Ooh, that smell. Can't you smell that smell?
August 2, 2011 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Smell is our most primitive, least understood sense. Perfume manipulates that sense, reminding us of good times past, and speaking of glamour and sophistication to those who get close. --- "Perfume", Episode 1: Something Old, Something New [pt2/pt3/p4]. Guerlain are considered by many to be the essence of Frenchness in a scent. Ancienne école comme attendez! But the house whose founder/namesake wrote his first formulae in the 19th C. face the challenges of the 21st, including the first non-Family perfumer, updating a classic, and the fall of 4th generation family perfumer Jean-Paul Guerlain after his openly racist comments on French TV. We also follow the corporate entity known as Tommy Hilfigger as it tries to bottle and market the scent of Rock & Roll to the Drum 'n Bass generation

Perfume is magic worked by science. It's job? to capture the moment. --- Episode 2, "Bottling The memory" [pt2/pt3/pt4]: In this episode we see three very different sets of perfumers: Jean-Claude Ellena, house perfumer to Hérmes, who lives like a reclusive philosopher/alchemist in his tower, descending only when he deigns to, when inspired, on nobody's schedule but his own: Christopher Brosious of "I Hate Perfume", renegade perfumer and purveyor of alternative scents, who travels to London on the quest to concoct a bespoke scent for an avid Anglophile in Brooklyn; And three apprentice "noses" at the elite Givaudin Perfumery School, who will create the next generation of perfumes in an atmosphere very different from school graduate Jean-Claude Elenna.

What we like in a smell is determined by our environment and our culture... The Russians want rich and heavy. The Chinese crave light and airy. And the Brazilians go bananas for fruits. --- Episode 3, "The Smell of the Future" [pt2/pt3/p4]. While the taste of Paris, London, and New York have dictated perfume Western perfume styles for a long time, the future of global taste are likely to be influenced from parts East and South. The Brazilians are crazy for anything and everything perfumed and scented, and consume them in staggering volumes. Avon doesn't have a sale force in Brazil, they have an army of over 1 million reps. We see fragrance designer Anne Gottleib travel to Sao Paolo to answer the (quite literally) multil-million dollar question: Do 20-yr-old Brazilian men like this body spray? Givaudin moved Perfumer Thierry Bassard to Brazil permanently so his nose would adjust to the scents there.

We also been Simon and Amanda Brooke who, once they discovered a family link to one of the oldest perfume houses in England, bought the then idle company and revived it. They now produce the rich, complex fragrances inspired by the (once) mysterious "Orient" that won Royal Warrants, using the original Victorian-era formulae and top-flight ingredients. Now Simon travels to the Gulf States where petro-luxury is equaled only by the heat, and the scents that were in fashion 125 years ago in England do well in the 125° noontime of modern Bahrain.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey (34 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
FRACK! I nuked-&-recreated this whole thing, and left out 1 sentence. Should read "Now Simon travels to the Gulf States his ancestors only dreamed of..."
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:49 PM on August 2, 2011


My wife does this. About half these items are pure marketing drivel and half of them are true. You can figure them out on your own.
posted by JPD at 1:02 PM on August 2, 2011


Why are these cool shows never on Netflix?
posted by immlass at 1:08 PM on August 2, 2011


Just be very careful around people who are too good at smelling.
posted by kmz at 1:11 PM on August 2, 2011


Just be very careful around people who are too good at smelling

try living with one
posted by JPD at 1:15 PM on August 2, 2011


I hate to say this, but part of me wishes I had the cash to buy a vial of Grossmith's "Betrothal" scent.
posted by Kitteh at 1:22 PM on August 2, 2011


Hilfiger's got it all wrong - the kids want scents that call to mind Neil Gaiman, Hellboy, and The Last Unicorn.
posted by Laminda at 1:27 PM on August 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wearing personal scents is often an assault on those around you. As part of my job, I just had to ride on a special ed bus, and one of the girls had some Axe, which she was spraying on the other kids (at least they did not mind). The driver of this bus was OK with it

But, gawd, for me, an awful 90 minutes.

It is a rare person who can use these products in a subtle enough way that I do not have the urge to flee when I am around them.
posted by Danf at 1:29 PM on August 2, 2011


I read the book "The Emporer of Scent" about 8 years ago and it blew my mind. Some of the best non-fiction writing I've ever encountered.
posted by lattiboy at 1:30 PM on August 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Jean-Paul Guerlain, 73, a descendent of the perfume house's founder, was interviewed on French state TV last week, and asked about the creation of a new perfume, Samsara. He replied: "I worked like a *N*. I don't know if *N* have always worked like that, but anyway."

Wow. Double insult. What an efficient and effective way to insult a broad spectrum of people.

I wish he'd just worked like an old dude and just gotten lost at the bus stop. I don't know if old dudes have always worked like that, but he should work like that, but anyways.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:32 PM on August 2, 2011


Smell is our most primitive, least understood sense.

No. The explanation is out there in some papers with minority opinions.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 1:41 PM on August 2, 2011


"If it's to last, then the getting of knowledge should be tangible. It should be, um... smelly."
posted by Mister Moofoo at 1:42 PM on August 2, 2011


Fantastic post man. Thanks!
posted by zarq at 1:49 PM on August 2, 2011


This does not make me want to see Spy Kids 4 in Aromavision.
posted by hanoixan at 1:50 PM on August 2, 2011


Ancienne école comme attendez!

Qu'est-ce que c'est?
posted by dhens at 2:10 PM on August 2, 2011


Ancienne école comme attendez!

Qu'est-ce que c'est?


"Old-school like whoa!"

posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:11 PM on August 2, 2011


Ancienne école comme attendez!

Qu'est-ce que c'est?

"Old-school like whoa!"


Je le trouve un français assez approximatif...
posted by dhens at 2:16 PM on August 2, 2011


In all fairness, I also consider "Old School like whoa" fairly broken English.
posted by dhens at 2:17 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]



No. The explanation is out there in some papers with minority opinions.


The explanation may be out there in some papers with minority opinions.

One of those is Luca Turin's, subject of The Emperor of Scent and entertaining if opinionated critic of perfume.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:34 PM on August 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I very seldom wear perfume, but I did wear some at conference when I went out to lunch with a group. It was a light and expensive perfume, not something cheap or overpowering, I thought. It turned out one of the women was very allergic, we had to ride with the car windows open, and she would not come anywhere near me for the rest of the day, even told me not to come near her again. I ditched the perfume. I was mortified. I don't think I will ever wear perfume again, besides, my husband hates it too. It seems like a lot more people than I imagined are allergic or can't stand perfume of any sort. It isn't worth it.
posted by mermayd at 3:34 PM on August 2, 2011


Ancienne école comme attendez!
Qu'est-ce que c'est?
"Old-school like whoa!"
Je le trouve un français assez approximatif...


Yeeeah as in it makes no sense whatsoever in French. More like, "Ancienne école comme vous ne pouvez pas l'imaginer !" (see that no-break space before the exclamation mark? I go all the way with my correct French grammar and punctuation, baby.)

posted by fraula at 3:54 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


A couple times a year I smell the perfume of the girl I lost my virginity to. I'm always dying to ask the woman what it is, but I haven't mustered the courage to do so.

Maybe it's better not to know and just be pleasantly surprised by the amazing and wonderful sensation to be immediately transported back to that experience like it was yesterday.
posted by ssmug at 4:15 PM on August 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Watched the first two episodes, and thanks for posting. The missing three hundred pound gorilla (so far?) is IFRA, a non governmental industry group whose recommendations on what can and cannot be used in EU perfume take on the force of law. (America's EPA and FDA are rather more lax.)

They have odd situation, on the one hand in trying to keep back the folks who want to ban perfume the same way they have smoking. On the other, they force perfumers to use man made compounds in preference to natural (those fields of lavender you saw the students strolling in are a restricted substance in Europe). These new substances are manufactured and patented by some of the oil manufacturers funding IFRA. They can be a lucrative bottleneck in a world where perfume formulae cannot be patented and new technology can decipher old recipes.

So, yeah, Guerlain may have centuries old recipes, but that doesn't mean they can use them, or that the new head guy is simply bending to market demand. The classics may be available to enthusiasts only at Osmateque. (English here for those without French)

Lot of really bad perfume out there, and a lot of good perfume that gets discontinued or reformulated on account of law and bean counters leaving those with old tastes behind.

(The allergy thing strikes me as a little odd for the same reasons that the rise in tree nut allergies and such strikes me as odd. I've heard the explanation that prior ages those sufferers just died outright without explanation, but I have my doubts. Know one woman whose eyes water at perfume but who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day. Any studies on the relative rise or lack thereof of allergies in general?)
posted by IndigoJones at 6:25 PM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I thank thee one million times for this post.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:41 PM on August 2, 2011


I pity anyone who's allergic to scent, perfumes, etc. For me, wearing them, studying how they're made, the cultural history of scent, all of it - it's as close to pure magic as any human can get. Being allergic to perfume is, to me anyway, akin to being allergic to Harry Potter.

It is amazing to witness that science can create perfect holograms of the natural world using scent molecules. And we can wear them whenever we like in whatever combination we want.

AWESOME.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:47 PM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


If anyone comes away with this wanting to do some addictive Internet research, or just learn more, I'd like to mention that Basenotes is probably the best online community on the subject. And may I personally recommend Penhaligon's of London, if you're in search of your own scent, especially if you're a man.

Also, those interested but wary of the high prices: most good online shops offer very cheap samplers of basically anything you're curious about.

Have fun! And remember, a fragrance should only be detectable to those who are very close, such as in your embrace. A little goes a long way.
posted by gilrain at 6:57 PM on August 2, 2011


Seconding Gilrain's comment, and also, too:

Now Smell This

Yesterday's Perfume

Histoires de Parfums

and one of my all-time favorites, Miss Katie Puckrik!
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:38 PM on August 2, 2011


We also follow the corporate entity known as Tommy Hilfigger as it tries to bottle and market the scent of Rock & Roll to the Drum 'n Bass generation...

Ahh the perfect spot for this blast-from-the-past one-liner:

"Why is Tommy Boy cologne so popular, but nobody wants to smell like any of Chris Farley's other movies?"
posted by amyms at 7:47 PM on August 2, 2011


I'm a CBihateperfume/Demeter fan from way back, so i'm diligently watching the first episode to really solidify my scent choices... thanks for the post.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 8:56 PM on August 2, 2011


Speaking of Basenotes, they have a chat with the director of this thing.

Q. If you could have made a fourth episode, what would it have been about (@persolaise)

That's very hard. Things work best in magical threes. We talked a lot about IFRA regulations and the sourcing of ingredients, but that's a very hard one to do for a general audience.

Quite.

See also 1000 Fragrances, Perfume Posse, and A Perfume Blog.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:11 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lithuania entrepreneurs try to sell 'country's smell' – apparently a mix of bergamot, wild flowers, ginger, raspberry and grapefruit.
posted by Laminda at 10:10 AM on August 3, 2011


Just be very careful around people who are too good at smelling.

I loved the book, but I've never seen the film. How is it?
posted by homunculus at 11:18 AM on August 3, 2011


How is it?

Very strange. Alan Rickman can do no wrong (well, not much), but what on earth is Dustin Hoffman doing here? Beautifully shot, a tad disgusting in many parts, and ends up weird. I suspect you either love it or hate it. I don't imagine I will see it again any time soon, and I'm quite partial to costume drama.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:34 AM on August 3, 2011


It is amazing to witness that science can create perfect holograms [?] of the natural world using scent molecules.

See, to me, the difference between real scents and perfumes is like the difference between a real apple and the cloying flavor of a Jolly Rancher.
posted by dhens at 2:21 PM on August 3, 2011


« Older "When legal teams need to prove or disprove the au...  |  The city of Pleasanton, Califo... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments