I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t into perfume. I blame it on my grandmother. She’s always taken pride in her appearance and smelled gorgeous. Her perfume collection has never been huge, but those beautiful, carefully-selected bottles standing on her vanity held a special fascination for me, and I was always thrilled when my gran allowed me to smell, and even wear, one.
Since those early days, my love for perfume has reached new heights and urged me to smell anything I could get my hands on. Some fragrances were gorgeous, some made me wrinkle my nose in disgust, but they all made me love and appreciate the art of perfume even more and, when a new scent hits the market, I still get that exciting thrill. My perfume journey so far has been fun, life-changing and has taught me a lot of things. Here are a few:
1. Gender doesn’t matter
Perfumes are usually divided into three big categories: male, female and unisex. But that doesn’t mean that you should stick to perfumes that are marketed only to your gender. Perfumes are smells and smells don’t have a gender. They may have female or male facets, and when these are particularly obvious, then a brand will assign a gender to it and use it to advertise it to a particular audience. But there’s no reason why a woman shouldn’t try a men’s fragrance and vice versa. If you’re willing to explore, you’ll find a lot of hidden gems designed for the opposite sex that will smell wonderful on you too.
2. Expensive doesn’t mean better
The price of a perfume depends on a lot of different things: rarity of ingredients, difficulty in extracting an essence from a plant, quality of the packaging, the brand name…. However, just because a perfume is made by a high-end, luxurious brand, or contains some fancy rare extract, it doesn’t mean that it will smell good or that the perfumer has put much creative effort in making it. And even a well-done perfume may not agree with your body chemistry and smell awful on you. Just because a perfume is expensive, it doesn’t mean that it’s good. There are good (and bad) perfumes at any price point and, in making a purchase, you should trust your nose, not the price tag, the brand name or the marketing claims.
3. Niche doesn’t mean better
If you’ve tried mainstream scent after mainstream scent and found they all smell the same, you’ll be tempted to turn your attention to niche lines and never go back. But in doing that, you’ll be missing out on some great scents. Not to mention that niche perfume shopping can be very frustrating too. While some niche brands have a strong image and strive to come up with innovative perfume creations, others create unoriginal and bland perfumes that are, often, overpriced. And while mainstream perfume houses, whose aim is to appeal to the broadest possible audience, tend to play it safe by releasing scents that follow popular trends (at the moment that’s sweet floral fruity blends), every now and then, you come across one that’s decided to take a risk and produced an original concoction. Always judge a perfume by its scent, not its brand.
4. Sampling is key
Whenever you’re interested in a fragrance, always sample it before you buy it. It doesn’t matter how much you like the official notes or descriptions, how much your favourite perfume blogger loved it, how wonderful it smells on your friend, or whether it is made by your favourite brand, you’ll simply never know how a fragrance smells on you until you try it. A perfume reacts with your body chemistry which is why the same scent can smell very differently on different people. By blind buying, you risk spending a lot on money on something that you will hate. But you shouldn’t be too eager to reject a scent either. Wear a scent for 3 or 4 times before you decide you don’t like it. First impressions can be deceiving and it’s not unusual to learn to appreciate a scent, and all its different facets, after several uses.
5. Respect the classics
There is a reason why the classics became classics, surviving (unfortunately not always intact) throughout the decades. Of course not every classic perfume will appeal to your tastes or smell that good on you, but these are fragrances that have made the history of perfume, defined generations, taken risks that paid off, inspired new olfactory families and for all this, they deserve our respect and appreciation.
6. New perfumes may still surprise you
If you’ve sampled a lot of scents, you may be inclined to believe that the perfume world has nothing new to offer. You’ll believe you have already smelled all possible accords and blends and that it’s impossible for perfumers to come up with something that hasn’t been done yet. And then one day, you’ll carelessly uncork a new bottle and discover the juice inside is not just beautiful, but also original and new, reigniting your love and appreciation for this olfactory art. That’s what happened to me when Seville A L’Aube by L’Artisan Parfumeur (which I heard will become permanent, by the way) entered into my life.
7. New-found appreciation for my sense of smell
When you ask someone which of their five senses they will be more willing to give up, they’ll very likely respond smell. But this underappreciated sense is a lot more important than we give it credit for. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the many smells that we encounter daily. Just take the time to smell everything you are surrounded with and be amazed at how much they can enrich your life, evoking pleasant memories, making your food taste better, providing information about your surroundings or taking you to distant and exotic places. With time, your sense of smell will improve and you will be able to detect even the subs test whiffs no one else will be able to smell.
What about you? What have you learnt from your perfume journey?