Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The New Haiku: Perfume Reviews in 140 Characters

Perfume reviews by The New York Times Officially Designated Perfume Critic® have become less frequent and ever briefer. So brief we had to boost the gain control on the FirstNerve BurrOmeter to even get a reading. TNYTODPC’s most recent effort didn’t even crack 1 milliburr. (We could say it hit 900 microburrs, but that would only impress the gullible.)

Now a new Twitter feed transforms brevity from a bug to a feature. @fragrantreviews offers perfume reviews of up to 140 characters, including a maximum of five rating stars. (Perhaps due to budget cutbacks at the Gray Lady, TNYTODPC’s reviews no longer feature stars.)

@fragrantreviews, with 315 followers, is the brainchild of England’s Nick Gilbert. (No relation—our branch of the family bailed from the old country a few hundred years ago.) His first tweet went out on July 29, 2010.
Gorilla Perfume Tuca Tuca/Dusty warm sandalwood & benzoin, violet drydown with hint of vanilla, jasmine & ylang ylang. Bright & radiant/****
Pretty pithy.

A couple of weeks later, our enhanced BurrOmeter detected the last known signals from TNYTODPC. How do they stack up against @fragrantreviews? See for yourself.
[TNYTODPC] Infusion d’Iris EDT, by Prada Whereas Chanel No. 19 maximizes the deep, voluminous luxury of iris root, Infusion presents it in minimalist form, the scent’s depth derived from its purity.

[@FR] Prada Infusion d’Iris EdT Slightly bitter galbanum with powdery violet. Soft, clear. Similar feel to the EdP but different entirely ***

[TNYTODPC] Essence, by Narciso Rodriguez. For Her smelled like a sweet midnight in summer. Essence is still summer — warm dry skin, talcum powder and irises. But here we are drenched in bright day.

[@FR] Narcisso Rodriguez Essence Powdery, lightly floral & intensely musky in the same way that washing powder is. Hot, white, metallic, painful *

[TNYTODPC] Womanity, by Thierry Mugler. Like Angel, Womanity surprises no one in its defiance. Its power is clear; its character — opium smoke, heated granite, crushed flowers, the ozone before a storm — is not.

[@FR] Thierry Mugler Womanity Bright citrus leads to milky fig and brine, the use of caviar is subtle and dry down is nondescript woods. ****

[TNYTODPC] Beauty, by Calvin Klein. Obsession was a woman wearing her strength on the outside; cK One startled with its crystal-clear ambiguity. Beauty is Calvin’s velvet revolution, a feminine feminine: unblended flowers, soft curves and a straightforward golden glow.

[@FR] Calvin Klein Beauty 
A pretty lily note, with light jasmine and sweet musky synthetic cedar drydown. “Beauty” is an overstatement though ***

There’s a consistent difference here—the @fragrantreviews entries are stripped down and punchier, more informative. This makes them more haiku-like. Why? Because 
haiku should use objective sensory images, and avoid subjective commentary.

Or, as we’ve said before, a reviewer ought to say what the fragrance smells like. Nick Gilbert shows that it can be done in a high-tech haiku.

In his honor we titled this post using 17 syllables and fewer than 140 characters. Domo arigato!


Unknown said...

Thanks very much for your post. I'm pleased that the reviews follow your rule and say what the fragrance smells like... Although you have made me want to write a purposely frilly review that doesn't relate to the fragrance in the slightest ;)
I can't take all the credit for the reviews-my good friend Thomas (@voyagetocythera on Twitter) and I take turns writing them. Mine have all the "/"'s in, and his don't.

Avery Gilbert said...


I figured you might have a co-reviewer but it was late & I was too bleary to follow through. Thanks for clarifying.

The reviews on your Twitter feed often capture another classic element of haiku: a descriptive sensory element that abruptly cuts away to a contrast or comparison. Like the phrase "Fermented Nightmare" in the Bond No. 9 Little Italy review, for example.

At any rate, I'm just enjoying the parallels. Rules are made to be broken. Tweet away and have fun!

~x~ said...

so glad i found perfume.
this blog is the nerd herd i've always longed for.

Avery Gilbert said...


Nerd herd! You have a way with a phrase. (You should write songs or something.)

"Once, before the advent of multiplayer online games, vast nerd herds covered the Great Plains . . ."