Regular readers of Bonkers know that I am much exercised by issues of perfume storage in all its aspects. I worry about condensation and heat, about leaky decants and warped boxes. Well, this week I have mostly been worrying about keeping my....paper whatya-ma-call-its separate. I can't believe I have been a perfumista-type person for more than two and a half years, yet until today I wasn't sure of the correct term for those paper tester strips you spray perfumes on in shops to try them. Yes, I have been mightily confused on this point, and some extensive googling has thrown up a bunch of alternatives, all with equal currency as far as I can tell:
I also found one or two mentions each of "perfume test blotter", perfume blotter", "fragrance strip blotter" and "touche à sentir" and "mouillette", though the latter two are of course French phrases not in general use over here - except possibly in very chichi circles. And what these things are NOT called are "fragrance strips" or "scent strips" - I can confirm that both terms refer specifically to those peel off flaps in women's magazines which are impregnated with a scent.
But come on...do you refer to these small, thin absorbent lengths of card - because they are more the gauge of card than paper, and of course sometimes they can be square (Chanel) or oblong - as "fragrance blotters", or even "smelling strips"? The very first phrase I came up with when I sat down to think what I do call them is "perfume tester strips", and that didn't come up anywhere in my Internet research. Terms like "fragrance blotter" and its ilk are simply not top of mind for me. Indeed, I would be more likely to use a roundabout locution, along the lines of: "Excuse me, have you got one of those paper strip thingies I can spray this perfume tester on, please?" But that may just be me...
Mind you, based on a cursory trawl of common search terms thrown up by Google Keyword Tool, it would seem that the public at large shares my uncertainty. In fairness, there were 91 global monthly searches for "smelling strip", but crucially NONE for "fragrance blotter", "scent blotter" or "perfume blotter".
Out of interest, I put the word "mouillette" into Linguee, an online dictionary, and it gave me this translation:
blotter (a special paper strip for testing fragrance)
So, you see, the Linguee people are not making any assumptions either about the public having especially high levels of blotter awareness.
Going back to the Google keyword searches, I suppose you might not expect anyone to be looking for these things at all, as they are usually provided in-store. Even on the swap scene, while a perfume swapper might routinely purchase decanting supplies, there is no obvious need to purchase blotters for home use.
But....and this is a big but....I think I have identified a gap in the market for retail sales of blotter HOLDERS. By this I don't mean the devices known in French as "porte-mouillettes", certain designs of which resemble the smelling strip equivalent of a kitchen knife block. And I certainly don't mean this curious homemade contraption fashioned out of clothes pegs.
No, I mean the little greaseproof?/tracing? paper bags/holders that I was once offered in a branch of L'Artisan Parfumeur in Paris to slip my smelling strips in. The idea is that they preserve the scent for longer and also keep the strips from cross-contaminating one another at the bottom of your handbag, which is the place the strips inevitably end up getting tossed when I go on a serious sniffing outing.
Now at the Roja Dove master class last year - about which I may do a retrospective post some time - one of my suggestions for improving the session was the provision of just such bags, in which to keep the strips Roja circulated of his semi-bespoke range. For these are very rare and special scents, and we all wanted to preserve our tester strips for as long as chemically possible, knowing that we were unlikely to encounter them again. But apart from that one L'Artisan store, I don't remember ever seeing such bags anywhere else.
That said, the principle of the protective bag is perfectly commonplace for other products - that is how you buy a French stick in the supermarket, for example. And let's face it, you're not even likely to have a load of loaves knocking about at the bottom of your handbag. And then you've got things like these eye shadow applicators, which come in an articulated plastic case with a slot for each sponge, a bit like an ammo belt.
Whilst separate bags would work fine, a single holder with compartments for each would be an ideal way to keep all the strips in one place for ease of reference. I also checked out artists' pastel boxes and screw organisers, but the compartments were not long or shallow enough. So the perfect "smelling strip organiser" continues to elude me.
Meanwhile, however, I tracked down a French supplier of "touches à sentir" to L'Artisan Parfumeur, and gave them a call. The first thing I wanted to confirm was the name for these individual test strip holders and it is "étui en papier cristal" or "étui cristal" for short. Predictably, these things are not sold in retail outlets, but only to perfume companies, though the chap I spoke to would have cut me a deal on 500 for 250-300 euros. Why, that is about 45p each! Gallic robdoggery of the first water!
So the search for a suitable "touchebag" - or bags - continues. :- ) And meanwhile, I have got a whole bunch of smelling strips stuck between the leaves of a plain notebook and I am hoping for the best.
Photo of "paddle"-style smelling strips from persephenie.com, photo of "arrow"-style smelling strips from whatwedoissecret.org, photo of improvised porte-mouillette with clothes pegs from bio-byte.com, photo of baguette from durobag.com, photo of make up sponges from blogger-index.com, photo of ammo belt from odsurplus.com.