Ever since reading this disturbing post by Kevin of Now Smell This here, in which he sets out a highly credible method for calculating the projected lifespan of one’s perfume collection, I have been intermittently haunted by the all too real prospect of my sloshing fragrance lake outliving me by a factor of...oh, too many to contemplate.
A current nightly habit has only served to confirm me in my pessimistic outlook. Yes, from the end of July I have taken to spritzing on Agent Provocateur edp from my 5ml miniature. This was originally prompted by a mild concern about the age and condition of the scent – the animalic notes have become more pronounced of late – but it soon developed into a regular bedtime ritual. You should know that this mini was by no means full when I started wearing it to bed, and although its opaque design precludes inspection of the fill level, the light splishing sound I hear when I shake it suggests it isn’t approaching empty either. Though I have been wearing it every night (pretty much) since July 27th. That’s about 95 days, give or take! To use…what…3ml, maybe? Admittedly I am only squirting it on my neck area and not on my wrists, which must easily be halving my rate of consumption, but still...50 days at full spray rate equivalence remains a sobering statistic.
Given the gourd/amphora-like shape of the AP mini, I am worryingly reminded of the Biblical prosperity parable about the widow whose tiny remaining quantity of oil miraculously stretched to filling lots of other jars, thanks to the prophet Elisha's timely intervention. She was then able to sell the surplus oil and pay off her late husband’s debts. (For anyone for whom the tale is a fuzzy Sunday School memory, read it again here.)
My dismay is compounded by the fact that in my case I didn’t believe I only had a teeny bit of perfume in the first place. I knew I was awash with the stuff – and yet it still seems to grow exponentially, as fast as I try to consume it...And the other difference between me and the widow is that I would much rather the perfume wouldn't mushroom in this manner, on the basis that freshly conjured oil is an easier commodity to offload than perfume that has been around the block a bit...
To get a proper handle on this consumption rate issue, I decided to devise my own measuring method. You see, Kevin actually took a number of empty perfume bottles, refilled them with water and sprayed them till they were empty again. (I am not sure I would have the stamina for that.) Then he divided the total number of sprays in the bottle by the number he favours on a daily basis for that style of scent, to come up with an estimate of how long his various bottles will last. That is probably a more sophisticated method than I require, as I spray all perfumes the same way, unless they are very weak, in which case I might reapply them in the course of the day. That might explain the distinction between Kevin’s 10 spray-ers and his 5 spray-ers (ie the 5 spray-ers sprayed twice), although there is no 6 to go with his 3 spray-er category, which would have equated to a top up application.
So anyway, I thought I would take a 1ml vial (standard Perfume Court issue) and wear that and only that for as long as it takes to drain it. Armed with the this key fact of the "number of days to empty" (not unlike the fuel gauge on Mr Bonkers' Ford Focus, come to think of it), it just remains to tot up how many ml I own across the 60+ full bottles, dozens of decants and hundreds of samples, and multiply one figure by t’other.
All very well and good in theory...However, problems began to surface as I surveyed my collection of samples to find the perfect 1ml candidate. Clearly I want to use up a 1ml vial I already own – decanting something specially into a clean vial seems wasteful, even if there might be a particular scent I feel I could wear for days on end that is not currently in a 1ml format.
It is also important that the 1ml vial is not my only example of that scent, otherwise I won’t have any left for reference once the experiment is over. And it shouldn’t be one which I had earmarked to give away, which knocks out several more.
And the fill level must be exactly 1ml, and not something that might be 0.9ml or 0.8ml, like so many vials in my sample collection. That’s the tricky thing, because the vast majority of samples I own I have tried once or twice already. Then there are the manufacturer’s samples and others gathered in swaps that are more than 1ml but not a precise figure either - 1.5ml or 1.2ml, 2ml even - again mostly partly used. Then there were some other 1ml vials which might have been contenders, were it not for the Luckyscent or Posh Peasant label obscuring the fill level. Of the few where I decided to rip the label off, none was an exact 1ml measure either.
And finally, assuming all other criteria are met, the crunch question is whether I am prepared to wear this particular scent day in, day out, for as long as it takes to use it up?
Extraordinarily, out of hundreds of samples, only Safran Troublant and Perfect Veil were left standing at the end of the screening process. Oh dear - I am going out tonight to dinner with friends and don’t think my companions would appreciate spicy sillage, but at the same time I would like to make a bit of a statement with my chosen perfume. And Perfect Veil is, well…too veil-like really.
Right then, in order to conduct this test, it is clear to me that I will have to pick a week where I am not going out socially. Now believe me when I say that I am no gadabout, no glad rag-clad girl about town, but on balance I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for this experiment to happen any time soon...
Photo of widow from biblestories4kids.com, photo of Agent Provocateur from cheap-perfume.co.uk, photo of a bottomless well from apforums.net, photo of samples my own.