The same cannot be said of a perfume vial or decant without a name, and I seem to have been accumulating more and more of these lately. So I had the idea to make a list of all the ways in which labels can be absent and tease your nose into futile games of guesswork...(Um, I may have been exaggerating when I said 'fifty', but will plead the blogger's prerogative of poetic licence.)
Wandering Les Senteurs samples
Every perfumista worth their salt - or the ones in the UK certainly - will have a clutch of these distinctive petrol blue carded samples stashed away somewhere. I don't know if Les Senteurs still do a paid sampling service, but when I was starting out in the hobby it was a very handy way of getting access to lots of high end perfumes. Also, if you ever made a purchase, the store was generous on the 'samples with purchase' front. But the vials themselves were not labelled, the name being handwritten on the card to which they were attached.
And after years jostling cheek by jowl in tightly stuffed bags and boxes, you can be sure that some of your Les Senteurs vials will eventually detach themselves from their cards and go awol. And while I know that all you need to do to identify which is which, is to lay out all the cards and all the vials that have become separated, sniff them systematically one by one, and match each vial to its original card - assuming there weren't too many to choose from in the first place. However, I am nowhere near that organised, and my vial-less Les Senteurs cards are dispersed far and wide, and would take some marrying up, lost sock-style. And at least with a sock, you know it is a sock - there are far fewer variables involved in correctly reuniting them with their siblings.
Houdini wannabe PLL samples
One of my favourite disparaging sayings to denote a person's incompetence is to say that they 'couldn't fight their way out of a paper bag'. This put-down could never be levelled at the small atomiser samples you are offered at Perfume Lovers London events, which have elevated bag escapology into a competitive sport. For anyone not familiar with the drill, at the end of the night, you make your selection of a perfume you'd like to try, and organiser Lila das Gupta makes your sample on the spot and pops it in a brown paper bag, on which she writes the name of the scent. Now I don't have nearly as many escapee PLL samples as I do Les Senteurs ones - and this despite the fact that the Les Senteurs vials are notionally attached to the card where the plastic clip on the stopper slots into a hole - yet I am still blowed if I can tell which PLL sample is Coromandel from this small selection!
The 1ml vial and baggie conundrum
As it happens, I have been to the museum of extreme miniature things in Mijas, Spain (that's not its official name), where someone has written the whole of the Book of Deuteronomy on a grain of rice - you know the kind of thing. However, for most of us it is already a not inconsiderable challenge to be able to fit a wraparound label on a 1ml vial - hence the common practice amongst swappers of affixing a label on the little plastic bag instead. Only woe betide the owner who forgets to put the vial back in its correct bag...
An even sloppier variant of this (which may be unique to yours truly) is where you cannot even be bothered to write a proper label, stuffing a torn off bit of Post-It note inside the bag instead. In the photo below, I am astonished that this 'label' has stayed in the bag ever since 2012...assuming that sample really is Coco Noir, that is.
Age-related label loss
A classic fail is where over time the adhesive paper label simply works its way loose. I have even known the stick-on polythene ones on old Perfumed Court vials to peel off eventually, or at least develop a prominent side flange (photo on request).
Leak-related label smudging
How often have you received a swap, and after profusely thanking the sender for the package, politely pointed out that you are not quite sure what x and y vials are owing to the small matter of the ink having completely unforeseeably run on the labels, which are now but an elusive smear of their former selves.
Cryptic or overly abbreviated labelling
I am majorly guilty of this, a habit usually prompted by space saving reasons and/or mere laziness. 'Dahlia N' is a poor example of the genre, but you get my drift.
Hubris-related: 'Oh, I will remember what that one is'
One step beyond this in the complacency stakes is the conscious decision not to name a vial - or more often a decant - because you will be sure to remember what it is! Perhaps because you think the juice is a distinctive colour or the bottle a memorable design. Or because the scent itself is so unmistakable. Well, you might remember on that day perhaps, but three months - or even weeks - down the line may be a different matter...
|4160 Tuesdays The Lion Cupboard - saved by the diamond facets and brown colour!|
Swappers only sending you one thing
I am pretty sure I have sent people larger decants without a label, on the basis that I am only sending them one thing, a thing that they are expecting, no less. As in the example above, my omission to add a label is again fuelled by laziness coupled with a belief in the ability of the other party to recognise the scent. In this case, however, there may be additional aesthetic reasons at work. Given that I have yet to go high tech with my labelling, I feel my handwritten ones detract from the look of a larger decant, especially if it is a gift. But I am of course simply storing up identification problems for the recipient - and putting the onus on them to sort out a label themselves on receipt!
Taking part in blind sniffing challenges
Now I have done this a few times - in an exercise for Undina (exactly four years ago!) and also for Ronny of Scent and Sensibility. In such cases the vial must of necessity remain nameless, but me being me I never remember to stick one on after the big reveal...;)
|It's the blue one! (I can always look it up...)|
So tell me, have I thought of all the ways in which vials become unidentifiable?
To which of them can you most relate, or have you got all your samples well and truly taped?
|Two of Truffle's trophies|
**Trust me, this is a technical term, or was in 1984 when I briefly managed catering products at St Ivel.