The Sniff Box – Perfume In Plain English

Perfume bollocks

There’s a lot of it about.

If most of us have trouble getting a handle on perfume it’s not, I think, because we’re too stupid to understand it. In fact the problem isn’t us, but the perfume companies themselves (or at least the companies they employ to do their marketing).

For to enter the world of perfume is to enter a land where English is no longer English but something else entirely – let’s call it Scentish. Here’s a recent example (I’ll let you guess the actual perfume)…

‘Amidst the emotions of an extraordinary journey, the Orient Express races through dreams. It is the quintessence of refinement on which time has no hold… A time traveller and space explorer. A man of today, in keeping with the memories of yesterday’s adventurers…

‘Seductive, brilliant, classic and refined, he discovers a fragrance that reflects him. An homage to his confident, proud masculinity.’

I know, I know – it sounds like a bad Mills & Boon novel from 1972. But that’s not all: we haven’t even heard about the perfume itself yet.

‘Violet, only seemingly discreet, reveals its leaf and flower in this scent. Amongst the selected woods stands a prince, a king, the highly prized oud wood, a legendary and sensual oriental note whose resinous balsamic accents create a sensual and carnal smoky facet.’

Copywriting this bad is almost an art form in its own right, but it does nobody any favours. It tells us nothing about the perfume. It perpetuates the myth that it’s almost impossible to describe scent successfully in words.

Perhaps worst of all, though, it’s press releases like these that all too often find their way into the magazines and on to the websites that most of us read, thanks to lazy journalists who can’t be bothered to think for themselves.

Is it any wonder that people find perfume confusing, when the industry itself is the worst offender?

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