This is a great thread.
I also have a very strong sense of smell. I think that I am a highly sensitive person
in general, and certain fragrances just kill me. As a child, I had asthma but my mom wore what I perceived to be large amounts of perfume (she had a lot of Estee Lauder, such as White Linen and Beautiful). This really turned me off to perfume. I equated it with trouble breathing and choking florals, and I decided to opt-out.
As a teenager, I was forcibly exposed to a lot of mainstream perfumes as the marine/aquatic move got strong with designer fragrances in school. I couldn't stand most of them (see my post about my hated dry/metallic note in perfumes, http://community.basenotes.net/showthread.php?t=189885)
. I got some essential oils and Attar Bazaar oils and started wearing those.
My twin sister discovered Thierry Mugler's Angel and she fell in love with it. Later, so did I. I think I was doing an internet search for fragrance notes, trying to figure out what it was that was so offensive in most modern perfumes when I found basenotes. Several of the kind Basenoters here helped me figure out the notes that I hated. Then I started reading more about perfume and became enthralled.
The more I read, the more I realized that I could get rich perfumes without ozone/"freshness"/Calone/marine/aquatic. The first parfumeur that I really felt drawn to was Serge Lutens, and his house is still my favorite (so far...). Reading about the technical aspects, such as Luca Turin's insights, are fascinating. The connoisseur aspect of perfumery really appeals to me. It has helped me grow with my fledgling wine appreciation. I also came to wear my first floral perfume, A La Nuit, by Serge Lutens and loooooved it. I tried my second floral, Songes by Annick Goutal, and fell in love with it. So a girl who used to loathe florals is now a devotee of two, and hopefully will discover more in the future.
Since I live in rural Alaska, decants and samples are how I've explored perfumery. It's been an amazing journey, and I've met some extremely kind, talented, and wonderful folks here on Basenotes. I love it!