An Open Letter to…

guerlain encensDear Mr Owner at Sunnyfield Greenhouse:

When you got up last Friday, I’ll bet the last thing you were expecting was………me.  Well, not ‘in the morning’, of course – it was near the close of last Friday’s gorgeous early Autumn day.  I came in looking for miscanthus and a peach tree.  You were happy to help!  We chatted about Northern Sea Oats and exploding stone fruit trees and the conversation was going swimmingly.

…and then the wind shifted.

Your first inkling that something was…different..about me?  Was it when I stopped in the middle of a sentence, nose in the air like a German Shorthair…a suddenly vacant expression on my face, where only a moment before I was engrossed in our conversation?  Or was it when I stealthily attempted to sniff ‘near’ you?  Or when, perplexed that somebody, somewhere in the vicinity smelled persackly like Encens Mythique d’Orient….and that ‘somebody’ mos’ def Was Not Me – and we were the only two people in the entire place?  So It Had To Be You?

Were you reassured when I refocused on our conversation about the absurdity of trying to train my blackberry bush onto a pergola…only to get that Vacant Shorthair expression once again, when the wind shifted?   I saw you get that kinda scared look on your face when I started sniffing my own arm, to see if I’d somehow spritzed some Encens, perhaps in my sleep?  Was that alarm on your face when I finally, haltingly asked if I might ‘smell’ you?

Probably all of the above.  I need to apologize.  And I need to explain.  I am a  Perfumista.  Which means, when a rogue scent shoots across my nasal bow there’s a one in two chance of my dropping everything and following that scent, like Snuffles, the  floating cartoon dog.  Usually it’s me following some woman around Wal-Mart, trying to identify some perfume like JLo Glow (not as easy as it sounds).  This time, I knew the scent.   Guerlain Encens Mythique d’Orient.  And the idea of you wearing it, in the middle of a greenhouse in the middle of a cornfield in the middle of Central IL was ..perplexing.   Probably as perplexing as my question “who does your laundry” was to you.  Poor man.   And of course you weren’t wearing Encens Mythique d’Orient – when I asked you, you looked as if I’d suddenly started speaking Pashtun.  And the laundry question?!  Woot!  CrazyLady IN DA HOUUUSE!  But, really?  I honestly wanted to know – I was hoping it was your wife and she was somewhere nearby so I could ask her what the hell she was using.  Luckily for me, she wasn’t there – I’m sure she would’ve had little trouble callin’ the padded wagon!

I want you to know I am not nuts.  Well, okay  – I am nuts.  But I’m part of a much larger cadre of nuts, perfumistas all.  These folks totally ‘get’ that I spent the better part of an hour at the store, sniffing laundry detergent (no dice) and left the store, bereft…and had to be forcibly restrained from turning around and going back when I realized it might be dryer sheets!  Dryer sheets!   My next trip to the store, I’m sniffin’ dryer sheets.  I am hoping store security doesn’t toss me out on my keister!  And I’m glad you didn’t, either, though I know the thought crossed your mind.


We are a strange group of fiends, us perfumistas.  I am not alone in my fiendom.  I’m hoping some of my fellow fiends will chime in here and let you know that they, too have done some Really Weird Things in the attempt to identify a scent.  Because I know they have!

And I hope you won’t flip the ‘closed’ light on, the next time you see me pull into the parking lot.  I promise I won’t come back until I have identified that scent!!!!  And something tells me I should probably leave the bottle of Encens in the armoire.  You don’t need me bringing it to your nursery, matching it up to your laundry.  Right?

  • Nemo says:

    I have a funny story of the opposite situation. Not long after I started my perfume hobby (or obsession), I’ve been asking my closest friends how I smell. Often this is accompanied with an elbow (but not the sharp side!) in the face… so now most of my good friends and of course my bf know to expect some interesting smells. The other day I was wearing Sel de Vetiver, and sitting in my office when one of my male (non-perfumista, yet!) coworkers started sniffing the air. He couldn’t figure out where it was coming from so he started sniffing his own shirt very obviously. When I asked him what was wrong (it was pretty funny to watch), he said he had been working outside that morning and it smelled like he had rubbed up against some wet varnish…but he couldn’t figure out where it was coming from! We quickly ascertained it was the Sel de Vetiver, which he proclaimed as smelling, “like varnish, but it smells good.” I guess that is a compliment? Coming from someone who otherwise declares 99% of perfumes as smelling “girly, in a good way.”

  • Kismet429 says:

    Finally worked up the nerve to ask a male co-worker what scent he was wearing after enjoying it for months. Turned out to be Terre d’Hermes, which I liked so much that I bought a decant. It’s his signature scent, though, so it would be just too weird if this middle-aged lady showed up sporting Td’H too. He maybe DOES over-spritz just a tee-tiny bit and the sillage is pronounced, so it’s lucky that it’s something I find delicious.

  • me says:

    Oh dear. I remember back in my “Imaginative Literature” (Science fiction, fantasy) college days, trouble explaining in jokes and tribal customs to “mundanes”. Most people have no understanding as to why someone would have more than one fragrance, other than it being results of having competing beaus who gave dueling Valentines day gifts. Most scent “mundanes” can not even imagine a perfume obsession.
    It is best, therefore, I feel, not to request to smell strangers (except at perfume conventions- where the stranger will usually direct one to a very specific body part “No, not on the elbow, that’s just Angel, the really good one is here two inches up from my wrist”). Unless one, is of course, a dog, who smells strangers in other body areas without asking permission.

    As for that mysterious Enciens- it sounds like you were in some sort of nursery. Could you have been smelling actual plants whcih reminded you of Enciens.

  • Suzanne H. says:

    The first time I asked what someone was wearing was nearly a half-century ago. I was in school and an acquaintance smelled absolutely wonderful. I had no qualms about inquiring and she happily told me it was Diorissimo. Thank you Camilla, wherever you are! I think it has been reformulated since then, but I am still happy with it.

    The second is an opportunity missed. My friends were in Spain and one of them told me that the men there smelled divine. Unfortunately, she did not ask. (I understand her reticence.) But if anyone knows what men in Spain often wear, please let me know.

  • Dionne says:

    I haven’t done it with strangers, but I have been known to sidle up too close to friends and start snuffling – fortunately they know of my hobby and just laugh at me. But this story does remind me of being in the emergency of a brand-spankin’ new hospital in south Calgary at the beginning of August. Despite being in pain, I could swear that someone on staff was wafting LADDM, as everyone time I got wheeled back to emerg after assorted tests, I’d catch hints of it. I suppose it’s just as well I wasn’t a bit more mobile…. 😉

  • ojaddicte says:

    Thank you for making me laugh so hard I snorted coffee out my nose!

    Unfortunately, the only scent I seem to catch whiffs of when out and about is Angel, which is one of the few perfumes that makes me want to hurl. I can’t wait to find out what this mystery laundry product is so I can add it to my laundry!

  • Ann says:

    What a hoot, sweetie! Hope you can figure out the scent mystery and let us all know what it was. And then there might be a run on that product in the grocery, ha!

  • Tiara says:

    This was hoot! I’m imagining him telling this story to others in your small town and they’re nodding their heads…oh, yes, she’s a strange one that one!

    While sniffing dryer sheets, also check the scent boosters (beads that go into the washer), wrinkles releasers and Dryel plus similar products. Some of these are quite fragrant, although cannot imagine any being similar to a Guerlain!

    • Musette says:

      wow! who knew there was such a plethora of laundry stuff! I will do that! I’m glad I thought to ask him about the laundry as a lot of businesses send their work laundry out! They’re a small, family-run biz, though, so I suspect it’s something in their home (she says, crossing fingers, eyes toes)


  • FragrantWitch says:

    Thanks! Been ill with Crohn’s and redecorating and children, school, life…. Ya know! Glad GF gave you some good memories- it is an oldie but a goodie 🙂

  • That was a great story Musette. I would be too shy to do anything like that, I think. I can’t say I’ve ever had the nerve to follow someone to ask what they were wearing, on the very rare occasion that I’ve smelled something and could tell who it was coming from. It always seems to be that there are enough people around that it’s hard to tell or that the nearest people around are far enough away from me that, again, it’s hard to tell who it’s coming from. One day I was at the zoo, and I don’t think there was anyone within 30 feet of me, and all of a sudden I get a waft of someone’s perfume. I don’t know what it was but I remember thinking Angel or something like that. I could not for the life of me tell where it came from.

    • Musette says:

      those are the most aggravating, aren’t they? I’ve had those – and they’ve kept me awake at night, trying to figure out how I could’ve smelled what I smelled, where I smelled it!


  • poodle says:

    I too have followed a scent trail to find out its origin. I’m sure some people think I’m nuts. I’ve never scared a garden center employee though. Lol. This might be one of your best stories ever. I’d love to know if you ever figure out what the scent was.

    • Musette says:

      If you’ve not scared someone in the garden center, you’re not trying hard enough! LOL! I will track that scent down – I’d like to do it on my own but I’m not above asking his wife, next time she’s at the garden center (that’s assuming he lets me back in the place). I’ll report back.


  • FragrantWitch says:

    Oh, how I have missed the Posse!
    Musette- you are just fabulous! I have yet to sniff anyone’s clothing but I have followed people to ask what they are wearing. I once followed a fantastic smelling little old lady down the high street and into the John Lewis hosiery section to find out what she was wearing. She told me it was her husband’s but it smelled like vinegar on him so she was wearing it as she didn’t want to waste it! It was Grey Flannel and she smelled positively divine.

    • Musette says:

      Hey, snookums! Where you been! Glad you’re back!

      Grey Flannel! Honey, I loved that scent to bits, back in the day; recently I was on Michigan Avenue and someone walked by, wearing GF. Without a thought in my poor old head I followed that man for 2 blocks. He was going in the opposite direction I was headed, but it was worth it! Such memories!


  • Teri says:

    I have definitely stalked the wild scent wearer a time or ten. One time that sticks in my mind was during a busy
    Christmas season at the local mall. I dragged my poor mother up and down the length of the mall and into and out of stores trying to narrow down my quarry. It was worth it in that case as the scent the woman was wearing is one that I love and which is still in my weekly rotation.

    I had to laugh at your Shorthaired Pointer simile. I could just see Rockne, my Irish Setter, springing to a point at an interesting scent. Made my whole morning! lol

    • Musette says:

      Persistence is its own reward, though I’m surprised your mother didn’t have you tested, too, after that! LOL!


      give Rockne a huge smooch for me!

  • KirstenMarie says:

    Okay, curiouser and curiouser…what could it have been? Combo of garden stuff and dryer sheets? And maybe not bring the WHOLE bottle of G with you…just a little sample. He’s a GARDENER. They like flowers. Flowers smell pretty. Ergo, he should happily help the nice crazy lady ID her scent. Or print this blog post and show him all the women who want to know! 😉 hard to argue when crazy comes in crowds.

    • Musette says:

      Nope. It was just his sweatshirt, which was pristine; and we were standing around a bunch of non-flowering trees. I can’t wait to get back to the store and Release the Dryer Sheets!!!!! LOL! I’m sure somewhere out there is a dryer sheet that smells persackly like Encens Mythique – but I’m definitely taking a sample back to the greenhouse – at least then he’ll have some idea that I may not be totally on the rails…but I’m not totally off, either! 😀


  • Lynne Marie says:

    Oh, Musette, you made me laugh SO hard, you are AWESOME!! Ever since I became a perfume addict, all manner of things (conversations, movement, etc) come to a dead halt if an unidentified bit a loveliness passes my nose. I’m like a pointer, if I had a paw, it would be raised. My brains do not return to the topic at hand until I have somehow dealt with “WHAT IS THAT SMELL???” I haven’t terrified any nursery owners yet but I’m sure that day will come.

    • Musette says:

      Oh, yes! It will come, darlin’ – and when you least expect it! My worst one, of recent note anyway, was at the Steak ‘n Shake (DON’T JUDGE!) – a young man (with that clean-but-funky Young Man Smell) was dropping off silverware, etc…and I almost burst into tears! In less than 3 seconds he’d transported me back to the 3rd grade! I was tempted to ask…..but, no.


  • Mals86 says:

    I have yet to chase anyone down and ask what they’re wearing. Around here, I can usually tell – the last person who smelled good and I couldn’t identify the scent was PETBoy (my teenage daughter’s ex-boyfriend), and he was wearing True Religion Drifter). I have been known to track down an outdoorsy smell, or something in the house…

    Mostly I wanted to say, Holy cow, Miss Musette, I lurve you.

    • Musette says:

      I lurve you more, Mals! I’m sorry to hear PETBoy is an ex, though I suspect I’m mostly sorry for him – Bookworm has a lotta livin’ to do before she settles down.

      I get those mysterious outdoor/house smells – and they drive me bonkers! One time it was dishwashing soap. I swear – household cleaners have a lot to answer for!


  • ElizabethC says:

    My husband and I were in a crowded restaurant at a long communal table. Couldn’t smell much but delicious pizza, however, I noticed the woman across from us holding her wrist to her nose and sniffing. When she also sniffed her other wrist, I immediately asked what perfume she had just bought. Turns out she had made a few wonderful purchases at Barneys and was very excited to tell us all about it. Nice chat with another perfume geek!

  • eldarwen22 says:

    I do take an interest in what others are wearing but one time, a lady I was taking an order from smelled really good. The scent was familiar but I just couldn’t place it but I asked and she said it was Mitsouko in EDT form! The current Mitsouko in EDT form never smelled that good on me and vanished in 10 minutes. Sometimes I get people who follow me around to ask what I am wearing.

  • Liz K says:

    Followed a cute little old lady around Marshall’s for 10 minutes yesterday. Would have asked what she was wearing but I lost her. Had to be sure the sillage was hers and not some freaky candle hidden on a shelf close by. It was one of those scents I recognized but couldn’t put a name to and it was fabulous. Soft roses like Ce Soir ou Jamais–but not–more violet and powder. Wonder if I creeped her out and she hid from me?

    • Musette says:

      If she did, she’s in a hidey hole FULL of freaked-out people. I once followed a woman with a baby because the baby had some incredible non-Johnson’s cream on him; I thought I was being discreet – instead I was just terrifying the stones out of her! LOL! Poor thing. She finally relaxed when I asked her what she’d put on the kid – I wanted it for my granddaughter. But it was a tense few minutes, lemmetellya.


  • Alison says:

    I once followed a young woman for about 8 blocks on Upper West Side Manhattan across several busy streets, pointer nose in the air the whole way, until she stopped at a bagel stand and i asked her what she was wearing. She was very nice about it, Chanel’s Chance, as it were. Unfortunately when I tried it it did not smell as good on me but I have a very happy memory of that day :-).

    • Musette says:

      Okay. It’s official: You Get The Prize. EIGHT BLOCKS? 8 Upper West Side Blocks? Dayam!


      (and at least it wasn’t ‘Britney sumpin’)

  • Tatiana says:

    Nope, you’re not crazy. Cuz if you’re crazy then I’m crazy and I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested. I once followed this woman from the front of the grocery store all the way to the back and up and down several aisles to make sure it was her perfume I kept getting a sniff of here and there. Of course I was bold and finally asked her what it was after stalking her through the store. Turned out to be Hermes 24, Faubourg, which I had never sniffed up until that point.

    • Musette says:

      LOL! My mother had me tested, too! (sigh) Poor Mary Cooper. Luckily her other two kids are dumb as soup!

      24, Faubourg is certainly a great jackpot at the end of the grocery store rainbow! I usually get “it’s Britney sumpthin'”….which has the double whammy of crashing my snob-meter and hoisting me upon my own petard, since I have no business being snobbish about perfume! 😀


  • Portia says:

    What a GREAT story Musette. I can just see you doing it too.
    Ha Ha Ha. poor bugger.
    It was all that cow poo and flowers. They make everything smell like Amouage to me.
    Portia xx

  • Maureen says:

    You are so funny! I was feeling a little down this morning and you made me LOL! This just happened to me on Saturday night…I went to a friends’ birthday party at a nice Italian restaurant where there was entertainment. Well, this nice man asked me to dance , and he said I looked great, and before I could stop my mouth, I blurted out ” and you SMELL great”, emphasis and everything…he looked startled , and just smiled & said “Thank you.” And then there was dead silence…I was so embarrassed, I didn’t even ask what he was wearing, and he did not offer to tell me…but it was NICE and definately had lavender in it…really wish I had asked. I am fairly new to this perfumista craziness….but next time I see him, I’m definitely going to ask.

    • Musette says:

      oh, yes! do ask! Hon, life is, among all else it might be, UNCERTAIN. Ask! Let him know you’re a perfumista, so he doesn’t think you’re a freak – Mr Greenhouse relaxed quite a bit when I told him I wrote for a perfume blog. Prior to that I think he thought I was either hitting on him or just plain old batshit crazy.


      and don’t feel ‘down’ – heck, you went to an Italian restaurant on Saturday night and a nice, good-smelling man asked you to dance! That’s lovely!!! xoxoxo

      • Maureen says:

        Thanks Musette…It was lovely…he was even a good dancer! I hope I see him again…I may just have to stop in that restaurant on Saturday night to see if he is a regular.

  • Caroline says:

    haha! Maybe it was one of those exotic-smelling handwashes that gardeners sometimes use (or a candle somewhere? probably not). Thanks for the laugh.

    • Musette says:

      alas, no. We were outside. And then we moved. And then we went somewhere else in the compound (it’s pretty exstensive)…and every time the wind shifted down I got the scent. Then he, bless his heart – BLESS HIM – let me sniff his sweatshirt! Bless that man. I mean, honestly! Who the hell ASKS ‘can I smell your sweatshirt?’ – and it’s whatever his wife uses in their laundry. Or else he’s mainlining Encens and just didn’t want to admit it. But I don’t think so. 😉


  • cynpathy says:

    And, in an aside, I collect vintage china and I find myself picking up pieces of china in other people’s homes and peering at the backstamp. I get some very strange looks.

    • Portia says:

      Hey there Cynpathy,
      I had people over last weekend and I have a huge crazy set of tea stuff, each cup has a saucer but only a couple match. I caught one of the girls lifting china to read the base, we laughed about it but she was REALLY worried that I was offended. I am just glad I caught her being impressed not dissing. he he he!
      Portia x

      • cynpathy says:

        Portia, glad to hear I am not the only one! I love the look of mixed china! So much more interesting than a matching set.


        • Lynne Marie says:

          So glad to hear that I’m not the only one who does this with tea cups and other dishes. You just have to remember, in your excitement, not to turn the cup over when it has liquid still in it ( yep, I actually did that once – can’t believe I’m admitting it…)

          • Musette says:

            you’re not the only one, hon. I did that with an ornate salt cellar! LOL! There was a whole lotta ‘throwin’ over the left shoulder’ action! 😀 and then vacuuming. And blushing.


          • cynpathy says:

            Lynne, I shall be careful! Actually, I am astonished that I haven’t done that yet!

  • cynpathy says:

    This is my all time favorite post. It sums us up so beautifully!

  • Michelle says:

    Thanks for the laugh! I’ve started working one day a week in a new lab and I think I actually jumped up and down when I was given a tour. There is an entire support room full of different gas chromatography olfactometers. To see machines specifically made for sniffin’ stuff, it’s a sign from the ethers that this is where I belong! Plus, there is a flavor vault where many hundreds of compounds are kept. So now I’m obsessed not only to identify with my nose, but also to connect that with the actual chemical composition of what I’m smelling.

  • Dina C. says:

    So hilarious! What in the world could have smelled so rare and exotic in such a prosaic place except the actual fragrance? I’m dying to know the solution to this mystery. I have only recently become brave enough to admit when *I* am the good smelling one in the room, or owning up to my perfume hobby. I can ask a friend what they’re wearing, but not a stranger…yet. Please keep us posted as to the developments in this story.

    • Musette says:

      One of the great things about growing old(er), Dina, is that I Don’t Care Anymore. Usually I’m old(er) enough that I pose no sexual threat (while at the same time looking scary enough that they can’t/won’t dismiss me). And I’m so blasted overt about it – it’s pretty hard to misinterpret “holy cats and crackers! you smell GREAT! what’re you wearing?”. Life is Uncertain, so now I just ask! 😀 xoxoxoA

      • rosarita313 says:

        Ain’t it the truth? With the exception of my body crumbling into bits, I love being far north of 50. It’s so freeing! I have the face of anybody’s mom (or grandmom) and people just tell me anything. I would have done the same thing, and I can just picture the look on the guy’s face lolol!

        I used to work as a cashier in a high school cafeteria, and a couple of thousand adolescents poured through there on any given day. I was forever holding things up, grabbing somebody’s hand to check out their nail polish, commenting on fragrance, etc. Axe prevailed but some girls wore stuff like Daisy and patchouli oil. They generally humored me. 🙂

  • Lynley says:

    HahahaHA! Ok, I’ll make you feel better. I was at a bday party a while back, and the bday boy is a cop, and all his mates were Tactical Response, so all rather fit good looking boys, and my bf and I were talking to one who just moved here from Paris. A rather fine specimen who smelled lovely. After sniffing around him for a while, and mentioning this (breaking into the very in-depth conversation about the seedy Parisian underworld), I had to ask him what he was wearing. I mean, he just arrived from Paris! It had to be good! It was One Million. I’m glad he seemed as embarrassed to admit this as I was to have asked… My bf gave me that raised eyebrow thing and I kinda deflated the conversation..oops!
    Glad it’s not just me!
    I am still curious about why the tree exploded. And hoping your 9 tons of dirt is spreading itself about your yard nicely 🙂

    • Musette says:

      OMG! are you SERIOUS? One Million. Yikes-a-roonie! But see, it just goes to showya! I’ve stopped being surprised or embarrassed by What Smells Good. Clinique Happy gets the Royal Beatdown on the boards but I have to say, I will follow a Happy wearer for blocks, like Snuffles, the floating dog. xoxoxoA

      • Gwenyth says:

        Truth — on a trip to Germany a couple of years ago I was sniffing around in Douglas (perfume store) and The Hubs runs up to me clutching a bottle tightly in his hand. He says “I sprayed this on and I want some!” It was Paco Rabanne’s One Million.
        I tell ya, One Million smells wonderful on The Hubs. He went through the entire bottle — almost an unheard-of accomplishment for him.
        The mystery of skin chemistry strikes again!!

  • edpgypsy says:

    Hilarious! When you figure out the mystery, do share!

  • Foxbins says:

    So funny! You actually asked him, “Who does your laundry?” Woman, you are way bolder than I.

    You were in a greenhouse–it wasn’t a combination of the plants and some weird pest spray? But no, Guerlain doesn’t smell like bug spray…rambling here…thanks for the laugh!

    • Musette says:

      Yeah. it was about that time when he got that really ‘hunted’ look – I’m sure he didn’t want to offend a customer, especially one who has plans to drop a bucketload of dough on him in the near future – but he wanted me the hell out of there SO bad, you just don’t know! LOL! xoxoxoA

  • Kandice says:

    OMG – this was hilarious! Now I can’t wait to discover what it was you were smelling! And while the guy may or may not have thought you were crazy, he now has a great story to share in which he was the central character! Plus, we can all give you affidavits if you need them 🙂

    • Musette says:

      ‘may or may not’???? are you kidding? The only reason he didn’t just freak completely out was he knew my troth was already plighted and also, I think he realized that it wasn’t about ‘him’ – it was about what was on his clothes (once we ascertained that it wasn’t ‘him’).

      Other than that – I am definitely in his Batshit Crazy Hall of Fame. xoxoxoA

  • FeralJasmine says:

    Ah, Musette. You go girl. And by the way, may I smell you?
    Have you thought about what might happen if you and Portia both go on the trip to India?
    Magic might happen.

    • Musette says:

      Oh, it’s already a plan. Alas, going to India, for her, “it’s like going to Wisconsin” (double points if you know from what movie this originates). For us…well, it takes a bit more planning. But we’s a-goin’!!! xoxoxoA