Let’s Play Questions… Vol. 8: Your Scented Memories

Source: M.Micallef

Source: M.Micallef

A journalism and masters student at Columbia University School of Journalism recently interviewed me for a long-form piece on what compels people to buy fragrance. The questions ranged from my first scented memories to the reasons why I think fragrance is powerful, and more. I thought it might help her to have a range of answers from people with all sorts of different scent memories, backgrounds, and exposure to fragrance, so I’m going to post the questions here for all of you as well. Feel free to answer all or just some of them, and in as much or as little detail as you’d like. Consider it as your own personal interview, as well as your chance to explain to an interested outsider the things that motivated you to pursue this crazy passion of ours in the first place.

I don’t think it matters one bit if you are a newbie or an experienced perfumista. There is a reason why you are here, reading a perfume blog instead of settling for the same old fragrance that you’ve worn for years. So, don’t worry about your degree of knowledge, or think you have nothing to contribute. The questions are about primarily about your memories and feelings. In fact, I think many of our answers on the more emotional aspects underlying the love of perfumery will be quite similar in nature, and I suspect that that very commonality will prove more telling to her than anything else. The world is a very different place in 2015 than back when our grandmothers or grandfathers wore one signature fragrance, and I think society’s philosophy or view about scent has changed as well.

Bottles at Twisted Lily. Photo: Stephania Stanley for DailyCandy.

Bottles at Twisted Lily. Photo: Stephania Stanley for DailyCandy.

Nevertheless, I won’t share my answers lest it influence some of your own thoughts on things like why scent is a powerful force or why people are compelled to own more than one fragrance. I want you to speak in your own voice. I also won’t comment on your responses for the most part, but simply leave it for her to read. As a side note, you may find that a few of your answers overlap; mine did in two instances, and I simply referred to a prior answer. If you can, perhaps you can number your answers so that they correspond to her questions and make it easier for her to go through. Most of all, just have fun. I think everyone will enjoy hearing about both your scented memories and about the fragrances that helped shape who you are today.


  1. What do you love about  fragrance?
  2. Why do you think people are compelled to own multiple fragrances?
  3. About how many fragrances do you own, approximately?
  4. What is your most powerful scent triggered memory? What fragrance triggers it?
  5. What is your all time favorite fragrance?
  6. What is your earliest fragrance related memory? What scent triggers it?
  7. Why do you think fragrance is so powerful in regards to human emotion? What does it add to the everyday experience?

28 thoughts on “Let’s Play Questions… Vol. 8: Your Scented Memories

  1. 1. Perfume adds a layer of something extra to reality.
    2. To reflect different moods on different occasions.
    3. 100.
    4. The smell of carnations sends me back to my childhood, playing with my little sisters in the garden (which had carnations growing in it).
    5. Favourite fragrance is “Relique d’Amour”.
    6. In the garden with my grandfather – memories of sweetpeas and wallflowers.
    7. It brings back memories in an instant, changes your mood, and adds an interesting layer to everyday living.

  2. 1. The chance to add new beauty and variety to my sensual life.
    2. To explore the various themes that scent can add to daily life and match moods and whims.
    3. Let’s just say over 100.
    4. Really good gardenia perfumes (which are rare) evoke my mother’s gardenia bush when I was a small child.
    5. Vintage Opium, strictly the late 70s and early 80s versions.
    6. Same as number 4.
    7. Data from the olfactory nerve enters the limbic system directly, without prior cortical processing, giving scent a capacity to evoke memories and moods that is unique among the senses. The pleasure it gives is visceral and powerful. All that and you can do it in public (well, most perfumes, anyway

  3. 1. Few things I love about fragrance. If just for a few seconds, when the scent comes and goes, that moment of pleasure of scent. If is distracting from everything else. Its a non visual escape or retreat of peace and serenty. Also shamelessly I enjoy the compliments. Last I dont feel complete with out it. Even if Im going absolutly nowhere. 2.Its a pleasant addiction. Or appreciation. Some people collect many things or particular things. Wine, Books, Art, Stamps and there is fragrance.
    3. many, many and cherish them : )
    4. Fresh Jasmines reminds me of my Grandmother. Also Im not huge into Jasmine. But Fresh Jasmine reminds me of childhood always.
    5. Lyric Extrait is my utmost favorite.
    6.Shalimar but the extrait in regards to Fragrances. Non Fragrance Mint, fresh mint. Automn weather is huge If Im in a cold country in Automn It takes me to a pleasant place the smell of Automn. (not sure if that is even the answer to the question.
    7. In my own opinion, fragrance can make something that much more wonderful. Example Cinnamon in Christmas season or a house that smells of baked bread or pie. A freshly bathed child in there one-zees And most of all a confident person passing smelling of extrodinary scent. Or when I were a perfume and nobody says anything but family or friends take a long deep breath.

  4. 1.What do you love about fragrance?
    the rush, the frisson of electricity down the leg, the goosebumps when you wear
    a really good one. comfort.
    2. Why do you think people are compelled to own multiple fragrances?
    possibly as many reasons as there are people. as a hardcore epicurean i’m
    compelled to experience as many good sensations as possible before i no
    longer exist
    3. About how many fragrances do you own, approximately?
    about 150 bottles, many more decants and 1000s of samples
    4. What is your most powerful scent triggered memory? What fragrance triggers it?
    hunting with my dad as a quite a young boy (haven’t hunted since! slumberhouse
    norne brings that back every single time
    5. What is your all time favorite fragrance?
    vintage derby
    6. What is your earliest fragrance related memory? What scent triggers it?
    the first polo, i got as a gift at 13. tom ford italian cypress is the same!
    7. Why do you think fragrance is so powerful in regards to human emotion? What does it add to the everyday experience? smell is an important sense – it goes to the core of identity and the type of experience you have and project on others; it’s part of being dressed in certain style…

  5. I hope you’ll forgive me for painting outside the lines, but I’m just going to talk without numbers here. The sense of smell is a huge part of our existence and in fact relates to our very survival, much like the wolf, dogs, and every other creature we share this earth with. Fragrance, for me, has always been a part of my life to a lesser or greater degree and bank account…wink. My very first memories were of my mother getting dressed for a night out; rustling clothes, lipstick, hairspray and mostly, of Chanel #5. I thought she was the most beautiful smelling, prettiest woman in the world. That was in the 60’s and along those times I remember family gatherings with all the aunts, grandmas, and cousins made up, smoking cigarettes, bourbon sours, more lipstick on the cheek, and hugs that remain me of Mitsouko, Shalomar, Blue Grass, Chanel, and Avon. Just what I wAnted to smell like, too, when all grown up. Those iconic scents from the 60’s and 70’s can literally make me cry, cry for their beauty as well as for times long past, times never to be had again and for loved ones I miss. I do adore the newer fragrances of course, but find them a little lacking in some ways. I’m a girl of Opium, Chanel, Galanos, French florientals, incensed of mystery, and moods. Nothing that reeks of the club scene or candied. Some day I’ll be able to try all that I currently long for, but know where my true heart lies. Fragrance is life, art, beauty, and love.

  6. 1. It adds beauty to my day, and hopefully to other people’s day as well. In the words of Gell: It is the transcendence of the sweet life, it is halfway between a thing and an idea, it reminds me of that marvellous possiblity of the human, to live in both worlds.
    2. Because the human is a multifaceted being, and we like different parts of our selves to be amplified, strengthened, softened, breathed into…
    3. 40
    4. Incense in a religious setting. Amouage Epic, YSL Nu, Annick Goutal Myrrhe Ardente
    5. Favorite as in beautiful: Amouage Honour or Epic (sorry for cheating), favorite as in can wear anyplace, anytime, anywhere Chanel 5 Eau Premiere
    6. Sneeking into my parents bedroom and smelling Diorissimo on my mother’s vanity table. Diorissimo, if it still existed in the way it smells in my memory.
    7. It bypasses the thalamus relay station in the brain straight into the limbic system, somewhere it is connected with our survival early on in the human journey.
    It adds a tremendous beauty, richness, comfort, ‘waking up’, it allows me to enhance my inner states and outer appearance, it allows me to not fall in the trap of an ‘everyday experience’, there shouldn’t be one in my life if I could help it!
    Thank you Kafkaesque for posting the questions! I wish there would have been a question about favorite scents in nature such as my dog’s ears and paws 😉

  7. Fun!

    1. What do you love about fragrance?
    The feelings and memories a fragrance can conjure up in one whiff. See #2.
    2. Why do you think people are compelled to own multiple fragrances?
    Scent is so strongly connected to mood, memory, and emotion (literally– the olfactory sense has the most direct connection to our brain activity, especially the old limbic system). Fragrances bypass words in making a statement about the wearer, to the wearer. The connect us to our animal roots under the guise of refinement and luxury.
    3. About how many fragrances do you own, approximately?
    Over 200 compositions. I’m a natural perfumer and more than half of those are my own creations.
    4. What is your most powerful scent triggered memory? What fragrance triggers it?
    Winter in Philadelphia drinking sour beer. Hermes Eau des Merveilles. I can still detect it on my winter scarves 4 years after moving to California.
    More powerful but not a perfume– the residue of burned nag champa incense in my home welcoming me home (heimlich) after traveling.
    5. What is your all time favorite fragrance?
    Man, it’s so hard to choose. I’m going to cop out and say the aroma of my own night-blooming jasmine.
    6. What is your earliest fragrance related memory? What scent triggers it?
    A scented purplish-red raspberry illustration in one of my childhood scratch-and-sniff books about the woods.
    7. Why do you think fragrance is so powerful in regards to human emotion? What does it add to the everyday experience?
    See #2– neuropsychology and evolution. As a sense it is the most intimately connected in our physiology to the old brain, the seat of emotional response, memory, and instinct.

  8. 1) I just like the variety – there are an infinite number of scent combinations. I love how strong a reaction they can evoke, the memories associated with them, etc.
    2) For me personally, I tend to associate the fragrance I wear with how I feel that day or how I want to feel. I associate lots of emotions with fragrance, and it’s a nice personal touch in the same way as jewelry or whatever else. Just as I wouldn’t want to eat the same thing every single day, I don’t necessarily want to smell the same daily.
    3) Oof. Not counting samples? Probably around 75 to 100. I’d be terrified to find out.
    4) I don’t know that I have a most powerful one. Lots of smells can take me back in time or trigger a memory. My Grandma used to wear Opium and I remember it being so strong and loving it. I still love it. When I bought Eau Sauvage I was taken back to when I was a kid at my other grandparents’ house.
    5) I’d say probably vintage Opium or Coromandel. I think I would never, ever tire of smelling them.
    6) Smells of certain foods are probably the earliest, but I don’t necessarily associate them with a specific memory because they were foods we ate frequently growing up.
    7) I don’t know, but that’s an interesting question! I think maybe there’s something special about how fragrance memory is so indelible while simultaneously being intangible. Whereas many other memories fade away without something to literally hold on to (a souvenir, a photo, a journal entry), we tend to remember what things smelled like for years and years, and smelling it again can trigger even a minor incident that happened eons ago. I think there’s something special about that, but I haven’t the faintest idea as to how or why it works that way!

  9. 1. It makes me feel sophisticated and beautiful.
    2. I think its the idea that somewhere there is the perfect scent, but along the way there are so many others which contribute to that perfect one. Each one is different and so must be tried.
    3. Not counting samples, over 100 including decants.
    4. My mother wearing Vintage Opium. I cannot smell Opium without thinking of her.
    5. Probably vintage Opium because of the scent memory and because it is such a beautiful, complicated, and powerful fragrance and NOTHING smells like it.
    6.The scent of my grandmother’s skin which was of flowers. Quelques-Fleur and April Violets bring that right back.
    7.Every sense contributes to the perception of the world around us. Scent also contributes to our sense of taste so there is that as well.

  10. 1. I find it great fun sniffing different fragrances. There are fragrances evoking opulence and elegance in the traditional sense, and there are others trying to evoking the smell of a certain thing or a certain moment, be it photorealistic or abstract. Not only did I find some surprising olfactive combinations in perfumes, I also start to pay more attention to the smells of different food and spices, random flowers in the streets and the nature or my surroundings in general. It feels like ‘nose’-opening. 🙂

    2 There are collectors of perfumes, just like collectors of stamps, vinyls, books, cars, jewels, etc. Some people don’t feel wearing the same fragrance every day, it’s just like changing garments according to the mood and occasions, and I’m one of them. Some people are more faithful to their signature, but may still have a lighter one for summer, and another one for special occasions.

    3. I don’t want to count. 😛

    4. I haven’t encountered a fragrance that triggers a really powerful memory.

    5. I have a few more favoured fragrances and categories, but I don’t have The Holy Grail, and I wasn’t looking for it.

    6. Like the question 4, not really. No one was into fragrances when I was little, and I didn’t pay much attention to smells, either. I only get into fragrances in recent years.

    7. As I personally haven’t yet experienced really strong emotions related to fragrances, I’d say for now, it’s mostly for the fun.

  11. (1)What do you love about fragrance?
    The transcendental quality of nearly all aromas

    (2)Why do you think people are compelled to own multiple fragrances?
    Each to their own but for me it’s a collection of memories and emotions. I will only wear a certain fragrance to suit my particular mindset and emotions.

    (3)About how many fragrances do you own, approximately?

    (4)What is your most powerful scent triggered memory? What fragrance triggers it?
    Waking up early in the morning at my village home in the coolness of Spring which had a huge garden full of roses of every kind especially white roses. Lyric man by Amouage is very good at triggering this particular memory.
    Another particular memory is going to an old Mongol period mosque with my father every Friday prayers and my Father buying me Attars such as Jannatul Firdous, Rose Attars, Amber etc from street vendors outside the mosque. The smells were absolutely crazy. ….Ottoman Rose by Crabtree definitely evokes that very much.

    (5 )What is your all time favorite fragrance?
    Norma Kamali’s Incense, Tribute and Lyric man by Amouage

    (6)What is your earliest fragrance related memory?
    My Grandfather’s beard….he passed away when i was 3 years old. His Attar which he purchased during his pilgrimage to mecca is still around and my grandparents house still smells of it…..good way of keeping a memory alive for those that have long gone. That’s the magic of attars……it doesn’t deteriorate too much….infact smells much richer as time goes by

    (7)What scent triggers it?
    Uuuurrrmm his Attar…we still have roughly 6ml of it left! 😀

    (8)Why do you think fragrance is so powerful in regards to human emotion?
    It’s a piece of a puzzle. ..a key to unlock hidden or long lost memories and emotions

    What does it add to the everyday experience?
    For me it makes me more mindful of myself and those around me

  12. 1. Parfums of high quality are like a piece of art for me (like Jicky – created decades ago and will remain a masterpiece for ever). I’m always mightily amazed by the fact that the one and same parfum can create a different scent on different people (to the very same time). Well, in case of Soleil de Jeddah or Black Gemstone they mostly create a different scent even on me with almost every wearing…

    2. I’d love to have my signature fragrance, the one making me entirely happy and feeling right in every mood, weather and attire. Sadly I haven’t found it yet.

    3. I simply don’t want to know the exact amount, because I think it’s riculously high and never in my life will I be able to use them up. Around 50-60 of original bottles (I stopped getting decants – it’s either good enough for a full bottle, or I don’t really need it…)

  13. 1. What do you love about fragrance?
    I love that fragrance is an intersection of art and science.

    2. Why do you think people are compelled to own multiple fragrances?
    I think people have multiple fragrances for the same reason they eat different foods every day, or own different styles and colors of shirts: because our moods vary, because the environment varies, etc. It gives us a way to express ourselves differently, and also to be experienced by others differently.

    3. About how many fragrances do you own, approximately?
    I only own about 15 bottles, but countless samples, miniatures, and other scented products (candles, bath products, body products, hair products).

    4. What is your most powerful scent triggered memory? What fragrance triggers it?
    The smell of wisteria reminds me of going to the park with my mother as a child. I didn’t even realize I had this memory until fairly recently, but it immediately took me back to a time and a place. It reminded me of home.

    5. What is your all time favorite fragrance?
    Guerlain Shalimar is magical to me.

    6. What is your earliest fragrance related memory? What scent triggers it?
    The earliest memory I can think of involves the smell of bakeries in the neighborhood where I grew up: lots of sweet breads and cakes. Strangely, I haven’t encountered anything quite like it elsewhere, so it’s more of an untriggered memory.

    7. Why do you think fragrance is so powerful in regards to human emotion? What does it add to the everyday experience?
    I think it’s powerful because our response to it is involuntary. What it adds depends on how positive your response to the smell, but ideally, it adds something beautiful you can carry with you and experience whenever you like.

  14. 1. What do you love about fragrance?

    The variety, the small pleasure throughout the day, the lift it gives me when I’m buried in work stresses but take a moment to sniff the day’s scent.

    2. Why do you think people are compelled to own multiple fragrances?

    My mother-in-law has worn only Chanel No. 5 for her entire adult life. Me, I prefer variety, depending on mood, weather, circumstance… I like crisp citrus scents when it’s hot, warm amber and incense when it’s cold; on a bad day I want a comfortable old friend, on an adventurous day I’ll try something new; and of course there are work-appropriate scents and not-work-appropriate scents… I wear different clothing for different seasons/activities, why not different scents?

    3. About how many fragrances do you own, approximately?


    4. What is your most powerful scent triggered memory? What fragrance triggers it?

    My most powerful scent memories revolve around food, and around personal scents (my cat’s fur, husband’s skin…) not fragrances.

    5. What is your all time favorite fragrance?

    I’m too new to this obsession to have an ‘all time favorite’. :^)

    6. What is your earliest fragrance related memory? What scent triggers it?

    I remember watching my dad shave when I was a young girl, and enjoying the smell of his aftershave. I remember the balsam shampoo I used as a teenager; and I remember my first ‘grownup’ fragrance, given to me as a teen by my grandmother’s sophisticated best friend.

    7. Why do you think fragrance is so powerful in regards to human emotion? What does it add to the everyday experience?

    The sense of smell is a basic human sense. We tend to minimize its importance but I think it matters more than we acknowledge. The importance of fragrance, to me, is that it adds to the joy of life. What more can we ask of it?

  15. What do you love about fragrance?
    Life is fragrant! Food, drink, my hubby, wet pavement. . .and then there’s perfume. Is it better than any of that? Most of the time, no, especially the common fragrances, but reall good perfumery, well, for someone who smells everything intensely (which I believe I do), it’s just great fun. I could be a wine connoisseur just as well, but I don’t drink. I do love good food, and cooking, and have always cooked with my nose even more than with taste. Well, they *are* inseparable!
    Why do you think people are compelled to own multiple fragrances? Because of the above. It’s fun to smell different nose’s takes on the same notes, to contrast and compare scents, and to talk about it with others who appreciate it.
    About how many fragrances do you own, approximately? I own probably only about thirty full bottles (and maybe less). At one point, I had 300+ samples and gave them all away; I know I now have much more. I have hundreds of 3-10 ml decants.
    What is your most powerful scent triggered memory? What fragrance triggers it? I don’t have this experience enough to even write about it. I’ve noticed that non-¨perfumistas” seem to ask this question quite a bit, as if all or most scent wearing has to do with scent memory. I am much more interested in new scents that trigger no associations, except perhaps to other fragrances I’ve smelled.
    What is your all time favorite fragrance? I can’t pick just one. Impossible.
    What is your earliest fragrance related memory? What scent triggers it? Scent was a big part of my childhood. I can’t pick out one memory, nor could I pick out something that triggers scent memories. They happen all the time and are of so little regard that I stopped paying them much heed.
    Why do you think fragrance is so powerful in regards to human emotion? What does it add to the everyday experience? It’s primal. For me, however, the biggest thing fragrance seems to do is bring me comfort and joy. And no, that doesn’t mean I wear a lot of ¨homey” scents! I find wearing and sampling fragrance invigorating, intoxicating, soothing, interesting, and sometimes even infuriating.

    I enjoyed answering the questions, but fear I may have sounded cranky. I am intensely interested in many things and don’t see perfume as being all that separate, but I do know that it isn’t ¨average¨ to be obsessed with it, so. . .

  16. 1. Scent is a pure sensory delight that I treasure as much as enjoying beautiful sunsets and listening to wonderful music. We all love to savor the smell of delicious food, but that’s so transitory, and scenting myself with a gorgeous scent all during the day makes that feeling last. It can also change my mood for the better or make me feel daring or happy or outgoing. I can express myself with it like an outfit, and I’m an extension of the perfumers who express themselves with their art. I’m their canvas, and I do think perfumery is as much artistic expression as painting or composing music.
    2. Why do you own multiple outfits and pairs of shoes and lipsticks? For the fun of variety. I have always been bored with smelling the same scent day after day and have never had a signature scent that I’ve continually used through the years. Guess I have a high need for novelty.
    3. I own approximately 100 or so.
    4. Fragrances don’t tend to trigger a certain memory for me. Something basic like a food smell can make me feel warm and cozy or sentimental and nostalgic for younger days. I’m not good at recognizing what a particular scent is on other people, although I’m getting better. I can at least pick out certain notes. On myself it’s very clear what scent I’m wearing. But I don’t have strong memories of others wearing perfume.
    5. All time favorite is vintage Mitsouko.
    6. Probably very early memory is the smell of a Christmas tree in the house, and I adore that scent. Yet I detest perfumes with conifer notes in them. So I can’t think of anything synthetic that would trigger it properly. Only the real cut branches give me that fragrance.
    7. Scent is so important because of our tie-in to limbic system and that old part of the brain. It is fast-wired into all the old primitive and earthy urges and delights. It gets to us in a basic way that doesn’t have to be translated by the cortex and intelligent thought.
    It adds small pleasures in such an almost child-like way to my everyday life, like eating an ice cream cone on a hot day. I think I would become very depressed if I lost my sense of smell. Such an integral part of enjoyment of life.

  17. 1. Fragrance transports you to another place, evokes memories, calms you, makes you feel happy and serene (or sexy and alluring, whatever you want it to make you feel), and simply can make you smell beautiful.
    2. Just like one doesn’t wear the same clothing every day–even our favorite outfit, out perfumes change with our moods, the season, and the moment.
    3. I would say I own at least 250 full bottles…but then I’ve been collecting and buying perfume for more decades than I would like to tell.
    4. Oddly, the most powerful scent memory I have is the smell of the basement of the house I lived in from 5 years old to 17 years old. It was a true basement (not a clubroom) with a cement floor and low open ceiling and it smell musty and dusty, but I like it. I can’t think of a fragrance that reminds me of it but I would bet Christopher Brosius (sp) of “I Hate Perfume” could create it.
    5. My all time fragrance is a difficult one to answer but I guess I would have to say it is between Chanel No. 5 which is probably the one I have had the longest (in several formulations of course), the original Givenchy L’interdit and Hermes Hiris.
    6. My earliest memory of a fragrance would have to be Johnson’s Baby Powder, which I still love today, and “Midnight in Paris” which my mother wore.
    7. Just like our senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell evokes memories and makes memories. If something wonderful happens, you remember what perfume you were wearing…and likewise, when something unfortunate happens. It can take you back in time and bring to mind something that happened years ago.
    To me a day without perfume is a dismal day. Even if I have had a terrible day, the moment I come home and spritz on some perfume, my mood completely changes and everything seems better, even if it isn’t.

  18. I love reading all of your comments!

    1. Hard to pinpoint…I love aroma, the great unsung sense. It creates an invisible mood, an atmosphere of my choosing.

    2. For the same reason one doesn’t have just one pair of pants, or one food to eat. Variety, mood, weather…all demand different perfumes!

    3. About 60, plus uncounted samples/decants

    4. Tuberose seems to trigger strong scent memories for me…memories of my Mom spraying her scarf with White Shoulders when I was just little

    5. Chanel no 19 is my all time favorite. It was my first grown up perfume and seemed to represent all I aspired to be (and kind of still an aspirational scent)…sophistication, simplicity, strength, beauty

    6. See no 4. Also can’t forget anything that smells like Old Spice which Dad always smelled of

    7. I sure don’t know the science behind it, but since we have so little vocabulary to describe what we smell, I think it taps into our primal thought processes and evokes strong feelings

  19. Good questions. 🙂 Let’s see:

    1. Ok, I already have a problem here. I’m not sure, I love that it can be so many different things and can influence the mood and feeling. I love that it changes. That it helps you take notice of the small, fleeting things in life.
    2. From my perspective, to enjoy all from number 1. You need diversity in order to enjoy the differences.
    3. Are we counting only bottles or decants as well? 😉 Let’s say around 100 bottles.
    4. Smell of nettle – it always reminds me of my grandmother’s nettle shampoo which she also used on our hair (grandchildren’s) when we were at her place.
    5. Shalimar 🙂
    6. The same as no4 basically.
    7. I guess it adds to the general feel of the day, at least for me. Plus, it makes my immediate surroundings smell the way I want them to. 😉

  20. 1. What do you love about fragrance?
    Beauty, sensation, challenge. The luxury of something unnecessary but pleasurable. Part of it is the paradox: the beauty of perfume lives in its destruction, as it warms and evaporates away.

    The combination of art, science, emotion, and raw physical response.

    But also learning to listen to the storytelling of scent: how elements combine, part, take centre stage, or fade into the wings. Some are soloists with politely quiet backing bands, some are full blown orchestral works with massed voices joining in, and some are the sort of buskers you pay to go away and leave you in peace.

    2. Why do you think people are compelled to own multiple fragrances?
    Some perhaps are chasing the one true love—the next one, the next one will be the perfect one–others have a magpie tendency, some are collectors.

    I don’t wear the same clothes, eat the same foods, or listen to the same music every day, nor read only the same books over and over. Fragrance is the same. Sometimes it’s as prosaic as finding the most appropriate match for a situation—a raincoat in a thunderstorm, soft pyjamas for a sad evening, a rowdy soundtrack for a hard gym session, a cake for a birthday–but, there are also pleasures in discovery, in variation, in challenge, in comfortable familiarity, and in an overdue return to old favourites.

    3. About how many fragrances do you own, approximately?
    Perhaps two dozen.

    4. What is your most powerful scent triggered memory? What fragrance triggers it?
    Ever since my cat knocked a bottle of a tea rose perfume over a small stack of books at college—and this is 25 years ago—any time I get a whiff of a strong tea rose, I can’t help but think of Frida Kahlo’s paintings and Joyce’s Ulysses. Those volumes still hold a tiny trace of the smell in the paper, too. (Odd, because it’s not a good match between scent and subject for either.)

    But otherwise, my scent memories tend not to be _perfume_ ones, but the layered, complex smells of places or experiences. While there are fragrances that remind me of people who wore them, none have (yet) launched that more complete rush of memory. I ever get to commission a perfume, there are three of these I’d dream about bottling….

    (oof. enough. I am verbose.)


    What do you love about fragrance?
    I love the discovery aspect of it, smelling all kinds of scent and combination, the work, the complexity and the imagination behind it. The world of perfumery seems to contain all kinds of depths. I imagine it should be similar to oenology and the whole world of wine tasting (except that I don’t drink alcohol) in terms of richness and variety of smell, and the elaborate craftsmanship involved behind the scene, hailing from centuries-long traditions.

    Why do you think people are compelled to own multiple fragrances?
    Well, the more the merrier, isn’t it? Besides, one can love a lot of different smells or fragrances. Some are more suited to certain moods or evolve differently due to the heat or humidity of the season.

    About how many fragrances do you own, approximately?

    Uh, do samples count? If not, two. With samples, maybe twenty?

    What is your most powerful scent triggered memory? What fragrance triggers it?
    I do tend to envision scenes or connect perfumes with visuals, but not much with memories. I have yet to find a fragrance that truly, strongly sends me down to memory lane. Filles en Aiguilles by Lutens does make me think a bit of the small church in my lil’ hometown at Christmas. I went there as a child and still do now, when we can.
    Fragrances with distinct spices also tend to take me back to a family game we used to own: the pitch was that we had to transport spices through the map, following the silk and spice roads. The game was far too difficult for children to play, so my sister and I never done it, but the game contained little pots scented with different kinds of spices, and we both loved to smell them over and over. It actually taught us how to recognize quite a lot of spices through smell. I think of it fondly whenever I can recognize some in a perfume.

    What is your all time favorite fragrance?
    Chergui by Serge Lutens, no contest. Although Chanel Bois des Îles is a close second (except I find it less versatile, even if more refined on me).

    What is your earliest fragrance related memory? What scent triggers it?
    I actually don’t know. Maybe Play-d’oh? (or whatever its spelling) Or the scent of paint (the kind children use)?

    Why do you think fragrance is so powerful in regards to human emotion? What does it add to the everyday experience?
    It reminds us with smell we associate with good memories, friends and loved ones, or moments of our lives we cherish. It can also completely change the surroundings of the moment: adding warmth or freshness to an otherwise gloomy day, finding comfort in a well-known, well-worn scent or entice our curiosity and tickle our senses with an entirely new smell or combination. It’s utterly fascinating to me how a perfume can make us feel. Because I tend to tie it with an image, or an atmosphere, even a music sometimes, I find it creates some sort of synesthesia. It’s also thrilling to find perfumes that seems to fit us so well, to blend naturally with us. Well at any rate, it always make a day more interesting. 🙂

    • 1 What do you love about fragrance?
      The variety, the surprise, the opportunity, the intoxication, the shear revelling in smell.

      2 Why do you think people are compelled to own multiple fragrances?
      I couldn’t live with one flavour, one colour, one sound; one fragrance is far too austere.

      3 About how many fragrances do you own, approximately?

      4 What is your most powerful scent triggered memory? What fragrance triggers it?
      No, it doesn’t work like that for me. I had no fragrant grandmother, or glamorous jet-setting Aunty; I grew up in small New Zealand towns, and the smells were smells of fields, animals, dirt and shit and farms and suburbs. There’s nothing Proustian there, it’s just the smell of life.

      5 What is your all time favorite fragrance?
      At the moment (ha!) Chanel’s Bois des Iles. I had a chance to try it at the Osmothéque in December last year. Caron’s Pour un Homme and Arquiste’s Aleksandr also rate pretty high. Every year a new favourite!

      6 What is your earliest fragrance related memory? What scent triggers it?
      Fragrance is curiously absent from my memory; colour, sound, no problem there, but for instance, I can’t recall if my mother wore fragrance, or my father cologne. So in that respect, my current love of fragrance is untroubled by any nostalgic impulse. I think that also has an impact on my relative indifference to vintage and un-reformulated icons: I’ve never known original Opium or Mitsokou or Iris Gris, and I have had, until the internet age, little opportunity to. Not that I’m not curious…

      7 Why do you think fragrance is so powerful in regards to human emotion? What does it add to the everyday experience?
      Well that first question is potentially quite assumptive. Is fragrance powerful, and how does that manifest? What emotions, and how exactly does that work? Beyond nostalgia and the sentimental, what of anger, dismay, boredom… I guess that is what this questionnaire is trying to essay. As for the second question, for me it is about the smell of bodies: bodies in passing, bodies in contact and intimacy, the shared spaces that we occupy, the smells we share, the abject and the divine; jouissance and rapture, that will do!

    1.What do you love about fragrance? I think I’m probably pretty similar to most people interested in perfume in that I really like the glamorous and sensual aspects of applying and wearing perfume, as well as the idea of creating a certain kind of aura or appeal around myself. I also really love how over the top and honestly silly the advertising can be. At its most absurd it can feel like mad libs sometimes which really tickles me. Perfume writing in general is so dramatic–I love it!

    2.Why do you think people are compelled to own multiple fragrances? The most straightforward reason, and probably the bulk of it for people who own only a few, is that different scents are considered more palatable or appropriate for different seasons or settings. Collecting is different. I have a few dozen samples because it’s really fun for me to compare my perception of the fragrance to the literature on it, both in terms of the (subjective) notes of the smell and even more so of the (incredibly wildly subjective) personality of the smell described by advertising or other people.Half the time I’m chasing some idea I have in my head that may or may not exist, other times I just want to know how a scent will stack up compared to my expectations based off its reputation. Then of course the samples accumulate just because it’s so tricky to find a perfume that you love.

    3.About how many fragrances do you own, approximately? Maybe four full size (one of which is a beloved HG item that has been discontinued, MAC MV3), with around three dozen of samples from Sephora and Nordstrom, as well as indie oil brands like BPAL and Haus of Gloi. I feel awful saying this, but I am generally more impressed with the products from the major companies. The two I mentioned often smell less complex and lower quality to my nose. 🙁 Could it be because they are oils? Speaking of which, I also have a dozen single note perfume oils.

    4.What is your most powerful scent triggered memory? What fragrance triggers it? Coco Chanel. My mom used to put it on before leaving for work when I was a kid. I hated how strong it was and that she was leaving. It made me feel ill. Even today I dislike scents that remind me of it and would never dream of wearing it.

    5.What is your all time favorite fragrance? MAC MV3, I have been looking for a dupe for the last year or so. No luck.

    6.What is your earliest fragrance related memory? What scent triggers it? See #4 😛

    7.Why do you think fragrance is so powerful in regards to human emotion? What does it add to the everyday experience? Biology, I guess. For myself personally, I’m much more drawn to taste, though obviously it’s dependent on smell.

  23. Pingback: My Scented Memories: From Rive Gauche to Fahrenheit - Kafkaesque

  24. What do you love about  fragrance? It can be so many things; calming, revitalizing, sultry, sweet
    Why do you think people are compelled to own multiple fragrances? Please see above. To match many moods and change of seasons. Variety is just plain fun.
    About how many fragrances do you own, approximately? About 15 full bottles but dozens of samples and decants
    What is your most powerful scent triggered memory? What fragrance triggers it? My Mom drawing her bath with Youth Dew when I was a young girl. Then shopping expeditions in the 80s and 90s where she always wore Opium or Fendi. I have, love, and will always have Opium and Youth Dew.
    What is your all time favorite fragrance? I can’t pick just one 🙂
    What is your earliest fragrance related memory? What scent triggers it? The dinner party; booze, pipe tobacco, Mom’s trifle and perfumes both male and female. Pipe tobacco triggers it.
    Why do you think fragrance is so powerful in regards to human emotion? What does it add to the everyday experience? I think because smell evokes memories so strongly and they in turn evoke emotion. Perfume adds beauty and a soothing quality to daily life. It can make me feel calm when I’m worried and rich when I’m anything but. I live in a very casual beach town where a full face of makeup and dressy clothes look odd but I wear perfume daily.

  25. This is a fun opportunity to talk about perfume! I’m writing without reading others’ responses, but I am looking forward to reading them after I weigh in.

    1) What I love about fragrance is its ability to tell me stories and give me experiences – sometimes they’re my own stories retold, and my own experiences remembered, and sometimes they are new.
    2) I don’t feel “compelled” to own multiple fragrances. I’m not sure that most fumeheads feel that way; instead, I think we simply enjoy it to a great, great extent. I don’t limit myself to one set of clothes, or one music album, or one book or DVD, either. (Okay, I’d be more likely to limit myself in terms of clothing. It’s just not my thing.) I like to express my mood, or enhance it or change it, from day to day. Would you go to a museum and only look at one painting? Of course not.
    3) I own approximately 65 fragrances, if you count small bottles like decants and miniatures.
    4) A very powerful scent memory for me was the smell of my first serious boyfriend’s neck. He didn’t wear cologne, although I think he may have bathed with Old Spice soap. And he didn’t smoke, but his parents did, so there was always a very faint tobacco odor clinging to him as well as the warm smell of skin. Sonoma Scent Studio, an independent perfume company in California, makes a fragrance called Tabac Aurea, and although I’m not generally fond of tobacco scents, a friend had sent me a tiny bit to try. Well, and there was the smell of Jimmy, ca. 1985, in that sample vial. It knocked me sideways.
    5) All time favorite? Gah, at least three others are clamoring for public recognition right now, but I’ve loved Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete since the first time I smelled it, five years ago. It felt like me in the best sort of way.
    6) My earliest fragrance related memory… I don’t know, probably the wonderful one of my mother coming in to kiss me goodnight, wearing her “going out” perfume (Chanel No. 5 parfum) and smelling so warm and radiant. I don’t really have a Proust madeleine sort of memory.
    7) Why is scent so powerfully related to emotion? I’m not sure. I mean, the olfactory apparatus is part of the most primitive and basic part of the brain, the limbic system. When we’re undergoing intense experiences, and it seems to me that it’s often experiences that have to do with personal security, whether it’s of the body or the emotions, that tend to have relationship to scent. So that when I am smelling, for example, Annick Goutal’s Petite Cherie – a fragrance she created for her young daughter – I smell pears and apples and grass and roses, and suddenly I’m lying on the grass in my grandmother’s garden, between the rosebushes and the orchard, listening to the adults talk and watching the stars come out, and it is one of the most peaceful and reassuring fragrances I’ve ever smelled.
    Perfume adds interesting flavor to life, the same way stimulation of other senses is enjoyable.

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