Two weekends ago I went to London with a good friend I’ve known since I was in my 20s – that’s her in the photo with me – Sam who writes the I Scent You A Day blog. We went to hang out and drink tea with a group of perhaps twenty people, many of whom we hadn’t physically met before. What did we have in common? Perfume. How did we know these people? The internet.
Now some people get upset when I refer to them as Smelly Friends, so I may need to use some other terminology, such as Fragonerds, Perfumistas and Perfumisters, or just fragrance afficionados, but it all boils down to the same thing. We are people who love perfume. You, dear reader, may very well be one too.
The lovely thing about the internet – having grown up without it – is that you can find information on almost anything online. When I first read Chander Burr’s biography of Luca Turin with all its side stories describing fragrances, I needed to smell those perfumes and rushed into a perfume shop to smell Mitsouko, Shalimar, Jicky, and L’Heure Bleue. But in the months and years that followed, I needed to know more, smell more and ask lots of questions. While there were a few books about perfume on the shelves in 2006, the real discussion was going on in forums like Basenotes.net and on blogs like Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, The non-Blonde, and Perfume Posse.
Nowadays there are pages like ours and groups on Facebook as well as the dedicated perfume forums, making it even easier to find like-minded souls to talk to about soliflores, sandalwood and chypres. It’s such a relief to relax, let your hair down and say what you really think about the latest Hermessence or confess that you love to wear utterly unfashionable 80s big hitters like Dior Poison. Equally, groups are where you hear about interesting new things coming out, what perfumers are up to, and what the difference is between a vintage and a modern version of a particular fragrance. It’s great to meet people who share your interest and are happy to chatter about it. So if you’re curious about perfume and feeling shy about joining an online perfume group, go for it. If you join one that I’m a member of, say hi, won’t you?
My Smelly Friends tell me about new things they think I’ll like, persuade me to try things I’m dubious about, often send me samples of things they have loved and feel sure I will also enjoy, and share ‘guilty pleasures’ such as my fondness for celebrity scents. Bless them, they put up with my strange questions and seem unfazed by my inability to tell jasmine from jonquil and my odd comparisons between a perfectly pleasant fragrance and wet concrete. Along the way, I’ve made friends who have helped me through some tough times, celebrated my successes, and been there at 3am when I’ve had insomnia (that’s the beauty of time zones). Occasionally we meet in the real world, and there’s one thing that always happens some time around the third cup of tea: the sample vials come out. I have had tea with fellow perfumistas in Switzerland, London and Wales and we always end up bringing bags of things we’ve already sampled and passing them on to each other to share the fun.
This time was no exception. I’d never tried the Slumberhouse range and a friend from a Facebook group had brought me his samples to try. I fell for Zahd, which smells like an old man’s pocket – cherry cough drops and pipe tobacco – and was laughed at when I pulled a face at Mare, which smelled like bilgewater on me! I had brought some Comme des Garcons original eau de parfum with its notes of medicinal spices that are warming and comforting, which went home with a new friend who fell in love with it, and another had mentioned wanting to try Chambre Noire from Olfactive Studio, which I had a sample of. All around us people were chatting about the merits of their favourites or the reasons they weren’t so keen on one fragrance or another. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of reaching across, smelling each other’s hands, and passing people things, and a lot of great cake.
I came away more excited about writing about perfume than I have been for a while. I’m more curious about some houses, particularly Maison Francis Kurkdjian, and I want to try the new releases from Serge Lutens that sound like a return to my richly-spiced and slightly off-kilter favourites. Expect to hear about Miller Harris and Bogue Profumo, Molinard and Lubin as winter draws on and I can enjoy a crackle of spice and some good sturdy leather. I hope you’re looking forward to a good read.