I’m a very new face in perfumes. Barely three years on my belt and not a whole lot of technical knowledge about the art. I don’t even like calling myself a perfumista or accepting the label because I still feel like just an admirer of fragrances, sort of like how I can’t and won’t ever call myself an art critic and am much more content as an admirer of art. I’m still on a discovery journey, and wanted to know how you all came to love, admire, hoard, or blog about fragrances.
I started out probably in a very similar situation as most people. My mother liked fragrances, had a collection of her favorites that, to this day, whenever I smell I still equate to her at different points in her life. It was her collection that inspired me to start my own, seek out my own favorites. My first perfume was a Nina Ricci. Not one of the classics, of course. It was that apple thing, Nina that came out in 2006. I loved the stuff. I still love it even though it smells absurd on me these days.
One day, I caught a whiff of Chanel No.5 after having been away from it for a few years. My mother wore No.5 since before I was even born. She had been taking a break for over a decade so when the scent jogged some memory in my mind, I had to find out what it was. Having no knowledge of perfumes at the time, still wearing my Nina and being perfectly content with it, I had no idea where to look or what I was smelling.
When I described it to my mother one day, she wondered idly if it was No.5. The next day I smelled it at a department store, saw how many beautiful perfumes there were. Glass bottles, gorgeous displays. I wanted a vanity table covered in perfume bottles. I started collecting samples, all the samples I could get from department stores. Then I jumped online, started talking to others who liked perfumes. Found some friends whose addictions to fragrances netted them massive collections of exotic decants.
The hoarding obsession for me actually started with Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs. I had ordered six samples out of curiosity, having been drawn to their line thanks to a friend. My first six samples didn’t turn out the way I liked. I read the descriptions of the samples I got, decided to go for the ones that my friend recommended and found them too strong for me. One of the bunch was impressive though. It was The Unicorn from BPAL (now discontinued). It was soft, flower, utterly feminine and brilliant to me. I got a full bottle of it that came with more samples. I tried those, liked more of them got more bottles, got more samples and it ballooned from there.
While I was feeding my BPAL addiction, I was also testing out fragrances in department stores. Finding many of them delightfully sugary and sweet. I was young, smelling like a berry explosion seemed acceptable, but I couldn’t commit to any of them because I was still reeling in the BPAL collection that I was amassing.
When I finally found something I liked, it was Guerlain’s Champs-Elysees. If I remember right, it was followed my Guerlain’s Samsara, then Shalimar. A bottle of Opium from YSL (not much appreciated at the time by me), Chanel’s Allure, Coco Mademoiselle. Then I jumped to the big boys by falling in love with Spiritueuse Double Vanille. From there, I got more serious and had started blogging a few months before.
I started taking note of what scents I preferred. Writing down the stuff that I like and the stuff that I don’t to the point where I have amassed a list of flimsy maybe “yes” and possibly “no”. I found out shortly afterward, that notes that I like or don’t like didn’t necessarily lead me to winners and favorites. I still find that whether or not a fragrance contains or copiously uses a note that I love or loathe seldom correlates with how much I like the juice. It really is in how it’s mixed, the proportions, the combinations, the quality of the ingredients itself.
The result is my position right now. I find that I like very general things. Scents that are classical, heady and historical. I like light scenes, clean things that aren’t aquatic. Authentic and spicy vanillas usually melt my heart. Good honey-based fragrances make my nose happy. Incense and spices and ambers keep me coming back. I’m turned off by heavy uses of cedar and aquatics–maybe I’m crazy, but I think a fragrance can smell clean without resorting to a bunch of aquatic notes. I don’t particularly like the sharp twang of generic woods that a lot of mass market men’s fragrances sport. Nor do I adore the sugary sweet fruity florals that I once used to love.
I think perfumes is an ongoing journey that will never end. Even if the juices get more basic, more mass marketed, more sugary and sweet there’s still a huge amount of history in fragrances that used to be. And there’s still plenty of wonderful choices in the lesser known stuff. Niche and especially independent perfumery is more and more exciting place every single day.
So how did your fragrance journey start?