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

The Best of the Best 2011 – Phrases, Friends and Facilitators

Without you, I’m nothing!

Here’s a confession for you. In the real world, I’m a newly divorced single mother of a seven-year-old who works a decidedly unglamorous job for a minimum wage that just barely pays the bills. I do not own a credit card except for very dire emergencies, and I live in the Niche Empty Quarter of northwestern Europe. Several stores in Aarhus and Copenhagen do carry a few niche lines, but I get there so seldom, they might as well be located on the moon. It really is…that bad.

So I’m in deadly earnest when I say that without the staggering, stupendous, mind-blowing generosity of my fellow bloggers, friends and facilitators in several locations on both sides of the Atlantic, this past year of exploration and this past writing would never, ever have been possible. I’m so poor, I can’t even send them anything back to reciprocate. The samples I have already reviewed I pass on to a dear friend in the US who is battling cancer right now and who should surely have access to the kind of beauty that inspires hope and a will to survive, because she needs that more than anyone else I know.

OK, guys…you can put down the Kleenex now! 😉

Instead, I try to pay my facilitators back with what I do have to spare…my words. Words in my reviews, words in emails that have kept me going through a very challenging year, Twitter conversations, retweets and whatever else I can do to express my abject gratitude…for the friendships I’ve forged, the connections I’ve made, the inspirations I’ve found and my hopes for possibilities and a future I couldn’t have imagined just a year ago. Whatever else I’ve achieved in this past year, my own words have carried me out into a world that really does want to read them, and for that, I’m grateful, too.

I was asked to be a guest blogger for Penhaligon’s ‘Adventures in Scent’ blog, and inadvertently channeled Agatha Christie by way of Amelia Edwards, Oscar Wilde, Robert Hitchens and Jane Austen. My review of Puredistance Antonia will be featured along with a few other bloggers’ in Puredistance’s new PR material in 2012, and that floors me, too. Last but not least, two august houses in particular have been more than kind to an unknown perfume blogger by spreading the word, retweeting me and even in one case posting a link to a review on their official Facebook page, which in my world view was a bit like receiving an encouraging postcard from, well, God!

But the biggest compliments I’ve received have been from my readers, who have kept reading in spite of it all. If not for you, if not for those emails and hotly anticipated padded envelopes, if not for the many postcards, cards and notes on my Wall of Fame behind my desk…none of this could ever have happened.

Back in the day, I began writing about perfume on the premise that if I could write about that most ephemeral of art forms, I could write about anything. Below are my personal favorites, the ones where the genie really did talk back and even I was surprised…

¤   Amouage, “Silver and Black” of Memoir Man, “Becoming Violetta” of Lyric Woman. When the story and evolution of an entirely fictional love affair makes even the writer reach for the Kleenex…

¤   Aftelier, “The Union of Heaven and Earth” of Cepes and Tuberose, “The Best of All Possible Worlds” of Candide

¤   Puredistance, “An Eternal April” of Antonia

¤   Opus Oils, “A Swell Party”“Did We Evuh” of the Les Bohemes collection, “Eau de Perdition” of Dirty Sexy Wilde

¤   Aroma M, “Sailing Through Byzantium” of Geisha Amber Rouge

¤   Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, “Reclaiming Eternity” of Paradise Lost, “Vertesimilitude” of Vert pour Madame

¤   Maria McElroy & Alexis Karl, “A Philter Perilous” of Immortal Mine

Friends, Facilitators and the Fellowship of Fumeheads

No best of list would be complete without a big, fat thank you hug to those who made everything possible…the words, the discoveries, the shared laughter, the emails, the acute indecision in front of my perfume cabinet, wondering who I’ll be today…

Lucy of Indieperfumes

When I was just starting out into the perfumosphere, Lucy of Indieperfumes was among the first to sense I might have something to say about perfume that might be worth reading. This was very high praise from such an exceptional writer. Without Lucy, I would never have been introduced to the world of indie perfumers, would never have met Mandy Aftel, Maria McElroy, Alexis Karl, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz…and my life as well as my writing would have been infinitely poorer for it. Without Lucy, I wouldn’t have participated in the Clarimonde Project. As for the rest…we’ve forged a soul friendship that means yours truly is planning a trip to New York in 2012, and if I ever need a literary agent with exceptional promotional skills, I’m hiring Lucy in a heartbeat!

JoanElaine of Redolent Of Spices

JoanElaine and I just…clicked. There’s no other way to say it. Both diehard chypre lovers, both a bit iconoclastic, both of us united in our love of a few great Immortals. When she located a vintage mini of one of mine, Guy Laroche’s Fidji, I about died. As it is, I wouldn’t want to live without her!

Carrie of Eyeliner On a Cat

I had been reading Carrie for a long time when she loudly rebuked me last spring for a reference to someone we both hold very, very dear. Since then, we found we share more than a few things in common, besides a love for cats, black metal and Christopher Lee. Carrie turned me on to gourmands. And Opus Oils. Her generosity of heart and spirit is legendary – for a reason. So is her writing!

Vanessa of Bonkers About Perfume

Vanessa and I could not be more polar opposite in terms of our personal tastes. She prefers understatement, whereas I’m a walking testament to sock-it-to-‘em sillage. Nevertheless, somewhere between her irreverent blog, many emails and a lot of laughter later – and generous decants of Roja Dove’s Scandal and Lucifer no. 3 among others – I’ve found a friend I truly cherish.

Suzanne of Perfume Journal

In the perfumista world is a term called a Scent Twin. Suzanne – an exceptionally gifted perfume writer herself – is mine. A Scent Twin is that rare creature who tends to love what you love, who will know something about your tastes and inclinations, and can often point you in a few directions you might otherwise not know. Suzanne and I met through my first perfume story of Amouage Ubar, whereupon she sent me a decant for my birthday. Since then, she has introduced me to many other wonders, and since then, she’s become not just a scent twin but also a soul sister. We’ve cheered each other up and made each other laugh and shared much else besides perfumed words since. I sincerely hope we always will.

Dee of Beauty on the Outside

It was Mugler’s Womanity – and my own snarky remarks about it on last year’s list – that brought Dee out of hiding to say hello, and what a ride it’s been since then! Devious Dee, I call her, since she tends to know things before I do, or should I say, know things I do before I do them! – has done so much to keep me going in this momentous year, and both she and I know…it ain’t over yet!

Olfactoria of Olfactoria’s Travels

Anyone who can manage to blog daily with two small children in situ and also be such a giving, generous soul as well as a spectacular perfume writer earns my undying respect and profound admiration. Should I ever get to Vienna, which isn’t my least favorite city on Earth, B will surely get me into all sorts of plastic-scorching trouble…and a Viennese cake, or two!

Ines of AllIAmARedhead

Last march, Ines was the very first to bribe me with that ultimate perfumoholic bribe…a Serge Lutens Palais Royal exclusive…a decant of Boxeuses. It has been much adored ever since! As has, gotta say it, the very redheaded Ines herself!

Aromi of IlMondoDiOdore

Aromi’s group blog,Il Mondo di Odore, was one of the first blogs I followed a long time ago, and I’ve read it faithfully since. He was also kind enough to send me a care package that included my favorite mainstream find of this year – Mugler’s Alien Liqueur de Parfum, and a sample of another line so exceedingly rare and off the radar, I’ve only seen it reviewed exactly once. It’s on my shortlist of up and coming attractions…which leads me to…

Favorite Avoidance Actions…err…blogs!

In a year that led to so many connections and so many cherished friendships, more discoveries in the blogosphere expanded my horizons and inspired me, too. On the right, you’ll find my blog list of favorite reading material – what I consider to be the very best in perfume writing. These are the ones I read myself. My one regret is not having the time to comment as often as I’d like, but I mean it when I say I read all of them. Many are mentioned above as Fragrant Facilitators, but I’ve made some new finds and located kindred souls, too…

Memory of Scent

Lyrical, rhythmic prose and thoughtful reviews don’t often go together quite so well in one splendid package as with Christos of Memory of Scent. If you don’t know him, start reading. He’s that good!

TheCandyPerfumeBoy

If not for Twitter and the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, I would have missed out on an absolutely indecent amount of fun – and another fan of Big, Bold, Beautiful Florals in Thomas, a.k.a The Candy Perfume Boy. I’ve decided to adopt him as my wayward kid brother. If we were ever in the same room, we’d be so much trouble…And speaking of trouble…

Persolaise

Once upon a time, there was a frequent reviewer and Basenotes commenter who decided to create his own blog. Since then, he’s become so awesome, he’s been justly nominated for a Jasmine Award for best perfume blog and received all sorts of exposure for his unquestionable expertise. Make no mistake, Persolaise is…trouble! Irreverent, funny, very intelligent and an inveterate tease. There was that running gag one night that involved a pink shirt, an August Personage, rumors of a fabled extrait, rope, a chair, Britney Spears Circus Fantasy, Covent Garden and “Bring me back my oakmoss!” While we’re on the subject, Persolaise, I’ll happily sign that oakmoss petition, too!

Jen of ThisBlogReallyStinksPerfume

In the unlikely event I should ever need a Conanna the Grammarian, Jen is hired in a heartbeat. Her blog – of course highly articulate, funny and grammatically perfect – is as unique as her perfume perspectives and indeed her beautiful self, and with a name like that, you know it’s special!

Ari of The Scents of Self

Ari is a relative newcomer but she’s no newbie when it comes to writing about perfume – or even her highly entertaining and well-planned series of interviews with perfume bloggers! She loves cats – indeed, has a cat named Zelda after a hyperfamous Fitzgerald – literature and Guerlain, probably not in that order.

Nat of AnotherPerfumeBlog

Nat should rightly be listed as a Great Facilitator for being the one to arrange a split of an Ormonde Jayne Tolu travel set that also involved yours truly, but I also love to read her! Whether instigating a poll to decide on her wedding perfume or recounting her adventures in London, she’s always an excellent excuse not to do what I should be doing, which is writing another blog myself!

Undina of Undina’s Looking Glass

I’m not entirely sure what it is Undina does for a living, but I’m relatively certain it involves things like statistics, mathematics and other things that make my eyes glaze. She’s so organized, her monthly lists of perfumes she wore are sorted into graphs and spreadsheets after percentage! That, my friends, is dedication! Here’s my system…reviewed and should be sent to Lily (small pile in red brocade makeup pouch). Received and needs review (large pile in turquoise cakebox). Check inbox. Did I say thank you? Yes. Good. Later. Love! Turquoise pull-out organizer. Will get to later…assorted tangled mess in blue cakebox. Guilt trip – in black voile bag…What I wore this month…what was it again? So you can see why I am speechless with admiration!

Gaia of The Non Blonde

Not content with being named for a Goddess of Earth and origination in Greek mythology, Gaia the Non Blonde is also one of my personal goddesses. My admiration for this ultimate authority on makeup brushes as well as vintage perfumes knows no limits, and even less so when I posed a difficult makeup question to all those beauty bloggers I follow on Twitter, and Gaia gave me what amounts to the winning lottery ticket – a tip about Dutch makeup artist Ellis Faas. Three samples, two emails and a rather expensive concealer later, I no longer have to look my age, never mind act it! From nine+ feet away, I don’t even need Botox! Grateful is not the word…

Joey of Beauty, Bacon, Bunnies

Once in a blue moon, temptation will slink in sideways when you least expect it and before you know it, you have a Devil on your shoulder, egging you on. “C’mon! You know you want to!” Indeed I do, and when I doubt it, I have that devious Devilette named Joey on my shoulder egging me on to ever-more perilous adventures in perfumes that sometimes involve Tiger in his natural habitat…When I do get to New York and finally meet her, Manhattan will never be the same…

The Postcards from God Department

In a year where I’ve written so much, stretched my horizons to silly putty and beyond, met so many mind-blowing people and flirted hardcore with a rock star legend and his bass player, two more stars of a different order appeared on the firmament of social media…and no thank you will ever be enough!

The social media/PR department of Parfums Serge Lutens have been unfailingly kind, encouraging and promptly retweeted any Lutens creation I posted as my Scent of the Day, as well as posted some of my reviews on their Facebook page. This is my fifteen milliseconds of fleeting fame, my postcard from God – and this, too, has made this year one I won’t forget in a hurry, since Serge Lutens perfumes put me on this fabled road to perdition to begin with.

And then, there was a very important August Personage of a Very August Perfume House, who lost his luggage on a promotional trip, whereupon I wrote him I’d keep my eyes crossed it was located safe and sound. I did. It was. Since then, whenever I felt myself flagging, the occasional – and sometimes very prompt – tweet from Christopher Chong of Amouage has either galvanized me right out of my rut or made me laugh until I cried. Until such time as I can get to London and say thank you in person – and rest assured I will, even if I don’t have a thing to wear! – his encouragement and support of one iconoclastic perfume blogger/nutcase/writer wannabe has meant – and spoken! – volumes. Epics! Opera, even!

Because…isn’t that what has been the theme of this year? To connect, to find likeminded souls with likeminded passions and the joy of sharing it, to pass it on and pay it forward and make it real and make it happen?

Without all of you, nothing would have happened. Without all of you, what would be the point? The year of 2011 was the year I laid the groundwork for everything I just know will happen in 2012, the year I began to believe…and for that faith alone, no thank you will ever be enough!

Just remember, guys and gals – our common adventures are just beginning, because now, we can see the road before us, and who knows what wonders lie ahead and what marvels we may find?

Image: The Coronation crown of Christian 4th of Denmark, made by goldsmith Dirich Fyring in Odense, 1595-96, from the Royal Danish Collections.