Thursday, February 27, 2014

Perfume: The Story of a Woman Frustrated by a Formulation Change

I am fascinated by the powerful memories that can be triggered by a specific scent, but my love of perfume was triggered by the realization that the formulation for a favorite perfume of mine had changed without warning. Back in the early '90s, the perfumes I recall being all the rage were ObsessionLiz Claiborne and Colors de Benetton. My favorite was Colors de Benetton in the clear bottle. Several years after I graduated high school, the big bottle I had to save up to buy had sprayed its last spritz.  I made the quick trip to the local Benetton store at the Florida Mall and bought a replacement. It didn't occur to me to try it out in the store, it was a simple refill purchase. The replacement bottle wasn't clear like the empty one I had at home, now it was a dark green. No matter, I thought - still the same name, price etc. WRONG. The green bottle smelled to me like it was a close cousin of Pine Sol. I thought there had to be something wrong with the bottle from the Benetton store, so I purchased one from, thinking I might get a bottle from a different batch (?). Nope. I sent the Pine Sol concoction back to and took the foul smelling stuff back to Benetton. I scoured the web for some information about why the perfume I loved no longer smelled like it did originally. I came up empty handed. Luckily, you can still find people selling unused (or partial used) bottles of perfume on eBay.

While I was on the quest for confirmation that Benetton had changed the formulation, I stumbled across I was completely unaware that there was a community of people sharing opinions/information on perfumes that had gone out of production, were new to the market or had quietly changed their formulation.

Around that time, I was also reading Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. The undercurrent of the plot is scent and one of the main character's desire to recreate a 300 year old perfume from a bottle in her possession. 

I began to dig deeper into the world of perfume after seeing the movie Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (I read the book afterwards, and naturally it was better.).  I then found Luca Turin through continued research, and read his book with Tania Sanchez - Perfumes the A-Z GuideThe Secret of Scent (Luca Turin), Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession (Chandler Burr).

As I was reading all these books, I researched how I could get my hands on the perfumes Luca Turin writes about. That's how I came across The Perfumed Court and the ladies at Sniffapalooza. Surrender to Chance is another group of women who sell perfume decants, so if TPC doesn't have what you're looking for, check over at SC.

Eventually I got interested enough to take part in two Sniffapalooza scent themed travel tours! The first one was to Barcelona, Spain and the second was to Lisbon, Portugal. Each trip was a unique excursion into Europe via one's nose!

I found my favorite perfume (hands down!) via Katie Puckrick's vlogged perfume reviews. Frederic Malle's Portrait of a Lady (Perfumer: Dominique Ropion) is the most fantastic perfume I've ever smelled. Katie's review of PoaL was so compelling, I purchased a sample from TPC, wore every last drop of it and just had to purchase a full bottle! At the time, it was quite difficult to buy from FM's online shop. I had to call my credit union, explain that I was attempting to purchase a perfume from an online shop in France - and could they please allow the transaction to complete? Once they'd opened some ports in the credit union firewall, my purchase was complete and I was ecstatic to have a full bottle of PoaL winging its way to me!

Fun fact: Marie Antoinette was caught trying to escape from the French Revolutionaries disguised as a peasant, but was recognized as royalty because she smelled fantastically of Houbigant, which no peasant could ever afford to wear.

This is but a small portion of my collection. I have hunted down dozens of different perfume decants after coming across a reference to a perfume critical to a character's reaction in a film (Arpege via "A Single Man", or many of those mentioned in a book (The Perfume Collector). My nose is always curious and learning.

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