Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Things I Learned In (almost) Six Years Of Perfume Blogging


Some would say I don't fully qualify as a perfume blogger since The Non-Blonde is technically a beauty blog. But considering I write an average of four perfume reviews a week by myself, I'm sure you can humor me. My focus in this list is perfume smelling, not the process of blogging about it. I don't know if any of you are interested in lessons learned through writing about perfume, but if so let me know.

While I've been sticking my nose into bottles and spraying my wrists many years (decades, actually) before I started blogging about it, the intensity and my perspective have changed significantly since I've begun talking about this in public. Things are a lot less casual since my days of strolling the counters looking for something shiny and new. My nose is always on a mission now and never rests. But the payoff is that I've learned a thing or three in the process:

1) No Note is left behind. I used to have a very clear idea of things I like and dislike. Something like "peach bad, amber good". I no longer get scared of note lists, though. I still like what I like, but some of the most evil notes may appear in sublime compositions.  Le Parfum de Thérèse has melon, QED.

2) There are far less perfumes I truly dislike. It may sound counter-intuitive, considering the amount of dreck I get to inhale on an average week. However, as long as the perfume is not horribly and cheaply made, I can usually find a redeeming quality or at least a reason for its existence. It's perfume, after all, which instantly makes it better than a root canal.

3) Snobbishness is not what it used to be (and neither is luxury). Thirty years ago things were easy. One would go to their local department store to buy an expensive(ish) perfume, knowing they got a luxury product. In the same vein, ordering a perfume from the catalog carried by the lady in pink was... um... less so. Now, go find a bottle of an Avon perfume from the 1970s. Then let someone at Macy's spray you with Calvin Klein Forbidden Euphoria. Which one is the classy and elegant perfume?

4) Accidents will happen. It's easy to get into that place where I think I smelled so much and know e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g about the tastes and skin of my nearest and dearest. Then I send someone, let's say my mom, a bottle of Annick Goutal Gardenia Passion. After all, she's a white flower queen who loves tuberose and jasmine. She hated it. Oops.

5) Yes, it's 2012, and yes, one would expect someone who works at selling perfume not to be hung up on the masculine/feminine thing. But there will still be an occasional SA who will snatch the bottle of Boucheron Pour Homme from my hand just as I'm about to spray my wrist and scold me: "it's for MEN, you know". The only thing to do is grab the bottle back, smile sweetly and say: "It never stopped me before". Then spritz with abandon.

And here's a bonus list written by the husband: five things he learned as the long-suffering spouse of a perfume blogger:

  • Skin Chemistry is for real. It is amazing how totally different some perfumes smell on us. Like ALL of the Le Labo line. 
  • I should make an effort to feel a scent emotionally before analyzing it rationally. As a left brain guy, my initial instincts are always to classify, break into notes, evaluate the composition etc. I've learned to try and ignore all that in the first few sniffs and let it affect me emotionally first. 
  • To recognize and appreciate quality and originality even in scents that do not work for me personally. This is hard as I usually just conclude "this is not me" and move on, but I've learned, like in any other art forms, to value and enjoy even scents I cannot wear.
  • To recognize and appreciate the artist behind the creation. From independent perfumers to world famous noses, they each have a style and a signature.
  • And last thought, isn't the EU in financial dire straights? May I suggest abolishing IFRA to pay for some Greek debt?

Photograph by Eric Maillet via Trendland.

34 comments:

  1. I love this post! Thank you. :-D (And an extra thank you to your husband's two cents!)

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    1. Thanks! It's always fun for me when he adds his perspective.

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  2. Great post G ! I relate to what you have said and I love your husband's idea of abolishing the IFRA to pay some Greek debt. :D :)
    Also , I DO consider you a perfume blogger and fine one too - always have done and always will. Your perfume posts make me sit up and take notice.

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    1. Thank you, Mimi! I try my best to do justice to whatever topic I'm covering, be it perfume or the frilliest lip gloss.

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  3. Gaia I really love this post! You've been an inspiration to me to expand my search to things outside my comfort zone. I find the archives immensely helpful and informative. Writing about perfumes is an art which you have mastered like no other. Here's to many more years of perfume blogging! I've enjoyed every post :)

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    1. Thank you, Sabrina. I'm honored to earn your praise. I know our taste in fragrance could not be more different, but you help me remember that there are perfume lovers who do not enjoy being covered in dirty animalics, but they still deserve recognition by perfumers and bloggers alike.

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  4. Perfect!
    Your point 2 is how I approach perfumes these day too. Someone put an effort and as much creativity as possible (allowed) so it just seems polite to try and find a redeeming quality in it.
    I agree with every point, and I like your husband's emotional approach - it is the only way that works for me if I want to get to know a perfume well. :)

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    1. Ines, I'm very proud of my husband for getting the emotional aspect of perfume. At the beginning I had to repeatedly ask him what a scent made him feel or remember. Nowadays he's able to go through the process by himself and I'm often surprised by his insight.

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  5. Thank you Gaia. I love your perfume reviews, perhaps because I tend to always like what you like, almost to a degree of being able to blindbuy your perfume-loves :-) For me it has been the other way around, I went looking for perfume on your blog, but have ended up additionally really enjoying your beauty posts, learning lots along the way.
    Your point 2 I couldn't agree with more. Redeeming quality being the code-word here.
    And yes to 'May I suggest abolishing IFRA to pay for some Greek debt?'LOL
    Thank you Gaia, I hope you will never tire of 'trying things, so we don't have to':-)

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    1. Thank you, Asali. I hope I can keep on trying things and point you in a good direction :) .

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  6. Dear G, you've written some of the most evocative perfume writing around, and your husband knows more than a thing or two about perfume too. So great that you can fully enjoy perfume together.

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    1. Thank you, Lucy.I'm a very lucky girl, I know.

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  7. Lovely post indeed! Throughout the years of my fascination with perfumes, I experimented a lot, and I agree that notes I completely disliked i.e. patcouli, seem much more agreeable nowadays (I am in love with the Portrait of a Lady, although I still dislike Clinique's Aromatics Elixir).

    Your perfume reviews are truly wonderful, as they are on the one hand read as literature- remarkably cohesive, and also describe the notes in a holistic* "emotional" way, incorporating alluding images and stories.

    Finally, as a Greek, big thanks to the husband and all of you for your sympathy!!

    * body and soul

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    1. Thank you, Alexandra. Some of my closest friends dislike patchouli but often find themselves with that one patchouli fragrance that works for them while all others fail.

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  8. You are absolutely a perfume reviewer and and excellent one! I hope in 6 years I have managed to come even close to the stage you are at. I am enjoying my perfume journey so much and yearn for the day my nose can pick out notes in the scents I try. Thanks for helping me learn through your reviews!

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    1. Thank you, Christa. I enjoy watching you make your first steps into the pleasurable (and often heartbreaking) world of perfume. Sometimes I envy those who smell some of the great ones for the very first time and experience that eye-opening life-changing revelation.

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  9. Being in my early 40's, fragrance has sentimental qualities. It's amazing how the Avon perfumes I wore in the 80's and 90's are still around today. In the meantime, my tastes have changed. I'm no longer an Opium night/Jessica McClintock day person. And that bottle of Natori that I coveted as a teen? Well, see how she's evolved that perfume now. And I still can't stand the smell of Giorgio or Red Door!

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    1. Sandra, I suspect the dislike of Giorgio and Red Door is here to stay. Whenever I want to make my skin crawl I stick my nose in the little bottle of Giorgio extrait, and confirm that yes, it's still as vile as ever.

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  10. All great points, and No 1 is constantly surprising me at the moment - I have lately softened my stance on civet, and licorice may be next up.

    Was also interested to read your husband's additions - the skin chemistry thing can turn up some extraordinary results, as though it was almost a different perfume.

    And agree about helping out the Greek debt!

    The Non-Blonde is a resource people use equally for beauty and perfume reviews I would have thought. I have recently got interested in a couple of make up lines (Burberry Beauty and Sunday Riley), and your features were very helpful, also for the clarity of the photography.

    Not forgetting the entertaining juxtaposition of cat and product shots!

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    1. Vanessa, I'm surprised and happy to hear that civet is no longer your arch-nemesis! Now I'm trying to remember if there's any composition rich with civet AND licorice, just so you can test your new boundaries ;)

      Many thanks from me, the husband and from the fuzzy little beasties.

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  11. Great post! I agree with all of your points and the Blonde's 2 cents! I used to think "skin chemistry" was a myth! Laugh at my naivety. I really agree with #1 and did I ever tell you the story of how a few months ago my husband was berated for spraying on TF White Patchouli in Nordstrom? Ugh.

    You are a perfume blogger. You speak fragrance. I always respect your opinions and I feel we have similar tastes. And I love your beauty reviews. I'm not joking. Before buying any high-end beauty product, I check to see if you've reviewed/swatched it first. I now have an Edward Bess lipstick, Sunday Riley Blush and Essie nail polish obsession.
    And I love your cats.

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    1. Thank you, my lovely friend. You have always been an inspiration and I keep learning from you.

      I need to hear the Nordstrom story. Very stupid of the SA, but sadly not surprising.

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  12. I love this too. BTW, I adore white flowers and I think Gardenia Passion smells like mushroom tarts or something. Is that gruyere? Very odd! I'd sooner wear Amarige. ;)

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    1. Elisa, that's so interesting to hear. My mom thought it was very leathery, so I guess there's something in Gardenia Passion that translates as too animalic on certain skin types.

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  13. Gaia, I actually started reading The Non-Blonde for the perfume posts. I'm not really that invested in make-up, but now I usually do read your makeup posts, too, because I enjoy your analysis.

    Great thoughts from both of you - and it may be a first to hear the perfumista's husbands perspective as well. I'm sure I'd enjoy your observations on what you learned about perfume blogging. And I'm certainly ready to join your Greek debt relief campaign! ~~nozknoz

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    1. Nozknoz, thank you so much for the kind words and encouragement. Readers like you keep me going.

      If I remember correctly, Marina's husband used to make some observations here and there. I think she put him through some blind sniffing once with pretty amusing results.

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  14. Great post. And I am utterly charmed by how you call yourself a "left brain guy".

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    1. Olenska, it really is interesting how someone who's as logical and analytic as my husband taught himself to appreciate and enjoy scent. He went all the way from "smells good/bad" through "yummy vetiver" to describing a fragrance as dark or romantic. I'm very proud :) .

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  15. Where's the "like" button on this thing?

    Great post, G.

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  16. Thanks, Karla! Your "like" is noted :) xo.

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  17. Very well put, Gaia and hubby. And you are so right about vintage Avon versus the current 'fashion' frags. I've bought a couple of old bottles on fleabay of an Avon perfume which used to be my favourite as a teen. And wow! Classy, gorgeous, and chock full of now-forbidden ingredients. Apparently teen me had good taste... :-)

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  18. All this proves without a doubt that there are several superlative reasons I've been reading you for...five of those years now! I began to read you precisely for your perfume reviews - the beauty part kicked in later. And just as you have, since I added my own half cent to the conversation, I've come to appreciate even the perfumes I would personally never wear, or even like. Your husband's observations are spot on - isn't it amazing how different the same perfume can smell on a man vs. a woman? And amazing that there are STILL so many SAs who don't understand the great gender divide is all in their heads?
    Here's to many more years of shared adventures and common discoveries both fragrant and beautiful! :-)

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  19. Wonderful insights! I only wish I could deconstruct perfumes the way you do so effortlessly. I found it interesting that your husband has to work at the emotional aspects of smelling and appreciating fragrances, since I focus so much more on the emotional than the technical...of course, I'm only just dipping my toes into the world of fragrance, so I've got a lot to learn about the technical side of things! For now, the few perfume reviews I've written are almost solely about the emotional journey they take me on, as I'm still not quite sure of my nose and its ability to discern the various notes in a perfume.

    Your reviews have opened my mind to all sorts of new avenues in fragrance, and have introduced me to lines I otherwise would have remained oblivious to forever. Thank you for your efforts!

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  20. Here's another reader who started reading for the perfume but am getting a little bit hooked on the beauty as well. I like the blend of the personal and the objective or detached in the way you write about perfume. Unlike your husband, I've had to teach myself to stop thinking about my emotional reaction to a perfume and become more analytical - obviously a gender thing - but it did mean for a while I didn't seem to like anything much - that's now over than goodness.

    As someone who is just starting to blog (enjoying it but finding it harder than I'd anticipated) I'd love to hear your wisdom about the lessons learned through writing about perfume.

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