Saturday, 16 July 2011

A Radical Cure For Option Anxiety - Buy Perfume At Your Local Chemist!

In her latest post on Infatuation and Perfume, Olfacta of Olfactarama was asking readers where they are along their own perfume "trajectory". She writes - with a nifty bodice-ripping analogy to evoke the "honeymoon" phase of fumeheads' relationships with perfume: "I’m no longer swapping madly and waiting impatiently for the mailman and the UPS truck or spending too much on Our Favorite Online Auction Site or ripping packages open when I’m barely through the door."

I gave her question some thought and replied in the comments to the effect that my own infatuation with scent has definitely peaked or plateaued, and that my acquisitions of full bottles or decants in swaps are much more selective these days. My existing - ludicrously substantial - collection gives me a sensation of satisfaction and "fullness" not dissimilar to someone patting their stomach after a delicious four course meal. In my comment I compared it to a feeling of maternal pride: "I opened the door of my perfume fridge yesterday and the beatific gaze with which I viewed its serried ranks of bottles and decants could be likened to a proud mother looking at her brood of children round the dining table and thinking that ten are probably enough now (more or less)."

So given that that is where I am at - and happy to be so - how would it be if my scent options were severely curtailed? For also this week, Eyeliner on a Cat posed the question: "if you had to choose, which 3 houses would rule your kingdom", hypothetically restricting our scent selection from now on to the ranges of just three perfume houses. Actually, that could still be a pretty large pool if you pick your houses right - don't go for Stephen Burlingham, say, or Isabey, with just one or two scents to their name!

Then the other day I was testing - on multiple skin sites, rather rashly! - a freebie sample I got in Holland on my recent work trip. It was Ed Hardy Love Kills Slowly, a fruity floral number of supreme forgettability, and I upset myself by imagining how I'd feel if this were the only perfume I was allowed. Would I even wear it? That is a good question, and the answer is a guarded yes, for it is by no means horrible, just cheap and a bit synthetic and nondescript. I actually can imagine quite a lot of "regular" men enjoying smelling this on their womenfolk.

Top notes: Apple souffle, mango, wild strawberry, ruby red grapefruit.
Mid notes: Freesia petals, watery muguet, linden blossom.
Dry notes (sic!): Warm amber, sensual musks, tonka bean, vanilla pudding.

Now it happened that around the time I was testing Love Kills Slowly, Katie Puckrik posted a video on her blog of Christophe Laudamiel talking about what makes a perfume smell cheap, and I mentioned the Ed Hardy in a comment, and how I had been trying to figure out wherein lay its cheapness. To which Katie replied:

'"Love Kills Slowly", eh? Sounds like you were speeding up the process with your multiple site approach.'

And this got me thinking about how too little choice could very likely kill one's hobby stone dead. As in "Kills Love Slowly" rather than the reverse. Yes, lock me up with just Jean-Paul Gaultier's range of scents for ever - or Hugo Boss, say - and I wouldn't be happy. I wouldn't give up on scent altogether, and would seek out the least uncongenial offerings from each range to wear, but I would be restlessly pacing my artificially imposed perfume prison cell all the while.

Which is not to say that there aren't days when the sheer size of my scent collection doesn't feel like a burden. That's when I go to pick out a SOTD and am paralysed with inertia, or when I worry about my bottles going off despite their temperature controlled habitat. But...any time I feel overfaced by the cornucopian contents of my fridge, I remember my local chemist and remind myself how lucky I am not to only have access to its paltry perfume range for the rest of time.

I should perhaps explain that while in most of Europe there seems to be a clearer demarcation between pharmacies selling drugs and drugstores (somewhat perversely) not selling drugs so much as cosmetics, toiletries and household cleaning products, in the UK our independent pharmacies tend to dabble in all manner of non-pharmaceutical lines, from body butters to hair grips, spectacle cases and rubber gloves. These tend to be very bargain basement brands, if one can even dignify them with that name.

So going back to perfume, when I say that my local pharmacy carries a "paltry" range of perfumes, I mean very poor indeed - as in sparse, and of very mixed quality.

Here they are:

Aromatics Elixir
Charlie (Red)
CK Eternity Moment
Britney Spears Curious
Paris Hilton Heiress
Kylie Minogue Sweet Darling
A banded twinpack of Moschino Oh! and something else in a gold pack - a body lotion, perhaps?

Yup, that really is it!!!

The controversial Clinique classic aside, if that was all you had to wear for ever, it just might kill your love of scent pretty darn quick. For though having a great deal of choice is a double-edged sword, as a perfumista, once you have sampled "the drunkenness of things being various", to quote my favourite line from the poet Louis MacNeice, most of the time you never look back...

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

Louis MacNeice (extract from Snow)

Photos of pharmacy logos from and, photo of bodice ripper novel from, photo of Ed Hardy perfumes and logo from and, photo of hair accessories stand from


Tara said...

Wow Vanessa, I love and adore your perfume fridge, what genius. Access does play a huge role in fueling our hobby and that includes access to information/reviews on the Net as well as access to the actual product. I like that you feel maternal about your collection. When I am buying a new full bottle I think of them joining the family. Please don't tell anyone about this.

Anonymous said...

If I had to limit myself to those dreadful choices from your list I would have gone scentless (though I don't want even to think about that possibility).

On a more positive note, what is the temperature in your fridge? I'm trying to decide if I need one: the closet in my bedroom is relatively cool (and I have an A/C - for unexpected heat waves).

~ Undina ~

Hubert Hubert said...

One of my favourite poems, that, funnily enough.

For blokes the chemist-only situation would perhaps not be a total disaster since many of us operate on the 'one scent for life' basis.

That's not the way it seems to work for me but if, say, there were only Aramis Original, then that's what I'd wear. I suspect that in this case the forces that drive me into perfume obsession would just have to try and find an outlet elsewhere.

Vanessa said...

Hi tara,

I love the idea of your new perfume acquisitions "joining the family" and thanks for sharing your own maternal pride in this "safe" environment!

Mr Bonkers talks about going out to work to earn money to feed his starving family of guitars. And sometimes, if the cat is present - though obviously not listening, because she is deaf - he will say to her: "Charlie, I'm going out to work to earn money for your crunchies."

Vanessa said...

Hi undinaba,

It's not a very inspiring collection is it? I would probably wear Aromatics Elixir and just stand well back from people. : - )

The fridge is kept at 10C or 50F, depending which you prefer. This is apparently the setting the Osmotheque perfume museum in Versailles uses for most of their collection. The exception is citrus scents, which I understand they keep at 4C, ie similar to a normal domestic fridge. But I am blowed if I am getting a separate appliance for the minority of my perfumes that might prefer it a bit cooler!

Vanessa said...

Hi Hubert Hubert!

Thanks for stopping by - good to "meet" another Staffordshire dweller. I clocked a mention of Acton Trussell in your own blog, Rabbit Stew, which is quite a rarity.

Now you are quite right about many blokes being loyal to one scent, and you do appear to have ample other outlets were the fragrance door to be closed to you - I note that you spend "a good deal of nearly every day sat underneath a hedge", apparently not in a professional capacity. : - )

Olfacta said...

Hi Vanessa -- thanks for the reference!

I remember when I could spend an hour, maybe more, sampling the quality perfumes at the one drugstore in our town. The one near me now, one of approximately 57,238 in my city has the usual garbage in a (locked) glass cabinet -- about 150, I'd say. Such a choice.

Vanessa said...

Hi Olfacta!

That's an impressive diversity of garbage all right! So you have lots of drugstores, then? We have a ludicrous number of curry houses and hairdressers for the size of the town. Our population must consist entirely of well-coiffed korma eaters.

Katie Puckrik said...

I experienced an inadvertent surge of perfume defensiveness when I read "Aromatics Elixir" in the list of your drugstore's "paltry" offerings, because I've recently discovered that I love wearing it. And of course, you hastily gave it props, though with the qualifier "controversial". As you indicated, light-handed application is key.

Haha: "well-coiffed korma eaters".

Vanessa said...

Hi Katie,

It is a bit of a polarising scent, I find, though I like it enough myself to have blagged Mrs Bonkers Senior's 5ml purse spray freebie. I may even give it a tentative go tomorrow in the seclusion of my office.

Oh, and your ears might have been burning last night - I bumped into an old musician friend of Mr Bonkers' and wished him many happy returns for the other day - he shares your birthday.

"It's a big deal, the 12th", I said. "The whole of Northern Ireland took to the streets to celebrate, and it's also Katie Puckrik's birthday - do you remember her off The Word?"

"Katie Puckrik?" replied the musician friend. "I *do* remember her - she's COOL!"

: - )