Saturday 8 June 2019

Ghost sanctuary: aka 'What do you do with your empties?'

Not the definitive 'fraid' of ghosts!
Back in January, I wrote a post about the pleasant sillage of toiletries left behind by my Airbnb guests. In the comments that followed, a lively discussion ensued about the phenomenon of 'scent ghosts', both in this sense of sillage left behind in rooms after people have left, OR the scent of ghosts proper. Here is reader Jillie, who has personal experience of such olfactory apparitions:

"...there are other "ghost" smells, ie perfumes that actual supernatural spirits release into the air...we lived in a very haunted house when I was a child, and every so often there would be an overwhelming fragrance of lily of the valley wafting through the rooms."

Then reader Crikey came up with another variant - a vestige of a scent tenaciously clinging onto something, that is so spookily old as to pretty much qualify as a ghost:

"But I think that very old houses do hold traces of the lives lived in them. I once visited a bronze age archaeological site in Syria, they were still working down through the layers. The earth bricks in one room in the palace still had a faint trace of the scent of oranges - scented oil had been worked in as it was built. Four thousand years ago." 

This talk of scented spectres got me thinking of my own collection of empty decants. If you stick your nose directly on the nozzle you can still just about make out a faint remnant of the perfume they once contained. In the past I used to chuck decants when I had finished them - or when they had merely evaporated or leaked while my back was turned! - but now I consciously keep my empties. They live in a shoe box, nestling amongst the folds of an old silk scarf (for no good reason other than that the scarf got there first).

The Travalos are the most problematic item, as they are such intrinsically attractive receptacles that I would never stick a label on them. As a result the only way of determining what used to be in them is my rather inadequate nose. I can't even remember by association - 'Meharees is in the red one', say - because I have two red Travalos. I do still have a fighting chance of knowing which is Meharees if the other red one had contained a heady neroli scent, but I am not always that organised, and have previous for putting two perfumes that are remarkably alike in Travalos of the same colour.

And though my system has flaws, one of the reasons I keep these scent ghosts is for reference purposes. This is especially the case if the fragrance in question has been discontinued, like L'Artisan Parfumeur's Safran Troublant or Damien Bash Lucifer #3. Another reason is sheer nostalgia! That's quite a biggie, actually. 

While we are on the subject, just as the collective noun for ghosts turns out to be the very wonderful 'fraid', there should perhaps be a collective noun for 'an assortment of out of service Travalo holders'. This unfortunate situation was of course brought about by the fact that the Travalos they once housed have all come to the end of their natural life, not being ones that were filled in the first place from bottles in my collection. And I do have Travalos which fall into that category, however I also owned enough I had bought or which were given to me to fill the three empty leather holders you see forlornly displayed above. Oh, and the topping up gesture would only work if I knew what was in the blessed thing in the first place, which is moot.

So that is the third reason I might be inclined to keep an empty case I came by more of a fragrance one day. The act of throwing decants away says to me: 'I will never smell that scent again', which feels too definitive and brutal somehow. I am more your 'never say never' kind of perfumista. I should perhaps add that I do routinely throw away small glass 1ml vials, as they are a fiddle to refill even if the opportunity arose. So my 'ghost sanctuary' comprises decants only. It is growing, but at a glacial pace, for the obvious reason that 'thunking' is a rare event in the life of an average perfumista like me with more scent than sense...;)

Do you keep empty decants, and if so, why?


Anonymous said...

I am incapable of emptying anything - whether it be bottle, decant or phial ... I therefore have lots of receptacles with the teeniest drops left in them which I can't bring myself to use up because then I wouldn't have them any more. I can't say goodbye!

Never knew such a thing as a Travalo holder existed.

At least so far your collection is contained within a shoebox, so it is not taking up too much room.


Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

Ah, interesting. I get more satisfaction from finishing something than a sense of anxiety that a perfume is all gone. Though I do feel a bit of that too! I just make do with the vestigial whiff.

Yes, I think it will be a while before the shoe box overflows. ;)

Tatiana said...

I've only ever kept three empty bottles. YSL Opium because the bottle of extrait was the first perfume my husband gave me, over 29 years ago. I have so many lovely memories attached to that scent and that bottle. An Armani Sensi bottle, which helps to slightly scent a sweater drawer. Darn, I really wish that one hadn't been discontinued. I really enjoyed the rosewood in the base. And a special edition Hermes Eau des Merveilles, because it's blue and has a pegasus on it. I have a ridiculous love of equines in all forms.
Everything else from samples, decants and full bottles I thunk in the bin when they're empty.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tatiana,

Thanks for explaining your own MO as regards empties - so it is bottles you keep, not smaller containers. I can quite understand why you kept the ones you did too.

I don't know if you would have seen my review of Armani Sensi, of which I am still eking out a mini, and hoping it doesn't turn meanwhile. It was a crying shame they knocked it on the head when there are so many other ho-hum scents in Armani's stable.

Tatiana said...

Yes, I had read your review about Sensi. In fact, it was doing an online search for any remaining bottles of Sensi that produced a link to your review. I've been lurking and occasionally commenting ever since.

Tara said...

A 'fraid' of ghosts??! That made my day Vanessa! Love a collective noun and that's a beaut.
I don't hold on to used atomisers on the rare occasions I drain something. It's too satisfying to get rid of it.
Ghost scents is a great topic.

Vanessa said...

Well, well! It is always interesting to hear how readers come across the blog.

Re my older posts in general, for some reason I always assume the people who were reading all those years ago have long since gone away. I had a mostly different circle of fumehead friends back then.

Still lamenting the fact that they saw fit to knock Sensi on the head...

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

It is a beaut, I agree! I also agree that throwing empties away is highly satisfying, so I am torn every time, I can tell you. I guess if I never loved it before, I still would chuck.

Undina said...

First of all, I want to say that I’m in that rare position that I can refill your Mogador atomizer ;) Just send it to the known to you address, and you’ll get it back in the next 2-3 months.

I’m with Jillie on rarely finishing anything. But I’m moving away from fancy atomizers to just regular clear glass ones: they hold much better.

If I happen to finish a sample or a small decant, I might keep the empty container in 2 cases: it was nice, and I want to have a chance to smell it a couple of times more since I won’t be buying it OR I plan to buy a bottle and think of reusing it either for personal wear or to make a sample/decant and share with someone.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

OMG, that was by no means a hint, I swear! I do not want to deplete your bottle further, but if Mogador is anything like Mogadon and the withdrawal symptoms get too much, I may take you up on your kind offer.

Clear glass atomisers do hold more and are less prone to leaking I find - well, I am only familiar with the Travalo style, and cheap knock offs of same.

I was very interested to hear of your own reasons for keeping small decants, which I was sure you would have a good handle on! Actually the other two reasons do also apply to me - I'd say the first one crosses over with my 'nostalgia' role. ;)