Define "quality"

PStoller

I’m not old, I’m vintage.
Basenotes Plus
Aug 1, 2019
I am a little perplexed by the little importance that some give to the value of the quality of the raw materials when making a perfume.

I think it’s a response to the “cult of raw materials,” fanboys (it’s primarily a male thing) who wig out over “exotic” ingredients as if they conferred magical abilities on any perfumer dedicated to acquiring them.

To follow your violin analogy: yes, fiddlers freak out to play a Strad or a Guarneri. But a mediocre violinist playing one of those violins will still sound mediocre. Conversely, while a great violinist can make one of those instruments sing, they will still sound great on any number of perfectly fine instruments without the historic pedigree.
 

Rodolfo

Basenotes Junkie
Jun 2, 2008
I think it’s a response to the “cult of raw materials,” fanboys (it’s primarily a male thing) who wig out over “exotic” ingredients as if they conferred magical abilities on any perfumer dedicated to acquiring them.

To follow your violin analogy: yes, fiddlers freak out to play a Strad or a Guarneri. But a mediocre violinist playing one of those violins will still sound mediocre. Conversely, while a great violinist can make one of those instruments sing, they will still sound great on any number of perfectly fine instruments without the historic pedigree.
Yes, obviously. There are great masters who are able to do a lot with very little. Matisse could paint a fantastic painting with a children's water-soluble oil paint. But if the same painting had been painted with purer and brighter pigments, it would have been even better. In my opinion, the perfumer factor is the most decisive when it comes to giving a perfume a remarkable quality. Is in charge of "transmuting matter". But the second and that I think should not be forgotten are the ingredients. I don't think it sounds too arrogant to say here that many of us know firsthand how ruinous certain reformulations have been over the lifetime of some of our favorite fragrances. And I don't think it was because of the perfumer's demerit but because of a change in the quality of the materials used.
 

PStoller

I’m not old, I’m vintage.
Basenotes Plus
Aug 1, 2019
…many of us know firsthand how ruinous certain reformulations have been over the lifetime of some of our favorite fragrances. And I don't think it was because of the perfumer's demerit but because of a change in the quality of the materials used.

Whatever the individual quality of a perfume’s original ingredients, the perfumer based their blend on that. It’s theoretically possible that simply substituting a “better” individual ingredient could be to the detriment of a fragrance because it interacts differently with the rest of the formula.
 

Varanis Ridari

The Scented Devil
Basenotes Plus
Oct 17, 2012
Before too much presumptive snobbery on what "is factually, undeniably quality" in perfumery lands and sucks literally every last godforsaken ounce of good will out of this thread, let me just say:

Quality is either:

1. the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something.

2. a distinctive attribute or characteristic possessed by someone or something.

These are actual definitions of the word "quality" by the way, and define the state of quality as subjective since perception of excellence varies wildly on context; what's being compared against, what conditions are needed to achieve the excellence sought, and what individual attributes are being compared, etc.


Now that we got that out of our system, I'll just say that for me personally, finding quality is an aggregate process of performance, style, but rarely substance for me as both aromachemicals and naturals are capable of "magic" these days on my nose.

When I use the term "quality" unironically in my assessments, I try to make sure it's tied to my perception, and that I'm not speaking unilaterally, and thus "gatekeeping" what is or isn't objectively of value for everyone.

Pierre Bourdon and Edmond Roudnitska both loved playing with high doses of then-novel aromachemicals, yet a lot of people go gaga for their fragrances and exalt them as Godhead. These same people then hypocritically bash synthetics and proclaim perfumers like Russian Adam as the second coming.

I'm so confused!!! Kouros was loaded down with synarome animalis, not real civet!!! What is quality??? What is the meaning of life??

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Rodolfo

Basenotes Junkie
Jun 2, 2008
Whatever the individual quality of a perfume’s original ingredients, the perfumer based their blend on that. It’s theoretically possible that simply substituting a “better” individual ingredient could be to the detriment of a fragrance because it interacts differently with the rest of the formula.

Sure, obviously! But no matter how much Picasso, Hendrix or Paganini you have as a perfumer you can't help that. In any case, you're absolutely right, but you know what's weird? This is a personal opinion, but what is rare is that in 95% of the time in which an individual "better" ingredient is replaced by another it interacts to the detriment of the fragrance and not to its benefit. A disastrous trend!

As for the synthetic components, it will happen as with the natural ones, there will be different qualities. I don't understand the natural=better and synthetic=worst conclusion, and I don't remember anyone mentioning that in the thread. Synthetic materials have been used together with natural materials for more than 100 years and it is evident that making a 100% natural perfume would have obvious flaws, and not only economical.
 

JBHoren

I *am* smiling
Apr 25, 2007
I'm so confused!!! Kouros was loaded down with synarome animalis, not real civet!!! What is quality??? What is the meaning of life??
"Oh, my son, what do you wish to know?"
So the pilgrim said,
"I wish to know the meaning of life, Father."
And the Dalai Lama smiled and said,
"Oh, my son, life is like a beanstalk, innit?"
--Procol Harum, Shine on Brightly (In Held 'Twas In I [1:15])​
 

Mak-7

Basenotes Dependent
Sep 19, 2019
Very interesting topic and interesting how everyone responds(differently) to seemingly obvious question. I was always puzzled how people dont take comparison of things seriously, and make themselves believe that things are subjective.

Here are few comparisons:
- smell of actual forest deep in the mountains on the foggy morning, with it cool, coniferous tone mixing with gentle scent of soil is quality. Your toilet freshner "green forest" is trash
- 2021 Bentley Flying spur is quality. 2007 toyota echo is not so much
- A well built million dollar home is quality, a shack made out of thin branches is not
- Skyfall song played from an expensive sound system is quality, ukrainian wedding songs played through a 2001 cellphone speaks is not


Thanks Varanis for bringing the definition up, which clearly states "things of a simmilar kind". Out of which we can conclude that trained professional perfumer with good sense of smell will create better fragrances than a regular chap from the streets that just had covid.

Same thing with materials, ambroxan has nothing on real ambergris. real orris will always have more depth and texture than any aromachem. But aromachems are important key in the final product, as long as they are used wisely.

So quality is a combo of skills and materials, which consequtevly means that youll smell a well thought out composition, with depth that good materials provide.

I wish companies cared for art and not ripping customers off - we wouldnt have problem of figuring out what is quality. We would be concentrated on creativity of a composition from all companies equally, without the need to worship russian Adam when most industry smells like Pink Sugar.
 

Scent Detective

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Dec 15, 2015
I agree quality is largely subjective. And it's a matter of context - people even change their minds!!

The reviews section on here is good when there are a bunch of reviews, say 20 or more, for a fragrance and you can get an aggregated view of opinions.
Agreed. When it comes to perfume, quality seems to be a perception that is based on personal opinion and preference.

This can reach beyond the perfume and include the perfume bottle, the sprayer, the box that the perfume comes in, the art direction, the listed ingredients, the claims of natural vs synthetic, the perceptions of the perfumer and their track record of success or lack thereof. The company releasing the perfume and their track record of success or lack thereof, etc.

Then mix in the opinions of others and if enough people's perceptions are the same, the perfumes success or demise will then be determined and an opinion of the perfumes quality will spread to the masses.
 

PStoller

I’m not old, I’m vintage.
Basenotes Plus
Aug 1, 2019
This is a personal opinion, but what is rare is that in 95% of the time in which an individual "better" ingredient is replaced by another it interacts to the detriment of the fragrance and not to its benefit. A disastrous trend!

Hey, I’m a big collector of original formulations, for better or worse, so in a sense you’re preaching to the choir. I’m not sure they’re necessarily better—in most cases, I wouldn’t know, as the only versions I know are those I’ve bought—but my rationale is that I want to get closer to the perfumer’s intent, rather than some absolute of quality. (Some have posited that the ravages of time take a fragrance further from that intent than reformulation does, so it may be I’m not even getting that.)

But, never mind that. My prior point is that it’s not necessarily a lesser ingredient, but the act of substitution, a different ingredient, that is to the detriment of the fragrance.

Too, it’s almost exclusively the bad changes that we notice. Per many in the industry, reformulation is a regular, constant process in commercial perfumery. You say that it’s detrimental 95% of the time. I would wager that a great many reformulations have passed under your nose (and most others) unnoticed because they were unaccompanied by significant changes in packaging or scent.

While I bemoan the evisceration of many classics by the banning of key components such as oakmoss, subtler changes have ever been a daily reality in perfumery. It may be necessary, but it’s not necessarily evil.
 

ScentSensei

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Aug 21, 2020
I like a number of the answers here. Of course, “quality” can simply be “what I like,” but there’s a limit to that trap.

@ScentSensei talks about quality sound reproduction, something with which I have some familiarity. And it’s a pretty good analogy up to a point. The thing is, consumer systems (even high-end ones) are designed to be more pleasing than accurate. Accuracy can please, but only in a limited way. (This goes for live musical performance, as well: accuracy alone is impressive, but not inherently moving.) Some of the other factors SS mentions—articulation, soundstaging, etc.—might be best achieved through sacrificing a bit of accuracy in other areas, such as instrumental timbre. And most people won’t know, because they don’t spend much time up close and personal with unamplified musical instruments and voices.

I enjoy some music that’s not very well recorded, some not even technically well performed. I’m responding to a quality it has, but that’s not what we usually mean by “quality.” Whereas some impeccably recorded and performed music doesn’t do much for me. I may recognize it as “quality” without much caring for it.

This applies equally to food: I have eaten in a Michelin star restaurant that was clearly “quality,” but not so satisfying as a bag of potato chips and a Coke. So, quality ≠ what I like.

All the same applies in perfumery. I know (to some extent) the difference between what’s well made and what’s to my taste. Quality isn’t necessarily “better” ingredients, though they help. I assess it as what the perfumer has done with what they had—not what they started with.

It’s still as subjective as hell, but that’s my viewpoint.
Since we've managed to extend this thread out a bit I'm going to take the opportunity to riff on this topic a bit more. One of the most renowned speaker designers/sound engineers was the late great Peter Snell. His impression of speaker quality was strictly results based and he felt the cost of materials to be irrelevant, and saw no need for exotic materials or snobbery. In the end, he knew the parameters he wanted to hit and how he wanted his speakers to sound and if that involved using pairs of matched $3 tweeters instead of pairs that cost $80 that was what he used. He cared about the sound quality of the speaker rather than the quality or cost of materials in them. I think in perfumery that relates to the blending and resulting scent rather than the ingredients used. Obviously the end result is individually subjective but quantitively supported.

Anyone who has heard a really great guitarist make a terrible crappy guitar sound magical can attest that the quality of results isn't always related to the quality of materials.

Peter Snell's original A series speakers are to this day considered a 'holy grail' and it is unknown how many of the 1200 individually numbered A1 series are still in existence. Snell went on to produce the AII and AIII series each series being heavier and more expensive than the last. Sadly Peter Snell died in 1984 of a heart attack right on the production floor. The company continued on but really wasn't the same even with some continued success. I am the lucky owner of original A Series #339(left) and #340(right). Even though the story of how I ended up with them is absolutely amazing, it is too long and off topic for this reply. I may share it in a more appropriate thread some other time. It does involve a dying Air Force and Commercial pilot, a small bit of water damage in a laundry room, and me riding along with an insurance specialist just so he could use the carpool lane.
 

Varanis Ridari

The Scented Devil
Basenotes Plus
Oct 17, 2012
Very interesting topic and interesting how everyone responds(differently) to seemingly obvious question. I was always puzzled how people dont take comparison of things seriously, and make themselves believe that things are subjective.

Here are few comparisons:
- smell of actual forest deep in the mountains on the foggy morning, with it cool, coniferous tone mixing with gentle scent of soil is quality. Your toilet freshner "green forest" is trash
- 2021 Bentley Flying spur is quality. 2007 toyota echo is not so much
- A well built million dollar home is quality, a shack made out of thin branches is not
- Skyfall song played from an expensive sound system is quality, ukrainian wedding songs played through a 2001 cellphone speaks is not


Thanks Varanis for bringing the definition up, which clearly states "things of a simmilar kind". Out of which we can conclude that trained professional perfumer with good sense of smell will create better fragrances than a regular chap from the streets that just had covid.

Same thing with materials, ambroxan has nothing on real ambergris. real orris will always have more depth and texture than any aromachem. But aromachems are important key in the final product, as long as they are used wisely.

So quality is a combo of skills and materials, which consequtevly means that youll smell a well thought out composition, with depth that good materials provide.

I wish companies cared for art and not ripping customers off - we wouldnt have problem of figuring out what is quality. We would be concentrated on creativity of a composition from all companies equally, without the need to worship russian Adam when most industry smells like Pink Sugar.
Okay, I'll bite because it seems like you're calling me out for a fight, but you only get one rebuttal.

How you take it afterwards is beyond my care, as this is more for everyone else reading anyway.

All of your comparisons are still subjective, and being passed as objective truth which you are implying that I or anyone sharing my perspective is callously denying.

I've seen this weird form of gaslighting before, so something along the lines of "whatever helps you sleep at night" I guess goes here.

But the point is still that quality is a subjective term since you're subjectively setting the parameters for comparisons based on personal preference, and then choosing what's to be compared based on those preferences to defend that assessment.

One example of yours debunked:

A Flying Spur has a radically different purpose and target market in mind than a Toyota Echo. One is designed as a luxury item (itself also subjectively defined by preference), often as part of a fleet of truly similar vehicles (other luxury sedans, sports cars, SUVs, et al), not designed for rigorous frequent use as a primary vehicle. The other is designed to be of the utmost utility, engineeted to be used or even abused regularly with a little maintenance needed as possible, as daily reliable transportation, then replaced once it passes the expected life cycle. These are not comparable.

Some others:

The "Skyfall music through an expensive sound system" versus the "Ukrainian wedding music through a cellphone". Music itself is already a huge matter of taste, music theory versus playing by ear, punk vs classical, yadda yadda, indefensible comparison there unless we're talking taste, and we're not; we're talking "quality" as a synonym for object value. The playback equipment portion, okay sure, I can concede one is much more specifically designed for music playback than the other, but come on, man.

The smell of a real forest compared to a commercial bath product with an aesthetic theme based around a forest is probably the most extreme case of incomparable items on the basis of determining quality, as they are not even remotely within the realms of rational thought as similar. We might as well be comparing the actual store of Bergdorf Goodman located at 754 West 58th New York to the fragrance 754 by MFK, or the color blue to the smell of a tablet of 2000 Flushes Blue.

In regards to the (extremely tired) comparison of synthetics and naturals, the quality determined between them is a matter of personal preference on your part, so I have no argument against preferring orris to alpha isomethyl ionone, but it still is not a true comparison of material quality. Do people seriously compare cellulose or rayon to the plants from which they're derived?

Comparing rayon or cellulose to the petrochemical plastics that replaced them in similar applications could yield a more-reasonable evaluation of quality due to truly related purpose. If someone was directly trying to replace orris butter in a composition with strictly ionones, I could see a case for quality comparison, but we can't assume every fragrance with ambroxan these days is meant to smell like ambergris either, can we?

Likewise, comparing synthetic commercial grenadine to actual pomegranate juice for quality's sake also seems silly, as they will both achieve vastly different effects in a cocktail. Making a Shirley Temple with real pomegranate juice would at least in my opinion not taste like a Shirley Temple as I know them, and I probably wouldn't like it as much. Your mileage may vary, and that's my point. Quality is subjective. It's perception varies by person.

Jay Leno loves his expensive antique, custom coach-built Deusenbergs, but he also really really loves his mass-produced Fords from roughly the same period. He goes on and on about the admirable (but different) qualities of each. From an asset class perspective, I'm sure the Deusenbergs would fetch more cash; but that has nothing to do with any misguided sense of them being objectively better, because again, built for different reasons and expected use, with different levels of required upkeep like your Bentley vs Toyota example.

The million dollar home isn't really worth a million dollars, but debating that will veer into politics so I'll abstain, although I will concede once more that any well-built modern home is going to provide better shelter than a pile of twigs, so that's the one quality assessment of yours I'll stand behind.

-Fin-
 

Mak-7

Basenotes Dependent
Sep 19, 2019
Varanis, not sure how i was calling for a fight, since a Pancake vs Dragon is not much of a fight, is it? 😄😄😄 I was just thanking for bringing up a definition.

Overall saying, your point seems to be that everything is subjective, but if we look at everything that way, we will get nowhere in this world. Thats why objectivity is being achieved though a comparison of many materials by skilled person(s), through span of time, to define what stands above all quality wise. and that is my experience through life and reality i live in, so thats why i express my position as that, and many people from my surrounding think same way.

Bentley wise, i think you are looking too much into various scenarios rather than looking at overall purpose of a vehicle, to get you from point A to B. are materials better? Soft leather vs hard plastic? How is noise isolation? Comfort of seats? Etc. I know i would pick Bentley, as quality of my trip would be better. And all that luxury crap, and not a daily driver is BS. I, the owner, dictate if its my daily or not.

Regarding music - give it a spin. Its so bad, that i am ashamed myself that my nation who is known to be very musical, cant produce better stuff. That this is flat.

Regarding forest smell, i dont see how its incomparable: molecules of aromas that nature creates vs manmade and final result when its mixed is what i compare.

Tree and celulose wise - here you jump into generalization, unlike in the comment about cars, where you drill to fine details. If we take a furniture made out of solid wood and celulose - solid wood is better, its higher quality.

I dont drink, so i wouldnt know about ST, but general consensus on food is if you create same stuff with better ingredients, youll get better result. If there wont be difference, we wouldnt care for food, and would eat monotonous poridge just to get nutrients in.

Everything is good to Jay Leno, he is a victim of this trend that "everyone gets a medal for participation". This is good, that is good, everything is good. How are we going to progress if we are satisfied with everything as is?

Defining quality of things is in its essence is what is moving us forward in life for the most part. Once we thought plastic was good, but we came back again to glass bottles as best option.
 

imm0rtelle

Basenotes Junkie
Apr 2, 2021
Overall saying, your point seems to be that everything is subjective, but if we look at everything that way, we will get nowhere in this world.
I can empathize with what you're saying. Progress requires people agreeing with each other on what is good, so they can decide on which train of thought to continue. Having everyone hive mind together is what will create the most efficient progress. This kind of idea feels cold and bleak, and what I expect from dystopian societies, especially if the things that are decided as good doesn't resonate with me. If the things decided are good actually resonates with me, this will then be a utopia for me.

I feel like we should let people rely on their gut instincts, and let people who like the same things come together, rather than forcing some general hierarchy of what is good and bad. Progress will be less efficient, but what's the point of progress in something that you don't like.

Defining quality of things is in its essence is what is moving us forward in life for the most part. Once we thought plastic was good, but we came back again to glass bottles as best option.
I can imagine people in the past would view synthetic aromachemicals as something pure and put it on a pedestal. They would view naturals as primitive, in comparison. Yet nowadays, anything synthetic or artificial is viewed as bad, and all natural is the gold standard of good.

I feel like people into fragrances that market themselves as full of naturals have a different aesthetic they're looking for. Less refined, more rustic, and feeling like nature. I don't think there is any less "quality" in these fragrances, but I prefer the modern, airy, lighter, refined compositions like l'Eau d'Hiver. The modern style feels like it is elevating and refining nature, rather than just mimicking it.

I like to draw a comparison between the modern aesthetic with nouvelle cuisine:
Nouvelle cuisine is an approach to cooking and food presentation in French cuisine. In contrast to cuisine classique, an older form of haute cuisine, nouvelle cuisine is characterized by lighter, more delicate dishes and an increased emphasis on presentation. It was popularized in the 1960s by the food critic Henri Gault, who invented the phrase, and his colleagues André Gayot and Christian Millau in a new restaurant guide, the Gault-Millau, or Le Nouveau Guide. The style Gault and Millau wrote about was a reaction to the French cuisine classique placed into "orthodoxy" by Escoffier. Calling for greater simplicity and elegance in creating dishes.

Gault and Millau discovered the "formula" contained in ten characteristics of this new style of cooking. The ten characteristics identified were:
  • A rejection of excessive complication in cooking.
  • Cooking times for most fish, seafood, game birds, veal, green vegetables, and pâtés were greatly reduced in an attempt to preserve their natural flavours. Steaming was an important trend from this characteristic.
  • The cuisine was made with the freshest possible ingredients.
  • Large menus were abandoned in favour of shorter menus.
  • Strong marinades for meat and game ceased to be used.
  • Heavy sauces such as espagnole and béchamel were replaced by seasonings with fresh herbs, high-quality butter, lemon juice, and vinegar.
  • Regional dishes replaced cuisine classique as a source of inspiration.
  • New techniques were embraced and modern equipment was often used; Bocuse even used microwave ovens.
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Precision, purity, clarity, and refinement are qualities that I'm attracted to. I feel like this is the exact opposite of what a lot of people on Basenotes like (in food and fragrances).

This is the food equivalent of what I imagine a lot of Basenoters are attracted to, and think as quality:
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PStoller

I’m not old, I’m vintage.
Basenotes Plus
Aug 1, 2019
“Quality” signifies:

1) absolute aptitude for a particular function
2) relative aptitude to other items for the same function

With regard to perfumery, there is ample room for subjectivity, as the function itself is up for interpretation, never mind what constitutes aptitude and what items possess the most of it. Of course, jasmine is generally more suitable than iron shavings. But which jasmine is most suitable depends on a number of variables, as opposed to there being one best jasmine, period.

Many have come to think that the more luxurious a thing is (by whatever measure), the higher the quality. But this is only true if luxury is the sole aim. Vicuña may be the most luxurious wool, but it’s not of a quality suitable for hunting in briars. So it may be that the best oud by one standard is unsuitable by another. Or, indeed, the best fragrance.

This is why quality is hard to define: the framework for defining it is likewise hard to define. And just as we can be attached to our subjective judgments, so to can we be to subjective definitions.
 

Mak-7

Basenotes Dependent
Sep 19, 2019
I am with you regarding light compositions as well, especially for the summer, and i dont reject aromachemicals, but all in moderation.

Its no secret companies push their products via "lobbying" and tipping scale to their side regardless of the effect it has on industry.

Lets find something that actually smells good rather than promote calone ambroxan irone limonene liliflor mix that is sold to us for $200. Give me some good orris root!
 

Rodolfo

Basenotes Junkie
Jun 2, 2008
I think some people here are too enamored with their subjectivity. I believe that subjectivity exists, and it is an important part of the assessment we have of something. But let's not forget that perfume art is closely linked to chemistry, and chemistry is a science.

I left some excerpts about it below that better reflect my thinking than I would myself.
(Comments from people you and I know, not the fishmonger in my neighborhood.)

Edmond Roudnitska

In terms of olfactory sensations, a distinction must be made between the perception of the layman, of the perfumer and even of the experienced amateur. The fact that, to ordinary mortals, some odours are considered pleasant and others unpleasant can be attributed to a lack of education and to an innate taste which impedes the layman from making an objective and technical judgement on the value and usage of odours. However, after a short but inevitable emotional reaction, the motivated and experienced perfumer no longer distinguishes between pleasant and unpleasant smells. This is like the music composer who considers notes to be elementary forms which can be combined into intricate music. The composer no longer judges the notes but the rapport he has created between them. The same applies to perfumers. (This comment reminds me of Ashley in Paris and her unpleasant artichoke rose lol).

The perfumer judges odours in terms of quality, intensity, and duration of perceptibility. (...) For convenience, quality is
classified separately from the other three characteristics because each contributes to and enhances its very meaning. (...)
The four main attributes which characterize olfactory perception, namely quality, intensity, duration and volatility, can be grouped under an aesthetic modality which has nothing to do with hedonism.

The well-informed amateur and the experienced professional artist will also react subjectively. However, they will proceed to a professional evaluation. If their senses of smell and taste have been developed methodically (which does not mean manipulated), they will forget the pleasant (or unpleasant) odour and concentrate only on its aesthetic features, on the construction which develops under their noses in an objective olfactory form.

The reason why hedonism was given excessive importance in the judgement of perfumes for such a long time was the double conviction that perfume depended on a subjective reaction and that this reaction had to be agreeable
. However, to say that the odour of geraniol is similar to that of the rose or that ionone smells like violet~pinions which are shared by most people-is no longer a subjective judgement but an objective one. The comparison of a sensation with another which everyone perceives in a more-or-Iess similar way makes it objective. Geraniol, an objective constituent of the rose smell, substantiates the fact that the 'rose odour' image is formed in a similar way by everyone.

Try to determine and record the quality and character of the odour (its note, its 'form', what it evokes or suggests); its intensity; its expansion mode (diffusion, volume); its stability or instability; the evolution of the note, its form in time (several days, several weeks); the duration of perceptibility. All these traits make up the attributes of the odour and give it a personality; they
are inseparable and will have to be taken into account as a coherent whole. When introduced to a mixture, the odour ceases to be one entity and interacts freely with other odorous bodies.

From the book "Perfumes: art, science and technology" (Müller/Lamparsky)

However, the chemical structure and odor quality of nearly all materials used in perfumes or present in natural scents are empirically known to us. Therefore, chemical analysis and structure identification offer a way, not really to measure, but at least to specify an odor in terms of analytical data on the qualitative and quantitative composition of the odorous materials.

The introduction of gas chromatography and the development of spectroscopic methods revolutionized the investigation of 'essential oils'. Suddenly it became possible to detect olfactorily relevant trace constituents and a new era began just in time to
cope with a special challenge of the late 1960s/early 1970s-the scarcity of certain 'essential oils', their uncontrollable price fluctuations, and dermatoxic aspects occasionally connected with such natural products. As a result of joint efforts between analytical, synthetic and olfactory research, many fragrance companies have now had, for years already, a comprehensive series of synthetic reconstitutions of such 'essential oils' on the perfumer's shelf. The still-increasing consumption data of the natural products clearly demonstrate that these reconstitutions are not thought to compete with or even to replace the originals. They are rather designed to improve the quality of fragrances in which the natural products cannot be used for price reasons.
However, many highly attractive flower/plant scents, e.g. those of lily-ofthe-valley, honeysuckle species, linden blossom and many tropical flowers including a great variety of orchid species, cannot be captured in adequate quality and on a commercial scale as an 'essential oil', because olfactorily important constituents are destroyed or disturbing artefacts are formed during their manufacture.

In the production of perfume oils accurate metering of the individual, mostly high-quality, components is the decisive criterion for quality and hence a guarantee of constant product composition. Weight is therefore the essential factor for quality assurance and materials handling.

Although essential oils have some distinct advantages and many perfumers consider them absolutely essential in their creation of new fragrances, they have presented some significant problems throughout the years. Quality can vary from year to year and from different geographical locations. Depending on weather conditions, the local political situation, world economics, etc., the supply and price can drastically change in a very short period of time. As a result of the industry's experience with this unreliability of quality, cost and availability, there has been a movement by some of the larger companies to compound and use their own imitations of the essential oils utilizing available analytical data and synthetic ingredients.

Absolutes
Absolutes consist of the alcohol-soluble components of the corresponding concretes or resinoids, and are generally obtained via the following four-step procedure:
-Homogenization of the concrete or resinoid in ethanol.
-Cooling this mixture to a temperature of ca. - 15°C.
-Cold filtration to remove precipitated waxes, resins and colouring matter.
-Concentration of the filtrate by distilling off the ethanol.
The resulting absolutes are high-quality fragrance materials, which are in general very expensive due to the low overall yields.

The quality of the resulting essential oil is somewhere between those originating from China and Reunion. The same authors also described modified varieties of mint, the extracts of which are particularly rich in menthofuran (>75%).

From an interview of Jean-Claude Ellena

For Hermès I made an Hermessence called Brin De Reglisse, a combination of licorice and lavender. In my mind, the idea was to find a new approach to the lavender note. I was not pleased with the lavender oil on the market. I tried a very high quality, but it was not enough for me. I know the structure of lavender oil, so I know all the molecules that are in lavender. For me, lavender oil has a sweaty smell, a pee note, and I know from which molecules that smell is coming: from terpineol 4 and from the camphor and borneol. So I went to the Monique Rémy laboratory and I said, “Can you make for me a lavender without the terpineol and borneol and camphor?” So they made a distillation of the lavender and, like a sausage, they cut it into 50 parts. And I smelt all the fifty parts. And I found the pee note, the sweat note. And we took them out and we re-built the lavender. And that’s what I used in Brin De Reglisse. The thing is, a normal lavender oil costs €60. This new lavender cost me €600. But I bought it, because it was the best lavender for this perfume.

From an interview to Dominique Ropion

I believe in combining opposites to unveil new equilibriums and surprising formulas. Starting from the duality between luxury and sensuality, I wanted to build a powerfully feminine fragrance able to showcase the extraordinary quality of all the ingredients in its composition.(...) Although the perfume remains abstract, you can feel the luxurious ingredients and the qualitative raw materials that leave a rather sensual signature.

From an interview to Sonia Constant

Selecting the noblest raw materials, of the finest quality, like in an Haute Couture object. Choosing the most feminine and alluring flower in the world of nature: the rose. Dressing it in a refined and exquisite chypre accord: as in a limpid way to embody this racy yet profoundly Italian femininity. Adding intense and textured notes of leather to reveal a hint of assumed irreverence.
 

Mak-7

Basenotes Dependent
Sep 19, 2019
Rodolfo - thank you. If these quotes, especially Roudnitska is not enough, then i dont know what 🤷
 

cheapimitation

Basenotes Dependent
May 15, 2015
These kind of debates inevitably rage on between objectivists and subjectivists, a sisyphean task because ultimately the truth lies somewhere in between. A hard line on either side quickly becomes absurd and is easily discredited. Subjectivists when cornered might have to admit that Evian is indeed better than toilet water while objectivists may have to concede pink is not inherently for girls given a short look back into history to find the exact opposite. I suppose I'm an objectivist with a wink, that is I would like to find common criteria so we can productively discuss things while still understanding that most things are culturally/historically contingent. I've read my Foucault and come out the other side wishing for some ground to stand on even if that ground is socially constructed (makes it no less real) and realizing that there is no worse person to have a debate then the one who relies on "that's just your opinion" when they start to lose.

The abstract nature of perfume makes coming to an objective criteria for quality even more difficult. I get your points about materials Rodolfo, I was also reminded of Les Indemodables using the term "grand cru" to designate the highest quality of extraction. There's validity to that, but as amateur sniffers, few of us are knowledgable enough to accurately sniff out the grade or expense of materials in a finished composition, so we are left to believe the marketing which often lies or exaggerates.

That JCE quote (which I love BTW, thank you for sharing!) demonstrates again how subjectivity can creep into even analysis of raw ingredients. That particular lavender was right for that perfume, and might have made another perfume worse. What if the extraction technique that gave the most favorable lavender just happened to be cheaper instead, would we consider it lower quality even if it was the best match for the perfume? Again, that's why I site "composition" as the most important factor in my earlier post.

Another complicating factor is that we can't even agree on what perfume is for, which I would argue is a consequence of it being an art rather than a utility. It is much easier, say for a washing machine, to see the highest quality machine is one that lasts long, is efficient, cleans clothes well without damaging them etc. But people wear perfume for a lot of different reasons, so there's no clear end goal of what a quality perfume should do.

The other problem is that perfume as we know it today largely came from the luxury sector whose goal is to make us believe that the brand name itself imbues the product with an extra quality that increases its value far beyond the material costs of the object and its production. Touting the high quality and cost of rare materials has become such a marketing cliche in perfume it is rendered meaningless. Maybe it was a fevered dream I had, but wasn't there a Sauvage ad showing Demachy collecting the finest materials from around the world to put into sauvage? 😆

Anyway, TLDR there is some validity to the idea that materials have varying levels of quality but the final quality of a perfume is still contingent upon the final execution and use of those materials in a composition. Defining quality is slippery and any hard definition falls apart under scrutiny as a myriad of contradictory examples can be found. Judging quality for most of us is likely an intuitive call based on a myriad of factors and comparisons with the catalog of perfumes we've experienced, so it is always a sliding scale.
 

imm0rtelle

Basenotes Junkie
Apr 2, 2021
That JCE quote (which I love BTW, thank you for sharing!) demonstrates again how subjectivity can creep into even analysis of raw ingredients. That particular lavender was right for that perfume, and might have made another perfume worse. What if the extraction technique that gave the most favorable lavender just happened to be cheaper instead, would we consider it lower quality even if it was the best match for the perfume?
100% agree. I also really like Jean-Claude's approach, and how he understands the beauty in refining reality, rather than showcasing the lavender in all its natural glory. In a way it is quite similar to Hedi's philosophy in design:
Hedi: The street was somehow informing the fashion, and I transposed this effortless wardrobe, within the rules of couture, the savoir-faire of the Parisian ateliers. The clothes were a “trompe l’oeil” of iconic street pieces, now impeccably made. You needed to be up close to understand most of it was embroidered by hand, or extremely luxurious, but without the gloss, the perception of new. Think about Georges Brummel, and effortlessness, or the Duke of Wellington, and the relation to the new. The necessity of the quality or sophistication of the execution was everything to those iconic street items.

Touting the high quality and cost of rare materials has become such a marketing cliche in perfume it is rendered meaningless.
So true, but sadly I think it still works on so many people out there. Everyone is trying to use "objective" metrics to justify why they should like something, or shouldn't like something. I feel like our intuition matters more than reason.
 

Rodolfo

Basenotes Junkie
Jun 2, 2008
Since this has become a long thread, I would like to summarize my views especially to avoid misunderstandings or confusion about it.

I believe that the quality of a perfume is subject to two main factors: the perfumer and the raw materials with which perfumer works to create it. However, I do not think it is sensible to underestimate the influence of raw materials and their quality. I'm not specifically talking about the fact that there is a Turkish rose Oil in X place with X price that is the best in the world, no. But I think there are different levels of quality in the same ingredient that a perfumer can use. This is not to be confused with a subjective or nuanced aroma choice, as mentioned by JC Ellena or imm0rtelle. In fact, Ellena mentions that he tried a lot of lavenders and a lot of "high quality". That they didn't have the characteristics he was looking for and by his immense means he was able to create another version from nothing (that's fantastic, don't you think?).
I am sure that high-level perfumers like the ones mentioned are capable of distinguishing a quality ingredient from one of medium or low quality following a basically objective criterion and, therefore, at least moderately "consensual". That we, plebs, cannot appreciate these distinctions of quality does not mean that they do not exist!
Remarking, of course, that I am not talking about one in the world exclusively, but about a group of several (see Ellena's lavender choice) and therefore one perfumer could choose it before another, but of a very similar quality. The quality of natural compounds, for example, is highly variable and can change radically due to issues of time, space, treatment, etc. I remember that at the launch of Chanel Nº19 Poudré it was mentioned that the idea for this flanker had arisen after verifying the exceptional quality (I don't remember the year and place) of a harvest of orris butter.

Finally, perfumers have a budget to stick to, and many times they can opt for ingredients of significant quality (and therefore more expensive) and others less decisive in the composition with less qualitative impact but complementary and that would not have much influence on the result they seek but they are cheaper.

This is linked to the perfumer factor. I defend that the perfumer factor is the most important. Is the one who does magic (or not). It is very nice to repeat that image of a great artist masterfully playing a $10 guitar or violin and I agree with: there are amazing talents out there! But I also think that same artist with a better quality guitar or violin could sound even better. I also think that it is not possible to generalize or idealize so much about it: let's also be honest and a little objective with perfumers lol. Not everything they produce is of great quality or a masterpiece. My compatriot Alberto Morillas, who must have created hundreds and hundreds of perfumes, has not created hundreds and hundreds of high-quality perfumes or masterpieces. Some, you have to admit, are rubbish. And I'm not saying they're trash because I don't like them because they have a patchouli note that I hate or something like that. They are crap, man. And the same thing happens to most of the most reputable perfumers. And it's normal. And why is that? Well, surely because the perfumer would not be very inspired, he did not have a great motivation to do it, he did not have the time their considered necessary, etc etc. But surely many of them were also because they did not have the necessary quality ingredients to make the idea he had in mind work.

Having said that, the main question of this thread focuses on the quality of a perfume per se, the final product. In this already, as you say, the lines of objectivity/subjectivity are blurred. There are many factors, aesthetic tastes. In addition, not all of us look for the same thing in a perfume, so it is more difficult to discern a definition that convinces everyone. In any case, I think very sensible points have been made here before by a number of people.
 

PStoller

I’m not old, I’m vintage.
Basenotes Plus
Aug 1, 2019
I left some excerpts about it below that better reflect my thinking than I would myself.
(Comments from people you and I know, not the fishmonger in my neighborhood.)

These are fine quotes, but I’m not sure they mean what you think they mean. For one thing, they use “quality” to mean different things, sometimes within a single quote.

Roudnitska dismisses the perception of individual odors as pleasant or unpleasant as the subjective judgment of untrained noses; pleasantness is not a measure of the technical aptness of an ingredient as a component of perfume. He uses “quality” in this sense: suitability to the task based on a summation of constituent qualities.

(This is essentially what I said regarding ingredient quality as a measure of its aptitude for a given purpose, rather than any intrinsic absolute.)

I take minor issue with Roudnitska in his assertion that an olfactory likeness “which everyone perceives in a more-or-Iess similar way makes it objective.” Yet, were everyone to perceive pleasantness “in a more-or-less similar way,” he would still have called it subjective.

People can perceive things the same way and all be wrong—or at least not right—because perception is inherently not objective. There is an objective basis for the perceived similarity between geraniol and roses: geraniol is a molecular component of roses. It is not the shared perception that creates the objectivity; it’s the other way around.

Müller and Lamparsky use “quality” first to mean the nature of an odor, not its excellence; then to mean the commercial appeal of a finished product, rather than anything about the ingredient itself; then to mean chemical and olfactory (un)faithfulness of an extract to the scent of whole flower; then to mean stability and consistency in both performance and quality-as-nature.

Ellena seems to use “high quality” to mean “realistic,” though he may have been referring to performance metrics or pleasantness. It doesn’t make much difference. What’s notable is that the “quality-as-nature” of this “high quality” lavender oil didn’t suit him, so he worked with chemists to create a synthetic that had only those qualities he desired. The new oil was higher quality only in the sense that it was better suited to Ellena’s task. In terms of naturalness, he and his chemists purposefully diminished its quality.

Ropion and Constant use “quality” in terms of luxury and absolutism. And they both sound like they’re writing ad copy. Badly.

Of course things have objective qualities. What they don’t have is objective quality in the sense of excellence, save in reference to a specified purpose or benchmark.
 

Rodolfo

Basenotes Junkie
Jun 2, 2008
These are fine quotes, but I’m not sure they mean what you think they mean. For one thing, they use “quality” to mean different things, sometimes within a single quote.

Roudnitska dismisses the perception of individual odors as pleasant or unpleasant as the subjective judgment of untrained noses; pleasantness is not a measure of the technical aptness of an ingredient as a component of perfume. He uses “quality” in this sense: suitability to the task based on a summation of constituent qualities.

(This is essentially what I said regarding ingredient quality as a measure of its aptitude for a given purpose, rather than any intrinsic absolute.)

I take minor issue with Roudnitska in his assertion that an olfactory likeness “which everyone perceives in a more-or-Iess similar way makes it objective.” Yet, were everyone to perceive pleasantness “in a more-or-less similar way,” he would still have called it subjective.

People can perceive things the same way and all be wrong—or at least not right—because perception is inherently not objective. There is an objective basis for the perceived similarity between geraniol and roses: geraniol is a molecular component of roses. It is not the shared perception that creates the objectivity; it’s the other way around.

Müller and Lamparsky use “quality” first to mean the nature of an odor, not its excellence; then to mean the commercial appeal of a finished product, rather than anything about the ingredient itself; then to mean chemical and olfactory (un)faithfulness of an extract to the scent of whole flower; then to mean stability and consistency in both performance and quality-as-nature.

Ellena seems to use “high quality” to mean “realistic,” though he may have been referring to performance metrics or pleasantness. It doesn’t make much difference. What’s notable is that the “quality-as-nature” of this “high quality” lavender oil didn’t suit him, so he worked with chemists to create a synthetic that had only those qualities he desired. The new oil was higher quality only in the sense that it was better suited to Ellena’s task. In terms of naturalness, he and his chemists purposefully diminished its quality.

Ropion and Constant use “quality” in terms of luxury and absolutism. And they both sound like they’re writing ad copy. Badly.

I do not entirely agree with your interpretation of Roudnitska's words, first of all because of what she says afterwards and secondly because at least to me in French he does not indicate that he means what you you say. Müller and Lamparsky can indeed use the word quality as you indicate in many cases.
As for Ellena, I don't agree with your high quality=realistic interpretation either; It seems to me a very subjective point of view to see it, since we are back to back with subjectivity lol. In fact, to make "his lavender" they have to first distill one of those obviously high-quality lavenders he mentioned before and remove the molecules he don't want. Therefore the result is a lavender of the same high quality but without the note of pee. So a high quality lavender oil but with different qualities as the others.
And as for what Constant and Ropion say, I agree that their words sound like something out of an advertisement. But I don't think this changes its meaning. I think that its meaning is very similar to that given by Ellena, high quality materials, qualité de la matiere premiere, qualité exceptionelle.

Of course things have objective qualities. What they don’t have is objective qualityin the sense of excellence, save in reference to a specified purpose or benchmark.

Of course. But therein lies the key. I mean, in this case the specified purpose of a lavender oil for example or another material is the manufacture of a perfume. And the benchmark will be all the lavender oils on the market to do it. This group will be made up of lavender oils of different quality. And obviously, these lavender oils can have certain different qualities from each other.
 

imm0rtelle

Basenotes Junkie
Apr 2, 2021
Some, you have to admit, are rubbish. And I'm not saying they're trash because I don't like them because they have a patchouli note that I hate or something like that. They are crap, man. And the same thing happens to most of the most reputable perfumers. And it's normal. And why is that? Well, surely because the perfumer would not be very inspired, he did not have a great motivation to do it, he did not have the time their considered necessary, etc etc. But surely many of them were also because they did not have the necessary quality ingredients to make the idea he had in mind work.
I feel like a lot of people dismiss the role of the creative director/fragrance evaluators on the final product. When the outcome is rubbish, I don't blame the perfumer, I blame the creative director/fragrance evaluators. Unless the perfumer is solely creating for themselves, they are merely following the brief and requests of somebody else that decides on which final draft to launch. I use this same reasoning for when the final product is great.
 

growly

Super Member
Apr 23, 2018
Quality is the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy given needs.
 

Proust_Madeleine

Basenotes Dependent
Apr 5, 2019
For me, I can separate foods from fancy places I like and junk food that I also like. I seem to draw a distinction based on whether I would recommend it to a friend to try. It is much harder for me to recommend junk food as something of a "must try". If I was on death row, I wouldn't want to have junk food as my final meal. So it seems like convenience plays a serious factor in the perceived pleasure I get from junk food, and I'm not judging it purely on its taste alone. If I were served the junk food in a fancy place, I would be very disappointed. It really feels like a "you get what you pay for" type of mentality.


I really like this point. I feel like the people who prize accuracy above all else is similar to those who think photorealistic fragrances are the pinnacle of perfumery. I think there is something more moving when reality is refined, rather than duplicated.

View attachment 274214
I agree with so much of this BUT I would definitely have a Reese’s peanut butter cup included with my last meal. Cheap and cheerful but just classic. Haha
 

cheapimitation

Basenotes Dependent
May 15, 2015
I was having a discussion with a friend and the classic book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance came up, which I must admit I haven't read (but I will now!) and one of its central themes is a mediation on what is quality. I've copied below a little summary I've found about the central thesis of quality in the book.

"Much of the book focuses on a rather surprising topic: quality. We think of quality as a measure of a product or a person, and we feel the right to make judgments about it because it is clear when something is of quality or is not. The narrator recounts taking his motorcycle to a workshop and reluctantly handing it over to a crew of young men playing loud music. Instead of fixing the machine, they butcher it, and he learns a lesson: it is the attitude towards a technological problem, not simply rational knowledge of how a thing works, that makes all the difference. Merely going by the manual is a clumsy, low-quality approach. Thereafter, he did the work himself.

Quality cannot be defined in a rational way, it can only noticed when it happens. Yet quality is everything: the difference between someone who cares, and one who does not; between a machine that can enrich your life, and one that explodes into a heap of useless mental. Yet instruction manuals, the narrator observes, totally leave out of the picture the person who is putting something together. If you are angry or unmotivated, you will not succeed in tuning the machine or finding the problem, but if you patiently put your mind into the place of the original designer, you come to see that a machine is really just the physical expression of a set of ideas. Paradoxically, it is only when you go beyond the classical idea that we can separate our mind from the world, that 'objects' begin to come alive. Quality is appreciated not as a thing, but as the force that drives the universe. The narrator notes, "Obviously some things are better than others, but what's the 'betterness'?" His epiphany comes in reading the ancient Tao Te Ching, when he realizes that what we call Quality, or 'betterness', is the same as the Eastern concept of 'Tao', the universal power or essence which can never be identified as such, but whose presence or absence makes something good.

As a college professor, the narrator had become obsessed with Aristotle and the damage that his way of thinking caused to people's appreciation of the world. Aristotelian logic had provided the foundation of our civilization, but it had pushed aside the one element, quality, that gave real meaning to life. In our world, quality had become just an idle attribute, when in fact, it was "the parent, the source of all subjects and objects."


This echoes my hunch that quality is ultimately something we have to feel/experience and thus it evades any strict logical definition. I also like the idea that quality involves a level of care from the creator, JCE caring about the right lavender exemplifies this. I would add to this skill and creativity as necessary components in addition to care, all the care in the world doesn't help if you lack skill to execute your ideas. Think of children's lovingly made mother's day gifts 😆 . Likewise, skill without care produces empty results, we all know of perfumers who are capable of genius are also capable of making tossed off junk for uninspired briefs.

In this sense, quality is not something inherent to the object, but a product of what went into it (care, skill, creativity). This notion of quality as an active thing rather than a static thing inherent to the object extends to the user's experience with that object. We find quality in things that reflect aspects of ourself and in things that gain meaning through our interactions with them.

Thus, quality manifests as the care put into an object by its creator and the care taken by the end user in their interactions with the object.

It strikes me that a much simpler (and maybe less revelatory) way of putting it is that quality, as with great art, is really just another form of communication from one human to another; the object in between is after all just a vessel with no inherent quality itself.

Anyone who has read the book please feel free to correct or elaborate if I, or the summary I found, mischaracterizes it in any way!
 

PStoller

I’m not old, I’m vintage.
Basenotes Plus
Aug 1, 2019
“…As a college professor, the narrator had become obsessed with Aristotle and the damage that his way of thinking caused to people's appreciation of the world. Aristotelian logic had provided the foundation of our civilization, but it had pushed aside the one element, quality, that gave real meaning to life. In our world, quality had become just an idle attribute, when in fact, it was "the parent, the source of all subjects and objects."

There are problematic assumptions in this summary, and arguably in Zen…. For one thing, if Aristotle’s logic doesn’t address “quality” (or “Quality”) as defined here—which is to say, as defined by Persig—that doesn’t mean it denies it, anymore than the design of a hammer denies screws. I would counter that Aristotelian logic didn’t damage anything; misapprehension of it no doubt has, as has misapprehension of many a notion.

Given that Persig wrote his own definition of the word “Quality” to describe his philosophy, it’s probably best not to use that definition other than to discuss that philosophy.

This echoes my hunch that quality is ultimately something we have to feel/experience and thus it evades any strict logical definition.

Or, it’s a subjective judgment, which would explain why individual perceptions of quality vary.

I also like the idea that quality involves a level of care from the creator, JCE caring about the right lavender exemplifies this. I would add to this skill and creativity as necessary components in addition to care, all the care in the world doesn't help if you lack skill to execute your ideas. Think of children's lovingly made mother's day gifts 😆 .

We wander into the realm of the (dubiously) quantifiable with levels of care and skill. As you point out, caring alone isn’t enough—or is it? There may not be a mass market for those lovingly made gifts, but the intended market—recipient mothers—may regard them as having transcendent quality.

As for Ellena, yes, he cared, but he was also empowered by a budget of time, money, and control to command a staff to dis- and reassemble a “quality” lavender to suit his self-defined needs. Sure, other skilled perfumers have “tossed off junk for uninspired briefs,” but they probably weren’t in Ellena’s position when they did. And some people perceive more quality in the “junk.”

In this sense, quality is not something inherent to the object, but a product of what went into it (care, skill, creativity).

Aren’t all qualities of an object the product of what went into them, whether or not by human effort? This doesn’t necessarily mean they are, or aren’t, inherent.

This notion of quality as an active thing rather than a static thing inherent to the object extends to the user's experience with that object. We find quality in things that reflect aspects of ourself and in things that gain meaning through our interactions with them.

Thus, quality manifests as the care put into an object by its creator and the care taken by the end user in their interactions with the object.

An object needn’t have a creator for a user to derive a qualitative experience from it. And, at the risk of “tree falling where no one can hear” analogies, a created object needn’t have a user to have quality, either.

So, sure, an active relationship between people with a created object/experience as a sort of medium may have the greatest potential for quality. But I don’t think a simple or predictable equation dictates the realization of that potential. Perceptions of quality frequently defy such expectations.

It strikes me that a much simpler (and maybe less revelatory) way of putting it is that quality, as with great art, is really just another form of communication from one human to another; the object in between is after all just a vessel with no inherent qualities itself.

Art certainly communicates, with or without specific intent. But it’s not a mere transmission cable. It has qualities, and perhaps Quality.

“Inherent” is a problematic qualifier, at least as fuzzy as “quality.” If a thing is as it is, then its qualities are inherent. If it is as perceived, then its qualities are projected. A thing can be both—and frequently is.
 

ccdan

Basenotes Junkie
May 7, 2017
Probably impossible to define objectively. Quality frags IMO give the impression of being refined while at the same time having decent performance for the olfactive profile. (they aren't cloying or too aggressive with your senses, nor do they smell too ordinarily)
 

cheapimitation

Basenotes Dependent
May 15, 2015
I appreciate the counter points, I'm not sure I fully agree with the thesis of the book either, I'll need to read it and see if I'm convinced. I must admit that final paragraph in the summary I copied goes a bit too far and loses me. Still, I think it is an interesting take so I was riffing on it a bit.

“Inherent” is a problematic qualifier, at least as fuzzy as “quality.” If a thing is as it is, then its qualities are inherent. If it is as perceived, then its qualities are projected. A thing can be both—and frequently is.


I agree for the most part with your points, but this bit seems to be conflating quality with qualities. For sure things have inherent qualities (ie. scientific properties of materials) but it is hard for me to imagine an inherent indisputable quality to something without humans projecting this characteristic on it. I was trying to think of an example to poke holes in my own thought, maybe you're in a forest and eat a delicious berry whose growth had no human intervention, would you say "wow that was a quality berry!"? Or would you just say "it's delicious". Or maybe it requires human intervention to even think in those terms of "quality", like you go to a farmers market and buy a delicious pint of berries cultivated by a farmer who put a lot of care into growing them, would they have a sense of quality that could not be found in the berries found in nature? I'm not sure here just bouncing off ideas.
 

PStoller

I’m not old, I’m vintage.
Basenotes Plus
Aug 1, 2019
I agree for the most part with your points, but this bit seems to be conflating quality with qualities. For sure things have inherent qualities (ie. scientific properties of materials) but it is hard for me to imagine an inherent indisputable quality to something without humans projecting this characteristic on it. I was trying to think of an example to poke holes in my own thought, maybe you're in a forest and eat a delicious berry whose growth had no human intervention, would you say "wow that was a quality berry!"? Or would you just say "it's delicious". Or maybe it requires human intervention to even think in those terms of "quality", like you go to a farmers market and buy a delicious pint of berries cultivated by a farmer who put a lot of care into growing them, would they have a sense of quality that could not be found in the berries found in nature? I'm not sure here just bouncing off ideas.

I don’t mean to conflate “quality” and “qualities,” but rather to suggest that they are related: we ascribe the former based largely on the latter, and it’s debatable to what degree either is inherent.

Crude example: I carve an irregularly shaped piece of wood into a perfect cube. This cube now has all the qualities inherent to a cube. However, the wood is not inherently cubical.

Now, does this cube have a different quality depending on whether I carved it lovingly or indifferently? Is that quality inherent? If I carve something more complex, is its quality’s inherence greater?

Or, if all these things are intellectual concepts made manifest only in perception, then are none of them inherent?

Anyway, I fear I’m rambling like a stoned college sophomore at 3AM, so I’ll stop here. If I had a point, then I trust you’ll have gotten it.
 

philosophe

Super Member
Sep 15, 2019
What I think of as "quality" involves several overlapping facets:

-Being nuanced yet balanced.
-Having a nice blend of raw naturals and synthetic ingredients. The former provide more nuance, where the latter prevent muddiness and enhance longevity and projection.
-Doing what it sets out to do artistically. Is it supposed to be a tobacco fragrance? Well, does it actually smell like tobacco?
-More broadly, having notes that are identifiable as distinct parts of the whole, rather than smelling like a monolithic blob of generic "perfume smell."

I'm sure I could think of other criteria, and this isn't necessarily a hard and fast list, but it's a general approximation of what I mean by "quality" in fragrance.
 

Ruffienne

New member
Feb 16, 2015
In my opinion, the use of quality ingredients is related to the quality of the perfume. It is of course not decisive, because a fragrance with high quality ingredients can be garbage and another with ingredients of a lower quality can be wonderful. There lies the mastery of the perfumer. But if you have a good piece of leather or good actors you will always have more opportunities to make quality shoes or a good movie.

You don't need to be an expert in notes and materials to discern and get one to the idea that it's quality. One can sense it simply by checking the path that many fragrances have had in the industry: reformulations. If you smell RL Polo, an Antaeus or a Givenchy Gentleman from the 80s and a current one or a Lutens from 2000 and one from 2020 there is, for me, a difference in quality.

I do not associate the word quality with something that I can like personally, many times I smell some fragrance that I do not like and I consider it a quality fragrance.

On the other hand and in relation to many of the current releases, I personally miss a greater attention to the structure of a fragrance. And this does not mean that it has to be extremely complex and ostentatious, it can be minimalist, but the self-indulgence of linearity does not move me too much and often turns into carelessness and tedium. A long time ago I did not know where I read the structure of a fragrance had a certain similarity with the time slots. Thus, the top notes, which are usually sharper and more citric, stimulate and awaken you in the morning with its energizing qualities. At noon, the heart notes, expand the fragrance with different nuances and settle it, while the basenotes, which are usually sweeter, static and denser, tune very well with those hours at night or after work, leisure or rest.
It seems silly but I personally love it when I smell a fragrance and it has a certain development, a worked structure. That for me is also quality. And not a simple nice accord with a 10-minute citrus prelude that lasts in time until the ambroxan runs out of batteries, for example.

What has dragged on in time has been this post, excuse me!

This is extremely well expressed, and I agree entirely.
There are few things more enjoyable than a pleasant fragrance that genuinely 'accompanies' you through the day in the way that you describe.
 

Saraiva

Basenotes Member
May 26, 2018
The quality of a perfume for most people is:

-Smell good (for this person)
-Last a long time
-Be famous brand
-Be expensive.

Everything else is subjective, because most users have no idea how a perfume is made and with what....
This is my opinion.
 

underground

Basenotes Member
Mar 9, 2022
People tend to use the word "quality' a lot (i.e. calling fragrances high quality or low quality) without specifying exactly what they mean.

By quality, do you mean projection and longevity? Do you mean that the base develops over time rather than the fragrance being totally linear and the base being just a weaker version of what the fragrance was like in the first few minutes? Are there other aspects of quality?

(Another aspect is marketing: price, brand, aesthetics, name, company history, etc. can cause some people to deem a fragrance high quality, but it's important to judge only the scent itself and disregard these other factors.)

What do you define as quality?
quality in a scent for me is:
no overly sharp bitter chemical edge to it (sauvage edt)
no sticky-ish or thin sweetness (armani stronger with you)
no generic designer perfume mid / base notes (ysl y edp)
more than "designer" silliage and longevity (nowadays most perfumes are watered down to the ceiling)
identifiable / memorizeable composition (someone should be able to identify the perfumes characteristics if not the exact name of it)
distortion threshold (even a quality frag can smell a bit distorted and weird if you put your nose directly to it, but it should never smell bad and distorted at a reasonable distance)

i believe these are the rules of thumb for a quality frag except when the perfumer says it especialy built to be that way
 

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