Courtney: 3 posts

I'm a freelance journalist and author living in Boston, and I write about science, health, and culture for a variety of publications. I became enamored with perfume after wandering into a Diptyque shop several years ago and smelling Philosykos, which seemed much more interesting than the mainstream perfumes I knew. A quick web search on it led me to perfume blogs and reviews, and my journey went from there. I'm interested in the history and art of perfumery and the science of smell.

A Perfume Tour of Boston

Courtney takes us on a perfume walk around Boston.

At face value, Boston isn’t exactly a perfume destination. It lacks dedicated perfume boutiques like Aedes in New York or the Scent Bar in LA, and the culture of the city doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the celebration of fragrance (Bostonians have a bit too much Yankee practicality to fritter their energy and thought into perfume). But as a resident, I feel fortunate that I can try out a wide array of luxury and niche fragrances within a few subway stops, and if you find yourself in Boston there’s plenty of perfume to be found if you know where to look.

boston

The best part of the city for sniffing is Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, the center of shopping in Boston, with blocks of boutiques tucked into the brownstones of Newbury Street, as well the Copley Place and Prudential Center malls (adjacent to each other and conveniently joined by a sky bridge so you can shop your way from end to end in the winter without ever having to don your hat and gloves).

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In The Mind’s Nose : Olfactory Imagination

Courtney reflects on one of the best side effects of the perfume hobby–the ability to imagine scents.

I was sitting on the meditation cushion, feet tucked under my thighs, hands in my lap, back straining to keep from falling into its familiar bend. It was quiet in the airy meditation hall in Cambridge, save for the occasional rustles and shuffles of fellow meditators shifting position to keep a foot from falling asleep.

renoir

I had been to this center several times over the past few years, but I was not a dedicated practitioner. Some people mistakenly believe that meditation is relaxing (usually those who haven’t meditated much). In fact, meditation is tough. You try to keep your mind focused on your breath or some other object of attention, only to have it drift into thoughts, worries, and daydreams. Part of the meditation practice is learning to reckon with the random thoughts that pop into your head, the detritus of an over-busy mind.

But today, something new came into my mind—not a thought, but a smell. A very specific smell: Diptyque Eau de Lierre. I wasn’t wearing perfume because of the no-scent policy, yet here it was as if the smell was actually drifting into my nose. It had a distinct shape and character, a blend of watery green and sharp pepper. It was like the image of a person’s face.

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A Perfume for Every Occasion

Please welcome a contribution from Courtney Humphries, who will join us at Bois de Jasmin. Courtney is a freelance journalist and author living in Boston, and she writes about science, health, and culture for a variety of publications. I especially recommend her article for Wired, Engineering Replacements for Essential Perfume Ingredients. Courtney became enamored with perfume after wandering into a Diptyque shop several years ago and smelling Philosykos, which immediately captured her attention. As she describes, “A quick web search on it led me to perfume blogs and reviews, and my journey went from there.”  

Before I became a perfume lover, I regarded fragrance much the same way most of the people I know do: as an afterthought. Perfume was a functional product to help me smell good in social situations. I usually owned just one bottle of perfume, and if I remembered I’d spritz a tiny bit on before going out to a party or on a date. Just as often, I’d forget to put it on before leaving the house, so the bottle would languish on my dresser for months or years, until I tossed it in the trash (in those days I believed perfume “went bad” after a year or two).

candle-blue dress

When you own only one bottle of fragrance, your choices are minimal—you’re either perfumed or you’re not. For me, that decision depended on whether the occasion met a certain threshold of “specialness” that justified going scented.

But when I became interested in perfume, I began to see fragrance as a source of personal pleasure. I had to make a leap from what had been my “normal” way of thinking about perfume—that everyone needs just a single fragrance—to the quite radical notion that one can collect an entire wardrobe of fragrances.

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