Thinking about Thinking about Perfume

By March

I saw Inception the other night.  I know there’s been some discussion and confusion.  Well, I know exactly what happened: I lost eleven dollars and three hours of my life that I will never get back.  By the time we were at the interminable snow-fort/falling van scene, my legs were numb and I was so bored I kept mentally inserting either James Bond on skis or the abominable snow monster from Rudolph into the spectacle before me – anything to relieve the tedium.  Talk about an excellent inception  – wouldn’t the Bumble (preferably accompanied by Yukon Cornelius, Hermey, Burl Ives and some cheesy orchestral music) have been perfect in that scene?  I’m telling you.  Instead I finally got up and left – walked up and down the hall awhile, getting the blood flowing, and thought about perfume.

How much should we have to think about perfume, as opposed to just wearing it?  If I were going to the opera, I’d do some research first.  I’d look it up online, learn the story, research maybe the composer, or (depending on the venue) the performers or the particular production.  Otherwise I’m just sitting there struggling to read the libretto, having no clue what’s going on because they’re singing in another language.  Sure, I think the music of Turandot is achingly beautiful (go ahead and laugh, it’s probably cliché, I don’t care, I love it) but if I’m going to have a reaction other than oooh, pretty! I need more information.

Wall-art has a bit more gray area (no pun intended.)   I live in D.C. and spend a fair amount of time visiting the National Gallery of Art, the Freer, the Hirshhorn, etc., although I am no particular connoisseur.  I’m unapologetically old school – I like representational art, and I have to read up to understand what I’m looking at with a lot of modern art.  (Aside: the only time I have behaved badly in a gallery as an adult was viewing the installation in the East Wing of an “artist” my 88-year-old father and I still refer to as “light-bulb guy.”)  Yves Klein’s show at the Hirshhorn probably seems a lot more interesting if you know about Klein blue.  There are layers of information in almost any painter’s work.  You can be charmed by the Dutch masters’ blowsy, larger-than-life floral arrangements – the incredible realism and detail – and that’s good enough, yes? (Also: they’re on the way to the Vermeers.) But it’s also interesting to know that many of the elements – the fading flowers, the broken petals, the insects – were meant to signify (and depending on your perspective, celebrate) the transitory nature of our existence. Is looking at one of those master paintings “better” with more information?  I don’t know.

I could argue with myself all evening (even better with friends like you, preferably over a pitcher of adult beverages) about perfume and this sort of background knowledge.  I’m not arguing the perfume should smell “good” – I like all sorts of scents that don’t exactly soothe the senses.  But I want the application of perfume to trigger something –  something other than boredom, one hopes.   How much should I know about a perfume’s intention?  Its provenance?  As Carmencanada points out, the downside of the “celebrity perfumer” is you’ve got Alberto Morillas’ name behind a scent that might as well come in a BBW canister for all the artistry it displays.  (Is this a criminal waste of talent?  Absolutely.  Why do perfumers take these jobs?  It must be like beating your head against the wall in slow motion while drinking a vat of white musk, maybe with a chaser of vanilla.)

Learning about perfume comes in handy in ways that enchant me.  Let’s say you fall in love with a vintage bottle of YSL Paris – and why shouldn’t you?  I did, and I don’t even like roses.  Well, then, with a little research that could take you in all sorts of directions.  It was done by Sophia Grojsman, who has a reputation for astonishing roses in perfumery.  You could make a game of it – pursue other fragrances she’s done, see how you feel about those.  Or you could fall in love with the note itself – rose – and sniff around through various other perfumers’ interpretations – how about Malle’s Lipstick Rose?  Something really different like a rose-oudh?   The Rosines, an entire line devoted to displaying various facets of rose?    This continues to be one of my favorite ways to explore new perfumes – by category (house, nose, note.)  And that takes a little research.

But in the end, how much should we have to know about a perfume to “properly” “appreciate” it?   To appreciate the Humiecki & Graefs, for instance, with their wackadoo prosetry – do I really need to know about the state of how men cry to “get” Skarb?  Or is all their blurbage just a winking joke, a way of making me pay attention to the brand, rather like the antics of Etat Libre and the names of their scents?   The chances are almost zero that I’m running around in a scent called Don’t Get Me Wrong, Baby, I Don’t Swallow (is that the one with the penis the bottle?  Oh, wait, no, it’s Secretions Magnifique.)   But that’s my loss, right?  I’m so put off before I even try it.  I’m too close-minded.

I yearn for the days of the old-fashioned marketing myths and delusions – you know, this perfume is all about being sexy or mysterious or powerful or innocent or transgressive.   I can love Opium not just for the way it smells but because it’s called … Opium!  Or Poison.  (Or Addict, or Rush.)  Beyond that, what do we really need to know about them?  Nothing.  Ingredients eco-sourced and collected by (unionized) nuns at dusk?   Done by [insert famous perfumer here]?  Nope, none of that.  I don’t have to read any ad copy to understand how via my perfume I’ve been a bad, bad girl.  I can just look at the name or the image and know it.

Does a fragrance have balance?  Is it pleasing, does it surprise? These are some of the questions Angela asks on Now Smell This, as she compares perfume to another art – the preparation of fine food.   In the end (and somewhat ironically) I think I’m going to drop perfume in a category close to food – even though I don’t necessarily love too much of one with the other.  Perfume can provide the same kind of highbrow and lowbrow thrills.  It can provide instant joy, or be something that requires a bit of a development of a taste for a note, the way one acquires a taste for oysters.   I think that perfume has, for me, an element of immediacy that food does, less distancing than visual or musical art appreciation, if that makes any sense at all.  (Is smell and taste more primal, more fundamental than sight or sound?)  Okay, I’m going to pour myself a drink and argue with myself over that last bit.

Also, due to a last minute scheduling change, I will be away today at an undisclosed location with Diva and Enigma, getting in touch with our senses via funnel cakes, arcade games, and barf-inducing rides like the Himalaya.  They better be playing Heart’s Barracuda.  Rock on.

  • wweezzyy says:

    wow – you are indeed a fabulous writer. I’m an uneducated suburban past-middle-aged Mom/working slave. I’ve read this blog off&on the past couple of years since i found a new love and obsession with perfumes that i cannot afford. I’ve been off a while but took a quick peek today and now i’ve been introduced to Yves Klein, who I’d previously never heard of, and I’ve found that perfume can be thought of in same terms of art. You are like a professor of perfume and i thank you for educating and enriching me, once again.

  • Kathryn says:

    March, the reason that I love what you write about perfume is that you write so wonderfully well about the art that perfume creates in your own life. I really love how you’ve interwoven your feelings about your day to day life, travels, friendships, and family into the experience of wearing perfume. Some things you have written, your post about Nuit au Desert especially, have stayed in my mind for years.

  • Ursula says:

    When “thinking” do financial considerations matter? Is a work of art more beautiful just because it costs more? Because it is now acclaimed to be more precious or so rare to be missed, or so far or difficult to find?

    The same with the master pieces of perfume: Will Clive Christian C enhance my well being more because it costs a lot?

    I found myself looking at Bond No. 9 Chinatown and wondering how I could possibly like a neighborhood perfume with the attachment of the fantasy of homey smells (what? noodles, ginger, wok frying oils ?!?) My logical mind rejected it.

    However, the advertising – a pretty bottle – was targeted rather at my asthetic appreciation, and what really won out, was the exquisite fragrance when applied on my skin, and regardless of the high price tag, the money will be saved now with logical foresight and thinking, and the bottle in time be bought, because regardless of finances, I will only wear a scent that is at the time pleasing to me and others.

    What is pleasing is what my nose decided, and “the nose knows…”

  • jen says:

    Its so hot in Az I can only think about Jon Hamm and wonder what he smells like.

    • carter says:

      Oh, baybee…what DO you suppose he smells like? Even smoked Hamm would be great.

      • Lee says:

        He can smell any goddamn way he pleases. We get to see his chest, at least.

        He PLAYED those Honda suckers!

        • carter says:

          He is a hot genius, any way you slice it.

          • jen says:

            I just finished watching the first three seasons of MM cause of a staycation (hate that word) and now plan to dress up when I go back to work. Mr. Draper smells smoky and conflicted for sure. Also sweeet.

  • tammy says:

    I should probably leave this all unsaid, but as I’ll say it anyway…as much as I love learning all about anything, including Mr. Klein and his blue, neither of which I had ever heard of, I am compelled to admit that all the back-story in the world is not going to change my opinion of something that I think is ugly.

    I think I need my art to be beautiful, or at least comforting or maybe uplifting in some way; certainly not disturbing.

    Perfume has more leeway with me; I enjoy smelling odd things, though I still do not see the point of the Secretions mess….it is the perfume equivalent of crucifixes in urine and cadavers on display….it doesn’t offend me, but I see no point beyond the shock of it.

    Seeing things in person does make a difference; when I got around to seeing a Monet exhibit, I did appreciate the Impressionists more. All those dots…..yes, I get it now, I can definitely see where that (as we say back home) took some doin’.

    Van Gogh on the other hand…even after seeing it hanging on the wall, I was still unmoved, although I enjoyed learning all about him, and was not in the least surprised to hear that he was a tad touched. I have no doubt they will eventually discover that Dali and Skirk and Picasso were serial killers.

    I’d like opera a great deal more were it not for all the singing. Way too overwrought for me. I agree that they are jaw-droppingly talented, but so much of it reminds me of cats looking for love. The only opera I ever remotely enjoyed was Lamke, by Delibes, I think (and really only the Flower Duet, if I am brutally honest)…and I still had a heck of a time following the story, although I did enjoy the costumes.

    My husband and I do have season tickets to two local symphonies, and we sometimes actually remember to go to Trader Joes, so I am only 99% hick, I suppose.

    Feel free to ban me!

    • AnnieA says:

      I was in Montreal and went to the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. The building itself was quite beautful, but I didn’t like the works it contained: there was nothing “beautiful, or at least comforting or maybe uplifting” — I’d even have gone for “disturbing”. Even the Borduas works were a snooze…

      P.S. After seeing a Picasso retropective many years ago I decided that the REAL reason he went Cubist was that he couldn’t draw hands properly.

  • Musette says:

    Lovely essay, March, as always! (dangle it all to hell, I wish I could write like you :-w

    …anyway, I admit to a certain Philistine approach to perfumery. I read the Posse, GdM etc reviews, but find myself mostly intrigued by your reactions to the scent(s) rather than the notes. In fact, I usually skim over the notes altogether, as I tend not to parse out notes. In the end, I either like it or I don’t. I tend not to even remember the perfumer! I don’t think I could focus on it that much – it would suck the fun right out of it.

    [-( Fine. Take away my perfumista card. [-(

    xo >-)

    ps. funnel cake = 5x scrubs. Just sayin’

    • Wendi says:

      Hah! I totally agree. Occasionally I’m in the mood to reflect on the abstract philosophical nuances of perfume, but mostly I sheepishly creep over here to peruse your comments and criticisms over the pick of the day… I liken it to going to dinner at that one dining room with the cult following that has a million things on the menu and telling the server that you’ll have his favorite. You know it will be an interesting experience, even if it isn’t your cup of tea (no pun intended.) Isn’t that what perfume should be about, anyway?

      Unsophisticated? Maybe. Disingenuous? No way. :x

  • carter says:

    Knowing the backstory, looking at promotional material, reading the hype on fragrance influences me very little. I don’t in fact wish to know much before I smell something…just enough to pique my interest so that I make the effort to seek it out, but no more. I want to come at it with fresh eyes…er, nostrils…and with no preconceived notions of how I’m going to feel about it. The *knowing* part comes later — usually well after the fact of having already fallen in love with it — but if I were to go through life without any knowledge of the history of a particular scent, well, that would not in any significant way diminish my experience of it. The details are fun but, frankly, I take take each and every one of them with an enormous honking grain of salt. And yes, I do like having an idea of what period I’m dealing with, but I can generally get a pretty good sense of that simply by smelling something.

    If perfume were suddenly to become an intellectual exercise for me in the same way that reading Don Delillo or listening to Miles Davis can be (on top of the entertainment they provide, of course) then I don’t know that I’d find as much joy in it as I do. Frankly, I would compare perfumery more to fashion than anything else…it’s no accident that so many fashion houses are — and have almost always been — so intimately involved in the business of perfume. It IS art, but it is so much more about the heart than it is about the head. It is beautiful and tremendous fun, the brilliant things endure, and the rest is a trifle to be enjoyed and soon forgotten.

  • Angela says:

    There is definitely a time for funnel cake. And a time for a nuanced glass of wine. (These usually aren’t the same time!) Similarly, sometimes I just want to wear a lovely perfume and not think about it. I don’t care how complex it is, or its provenance. I just want its comfort and easy beauty. Other times I want something I can sink my brain into for an afternoon.

    Once I wandered through the Chicago Institute of Art before meeting a friend later for a more proper tour. I saw the paintings in a lazy way, enjoying them breezily, calling up scraps I remembered from college art history. It was terrific. Then I met up with the friend, who taught at the art school and whose wife is an artist who had a painting on display at the museum. He showed me a handful of paintings, including his wife’s, and talked about them in detail. The time my tour was life changing! I’ll never see Braque the same way. I understood that every stroke of the brush was a conscious choice. Perfume can be the same way–when you’re in the mood for it.

  • Fiordiligi says:

    Fabulous piece, March. Really enjoyed reading it. The other posters have responded very eloquently and of course I always have been and always will be enchanted by the history and romance of my beloved old Guerlains. I really have no time for the pretensions of rather too many of the so-called niche perfumers who use revolting names and tasteless designs for their “product.”

    I have a friend who lives in the South of France in Rue Yves Klein. We have a wall in our living room painted Klein blue. A couple of useless facts for you!

    Have a good trip.

  • sweetlife says:

    Basically, I’m on board with Zazie, but will say just a few more things. I treasure perfume and food partly BECAUSE they fully engage my brain and my senses at the same time. If it were just one or the other it wouldn’t be nearly as powerful for me.

    That said, I made a conscious decision a few years ago to try never to feel obligated by my perfume–to not worry about smelling everything, or learning everything. To reject the deliberate pursuit of mastery and to not worry about how much I know or whether I know more or less than others. I think you sum it up beautifully when you say “you could make a game of it.” That’s it exactly–as long as it’s play, it works.

  • Robin says:

    I am thinking about funnel cake instead. I did not have enough funnel cake this summer. Hope you guys are having a blast somewhere!

  • SilviaFunkly says:

    As I grow older, I seem to have become the type who wonders around new museums with an audioguide. That wasn’t always the case and I am not exactly sure when the switch took place. Fact is that my appreciation these days seems to make me thirsty for information/background and I often look up “things” that catch my attention. It’s no better or worse than my former instinctive approach, just what satisfies me now.

    Within this framework, I appreciate information about perfume too, very much along the same lines as Zazie. I can intellectualize and still be swooned by beauty, if it makes sense. Having said that, if I don’t like a masterpiece perfume (hello Shalimar), I would perhaps keep trying more than if it was a mainstream release I dislike, but recognition of what I “get” (or what “gets” me) remains, excuse the pun, a skin feeling.

    • Lee says:

      I was recently at The Paula Rego gallery/museum in Cascais, and went for the audioguide myself. I was both irritated and thankful.

  • Masha says:

    Here’s a tangent- I’d love to see more “arts in combination”- I know there are artists out there who have created performance pieces with olfactory elements, mixed media pieces that are visual/auditory, and so on. I’d love to see more technologies that make the combination of the visual/auditory/olfactory easier to do. So for example, in my studio, I could combine the visuals with the audio, and the olfactory, then have the piece displayed in such a way that each viewer/participant had the olfactory experience as well. Of course, so many people are so scent-a-phobic that the poor artist would probably have to work with lawyers to create a waiver for each viewer, so they don’t get sued! ACK! Our poor sense of smell gets short shrift. Maybe if we’d evolved from rabbits, cats, or dogs, instead of simians….

  • zazie says:

    I totally understand the food connection – but for what concerns me, sometimes perfume, like other fine arts, benefits form some extra knowledge, and acquires a whole new dimension…
    For example, learning about the facets of tuberose absolute helps me appreciate the appearance of a camphorous note first in tuberose criminelle (or le galion? ;) ) and then, more subdued, on some favorites of mine: Carnal Flower and Beyond love.
    Because such facet is only slightly unpleasant, this cold unexpected shot at the top became welcomed as soon as I knew where it came from and why (a creative demarche, at least for SL- whose opening I was astonished to find so friendly. But I still like CF much much better, and was totally underwhelmed by TC).
    Another example: in perfume you can appreciate citations and referencing, and twisting, as in any major painting or literature book.
    And also – classic Guerlains are magical, deep, and everchanging creatures on their own (and even more so on my skin). But the pleasure becomes so much deeper when I realize that l’heure Bleue is almost 100 years old, and that it smells like paris before the two world wars, knowing that it saw the light together with Pollock and Michelangelo Antonioni. This side information ornaments my perfume experience, and helps me better understand and appreciate what I am wearing.
    Also- knowing when Bois de violette or Tuberose criminelle were released, helps me overcome my “what’s special?” initial reaction and understand how almost revolutionary these might have been at the time and how influential they have been- though of course that won’t mean I’ll want a bottle!
    And the way “education” is changing my perception of what I smell is astonishing: I am reluctantly admitting, more and more often, that it was Luca Turin that got it all right, from the very beginning…and feel ashemed for my first comments here and there before I dove into intensive sniffing…
    So maybe I do feel like some aspects of perfume, contestualisation, referencing, creative statements, do resemble those of other fine arts.
    It’s a commercial art, but which art has not a commercial aspect attached to it?
    That said, my last sniffing experiences were as far form art as they come: so many disappointments! :(

  • Joe says:

    Hi, M. I agree: really nicely written piece.

    I’ll admit, I don’t think you really have to know much about a perfume to appreciate it “properly” (justly in quotes). If I had my way, I’d have a conspirator sending me vials or atomizers randomly numbered so I could sniff them blind, without having to worry, “Damn, this is Amouage/Xerkjxhoffz and costs $3-$5/ml and everyone’s raaaaving about it… oh I hope it’s good and I’m not the only loser on the planet who thinks it sucks worse than Soulgasm.”

    My brain wants to take in the sensory experience and assess without all that baggage…. sometimes. But much of the time, I like knowing a bit of the backstory. All the details just provide extra fodder for my brain to be occupied with — to enjoy learning new things. But I’m sure not always thinking about that when I want to grab something that smells delicious and will help me get through my morning/day/evening.

    Oh, and as for Inception: I liked it, but yeah, someone made that snowfortress scene at least 15 minutes too long so they could show off their toys. Still, I really admired the complexity of the script. Watching Tom Hardy didn’t hurt either.

    • Lee says:

      The saving graces of the film were Tom Hardy and Mr G-L. But they didn’t even take their shirts off, let alone have any character development.

      Like March, I was TIRED by the film. And the spinning top at the end. Puh-freaking-leeze. And oh, I don’t care if I’m missing the subtle play on cinema as a dream state… NO DREAMS ARE LIKE THOSE COMPUTER GAME SIMULATIONS.

      But more importantly, we need chests, goddamit.

      • carter says:


      • Masha says:

        Yeah, I didn’t go see it at all. I’ve used dreamwork with patients for a long time now, and I didn’t want to see such a fascinating, complicated, and in many ways, artistic process reduced to Hollywoodisms.

  • Well, I’ve got a whole chapter in that book I’m writing on perfume as an art form so I won’t be able to sum up my arguments in a comment (besides, I *have* written about it extensively in the blog).

    But a couple of things: unlike food, perfume is useless. And that puts it closer to the “fine arts”. I don’t think the sense of smell is baser — that’s what philosophers have been saying for centuries, but if you can create the olfactory equivalent of Debussy or Monet with smells and call it Après l’Ondée, I don’t think you’re going for something baser…

    If the name of a perfume, or the ads, are consistent with the story the perfume tells, of course they add to that story. If it’s just marketing blabla, they don’t.

    I, for one, like to understand how the whole thing works, what type of form is created, how it conjures the emotions/sensations/associations it conjures. Is it necessary to know the perfumer’s intentions? No. It is necessary to contemplate, and think. And that contemplation and thought goes for appreciating any form of art, doesn’t it?

    I think what you’re feeling is the pressure of having to sample and write, the blogging fatigue that’s coming over a lot of us, especially in the face of so much mediocrity. Yearning to go back to “the age of innocence” and just stupidly enjoying the stuff.

    Not all perfume is art, just like putting notes, or colours, or words, or images together isn’t necessarily great music, painting, writing or filmmaking. It doesn’t mean it’s not a possibility.

    • Winifreida says:

      Ah ha Carmancanada (I’d write again on your blog but I lost my cookies in some microsoft plot to take over the world…)it seems to me the time is then ripe for insurrection and revolt – but what form will it take?
      I think the brilliance of the individual artist in any art form shows as something that can be read on a myriad of levels – maybe it just smells, sounds, or looks good, but upon gaining insight and a bit of understanding, a whole profound universe opens.

      So this book is about perfume eh???

    • carter says:

      What Denyse said. Exactly what Denyse said. Only I don’t think about it much my own damn self. I sort of just let it happen and allow myself to appreciate it.

    • Kathryn says:

      Oh, I don’t agree that perfume is “useless”. I very often use perfume to change my mood and to communicate to other people how I’m feeling. Upon occasion the perfumes I wear rise to the status of art, but more often than not, they don’t. Which has little bearing one way or the other on how much pleasure I take in them.

      As for all the intellectual, contextual, historical biographical, associational, technical and chemical information surrounding perfume, I usually find it very interesting in and of itself. However, my personal responses to perfume are much more visceral. No amount of the most erudite perfume analysis or criticism is going to make me like a perfume if I just don’t. I’ve never been able to think my way into love.

    • nozknoz says:

      Of course it wasn’t always so – perfume was used to communicate with the Gods, to purify a space, to preserve the body for its journey to the afterlife – and other important necessities! ;-)

      • Exactly: perfume had a function for centuries. It lost its prophylactic function in Western society with the pasteurian revolution (it had lost its sacred function way before that)just at the time when it became an art, in the late 19th century.

        We can also use art, literature and music to lift our mood, but that doesn’t mean that’s their function: artworks exist in and of themselves, and I think that’s what happens with a beautiful perfume.

        • Masha says:

          Of course, substances like frankincense, jasmine, and lemon really do lift our mood, help us sleep, and relieve anxiety, so there are bonuses to perfume. Sad that these bonuses are being regulated away….

        • Kathryn says:

          What you write is always thought provoking. I guess I just don’t understand how a perfume exists in and of itself. It seems to me to be a transactional, almost conversational, participatory medium, changing with the wearer, the weather, the age and storage conditions of the bottle. How, when, and by whom a perfume is worn seems to me to be much of the art, when art occurs. I agree with Carter that the parallel with fashion is fairly close.

          Performance artists often keep still photographs or video recordings of their works and these records seem akin to me to those bottles of masterpiece perfumes in museums, sniffed only on test strips. Is the art in the documentation or in the performance itself? It’s reminiscent of Browning’s “That’s my last duchess hanging on the wall”, the joke being that his painting is just a shadow of the life that was once there.

    • Mary says:

      I am smiling, because I am stupidly enjoying the stuff– but that’s what I do when it comes to art, music, wine, perfume, dance, dressage, horses, coffee, good food. For the most part. I love taking the time to learn a little more, to go a little deeper into the experience, to try to separate out the subtleties that the creator has put into his or her creation. Do I succeed? Sometimes. Sometimes, I just enjoy. Or not. I nearly burst out loud laughing when I visited New York in the spring, and experienced the “hot” art exhibit, which my DH and I now refer to as “the naked people.” Perhaps my intellect is not always prepared for the artistic experience. Context is valuable when trying to understand art. Always, always, I enjoy reading your take on things, March! \:d/ A side benefit of perfume appreciation for me has been a better understanding of wine. I find I’m better able to “get” the notes in nice wines. Which adds a little more fun and sparkle to life. :)>-

  • Amy K says:

    That Poison ad is fabulous! I glanced at it and saw a skull instead a woman in front of a mirror, which I’m guessing was the idea. Cool stuff.

    I was an English major in college, and there were many books I had to read that I could appreciate from an artistic, historic, symbolic standpoint, but didn’t enjoy reading from a purely entertainment standpoint. All forms of art are like that. Sometimes you’ll see something and appreciate its complexity and the technique behind it, but it just doesn’t resonate with you on the special level that makes you want to have it hanging on your wall. The ones that resonate with you will do it regardless of whether or not you know much about them. That being said, I think some background information and repeated exposure to complexity does make you more likely to appreciate something that might have seemed too complex or over-the-top before. Does this even make sense? It’s late and I’m babbling :)

  • Flora says:

    March: I love you. That is all.

    I know exactly what you mean even though I can’t always put it into words myself. I need my perfume to transport me somewhere; it’s not always the same place, but it has to be where I want to go!

    I don’t get anything out of those shock value frags either. From what I have read, I would rather eat ground glass from a spittoon than smell Secretions Magnifiques. Gack.

    And thanks for the link to the article about Olivier Dubrana/AbdesSalaam Attar – I recently discovered his perfumes and I am SOOOOO in love!

  • Winifreida says:

    Great essay March!
    I’m always ruminating upon the nexus of perfumery with the other arts (and I am convinced it is as great an art as painting, music, drama, haute cuisine etc – channeling creativity in exactly the same ways but simply using the medium of scent…)
    I am a fan of abstract modernism but then I lived the visual arts for thirty years. I see a lot of parallels with modern art and the use of abstract aromachemicals and the struggle for expression by perfumery.
    To me there is no difference between the creative artistry that fires the soul in any mode of expression. And we are just as likely to see the effects of commercialisation in any art, they have never been free of it.
    I have now spent a couple of years immersing myself (ha) in perfumery and find that as in art and music and literature there are only some at the very pinnacle of personal adoration – plenty to love and enjoy, only a few that are sublime.
    Mitsouko is still my Athena Nike, my Botticelli, my Parthenon and Falling Water, Phillip Glass and Thomas Hardy…

  • Interesting. Almost contemplative. And are you really going to the Montgomery County Fair? Ahhh, the goat barn. Better slap on some Yatagan for that.
    Klein blue? Reminds me a lot of Pantone Matching System’s Reflex Blue–a great favorite of industrial brochures pre-interwebs. But the damn stuff had some chemical in it so it took twice as long to dry.

    It’s odd how we get into perfumes. I used to ignore fragrances that had certain notes I don’t like–rose or cantaloupe or cedar, but now I realize that a note doesn’t make a perfume–it’s the blend and the genius of the maker. So I will always try a Jean-Claude Elena, even if I curse him for sending me Apres La Cantaloup, or more precisely, Au Milieu du Cantaloup.

    And if I find a good story behind the perfume, I’ll certainly try it, but not just because the advertisement assures me it’s made from gnome tears stirred by a broomstraw once owned by Serge Lutens.

    I won’t try a juice because I like (or don’t like) the bottle and I won’t try a celebrity perfume unless a reliable source recommends it. That’s largely based on most celebrity perfumes smelling fruity-floral in various forces.

    But an interesting story or a crie du coeur from the nose (sorry about those mixed metaphors) and I’m like a chicken on a June bug. Those are sample-worthy. But in the end, the full bottle purchase comes only if I love the scent for what it does on my skin.

  • Erin T says:

    Great Poison ad, may I say. Never seen that one before.