The Compleat Guide to Make this Cow Moo

– or how to make a cow have one!

I live in a two-herbivore household, consisting of one billy goat in training – my Capricorn six year old, who goes by the code name ‘Wolverine’ these days – and one definite cow…yours truly, not your Usual Brand of Bull.

The other day, Wolverine was watching the Simpsons. Bart Simpson is a perpetual inspiration for him, although I am nothing in the slightest like Marge. Since Wolverine is bilingual, he never has to worry about not yet being able to read subtitles, but every so often, he’ll encounter a phrase or a word he doesn’t have a reference for.

‘Mom…’ he asked me at the dinner table that night, ‘how do you have a cow?’

I explained. The exact equivalent in Danish translates as ‘getting a foal’, and I don’t know the etymological origins of that one, either.

But after he was finally tucked in that night, I sat staring at my cakebox collection of perfume decants and samples and thought about it in perfume terms:

What does it take to make me have a cow? If a ‘cow’ in this particular context is another term for…perfumed satori, ‘WOW!!!’ or ‘be still my beating heart’? My usual choice of phrase is quite a bit spicier, but this is a perfume blog…

To begin with that thorny question, my perpetual caveat in terms of reviewing is always:

My opinions are my own. Yours may be different. Perfume is a subjective art like any other, beauty is in the eye of the sniffer/huffer* in this case and while we may agree on some things, we likely differ on others. Also, real life tends to get in the way. Between the job, Wolverine and mapping out my writing schedule, I’ve accumulated a massive case of guilt over all the things I have yet to review – but trust me, if I’m moved enough, I will eventually review them. If not…not.

Second – I’ve been a nutcase psychotic passionate about perfume for a very, very long time, and thanks to my mother and a Paris rite of passage, I started at the top with the really good stuff, back when it was well and truly good. My perfume palate has become a little jaded, in particular in this past year of blogging. To induce a state of utter bovine bliss in the cow writing these words, it has to be very, very good, and not just smell that way, although it does help.

Third – I don’t care what it costs. When you can’t afford whole bottles of anything, you can at least afford decants of the best. Price isn’t necessarily a guarantee of quality, as I found out last summer when I came across an outrageously priced bottle of a dead-exclusive perfume and hated it in all dimensions: the juice, the bottle, the principle. I will say most of the luxurious lines I’ve discovered and reviewed have provided a definite gratification of my hyper-luxury itch.

Fourth – this is a big one, and a major reason why I gravitate towards the niche end rather than the mainstream. Concept. Is the perfumer/house trying to say something new, explore new territory, challenge my aesthetic in some way? Does a magic carpet ride await – for good or bad? Is the juice any different than what I might find at a department store/perfume shop? On that note…

Execution. Anyone – even this cow – can bang together a few essences, pray and hope it turns out great. That doesn’t mean it will. The perfumes I’ve returned to time and time again this past year, the ones I love with a passion maroon, the ones that make my Great Immortals list (perpetually under construction!) are the ones that evolve…from one idea to another, from one space to another, from one day to the next. In other words – out pops a genie and takes me for a ride in more ways than one!

Association, which is related to concept, is another good test of potential greats. The genie in the bottle has to talk. I might not agree with him or her, and we may not even be speaking the same olfactory language, but if that genie has nothing to say, how am I to review the contents that created it? Some of them yell, some would rather whisper, a few of them sing basso profondo, baritone, tenor or coloratura and some drag out their lead guitars, hook up their Marshall amp and blow my head off. It helps. Really.

All these elements combined add up to…a perfume. I may only be able to appreciate one of these elements and if I do, I say so. If even three of them come together, I will say that, too. Should all of them bellow out one rousing, final chorus, well, hey – it’s bingo for this bovine…


There’s just one more thing…a small thing, a seemingly unimportant thing…but it speaks volumes to me, not just as a blogger, but as an individual.

I receive samples in several different ways. I have been known to pay for them. Support your indie perfumers and/or perfume purveyors. They do this for a living, or they would like to. If they also have excellent customer support, you can bet your vintage Bandit extrait that they will also have a loyal customer in this particular cow, because you never know…that cow might write a bestseller with all intentions of blowing some royalties on perfume! Quite a lot…of perfume.

I have also received samples from friends and fellow bloggers, bless their devious hearts, and more often than not, this has led to decant purchases and other hazards to my minuscule perfume budget. That being the case, the following doesn’t apply to them.

It has also happened on more than one occasion that I’ve been sent samples I haven’t specifically requested, and in my year of blogging, I’ve only done that once – it took me a week to stop blushing before I hit ‘send’ on the email. In two instances, the perfumer was referred to my blog by another blogger. In a few others, I was contacted by the house/perfumer. That’s perfectly all right. In fact, it’s hugely flattering. I’ve disclosed this if it happened, as I’m obligated to do.

It helps my attitude enormously if the perfumer/company writes to ask if they can, though. This means that whoever is sending me samples acknowledges there is a real, live human on the other side of the screen who would appreciate a hello, who might encourage an exchange or …perish the thought! – a dialogue! Those who did secured a spot in my Perfume Pantheon for that reason alone. One indie perfumer emailed me and asked if she could, and regrettably, I had to tell her no until September, or I couldn’t do her the justice she deserved. That got us talking, and I’m happy to say we still are. I’ll review her this coming fall. Why? She asked!

So then…my last criterion for a Major Moo: Presentation. I’m not saying 1 or 2 ml samples need to be wrapped in 19-momme silk charmeuse with descriptions in handwritten dip-pen Copperplate calligraphy on Italian parchment paper, but remember – in most instances, I don’t know the perfumer/house from Adam, or if I do, it’s only by reading about him or her on other blogs. Have a little care. Make it nice, because it brightens up my dreary day like few things can. Write a personal message. The human touch goes a long way in my world. All the cards I have received from bloggers, houses and perfumers alike are kept and placed in the ‘Helpful friends and allies’ section of my Feng Shui-ed bulletin board. They make me happy every time I see them.

When all these elements come together – the concept, the execution, the genie and the presentation – magic has been known to happen, a magic I try to reflect in my reviews.

Next, in an off-blog, offline moment dealing with all the mundane aspects of daily life, Wolverine will catch me sniffing/huffing at a wrist in the middle of folding laundry/doing dishes/cooking dinner. I’ll say something that cannot be repeated in public, but it’s very high praise. My offspring will appraise me with a level, brown-eyed stare and say:

‘Mom…you’re having a cow!’


* I thank the fabulous Perfumaniac of Yesterday’s Perfume for the concept of huffing perfume, which she explains brilliantly here.

Image: Butter sculpture from

13 thoughts on “The Compleat Guide to Make this Cow Moo

  1. Dear T: I love you.

    And I thought I might clarify the phrase, “Don't have a cow!” as spoken by Bart Simpson, for your Wolverine. It's a lot like saying, “Relax!” or “Don't get upset!” or “Keep your hair on!” Having a cow is not a good thing.

    To further muddy the American English waters, “cow” doesn't get used much in the US to refer to women.

    It took me a minute or two to adjust my American-centric brain to your post full of wonderfully-expressed ideas, and then I enjoyed it *thoroughly*. Thank you. Long live the Wow moments, long live those terrific indie perfumers, long live the huff!

  2. Tarleisio:

    So many things to respond to in this thought-provoking blog.

    First off, thanks for the shout-out re: huffing. I've been huffing Estee Lauder's Aliage for the past couple days, by the way…

    This idea can be dangerous, as most perfumistas with a bajillion 7-dollar 1ml. decants may attest to: “When you can’t afford whole bottles of anything, you can at least afford decants of the best.”

    😉 But yes, I'm grateful they're available, because that's how I was able to try certain things that weren't at my local Barneys. Such a wonderful luxury.

    And I love the idea that some perfumes may take you on a magic carpet ride. I think that's what keeps me hooked! “Where's this one going to take me? What will I see..?”

    Thanks for the reminder that in addition to loving perfume, I love the people who love perfume! Funny and interesting post…


  3. Dear Muse: I love you, too!

    As a half-American, US-raised demi-Viking who was also married to one for eleven years, I know precisely what 'Don't have a cow, man!' means. Thank you anyway!

    But the wonderful thing about the English language is the silly putty way it can be stretched and expanded and in this case, taking Bart's famous line and turning it into a good thing!

    'Cow' has equally negative associations on both sides of the Atlantic. As a Taurus, I intend to change that! What would life be without …butter, cream, milk, leather or steak? To name but a few…

    But yes…long live the Wow! moments, because those are the ones I live for – and the huffing, too! 🙂

  4. Barbara – may I applaud your most excellent taste in huffing! The equally fabulous JoanElaine sent me a few precious drops of vintage Aliage…and it's glorious, heart-stopping, amazing stuff! Totally huff-worthy!

    Here in the boonies, we don't have a Barney's – or even a Macy's for that matter! 😉 Which doesn't mean I haven't tried wonders not even available in general retail in Scandinavia as a whole – thanks to friends, fellow bloggers, TPC…Do I have a few gajillion sample vials? Erm…yes. What I also have…a shopping list of about fifty full bottles totalling around $6K…in case the bestseller ever happens! 😉

    And what can also happen – the magic carpet ride! Those are the moments we live for, aren't they? And why we appreciate the ones who share our passion!

  5. Another relevant and timely post from you, T! Your heart and mind are in the right place, that is clear. And goshdarnit, I adore you to pieces. It's so nice to just BE on the same wavelength as someone else you care about, without even trying.

  6. This is why I love coming here, you speak several of my languages, astrology, music, and perfume!

    It's the wow moments that keep us going through the not so wow moments of life 🙂

    Scentedly yours,

  7. I just love your posts (is this starting to get a bit sycophantic?). Every time I hear that phrase I will think of you having a Cow and maybe doing a little moo dance over some gorgeous scent (I have a little toe tapping dance I do when I get very excited, which is quite often). It's not a common term here (just the Simpsons thing). My beloved is a Cow too and I have a descendant Cow moon. I'm a crab on the top so that's like a beautiful buttery crab veloute 🙂

  8. Tarleisio, your writing always induces “a state of utter bovine bliss” in me, and often expresses sentiments that I'm feeling too. Thanks for writing this….Moooo!

  9. I adored this post!
    Some true perfume passion and a delightful Taurean humor.

    By the way, I have been enjoying Zeta — it is indeed Spring in the bottle, thanks again for sending it to me!

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