One Thousand Scents

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Intermission: Biting the Hand

I don't know how comprehensive the ad-blocking software in your browser is — you do block most ads, don't you? — but you may see a discreet little ad at the top of this page: this is because some time ago I signed up for Google Ads, which puts them there, calculates how much money is made from people clicking the ads and (they hope) buying things, and eventually cuts me a cheque for $100, which hasn't happened yet and probably never will.

Earlier today I checked my blog to see when my last posting was, since I try to post two or three times a week, and noticed an ad for a product called "Primal Mist", which immediately made me think of the over-the-counter asthma remedy Primatene Mist, so I think we can all agree that it isn't perhaps the best ever name for a perfume company. That's strike one.

We expect a certain amount of nonsense in fragrance advertising; perhaps in all advertising, but most especially in the marketing for a product that is pretty much by definition a pure luxury and also impossible to properly convey in words. But here is what the Primal Mist people have to say about their two fragrances:

Our scientists identified two sensuous aromatics decoded from a 3,300 year-old Mesopotamian cuneiform tablet. The ancient text was authored by a perfume maker named Tapputi, long ago. We searched for and found these extremely rare scents and created two new sensational and alluring perfumes. Primal Mist was born. Experience the seductiveness of the only fully hand-crafted, upscale perfume in the world. Perfume so perfect that it spans the boundaries of time.

I wouldn't even mind that so much if the lists of notes didn't include "white musk" for the first scent and "cashmere musk" for the second. Both of these are synthetics. Did the Mesopotamians invent synthetic odorants? Are commercially available synthetics somehow hand-crafted? Their advertising is even more full of it than most, so that's strike two.

Now, here's the page containing their two scents (click on it to make it bigger, if you like):

Yeah, that's "Formulae Alpha" and "Formulae Beta", which might be acceptable if it weren't for the fact that "formulae" is plural. Formula: singular; formulae: plural. Just like "nebula", "antenna", "vertebra", and other Latin words absorbed intact into English. One fragrance can logically have only one formula, so it looks as if they're using "formulae" instead of "formula" because they think it looks classier (it has a ligature and everything!), which is just ignorant and pretentious. So that's strike three.

Now look at those bottles. They may be crystal, but they sure don't appear very expensive, because they're not. In fact, you can buy them for $12 each ($9.60 in lots of a hundred). See?

I freely admit to knowing nothing about the economics of independent perfumery: maybe it's prohibitively expensive to have a bottle designed and manufactured. But still: strike four.

I haven't smelled these scents, and I know nothing about the people behind them: all I can go on is the advertising, and it's dreadful. I swear I can't even imagine the nerve it takes concoct something which is at least partly (and probably largely) synthetic in the guise of an ancient recipe, name it badly, tip it into a cheap mass-market bottle, and then charge $300 for a quarter ounce of it.


  • *and* it's labeled edp, not parfum, making it the most expensive edp I think I've ever encountered...

    By Blogger Brian, at 12:36 PM  

  • I was so appalled at the rest of it that I didn't even notice. Even Clive Christian (which has a $3000 bottle of perfume that has a diamond set into it — the regular 50-mL bottle is $865) doesn't go that far. Per volume it may well be the most expensive scent on the market.

    By Blogger pyramus, at 1:14 PM  

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