Bad perfume may be one of the evils we were put on this earth to rise above- as Queen Victoria was rumored to have remarked about nature. At least it is to my mind. Victoria had a larger task than the one I have set myself, which is simply not to inhale anything for long which is hateful. When it comes to new perfumes I give everything a fair trial-but here’s the salient point-not on skin.
My method involves a brandy snifter and some saturated paper or cotton. I leave the sample in the snifter for hours and check on its progress and note the changes, but I do not put anything on my skin anymore that has not gone through a good eight hour stretch in the snifter. This may seem extreme but I’ve learned during the torrential releases of the last few years that most perfumes do not survive close inspection. Perfume is like anything else: clothes, novels, restaurants, films, most are not all that different from others of their kind and most are strictly mediocre. However a few really are awful, and the best way I’ve managed of triaging and identifying the horrible on my list of samples is to put them all through the snifter trial.
Being bad is not the same as being eccentric or original. Undina of Undina’s Looking Glass has said it took her some time to finally love Angel and that initially it repulsed her. I think her reaction to a very original perfume is not unusual, though she did persist with Angel longer than many people might have. My own experience with interesting but hard to wear perfumes is that they are a little addictive. As opposed to the merely nasty, they have a way of reminding you of their eccentric exhalations and you go on and reapply them even while you wonder why you are doing it. Eventually dislike can turn into love. Ungodly awful though remains so from the first exposure to the last. Unspeakable is consistent.
One final word on the subject is that awards are no guarantees of quality, neither is hipness, and popularity only tells you that a particular accord has caught the public’s attention this year. Only long lived popularity tells you that the scent is probably worth preservation even if you yourself don’t care for the stuff. Thus if you read Luca Turin say dismissing Nuit de Noel take the review with a grain of salt because any perfume still in production since 1922 is wonderfully good in some formulation. The same is true of J’Adore and probably, though I may shudder a bit, also Coco Mademoiselle.
If you meet with a horror show on your skin because you got zapped at a counter, or spritzed something on a flimsy pretext, “It’s got to be good it’s an LE and costs five hundred dollars an oz!” Your best option is to find a beauty care counter and ask to try their creamy make up remover, then “try” it on your scent bomb. I know from many attempts that this technique works better than washroom visits and frenzied scrubbing.
Best of all when in doubt don’t touch that atomizer!