Marc Jacobs Bang ~ fragrance review

Marc Jacobs gets lots of media coverage, but interviewers seem most interested in Jacobs’ weight. Though I’m impressed by Jacobs’ candor, isn’t he bored with talking about his appearance: his workout routine; his colon-saving diet*; his hair transplants; his tattoos and grooming rituals? Jacobs needs a PR maven who’ll demand a moratorium on all weight-loss talk…after all, Jacobs lost his “excess” pounds years ago.

The launch of Jacobs new men’s fragrance, Bang, has (at last!) given him something new to talk about — even as he uses Bang’s debut to show his half-naked body in perfume ads and magazine spreads (see this month’s Calvin Klein interview with Jacobs in Harper’s Bazaar for a “plumber shot” of Jacobs’ rear end…or don’t).

Let’s begin with the name of Jacobs’ new fragrance — Bang. There are certainly the “Wham!” “Bam!” “Pow!” connotations (the “banged up” Bang bottle), but there’s also the X-rated “bang” (sexual intercourse). Guess which direction the Bang PR materials go? Sex! There’s a rather juvenile Facebook game hosted on the Bang website called “Bang You’re It!”  Quoting the press release: “‘Bang You’re It!’ is free for interpretation and allows users to bang friends’ profile pictures and get banged in return in order to rack up points. By banging someone, you are essentially banging their profile picture with the same impacted look as the Bang fragrance bottle…Get banged by people from other countries. Get banged after midnight.” Do ADULTS “bang each other” on this Facebook page? Off I went to find out. And guess what? I ended up Banging myself (see the evidence below). Will I lose my sight, sprout hair on my palms, go insane…or simply be embarrassed I banged myself so publicly?

The Bang fragrance bottle is interesting in appearance, but its center of gravity is off; it falls over pretty easily (best to set it on its side to avoid a falling-dominoes-like event in your perfume cabinet). And just like the slightly sleazy Bang photo images from print ads (with a nude, oiled-up Jacobs laying on Mylar sheets with a Bang factice held between his splayed legs — sexy? really?) the Bang bottle design doesn’t match the vibe of the perfume: a subtle spicy-wood fragrance (and my favorite mainstream men’s perfume release of the year so far).

Bang, developed by perfumer Yann Vasnier, includes notes of white, pink and black peppercorns, “primal masculine” woods, elemi, benzoin, vetiver, white moss and patchouli. Bang begins with a strong, sweet nose-tickling pepper accord (black pepper is very noticeable) mixed with pale vetiver. Suddenly, smooth, resinous wood notes appear; the wood aromas remind me of lemony hinoki wood, pungent cedar and redwood. As the fragrance (quickly) dries down, I smell musk (not too clean but not dirty either) and more pepper (this time with hints of ‘sweatiness’ and  ‘cured tobacco’). Bang has a talc-y patchouli-moss finish — noticeable only if you put your nose to Bang-scented skin.

Bang is a quiet and light fragrance; it lasts on my skin for about three hours before I need to reapply it; the fragrance stays close to the body (there’s hardly any sillage after the first hour of wear). Though Bang is marketed to men, any woman who wears Comme des Garçons Series 3: Incense fragrances or Series 2: Red Palisander (also by Vasnier, with Françoise Caron) can wear Bang.

I hope the Bang ads don’t ‘scare’ men away from trying the scent. Maybe the next wave of ads won’t be so shiny and oily…and will feature an unknown model. Ads with nude men need not veer towards ‘soft-core porn’ territory or be airbrushed to the point of blandness: see the quirky 1971 YSL Pour Homme ad (shown at right) featuring an unclothed, but bespectacled!, Yves Saint Laurent** or 2002’s YSL M7 ad with Samuel de Cubber for examples of tasteful-quirky/natural male nudes in perfume ad copy.

Marc Jacobs Bang is available in 50 ml ($55) and 100 ml ($75) Eau de Toilette and in matching grooming products (deodorant, hair and body wash, after-shave balm).

* Harper’s Bazaar, September 2010, Marc Jacobs by Calvin Klein

** Yves Saint Laurent photo by Jeanloup Sieff.

Note: Egon Schiele certainly knew how to paint men (and women) with few or no clothes on and still give them power, sexiness, dignity and lots of character. Top images by Egon Schiele, cropped, left to right: Sitzender männlicher Rückenakt, 1910, Mime van Osen with crossed arms, 1910, Stehender männlicher Rückenakt, 1910, via Wikimedia Commons; middle “Banged” image of the author, courtesy of “Bang You’re It!”

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85 Comments

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  1. Riverwide says:

    A review of “Bang” which doesn’t mention “Poivre Samarcande”? They’re practically identical!

    Nice review though. It’s a very nicely done fragrance and a fraction of the price of Poivre Samarcande, so a big thumbs up from me!

    • Kevin says:

      Riverwide: does P.S. have good lasting power?

      • Riverwide says:

        I think it’s a little better in Poivre Samarcande, but not so much that it’s worth the huge price. But yes, I do think that PS last a little longer!

        • Gundad says:

          And Terre d’Hermes! I thought Ellena the moment I sniffed it, and even my son (11) discovered the Terre recemblance.

    • Joe says:

      That is definitely a ringing endorsement! I have but a small spray vial of PS and it’s great. Don’t know about the lasting power, but those Hermessences prices are sure way above MJ price point!

    • sandstorm1983 says:

      There is a saying in Finnish language that goes like “The honey that is produced by Finnish bee is NOT the same as the honey that is produced by Brazilian bee.” I really don’t understand why Poivre Samarcande is even mentioned in this forum. Well, YES, they both have Poivre (pepper) in their composition but really those are two different Poivre and the formulation, and composition are way different from each other. JCE has used Olfactory Blockers in Poivre Samarcande which means it won’t really bother anyone regardless of the number of sprays you would apply but such concept does not exist in Bang, if you apply more than 3 sprays of bang, you are offending people around you. These two fragrances are not comparable with each other at all!

  2. AnnS says:

    Kevin – thanks for the review – at least the fragrance sounds test worthy. I actually got an eyeball full of Mr. Jacob’s rear end at my parents house over the weekend which was a little weird. I’m glad he’s happy with his body image, but the whole thing is a little sad too. An oily man wearing a fragrance that smells like pepper – sounds like a roast to me.

    • Kevin says:

      Anns: ha! I forgot the publication but someone compared the image to a basting Christmas ‘ham’.

  3. Big *LOL* if Marc Jacobs does not see this ironically himself, #major_fail. To twitter-say-so.

    • Kevin says:

      MyBBde: who knows!? Can’t tell from the facial expression…looks SERIOUS.

  4. I skin tested this about two weeks ago. All I can say is Black Pepper!!! As much as I wanted to like it, My nose couldn’t take it. I immediately washed it off with alcohol and it still lingered.

    • ami says:

      lovely name you have

    • Kevin says:

      Abov by FM: ah…I could smell black pepper all day!

      • I don’t hate the smell of pepper but that was overpowering. The sales rep tried it on her skin and she said it smelled like bug spray on her lol

  5. Joe says:

    I’m certainly interested in trying this one, Kevin. I like the idea of lots of zingy black pepper. So this means you like this better than Chanel Bleu? You mention CdG Palisander (a favorite): is it similar in any major way?

    I’m way overdue for a sniffa walk through Nordstrom… lots of things I need to test for the heck of it. Hmm… maybe after work.

    • Joe says:

      Oh, and I meant to mention that all the Bang imagery doesn’t bother me. I’d rather see Jacobs flaunting his stuff than … Thierry Mugler, for just one example. The “bang” entendres are juvenile, but tame in comparison to ELdO’s oeuvre.

      • Kevin says:

        Joe: I’m not bothered by the Bang imagery either…it’s just not very good, or inventive, or apt!

      • mals86 says:

        I think I’d agree with your take on the imagery. Silly, but not offensive.

    • AnnS says:

      Joe, por favor, if you do go wandering through Nordstrom, can you please test the Laura Mercier Ambre Passion Elixir (or edp “Velvet”) for me, and report back? I am soooo curious about this one! ;-)

      • Joe says:

        I’ll try to remember that, Ann. Not sure if my Nordies even carries LM, but I know our Saks does. Store branches in SB tend to be smaller than usual size (maybe because the $/ft² is so high?).

        • AnnS says:

          Thanks! Enjoy your sniff trip. I’m jealous even if it is smaller. Nothing around here.

    • Kevin says:

      Joe: oh, yes…like it much more than Bleu de Chanel. Palisander is much more woody and powerful than Bang…but the wood note is similar.

  6. Dusan says:

    So that’s you in the banged-up photo there, K? You handsome devil :-)
    Bang is THE fragrance of the season (possibly of the year) that I’m looking forward to trying precisely because it’s pepper-laden. Your review just pushed me over the edge.

    • Kevin says:

      Dusan! Hope you get your hands on a bottle then…quickly!

  7. Mike says:

    It’s definitely worth a sniff, but I thought it mellowed out rather quickly and didn’t have good lasting power.

    • Kevin says:

      Mike: an EdP version is definitely needed.

  8. JacquesD says:

    Despite my initial wariness, I decided to give BANG a try when given a handful of samples by the (rather adorable) SA at the Marc by Marc Jacobs store in NYC and was so smitten (by the frag, I mean, not by the SA) that I plonked down for a 50ml bottle before using up my sample stash – which is something I never do. It’s a fascinatingly quirky fragrance, despite the longevity issues you mention – and even that is made up for by the fact that it’s pretty darn cheap compared to some of the niche frags it’s worthy of being compared to.

    That said, I had to chuckle when reading the AnnS comment comparing it to the scent of a roast. The first time I wore it after returning from my trip, my husband took one sniff and said “You smell like a steak.” Would’ve been really bad if he were a vegetarian, I guess …

    • Kevin says:

      Jacques: I think Ann mean Marc was the roast…ready for the oven. HA!

      • AnnS says:

        ;-) Yes & Yes. A man and a meat all ready for the pot – the classic aluminum foil technique. If it smells like steak, my husband might have to get a sniff of this too! That’s too funny.

  9. krokodilgena says:

    I might want to try this.
    I miss Geeky!Marc Jacobs though :’(

    I really just wanted to say that Egon Schiele is my favorite artist n___n

    • Kevin says:

      Krok: I’ve always been a big fan of Egon too. Seems the Marc you miss is gone forever….

      • krokodilgena says:

        I tried this this weekend.
        I like the bottle more after seeing it in person.
        I wish I had tried it on my skin but I only tried it on paper.
        I love pepper to the extent that I frequently go into the kitchen and just smell the pepper. So I almost purchased Bang immediately but I’m not an impulsive person so I didn’t.

  10. Dzingnut says:

    Kevin, you look like Anton Walbrook, one of my all-time favorite actors (if you haven’t seen it, rent “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp” and wait for his soliloquy on England and the value of freedom).

    • Kevin says:

      Dzingnut: I will!

  11. kaos.geo says:

    Oh Kevin you´ve given me a ray of hope after my dissapointment with BLEU de CHANEL….

    I usually avoid pepper on a scent, but you make it sound very appealing by name dropping the comme des garcons that I like the most.(specially palisader).

    As for the ads, I for one welcome “Ads with nude men thatt veer towards ‘soft-core porn’ territory”. I mean they are not gonna stop making the female exploitative ads, so let’s be equal!
    And BTW the M7 ad was MORE than softcore to me, specially the one where you can see his ding-a-ling (yes, I am particularly poetic today! hehehee)
    I understand Jacobs in a way.. he has worked so hard for that body, that he needs to show it off. I hope this fulfills his need and as you say, we get over this phase.
    And I won´t even start on the (gang)Bang connotations. but well.. controversy sells.
    Looking forward to trying this next month when I visit the states, and thank you for a great review! :-)

    • Kevin says:

      Kaos: You’re welcome. The fully nude M7 ad, to me, is more “adult” yes, but more artistic too…compared to the kitschy MJ ad. But there’s certainly room for kitsch in perfume ads!

  12. Kevin, you really made me laugh with this one. Thanks for taking a hit for us. (Ba-da-DA! Here all week folks..) And you really are quite handsome, even post self-bang. (Resisting joke…moving on…)

    How would you compare this to Christian Lacroix Tumulte?

    • Kevin says:

      Sweetlife: Tumulte is a TORNADO to Bang’s light breeze. Tumulte’s woods are on steroids in comparison…and it has no pepper

      • AnnS says:

        Hmm – and there is that new Kenzo for men – some wood “bois” thing? Have you tested that yet? Any comments?

        • Kevin says:

          Ann: I should be sniffing the Kenzo in a few days.

          • AnnS says:

            Oh good – I look forward to a review!

  13. mals86 says:

    I like pepper and wood very much, and although I tend to stay away from traditional men’s scents, this one has sounded good to me since I first saw ad photos of MJ’s oily, tattooed body on aluminum foil (what, is he a baked potato?).

    Brian at I Smell Therefore I Am, whom I share some favorites with, hated Bang for its barely-there qualities, but he tends to like things that I find scary-loud, so that may not be an issue. Thanks for the review (and the laughs), Kevin, and I’m now wondering how to get my hands on a sample of it.

    • mals86 says:

      I admit to wanting to give Schiele’s models a big tray of roast beef sandwiches… feed ‘em up a little. I do tend to find his work disturbing for vague reasons – I see a Schiele portrait and I start thinking of things like nursing homes and cancer and death and insanity. Which probably says more about me than I’d like.

      • Kevin says:

        Mals: Schiele’s women usually have more meat on their bones than the men. His images ARE disturbing and intense, that’s for sure.

    • Kevin says:

      Mals: Bang should be everywhere soon..Macy’s, Sephora, etc. I think of it more as an Eau de Cologne so won’t take away many points for the longevity (lack thereof).

  14. Nina says:

    You handsome devil, Kevin. Unbang yourself immediately, so we can drink you in!

    I scored a sample of Bang at Harvey Nicks this week, and I was surprised how much I like it. To me, it’s the kind of vetiver you can wear if you like vetiver, but kind of diluted so you don’t feel as if you’re turning green. It gets nicer the longer it’s on, which is unusual for a modern scent. I certainly like it more than Grey Vetiver, for all that the imagery is very Tom Ford.

    • Kevin says:

      Nina: thank you…! And the vetiver comes and departs pretty quickly on me…it sort of serves up the pepper in the opening on my skin.

  15. ol rait says:

    I have to say, Marc Jacobs irritated me when he was a little pudgy; though back then, mostly because his aesthetic bothers me to no end. I think it was Fall 2007 when he sent out a selection of dresses that looked like the models had gone through a corridor of silly string sprayers. But that’s just me; I think he’s a Keating. Now that he’s in a continuum of air-brushing, he’s just that much more….

    While this sounds nice, I think I would be irritated by a soft drydown. Sweet pepper and vetiver sounds fantastic. I’ll have to give it a go.

    And I love the bottle, though it does look like it needs a kickstand.

    • Kevin says:

      ol rait…if you are heavy-footed or live in earthquake territory…DO lay that Bang bottle on its side! It you like really robust fragrances, this probably won’t make you happy.

  16. VanMorrisonFan says:

    Will the version for women be called…Bang for Women? I think Wham would be a better name.

    • Kevin says:

      VM Fan: HA! let’s hope Bang stops right where it is…just like there’s no Daisy Man.

    • They should let me create a banging womens counterpart

  17. rickbr says:

    I didn’t knew you were so beautiful Kevin! Loved the banged photo :)
    I’m curious about Bang, since it goes far away from the ozone melonic island :P`Did you saw anything in common with Terre d’Hermes?
    Oh Kevin, you need to try Midnight In Paris. Mine Edp came on monday and i’m wearing it today. It’s gorgeous! Classy, flowery, with some leather that reminds me off Dzing and with a creamy vanilla base. It has been a long time since i saw a male commercial fragrance with a beautiful package, bottle and juice.

    • Kevin says:

      Rick: nope…Bang does not remind me of Terre d’Hermes…Bang’s so light and airy in comparison. I can’t wait to try Midnight in Paris…SOON

  18. SculptureOfSoul says:

    I keep hearing that this is just like Poivre Samarcande, which is something like 79% iso e super. So, here we get another boring iso e super laden fragrance (the characteristics are all there: the similarities to PS, a strong pepper smell and later vetiver, seemingly gentle projection after an hour or two).

    So basically iso e super laden generic woody scents are the new aquatic. I just wish they’d be called out as such.

    • Kevin says:

      SofS: I wasn’t bored by this as I”ve been by some other Iso E Super-laden perfumes. I really need to sniff Poivre S. again…it’s been so long but when I tried it, it didn’t appeal to me.

      • SculptureOfSoul says:

        Sorry, my reply was a bit cynical and I admit, unfair, as I haven’t smelled Bang yet. I do look forward to testing it out.. I just hope that it doesn’t give me a headache or irritate my sinuses like so many iso e super heavy scents do.

        I’m really not a fan of the advertising or kitschy bottle, at all, but I will give this a sniff if/when I come across it. I’m looking for something to fill the void in my wardrobe left by Terre d’Hermes, which I simply cannot tolerate (because of the iso e or perhaps the flinty note) anymore.

        Did you get any similarities – be it in vibe, ‘hue’, weight/texture, etc – between Bang and TdH, Kevin?

        • Kevin says:

          SofS: not really similar…and I’m a big fan too of Terre d’Hermes. Have you tried the perfume version of Td’H to see if you tolerate it better? It does smell different…I don’t detect that “flint” note for one thing, yet the Td’H vibe is there. Have you worn Un Jardin en Méditerranée? Terrible to lose your fav. scent due to allergy.

  19. NinaraPoll says:

    I actually found this in one of my local backwoods Belk’s (the same trip I attempted to sniff Kate Spade Twirl and saw the Mariah Carey Lollipop Bling trio — the testers for the trio had mysteriously vanished). The bottle is, imho, unappetizingly, tackily gaudy in person but satisfyingly hefty; I think one could quite easily crack a skull with it. I stood there sniffing the bottle for about a minute, ignoring the increasingly hostile looks of the Clinique SA nearby and wondering what Bang reminded me of… then it came to me: It smells like my husband after he’s had a shower and shave (that would be the woods and vetiver in the scent, I really did not notice the pepper except for a faint spiciness, the sweetness in the scent was more evident). I didn’t have a chance to paper or skin test it, next time I run across the bottle I’ll give it a skin test and see how it develops.

    • Kevin says:

      Nina: funny, don’t those SAs know that seeing a customer sniff a bottle for a minute is a GOOD sign?

      • Do the department stores SA’s get taught to be rude? Or are they hired for possessing this ahem, “quality”? If you are sniffing a bottle or spraying a tester, do they really think you are going to steal it also? I used to find them a bit intimidating when I was younger. Now, I ask them to get out of my way so I may sniff better without their own wafts of perfume inteferring and I stare them down way better than they can stare at me. LOL! – comes with age I guess…

        • Kevin says:

          FuddyDuddy: I ask for samples so many times the SAs see me coming and RUN and hide…so I get plenty of time to sniff…but rarely a sample. HA!

    • Morgan says:

      One of the first thing I look for in a bottle is the ability to crack a skull. You never know when that might come in handy, best to always be prepared.
      Kevin this is a *little* forward but I’d totally bang you.
      The more times you read the word bang, the less sense it starts to make.
      Fragrance sounds nice, looking forward to trying it

      • Kevin says:

        Morgan: HAHA! And true this is a dangerous weapon and since it’s already bent up it’ll be less useful as criminal evidence

  20. SmokeyToes says:

    I’m a huge fan of CdG’s Incense 3 series, especially Avignon. Might need to try this, although it seems a bit light…. but we’ll see.
    I’m not familiar with Egon Schiele, but for some reason the pictures remind me of the cartoon Aeon Flux. Now I’m officially dating myself!

    • lilyboy says:

      hi.. just on the side, im quite a fan of egon schiele and noticed the similarities with aeon flux too sometime ago.. interestingly, i found out from wikipedia that aeon’s creator was indeed inspired by egon’s works :)

      thanks kevin for the review (and the egon images :P).. just to happens that im eyeing palisander (v.s. CDG edp v.s. CDG white) for my (possible) next purchase and coincidentally if ever, first CDG.. so lets see :)

      • Kevin says:

        LILYBOY: Palisander is a great scent!

        • lilyboy says:

          yes it is indeed :) am waiting for some gift vouchers (!!) but they might be enough to purchase only 1 perfume :( for now, CDG EDP is on top of my list.. everyone i know hates it but weirdly, im smitten by it.. anyway i plan to wear it in the privacy of my room if ever, lol.. i’ll have to retry palisander and make the final ‘cut’ :) Bang is not yet out at our area so am waiting..

    • Kevin says:

      Smokey: do go to Wikimedia Commons…they have a great selection of Schiele’s work in very good reproduction quality.

  21. HarryS says:

    I found it light too, but that’s a good thing for me. It may be the only scent I have that I can spray directly on my skin, rather than walking through it.

    To me, this is one of those rare and welcome mass market fragrances that smells different. I’ve always wondered why — given the tendency in commercial fragrances to focus more on the marketing and packaging than the scent — companies didn’t get a little more experimental. If I smell another “blue” sporty scent, I’ll puke. Almost did when I smelled the new Chanel Bleu. But then, if you like that sort of thing, maybe the industry’s apparent urge to reinvent and perhaps perfect that style is a wonderful thing.

    • Kevin says:

      HarryS: this IS a good scent for those who want some scent but like it light…good for an airplane, theatre, etc. “Blue” scents must sell like hotcakes…they keep coming.

  22. Owen says:

    I was in Debenhams today and tested BANG

    it suprised, it starts out with whole lot of PEPPER. that’s all I could smell, no woods or fruit. but it reminded me of pomegranate seeds I guess that’s what I smelled instead of pepper :S

    it’s not very strong but it’s still on me now after about six or seven hours with the lasts traces left so I’m happy with that. I think it’s a bit too PEPPER-y for me though :)

  23. eminere says:

    Kevin! Is that really you in the picture? If so you’re a very handsome looking man!

    (Absolutely no stalker vibes intended.)

    • Kevin says:

      Eminere: ’tis moi…and thank you!

  24. Veronique says:

    Hi, Kevin, can I know whose drawing is it on the top, have a good chuckle when I saw it :-) because I expect to see the oiled up Marc when I clicked the link.

    I find all those Marc Jacobs getting naked press quite amusing, it all started when I first discovered how alarming fast tattoos appeared on his body, now it has becomes a joke between me and my sister, groans followed with oh no, Marc Jacobs’ getting naked again, it still sounds funny after a dozen times.

    Let me tell you I have very good imagination, you look exactly like how I picture you :-D All these years from reading this blog, all those places you’ve brought us to, you talk about your clothes, and my mind slowly conjured up a picture of you. Except that you look much more dreamy in real life :-D, now I wonder how Robin and Jessica look like, alas they reveal too little information about themselves. And Angela, I pictured an 50s pin-up girl :-D

    • Kevin says:

      Veronique: the top images are all by Egon Schiele…and yes, I imagine Angie as a Vargas girl crossed with vintage Doris Day!

      • Veronique says:

        A Vargas girl, hope that Angie wouldn’t mind we pictured her like that, I pictured her having a more quietly elegant aura and playful eyes like Gale Storm. Kevin, is it possible to ask everybody post a tiny pic of themselves, it could be banged, just a sneak-peek ;-)

  25. Moey says:

    Ewww just saw a pic of the ad with the perfume bottle between his legs, made me gag and cross my legs.

  26. sniffsniffhooray says:

    I find the advertising a bit distracting and the whole concept a bit crass. I much prefer the subtleness of the original Marc Jacobs fragrance. Shame my bottle went sour.

  27. Egon Schiele is one of my favourite artists – in fact so much so that my son’s middle name is Egon.

  28. HDS1963 says:

    I like Bang – in fact I bought it.

    It’s a really nice and well crafted fragrance – my only problem with it being the bottle which is hideous. Thank God you don’t have to show everybody the bottle when you wear it though.

    • Kevin says:

      HD: yes, the bottle keeps falling down!

  29. snaab says:

    I’ve been wearing comme de garcons odeur 53 since it came out over 10 years ago and I’m almost finished with my third bottle.
    I was looking for something new and sampled MJ Bang and liked it but was so turned off by the ads I went with my second choice, Bleu de Chanel. The SA at macys knew I was on the fence so she said I could return it if I didn’t use to much of it.
    I got it home and my pregnant wife hated the smell of the Chanel. I thought she was just being over sensitive but after wearing it for 2 days it was messing up my taste buds. All I could taste or smell was it even with just once squirt. So I returned it and got the Marc Jocbs and my wife loves it. After reading all this I now know why. She loves Black Pepper! I can even taste the peppercorn in the back of my throat when I wear it. which is getting a little annoying.
    I think I’m going to have to go back to Oduer 53, that didn’t seem to effect my taste buds.

    Has anyone else found that a strong sense messes with their taste buds?

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