How I smell: a disclaimer

I felt the need to re-introduce myself and explain a few things about how I write about perfume. I do not pretend to know a lot about perfume, I just like it a lot and we have developed some sort of communication: perfume tells me stories and I use it to recreate ambiances, alter my mood, talk about myself in a subtle but characteristic way. And when I decide to write about a scent it is because I think I have an angle on it. It spoke and I listened.

I mostly write about perfume I own and have worn time and time again. All my posts in the category Full Bottles belong to this long term relationship. So when I decide to write a post I already have something specific in mind. Still I put on the perfume myself and keep mental notes of what I smell. When I am ready to write I sit down and keep actual notes while smelling the perfume. I follow its progression and write down notes or things I am reminded of. I have a rather limited repertoire of notes I recognize, just the  basics. I wish I had a larger memory database. I do not aim to pin down every note reported in official note listings. But after I have written the core of my post I visit sites with note listings and other’s reviews trying to verify what I smelled or sometimes identify new things that were just on the brink of entering my mental olfactorium. For example I have never smelled guaiac wood so the note is not immediately recognizable. I have smelled several fragrances that reportedly have that note though. So obviously through some mental process I slowly start to pin it down and isolate it. When I wrote my review of Un Bois Vanille I picked up a woody note that reminded me a bit of hairspay. The word “guaiac” flashed in my mind for the first time. I verified it through Birgit’s review of the same perfume, so I can safely say that I have now pinned down this note. Something similar happened with opoponax and this is how I mostly expand my ability to pin down notes. Of course from time to time I manage to get hold of raw materials and this helps a lot but I think that real knowledge of an ingredient for me comes from the process I described. Some times I just pick an accord that directly transcribes to my mind as a smell I already know and I leave it at this, like the halitosis/ degenerated cellulose accord of Urban Musk and the summer lunch pyramid of Angel Schlesser Homme. I particularly enjoy these posts because they are very personal and tightly interwoven with my memories. They may be a little hard to approach and relate to for readers but this is how I write about perfume.

My reference sources for perfume notes are Parfimo with the very intelligent interactive note listing and Parfyym, the largest database of note listings I have found. It is in Esthonian  (I cannot believe no one has offered to translate it yet) but works just fine if you start navigation in it with Google translate.

On my Quick Sniff series of posts I just express my first impressions from testers or small decants. I have paid for most of them. Some where sent by dear friends like Suzanne of Eiderdown press and Saif. Some given as a promotion with bottles I bought (like Vitriol d’Oelliet and L’Eau Froide) or as part of mass promotional campaigns (like the Killians). I have never been offered targeted promotional samples, not that I wouldn’t like to, but if I do I will disclose this information. Sample wearings do not allow me to fully unlock the composition of a fragrance but it is the best I can do with the limited volume and time I have with this particular perfume I am writing about, so take my comments with a grain of salt. A large one.

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About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas http://pantelismakkas.blogspot.com/. You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.

6 comments

  1. Great post C, but I do think that none of us has to disclaim the fact that we’re not experts. I’m so weary of the on-going ‘battle’ between those who think that some folks don’t have the necessary information to blog about perfume and those who blog.. We write because we love it, and to heck with anyone who complains! (apologies if this is not a well-thought-out reply – I just woke up! ;)

    • I have said the same things to others myself but some times the puritan in me speaks louder and I feel the need to explain that this is a very personal experience with perfume. If people find it interesting all the better. I do not seek to advise anyone on their taste in perfume nor to influence.

      Thanks for the thumbs up! :)

  2. chris

    Christos
    Even though you do not seek to influence, your AMAZING! review of Serge Lutens La Myrrhe inspired me to pick up a bottle. NO! need for any disclaimer, Christos, the blog is one of the best out there.

    • I am really grateful for your input and for trusting my nose and memories to guide your perfume quests. I am sure that what you got from La Myrrhe was different from what I got because this is the nature of perfume but I am happy that even such an expressionistic post could make you relate to my vision of this blog.

  3. I like reading your stories and I can care less what exact notes are in a perfume you’re describing or you can smell in it. Why? Because even if you were THE BEST NOSE in the world, I am not. I care about emotions, a story behind a story, your impressions. If your story, your images are good I will be more inclined to try a perfume. But even with the best story I will want to smell it myself – no matter how great you recognized the notes.

    • Thanks for the thumbs up. You have a very good point there: perfume is not consumed by experts so the opinion of any non-expert is equally important for a simple perfume lover.

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