Perfume Sins

Some scents just won’t charm other people

If you asked me this a few years ago I would have agreed but reluctantly that some perfume wearing is just in bad taste.  Perfume is something that has only recently ( in historical terms) become discussion worthy. Perfumes The Guide came out ten years ago, and compared to all the preceding years when perfumes were neither discussed nor assessed, that’s a very short time.  I remember decades when it was very difficult to find out anything at all about perfume and what little I did discover came from reading: Edmond Roudnitska, Elizabeth Barille, Michael Edwards,even Jean Pierre Coffe, who as I recall Le Bon Vivre, did not think much of Cartier’s Le Panthere.

In the interim there has been an explosion of discussion. The industry itself, despite all the chit chat, remains secretive, and self contradictory in its aims. It’s certainly not clear that all  mass perfume makers want to produce consistently high quality.  What they want to produce is something highly profitable, and the parameters of what constitutes a reasonable profit seem to expand all the time.  It’s now axiomatic that packaging costs far more than content.  Should it?  This product is largely water anyway.

Some perfume is clearly vulgar.  It was designed to be, and in this category you have no

Some can be invasively pervasive…

holds barred yelling perfumes like  Alien,or Amarige, or Mahora, or M7 or back in the 80’s, Giorgio.  They are calculated to be loud and attention grabbing. Whether they are really appropriate for public spaces is an open question. (I’d say no.) Perfume Sin No1) The Loud Perfume.

The line between what is good and what is bad in perfume is also confused by people who are highly idiosyncratic and don’t recognize the fact. Because they hate some component: wood, or roses, or mimosa, or pepper, or incense, they consider a perfume is bad, and because they love the smell of baklava or sesame seeds, another is good.  However personal taste is not the same as quality.  In fact the one really has nothing to do with the other. Still you may never convince the terminally egocentric that the world does not spin around their highly individual choice which the rest of use may find objectionable.  They LOVE the scent of mud or their kid’s hair, doesn’t EVERYBODY? The predictable result, people smell like their dog, or like they’ve been on a three day bender. You hope you don’t sit next to one of them on the subway, or the theater, or a restaurant, or heaven help us, a plane. Here you have sin against good taste no 2) The Bizarre Perfume

And some can be quite small but still …

Then there are people who think that their perfume should never change.  Sometimes it should.  There, I’ve said it.  I don’t take it back. If it’s 100 degrees Farenheit and intensely humid I don’t want to smell oriental perfumes.  Ever. You have perfume sin no 3) The Completely Wrong for the Season Scent.  You need to change things slightly. Go find a summer version of your favorite, or else embrace another category.  If you like woody florals learn to like greens (they go together) and if you love orientals select a floral (again they go together) you’ll be surprised.

Those are three sins and I’m sure there’s a decalogue in there somewhere, but let me open up the discussion.  What do you consider perfume sins?




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12 thoughts on “Perfume Sins

    1. Tuberose probably will be weaponized some day. Domestically it already is, ” Don’t you make me put on that Amarige!”

  1. Aww … I love a spritz of Amarige occasionally. 🙂

    I agree with all your sins, but especially #2. Even from sophisticated perfume appreciators I hear that ‘perfume is entirely subjective’. No. There is good and there is bad, independent of one’s own personal taste.

    As for other perfume sins, there ‘s always perfume snobbery, especially vintage snobbery. That’s the worst. ‘You have not smelled Mitsouko until you have smelled vintage Mitsouko.’ Rubbish, I say.

    1. I should be nicer about Amarige. Sorry! This is no doubt down to the great tuberose divide into which half of perfume lovers fall and half don’t. 🙂

      On vintages, yes absolutely. A thing is not wonderful just because it’s old or has a label. There is such a phenomenon as oxidization. I think that a good fresh bottle of a good perfume beats vintage unless that was kept pristine in its box – and bets? Doesn’t happen often.

  2. Perfume might be a masterpiece, and a wearer have not bathed in it – and somebody might still prefer not to be subjected to it, for his or her personal reasons (and I’m not talking about the general hate towards perfumes), so the main perfume sin in my book is wearing the amount of any perfume that projects beyond the distance of a hug in circumstances where that somebody cannot escape it – a small conference room, a plane or a concert. Subway, street or a party are safe in this aspect: one can always move away from that gentleman who just doesn’t have a shower in the cardboard box where he sleeps, that lady who argues with an invisible opponent or you, proudly swimming in the cloud of Angel, Fracas or Pink Sugar.

    Smart people usually know not to build “I like” = “good” and “I dislike” = “bad” connections – at least, publicly. And people who are not that smart do much worse things than calling “bad” perfume they did not like or understand.

    I consider as a perfume sin storing perfumes that you do not plan to finish within a year or two without a box (unless it’s protected from light by something else, e.g. being in the dark cabinet of a walk-in closet).

  3. The “distance of a hug” is a nice phrase and expresses the ideal projection of a perfume. Sillage may not fit into the post modern world into which we are all crammed, and sometimes this saddens me, on the other hand when there is too much M7 on the air- not so much.

    Two well made points about the totally subjective perfume wearer. Neophyte Alices who just fell down the rabbit hole are apt to say “Oh, Joy how Old Lady!” and to think Pink Sugar is wonderful. But time usually disabuses them of this notion. Then there are odd perfumes that…smell. You recall L’Air de Rien which some people loved and others thought smelled like stables and dirty hair, or Peety?

    Storage without boxes! This makes me sad. Keep those boxes folks!

    1. I’m a strange person who likes L’Air de Rien one day and feels disgusted by it another day. I can’t figure out what makes it smell so differently. As to the Peety… I found the idea for the first perfume so appalling that I never looked for a sample, and a couple of weeks ago, while testing perfumes in Barcelona, I couldn’t make myself to test it though it was it the store.

      1. Lucky you to be in Barcelona, but I would have been of the same opinion about trying Peety. Couldn’t do it at the time it came out and can’t face it now either 🙂

        Yes I noticed the variability of L’Air. I wonder if it is costus? That is not in the notes but it would explain that hair/fur note that is so hard to like.

    2. I don’t store mine in boxes. I do, however, store them either in the bedside cabinet or in the (opaque) hatbox on my dresser, so they are protected from light. (The attic is full of perfume boxes. I might need to remind my husband sometime soon that the time to get rid of perfume boxes is when you’ve used up what’s in the bottle.)

      1. Wait, what? Your husband is in charge of recycling? You can get him to TAKE OUT the recycling? Where did you meet this man?

        Needless to say you have a nice system and it is much better organized than mine which is currently: perfume refugeed to cellar in cooler box. The rest in my desk drawer where they are fighting a turf war with the samples.

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