Bitter the Devils

THE DEVILSCENT PROJECT II

-       a review of Esscentual Alchemy’s three submissions for the Devilscent Project

It is an amazing thing to modify a novel as a perfume brief for submission to a group of very diverse perfumers, and then breathe in the results. How will your words be interpreted, what aspects of the story will surface, what genies were found and placed in those vials, what stories do they tell? Will it make any difference that the perfumer knows the whole story before she starts?

Amanda Feeley, the perfumer behind Esscentual Alchemy, is a musical, multi-talented, multitasking marvel who first came to my attention last summer, and since has become a staunch storm-in-a-port friend, the kind of friend you can email embarrassing questions when hit by an attack of existential angst at 4 AM. I’m thrilled and beyond flattered that when I contacted her to ask if she would like to participate in the Devilscent Project, she replied in less than five minutes…(capitals intentional)

“ARE YOU KIDDING????”

Amanda started with an advantage the other perfumers didn’t have – she knows Quantum Demonology from start to finish, (and inhaled the story in a retina-scorching three days, back when it was only a serial blog), knows my Devil well, knows something of the emotional landscapes the protagonist traverses in her diabolical heroine’s quest.

Neil Morris chose his darkly erotic facets, the ones the protagonist knows will be fatal and fatally irresistible, captured a great deal of that pulse bomb of testosterone and rock’n’roll, but Amanda’s three Devils are other creatures equally dangerous and equally fatal, and this unholy trinity has another agenda.

“That’s right,” said a voice I knew too well, “she understood the subtext of that deal your protagonist made with me – that she wasn’t the only one with nothing left to lose.”

Dev planted himself on the corner of my desk and dug into a beautifully green velvet bag for Amanda’s samples.

“Are you going to barge your way into every single review I write?” I was exasperated. “I hate to state the obvious, but I’m all out of chocolate.”

“Of course I am. It’s all about me anyway.” He squared his shoulders and sprayed one wrist with no. 1, dabbed an elbow with number 2, and sprayed the other wrist with number 3. “I know you’re out of chocolate. You even ate your secret gift stash.” He gave me a filthy look. “Never mind. We have a review to write.”

“We? That implies, so far as I know, more than one person squeezing out the words.” I sat back and crossed my arms over my chest.

“You make it sound as if writing is like wrestling a mangled tube of inspirational toothpaste,” said Dev and sniffed. “Every artist needs a muse.” He sniffed again, longer. The nostrils of a long Italian nose flared ever so slightly.

“Writing is like wrestling a mangled tube of inspirational toothpaste. Take it from me. And I picked you of all people as a muse because…why, precisely?” He and I had known each other for over two years by now, and I still couldn’t answer that question without sliding into suspect places no perfume blog should ever be read.

“You went looking for trouble, baby. I was the maximum amount of trouble you could find.” He lifted an eyebrow. “This…” he shook out one arm, “is yet another kind of trouble. And another side of me you took great pains to bury in the subtext of your story, submerged between the lines in the hopes that no one would find it, but Amanda did.” His grin slid in slow-motion from one end of his face to the other.

“Don’t tell me. You brought a shovel.” I snatched Devilscent vial no. 1 and sprayed a little on my arm, too.

“I don’t need one,” he growled. “I’m the Devil. I know everything about you.” He gave me another filthy look. “Listen. The protagonist gets all the attention, and the empathy, too. What about me? What’s to tell about the Devil, after all? He’s evil. The Guardian of negatives and nightmares, as simple as that. Except that nothing is ever that simple or that black and white. John Milton knew better. I certainly do. So did Amanda. Hush. I’m writing this review.”

This was news to me. “You are?” That surprised me. Usually, he popped up out of nowhere and inspired me, if it could be called that.

“Yes. That’s the price you pay for eating all the chocolate. Your job is to take dictation.”

I knew better than to argue. We had too many other things to argue about. “Yes, Master.”

“Back to our three Devils. They have a lot in common, in their base in particular, which is to say, they show three different facets to the story. These three…all have a very bitter, almost aggressive green thread. This is a green that bites you.” He sniffed Devilscent no. 1. “This is the Devil who can’t afford illusions any longer, least of all about himself – or humanity, come to that. The Devil who wants to use…like he always has when it suited his purpose.”

“Except…” I breathed.

“You’re getting ahead of yourself. As I said, this one is a bitter, green Devil. I don’t have a list of notes, so I can’t take it apart and let my nose go searching, but there’s a lot of labdanum here, except there’s nothing to soften it, this is an edgy, sharp labdanum, sharp with that green…what is it, do you think? Something almost mint-like? Maybe. Pine or spruce, no, cedar in there, too, I think. There’s frankincense, certainly…the cold boswellia serrata, and maybe that’s what gives it that ominous pulse, that supernatural tinge of…something tainted, something terrible, that…” Dev frowned for a moment and stared out into space, shifted on his perch on the edge of my desk. “ ‘That far-off hint of horror…’ ” He pulled a face. “Is it erotic? Yes, but not at all like Neil’s. This one isn’t so leathery, it doesn’t have that same hanky-spanky, D&S vibe. I can’t get over that green…it’s like nothing I’ve ever encountered before, an evil, complex, multi-layered green, a dangerous green, a green that breathes perdition…and is that a touch of myrrh? Something to sand down the edges, something that just…intimates at the other side of the story, the one I shouldn’t say too much about, or I’ll have one hell of a public relations nightmare on my hands.”

“You already do”, I muttered as I tapped on my keyboard. “Or you will, so I hope.”

“That’s the deal we made, remember?” He grinned again. “You’ll get there. Version number one will help not a little, too. If Amanda would market this as a masculine, she’d slay her customers. The contrast between that baritone top and that basso profondo base is amazing. There’s a lot of Sturm und Drang from the top notes to the base, a whole olfactory Beethoven symphony, and that’s a compliment.”

I knew I should have bought chocolate, if only to continue conversations such as this one, I thought with a pang. I needed a life. Or a lover. Not in that order.

“Devilscent number two…” drawled Dev undeterred, “is a different kind of entity. This guy is not so green and not so bitter, but even more dangerous. This is the Devil the protagonist grabs by his collar in the Crossroads Café before she can stop herself, this is closer to Neil’s rock’n’roll Devil, the one she breathes in even though she knows better, she’s been around the bend a few times but the woman can’t help it. It’s disturbing in a very strange way I can’t quite determine. There’s something almost floral in the mix somewhere, something to throw everything just slightly off-center and off balance, because it may start out sweetly enough, but this Devil has fangs underneath. It gets darker and much more bitter as it evolves. This is more….preternatural in its effect. It’s a lot harder to take apart than version one. Maybe not so much labdanum, but cistus, I think, and likely a touch of ambrette, too. Make that more than a touch. It’s distracting, it’s devious, a complete shapeshifter, it’s driving me crazy that I can’t quite pinpoint it.” He turned around and reached for my Devilscent materials kit on the bookcase, the two black boxes of essences and absolutes Ellen Covey had sent me, and dug around among the vials. “A smidge of tolu? Nah, not so sweet, patchouli…just a little, ambrette, yeah, hm…cinnamon leaf! That could be it, the drop that shifts it all and does strange and wondrous things. It’s familiar but it’s not. I know I’ve smelled it before. But never quite like this. I like those fangs, but I don’t think everyone will.”

He leaned back against my desk with a sigh. “Maybe you should write these reviews. I’m a guy. Supposedly, we have the olfactory abilities of wooly mammoths with head colds.”

“You’re doing a great job,” I said as I scrolled through the pages correcting my punctuation.

“Really?” That gave me the five-year-old grin I knew too well. “Keep talking, baby, and I might even forgive you for being out of chocolate.” He leaned forward and blew softly in my ear. “Maybe. If you’re very, very lucky.” His voice dropped down to a low, baritone growl.

Be still, my beating heart, be still.

In an instant the grin disappeared and he was all business.

“Devilscent number three…This one is the greenest of them all, a Big Bad Wolf of a green with very big teeth, but not like version one. This one is not quite as bitter to start but it still bites hard, no doubt about it. I suspect this is where Amanda really let rip and let her imagination fly. It strikes me as more complete, more rounded than versions one and two, not that they’re at all bad, but this…is something else. Version one got softer with the incense as it moved forward, but this one is a beast. And it stays a beast. This is one deadly earnest Devil in a so-bad-it’s-good way, a damn the consequences way. What am I smelling? That cedar/spruce/pine blast again, except now, the amp is cranked up to eleven. Frankincense, lots of frankincense, and I think more than one kind, and hello, labdanum! Hell, yeah! I’d buy this at the chink of a belt buckle. This will be instantly banned in all those Bible-belt states that forgot to ban Neil’s version, and all seven days of the week, too.”

He sniffed again. “Perdition. Temptation. A hint of something …bad, that taint of terror, but the protagonist won’t care, she can’t when she’s confronted with this, she’s rendered as helpless as a deer in the headlights, this has a do-me-meter that’s completely off the charts. The frankincense gets more prominent as it dries down, not that I mind. This…” Dev stated with finality and lifted up the little vial, “is my favorite. I’d wear it, just to…” another dangerous grin, “you know…mess with your head.”

“I bet that wouldn’t be all you did.” I knew where this was going.

“It’s all I can do, for now anyway.” He peeled himself off my desk and moved slightly away, eyeing me as I banged on my laptop. He pulled his shades out of his pocket, shrugged on his jacket. “Say thank you for me. Tell Amanda Feeley…she nailed it with number three. Tell her…” he thought for a moment, “that I’m glad she caught those facets in the story. I’m glad she chose to be a part of the Devilscent Project. Oh. One more thing.” On came the shades, along with the lupine grin. “I haven’t been to the Midwest in ages. Maybe I should…” He laughed and turned toward me, leaned forward and blew in my ear again.

“A word of advice, baby. Watch out for the sugarplums, dancing in air…”

And he disappeared, leaving only that bitter-green scent of perdition behind him.

Be still, my beating heart, be still.

__________________________________________________

Esscentual Alchemy’s perfumes are available from her website.

Original image: ‘The Emperor’ Tarot card from Zazzle.

With thanks to Amanda Feeley, and the ghost of Howlin’ Wolf, who supplied the soundtrack.


A Dance with A Danger

THE DEVILSCENT PROJECT I

-       a review of Neil Morris’ first module for the Devilscent Project

Sometimes, I wish my readers could be present when I sniff a perfume for the first time, just so they could get a sense of what manner of gut reaction I have, what epithets I exclaim, what numinous emotions I’ll then have to translate into words and phrases.

I have never wished it more in my entire lifespan as a perfume writer as I did this past week, when a dream that originated in my own twisted mind for reasons I’ll never know became a concrete reality in the shape of the first edition of the Devil’s scent as it’s described in my novel, Quantum Demonology.

Understand, I hadn’t planned for that telling little detail, a leitmotif that trails through the story as both admonition and metaphor, that last, tiny push the protagonist with her own esoteric tastes in perfume is helpless to resist, the one that burns away her last hesitations and overrules her fears, that haunted and haunting one-way ticket into a world she only thought she knew, but of course, she couldn’t know what manner of perfume and perdition, Heaven and Hell awaited that fated Friday night…

The Devil’s scent stayed through eight revisions of its first appearance and stuck in my mind as an image I could invoke as clearly as I could invoke that Devil I created: heady, dark, otherworldly, emphatically male in a way that sings its devious purposes in a manner the protagonist can’t refuse.

So imagine what it will do to an excitable writer’s mind when that idea is given concrete form and interpretation, when she sees the logo she created for the project emblazoned on the bottle, the effect of what her words have caused and inspired.

It blew my mind. I had to sit down for a moment and center my hara, had to try not to repeat that mantra in my story, another red thread that weaves throughout the words and the world I had created, a metaphysical truth as old as time itself:

Be careful what you wish for. You will get it.

I did what I often do to gain a first impression – I sprayed a little out into the room to let it disperse.

That first reaction does not translate well. Just imagine something along the lines of …Oh! Wow! Wow!

Not very Baudelaire-ian, I know. This is not what made my suspect reputation in the perfumed blogosphere.

I rushed around getting ready to leave again and came back into the room five minutes later. Only this time, the ambience of my living room had changed. I heard the definite rhythm of cloven feet tap-dancing on my wood floor, echoes of a laugh I knew a little too well for comfort, a chill tickle at the back of my neck before rushing out the door and on through the remains of my day.

The rest of this past week, when not buried in webinars and headaches and marketing hyperbole, I would sniff at the contents of that heavy, glass bottle and wonder if I could ever find the words to do them the justice they deserved. Even now, even after giving up and slinking off to bed, even in the gray, damp twilight of an early morning, I’m not entirely sure I’ve found them.

Then, this happened.

“You’re going about it the wrong way.” said a voice in my otherwise empty room. “You’re fighting the Fail Demon, the one that says you can’t, but you’re wrong.” He pointed to that elegant matt black, embossed box on my desk. “You can.” He gave me a soon-to-be-famous five-year-old grin.

Dev, kicking back in my son’s chair by my desk, and I had not seen him for a very, very long time. He hadn’t changed a bit, but this morning he wasn’t wearing his trademark aviator shades.

“Well, what do you know,” I quipped. “A visitation from Cousin Id.”

“I’m not your cousin, baby. And I still say you’re not doing this right.” He reached out for that matt black box and took out the bottle. “Nice logo. You made that, right?”

“With a little help from Harry Clarke, but yes. I did.”

“So tell me…” he grabbed the card and read the note on the back. “Why are you making it so hard for yourself? Think about it. I may have started as a crazy idea in your head one boring Friday night, but think about how far you’ve come since then. More people have read your book than ever did while you wrote it as a serial. You’ve became a perfume blogger, and I gotta say it…no one else does it quite like you do. You even met the inspiration for me last summer and made a definite impression.” He gave me a grin I hadn’t seen since a Wednesday night on a tour bus and shook his head.

Off came the cap, and he sniffed. His eyebrows shot toward his hairline.  “Now, you’ve got the Devilscent Project with some iconic cult-name perfumers interpreting your words into perfumes, you have a contact with an agent, you have all these bloggers participating – and let me tell you, they’re at least as excited as you are – and here’s a painful truth for you: if you made all that happen from nothing, which you did with a little help from your friends – you can manifest anything you like. You just need to slay that Fail Demon, and you’ll be fine.”

“Easy for you to say. I’m the one who doesn’t want to fall flat on my face.”

“Then I’ll say it another way. I. Dare. You.” He sprayed his wrist. What followed was one four-letter word that begins with F.

“That’s not fair. I can’t resist a dare.”

“Should I go get a brownie from the fridge, just so you can be done over in four irresistible ways?” he laughed. “A testosterone bomb issuing a challenge while holding a chocolate brownie?” He laughed longer.

“No.” I was curious to see his reaction to that other intangible Devil in the room.

“Back to your nose, baby. We have a review to write, and a lot of people are dying to find out what you think. Hmm. Neil Morris. He’s one of those inside, cult secrets far more people need to know about. You certainly need to sniff way more of his stuff if this is any indication. Geez. The guy totally gets it, no contest. The dark, the danger, the erotic edge, the overpowering part, those Gothic undertones, oh, yes…This version will be banned in several red states. Especially on Sundays. And come with a health label.

“Keep away from pets, children and suggestible, celibate women.”

“Don’t remind me,” I groaned. “That’s the rest of my unnatural lifespan.”

He held out his wrist. “Don’t be such an optimist, baby. I rather doubt that. Sniff and tell me what you think.”

I sniffed. Labdanum, glorious, thick, heady and animal, dark as a starless midnight, bitter and leathery and rock’n’roll and pernicious, it was a carnal universe in a single note as deep and as clear as a vibrating bass string. One of my all-time favorite notes, and it was everywhere in the room with us, giving me all sorts of ideas I don’t usually think on a solo Saturday morning.

“It’s…” I had to think for a moment. “Filthy, dirty, skanky, stinky…yet in a very elegant way. I could get a bit more specific, but this is a perfume blog.”

“Keep going. We’re not there yet.” A huge ganache-covered brownie materialized out of nowhere and he bit into it with relish.

“I don’t have a list of notes. I thought it would be better that way.”

“You don’t need to read notes to appreciate music, either.”, he mumbled around a mouthful of brownie. “C’mon.

As he spoke and I wrote, that dark-blue demon perched like a pigeon at the top of my laptop screen grew smaller and more transparent. Its tail twitched, slapping out a muted tattoo in 4/4 time to another sort of Devil singing on my iPig.

As this Devilscent no. 1 evolved, it became sweeter and even more sensuous, if such a thing were possible. Now, it was entirely different, a floral promise of dreams come true and that sensual anticipation you can feel as a tingle on your skin when you just know it will be better than good, it will be epic, it will change your life forever, so long as this otherworldly flower sings its siren song of surrender on your skin.

Meanwhile, several shades of baccanalian intimations were taking place on Dev’s skin. That floral promise of before bloomed and deepened, and now, my nose could detect the bitterness from the beginning come to the fore again, labdanum again, only this time, it seemed combined with frankincense and was that a hint of myrrh in the background, both of them at a whisper below that leathery labdanum pulse and weaving in, out and around in its unique way, that alternate universe floral aria of perdition in its alto key…So beautiful, so fated, it seemed to say, but …

Beware, beware what happens when you dance with your danger…

“I don’t want your soul, baby. According to Saint Augustine, you don’t have one.”

In a small puff of black smoke, the demon flashed and vanished.

Dev licked ganache off his fingers. “See? You slayed the Fail Demon. And you wrote your review.” A few gooey brownie crumbs remained at the corner of his mouth and whether it was the thrill of his presence or that perfume, I couldn’t resist an urge to brush them away with my finger. In a flash, he held my hand by the wrist and gave me a certain look I also knew rather too well for comfort.

“Well…” I shrugged. “I had a little help. The question is, what do you think about it?”

He took the bottle out of the box and stared for a moment at the logo, admiring the dark amber glow of the perfume. He took another sniff at his wrist. “I think Neil Morris is a genius,” he said after a long pause. “But I also think it needs a little more black, a slightly larger ghost…a touch more peril, a smidgen of abyss. More labdanum, definitely. Not that this is bad in the slightest. It’s freaking beautiful. It’s not like anything else I’ve encountered, that’s for sure. But…I…don’t know. I don’t think we’re quite there yet. If this is any indication, though…I think we will be. Just wait and see.”

He turned over my left hand and kissed my palm. Now, he stood up, his lips right by my ear. “Just don’t forget, baby…be careful what you wish for.”

In the blink of an eye, he disappeared. Yet I already knew what to write next.

You will get it.

As Baudelaire wrote…

Rich, complex, triumphant, other [perfumes] roll with the limitless range of all non-finite things…each sings the ecstasy of the senses and the soul.

With my most profound thanks to Chaya Ruchama and Neil Morris, and to Lucy of Indieperfumes, who introduced us.

Chaya Ruchama has written her own inimitable take on Neil Morris’ Devilscent here:

An introduction to the Devilscent Project with links is available at The Perfume Pharmer, who will also participate in the Devilscent Project. As will perfumers Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids, Kedra Hart of Opus Oils, Alexis Karl and Maria McElroy of Cherry Bomb Killer Perfumes and Aroma M.

Neil Morris Fragrances are priceless olfactory gems that beg discovery. Find them here.

Original Illustration: *Opposites Attract’ by Pelmo at Zazzle.

The Devilscent logo and Quantum Demonology, ©Sheila Eggenberger

Translation of Charles Baudelaire’s poem “Correspondances” from Les Fleurs du Mal, my own.

A Filigreed Drop of Bright

- a review of Amouage The Library Collection – Opus VI

Say that fabled word – amber – and a whole slew of associations come to mind. Those plush, sensuous, ornate magic carpet rides into some equally legend golden sunset of complex, heady perfumes, all the many Occidental dreams contained within the word ‘oriental’, every single one of them adding up to the name of a color, a category, a gemstone and a reverie. Amber in perfume conjures up words like animalic, leathery, sweet, smooth, heady, take-no-prisoners opulent. It can be a Beethoven scented symphony, or an elegant Chopin sonata. We know those notes so well, so well…but love those familiar fragrant phrases no less.

Once upon a time not so long ago, it was one of the two base accords in perfume that made me run for the hills screaming. Amber was far too obvious for my pseudo-intellectual green-chypre tastes, too animalic and possibly too hot to handle, too. There were secrets in those scents I simply wasn’t tall enough or pretty enough or just woman enough to handle, so I stayed well away and well within my comfort zone. I wasn’t an amber woman. Never. Ever.

Yet revolutions happen and perspectives change. My own seismic shift occurred when a small sample of a ground-breaking amber found its way into my hands, onto my skin and under my nose, and in one sniff, that stubborn continent of personal inclination whirled and eddied and changed forever. I started at the very apotheosis of amber, and if I were going to cross that line into amber love, then by golly, it had better be worth it!

Famous last words.

Here I am with still another amber, yet another subterranean seismic shift.

This amber is an Amouage.

Amouage, with all its storied heritage and maximalist approach to perfume, is a house that often slays me in ways both great and small.

No one, but no one, wraps such astonishing frankincense around such story-telling genies, and every Amouage I’ve ever met has always told a story. Even this one, even now, even as I wrestle with these words, Opus VI wants me to shift into narrative mode and tell another fragrant tale of filigree and fable, of moment and futurity, a story of a most unusual, unnerving amber.

Do you think you know something of ambers, do you have certain expectations of what an Amouage amber might be? Are you painting an olfactory image in your mind as you read, of all that word contains and adding the prerequisite five hundred percent?

If you’re anything like me, you are. As you are, that djinn in the bottle jumps up and down with unconcealed glee, anticipating the delicious moment it will subvert every expectation you have.

Opus VI is not your usual amber. If ambers are usually silk-smooth concoctions that wrap around your skin in a velvet touch, then you are in for a surprise.

It begins with a suggestion of the same green and bitter facet fans of Serge Lutens’ Ambre Sultan might recognize, with a detectable bay leaf burst and a spicy jolt to the nose, and veiled behind it intimations of that well-beloved amber glow on the far distant horizon. But half the thrill of any journey lies not in arriving but enjoying the ride.

As I do, as I wonder where I’ll be taken along the way, a thick, glorious ribbon of incense weaves around me like a cat on stealthy feet and blooms. There is no other way to describe it and no way to precisely describe its effects except to say that if I owned a fainting couch, I’d need it in 3…2…1…

But the journey isn’t over and my own perilous downfall is just beginning. As I’m taken through the shifting scenery that exudes from my skin, the djinn decides to undo me even further.

Nothing like the ambers you know and love, nothing like that well-beloved sweet caress of benzoin or tolu, but a different, woodier, spikier creature that takes all amber clichés and slants them in a different direction and puts them on a darker, moodier path. My nose tells me patchouli and sandalwood, something that reminds me of rich, bittersweet chocolate and something I can’t quite pinpoint but who cares when my axis has shifted and my continents have realigned?

There is nothing I can do and nowhere left to go except to laugh at my own pretentious attempts to nail this perfume to the floor of my words if it slays me. That djinn hides a story it wants me to find, but this is no tale of Sheherazade, no travel back in time, this is very much here and totally now, a thoroughly modern reinvention of what is often such a hackneyed phrase, but Opus VI is no cliché.

It has taken what should be obvious and made it new. It has surprised me and delighted me with that half-hidden veil of amber, glimpsed behind a wooden screen, and filigreed a future full of possibilities upon a huge surprise it took me no time at all to fall so very hard for in all those fatal, fragrant ways.

I have tried and very much liked the opera of volumes I through V. But the number VI did me in, changed my perspectives and possibly even me as well.

Love will do that. Especially when it takes you by surprise, as surely Opus VI did when it filigreed all my future possibilities and wrapped them…in an amber.

Disclosure: A sample was provided for review by Amouage.

Opus VI of the Library Collection was created by Amouage Creative Director Christopher Chong in collaboration with Dora Arnaud and Pierre Negrin.

For the review I wish I could have written, may I recommend the incomparable Persolaise.

Amouage Opus VI will soon be available from the Amouage website, Les Senteurs, Luckyscent & First In Fragrance.

One Two Many

 

 

A while ago, an ongoing debate asked a very relevant question: Are there too many perfume bloggers?

Too many people weighing in with their highly subjective opinions, too much snark and snobbery, too many self-proclaimed experts who apparently don’t know nearly enough about their subject matter?

It was one of those questions that needed to be asked, and also a question I not only had to think about, but think about for a good long time. The fact is, there are indeed very many perfume blogs. Here’s another fact: in 2011, over 1200 new perfumes were released. Most of these will have a very short shelf life and disappear without a trace.

I hate to state the obvious, but honesty impels me: Very many perfume blogs, regardless of the blogger’s expertise and/or lack thereof, will also have a fairly short shelf life and disappear without a trace. I say this not because I’m a raging snob or safely planted in that elevated stratosphere of perfume blogging superstardom (which I’m emphatically not), but because I’m a realist as well as a blogger who has been banging on my keyboard for many reasons on many topics for over three years now.

Take it from me: Blogging on any topic is damned hard work, just as writing is damned hard work. Since you didn’t ask, I will also tell you something else: writing about perfume, that most ephemeral of art forms, is one of the hardest topics of all to write about.

Once upon a time, so all good fairy tales begin, I was so destitute, I couldn’t afford to buy perfume at all. Not so much as a designer imposter. All five of my cherished perfume bottles were empty. For a perfume lover who had never gone without since age 14, this was a very sorry state of affairs. I felt diminished in several dimensions I couldn’t explain to anyone without sounding like a superficial idiot. Whether it was because I felt severely starved in an aesthetic sense or plain and simple masochism, I began to trawl through online perfume retailers just to absorb the fumes by proxy, so to say. I’m not sure how it came about, but I distinctly recall standing in a niche store in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the fall of 2003. This was a store that sold such exclusive brands as Annick Goutal, Comptoir Sud Pacifique, Creed etc, and there was T the Total Newbie asking about a certain Serge Lutens, which they didn’t sell.

Somehow around that time, I began to read the few perfume blogs that existed at the time and continued to do so, as I even do today. As I did, I learned all those things I ‘knew’ with my nose if not my brain, and as I became more enlightened, I also became determined never to settle for anything less than olfactory revelations. I wasn’t ordinary, so why shouldn’t my chosen perfume reflect that? The writers who taught me so much and aroused my curiosity for good and bad told me so much about a world I never knew, explained my dissatisfaction with the sorry state of affairs at my local perfume counters, and all the while, I soaked up the words like a sponge to savor later, since I still couldn’t afford to buy any.  What I could do was dream of the day, and surely it would happen some day, when I too might know a little of those genies and stories glittering in a drop of exquisite perfume.

Then, three things happened – all interconnected. First of all, I finally gathered up the nerve to send for the ‘Petit Livres’ of Serge Lutens, so I could sniff what all the fuss was about. I was so unnerved, I then proceeded to write a few of them into the storyline of my novel-in-progress, Quantum Demonology.

Finally, during that last long haul to the finish line of ‘The End’, I started a perfume blog of my own. Why? As a writing exercise! I went on the premise that if you can write about perfume, you can write about anything. This is true, but for other reasons than you might expect.

Here’s what I didn’t expect: that anyone would ever read what I wrote about perfume. I wasn’t aware that I did anything at all different than those bloggers I idolized, didn’t know that I could have my own unique perspective to add to the fray until people whose blogs I read began to comment back on mine.

This is how friendships are forged – on the anvil of a common passion. I am inordinately proud to say that not a few fellow bloggers have become my friends, and have made it possible for me to continue to write about what unites us all – perfume.

I have never written professionally, have no professional contacts with the perfume industry, and I’m not an expert on the subject in the slightest. What I am is first and foremost a writer. If I’ve managed through the words I’ve chosen to convey a sense of what a perfume smells like, what emotions it evokes and what stories it tells me – as all the best perfumes do – then I’ve succeeded.

I write on the time-honored supposition that Your Mileage May Vary. I may rave about something you can’t stand. I may also suffer the rare snark attack when I encounter something I hate, but that doesn’t happen so much any longer. Since I began as a blogger, my tastes have expanded to such a degree, that even if I can’t wear a perfume I review, I can at least appreciate the concept, the execution, the very art it is. I review what speaks to me, and I review only what I want to, even though I’m now privileged enough to receive samples from perfume houses who hope I’ll write about them.

As for the writing part…I can’t write like anyone else. I’ve tried and failed – miserably. I read reviews so flawlessly written, so lyrical, so perfect, I turn green with envy. That never lasts long, since I also believe there’s more than enough room for everyone. But the moment I sit down in that sanctified space to indulge my inner aesthetic inclinations, I have no choice but to put it all behind me and write as only I can. I learn as I go, and I never know where I will go…writing a review as a narrative, writing as a journey, writing as a tightrope walker between that first word and that last sentence, and I can’t go back but only forward.

I think the wannabes, the snark monsters and the posers will eventually give themselves away for what they are. I believe that what passionate perfume blog readers want to read is a genuine voice and an authentic perspective that comes from the heart and is written con amore – with love. Love for the subject, love for the revelations, love for that ephemeral, ever-changing art that is…perfume.

Whatever you love…if you love it enough, if it fills your multiverse and makes your heart expand, if it makes your world go round and makes you feel a better, greater, more beautiful person, you’ll want to shout it from the rooftops, sing to the clouds…sing it out to us all! Share your love…there’s more than enough room for everyone, even you and even me.

Which is why I do it, after all!

The real question is…why do you read it? ;)

Image: Worth1000.com