1) Scentaholics are a curious breed. Seemingly feeling things more strongly than the mainstream, their faces show reactions to smells that for most would be hyperbole. For us, the curious few, those faces are normality.
2) Alongside this tendency to feel things strongly, many scent fans also express things in intense language. No shades of grey here – this is a world of love and hate, Italianate in style, full of flourish and visceral response. The squirting of an atomiser is a memento mori: Messe de Minuit makes me want to die; Santal de Mysore, to live forever.
3) The lemmings never end. You think you’ve turned the corner. You believe Serge Lutens is over, that there will be nothing new, that it’s time to retreat to the tried and tested favourites. However, you still keep hoping that only, if only, you could have one more hit like the first time you smelled X or Y (but never XY whatever by Hugo Boss), it would all be worthwhile. You claim you’re happy to stick with what you know, to stop increasing your bounty. For one fleeting moment, you’re tricked into feeling contentment. And then you hear of a new niche brand only available at First in Fragrance. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. It goes on your sample list immediately. This is because…
4) To the scentaholic, perfume is a drug. That first remarkable hit of that first remarkable scent is a level of ecstasy that can’t be repeated. But you have to keep trying to regain the moment of bliss. To live in hope through addiction – this is the scentaholic’s motto.
5) Scentaholics are obsessive by nature. They probably have at least one other aspect of their life that keeps them awake at night in delicious (and sometimes despairing) reverie. This could be anything – from cake recipes to composting to conducting. It could be all three. At the same time. Scentaholics are a talented bunch.
6) Scentaholics are some of the loveliest people you can know. I’ve never met Patty (you lucky Sniffa people will have that chance), but she never strikes me as anything less than kind, thoughtful, sharp-witted and generous to a fault. I bet she’s great company. I know that March is.
7) Though we take our perfume seriously, we remember that it’s a trivial luxury. In spite of our intensity about it, it’s never really a matter of life and death. That’s why the scentaholic is often able to be irreverent, daft, and comic about the addiction. We’re prepared for the stunned silence of the acquaintance who finds out about our
raison d’etre hobby; this is the funniest thing of all.
8 ) Shopping with another scentaholic is a transformative experience. Truly one of the best ways to experience perfume. I’m not good with crowds, but one or two people – just awesome.
9) Perfume copy seems more and more divorced from the real. Robin’s reductio ad absurdum competition over at Nowsmellthis summed this up with devastating humour – the half-digested post-structuralist gobbledegook, the relativist juxtaposition of high minded aestheticism and low culture ‘cool’, the claims for an ever more rarefied exoticism, the painful attempts at capturing erotic ineffabilities in lumpen prose – all these things are regular features of the niche world.
10) But it’s the notes in designer perfumes that take this journey away from reality. Headspace technology has allowed marketeers to place an empty space where a head should be. So we have a chain of premodified nouns now, whose adjectives are more for suggestion than for clarification (crystalline pansy; bejewelled tonka; iridescent musk; tactile oceanic breeze, ending with a base of vacuous guff). But what they suggest is anyone’s guess. I’m with Chandler Burr – let’s just be honest about the chemicals and be done with it.
It’s been a real privilege writing every week for the lovely readers we have here at the posse. But I seem to have dried up for now – my perfume mojo is no longer working at full power, and I’ve had to hand in my scentaholic swipe card to the Holy Trinity (Chris Sheldrake, Jean-Claude Ellena, Olivia Giacobetti). I hope to get the card back as and when my interest returns, but because of my decline in perfume enthusiasm, this is my last post for a while. I’m taking a break. I’ll be around in the online perfume world now and then, and I wish you all well ’til we meet again. And I send my thanks and love to Patty and March for making me feel so welcome, and so at home, here. They’re wonderful women.