The Tova Signature/Tova Reserve Saga: All In The Eye Of The Beholder?{Scented Thoughts}

When I initially posted about the 25th Tova Anniversary, I soon had to realize that Tova Signature perfume was somewhat of a pop culture phenomenon thanks to the popularity the scent had gained over the years of being sold on QVC. If the thread at The Scented Salamander is but the emerging tip of an iceberg, you can well imagine how many - reportedly millions of Tova wearers - are thinking similar thoughts. At the same time that affection and love was lavished upon the perfume, or rather upon its former glory, much disgruntlement was voiced too regarding its present formulation. And from time to time, a Tova Signature wearer drops by perfume café Scented Salamander to gripe, mostly (and I am guessing) in the hope that the message will come across to the Tova people...

It must have come across because I was indeed contacted by the Tova folks, for the new Ambre d'Oro. I posted about it and it definitely did not garner the same kind of popular reaction, as people still have their eyes on the real prize, adored by both themselves and their mothers: Tova Signature.

Around the Holidays, a Tova Reserve perfume directly linked to Tova Signature appeared in what turned to be a possible public amende honorable from the brand and the much sought resolution by Tova Signature fans. At last, at long last, their voices had been heard and the Holidays would be cheerfully scented thanks to this going-back to decent quality. Indeed a good number of comments on the QVC site were encouraging. Yes, it smelled exactly like or almost exactly like - depending on the person - the original formulation. The first commenter, Long Time User was aglow with positive feelings and declared on 12/09/2009,

"For anyone who has been a long-time user of Tova Signature fragrance as I have been for 25 years, I am happy to say that this new addition to the line -- The Tova Signature Reserve Eau de Parfum -- is the same original, beautiful, delicate scent that we all fell in love with from the start. During the past few years, the fragrance has been altered in some way that it smelled like alcohol and just terrible. When I would put it on, my family would say "What are you wearing; it smells terrible."

Jewelry_fan wrote on 12/19/2008,

"Oh my gosh.....this is the Tova we all loved. I can't thank Tova and QVC enough for bringing back the original scent. I was practically in tears not having the original scent of Tova. I was going through withdrawals not being able to have my scent until the Reserve was introduced. I am so thrilled have no idea! "

And Anna C said on 12/21/2008,

 "My best friend, who introduced me to Tova 23 years ago, said it smelled like the real deal to her AND when I hugged her, she said she smelled like me the rest of the day!!"

But going back to the thread today, one has to realize that the percentage of negative comments has increased after the Holidays (there were some earlier on) calling to mind the possible question of a differentiated batch of perfume, or a PR effort in the form of an ameliorated Tova Signature aged "9 months" that had run its course or was a victim of its popularity past the Holidays rush. Luckygal wrote on 1/04/2009,

"After reading the reviews, I decided to try Tova again thinking the original formula may have been brought back in some form. I gave this to my Mom as a Christmas gift and it is going back to QVC today! The scent did not even last 15 minutes on either of us. Please do not waste your time and effort. It is NOT like the original, it is basically the same Tova we have all been complaining about in a fancy bottle."

Larry Lalaland said on 1/05/2009,

"I really wanted to like this, hoping it would be the good old Tova signature from years ago. However it has no staying power - the scent lasted 2 hours. I also tried it in an atomizer and it didn't last any longer than dabbing it on. QVC and Tova, please go back to the drawing boards on this one."

GBR1 disagreed with these comments on 1/05/2009 giving a 5-star rating to the Reserve and wondering whether the problem might not be linked to over-use,

"I don't wear the fragrance every day, though. Maybe that's the difference. I would definitely recommend this product. Love it!"

I am not sure what GBR1 might have meant by the issue being over-use except that I personally interpret it as meaning that people who wear a scent every day get so used to it that they cannot smell it anymore.

I should also note that if anyone is thinking that musk anosmia is the culprit (a decrease or loss of the sense of smell when smelling a type of synthetic musk; this is the reason why perfumers routinely use a blend of several different musk molecules to counteract this known phenomenon), it should manifest itself in the first moments of the wearing while it looks like complaints revolve around the idea that it does smell of something but does not last beyond a certain period of time.

On 1/11/2009 a cry for help was coming from cookiemnstr,

"Come on QVC what is it going to take to get the old tova back???? TOVA was the only thing that i could count at the begainning of the day and the end of the day when i went to bed the smell..... that put a smile on my face and made things better and with the world the way it is right now I NEED TOVA BACK....but im not buying any more bug spray ....PLEASE WILL SOMEONE LISTEN ??? I'll spend the extra money for the real deal....i need it .... WE ALL NEED IT PLEASE !!!!!!!"

It looks like Tova Borgnine's own explanation resting on a cognitive argument - it seems to smell different because the bottle is different, but the scent of Tova Signature is absolutely the same as before - won't satisfy angry customers. In fact the launch of Tova Reserve may be an indication that there is some objective truth to the sensations felt by a cohort of people that Tova Signature has changed. Yes, maybe Tova thinks it's bad PR to confess they had to tweak the formula, and moreover, she is not a perfumer working in a lab, but the good PR alternative, let's call it the Christmas Tova gift of gratitude seems to have been rather ephemeral. How about bringing back the original bottle then? Maybe that might work?

What Tova had to say to assuage the fears of her distraught fans was this,

"When I celebrated the fragrance's 25th Anniversary I introduced a new art deco bottle. The original had a frosted, opaque finish and the new one is completely transparent. With a new bottle, it's easy to perceive the fragrance differently. It's like eating ice cream from a bowl you don't usually eat it from - you think it tastes differently!"

Oftentimes in fact a change of bottle goes with a change in the formula. A recent example for me is Keiko Mecheri. So the question one might ask pointedly is, is the perfume industry now using the change-of-bottle argument to say you are basically dreaming people? (But not running the risk of coming across as different?) Or more astutely, to better mask a change? Or even more sophisticated a version: to counterbalance a change, i.e., make a flacon darker to compensate for, say, a lighter concentration? Does that really work? Why didn't they then bring the frosted bottle back to prove their theory and instead went for an "improved" Reserve version (more oils, aged like wine, fancier bottle etc) of Tova Signature?

Image and perfume, perfume and image, a more complex relationship never existed before.


One of my own perfume wishes is to see Windsong be re-edited in the celadon-colored opaque trademark crown bottle of Prince Matchabelli. I promise to do a review of it in light of my new sensations as I behold the perfume in a new bottle. I am only half-kidding because I do think that the shape and color of a bottle impact the perception of a scent.

So I can only restate to Tova: if the bottle is the problem, why not fix that?  

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5 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. Tova, Tova where are you. I have used Tova Signature for over 10 years and something has happened to the original formula. I have sent back two orders thinking maybe there was a mistake in the formula. Apparently there is. It smells like alcohol and after it settles it is very weak. I doesn't last even 10 minutes. Don't blame the bottle change. over the years, many different bottles have held Tova Signature. The formula is very weak and smells like nothing. Why should we have to order the "Reserve" in order to get a hint of the original scent. I hate to look for another fragrance to call my own, but unless I hear differently, I will not be reordering. My guess would be that with enough negative comments, the product will either be changed to the original formula to create customer satisfaction or the product will no longer be produced, since no one will be buying. In this day and time, with the economy in as poor a shape as it is, people are not going to waste any money on inferior products. I cannot believe that such a lady as Tova would ever connect her name to something that has turned this inferior.

  2. The theory that a change in the bottle caused a perception of a change in the fragrance does not hold true. When wearing the original Tova Signature I received compliments daily - oten times I received them several times in a day (and that is no exaggeration) on the beautiful scent I was wearing. Since the change I have not received one compliment and that's after going through 2 bottles of the stuff. The people smelling me don't know what the bottle looks like and they have stopped the compliments so it must be that the scent itself has truly changed. QVC - how many customers have you lost??? Whatever happened to the old adage "the customer is always right?" Please bring the original scent back. Tova - aer you listening????

  3. Check out QVC website - new Tova - platinum now - with another promise to be the "old" tova, and a letter from Tova. Is it another imposter or can it really be the beloved fragrance we are all longing for?

  4. The new Tova Platinum is NOT repeat NOT like the original Tova Signature. It's ok, but not long lasting. Nothing comes close to the original. Cannot understand why they can't duplicate that magical original formula and why nobody is listening to us! So sad that Tova Signature original formulation is gone.


  5. I am lost without this signature Tova,it has nothing to do with the newbottle it comes in it is NOT THE SAME.i HAVE HAD TO CHANGE AFTER ALL THESE YEARS,PEOPLE WOULD STOP ME IN THE MALLS,GROCERY STORE EVERY WHERE,NOT ANYMORE WE WANT IT BACK PLEASE.

    Thanks Carolyn Evans

    Carolyn Evans

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