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Thoughts on Perfumes as an Obsession

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Thoughts on perfume

Beware, this is not an essay containing good structure of thoughts, nor will it bring enlightenment to anyone, it is merely a long personal train of thoughts.

After pursuing perfumes for now more than 3 years I find myself thinking about what they mean to me.
How comes that I spend most of the money I have to “spare” and sometimes even some that I cant really spare?
What is the point of having so many fragrances that a fragrance by fragrance rotation takes a good 2 and a half months before I have worn every single perfume I own?
Is it collecting, is it hoarding, is it a buying disorder?
Is it really about perfumes or is it about something else (I E the community)?
What, to cover the most essential question, is it, that has so many of us hooked?

First of all, I want to express how greatly I derive satisfaction from this hobby. I love wearing scents, I find the joy of divine smells to be tremendous. But most of all I value this board. The exchange of opinions and knowledge is one part, the community¬ itself the other. The contacts made here on BN as real as “virtual” contacts could ever be.
But to come back to my original questions BN has also been a corset of the way my obsession developed. I went from interested and enthusiastic when I first became aware of perfumes, over looking for the “best” perfume out there, over BN newbie, first time nicher, the collection evergrowing, up the point where I am now. Would I have ever vendoured out of drugstore territory? I cant really say. Would I prefer, say Clive Christian over Axe Dark Temptation, side by side? I’m not sure.

I am very happy to be where I am right now, olfactorily speaking, but I sometimes think that journey may have been rushed. I have not taken much time to explore designer scent, have merely scooped up a few along the way and toward Lutens and Tauers I ran.
That way many great fragrances are missed out on.

Why do we (and I strongly include myself) recommend Tom Fords, Malles and Le Labos to newbies?
Yes, to many (me included) they are of better quality than, say, most designers but I do also think that BN an elitist club and there is also quite a bit of subconscious psychology involved. If you get applauded for writing glowing reviews of Amouages you are certainly more inclined to do that rather than getting smashed for liking Paris Hilton. It’s simply peer pressure. However, there is a group of people I want to exclude from this generalization – those old dogs that have been in this hobby for longer than BN exists, sometimes for longer than the internet exists. They have been able to develop their tastes more freely and less prejudiced than those, who have been members pretty much right from the start, like me.
I whish the "just starting out" board would get more, well deserved attention.
This being said, I am grateful for everything niche can offer and probably wouldn’t have found out if it wasn’t for Basenotes.
But I am also happy to see this trend turning around a little, lot’s of young, newer members, who neither can nor want to shell out the big bucks have brought many top notch designers back into focus. I really like how Midnight in Paris for example is perceived.

But I am drifting off topic again.
I’m writing this report in order to answer some questions to myself. I always thought at one point I would be happy with what I have and feel somewhat saturated. However, the opposite seems to be the case. The more I have the more urgently I see what I don’t have, all the while faced with the increasing frustration of not valuing those I have enough. It’s kind of the same with friends. The more you have the less time you can spend with either of them. Can one still maintain a close relationship with even one of them? I, apparently, cannot.
I seriously bow to those with wardrobes they could fill rooms with but still know and love every single one of their perfumes.
It seems that I do have a definite hoarding tendency and I want to separate that a little from the actual hobby which is – after all – wearing fine scents, not owning them.

It is obvious to me that there cant be final closure about this but I find it important to sometimes step back and take a look at what it is that one is after. To become aware that one most likely will not find a holy grail for example. How could one anyway, if by now one needs at least one chypre, leather, fougere etc?
This may seem trivial to you but I for one have to sometimes reflect on my actions, otherwise I may very well end up with a huge (200) collection, probably debts and cant really remember how on earth this could happen.

I think it’s different if you have a good, solid job, perfumes being merely one out of a few hobbies that consumes a part of the money and time you can spare, but I myself am a student and perfumes are the obsession I spent by far the most money on.
In my opinion, with all kinds of luxury, it’s perfectly fine to pursue them as much as wished as long as it brings happiness and doesn’t infer with “necessary” parts of life (rent etc) but in my case it wasn’t all about joy anymore, not about savouring a new acquisition, it was about putting it neatly into the line-up and setting out for the next.

There were times I got so frustrated that I decided to take a break from BN, alas, I always ended up back here. And rightly so, I mean, why would one completely resign from something that brings pleasure, above all negative side effects.

I have made the decision though, that for new fragrances, old ones have to go.
It’s certainly a healthy place to start and makes the hobby more affordable, too.

I guess what this whole monologue comes down to is appreciating BN and all of you,
unloading some thoughts I have weighed in my mind and realizing, that this fascination is not going to go away.

Have a great day everyone and thanks for reading.



  1. lisa16's Avatar
    Hi Benedict--

    I hear you.

    As a newbie myself, I am also questioning the wisdom of amassing a large number of bottles-- before I actually do so. Right now I am sitting on a collection of 20 (small by BN standards/ big for me) of scents I really like. I will use them, but only replace the ones I have grown to love like old, friends. A few might have been mistakes, even though I never bought blind. That's okay. I am one of the ones with a job.

    There is a real learning curve to this (as with any worthwhile hobby) and you have to sniff quite a many to find the few that suit you. And when you live in a rural area, the best bet seems to be decanters-- but that gets expensive too. Still, BN is really helpful if you look at it as an education and at the money you spend on decants as cheap tuition. If you find one perfume you truly love, then it was an investment.

    There are certain scents that cause a buzz and are frequently referenced. Those are the ones I order and try. If I see it mentioned 7 times or more in a random sampling of threads, or if it gets its own long thread, it has generally been worth a sniff-- even if I would never wear it. And 3-5 decants from one house seem to give you a good idea about that house. I guess I am trying to say, a person might be able to streamline the experience, without buying a ton of bottles.

    The people here are great and they have helped me so much-- they have been generous with their time and expertise-- especially on the newbie forum. I am ever grateful for that.

    So thanks for voicing your thoughts and experience. I appreciate it.
  2. Foustie's Avatar
    You know, this blog is not just good. It is valuable. It should be required reading! Every question that you ask is important, every insight that you offer is relevant. I loved it.

    My journey has been so different from yours, but I understand and appreciate all of the points that you make, and I am glad that you have made them.

    For me this is a hobby, not an obsession and I will say something else about that in a minute, but I love how you address this whole area; the fragrances, the amount of fragrances; the community, but most of all I was fascinated by your comments on the SPEED at which your interest has developed. Do I think that means that you have missed out in some way. Well, yes actually, I do.

    To explain I will need to tell you something about my journey. This response is not about me, but I need to explain, and I have the feeling that you may be interested. I have been interested in smells for as long as I can remember. I was always aware, even since a teenager, that my interest in fragrance went beyond the average consumer. I needed to understand it, appreciate it, know it, find something more. The buzz from a new discovery was incredible. BUT here is the rub... back in my day there was no internet, no access to anything other than mainstream, traditional, or designer fragrance. Discovering a new fragrance was one of the highlights of a holiday or a trip to the city.

    For most of my younger years, I would have two or three fragrances at the one time. (Most people had one). I loved each one. Paris, Fendi, Yohji Yamamoto, Comme De Garcon. I kept their company every day. I was so interested in your comments about whether you can maintain a relationship with a huge collection. Can you? It could be said that they are only alive when you interact with them.....

    Then I gradually built more and more of a collection, but slowly. Then several things happened at the same time, the internet, the publication of several books, the discovery that there was a whole other galaxy of options out there, and of course, the Community. It was only a few years ago that I allowed myself to finally understand that for me, fragrance is a hobby, and understanding that allowed me to spend much more time, and money, on it.

    Oh, and you did make me laugh "even before the internet existed" yup there was life then. How did we manage?! I am not ancient by the way, I am YOUNG. Well in my world anyway.

    I am awestruck by you younger people who have done in two or three years what has taken me thirty years to do, and I am still a beginner in comparison to our very educated and experienced Basenotes friends. Like you, I am very appreciative of their support and advice.

    So, should we be recommending high end niche or very expensive, or avant-garde fragrances to newbies? Maybe, why not? They are there to be discovered after all, but hmmmmm, I think I am with you there.

    Can I also say that I loved your comments about collections. In any field of interest there will always be some collections that are about appreciation, and some which are about acquisition. You clearly know the difference.

    I have learned from your many contributions. You are a great contributer to this club and, I think, a real hobbyist, a real lover of fragrance.

    So, to the question... has you journey been rushed? Well, only you would know the real answer to that, but I think that you are telling us that it has. But do you know this? Everything that I have said here is a prelude to what I am about to say to you.......

    You have all the time in the world..... take it easy.
    Updated 3rd November 2011 at 10:46 PM by Foustie
  3. lionheart's Avatar
    Dear Timaru,

    I have watched you over the time that I have been here, and you are always talking about buyer's remorse. You have even said that you ALWAYS have regret when you buy a fragrance. I am glad you are asking the kinds of questions that are in your blog.

    Speaking for myself, I know what my obsession is. I am an addictive personality. I am a recovering alcoholic. As of last Saturday, I have been sober for 4 years. However, in my case, that need for "more more more" never goes away. I have just kind of cross-addicted to fragrances. Whenever I buy a new fragrance, I am trying to fill some kind of hole that never really gets filled. Don't get me wrong, I am a generally happy person; however, for some reason (nature/nurture/who knows?) I just need more. period. And although I spend entirely too much money on fragrances, it is better than drinking, blacking out, passing out, and waking up next to a stranger. I'm sorry if this is too much information, but you were honest, so I wanted to be, too.

    Thanks for your thoughts, Timaru.

  4. Foustie's Avatar
    And thanks for your thoughts too. Lionheart indeed.
  5. lionheart's Avatar
    Thanks, foustie!
  6. timaru's Avatar
    Thank you all very much for insightful and heartfelt comments, they are more appreciated than you can imagine. I wasnt sure whether to even write these things down not to mentions upload them here, I wasnt sure about its relevance.
  7. lionheart's Avatar
    It's very relevant. Our obsessions with fragrance are all about what makes us tick, and that's important!
  8. Foustie's Avatar
    By the way boys, I am a f@c..., oops, damned, hypocrite because I have been going berserk recently. Maybe that is why this blog struck such a chord. Ach well. It ebbs and it flows somewhere on that spectrum.....interest.....hobby.....obsession. Take care all.


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