Sunday, March 13, 2011

Scents and Sense

Apparently, I am the only person in the world with this problem, because otherwise there would be a more readily available solution.  Have you ever tried to find a new perfume?  To me, it is almost impossible, because if I try on more than a few fragrances, they all start blending together and I can't tell them apart.  Of course, there are only a few hundred in a department store to choose from, so I hardly even know where to start.  To make matters worse, whenever I find a perfume that I really like, it gets discontinued.  The last couple times that I have tried to find a new perfume, I have first checked the Internet.  It seems like there should be a site where you can type in the names of 3 perfumes that you have worn in the past, and based on their top, heart and base notes, the site should suggest an alternative that is currently available in stores.  As far as I can tell, no such site exists.

This time when I started thinking about the chore of choosing a new perfume, I remembered that my sister had blogged about a perfume book a few years ago.  I checked her archives, and then checked Perfumes: the Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez out from my library.  Perfumes is a great book in that it lists over 1500 fragrances, rates them with stars, offers a two word description of the scent, and then gives a paragraph discussing the product in greater detail.  I tackled the book by looking at anything with 4 or 5 stars, and reading the descriptions from there.  In that way, I was able to narrow my search down to 12 that I wanted to try.  I then went to my mall, tried as many of the 12 that I could find (about 7) and then selected one that was not on my list but which my 11 year old daughter randomly picked up and sprayed on me. 

The two word descriptions were probably my favorite part of Perfumes.  For the perfumes that Turin and Sanchez liked, the descriptions were things that you might expect like "dessert air", "resinous oakmoss", and "woody smoky".  The descriptions for anything that they didn't like (ex:  anything by Paris Hilton), were much funnier, such as "remedial candyfloss", "Windex actually", and "pencil shavings".  My favorites were the two word descriptions for the perfumes that were named after actual scents, such as the three perfumes in a row, all named "Gardenia", for which the two word descriptions were "not gardenia", or Clean Lather, which was declared "un clean".

The drawback to Perfumes is that while some perfumes are timeless, many seem to only be available for a few months or years.  Of the 12  four and five star perfumes that I wanted to try, 3 were no longer available, and the book was published only three years ago.  For Perfumes to remain a valuable resource, it either needs to be published annually or they need to have a website that is kept up to date between editions.  If they have such a website, I can't find it.  The perfume that I wound up buying was not reviewed, and a little Googling told me that it was introduced two years ago.  But, when I was having second thoughts about my purchase, Turin and Sanchez convinced me that I had made the right decision.  They describe the perfume that the lady at the counter tried to sell me but that I didn't buy as being "in hippie head-shop territory, with a heavy overripe floral like the smell in your leather purse when you've had a banana in it since yesterday."

Still reading:  Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

Still Listening to:  The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

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