Tuesday, July 12, 2011

To Snub Or To Scathe?


You know you're exhausted when you place an order for what you think is a new raw material only to discover that you've already got it in your lab. In this case it's cedryl methyl ether - aka Cedramber - a dry, spiky, vaguely vegetal substance. I saw it listed on the site of one of my suppliers, looked up its odour profile on the net and decided it would be worth buying for one of my current fragrance experiments.

When it arrived a few days later, I smelt it straight away and realised it was - ahem - remarkably similar to another one of the spiky woods in my collection. 'But which one?' I asked myself. ''I'm sure it's one of the ones that begins with C...' I ran my gaze across my alphabetically arranged bottles. 'Ah yes, here we are. It's this one. Cedryl methyl ether.'

Pinter-esque pause.

'Oh.'

Cue: major internal embarrassment.

Never mind. The Invasion Of The Day Job always frazzles my brain, so I guess I mustn't be surprised by such mistakes. Or maybe I'm going senile...

But anyway, the real purpose of this post is not to bemoan the sieve-like state of my mind but to ask you all a question, particularly those of you who write perfume blogs of your own.

When it comes to perfumes with which I haven't been impressed, would you rather I published a negative review of them or I didn't mention them at all?

Why am I asking? Well, I've become increasingly aware of the fact that the industry welcomes negative publicity almost as much as positive, and I sometimes wonder if less-than-flattering reviews actually play into the hands of the companies that are trying to sell the fragrance in question.

Needless to say, I can't completely stop writing bad reviews. If nothing else, they bolster my own credibility and, hopefully, prove that I'm not a corporate mouthpiece. (And besides, I wouldn't be able to make all my reviews positive even if I wanted to: there simply aren't that many creditable releases out there.) But I wonder if I ought to be more selective when I feel inclined to give the thumbs down.

What do you think? Should poor creations be exposed or should they be denied the oxygen of publicity and made to perish in isolation?

I'd welcome your views.

Persolaise.

PS If you live in the UK, don't forget that the third and final part of Ian Denyer's Perfume documentary will be broadcast on BBC Four at 9 o'clock tonight.

24 comments:

  1. I would ask that you write what you think, without worry about the positive or negative. You are a very important independent voice and even if perfumers and companies aren't overjoyed by that perfumistas and perfume lovers are.

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  2. Well, purely selfishly, I am after entertainment when I read blogs, so from that point of view negative reviews are just fine. They are often funnier than the positive ones ;)

    On a serious note, you may remember the conversation we had over a raspberry macaroon: it's never funny or professional when it's made personal or offensive. Writing readable negative reviews is a skill that not every blogger has.

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  3. I think you should write what you like too - I am a firm believer that it helps readers to form a comprehensive take on a particular scent if they have a mix of good and bad commentaries to go on, especially if they know the personal taste of the blogger in question. My taste is broadly aligned with Robin of NST, for example, and very dissimilar from Angela of NST, so I will always bear in mind who holds the particular opinion. As long as any critique is carefully couched as someone's personal opinion - which will be a particularly well informed one in your case - you can't go wrong.

    I am mostly drawn to write about perfumes I love, but I do report on "Nasty Niffs" at least annually, and also any out and out scrubbers that take my breath away in the course of the year!

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  4. Between Ronny & Vanessa, what I think is thoroughly stated here. What they said!

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  5. I would be interested in a negative review with specific discussions of what aspects you didn't like and why, so I could decide if something was worth trying. If it was something that was new or popular and was being reviewed in lots of places, I could compare and contrast reviews from different authors and see the pros and cons.

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  6. I think everyone here has the same thoughts as myself. If it's honest, without being directly offensive, negative reviews are fine.

    Personally, I don't like eternally optimistic/positive attitudes, nor do I like cynicism. But the balance is what's right.

    And lastly, I learned a few years ago, no matter what people say about something, it's just an opinion. There's is never the definitive say, right or wrong. A definitive answer can't exist, but it's nice to add to the discourse.

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  7. I agree with everyone else. If something has disappointed you, you should say so. Plus, there are all sorts of negative reviews. It could be something you admire that just doesn't work for you personally. It could be something you were really looking forward to that should have been perfect but was shoddy. It could be something that you don't mind but is entirely derivative of something else and therefore lacking in creativity. They are all interesting to hear about.

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  8. Ronny, thanks very much indeed. I understand what you're saying, but I do sometimes wonder about the impact a negative review might have on, say, a small niche brand as opposed to a multi-national giant.

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  9. Nukapai, 'A Conversation Over A Raspberry Macaroon' sounds like a promising title for a short story.

    But seriously, thanks for your comment, and yes, as a reader, I do agree that negative reviews are often more entertaining. Not sure what that says, but it does appear to be true.

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  10. Vanessa, thanks very much. You're right about the importance of a range of opinions, and hopefully the internet is increasingly becoming a more reliable venue for informed, independent views on fragrance.

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  11. StyleSpy, thanks very much indeed. I think what we have here is the makings of a consensus.

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  12. Matildaben, I do hope my negative reviews give reasons for why I've reached a certain conclusion, although I must admit that sometimes it's tempting just to write the words, 'Awful. Avoid like the plague' and be done with it ;-)

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  13. Liam, yes you're absolutely right: ultimately, these judgements are subjective. And yes, an endless stream of good reviews just becomes meaningless.

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  14. London, that's actually a very good point: there are different 'types' of negativity, in the same way that there are different types of positivity, I suppose. Thank you :-)

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  15. Surely constructive and well-informed criticism is always useful? At least for us would-be perfumistas, reading about why a fragrance is judged negatively can help appreciate what makes a fragrance great. Just my little grain....^_^

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  16. Laurinha, it's not a little grain at all. Your views are as important as everyone else's. And yes, I think the reasons why something is judged as poor are crucial... even though this becomes a subjective matter too.

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  17. I'm a little late...

    But I say, go where the inspiration is! I don't care which way it leans; what I love is passionate, intelligent writing, positive or negative... which you already do so well ;)

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  18. deeHowe, you're not late at all :-)

    And thanks very much indeed for your kind compliment; I appreciate it.

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  19. Speak, write, type WHATEVER is on your mind, please!! Good wits are not to be wasted!! :-)

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  20. In general, I agree with almost everything previous commenters wrote. But I would probably suggest skipping negative reviews when it comes to very small niche/indie perfume houses/perfumers: many of them aren't getting enough positive publicity so any one negative opinion/review might be really damaging. Especially when it comes from somebody with enough weight.

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  21. Linda, with that kind of encouragement, how could I refuse? Thank you :-)

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  22. Undina, you've touched on one of my main worries. I think there is a case to be made for showing some kind of leniency towards niche houses (especially if they're very small) but the trick is to find the right balance. Selective leniency is all well and good... but at what point can it tip over into a case of 'double standards'?

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  23. About "double standards": I'm not suggesting bloggers should compliment something they don't like. But if they write only about positive impressions and keep silent about any negative encounters (when it comes to small houses) it will barely point towards leveling the field: niche houses aren't competing with each other, they are against the Mighty Fruity-Floral Pink and could use some allies.

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  24. Undina, I know what you're saying... but the idea of making niche houses exempt from criticism is something that makes me feel rather uncomfortable.

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