The Sniff Box – Perfume In Plain English

Obscurity vs. celebripongs

What makes a perfume desirable? Why do we buy what we buy? I think it depends on what kind of person we are, or rather how much we know.

Take the person who doesn’t know much about perfume at all. If you don’t know much then you’re likely to buy whatever scent is being most heavily marketed that month, for where else are you going to get your information? Certainly not from the vacuously rehashed press-releases that count as perfume ‘journalism’ in the majority of magazines.

That might sound like a bad thing, and given the number of awful fragrances out there, on the whole it probably is. But then you have to remember that while it might mean that millions of people are buying the latest celebripong, Chanel No.5 remains the single most heavily marketed perfume on earth, so it’s not necessarily all bad news. The drawback, of course, is that you generally end up smelling like everyone else.

Next step up are those of us (and I count myself among their number) who know their Millionaire from their Mitsouko. We’re perfume enthusiasts, we’ve read our Luca Turin, we love the classics and trying new things, but we really want to stand out from the crowd.

So the perfect perfume for us is something that is, ideally, made by an obscure little company with a funny name, or (even better) is a classic fragrance that has long been discontinued or is no longer available in our country, though fortunately we know where we can still get our hands on a bottle or two. Christian Dior’s Jules, anyone? (Yes please.)

But I suspect there’s still another level above this, a kind of perfume nirvana, rarely achieved except by those fortunate few whose olfactory sense is sufficiently sophisticated to distinguish dross from gold. These higher beings can – and here I can only guess – somehow blank out the ads, the breathless copywriting and all the other extraneous noise that deafens most of us to the only thing that really matters in the end: the smell.

It’s as hard to smell a perfume with an open mind as it is to look at a well-known painting or listen to a famous piece of music with an open eye or ear. But surely it’s an ideal to aim towards, even if you end up wearing Guerlain one day and Lady Gaga the next.

Leave a comment