"it smelled good, but... in my mind it already belonged to someone else"
October 6, 2021 10:06 AM   Subscribe

piratefsh wrote a short series of blog posts about allowing herself to become a perfume aficionado, starting with "Every month or so, about two weeks before my period starts, my nose gets hypersensitive." (Content note for vomiting.) Part two: "Sales assistants at department stores are terrifying." "But there I was, at the cosmetics section in the glitziest department stores of Kuala Lumpur, every other weekend with my feet and flip flops sweaty from trekking across the street from the nearest light rail train station."

Part 3: "A short-lived first love": "My first bottle of perfume was Lavandula by Penhaligon’s."

Part 4: "Scented memories of my family": "I hadn’t even realized that I had a memory of my mother’s perfume."

Part 5: "What do other people smell like": "I found myself fascinated by my male schoolmate who always smelled good. Completely forgetting that perfume was a thing, I bluntly asked for the detergent that he used."

Part 6: Perfume in my life today: "Instead of going for full bottles, I opt for decants and samples."

People share perfume reviews and recommendations -- including from indie perfume-makers -- in the smellsgood Dreamwidth community. And you can run your own decanting circle. (Disclaimer: author is a friend.)
posted by brainwane (9 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for posting. I enjoyed reading this.
posted by Kosmob0t at 12:22 PM on October 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

Thank you brainwane, these are great! It's nice to find new perfume blogs I haven't read, and a place for reviews that isn't fragrantica or basenotes (still a thing?). Scent is (as suggested in Part 2) a weirdly under-researched region of human life, but that's changing in the last few years - if you want to get into the weeds about this, do a PubMed search for "olfactory cognition."
posted by All hands bury the dead at 12:27 PM on October 6, 2021 [3 favorites]

This was very nice to read! I love perfume, and used to buy and wear decants before the pandemic, but I haven't been wearing perfume in the last year or two since I rarely leave the house. You've inspired me to put on some Five o'clock au gingembre.
posted by Lycaste at 1:31 PM on October 6, 2021 [3 favorites]

Glad y'all enjoyed it!

About 18 months ago I read some advice, for people new to isolating at home, from people who (because of mobility impairments and other health issues) stay home nearly all the time. One piece of advice I read: change the textures, air currents, and scents in your environment throughout the day and day-to-day, to help remind your mind and body that time is passing and that it isn't just one giant long day full of sameness.

So, I think last year, I bought some wee samples of a bunch of indie perfumes, and for a while I wore a different one every day. When I do it, I think it really helps me persuade myself that the days are different from each other!
posted by brainwane at 1:46 PM on October 6, 2021 [8 favorites]

Thanks for posting, this is fun! I came across Demeter Fragrance Library in a fancy cosmetic shop and was impressed with their simple but fairly true scents of actual everyday items. One of their first scents, tomato cologne spray , and why tomatoes are still taxed as imported vegetables. I like their black pepper and giant sequoia fragrances, too.
It is so refreshing to read about exploring the joys (and perils) of smelling things, without the usual "....it's all bullshit upselling" that comes with discussions about wine.
posted by winesong at 3:09 PM on October 6, 2021 [3 favorites]

winesong, wow, lobster perfume!!! Amazing!
posted by brainwane at 3:59 PM on October 6, 2021

I thoroughly enjoyed this post, brainwane!

I have now learned (possibly) why my Malaysian grandfather and Indonesian grandmother had a bottle of 4711 cologne for semi-medicinal purposes. I associate it so strongly with Asia that I was kind of startled to learn a couple of years ago that it's German!

During the pandemic, especially during lockdown, I spent a lot of time entertaining myself with perfume sample sets and decants. I was methodical: I would spray them on myself, sniff, take notes on the opening, wait 15 or 20 minutes, sniff again, take notes...etc. I think part of it was I felt freer to wear perfume because I wasn't out in public possibly exacerbating someone's asthma, and part of it was probably an attempt similar to what the author describes when she talks about stimulating the senses to differentiate one day from another.

One thing I find fascinating is how differently scents can present on different people, depending on the reaction with skin chemistry. My favourite polarizing fragrances to read about on Fragrantica are Santal 33 and Baccarat Rouge 540. The reviews are supremely entertaining!

Santal 33:
  • "Santal 33 is a sandalwood whose beauty is captivating, whose performance is stellar and whose longevity would put Methuselah to shame."
  • "It reminds me of a hamster cage."
  • "I accidentally spilled a sample of this on my coat. It lasted FOREVER and I felt like I smelled like an old book all night."
  • "an expensive leather pickle" [this was from a positive review!]
  • "I get the subtle scent of leather mixed with sandalwood, cedar, amber, fresh floral notes, and a hint of spice."
Baccarat Rouge 540:
  • "Reminds me of camping by the sea, on the sand, and toasting marshmallows on a campfire as the salty air carries in the breeze."
  • "My partner has said he loves this perfume on me because it smells like a wood oven pizza."
  • "It does smell like rubber gloves mixed with slightly burnt marshmallow and cotton candy."
  • "Crème brûlée, the caramelized sugar is still warm."
  • "Was told I smell like a hospital."
(For the record, Santal 33 smells like nothing but dill pickles on me and Baccarat Rouge 540 smells like salted caramel, saffron, and woods.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:47 PM on October 6, 2021 [3 favorites]

(For the record, Santal 33 smells like nothing but dill pickles on me and Baccarat Rouge 540 smells like salted caramel, saffron, and woods.)

Ha ha, I just ordered a decant of Santal 33 after hearing so many rave reviews. I'm curious if I'll smell like dill pickles too. I'll just have to wait and see.

I really enjoyed this article. I love perfumes but because of my work I haven't worn any in ages and I miss them; yet finding the right perfume is always hard because I find most of them over-bearing or the alcohol component too strong -- so I really appreciated her advice to get decants. So I checked out the Surrender to Chance site she mentions and just bought a bunch of samples. Can't wait to try them out.
posted by SA456 at 7:49 PM on October 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

Over the course of the past year, I have escalated from an active but casual interest in fragrances and perfumes to taking multiple classes, accumulating an exciting variety of aromatic compounds, and building a rudimentary perfume lab in a corner of my guest room (sorry, guests!)

I am still fairly early in this deep dive and have been working my way through blogs and books, and hands down my favorite things to read are stories just like this one. Personal stories from someone who is interested in scent and who shares the memories and experiences they have that are tied in with different scents are so wonderful and interesting. I love that these common reference points can mean so many things to so many people.

This was such a delightful read—thanks for sharing!
posted by helloimjennsco at 10:33 AM on October 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

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