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quinta-feira, 3 de dezembro de 2015

Addicted: Ramblings of a Fragrance Junkie

by: Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison

This column initially began at Basenotes in 2006; Marlen is thrilled to revive it exclusively at Fragrantica!
Each day I visit Fragrantica. I start by browsing user reviews of scents that I've read about or sampled but don't yet own. I consider the notes, the ratings, the reviews and my budget. This inevitably leads me to online window shopping which looks a little something like this:
5 minutes later I find a bottle of something I'm convinced I need, and that only costs $65 USD, and I think to myself, "Hmmm, I would smell great in that...of course, thatcould pay next month's phone bill and part of my wi-fi bill. Decisions, decisions."
I come back to Fragrantica and read the reviews again. This allows me to either talk myself into further consideration of a purchase or to move on to something else I might or might not need.
"But X usually sells for $165 USD so this is an incredible bargain that I can't pass up, and since the seller will consider my best offer, I'll just propose $40 and...just think how much money I'll save! And I could always sell it or swap it if I find I either don't love it or just don't use it. And it will benefit me as a writer and editor by helping me learn more about perfumers and aromas."
This last part is tricky because I have built a career based on knowledge of fragrance. Sampling really does broaden my awareness. I once had a friend who never wanted a full bottle of anything; "Just send me a sample or small decant" she would say. I remember thinking that it would be much better to have the bottle, the experience of "owning " the fragrance. I'm not sure why, but this is important to me; I don't want just the sample, I want the full experience. I want to hold the bottle in my hands, to see it in the perfume cabinet, and to spray with abandon. It's incredible to think that one can actually "own" a scent.
But just think, if a typical bottle holds 100ml and in one wearing I might use 1-2 ml, I would have to wear a fragrance around 75 times to finish up a bottle. At the moment, as I'm currently staying with family and in transition, I only (!) have about fifty 100ml bottles in my rotation. That's about 3750 wearings. If I wear two different scents a day or re-apply at least once, that's about 1900 days, or about 5 years of scent.
So the reality is that I know I don't NEED full bottles of everything that interests me, and I do regularly sell and swap away things I no longer wear or care for.
Sometimes I think it's all just part of a hobby, of being a collector. I clearly don't intend to wear every drop. And I've always been that guy who thinks, "Oh, the 100ml is just $20 more than the 50ml so it's a better buy and therefore I should spend a little more money and purchase the larger size...even though I know I will barely make a dent in it." I regularly do the math, believe me....
But there are times - and Fragrantica is definitely a catalyst - when I feel overcome with desire to have a fragrance. I want it; I want to smell it and appreciate the aroma; I want to wear it, to experience it, to make memories with it...I want to keep it as a reference and in my collection. And this thinking flies in the face of the reality that I cannot possibly use up all that I amass.
Recently I have started considering keeping a small number of fragrances in each of the major categories of scent, e.g. I might keep Chanel Antaeus, Guerlain's Jicky, and Rabanne's La Nuit as my favorite animalics. This would reduce the total number of fragrances I own, but this reduces some of the pleasure and fun of keeping things around.
Sometimes it seems that my collection is like a library or an inventory of smells; it's a card catalog of memories, emotions, and associations to consult and take comfort in. In some ways, fragrances are like photo albums or videos, encountering them transports me to other times and places. So for me, fragrance is never about attracting another individual. Fragrance is about personal pleasure, developing associations; fragrance is a highly nuanced accessory.
My biggest concern is that I have limited space for storage, limited funds for continued exploration, and limited time and opportunity for wearing scent.
So what is a fragrance addict to do? Aroma gives me such pleasure; what could be more exciting than unwrapping and spraying a new bottle of scent for the very first time? And I admit that it can take multiple wearings to "figure out" a composition. A fragrance is much like making a new friend; it takes multiple encounters to learn the intricacies, nuances and yes, sometimes even shortcomings. I'm not one who can experience a fragrance just once and then wax rhapsodic. I once wrote a review of a fragrance sent to me by Coty almost 9 months after I received it. When I sent the review link to my contact, she replied in a vexed manner, "Marlen, that would have been so helpful if it had been published when we actually launched the scent; I'm afraid we've now discontinued it." My bad. But it can take me weeks or months to really get to know an aroma and once I do, well, there is a great deal of intimacy that has been developed, a strong personal bond to a group of aromatic molecules.
And I know that fragrances have shelf lives, that at some point the precious liquid will no longer smell the same as when it was first conceived. Time is my enemy in a hobby where the objects of affection age and degrade.
So what do I do? I wake up each day and begin my morning at Fragrantica. I start by browsing user reviews of scents that I've read about or sampled but don't yet own. I consider the notes, the ratings, the reviews and my budget. This inevitably leads me to online window shopping...

  • Top image by CL Wookey from DeviantArt - purchase this print (without my text) HERE.
  • Keep calm created at; visit the site and make your own!
  • Sample vial from & Moschino Factice from
  • Boy doing math from
  • Image of George Peabody Library from

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