Once upon a time I was bored at work and jonesing (North American slang for “strongly craving”). The Internet was still a fairly new presence in my life and the novelty only grew stronger as the web grew wider. In an effort to score some rare perfume, I stumbled upon a website that purported to offer the gentleman’s take on fragrance. At the time I had been swapping unwanted fragrances left and right over at Makeup Alley; I was also one of the very few gentlemen enjoying that community. Then I found Basenotes and it was like a fragrance junkie’s dream: It was kind of like starting high school or moving to a new city; I had just found a great group of friends, my first group of friends, but then suddenly discovered an entirely new group of people just as depraved and obsessed as I was who could offer me things I had never tried before. Score!
At MakeupAlley I had created some surprisingly strong bonds with other addicts but one of the main differences between the two sites was that Basenotes was primarily a fragrance discussion board comprised of men while Makeup Alley was more of a swapping board for cosmetics comprised of women. I quickly settled into my second home, splitting my time between the two almost like a man with a secret family out of town. I greatly enjoyed contributing to Basenotes, ca. 2003 as a community member and found Grant, the site owner and administrator, to be incredibly easy to work with. It wasn’t long before the big boss promoted me to a board moderator in 2004. And when I smuggled a huge find out of Singapore in 2005, overdosing on vintage ethanol, Grant published my story. When I was attacked by a 3-inch bottle of cologne at The Body Shop in 2006, Grant published my story. And now, almost ten years later, he’s agreed to help me tell the continuing saga of a rambling addict. I’m back, baby, and I’m STILL a fragrance junkie!
So, where the heck have I been and what has time offered? First of all, I’ve been around the world on a plane…a few times. I have mainly spent my time in academia and journalism and somehow completed a terminal degree (sounds so morbid) in humanities, started a few websites here and there, developed a perfumery, and contributed to a few magazines and journals. All the while, my addiction to fragrance has neither lessened nor been controlled. Since Basenoters have been so good to me, and I have been an addict for so long, I have decided to offer some sage yet possibly controversial advice as a way to kick-start this column. Leave me some comments at the end and let me know your thoughts. I’ll happily share some primo Forever Now by Gucci & Villoresi to the slickest commenter. Ok, let me just get a quick fix of something (spritz, spritz…..sniff, inhale, hold it, dissect it, let the memories rush back….and…..exhale)…and here we go!
No matter how addicted you are to a fragrance, you’ll go off it. Here’s why:
- At some point, life will lead you down a thorny path while wearing your favorite fragrance. This will cause an unsettling negative association with your once favorite aroma making it difficult to fully enjoy ever again.
- The manufacturer of your favorite fragrance will decide in their infinite wisdom that because only you and a woman in Taiwan actually buy the fragrance, they are no longer interested in producing it.
- Product ingredients will become either protected or cost-prohibitive leading to a reformulation of your favorite scent albeit with exactly the same name, this time with notes of popcorn and pink pepper!
- Your evil brother-in-law went to eBay and ordered your signature scent for himself and wore it to your wedding. You now need a new signature scent.
Never, ever buy a fragrance at full price without having sniffed it or tried a sample. Here’s why:
- I did the math: only one in twenty blind buys are successful. Trust me.
- There are ALWAYS ways to find samples. Try a web search for “fragrance decants”…tah-dah!
- Swap for it. That’s right, join a Facebook group, visit the Basenotes Marketplace, or do a web search for “fragrance swap”. Many times, you’ll find other people just as crazed as you are about something new and you’ll likely be able to find someone who has it, doesn’t want it, but wants what you have but don’t like (see #1 above).
- Go in on a split. Join a Facebook group, visit the Basenotes Marketplace, or do a web search for “fragrance split”. Many times, you’ll find other people just as crazed as you are about something but who also can’t afford a full bottle.
- Eventually, and especially if it is a department store designer scent, it will end up 50-70% off at discounters within 12 months.
We don’t speak the same language so beware of fragrance reviews and advice! Here’s why:
- You say tomato, I say soap; you say potato, I say lawn chair. It constantly amazes me how people perceive and translate aroma. This is a process bound by culture and experience, not to mention physiology and sheer preference. Someone else’s rose is not your rose. And trust me, there are a lot of varieties of rose out there and they don’t all get you high!
- Returning to #2 above, when all else fails, get yourself a sample AND put the sample on your skin. It is truly amazing how a fragrance develops on your skin versus on paper or from bottle sniffing alone.
- Consider all of the scented items your nose experiences just from your body alone. Hopefully you’ve showered and washed your clothes recently. Those processes usually require soap and soap is usually scented. Maybe you put some lotion on your skin or a scented product in your hair. Are you wearing deodorant? All of these products contain aromachemicals that can influence overall perception of an aroma.
So what do you think, Basenotes friends? How did I do? Leave me a comment below!
Love, your resident fragrance junkie,