for the money. They might be doing lots of other things: selling real estate, owning an ice cream franchise store,…

    I have to be honest: I think that not everyone is a perfumer. Perfumery is a profession, and I am unimpressed by some of these niche houses, which strike me as little more than get-rich-quick schemes. This makes me think that negative reviews are okay. Maybe they should be doing something else anyway?

    What do you say? ;-)

    • Hello Sherapop!

      It’s a very good point. I admit that I haven’t thought about that aspect and I know why: while writing on the subject I had a dozen of specific niche brands in mind and those people, either I like their perfumes or not, are passionate about perfumes. But I completely agree with you. And when it comes to reviewing businesses, no matter how small they are, I have no problem critisizing them (see my recent Olfactiv: Yey or Nay?).

    • Thank you :) I’ll give him an extra treat for your compliment (I don’t think he liked the sunflowers’ smell but he stayed very gracious with them).

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