Addicted: 10 Years On and Still a Rambling Fragrance Junkie, or a Letter to Basenoters

21st July, 2014

Dear Basenoters,

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,


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  • About the author: Marlen Harrison

    Dr Marlen Harrison is the perfumer/owner of King’s Palace Perfumery, as well as creator/editor of, founded in 2006. As well as Basenotes, Harrison has contributed to Fragrantica, NowSmellThis, BeautyAddictMag and The Washington Blade.


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      • CoL | 22nd July 2014 02:32

        If you have a bad experience with a fragrance you will associate it with that feeling but it is possible to lose this over the years. Many many fragrances have turned out this way for me.

      • MFfan310 | 22nd July 2014 02:38

        Let me count the ways...

        Thorny path with a favorite fragrance? Happened to me with B*Men.

        Discontinued a favorite? Happened to me with B*Men (again).

        Reformulations? Yes. But no popcorn and pink pepper, and I still have an ample supply of vintage juice for reformulated scents.

        Evil brother in law swiping a scent? No evil brother in law, but a coworker loved A*Men, so it's out.

        Unsuccessful blind buys? Several, but all of them came from TJ Maxx or discounters. (Only successful blind buys for me ever were CdG 2 MAN and Encre Noire.)

        Samples? I always try to sample before I buy.

        Sales and swaps? Done many with other Basenoters and non-Basenoters alike.

        Bottle splits? Not yet. But if someone is doing a split of Kilian's Musk Oud, I will have to consider...

        Discounters? Yup. Heck, I've bought fragrances from Costco and Sam's Club for a lot less than retail.

        Different smells? Live Jazz - raved about on Basenotes - turned into lemon kitty litter for me.

        Putting samples on skin? Of course!

        Scented body products? I've used (and then stopped using) several that overpowered my cologne.

        Between those things and being part of Basenotes for over a decade, I do share common traits with you, Marlen. Welcome back!

      • Rictor07 | 22nd July 2014 13:41

        You make some very valid observations. I enjoyed reading the 'spray yourself in the eye' story you linked to. Hilarious.

      • fazilicious | 4th August 2014 02:49

        in fact, i share many experiences with you Marlen..i always avoid paying full prices and wait until they have ended up at discounters...i can understand why it can be quite depressing if someone steals your signature fragrance which may be why i rarely disclose the name unless i am sure the other person is not gonna get it..i do have a knack of making quite reliable guess whether the other person will go for it if i disclose name or tip: people tend to forget difficult names like French ones or niches one pretty quickly as opposed to mainstream brands so sometimes i disclose once only because i know the other person is going to forget it of my friends loved Pascal Morabito or black and i disclosed name once only...after a while, all he could remember was black and when he did google search, he could not locate it :D..just as a i suspected ...

      • castorpollux | 4th August 2014 08:35

        After all this time I'm painfully aware of the shenanigans of our scented-world friends, like, will living in the north for what it seems like an eternity (no pun intended) will I end up anosmic to Juniper? , will I find this woman's address and demand a frag swap/exchange? (it's my only opportunity for that one find!---i may have to travel---) And that's why it's so important to differentiate ripe french tomatoes with ripe Italian ones and Ottawa Red potatoes with Red Pontiac ones when trying to describe a scent! :wink::smiley:

      • llnewcomb | 6th August 2014 15:39

        Very good read. I first started a̶d̶d̶i̶c̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ ̶o̶b̶s̶e̶s̶s̶i̶o̶n̶ collecting on MUA as well. I would say that Basenotes now is not primarily a men's forum. I see quite a few ladies posting, splitting,etc... Now, with Facebook there are multitudes of "perfume groups",,almost too many. Basenotes is my main squeeze regarding splits.

      • mikeperez23 | 11th August 2014 00:59

        Marlen, you've been missed here. You were one of the very first people that I followed here on BN, I read your comments on the boards with lot's of respect and admiration. I can think immediately, off the top of my head, of scents that I tried just because I read your review of them (Black Orchid, Black XS, etc).

        Nice to see you're still around & I just bought some of your Kings Palace fragrances, I look forward to smelling them. ((thumbs up))

      • promqueen | 3rd September 2014 04:34

        It's interesting that you call it an addiction..but those of us who have this understand just what it is...fragrance is transformative and can set your mood for the day, night or event. People who don't get this think we are just weird

      • Bal a Versailles | 15th September 2014 08:58

        I recommended Basenotes to a man I met (with his partner) at a perfume counter. He was a paramedic and we laughed at how many old dears commented on his fumes even when they had medical issues severe enough to warrant a paramedic in their living rooms. I love it when fragrance is a bridge. Linewcomb-Can't help but notice that the site has re-masculined in recent times in response to the perception of non-gender perfumes and guys being totally comfortable crossing the perfume aisles; Basenotes has certainly satisfied the brief and is extremely well subscribed by the men in my life. Well done all of you