So I talked to my perfume mentor, Angela, who shook her head sadly at me. Then she told me all the things you tell someone new to perfume: personal taste has a tremendous amount to do with taste; price point has nothing to do with quality; the more you smell the better your nose gets; like what you like and to hell with everyone else – you’re the one who has to wear it.
So I did what she told me. I put the book on my book shelf and let my perfumey wanderings take me wherever it went, like dandelion seeds in the wind. Now, three years have passed. I have tried many, many scents. Some wonderful. Some terrible. Some completely unmemorable.
This morning, I got out my copy of Perfumes: The Guide down from its shelf. I went through, page by page, marking off the scents I’ve tried since that May so long ago. As I did, I noticed several things about their approach I didn’t notice a perfume newb, and also several things about my own exploration that are worth noting:
- I’m shocked by their complete and utter confidence that what they are smelling is what everyone else will smell. I find that to be rarely true. Some similarity, sure, but never this emphatic certainty.
- I still haven’t tried enough Chanels and Serge Lutens.
- There are really not enough independent perfumers in this book.
- When I first started out, I strongly avoided any complex scents I couldn’t immediately peg as something familiar. I loved roses and vanillas. I hated things like chypres, vetivers, and florientals. Now I tend toward more complex scents.
- It’s really pleasing not to be able to flip more than one or two pages without marking off scents I’d tried.
- I find Luca Turin’s desire to insult perfumers far less entertaining or charming now that I know how hard it is too make perfume, especially good perfume.
Anyone who wants a copy of the original hardback edition of Perfumes: The Guide, despite its flaws, and accepting of the various, but limited, ways it can guide you, post here by Friday, July 1, 2011, 12:00 AM PST.
I’d love to see it go to a good home, where someone else can use it to assist you in all your perfumey wanderings.