My Perfume Story : Andy

Andy, whose perfume reviews and tea articles we have been enjoying on these pages, shares a story of how he fell in love with scents.

Like so many others, I didn’t enter the world of fragrance in a contemplative tiptoe. Without plan, and against my better sensibilities, I plummeted into this universe in a headlong nosedive.

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Fully explaining my fragrance journey up to now is to tell a true love story though, which is to say that along with incredible serendipity and bliss, has not been without occasional doubt and darkness. Unforgettable is the exhilaration I felt when I first tentatively tested some perfumes, finding myself feeling at once both helplessly surrendered to and strangely in control of my own sense of pleasure. On the other hand, it’s hard to forget the misgivings that initially led me to look deeper into perfume in the first place.

Before I caught the fragrance bug, I had plowed into another topic, cosmetics safety, with equal fervor. As I quickly found out, lax U.S. regulations were allowing all kinds of personal care products to include potentially dangerous ingredients. Taking on the issue both enraged and empowered me, to the point that I wanted to know more not just about the broader issue, but the science behind these rogue ingredients. The one that occupied my attention most though, was “fragrance” or “parfum.” As a catchall term, the idea of a secretive blend that could contain hundreds of synthetic chemicals did sound pretty scary.

But then something changed overnight—I was reading about the creation of fragrances, and the history, the artistry, the amazing stories that went behind them hit a chord deep within me. And I started to spend my time divided, half of it in deep fascination reading fragrance blogs, the other half hating myself for actually enjoying “fragrance,” that dangerous, hidden ingredient that was so fraught with controversy. But when I visited fragrance blogs, and read of the deep passion and memories, the joy and dreams that the readers and writers attached to perfume, I knew deep inside that I wanted to know that feeling too.

It wasn’t until November of 2010 though that I really came to understand my place as a fragrance lover. I went on a second visit to an exhibit called Making Scents: The Art and Passion of Fragrance at Longwood Gardens, a botanical garden in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. As I slowed down to take a closer look at the exhibit, I found myself smelling everything: burying my nose in the ylang ylang, osmanthus, heliotrope, and enjoying every minute of it.

At some point along the way, my mother and I separated, and I found myself alone in a small, secluded room within the massive conservatory. Inside, a menagerie of scented plants on growing benches surrounded me—violets that smelled of strawberries, roses redolent of wine-soaked peaches, pungently aromatic herbs, lemon scented geraniums, narcotically heady orange blossoms—and the world around me all seemed to drop away. I sniffed my way through the room several times, my senses yielding to the utter ecstasy, entirely unaware of anything else. After some time, I managed to detach myself from that blissful place, but I left thereafter changed: with a far better understanding of myself, and how and why I could and should take part in the pleasures of fragrance.

As a lover of plants, it probably shouldn’t have taken me so long to find myself smitten by fragrance, but I am grateful for the journey I’ve taken, however circuitous. When I came home on that fateful November day, I looked back at the pictures I took, and one stood out above the rest, a shot of a single gardenia flower. The clarity of the photograph somehow didn’t match with the thick, creamy perfume I remembered so well, so I embellished it with effects until I found the scent and snapshot in harmony. Now, whenever I look at that picture, I smile in memory of the personal awakening that I experienced in surrendering to my love for fragrance. To have gone from a loather to a lover of fragrance is quite a transformation, and at times I have trouble believing it myself. But right now, I’m typing slowly—I just put a drop of A La Nuit on my wrist, to satisfy a jasmine craving—and I couldn’t be happier.

What inspired your interest in perfume? 

Photography by Andy Gerber

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87 Comments

  • Cornelia Blimber: Three little bottles in the shape of monkeys, containing eau de cologne. I was ± 5 or 6 years old.
    Always been a sniffer.
    Beautiful picture, Andy! October 29, 2014 at 8:07am Reply

    • Andy: I can just imagine those adorable little bottles. What a great introduction to scent! October 29, 2014 at 1:24pm Reply

  • Michaela: Wonderful post, Andy, just wonderful! Thank you for sharing.
    I am not sure… I’ve always loved the scents of flowers, jams, bread, fir tree, mama’s cosmetics, soap, wool, leather, sea, snow… anything. As for the childhood perfume, I remember I followed the trace of L’Air du Temps in the open as a dog whenever I caught it. Nothing comes close to that feeling, even today.
    But my recent interest in sampling every perfume I can started with some research on the internet about essential oils combos for cold process soap, a recent hobby of mine. I accidentally discovered this blog and I read on and on, and I experiment what I can, with great joy. I’m so grateful. October 29, 2014 at 8:27am Reply

    • Andy: At the time, I was doing the same sort of thing, making essential oil blends to scent handmade soaps and other products. While I was researching various oils, I stumbled upon Bois de Jasmin. As they say, the rest is history… 🙂 October 29, 2014 at 1:27pm Reply

      • Michaela: I found your perfume journey not very common and really interesting. Similarly, I was very aware of essential oils safety. Now I got the feeling the fragrance safety is highly exaggerated. October 30, 2014 at 5:22am Reply

        • Andy: I think it really is; in regards to phthalates, which are solubilizers that don’t actually contribute to what you smell in a fragrance, I think a definitive stance needs to be taken against their use. But this is not the issue that most regulators seem to be concerned about at all. Instead the focus is on arbitrarily limiting the use of specific aromachemicals and natural essences, which to me just seem to hurt the perfumers and all the customers who have come to expect that their favorite fragrances will endure. October 30, 2014 at 8:06am Reply

  • Martyn: Yes, as Cornelia says, it’s a beautiful picture, and “creamy” is exactly the right word to link fragrance and image. Well shot and well enhanced!

    Given your researches into what you describe as the dangers of otherwise-wonderful fragrances, how did you manage to square the conflict in your own mind? Or have you reconciled yourself to the potential risks as being risks worth taking?

    For my part, I deeply regret to way that so many fragrances have been re-formulated over the past few years to make them “safe”. Though my experience is limited, I feel they rarely compare favourably with the originals. Having said that, if one approached the re-hashes as though they were completely new, I think it would be a different story. October 29, 2014 at 8:38am Reply

    • Andy: Thank you! I still love looking at that photo, it brings so many happy thoughts and memories to me.

      Eventually, as I looked further into the matter, I realized that some of the research on ingredient dangers was rather inconclusive or contradicts itself. One argument for better ingredient regulation in the U.S. goes that our regulations must be too lax, because Europe has banned far more ingredients. One only has to look into some of the arbitrary E.U. and IFRA limitations placed on fragrance ingredients to take this argument with a grain of salt.

      I still worry about some ingredients used in fragrances, particularly phthalates (which I believe are not supposed to be used in fragrances sold in the E.U.) that from my understanding are used to aid in ingredient solubility. These seem to have more potent dangers, than, lets say, the aromachemicals you actually smell in the fragrance. Even if I am exposed to some phthalates, my feeling is that the precaution I take in preventing myself from being exposed to certain ingredients in other products is enough. October 29, 2014 at 1:39pm Reply

      • Hamamelis: In the EU 6 phtalates are not allowed to be used in children’s toys and children’s skincare products (baby shampoo etc.), because of the possible risk on fertility later in life, and the natural development of the child’s body (reproduction toxicity). October 29, 2014 at 2:24pm Reply

        • Andy: That’s what I thought, thank you for clarifying the matter. The research linking phthalates to developmental problems still makes me very dubious of these chemicals. October 29, 2014 at 5:11pm Reply

  • FeralJasmine: Wonderful post! I have always loved scents, and the memory that stands out is of gardenias in the front yard. The exquisite fleshy sweetness with undertones of the living earth around its roots…heaven! I remember once at about age 4 standing closer, then further away, then closer again, savoring the nuances that changed with distance. I still get weak at the knees for a fresh gardenia, and love realistic gardenia scents, although there are far fewer of those than meet the eye. October 29, 2014 at 9:41am Reply

    • limegreen: Feral Jasmine (great handle!) — I’m so curious, which perfumes have you found to be a realistic gardenia? I recently smelled Van Cleef & Arpels Extraordinaire Gardenia Petale and it’s close to that fresh scent (before the gardenia begins to brown around the edges). There’s one by a Hawaiian perfume company that is also quite realistic (after the initial alcohol blast, cough!) — Forever Florals Gardenia. These two are at different ends of the price spectrum!
      (Some such as Lauder Tuberose Gardenia did not do it for me.) October 29, 2014 at 11:14am Reply

    • Andy: I really love that memory of gardenias, thank you so much for sharing it. I did similar smelling “experiments” with other plants, like the hyacinths in my grandparents’ garden, when I was very young too. I had never thought much about these memories until I got into fragrance, and realized I’ve actually been a sniffer my whole life.

      P.S. I agree with Limegreen–love your handle! October 29, 2014 at 1:43pm Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: I like the gardenia note in La Panthère.
        And I remember fondly Morny’s Gardenia Talcum Powder. October 29, 2014 at 6:23pm Reply

        • Andy: I still have to try La Panthère, your mention of gardenia makes me want to seek it out all the more! October 30, 2014 at 8:09am Reply

    • Michaela: The picture of a 4 years old child experiencing gardenia is so cute! October 30, 2014 at 5:25am Reply

  • Michael: Thank you very much for the insightful and informative post, Andy! It’s nice to see a man being able to appreciate florals like gardenia and jasmine. If I’m not mistaken, most men tend to align themselves along the conventional (ie woddy, chypre or spicy) genres.

    A friend of mine has recently “discovered” fragrance, and he is currently using Bleu de Chanel eau de parfum as his signature fragrance. I was wondering if you (or anyone else on here) could recommend a “starter” list of perfumes that he could try out, as his tastes tend towards the more conventional end of the spectrum.

    Thanks in advance! October 29, 2014 at 10:05am Reply

    • angeldiva: Hi Michael,
      If I were a man I would begin with Guerlain Imperiale. I first smelt it on a jet set Frenchman at the The Top Of The Mark in San francisco.
      It’s not too heavy- I wore it myself for years. Truly splendid scent-not toooo expensive.
      P. October 29, 2014 at 1:54pm Reply

    • Andy: I think most men align themselves to whatever the trend in fragrance is for–indeed, woods, spices, etc.

      And conventional fragrances don’t have to be boring! While Bleu de Chanel isn’t all that interesting, it’s very nice. Terre d’Hermes might not break any rules, but it’s beautiful, interesting, and easy to wear. Also, Bulgari Pour Homme and its flankers (Pour Homme Extreme, Pour Homme Soir) are polished and elegant, without smelling too trendy. I was just wearing Guerlain Vetiver the other day and found it very likable too, I think your friend might like it. He might try Dior Homme and Encre Noire too! October 29, 2014 at 1:58pm Reply

      • Jordi: Seems like Andy and I share tastes as I was going to recommend exactly what he did. If I was going to stick to chanel I would pick egoiste (original one,not the platinium) or anthaeus or stepping up with les exclusifs.
        I also would recommend Tom Ford gray vetiver, cartier declaration or guerlain’s homme ideal for a sweet alternative October 29, 2014 at 5:51pm Reply

        • Cornelia Blimber: Guerlain Vetiver is great, Grey Vetiver is elegant and easy to wear, Dior Homme is excellent, but if I were a conservative genleman, I would wear Pour Monsieur (Chanel), Mouchoir de Monsieur (Guerlain) or Equipage (Hermès)! October 29, 2014 at 6:28pm Reply

        • Andy: Such great recommendations–I sometimes forget how lovely and easy to wear some of the Tom Ford masculines are. October 30, 2014 at 8:10am Reply

    • Michael: Thank you very much for the recommendations. I decided to be brave and introduce him to two of my favourite Chanel Les Exclusifs – 31 Rue Cambon and Cuir de Russie. He liked the former but is positively enamoured with the latter! I will wait to find out how his body reacts to perfumes with vetiver as the main ingredient (I’m unable to wear them as they turn sour on my skin) but I was thinking of recommending Frederic Malle’s Vetiver Extraodinaire. I’ve also given him a few Miller Harris samples to try out as they could be good for everyday use. I was thinking of Diptyque’s 34 Saint Germain range as well as Phylosikos and Volutes might work on him too. Any thoughts/opinions? October 29, 2014 at 8:22pm Reply

      • Andy: All of these sound great! I wasn’t thinking along the lines of more conventional niche fragrances, but all of these are safe and likable without smelling like “the next big thing” at the men’s fragrance counter. October 30, 2014 at 8:12am Reply

      • Jordi: Vetiver Extraordinaire is indeed extraordinary I find it extremely fresh and very easy to wear. Sycomore and Bois des Iles were my other preferences in les exclusifs although Cuir de Russie is also great. If we were to introduce him to another kind of masculine fragances I would show him also Habit Rouge (Guerlain) and Musc Ravageur (Frederic Malle) October 30, 2014 at 2:39pm Reply

    • Nati: My favorites for men are Egoiste Chanel and Dior Homme! October 29, 2014 at 9:39pm Reply

  • limegreen: Thank you for sharing, Andy! You neglected the “obsession” facet to the perfume love story. 🙂
    I, too, was (and still am) concerned about synthetics and preservatives in food and other nasty unnatural things abhorred by my family. I was interested in essential oils and only wore “pure” stuff like natural perfume oils because I was convinced I hated perfume with those “synthetics.” Typical know-it-all teenager! And my high school and college friends/classmates wore perfume that made me sneeze (or have a recoiling gag reflex) so it was “real” proof. Only years later did I learn that there are all kinds of perfume and the amount that is sprayed really matters!

    And, to be hoisted by my own petard, some of those “synthetics” are really pleasurable and I prefer them to “natural” perfume oils. I always loved smelling things, but because of the reeducation of my nose with perfumes, I find those oils so boring now! 🙂 October 29, 2014 at 11:05am Reply

    • limegreen: P.S. Beautiful image of the gardenia — almost ethereal, like its fragrance! October 29, 2014 at 11:06am Reply

      • Andy: Thanks! October 29, 2014 at 4:27pm Reply

    • Martyn: limegreen, I first became aware of the toxicity we’re discussing when I worked on a series of books about aromatherapy. It was said at the time, and I’ve no reason to believe that things have changed in the meantime, that many of what you refer to as “pure” stuff, natural perfume oils, can have quite serious harmful effects.

      Among these effects are that they can be emmenagogues (stimulate periods), abortifacients (can lead to abortions – but may be as harmful to the mother as to the fetus) and photosensitisers. As an example of the latter, I’ll quote a passage from this website: http://aromatherapytoday.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/photosensitivity-phototoxicity-and.html

      ==========

      “Citrus Oils that can cause Photosensitivity or photo-toxicity (sunburn much quicker and sometimes significantly more harsh than simply having sun exposure alone without essential oils on your skin):
      Lemon
      Lime
      Grapefruit
      Wild Orange
      Bergamot
      Tangerine
      There are a few other oils that can cause a similar effect that are not citrus oils which include:
      Angelica
      Cedarwood
      Neroli
      Ginger
      Cinnamon
      Clary Sage
      Patchouli”

      ==========

      It seems to me, however, that there are risks in everything we do, and quite often those risks (when seen in the light of the benefits that accrue from taking them) are exaggerated on behalf of some litigation scare or health-and-safety regulation. It won’t stop me loving and using scents. October 29, 2014 at 2:04pm Reply

      • angeldiva: Hi Martyn,
        Thanks for this list. I sprayed a scent with many of the notes in the first category. It burned wherever it landed. The burn didn’t last a real long time. Also, I always wear heavy sunscreens, so I didn’t toss the perfume out. I had bought it at Whole Foods.
        You really solved a mystery here.
        Peace October 29, 2014 at 6:08pm Reply

      • limegreen: Hi Martyn,
        Thank you for the list as well! I knew about the harmful effects of citrus oils (photosensitivity) and only use essential oils for house cleaning or airing the house. I never wore the essential oils. I used to wear floral perfume oils thinking they were “natural” but I don’t think they were pure, not at the prices I could afford — I was making fun of myself! October 29, 2014 at 9:57pm Reply

    • Andy: As we’ve discussed before, our own perfume stories share so many similarities. As I’m reading the comments, I realize that there are so many who at first thought they hated perfume, and then came to love it.

      I agree with you! Some synthetics are really beautiful and interesting, actually quite multifaceted. I went through a stage where I was mixing essential oils and some synthetics just to see what the effect was like, and it was there I discovered how synthetics can seem to harmonize a blend and help it “sing.” October 29, 2014 at 4:27pm Reply

  • anon: My experience was quite the opposite of yours. My love of perfume began at age three when I used to sneak into the bathroom to sniff my mother’s bottles. At age six I was finally gifted my own bottle and insisted on my own collection so every special occasion (Easter, valentines, christmas) was a reason for another bottle…after forty plus years I had emptied over 500 bottles of various fragrances….then my daughter began to research on synthetics in cosmetics and lo and behold, fragrance came up as a no-no. So at her request I began blending with essential oils to get my “daily fragrance fix”. Fast forward and my teeenage daughters have taken my “recipes” and are selling them at local shops as “essential oil perfumes”. Although I will sniff my vials of vintage perfumes of yesterday I no longer wear conventional /synthetic perfumes. However, I still honor the creativity and artistry that goes into making them. October 29, 2014 at 11:28am Reply

    • Andy: How interesting! I can understand your misgivings about synthetic fragrances and cosmetics entirely. I’ve come to develop a sort of middle ground on the issue, I like to think, and I’ve cut out a lot of products or ingredients I don’t want to be needlessly exposed to. It makes me so happy to hear as well that as someone who doesn’t wear commercial fragrances anymore, you’re still enjoying scent as enthusiastically as ever. 🙂 October 29, 2014 at 4:32pm Reply

  • Annette Reynolds: If we would only allow ourselves the joy of surrendering to beauty in any form, how our worlds would open up…

    This is a lovely post, Andy. Thanks so much for sharing your memories.

    I think my first memory of fragrance comes from my grandmother’s garden in Greece: I particularly remember the boxwood and the roses, both planted in the 1930’s. I think my fascination with perfume may come from that very same place: my grandmother’s dressing table. October 29, 2014 at 12:36pm Reply

    • Andy: How very well put, surrendering ourselves to beauty truly is an opening process.

      So many of my early fragrance memories come from my grandparents’ garden as well, and I can just imagine the joy that smelling those roses must have given you as a young child. When I recall my early scent memories, what stands out the most is not what I was smelling, but the joy it brought to me. October 29, 2014 at 4:40pm Reply

  • spe: Thank you for sharing your fascinating journey! My Mom loves fragrance and always smelled classy (First, Estee, Ysatis, 24 Faubourg). As you can see, I have quite a legacy to live up to fragrance wise! An interest in fragrances has always been with me. October 29, 2014 at 1:15pm Reply

    • Andy: How beautiful! My mother has never been a big fan of fragrance, but the fun part of delving into this topic of perfume is that slowly, I’m getting her to try and find fragrances she likes. Anyway, sounds like your mom has great taste! October 29, 2014 at 4:43pm Reply

  • Patricia: Great article, Andy! My interest in perfume started at my mother’s dressing table with great scents like Arpege and Chanel No. 5. October 29, 2014 at 1:57pm Reply

    • Andy: It sounds like you were destined to love perfume–you started with the classics! I’d be curious to know, do you ever like to wear No. 5 or Arpege today? October 29, 2014 at 4:46pm Reply

      • Patricia: No. I actually don’t like No. 5 for me, and I’ve never tried Arpege! October 29, 2014 at 5:53pm Reply

        • Andy: How interesting! October 30, 2014 at 8:14am Reply

  • lupo: Thanks for this post Andy, it is a beautiful little story. And the picture is just as you say – beautiful and creamy 🙂
    My passion for perfumes started when I was very little: I remember watching my father shaving and being impatient for the day to come when I could do the same. I was waiting for him to splash his aftershave to ask to get a few drops!
    I remember also going with my mother shopping for Christmas presents at the perfume counter and getting small samples for myself. My mother is still wearing the same perfume (K de Krizia) while my father was switching between Boss N.1 and (hear hear) Ysatis, which he was wearing proudly.
    Thanks for bringing back those memories! October 29, 2014 at 2:01pm Reply

    • Andy: I can’t get over your dad’s appropriation of Ysatis, what panache! I especially love the memory of waiting to get a few drops of aftershave for yourself though. I can remember that feeling when I was very young, of just wishing the day would come when I could finally shave too! October 29, 2014 at 4:49pm Reply

  • Hamamelis: Lovely post Andy. I think I was smelling things all my life, in nature, and in the kitchen, but I remember buying my first ‘perfume’, age 10 or 12, sweet violet, in a white bottle with little sweet violets painted on them. It smelled very very sweet! I remember my mother’s perfume, Diorissimo, as well as a solid perfume she had in a small box that looked like either a walnut or a small turtle, now I think it was Cinnabar. As a teenager I bought Blase by Max Factor, and Charlie! Then in my early twenties LouLou and Poison, but I was not deeply interested in perfume, it was just nice. Still later, like you Andy, my interest was primarily in scented flowers (Hamamelis), lavender, rosemary, thyme, different roses, honeysuckle….and also aromatherapy. I (still) always keep a bottle of very good Lavender essential oil on my desk, as well as Bitter Orange.
    After spending a holiday in the midst of an orange grove in bloom I started looking for the perfect Orange Blossom, and then I found Bois de Jasmin…and here I am, loving every step of the scented path. My love goes beyond Orange Blossom, but it is still very much a favourite note. October 29, 2014 at 2:36pm Reply

    • Andy: I remember seeing your first comment here this summer, when you said you had gotten back from your trip, and wanted to find the perfect orange blossom perfume to remind you of that special experience. I think you also mentioned having a connection to plants, and at that point I couldn’t help but be reminded of myself.

      Your might not have thought much about your perfume choices at the time, but today they sound great! Reading all the comments, I am reminded that some of us perfume lovers are like certain plants: sometimes we grow dormant before we finally burst into full bloom! 🙂 October 29, 2014 at 4:56pm Reply

      • Hamamelis: Yes, that is exactly what it feels like, a sort of Sleeping Beauty (surrounded by thick rose bushes) woken up by a scented kiss! October 29, 2014 at 5:40pm Reply

        • Michaela: The Sleeping Beauty image is genius! 🙂 October 30, 2014 at 5:32am Reply

        • Andy: Such a beautiful metaphor! October 30, 2014 at 8:15am Reply

          • Hamamelis: What is nice is that in Dutch Sleeping Beauty is called Doornroosje, Doorn=thorn Roosje=small rose (in Dutch many words end on ‘je’, a diminutive, examples are kopje=small cup, broodje=small bread and so on. Being a small country I suppose we love to make things small…) October 30, 2014 at 8:56am Reply

            • Andy: Wow, how fascinating! Thank you for sharing this. October 30, 2014 at 11:51am Reply

  • Annette: Andy, what a beautiful piece of writing! Thank you.
    I have never had any issues with “dangerous” ingredients or chemicals, so loving scents has never caused me to make any hard choices. Maybe I am just selfish or cold-hearted since I have no allergies and find it very hard do associate beautiful fragrances with “danger zone.”
    I think my earliest memories about scents are all connected with woods. When I was a child I loved putting a special “cone” into my bath and inhaling the lovely (most probably horribly synthetic) aroma of pines or firs that the melting cone gave off. My father was born practically in the middle of a coniferous forest and on each occasion I was there as a child, I always collected pieces of resin and smeared them on my fingers and sniffed like a dog:). The rest – as you so aptly put it – is history.

    BTW, I am wearing Sotto la Luna Gardenia today. Such a nice coincidence! I have never smelled a real gardenia and would love to, but this perfume stole my heart with its mushroomy, woody notes. And your photo is so delicious. Thank you again 🙂 October 29, 2014 at 3:59pm Reply

    • Andy: Now when I think about it, it’s hard for me to have that association of “danger” with perfume too. Your early memory of smearing pine sap on your fingers reminds me of something I liked to do as a child. I recall it always smelled great, but was impossible to remove!

      I have a sample of Sotto la Luna too, I can’t wait to try it. If you love gardenia fragrances, then just keep in mind that when you do finally smell the real flower, your heart will absolutely flutter with joy! October 29, 2014 at 5:02pm Reply

      • anon: Pine sap removes easily with alcohol and if you are experimental you can create an essential oil by melting it into a carrier oil…I just did this recently with a tree we cut down…it smells divine…I am going to add it to the next essential oil perfume I make….with alpha i (just ordered from mandy aftel) for the violet note and bergamot, violet leaf, anise, orris, sytrax,cassie absolute, lavender absolute, bourbon vanilla, tonka bean, opoponax, peru balsam, labdanum, ambrette seed and oakmoss….I would encourage all perfume lovers to experiment with essential oil blending….you would be surprised at what lovely essences you can create!!! October 30, 2014 at 8:42am Reply

        • Andy: Good to know about the pine sap. And your essential oil blend sounds so exquisite! At one point I loved blending essences with some isolates or synthetic molecules, the results can be really lovely and surprising. October 30, 2014 at 11:53am Reply

    • angeldiva: Hi Annette!
      Wow! MUSHROOMS. OMG lol I think that my sample of : Oriza L. Legrand- Chypre Mousse
      has this smell.
      I’m allergic to mushrooms and fungus.
      I consider myself one of the greenest of The Green (chypre loving) Girls on Bois de Jasmine.

      You can imagine my surprise! Like someone recently quoted Kermit The Frog,”It’s not east being green.”

      Now I can see that there are clearly scents that are in fact too green for me.
      These two were also in this haul:
      Comme des Garcons- Amazing Green
      Parfum d’Empire-
      Corsica Furiosa
      I can’t wear any of them… Something bad happens for me after the dry down.
      I mention this in Andy’s post because it’s just possible that on masculine skin these perfumes might just sing. They smell very masculine.
      Well, I’m learning more and more all the time. I’m grateful that I didn’t invest my money….esp. the Le Grand$$$
      I’m going to offer them to my house host when I go on vacation tomorrow:)
      Green Peace! October 29, 2014 at 6:26pm Reply

      • Annette: Hi, Angeldiva! I guess I am one of the lucky ones who are made of iron and totally devoid of allergies. 🙂 Give me mushrooms every day: fried, dried, even rotten – I’ll take them!

        So, yes, I can imagine it is not easy being green! 🙂

        And guess what! My full bottle of Sotto la Luna is on its way (hopefully this Saturday) together with some samples, one of which is Chypre Mousse. I ordered it precisely because it – reportedly – is very, very mushroomy.

        Green Peace to you too! And may odours be always in our favour 🙂 October 29, 2014 at 6:59pm Reply

        • angeldiva: Annette,
          Say no more! I’m dying to know how you like it. I don’t think I read a review of it here, but the narrative of the reviews that I did read were pretty heavily male. Should have been my first clue. A very butch Paul Bunion could wear this!
          Give me the now extinct Jovan Grass Oil any day. Waiting to receive my (unsniffed) bottle of Ma Griffe during my vacation in Palm Springs. I read that the same perfumer formulated my mothers’ Shocking Schiapparelli, so I don’t think I can go wrong.
          Boy, I cold use a post on Schiapparelli et al..
          I don’t know what the “Pinkenz,” line means at all. But, would love to purchase some for sentimental reasons. Here on the west coast you simply can’t find the reformulated Shocking. And, I can’t bring myself to spend $40. ++ for a sample bottle on ebay.

          P. October 29, 2014 at 7:53pm Reply

          • Annette: Angeldiva, shocking indeed 🙂 It seems the price of the perfume lives up to its name!
            Peace and safe (green) fragrances to you! October 30, 2014 at 8:59am Reply

      • Andy: I have tried Amazingreen, thought I’d love it because I adore green notes. However, I’m in the same boat! I don’t find it very green, but I find it difficult to wear. October 30, 2014 at 8:19am Reply

        • angeldiva: Andy,
          Wow! Thanks for sharing!
          P. October 30, 2014 at 1:26pm Reply

  • Nati: Andy you can’t imagine how much I identify with your words, and I feel a great affection for you now just because I could relate completely to all you have said and also the way you said it, which was so nicely put.
    I am too divided into the rage of changing things into more respectful and loving (and also idealistic sometimes) which is hard work these days and the simplicity of just enjoying life, the world and what it offers.
    Its hard to balance because sometimes we have to be brave, bold and angry; but deep down all our souls need is to be mellow and pleased.
    Perfume does that to me too, it renders my sense of fight and makes me a happier soul, this tired of bravery woman.
    I just want to delight myself in a field of flowers and enjoy.
    Thank you for your article. I wish I was there with you on the exhibit. October 29, 2014 at 4:04pm Reply

    • Andy: Thank you so much, Nati, for your very kind words. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Some might call me a dreamer, but I think we have to fight to transform what’s ugly and fearsome in our world and turn it into something beautiful and positive each and every day. It may not save the world, but a spray of perfume can do just that for me; render my doubts and fears unimportant, at least for a moment, and make me stop and feel beauty all around me. October 29, 2014 at 5:08pm Reply

      • Nati: Thats beautiful. And you know, I think this saves the world too. There’s a quote from Lord of the Rings I love, that Gandalf says: “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” (Tolkien)
        Xxx October 29, 2014 at 9:18pm Reply

        • solanace: I love that quote too! That’s it. October 30, 2014 at 6:40am Reply

        • Michaela: Gandalf knows! 🙂 Thank you for this quote! October 30, 2014 at 8:01am Reply

        • Andy: What a great quote! 🙂 October 30, 2014 at 8:20am Reply

  • rainboweyes: I can so much relate to your ambivalence regarding scent. It’s always the same dilemma – as I have a very sensitive skin, I only use the purest, organic body care products but at the same time I cannot resist wearing perfume, full of synthetic ingredients. I try not to spray it on skin, only on fabric, sometimes a drop on my wrist or in my hair. On the other hand perfume is such a great source of joy and pleasure that I simply cannot be without it.
    As to my scent journey, it started quite early in my childhood, perfume has always fascinated me. I remember spraying myself with my mother’s hairspray from head to toe – I mistook the mini bottle for perfume. My mother couldn’t figure out why my dress was so stiff… October 29, 2014 at 6:08pm Reply

    • Michaela: LOL! Sweet child discovering functional perfume 🙂 October 30, 2014 at 5:36am Reply

    • Andy: First of all, what a riot! I can just imagine your mother’s confusion upon finding that your dress had become stiff.

      And I’ve reconciled myself with the fact that there are dangers all around me every minute of each day. Taking some precaution in various aspects of my life (such with the personal care products I use) gives me enough peace of mind about the possible risks I might be taking in other parts of my life. I don’t let it get in the way of my enjoyment of fragrance anymore! October 30, 2014 at 8:27am Reply

  • Tourmaline: Hi Andy,

    Thank you for sharing this compelling and moving story.

    My interest in perfume was initially sparked by smelling perfume on my mother on the occasional evenings when she went out; smelling different fragrances on relatives, guests and babysitters; winning cologne in lucky dips, receiving gifts of bath products (soap, bubble bath, bath cubes & bath salts), hand lotion, talc and perfume; and seeing beautiful fragrance displays in shops.

    The first time that I fell in love with one particular fragrance, though, would have been in 1973, when I was aged 11 and in Grade 7 at school. My art teacher, an attractive young blond-haired woman who wore very colourful clothes including kaftans, trailed the most wonderful perfume that I had yet smelled. I asked her what it was, and she gladly told me the name and what it meant. However, years later, all I could remember was that the name was Japanese. The teacher was a smoker, so her perfume and the aroma of smoke were inextricably linked as a single fragrance in my memory.

    What elation I felt, 12 years later, on finding this perfume, learning that it was called Mitsouko, and being able to buy a bottle for myself. As I was in perfume heaven, sniffing my way through the Guerlain testers for the first time at David Jones department store in Brisbane, that familiar fragrance was unmistakable. Somehow my teacher’s smoke sillage had taken the edge off the fruitiness and made the scent seem cooler; however I still adored the original perfume. To this day, Mitsouko would have to be my favourite fragrance, and I can imagine it with a smoky leather note, bizarre as that might sound. October 29, 2014 at 7:44pm Reply

    • solanace: Beautiful Mitsouko love story. 🙂 October 30, 2014 at 6:36am Reply

      • Tourmaline: Thank you, Solanace.

        That is a wonderful way of thinking about it, and you’re right – it is indeed a love story! October 30, 2014 at 6:54am Reply

    • Andy: What an exquisite story, it read as if off the pages of a book. Actually, I wish all of us perfume lovers could get together and write a book of our fragrance stories and memories, it would make for such beautiful reading.

      I love that you were eventually reunited with Mitsouko, what makes the story especially touching to me is that it took just one sniff of the perfume for you to link the name and memory, and know it was the scent you had smelled before. October 30, 2014 at 8:31am Reply

      • Tourmaline: Thank you, Andy.

        Indeed, it would be fantastic to compile such a book; it would probably be the first of an endless number of volumes! At least we get to share our stories thanks to Victoria’s wonderful website and the blogosphere in general. But a book would be pretty special… October 30, 2014 at 7:18pm Reply

        • Andy: It really would be very special, yes! October 31, 2014 at 7:13pm Reply

  • solanace: Hey Andy,

    Thank you for sharing this lovely story. The gardenia picture is just beautiful. I guess I’ve always been interested in perfume. My aunt, who lived with us when I was little, had a bottle of Joy Extrait that was object of great reverence, and that caught my eye, or my nose, at an early age. I’ve been pretty paranoid about cosmetics for a while, but that did not lead me to the wonderful world of perfume blogs. This I blame on Chandler Burr and his old NYT collumn. But I still clean my face with olive oil, hydrate with jojoba and rose hip oils, and on my body, nothing beats coconut oil. Being a teacher and a mom with not much money to spare and a crazy taste for Guerlain and Amoauge, being able to use natural oils as cosmetics means more perfume, so everything is conciliated in my head! October 30, 2014 at 5:24am Reply

    • Michaela: I’m so happy to see I’m not the only one. I also use oils for cosmetics (coconut, olive, jojoba, sweet almond, apricot seed…) and I find them really good, and I also thought this approach enables my budget for more perfume adventures. October 30, 2014 at 5:42am Reply

      • solanace: Cheers! My skin has never been better, people even asked me if I had surgical work done. October 30, 2014 at 6:33am Reply

    • Andy: Sounds to me like you had a nose from an early age! And I agree, oils are such a thrifty way to care for the skin. Since you don’t have to use much, they last a long time, and even high quality cold pressed oils are not all that expensive. Plus they feel more luxurious and work more efficiently than any cream. October 30, 2014 at 8:34am Reply

  • Ariadne: Andy, savored your article several times. Thank you! A wall sized mural of your photo would make awesome décor too. October 31, 2014 at 10:10am Reply

    • Andy: Glad you enjoyed reading! 🙂 October 31, 2014 at 7:16pm Reply

  • Melissa: What a beautiful post, and a seriously stunning photo. Thank you, Andy! October 31, 2014 at 4:04pm Reply

    • Andy: Thank you! October 31, 2014 at 7:17pm Reply

  • Jaime: Andy,
    Your experience mirrors mine! I started off anti-fragrance because of all the research I was doing into cosmetics/bodycare product regulations and impact on health, but then somewhere along the way, I began to appreciate the complexity of perfume, and its ability to evoke memories and emotions. So now, perfume is one of my few chemical vices, but one that brings a lot of enjoyment and sense of belonging in the frag community. November 2, 2014 at 9:58am Reply

    • Andy: Wow! I have been amazed how many had such a similar experience to mine in discovering the world of fragrance. I’m glad to hear that you don’t let the “chemical” aspect of perfume scare you away from enjoying it to the fullest! November 2, 2014 at 2:58pm Reply

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