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Q&A: What exactly is

In the spirit of explaining what is all about, I’ll take this opportunity to answer a few general questions about the site to outline what we do.

What do we review?

Our focus is largely reviewing fragrances – colognes, perfumes, eau de toilettes – that aren’t widely advertised or frequently promoted.  These range from vintage scents to older products that are still in circulation, but it also includes niche fragrances. Though many fragrances are designated as “for men” or “for women”, we review scents more agnostically since we know that some women prefer men’s fragrances, and vice-versa, depending on individual tastes.

However, our core focus is the men’s perfume market, and most of our reviews are of niche lines, independent perfumes, or luxury brands.

What are niche fragrances, and why cover them?

The largest part of the fragrance market is composed of either designer or mass-market scents sold in the retail channel.  This is everything from drug stores to department stores to the local Avon representative.  These are covered extensively by promotional media, general review blogs, newspapers and magazines, and since this segment is covered so heavily we believe we would add very little to the conversation other than further chatter.  It’s also not a very interesting market segment to us, unless someone feels very strongly about celebrity fragrances or discount retail offerings that usually aren’t very original or exciting.

A very small percentage are fragrances that are sold in high-end retail (Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus) or boutiques (Min New York, The Scent Bar). Because of their limited distribution and manufacture, they’re referred to and marketed as “niche”. The review coverage of these is often the domain of enthusiasts, blogs, and retailers who promote the products. The creations that emerge from this market, however, are often excellent and far superior to their mass-market counterparts in terms of their composition, imagination and overall creativity. Because of their limited distribution, niche perfumers generally have more freedom to explore trends or concepts and push the boundaries.

When you read about Oud (agarwood), for instance, this is a trend that has taken off in large measure because niche perfumers have had greater freedom to explore this and try new ideas outside of the bottom-line eye of a corporate parent intent on low-cost and maximizing profits. So where mass-market fragrances tend to be focused on overall popularity with a large customer base, niche fragrances can focus more on creating an end product that is compelling to their customers with less regard for promotion, bottom-line and overall popularity.

In short, niche perfumery is much more interesting, and provides much more and varied material for us to consider and review.

Why mostly mens’ fragrances?

The number of sites that have a largely female-focused approach to fragrance are too numerous to mention. If you’d like to see many of them, there are a variety of links on our Fragrance News & Reviews > On The Web page, all of which are quite good at what they do. It’s very well-trod ground, and writers have done a superior job in covering that part of the perfume arena.  We would add very little. There are far fewer sites that review or discuss fragrance from a male perspective, even fewer that are focused on niche fragrances.

Obviously, we write for a very under-served group of fragrance enthusiasts, and it’s a group of people to whom we happily cater.

What we do, and how we do it.

Every fragrance review site has a perspective. This isn’t “news” but “reviews based on experience and our own testing”. One person may love a scent that another…doesn’t. We try to be as authentic and factual as possible, but given that much of the experience of a fragrance is a subjective one, we’ve devised a method to how we review a particular product or scent. This makes the experience easier to understand a product in a logical manner – because men think differently than women.

Before any review is written, we test. We test a lot. We sample under a variety of conditions and situations to understand how the fragrance responds to skin, temperature, and other elements long before the first words are written. Every perfume or cologne is put through its paces before we elect to provide a review, so we’re not writing about something we’ve never worn personally. Most of our work actually occurs behind the scenes. Once that’s done, we write-up our experience.

We first provide some background on the fragrance, the perfumer, and/or some reason for its relevance.

Next, we explore the scent and break down the individual components – the top notes, heart notes, base notes of every creation. The goal is to provide an overall impression on how the elements blend together, accentuate, or define the wearing experience from first spray to final dissipation.

Then, we review our impressions of wearing based on our personal experience: How did it feel? What were the properties of the fragrance? How did it rest on our skin? Did it project the scent beyond us? Did it leave a long scent trail (sillage) in its wake? What was the endurance of the scent based on regular spraying on pulse points? Those and other elements are gathered before we explain our opinions on the product.

Finally, we provide a rating between 0 and 5. A score of 5 is represents a very exceptional fragrance, innovative, superbly crafted, something we would own, wear and feel justified in providing a strong recommendation to others. Zero (0)…well, that’s reserved for a scent worse than a gas station rest room. Enough said.

Our bottom-line or conclusion summarizes the overall experience in a few words, usually giving a thumbnail on our opinions.

I’ve seen reviews on some fragrances that were classified as women’s scents. If you review men’s fragrances, why are these here?

Not everything is black & white. Some scents that are classified as women’s are ones that work well for men, and some that men enjoy are also very suitable for women. Simply, we review the product with an eye toward whether men could wear and enjoy it. Certain perfume houses tend to have a more universal appeal, and others actually may recommend a fragrance for any gender. Niche scents are commonly marketed without a gender assignment to avoid any bias by either men or women who might be inclined to enjoy any scent.

The bottom-line is that either gender should try a fragrance for themselves and keep an open mind to avoid missing something they may enjoy.

Submissions: I’m a perfumer or retailer/manufacturer’s representative and would like to submit a product for review. What is the process?

Thanks for asking. We’re always interested in new products and are happy to consider a review of your product. There are a few criteria for submission.

  1. Your product must be sold in at least one physical location (retail, boutique) in the US, and must be actively manufactured. We cannot review products that are bespoke in nature.  We also cannot review products that do not comply with recent IFRA guidelines on composition or manufacture.
  2. We need your physical address and contact information and some information about the perfumer or product manufacturer. We also need a minimum of 2 ml of the product to be reviewed, which obviously is not subject to return.
  3. You understand that you are submitting the product to a review site, and agree that the product is subject to a review at our individual discretion. Simply put, we may elect either to review a product or to decline a product for review. In the event a product is declined, we will only return it if you have provided a postage-paid method of doing so.
  4. You further understand that submission of a product does not guarantee a positive review. By submitting any product, you agree to our assessment processes and further agree to hold the reviewer harmless from any liability that may result from a review. Submission of the product signifies your agreement with these terms.
  5. If your product is selected for review, you will be apprised of our decision and be advanced a copy of the final review prior to publication.
  6. These terms do not constitute the complete requirements or disclaimers. Please contact the site administrator for a complete requirements, disclaimers and clarifications.

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