Making Progress

First off — the winner of the small bottle of Alora Festa is Shiva Woman.  Shoot me an email and I’ll send it to you.


It’s been four months since I misplaced my sense of smell as it relates to perfume.  As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been avoiding perfume and diverting my attention elsewhere, while waiting patiently for my synapses to get their act together.

Then a couple of weeks ago I was poking around the internet and stumbled across an article about a waitress who decided, apropos of pretty much nothing, to see if she could pass the master sommelier exam, which is akin to me deciding out of the blue to run a marathon.  Anyway, she spent a year working at places where she could sample high-end wines; she took courses; she worked hard at it.  And she did it; she passed.

And then I read an article about a study involving brain scans of perfumers showing that, over time, their readings changed.  The more they worked on perfumery, the less the scans lit up – the conclusion being that their brains had to put less effort into registering scent nuances.

I sat there in my bedroom chair, next to my perfume bookshelf, and pondered.  My bedroom stash is a capsule collection of, oh, a hundred perfumes, more or less — probably more.  They tend to be some of my heaviest hitters, though – vintage Poison and Paris and whatnot.  If that bookshelf ever topples over, we’ll have to move.  Anyway, I got up and smelled three random gardenias, because coming to work that morning I’d stopped a woman wearing something fresh and green-white and lovely (Pacifica Gardenia, as it turns out) and it’s been awhile since I’ve had that random pleasure.

I couldn’t smell them.  I couldn’t smell Strange Invisible Perfumes’ Cruel Gardenia or Lady Day – yeah, ponder that for a moment.  Those things are not to be trifled with. It’s all …. vaguely like sniffing one of those plastic Easter eggs?  And everything’s overwhelmed by my constant frenemy, the phantom smell of meat-sweat (for lack of a better descriptor).  I spent a month post-surgery thinking that smell was me, which was horrifying, but it’s some kind of white noise my brain is inventing, maybe for lack of other options?

In a last-ditch effort I smelled Annick Goutal’s Gardenia Passion – and that I could smell (the gardenia, not the Passion part). Success!  I mean, at least something.  I googled some more and there are articles for scent noobs about trying different scents to improve your discernment…. huh.  I thought, maybe I’m going about this all wrong.  Maybe I’m going to need nose exercise — rather than rest — to improve this situation.

Fast forward to today.  This morning I sniffed Lady Day for the fifth time and I could smell it.  Gardenia Passion seems rounder, fuller. I’ve got various essential oils (ginger, clementine, cinnamon, eucalyptus) in wee dram bottles and I work out with those as well.  I think my perception of them is improving.

Yesterday, a completely crap day weather-wise (cold and rainy), I gave an experimental sniff to a much-missed rainy-day comfort scent – Guerlain Encens Mythique.  It’s like a mohair sweater, surrounding me with its evanescent beauty.  And I could smell it.  I might have cried a little.  It’s not completely there – more like smelling it on an old scarf – but it’s definitely perceptible.  And now, even at work, every time I feel that sweat-smell looming I pull some perfume vial out of my desk or handbag, and sniff it.  My coworkers probably think I’m nuts.  I mean, I don’t tell anyone there about my situation.  They’d react as if I was bitching about a hangnail when to me it’s a huge, huge loss emotionally.

So there you have it.  One by one, I’m regaining perfume scents.  I’m working on incense now (why, hello, there, Passage d’Enfer!). I still don’t know whether I’ll get my original sense of smell back, but there’s been a significant improvement and it’s not all a big, sad void anymore. I’m thrilled.


  • Brigitte says:

    Good news indeed.

  • Portia says:

    This is a HAPPY NEWS STORY if ever there was one March.
    Portia xx

  • Ann says:

    Yay!!! So, so happy for you, dear!! That is some great improvement. Keep up the nose exercises — they seem to be the answer! Hugs to you!!

  • hczerwiec says:

    I’m so glad your smell-friends are coming back to you! I’ve had some nasty sinus infections that knocked out my smell for a month or so, and I get migraines that either make me hate smell, or hallucinate the smell of something burning. It’s hard to be alienated from your loves! But I’m happy there’s hope — keep exercising that sniffer!

  • Musette says:

    Congratulations!!! I’ve had a couple of bouts of that – mostly from antibiotics which really wreak havoc with my system – but never ‘meat sweats’ (and fwiw, I don’t think it’s you, hon 😉 it’s like that phantom shoe-rot thing I smell that turns out to be solely in my soft palate. Ick)

    For you, smell is EVERYTHING! So I’m glad this is improving. Yay, Encens Mythique!!!


  • Jennifer S says:

    That is so great for you and I can imagine how relieved you must be feeling. And like other parts of our body when they’re not working well, I guess it makes sense to kind of have to ‘re-train’ your nose. Why not?!

  • Tara C says:

    Great news! I hope it continues to improve for you.

  • Shiva-woman says:

    Yeah! Thank you for the opportunity to win the Alora Festa. I sent you my details. I have lost my sense of smell and taste twice with Bell’s Palsey, and with a couple of sinus infections. My husband has ZERO taste and smell at all due to a severe traumatic brain injury. It wiped that part of his brain out. The house could be on fire and he wouldn’t know it ’til he saw smoke. It’s pretty hard because I love to cook–and, well, I love smelling!!! I do recommend people see a neurologist if sense of smell goes for a length of time. All kinds of things affect this from very low-level seizure activity, to stroke, to tumor–not to be frightening or dramatic. Often people have small imperceptible seizures to themselves or others; these often affect smell. Until I lived with someone with this disability, I never knew how dangerous it was. Our sense of smell protects us from bad food to, in my husband’s case, the smell of solvents, gasoline, etc.when he’s working in the garage. I have to check up on him to keep him from passing out. I’m glad things are getting back to normal March.

  • Dina C. says:

    I’m so thankful that your sense of smell is coming back. What a smart discovery — that nose exercises can help recover your ability to smell! That would be a huge, gaping loss for me, too. Sending you good vibes that it is restored 100% for you.

  • Karen says:

    I’m so glad your sense of smell is returning! I feel ya, in 2 ways. Years ago I had a sinus infection (the only one I’ve ever had) that destroyed my sense of smell for about a month after the infection. It was horrible. People who’ve never experienced it just can’t know how awful it is, can they? I could smell and taste virtually nothing – not onions, chocolate, nada. Thankfully, everything came back. Fast forward…uh…several years, and I had the better part of a year where I smelled an overlay of electrical burning. All.the.time. (except, oddly enough, while IN the shower. I double loved showers at that time) I did some deadly googling which immediately popped up with “brain tumor”. So I softy tippy-toed back out of google and went lalalalallala! and tried to ignore it. It did finally go away, but then 6 months after my schnoz started working again, I was diagnosed with MS. So, no brain tumor, but still brain-al in nature. Yay me. Nowadays I’m good about 95% of the time, but some days I get up and nothing smells right. And like you, I put the ‘fumes away and wait it out.

  • Matty says:

    I’m so glad your sense of smell is returning. Slowly but surely.

  • The loss of a sense is awful for anyone but this is the equivalent of a serious musician losing their hearing, perhaps some of your colleagues might understand it in that context. You don’t have to be a professional perfumer or professional musician for it to be devastating just someone for whom it is fundamental to who you are.
    It may be worth looking at some of the pieces Victoria on Bois the Jasmine has written about exercises for training your nose, I think it’s what she was taught at perfumery school and it has definitely helped me improve my poor smell sense which has been affected by fifty years of anti histamine sprays and allergies.

  • Maya says:

    Yay, I am so very very happy for you!!! Keep working on it. If your smell perception is slightly different than before, that’s OK. We all seem to perceive smells somewhat differently anyway.

  • Sarah says:

    May you nose and brain continue on their reawakening path.
    Joyful small scent gifts be blessed to you day by day.

  • springpansy says:

    That is such wonderful news and I completely understand what you mean about losing your sense of smell as a huge loss emotionally for you. It would be for me as well. Hang in there and keep on going. The brain is an amazing complex organ and wonderful things can happen.

  • Koyel says:

    March, thanks for sharing this. I’m so happy for you that your sense of smell is coming back! Good for you for practicing!

  • Gina Tabasso says:

    So scary