All right, everybody out. You too, Patty. What, you haven’t heard? Look, I’m really sorry about this, but you’re just not qualified to talk about perfume. I mean, we’ve got to have some standards, right?
I’ve been hearing this impassioned cry for standards at all levels of the perfume world recently. From the self-hating perfume blogger corner, we have the recently retired Pere de Pierre, who declared in January, “The perfume world has been overcome by… crap ‘bloggers’. Fact is, it takes a long time to learn something as complex as the world of fragrance, and now it seems every Sally-come-lately is trying to teach lessons on something they know nothing of… I’m not saying I’m a professor by any means, and I’m happy to share the Internet, but please do a bit of reading before you teach a lesson…and I’m not talking about The Guide.”
This sentiment was echoed by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian in a recent interview with perfume blogger Persolaise, in which Kurkdjian stated, “I’ve never been impressed by any [perfume] critics… people are trying to critique perfumes without knowing what it is to critique a perfume. They don’t have the knowledge… people try to judge the final result in the end, but they don’t even know about the process of creating it.”
Well, about time, I say! I mean, we can’t just have rank amateurs spewing their uneducated thoughts on perfume, can we? Clearly we all need to sit down and establish a set of qualifications that one must possess in order to talk about perfume.
Pere de Pierre has already thoughtfully provided us with some guidelines by explaining that non-crap bloggers should “do a bit of reading… and I’m not talking about The Guide.” It’s obviously not enough to simply read Perfumes: The Guide, even though author Luca Turin claims that he “is probably the best qualified person in the world to co-author a perfume guide” on the book’s website. You can’t fool us, Luca!
So what exactly is it that we’re supposed to be reading, then? Fortunately, far-more-legit-than-me perfume blogger Octavian Coifan has provided the answer in the form of an Amazon book list! The 21 books on his list, which include such titles as “Understanding Fragrance Chemistry” and “The Chemistry of Fragrances”, range from $108 to $370. So there you have it! Qualification 1: you must be able to afford a $300 chemistry textbook. And you’ll have to be able to understand it, too, which brings us to Qualification 2: you must have a degree in chemistry. FROM HARVARD. No, Yale doesn’t count. What are we, savages?
Further guidance can be gleaned from Francis Kurkdjian’s observation that “[perfume critics] don’t even know about the process of creating [perfume].” We can therefore infer that in order to criticize a perfume, one must have intimate knowledge of how perfumes are created. Now how does one go about acquiring this critical knowledge? Short of holding a perfumer hostage in your basement and demanding lessons- I call Maurice Roucel- we’re probably talking perfumery school here. The only unaffiliated perfumery school in the world is ISIPCA, which is located in Versailles and offers a 2 year master’s degree. (Of course, you’ll need a BS in chemistry or biochemistry to qualify- see how Qualification 2 came in handy?) You could also try a perfumery school that is affiliated with a fragrance firm, such as Givaudan’s three year program in Paris. I think we have our Qualification 3: you must have formal perfumery training.
Now that we’ve got our qualifications, let’s see who measures up! Well, I sure as hell don’t. Neither do the vast majority of my favorite perfume bloggers. Come to think of it, I can think of exactly two perfume bloggers who satisfy all three qualifications. (I’ll refrain from naming them, as one of them is very modest.) Self-taught perfumer Andy Tauer doesn’t qualify. Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena only finished 9 months of Givaudan’s 3 year curriculum- does he count, do you think? And Lord help you lowly commenters. Why, I bet that some of you don’t even own a gas chromatographer!
At long last, the online perfume world shall be purified. No more Now Smell This. No more Perfume Posse. No more Basenotes or MakeupAlley. Definitely no more Scents of Self. Hallelujah!
As appealing as I know this must sound, I would now like to present a somewhat more reasonable viewpoint.
The idea that only those with formal perfumery training are qualified to criticize perfume is completely laughable. Robert Ebert somehow manages to review films despite his crippling lack of a film studies degree. Hemingway ripped half of the literary works of his time to shreds without any degree at all! Do these standard-demanders understand just how privileged you have to be in order to receive formal perfumery training? You’ll need to be able to afford three years worth of tuition, $300 textbooks, and French living costs. Your husband/wife will need to be willing to leave his or her job and find a new one in France. Your children will need to leave their school and friends. The vast majority of us do not have the time or resources to “educate ourselves” on perfume to the extent that these perfume critic critics would like, and I refuse to accept that that disqualifies us from talking about perfume.
So who should get to talk about perfume? Anyone who wants to. It’s the only way. No set of standards could ever be as valuable as the voices we would lose with each new restriction. If that bothers you, I have to ask: do you not understand how the internet works? The internet is a magical place home to many perfume blogs. If you happen across one that you find inaccurate or disagreeable, you can press that little red X in the corner of your screen and it will disappear forever! Crazy, right? Absolutely nothing is making you read perfume blogs that you don’t consider up to snuff! You only have to read the perfume blogs that you want to! You’re free! FREEEEEE!!!!