When Every Buy is Blind Buy

“Being almost completely blind, I have always used my nose as a means to investigate and love my world, so it is no surprise that I became a perfume addict at an early age,” says Shermeen, our guest author today. She shares her experience of using her nose instead of her eyes. “Although I would have loved to have pursued a career in the fragrance industry, I enjoy indulging in it as an obsessive hobby. I studied law and live in Southern Ontario, and when I’m not using my legal background to persuade myself into buying more perfume, I enjoy reading, writing, singing, drinking loose-leaf tea, and travelling when I’m able.”

When people first learn that I’m almost completely blind (which is often instantaneously, since I’m often accompanied by a gigantic yellow dog), one of their first questions is invariably along the lines of “So are your other senses, like, heightened?”

geranium

Yes, I can hear, smell, and taste things you probably didn’t even know existed. I know you had garlic bread yesterday morning, that your kid spilled a bowl of cheerios on your pajamas last night, and I bet you can’t even hear that fire engine blasting its way down your street as you read this (how many of you looked out your window to check?)

Still, I would never say that my senses are “heightened”. I do, however, rely on them to a significant extent, which means that they’ve likely had years of training that most sighted people wouldn’t consider necessary–and fair enough, since functional eyes are all the rage these days. Through years of training and education, I travel independently with my guide dog Arden, have completed law school, and am engaged to a man who raises me up higher than I thought possible. Oh, and I’ve also developed a perfume addiction.

The benefits of being a blind perfume lover are obvious. I’m not swayed by visual advertising–the commercials are just filled with smokey-voiced people, and I have yet to encounter a bottle that has spoken to me louder than the juice. I also use perfume to replace things like photographs. For instance, when I was at guide dog school with Arden, I consistently used the same fragrance for the three weeks I was there so I could willfully “travel back there” in the future. I only need one spritz and I’m instantly back in San Rafael, perched on the edge of my bed, heart pounding against my ribs as I awaited to meet my soulmate. I know that I’m not alone in this use of perfume, and that makes me very happy.

But there are definitely downsides to being a blind perfume-lover. I can’t peruse perfume counters and sample every bottle without the help of a sales assistant, and even the kindest of them probably won’t want to spend hours showing me everything in sight. Something tells me they also wouldn’t appreciate my flailing about indiscriminately with my hands, knocking bottles this way and that just so I could find them!

You’d think the solution would be to order samples online. I’ve started doing only to discover that the sample vials come labeled in print, and while I can get a friend to read me each label, it doesn’t address the issue of distinguishing one vial from another. Now, I’ve come up with an ordering system of sorts using my computer (which is loaded with screen-reading technology), although if my samples get jostled or even slightly rearranged, there goes my system.

On that note, it can be difficult to tell how much perfume I have left in a bottle. Of course, the bottle begins to feel lighter in my hands, but I’m always just a bit eager when the juice starts getting low, as it obviously means I have to replace it with more perfume! I’ve often longed for a fellow perfume lover who’ll accompany me on a sniffathon, but have yet to meet someone with enough patience and with my level of obsession.

On a recent and much anticipated trip to Los Angeles, I went to the Scent Bar, Luckyscent’s actual store. And not only was it a perfume-lover’s heaven rendered into real life, it was a blind person’s dream come true. I didn’t have to show up armed with a list of specific fragrances I wanted to sniff (although I did that anyway), and the sales staff was content to sniff and muse with me for hours about which scents evoked which feelings or conjured up which images. Unfortunately, I’ve found that stores like scent Bar are few and far-between, and so for the majority of the time, I rely on finding a sales assistant who isn’t terribly busy and who can direct my nose. On my upcoming honeymoon, I intend on visiting a few perfume shops in London, and I’m already brimming with impatient anticipation.

Of course, if you have any questions about the life of a blind perfume lover, do feel free to ask them here! And if you’re a Londoner and have suggestions for perfume boutiques, please let me know.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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97 Comments

  • Michaela: I’m happy you decided to write this article, it’s just wonderful, thank you.
    ‘I bet you can’t even hear that fire engine blasting its way down your street as you read this (how many of you looked out your window to check?)’
    I admit I did! :)
    I admire you and Arden so much! What breed is Arden (it doesn’t matter, I’m just curious) I understand you got the training together, and I think this is the most beautiful experience anyone can have living with a dog, to do lots of things together. His smell is much better than yours, for sure, and he is patient and willing to help, but you probably can’t get his help in perfumery… If I try to find out my dogs opinion about any perfume, they turn their noses away.
    I have normal eyesight, but almost the same experience with SA’s like yours. I just have to listen to new releases they have to sell and cannot communicate at all. I feel under assault, helpless, and I usually try to avoid them, especially when I go to men’s section. I’m happy for you that you met the Scent Bar people, they are rare birds.
    Have a wonderful honeymoon and a wonderful life! And a healthy loving dog! August 6, 2014 at 7:46am Reply

    • key change: Thank you so much for your thoughtful response, Michaela! It is true that I am very lucky to have Arden accompany me wherever I go. I always remind him that he gets to go “where no other dog does” LOL. He’s a cross between a golden retriever and a lab, and what’s kind of precious is that my fiancé (who is also blind) has his half-brother as a guide! and yes, the folks at scent bar seem to have descended from perfume heaven itself. I can only hope that my upcoming trip to London will likewise have me encounter such helpful people. I’ve definitely learned that the vast majority of people are trustworthy and helpful, and that makes a huge difference. It even makes trips like these possible. August 6, 2014 at 7:52am Reply

      • Michaela: What a nice coincidence. Your dogs are another reason to think you and your fiance are made for each other :)
        Enjoy your trip and hope you meet wonderful people there! August 6, 2014 at 8:27am Reply

        • key change: Yes, I’d like to think so! and from what I’ve heard, London will be a charming place full of lovely people. Thanks for the good wishes! August 6, 2014 at 12:15pm Reply

  • solanace: Hey Shermeen! I´m enchanted with your experience, and you are too funny: using your legal background to persuade yourself into buying more perfume!

    I have been tutoring a blind student for over an year now, and its´s been an amazing experience, even if I have no training at all. (Almost nobody around has, because it´s a new law, but it makes me crazy happy to see that the university is finally getting more democratic!) Anyway, I have been trying to incorporate fragrance in our studying routine, but this is not as easy as I first thought! Do you know any literature about that, or would you have any tips? August 6, 2014 at 7:48am Reply

    • key change: Thank you solanace! I’m glad the university is beginning to step up its game–heaven knows we all need tutors :). I think it’s fascinating that you want to incorporate scent into your study routine, although I must admit that I’m not really familiar with any literature on the matter. What I’ve done in the past (and I’m assuming I’m not the only one) is use the same scent when studying for a particular exam in the hopes I can “call on it” when I’m being tested. I’m not sure if it’s ever actually been effective, but it’s (yet another) excuse to smell things which is always an advantage. ;) August 6, 2014 at 7:57am Reply

      • solanace: Yes, universities in Brazil are changing fast! There is now a quota for students with different disabillities, so we must swiftly adapt to receive them well. Building an accessible collection at the library has been a particularly challenging and exciting process. Your idea is actually great, I will try to think of a way to adapt it to our reality. I´ve been thinking of very pedestrian things, of math problems involving visual stuff, such as different coloured balls, which might be substituted by fragrant things, maybe spice baggies. But it is hard to find anything on this subject, it is all so new, at least in my country.
        Whishing you a beautiful wedding, a great trip to London and a happy married life, with all the dogs! August 6, 2014 at 8:49am Reply

        • key change: Thank you! I am especially excited to hear that you guys are building an accessible collection at the library. everyone deserves to escape through literature. August 6, 2014 at 12:13pm Reply

  • Caroline: Thanks for an interesting post! What scent were you faithfully using at guide dog school, and what’s your preferred fragrance category? August 6, 2014 at 8:26am Reply

    • key change: At guide dog school I was using “Yellow Diamond” by Versace, and it was kind of fitting, as I was paired with a yellow diamond of a guide dog indeed. As for my favourite scent category, that’s a tough one: I tend to like orange blossoms and green or white florals for the spring and summer, and spicier, slightly darker irises or violets for the fall and winter. actually, there seems to be an iris-shaped hole in my perfume wardrobe at the moment, so perhaps it is that void that will be filled in by my purchases in London! August 6, 2014 at 8:36am Reply

      • rainboweyes: That iris-shaped hole needs to be filled :) !
        If I were in London, my first trip would be to Harrods where I would try Knightsbridge – their Robert Piguet exclusive (an orris and leather combo, as far as I know). And make sure to explore the Ormonde Jayne line (her Orris Noir is one of my favourite winter scents), it’s not so easy to get them in the US!

        Thank you for sharing your story with us, Shermeen, it’s good to see our hobby from another perspective. I hope you’ll enjoy London and maybe visit Germany on your next trip to Europe? August 6, 2014 at 4:24pm Reply

        • key change: Thank you! I really hope I can get to even half these places, depending on how easy they are to find. I agree that that iris shaped hole needs to be filled asap. And I would love to go to Germany–my fiancé and I are hoping to head out that way someday for sure. August 6, 2014 at 4:30pm Reply

  • Selina: Hi Shermeen!

    Great article!
    I know just where to go in London! There are several wonderful niche perfume boutiques in London, but by far my favourite (and completely worth the journey) is ‘Roullier White’, which is in East Dulwich, an adorable village within London which is worth the journey alone for all the lovely eateries, pubs and shops.
    Roullier White is AMAZING!!! They stock a long list of excellent perfumes, including quite a few British ones that are absolutely worth trying. Do check out ‘Union’ for scents inspired by parts of the British Isles – one of their perfumes even has a Marmite note!
    The ‘Londoner’ perfumes have a similar concept. But my absolute favourite perfumes from the UK have to be ‘4160 Tuesdays’ – please try ‘The Lion Cupboard’ – which is completely addictive – and the perfume I always get the most comments on!
    The best thing about this shop is that they are absolutely delighted to chat scent with their customers all day long, and will happily take you through hundreds of scents! They also happily provide testers to perfumistas as they understand the need to try before buying – which floored me. Virtually no where else in the UK seems to do this anymore!
    And lastly if you want someone to go sniffing with in East Dulwich – give me a shout – I have a pretty dreadful nose frankly but still love perfume (and know what I like at any rate) and would be delighted to show you around my local area!

    -Selina August 6, 2014 at 8:42am Reply

    • key change: Thank you kindly, selina! And I’m sure your sense of smell isn’t at all dreadful–knowing what you like is about 100% of the battle, as far as I’m concerned. And I may very well take you up on your offer to gallivant about your village with you! I’ve actually never heard of those shops at all, so I appreciate your bringing them to my attention. Are you far away from London? August 6, 2014 at 11:52am Reply

      • key change: whoops-just read your comment again and you’re within London, which is great. How on earth do all us commenters get in touch with each other though? LOL August 6, 2014 at 4:34pm Reply

        • Selina: Erm that is a good question isnt it?! I have an email i use just for spam -so I’m posting it on here (if it will let me) and you can email me on that – just give me a shout here too and I’ll go double check for your mail! Its: Tosca42@yahoo.com

          Yes i am in London and just up the road from East Dulwich too! August 7, 2014 at 8:31am Reply

          • key change: I’ll be able to get in touch after all. August 7, 2014 at 12:44pm Reply

  • george: Hi Shermeen, when are you coming to London, roughly where are you staying, and are there any perfumes or brands that are you particularly keen on smelling? August 6, 2014 at 9:14am Reply

    • key change: Hi George! I’ll be in London as of September 21st, and will be in London until the morning of the 24th, when my tour departs for all corners of the UK! (the fiancé and I decided that a guided tour would probably be better than cavorting about on our own and simply hoping for the best). We will be staying downtown somewhere–the Hilton was a possibility, although their nightly rates were a bit obscene, so we may be looking elsewhere. I am hoping to go to Les Scenteurs and Harrods, although navigating to and around those shops might be a little daunting, especially Harrods, I would think, as even sighted people say they find the massive sprawl a bit overwhelming. Are you in London also? August 6, 2014 at 11:55am Reply

      • george: Yes, I’m in London. I would recommend Les Senteurs and Liberty above all other places to visit: you will be getting the widest niche/ ranges within a sales space that is going to be the least overwhelming. I would maybe even phone beforehand in terms of Liberty, to get a good time to visit, i.e. when it is not going to be too busy (probably before lunch). The les Senteurs shops are spacious and in back streets and will be easiest to visit, whereas Liberty is in quite a busy area. Will your husband be accompanying you on your trip around the perfumeries? and are you looking to devoting an afternoon to your perfume hobby, or having just a quick pop in? August 6, 2014 at 1:24pm Reply

        • key change: Thanks for the suggestions. He will probably be coming with me, yes, mostly because I figure two blind people looking for a place is less stressful than one blind person! ha! and we do want to devote at elast an afternoon to it, just because I imagine I won’t have an opportunity like this again. Would you say les scenteurs, liberty, and harrods are fairly easy to get to using public transit? August 6, 2014 at 4:12pm Reply

          • george: They are all fairly easy to get to. If you are staying at the London Hilton Park Lane? you are a really short trip from Harrods and the two Les Senteurs shops, and you’d probably just get them to hail a taxi for you. They are each about 500 to 700 meters away. Fortnum and Mason is also really close, and Liberty is then a bit further on. Selfridges is also near the Les Senteurs shop in Seymour place, which has a really good range, although this is more a busy high-end department store than the more sedate surroundings of Les Senteurs. I didn’t know whether your husband was sighted or not, or if he was coming with you, so whether that would make things logistically easier for you or not. With the shops there is a certain amount of crossover with regard to brands. It depends where you are staying as to which set of shop would be the most suitable and easiest to get to. But also- for example- if there are particular fragrances or brands you want to smell. Are you able to have Arden with you? August 6, 2014 at 5:07pm Reply

            • key change: Thanks for being so thorough, George. My fiance is actually blind as well, and we’ll have our guide dogs come with us (they’re allowed to come everywhere, which makes our lives so much easier). I actually think our greatest challenge will be travelling to the stores themselves (depending on where we’re staying, although again we’re hoping to be fairly centrally located since location is everything), and for the busier stores especially, going from counter to counter. The SAs can be helpful in this regard, although sometimes they are committed to pushing their particular fragrance so you’ve got to grab the nearest passerby and get direcitons to another counter. and then of course you run into the following probloem:
              “Excuse me?”
              “Yes?”
              “I believe I’m in the fragrance department. Would you mind just quickly telling me what’s nearby?”
              “oh! there’s everything! what do you want?”
              What I really want is to know the names of the perfume counters around me, but people often want for me to know in advance exactly what I’m wanting to smell. And I can totally see why that would be more convenient and less burdensome for them, but how on earth do you discover unthought or unheard of gems that way? ultimately though, I’m determined to sniff out some amazing new fragrances for myself, whatever that entails! :) August 6, 2014 at 5:52pm Reply

              • key change: Some brands that I’m really hoping to sniff, though: Sl, OJ, Penhaligans, Tauer…and probably more that currently escape me. August 6, 2014 at 5:53pm Reply

                • george: Serge Lutens is in Les Senteurs and Liberty (export range only) Ormonde Jayne is in Fortnum and Masons, Harrods, and has a boutique very near to Fortnum and Masons. Penhaligons has a boutique very near to Fortnums in Burlington Arcade. Tauer is in Les Senteurs. I’m going to see what I’m doing nearer the time, as I can definitely spare a couple of hours or so to show you from shop to shop if I’m free. I’ll ask V to pass on my email address to you. August 6, 2014 at 6:42pm Reply

                  • key change: Thank you so very much, George–seriously, the kindness in this community never fails to astound me. V did pass on your email address, and I will be in touch. August 12, 2014 at 10:55pm Reply

            • limegreen: Hi Shermeen — Just got back from London and would second George’s suggestion of going to a more sedate street and quieter space such as Les Senteurs. For me, as a visitor (but not a first-timer to London) London is hectic and getting around is challenging so a quieter less crowded space to smell fragrances is much appreciated. If you go, down the block from the Les Senteurs in Belgravia is Jo Loves, the new boutique of Jo Malone’s fragrances, not to be confused with the Estee Lauder Jo Malone. It is a small and narrow space, but very nice people and I mention it here because you may be interested in that I mostly enjoyed it as a tactile experience (creams and lotions applied with a paint brush). Enjoyed your column, thank you for a great read. You will love London, I hope. You will feel that you did not have enough time there! Something I considered and may be convenient for you was smelling for a while and then calling the shop later to have them ship the fragrances I decided on back to the U.S. (the cost of shipping offsets the VAT) Packing and carrying fragrances can be challenging if one buys more than a few! August 8, 2014 at 1:11pm Reply

              • key change: Thanks for the suggestions. yes, I think I am looking for a fairly calm shopping experience, although to be honest, my hope is to sniff as much as possible. I know I can’t have everything though–I might need to plan an entirely separate trip that revolves around perfume! I am glad you enjoyed London when you want, and am sure you’re right about feeling that I won’t have nearly enough time there. August 12, 2014 at 10:57pm Reply

  • Andy: Hey Shermeen! It brought me a smile to read this article, thank you so very much for writing. When it comes to anything I’m interested in, having a chance to hear from different perspectives is very important. For me, your story is very much appreciated in the perfume dialogue. I empathize with the difficulties that are added for you to keep track of samples and test at the perfume counter. However, it makes me very glad to remember that for so many of us, perfume holds such an inimitable draw despite differences in age, background, gender, disability, etc. August 6, 2014 at 9:33am Reply

    • key change: Oh, you are definitely right that perfume (and scent in general) and the love for it can really transcend just about anything, be it a perceived challenge or a disadvantage. I do love that so very much also. If I recall correctly, you are also very fond of loose-leaf tea. That is also one of my other obsessions! August 6, 2014 at 11:57am Reply

      • Andy: Yes, I love loose leaf teas. I’m especially partial to smoky Lapsang Souchong (in the cooler months), green (rather than darker) oolongs, and Darjeelings of all description. If you get a chance, I’d love to hear some of your favorites. August 6, 2014 at 4:07pm Reply

        • key change: Oh, I love me a good smokey lapsang for the winter months. I also tend to like darjeelings, chai, flavoured oolongs, keemuns, chai, a lot of the Taiwanese unflavoured tea (that’s been bitten by leafhoppers so the tea tastes like waffles!) and flavoured blacks. August 6, 2014 at 4:17pm Reply

  • briony: Hi Shermeen, thanks for a wonderful article and congratulations on your forthcoming marriage. I live in London and there are loads of great perfume shops to visit. As well as Roullier White you might like to try Bloom in Shoreditch. It has a lot of scents you can’t find anywhere else and the staff are lovely. For something a little different you might like to try Angela Flanders in Columbia Road which I think is only open on a Sunday although you can make an appointment for a Saturday which you might prefer. Then there’s my favourite department store Fortnum and Mason – it’s less busy than the likes of Liberty, Harrods and Selfridges and has a great selection. While you’re in Piccadilly you could also visit Santa Maria Novella round the corner in Piccadilly Arcade. Then there’s also Ormonde Jayne in Royal Arcade just off Old Bond Street. August 6, 2014 at 9:37am Reply

    • key change: Briony! wow, my head just exploded with all the possibilities. Thank you so much for all the suggestions. I’m going to try my best to figure out which stores are must-visits, and then see if a combination of good planning, helpful strangers, and my guide dog’s “mad skills” can get me there. It all sounds like a perfume fantasy. I am becoming increasingly impatient to get married and head over there! August 6, 2014 at 12:00pm Reply

  • Aurora: Hi Shermeen:

    Thank you for a wonderful post. It made me pause and think.

    About your trip to London: Bloom near Spitalfields Market have knowledgeable staff. They will make you samples to take home with you to decide if you like a scent well enough to purchase. They do only niche lines and some are quite costly but others affordable.

    Also, Penhaligon’s staff is usually gracious and patient – the store I know is the one in Burlington Arcade.

    Have a wonderful trip! August 6, 2014 at 9:48am Reply

    • key change: Thank you so much for all the suggestions. And here I thought I knew exactly what I wanted–I didn’t even know about half these options. ;) August 6, 2014 at 12:01pm Reply

  • Elisa: Hi Shermeen, thank you for telling your story! Have you tried relabeling your samples with a Braille label maker? Just a thought. Enjoy London! August 6, 2014 at 10:24am Reply

    • key change: Hi and thank you! I have thought of using braille, but the broblem is that braille is often much bigger than even the sample vile itself, making attaching a label really cumbersome. I have, however, found a digital solution! It’s called the “pen Friend Talking Labeler” and it allows you to record an audio clip that is then associated with a tiny sticker with a bar code on it. Then, when you wish to identify a given object, you touch the tip of the pen to the lable, and it reads out the label you’ve recorded that’s associated with the specific bar code. Fancy stuff, and it’s been wonderful for me! August 6, 2014 at 12:04pm Reply

      • maja: What a wonderful solution , those vials are always so tiny, you’re right!
        I would like to thank you for the truly inspiring article and to wish you the greatest trip to London ever. :) August 6, 2014 at 4:46pm Reply

        • key change: Thanks so much, Maja! August 6, 2014 at 5:54pm Reply

      • Elisa: That’s so neat! August 8, 2014 at 12:07pm Reply

  • Selina: P.S. Briony and Aurora have mentioned some other fantastic ones there too – but one none of us have mentioned thats also worth a visit is ‘les senteurs’. Have a great time! :-D August 6, 2014 at 10:43am Reply

    • key change: Oh yes, a les scenteurs visit feels quite mandatory. August 6, 2014 at 12:05pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I loved this post. It contains 2 of my favourite subjects, dogs and perfume. And in my life they reign in that order. What you describe about being more aware of your other senses makes a lot of sense. Your brain has adapted, which is a wonderful thing in itself.
    I share your frustration with perfume SA’s. I have never shopped for perfume in London myself but it has the flagship store of Ormonde Jayne, which I would love to visit myself. I wish you a wonderful wedding and a great fragrant honeymoon. Oh and please give Arden a big hug from a Dutch dog lover! August 6, 2014 at 11:23am Reply

    • key change: Arden is definitely a fan of Dutch dog lovers! or of any dog lover, for that matter. And yes, it’s quite remarkable what our brains are capable of adapting to, isn’t it? And thanks for the well wishes for our honeymoon. August 6, 2014 at 12:07pm Reply

      • Austenfan: You’re welcome. Browsing through the comments on your post I noticed that no one so far has mentioned that there is a Parfums de Nicolaï shop in London. I’ve never visited there myself but I’m a huge fan of the line and enjoyed my visit to one of their Paris shops a few years ago. August 6, 2014 at 2:58pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: what an impressive story, thank you for sharing. I admire the way you accept your blindness. I know some people with serious disabilities, and all of them have that strong character and optimism. They live a rich life, like you do.
    Maybe another time you will tell us how it went in London. I wish you a wonderful wedding and happy sniffing! August 6, 2014 at 11:48am Reply

    • key change: Thank you for the compliment! although to be completely candid, I’m of course not always optimistic–just ask my family! but yes, I’ve found that in all cases, acceptance seems to create the least amount of friction, although accepting one’s circumstances can often be among the toughest things to do (especially because it’s so easily confused with being complacent). And I’d be happy to update you guys about my scented honeymoon, should I be privileged enough. Writing this and talking to all of you has been so much fun! August 6, 2014 at 12:10pm Reply

  • Phyllis Iervello: Shermeen,

    I also was in Los Angeles in late June to visit with my oldest son. He had plans as to what we would be doing and asked if I had anything special I wanted to do in LA. I said my only request was that I wanted to visit the Scent Bar. It was the first thing I did in LA. So many perfume bottles in a cute little space…I could have spent he day there. It is a perfume lover’s delight and the staff was helpful, knowledgeable and pleasant. I wish I had a store close by like it. August 6, 2014 at 12:23pm Reply

    • key change: I’m so glad you had an opportunity to go there as well. it was such an incredible experience. And yes, I, too, wish I had a similar store nearby. I’m not far from Toronto, but even Toronto has nothing that would rival the scent bar. did you find anything you wanted to take home? August 6, 2014 at 12:30pm Reply

      • Phyllis Iervello: Yes I took home Linden by April Aromatics and also Comme des Garcons Do Son in Eau de Parfum. How about you? August 6, 2014 at 12:49pm Reply

        • key change: Oooh! how neat. I meant to smell more of the Cdg offerings than I did-there was just so much. I ended up buying “What we do in parris is secret”, although I also lusted after sl’s bois de violette and bas de soie. August 6, 2014 at 12:57pm Reply

      • Erin T: Shermeen: I was just waiting for you to say *where* in Southern Ontario you lived! This was a wonderful article, I so enjoyed its humour and insight. I wish you the best with your upcoming wedding and honeymoon. I am in Toronto and am a total scent geek. (Do you follow Now Smell This, as well? I post VERY occasionally there for poor, patient Robin K.) I would love to meet you if you get a chance to come into the city. While I’m a bit nervous about you being able to pick up on spilled Cheerios — there are a lot of spilled Cheerios in my house! — I’d be happy to trek about with you, and I have a van for Arden. Sadly, since Noor Boutique closed, we have nothing even approaching Scent Bar, but there are still some fun places to visit. August 7, 2014 at 10:51am Reply

        • key change: Hi erin t! I do read Now Smell This, and in fact I think it was the first perfume blog I found when I realized I had an addiction. I didn’t realize you were the same Erin! You are an excellent writer. I’m actually in waterloo, although I travel to Toronto at least a few times a month because my entire family lives there. we must absolutely get together, chereos and all! Arden would love to join us (especially because he got wind of the chereos), and is definitely at home on the floor of any car and doesn’t take up much space at all. I’ve always wanted a sniffing buddy! and I’m sad that Toronto once had a niche shop and no longer does, although i hear that some of the downtown Bays are pretty decently stocked. August 7, 2014 at 12:53pm Reply

          • Erin T: I went to the University of Waterloo for undergrad and still have a lot of friends in the area. Small world, as they say! You can email me any time at erintigchelaar at yahoo dot com, and we’ll organize time together – I can be very patient when it comes to sniffing and would love to have you and Arden as company. August 7, 2014 at 2:12pm Reply

  • Hamamelis: A big thank you from another Dutch dog lover for your witty and moving article. I almost always close my eyes when I want to consciously smell anything, or listen to something, I think many sighted people do this. As for dogs…my dogtrainer always has a big laugh (or sigh ) when people say your dog needs to look at you for you to have its attention. He has shown me many times that when my dog doesn’t see me she smells everything, if and what part of my body I am moving, and where to…but maybe you smell this too, when someone moves. Kind people here gave me lots of orangeblossom suggestions in the Strange Smell comments, including honeymoon appropriate ones.
    Lots of cuddles for Arden if he likes them, and wishing you a lovely time in England. August 6, 2014 at 12:31pm Reply

    • key change: Thank you! this blog has also been a great resource for my various smell-needs. I’m glad that a lot of sighted people close their eyes when they wish to not have their sight distract their other senses. I always remind sighted people that it’s not that I have better other senses, it’s just that I pay attention. everyone can do it. :). August 6, 2014 at 1:00pm Reply

  • Gían: Shermeen, thank you so much for sharing this article. I myself am profoundly hearing impaired & I must wear a hearing aid. I’ve been hearing impaired since I got sick at a tender young age. When everyone around me is chatting away & being social, I’m often left to live alone inside my head. I’ve learned that I alone must endeavor to make my world as rich & enjoyable as possible. I’ve found that fragrances (in perfumes & in nature) have contributed significantly to colouring & enhancing that world I’ve been forced by circumstances to create for myself. The heady & potent scent of Stargazer lilies can act as a sort of natural opiates & bring upon me a subjective sense of euphoria for when I feel down & lonely. Therefore the discovery of SL Un Lys & of DK Gold were such a thrilling find & with them I can bring on that feeling whenever I feel the need! Perfumes indeed act to help fill the void my ears have left. I feel that more than most, you can inherently understand the important role that scent plays in my life, my “world”, & in my happiness. I assure you most people in my life don’t understand that my intense interest in perfumes & my willingness to spend precious sums of $ on them is not just a “quirky hobby” but a very real need to enhance the reality of my life by filling in the silence that surrounds me almost as much as my hearing aid does. August 6, 2014 at 2:21pm Reply

    • Anne: Gian, we share the same love of Stargazer Lilies…I must check out your two suggestions! August 6, 2014 at 2:59pm Reply

      • Gían: Omg- you must! SL Un Lys is pretty much straight-up hot house Lilies with a soft vanilla drydown- a true solifleur. Whether you find that suffocating or narcotic will depend on how much lily you can take. DK Gold, on the other hand is cooler & has much more notes swirling around it but that lily note is quite prominent & unmistakable & it has more of an amber-y drydown. I love them both dearly. So please, as a fellow lily lover, try them both & let me know what you think! August 6, 2014 at 3:15pm Reply

        • Gían: BTW, it is my dream to own a bell jar of Un Lys (I don’t own any bell jars, actually but if I could that would be the one I want!)– but I am not unreasonable & I flatly refuse to pay the $300+ price to get one in the US so… Until I get to Paris, I’ll make do with my now d/c’d export! I mention this only to highlight how much I love Un Lys! August 6, 2014 at 9:21pm Reply

          • key change: I hope you get to Parris soon so you can get your bell jar! I am really curious about what these jars look like now. You know, I don’t even have an sl perfume at all, and I feel that this is a matter of the utmost urgency. August 6, 2014 at 11:42pm Reply

    • key change: Gian, thanks so much for sharing all that with me. It is true that I understand that the love and pursuit of fragrance fills a need that goes beyond dablling in a hobby, and happily i think that can be said of so many of us who religiously follow these blogs. For me, perfume is another way to feel beautiful in a way that I myself can observe, and does not require my receiving validation from either a mirror (which I cannot do) or from a sighted person. I can create a scent image for myself, look in the proverbial mirror, and know that I look good today, too. I know that may come off as ridiculously shallow, but I must admit I’m not above vanity, LOL. Thanks again for your comments-that was really thought-provoking. August 6, 2014 at 4:26pm Reply

      • Gían: Omg- that is by no means swallow! We all want to feel beautiful! Vanity is part of being human (as long as you keep it in perspective) &, I feel, is a necessary trait that keeps us civilized. It’s complex, but true. So my dear, I’m guilty of being just as vain as you! After all, to be honest, a good part of my perfume hobby & the choices I make are geared towards eliciting reactions from others- if that’s not vain, I don’t know what is! There! I said it! August 6, 2014 at 5:50pm Reply

        • key change: Oh, it’s definitely an element of my love affair with perfume! and you’re right–vanity is important. Or rather, I’m just so glad we can all partake in things that make us feel attractive. we’re in good company here. August 6, 2014 at 5:58pm Reply

  • Anne: Shermeen, Thank you for this, and congratulations on your upcoming marriage! If we were on “the same side of the ocean”, a trip to experience fragrances with you would be a supreme treat! August 6, 2014 at 3:01pm Reply

    • key change: Thanks for saying that, Anne! One can’t have too many “real-life” perfume friends! August 6, 2014 at 4:27pm Reply

  • key change: I need my own London perfume shopping agent. I didn’t even know about all these other stores-wow! August 6, 2014 at 4:28pm Reply

  • Melissa: I have loved this article and all the wonderful comments. Shermeen, you are lovely and inspiring and I love your astute scent- knowledge. Thank you for writing this, and thanks for engaging in this discussion with everyone! August 6, 2014 at 5:11pm Reply

    • key change: Thank you, Melissa. But really I am the lucky one. I’ve always read this blog and wished I could somehow connect with all of you guys, and because of Victoria, it’s happened! August 6, 2014 at 5:59pm Reply

  • Kat: Hi Shermeen!

    Thanks for sharing your perspective and describing for us your lovely relationship with Arden, as well. I can certainly relate to the feeling of being a “perfume addict”, wanting to test as many samples as possible and sharing that passion with others who are just as excited about new discoveries as I am! :)

    Nice to hear that you enjoyed the Scent Bar and I’m wishing you the very best on your upcoming trip to London–congratulations on your wedding! p.s. my pup is named “Daisy”, but not after the Marc Jacobs perfume…hehe…. August 6, 2014 at 6:05pm Reply

    • key change: Hi Kat! Daisy is a great name for a pet. you know, I’ve always wanted to name something–be it a child or a pet, and I always thought I’d like to name the pet something perfume or tea-related. Thank you also for the good wishes! August 6, 2014 at 6:34pm Reply

  • kaori: A great post! Hoping you have a wonderful stay at London. Let us know your marriage fragrance :) August 7, 2014 at 12:43am Reply

    • key change: Hi Kaori! thank you. I will be sure to let you guys know what I get when I’m in London. For the wedding itself, I think I’m going to wear Un Matin D’Aurage. It seems so fitting for a wedding. August 7, 2014 at 12:56pm Reply

  • jillie: Hello, Shermeen, and congratulations on your inspiring post. It made me so happy to read it.

    As an ex-Londoner, I would like to endorse George’s recommendation of Les Senteurs. It’s a great shop with really friendly people, and I have been a contented customer of theirs for more years than I care to say, both in person when I lived in London, and now as a “virtual” buyer. They are always so helpful on the phone or in person.

    Hope you have a wonderful time in my old home town! August 7, 2014 at 3:12am Reply

    • key change: Thanks, Jillie. It sure seems that everyone is thrilled with the people and the perfume at Les Scenteurs, and so I’m pretty much 100
      % sure i’ll be going there. And I’m so glad reading my post made you happy–being able to connect with all of you has made me happier still. August 7, 2014 at 12:59pm Reply

  • Tippie: Hi Shermeen,
    Thank you for the wonderful article! If you’re in London and have time, visit Bloom perfumery in Spitalfields and Angela Flanders, also nearby. Angela Flanders is an independent perufmer and Bloom have rare perfume brands like Vero Profumo, Etat Libre d’Orange and Jovoy (any many others. Their staff are wonderful too.
    May I ask what perfume you have assigned to be your “London” perufme? August 7, 2014 at 5:14am Reply

    • key change: Thanks for the suggestions, tippie! Actually, my plan (though it feels daring and borderline absurd to me) is to go to London with no perfume at all (I told you it was absurd) and then pick out my honeymoon scent while i’m there (you know, along with some other perfume to bring back). It’s nuts, isn’t it? I don’t think I’ve ever left my house for even one overnight stay without taking at least some perfume with me. For the wedding itself, I think I’ve settled on Un Matin D’Aurage. August 7, 2014 at 1:02pm Reply

  • Domestic Goblin: Hello Shermeen,

    If you ever decide to move to the United Kingdom, I would be more than happy to accompany you on a sniffathon!

    I’ve never smelt Un Matin D’Aurage – that will be next on my list to sample.

    Hope you enjoy your trip to London. August 7, 2014 at 2:50pm Reply

    • key change: Thank you! I am really looking forward to it. and I do hope you enjoy un matin D’Aurage when you get around to sniffing it. and I’d love to move to the UK someday, I think! August 8, 2014 at 8:24am Reply

  • Fae Dussart: Hi Shermeen, if you are planning to visit Les Senteurs, I think the Seymour Place branch is great and not usually too busy. If you go on a Saturday the lovely Laurin should be working – she’s knowledgable and passionate about all things perfume related! August 8, 2014 at 6:32am Reply

    • key change: Thanks. Yes, that’s the location I intend to visit, and I’m so looking forward to it. I’ve heard such lovely things about pretty much everyone who works there :) August 8, 2014 at 8:25am Reply

  • MontrealGirl: Hi, I love your idea of going sans-parfum to London and then finding something while there. I did that when I went to the south of France and now that perfume always takes me back to the town and memory. A friend of mine is about to get married in New York and I decided on giving her a gift of orange blossom perfume as there is a lovely old tradition of brides wearing orange blossoms in their hair. I selected Jo Malone’s Orange Blossom which is very simple and quintissentially British. Perhaps their store in Covent Garden on King Street might be of interest to you too? The other very British brand I would visit is Penhaligon’s flagship store in Covent Garden on Wellington Street and the ambiance sounds charming. August 8, 2014 at 7:54am Reply

    • key change: I’m so glad you approve of my idea. I just figured I’d go “scent-naked”, so that nothing I take with me inadvertently gets associated with a place I am so excited to visit. I also love JM’s orange blossom, and think it would be a lovely gift for a bride. Thanks also for the suggestions of british perfumeries. I don’t know nearly enough about penhaligons, but I hope to remedy that. Do you think the flagship store has much more to offer than, say, the penhaligons counters at places like Liberty and Harrods? August 8, 2014 at 8:28am Reply

  • SophieC: Hi Shermeen thank you for the incredibly interesting and well written article and for sharing your love of perfume with us!

    I would recommend a visit to Jo Loves which is just on the same street as the Elizabeth Street branch of Les Senteurs, if you go there.

    I went myself for the first time last Saturday after meaning to for a long time and it was a wonderful experience. I walked away with-unexpectedly-a bottle of Pomelo and I might actually use a lot of it.

    Also agree Fortnum and Mason is wonderful and I hope you have a perfect wedding and a wonderful honeymoon. London should be delightful in late September and could be sunny just turning into autumn – one of my favourite times of year there. August 8, 2014 at 8:35am Reply

  • Tiffanie: You’ve shared a wonderful perspective on the importance of fragrance as part of identity, and the value of beauty in our lives. Thank you. Recently I lost and regained much of my sense of smell due to medication. It was an interesting, frustrating, and strange experience, and it reawakened my lifelong affection for fragrance. I wish you and your new family much happiness. And I hope you find a perfect, precious fragrance to mark your time in London. August 8, 2014 at 8:27pm Reply

    • key change: Oh wow, I can’t imagine losing my sense of smell for any amount of time, although I suppose that’s probably how most people feel about losing their sight, also. Needless to say, I’m so happy you regained it. Did you find that the experience had an impact on your scent preferences at all? August 12, 2014 at 11:05pm Reply

  • MaureenC: Persolaise, an excellent UK perfume blogger has produced a comprehensive guide to perfume shopping in London which I have found really useful. It includes many of the suggestions above plus many more including several options in quieter streets and with helpful staff. This is the link but if it doesn’t work just go to his website!
    http://persolaise.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/london-perfume-shopping-guide.html
    Wishing you lots of fun in London August 10, 2014 at 2:34am Reply

    • key change: Thanks for that link! what a great resource. August 12, 2014 at 11:06pm Reply

  • Absolute Scentualist: Coming to this article a bit late, I can relate to so many things. I, too, am almost completely blind and have practically no functional vision since my very early birth as a micropreemie. As a result, I’ve grown up finding ways to adapt and manage lots of tasks (labeling decants is still a challenge however lol), and find that pleasures for my other senses are a great way to experience and remember special moments my eyes can’t discern. Being part of the perfume community since ’05 has been so fun and it never ceases to amaze me how much many of us have in common despite differences in location, upbringing or even the function of our senses.

    The specific scent of various locations and times of year (early autumn near Lake Michigan is one of my favorites), the olfactory snapshots I have in my head (what perfume I wore on my wedding day combined with how my dress felt, the soft peachy nuzzle and smell of my children’s newborn heads, the combined smell, sound and energy of a specific party) are always there with me and I can relive many of them again with a trip to my perfume cabinet.

    The biggest challenge I face as a blind perfumista would be tracking down vintage/reissued/repackaged fragrances. There are several older or discontinued perfumes I’d like to acquire but obtaining a specific vintage can be difficult since I can’t describe the bottles. Sometimes I’m able to get help, but for some fragrances like vintage Opium or my original beloved Miss Dior Cherie, it can be tricky. Thankfully I’ve made lots of amazing friends in the fragrance community who’ve shared some beautiful and intriguing finds that may have passed me by otherwise.

    Especially as a mom of young children, I find a little me time with tea, a lovely candle and nice spray of perfume goes a long way to helping me recharge during their nap time or once they’ve gone to bed. And it is fun to teach my kids how to appreciate the world with senses they might not pay as much attention to otherwise if they don’t stop to smell, touch and even sometimes taste the roses. August 11, 2014 at 6:31pm Reply

    • key change: Yaaay! I knew there had to be other blind perfumistas out there. I know what you mean about using your sense of smell to help paint pictures for sighted people as well, and I’m sure your childrens’ experiences will be all the richer for it. And I’m not at all surprised that the people in the fragrance community have been really helpful in looking for vintage bottles. And now I want to smell the fall near lake Michigan! August 12, 2014 at 11:09pm Reply

  • Adriana Galani: Hey Shermeen! So lovely to have seen this article. Wonderful writer You are, proving the right amount of being spontaneous keeping the reader with the smile all throughout! Now well, we are sailing in the same boat, in all aspects. And o, how many times my “extra” trained olfactive skills have backfired me when I felt really bad smells around no one else did. Gosh! And what to do? Shall I tell the fellow in the bus “hey man, go for better stuff than Chinese shoes as U may kill your dog in case u have one?” No way. Then I say a little prayer, remembering that beautyful request I used to make to myself in conferince halls during my studying – “would U mind holding your breath for a while?”- and get off with inlightening spead!
    Yes the experience of buying perfumes can get for us into a very frustrating process. I had to deal with shop assistants telling me something like “o my, don’t get that, it is too strong”, or “buy this, it has such a beautyful pearl color”. And me thinking, “a visit to my cabinet?” I am a psychologist You see.. But end of the shopping day I sometimes feel really odd for not being able to pick up what I want because the little Mam thinks is too strong and tells me how many men will keep sniffing me if I buy some God’s forgiven stomach fruty stuff. And who on this Earth mentioned I wish to be “sniffed” by the way? But all this is in vane. I stopped asking about colors of bottles but I do enjoyed their shapes when no plastic flowers are applied because that puts me off totally! One of my high favorit bottles is D’Une, followed by that retro looking Infusion d’Iris. And well, yes, once the juice was good but the bottle had a strange feel which didn’t apeal to me and that has been Omnia Crystalline. I love that one for the amount of iris inn there but the bottle is a real no for me and God bless my inability, can’t say why!
    In terms of fragrance taste, I guess I am a bit more on the heavier side than You and, even if I am blamed for loving the wrong perfume, for the time being I am stricked to Dahlia Noire EDP which I never thought it can be used in summer. But in Vienna is rainy, so it works wonderful.
    Anyway, please do keep in touch and make it to Vienna too, I’d be glad to go shopping with You and put some shop assistants into some beautyful “nervs trial”. We would be two, You see! I so wish for a shop where I am not right away pushed a strap in front of my poor nose with the newest trend. Uffff!
    Anyway, please do get my mail from Victoria, let me know if U come to Vienna by happening and let’s get in touch! August 12, 2014 at 2:32pm Reply

    • key change: Hello hello! I will certainly be in touch with you! I literally laughed out loud because your descriptions about smelly people on the bus is so spot on. I always feel a combination of sympathy and horror, followed closely by being shocked that they don’t know they smell bad, and oh my the cycle just keeps going. And yes, I can absolutely relate to feeling pressured by all sorts of shopping assistants who will insist that such and such smells wonderful, or that “crystal noir” is a new fragrance from Versace (what on earth is it about people insisting that old fragrances are new? I imagine something is amiss in the training). My fiancé and I are very much in to classical music, so hope to make it to Vienna sooner rather than later. August 12, 2014 at 11:15pm Reply

  • Nati: Love this article! Love the way you write!
    I too have a condition that hightens one of my senses, in my case its only the hearing ability and its only sometimes that it happens but I hear too much, and yes I heard that car down the road, and the dog barking funnily at the house three blocks down. It’s annoying in my case!
    But I also could relate very much to you in the fact that Im very peculiar to what I feel or relive with a scent, and I dont quite find other people to talk with about smells. Id love to go with you on a sniffathon, but since I live in Brazil, thats going to take a while. But its funny how my emotions are reflected in the way I feel about scents. I guess to some point it is so with lots of people. I need to find them.
    Send my love to Arden please and let me know what are his favorite smells. November 1, 2014 at 9:50am Reply

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