Saturday, October 6, 2012

Perfumes of Geography: What's in a Place Name?

Perfumes with literal geographical references in their names have become quite fashionable of late. First came Bond no 9, whose founding mission and guiding idea was to “make scents of New York.” They've launched perfumes with the names of streets (Lexington Avenue, Fashion Avenue, Wall Street...) and parks (Central Park, Madison Square Park, Bryant Park...) and boroughs (Brooklyn and Manhattan, with Staten Island, the Bronx, and Queens no doubt to come!) and beaches (Fire Island, Coney Island...) and squares (Cooper, Union, Astor Place...)—and you name it (Harrods, Saks, Queen Elizabeth II, The Scent of Peace!). They even got a bit carried away—in what might however be regarded endearingly as the typical New Yorker way—with launches of perfumes whose names correspond to locations rather far from the Big Apple: Indianapolis, Boca Raton, Texas, and Las Vegas, among other places.

To New Yorkers, of course, all the world is a part of the big, melodramatic and metaphorical Broadway stage. To the rest of the country, New Yorkers may as well be for'ners—and many of them are, including Bond no 9 guru Laurice Rahmé, who in true Napoleonic style set out in 2003 to conquer the olfactory universe, one fine eau de parfum launch at a time. I mean that as a compliment, I really do. In this world of Pac-man like corporations gobbling up small houses left and right, it takes some real guts to embark on the construction of an independent perfume empire!

The geography idea soon caught on—though I must say that I haven't seen any credit given where credit would seem to be due... Of course, there have been subtle nuances in the various concepts now smattering the grand olfactory map of all perfumes present and past. 

Guerlain launched its Les Voyages Olfactifs series in 2009, the first three destinations (all originating, naturally, from Paris) being Tokyo, Moscow, and New York, the latter of which came close to encroaching on Bond territory, but hey: imitation is the highest form of flattery! In 2011, Paris-London was added to this series and, in 2012, Paris-Shanghai, so I gather that Les Voyages Olfactifs have enjoyed some market success, in spite of the fact that the original launches were offered only in 250 ml bottles.

Somehow this geography concept acquired a kind of momentum, and today several different niche houses have launched place-inspired perfumes. The Different Company recently launched Tokyo Bloomand Keiko Mecheri has a few geographically inspired perfumes, including not only Tangeri, in the new Bespoke collection, but the set of four perfumes specifically marketed as evocative of distinct places: TarifaTaormineLes Nuits d'Izu, and Mulholland Drive, the latter of which, too, seems to take its cue from Bond no 9—both in concept and compositional style. But in these cases, the isolated launches of place-named perfumes represent only a tiny fraction of the total creative output of the house—rather like the launch by Parfums de Nicolaï of New York in 1989, or by Yves Saint Laurent of Paris, way back in 1983. I should perhaps say that the name Paris appears in more than 100 perfumes, but that city is obviously a special case. And of course some of them refer to Paris Hilton!

In contrast to the sporadic appearance of city names in the collections of several niche houses, a couple of new ventures have made cities the very basis of their entire oeuvre. Dueto, founded in 2010, boasts a grand total of four perfumes, the bottles of all of which are covered with a sort of city name wallpaper with dozens of different cities listed. Dueto's concept is that of the global city: we are all connected in our urban sprawls, wherever they happen fortuitously to be. It's not just that we're connected as citizens of the world, as the Stoics of ancient Greece maintained in espousing cosmopolitanism. No, we're connected in coolness, as is indicated by the names of the perfumes: City Oud, City Love, Lady Cool, and Golden Boy.

If the individual perfumes are not distinguished by specific cities, then why are cities' names on the bottles? one may with reason ask. The answer, to reiterate: globalization is this house's concept. I'm not entirely sure that pasting the names of some finite number of cities on all of the bottles of perfumes of a house is likely to be an effective marketing tack, but then again, what do I really know about marketing? I do know that Dueto currently has a promotion running through which a free smartphone case will be yours with the purchase of one of their perfumes. This is starting to look like a gimmick run amok. But who knows? Perhaps their perfumes are masterpieces. On ne sait jamais...

The crown for the most place-name launches in the shortest period of time has been usurped from Bond no 9 and now belongs to The Scent of Departure, the house recently founded by Histoires de Parfums' own Gérard Ghislain, who apparently ran out of literary inspirations a while back, having switched to the most literal of all possible names for his tuberose trio: Tubéreuse 1, Tubéreuse 2, and Tubéreuse 3—although it's true that descriptive subtitles were also given to the perfumes, presumably to prevent confusion. In my testing, I did not find those descriptions (respectively, Capricieuse, Virginale, L'Animale) to be accurate to my phenomenological experience of these perfumes, so the subtitles ended up being more confusing than helpful. The only way that I can remember which one is which is to go back and read my reviews...

In any case, Scents of Departure already boasts 19 perfumes, each said to be a destination for olfactory departure to be accessed through spritzing a bit of the named perfume on. This is gimmickry beyond belief. Does anyone think that cities smell like perfumes? Bond no 9 stretched credulity with its concept of mapping scents on places in and around New York City—to my nose one of the stinkiest cities in the First World, certainly in the United States—but at least there were some breathers in there, perfumes representing beaches and parks and gardens, all of which do have various kinds of scents. What, pray tell, does Dubai smell like? In reality, all big cities are teeming with all manner of smells. And yes, they are mainly smells, not sources of olfactory delight.

I recall that some perfumistas used to chide Bond no 9 as a tourist house, but that distinction, too, has been stolen away by The Scent of Departure, although Bond no 9 made a valiant effort to hold their own on that front with its series of I Love NY launches featuring no less than the t-shirt logo itself and offered at a slightly reduced price so as to be more accessible to, well, tourists. At one point they were even running a promotion offering a free t-shirt with the purchase of one of the bottles of I LOVE NY perfume.  

The Scent of Departure perfumes are modestly pricedwell, okay, they're actually cheap relative to niche standardswhich is bound to raise skeptical brows among niche snobs: $45 for 50ml? That would be a no-go for most people who frequent L'Artisan Parfumeur, Montale, Frédéric Malle, and the like. In fact, that price is so low that one suspects that the juice inside may be even less worthy than middling mainstream designer launches.

I have not tested any of the recent flurry of city perfumes (from either The Scent of Departure or Dueto), and I cannot decide whether I should. In some ways I'd rather protest with my wallet to gimmickry gone grossly awry by buying one really good perfume rather than a bunch of mediocre samples which will end up depressing me about the Fall of Western Civilization all over again. Maybe I'll test all of those fragrances after I've finished the Montales, the Kriglers, the Illuminum, and the Boadicea the Victorious perfumes waiting patiently in my queue. See you in 2014, The Scent of Departure, by which time either you'll have 60 city perfumes in your collection, or you'll have shuttered your store.

Are Perfumes of Place a Rejoinder to Flanker Madness?

The big houses have not generally (Guerlain being a noted exception) felt the need to get in on this particular gimmick game. After all, they have infinitely proliferating flankers to peel off of their massively marketed bestsellers, which provides a built-in name and new-launch generator. One takes the name of the original perfume, say, Dior Poison, and simply tacks on an adjective: Hypnotic Poison, Midnight Poison, Pure Poison. Of course, those perfumes were only nominally flankers, as each was entirely distinct and became an independently iconic perfume.

The real Poison flankers—flankers in name and spirit—were the second-order creations, whose names were made from the original names by attaching words such as “Elixir” to produce: Pure Poison Elixir, Midnight Poison Elixir, and Hypnotic Poison Elixir.

The most flankerized Dior perfume appears to be Addict, which has spawned Addict to Life, Addict Dior Twist, Addict 2, Addict 2 Eau Fraîche, Addict 2 Logomania, Addict 2 Sparkle in Pink, Addict 2 Summer Breeze, Addict 2 Summer Litchi, Addict Eau Fraîche, Addict Eau Sensuelle, Addict Shine, Addict Summer Peonies, Addict Limited Edition Collect It, and of course the eau de parfum. There also appears to have been a second, separate launch of a perfume by the name of Addict Eau Fraîche—just to keep Addict addicts on their toes (forget their nose...).

It seems clear that such flankers are intended to be one-bottle wonders, purchased once and then forgotten as new flanker launches capture the Addict-devotee's attention. It is their loyalty to the original Addict which must keep consumers coming back again and again to buy these new short-marketlife perfumes, because they are never around long enough to create a following of their own.

Other houses have engaged in massive flankerization of their most popular perfumes as well, including Calvin Klein, which since becoming a page in the Coty Prestige portfolio appears to be vying for the flanker folie award. All of the original, classic Calvin Klein fragrances have been flankerized, with CK One and Eternity having spawned, respectively (as of today...) 18 and 13 offspring, although if one counts the Eternity Man spores, then Eternity would win with 22 flankers covering both genders. (This comparison makes some sense because CK One is a unisex fragrance.)

Who needs place names with a virtual infinity of potential flankers, all of which sail on the tail of the wave of marketing success of their namesake? Given the proven economic efficacy of the flankers based on their famous perfumes, for a house such as Dior or Calvin Klein to begin by naming brand new perfumes after places doesn't make all that much sense. It is the name of the already famous perfume which the names of flankers are intended to evoke, filling the consumer with a warm feeling likely to generate a fumbling about one's purse or wallet in search of a credit card.

The geography idea has somehow, nonetheless, managed to infect even a few designer houses. Donna Karan, a mainstream house now under helm of the Estée Lauder Group, has gotten in on the place name game with four recent launches of Be Delicious LOVE THE WORLD apple perfumes said to be city-inspired: Rio, London, Paris, and New YorkIsn't Rio de Janeiro the site of a documentary film about people who live in the garbage dumps situated around the perimeters of the city? So is that the scent of Rio, and if not, why not?

The Be Delicious apples had already been massively flankerized—by my count 19 times before the Cities series, which, inching ahead of Calvin Klein Eternity, brought its flanker total to 23 as of 10pm EST on October 5, 2012. If one gimmick is good, then are not three gimmicks three-times better? appears to have been the brilliant deduction of one of the marketing masterminds at DKNY—or perhaps all of the big ideas now erupt out of the Estée Lauder nerve center.

So why should an apple be associated with London, Paris, or Rio? Your guess is as good as mine. The concept is further confused by the visible name New York as a part of the name of the house: Donna Karan New York on all four of the flanker boxes. I suppose that in three of the cases the first could be the departure and the second the destination city, à la Guerlain's Voyages Olfactifs: Paris and New York, Rio and New York, London and New York. The fourth one just seems redundant. Or maybe it's a cleverly coded message that New York is where everyone really wants to be? Which brings us back again to Bond no 9. Oh well.

At this point, I think that it is fair to say that the Be Delicious flankers have essentially become disposable perfumes: one bottle will outlast the production cycle and is all you're ever going to get of these launches, so if you fall for one, you'd better stock-up early. I don't want to make sweeping generalizations about the quality of the Be Delicious perfumes, as I have yet to muster up the courage to test any one of them, but I suspect that they are not the sorts of compositions which inspire profound reverence among wearers. Perhaps I am wrong.

Multilauncher Madness?

For the multilaunchers, there are plenty of alternatives to the place-naming game. Montale perhaps offers the example of the least creative effort invested in naming. Produce a name by simply pushing together two nouns or adjectives which can be said to apply to the perfume inside—even in some vague or tenuous sense, but often in a most literal way. I confess that I have lately fallen prey to the Montale sample game, which involves acquiring as many Montale samples as possible to be able one day to say that one really knows this house. As a consequence, I happen to have lots of their unimaginative names ready at hand.

Montale Santal Wood

Montale White Musk
The good thing about Montale, of course, is that they actually produce quite likeable perfumes. They embody a predictable quality which keeps customers once hooked coming back for more and more, and the range is so vast that one cannot become easily bored. True, there is a lot of repetition, but I'm not convinced that this is a matter of concern in the case of Montale. Whichever “Aoud” perfume you choose will be closer to another Montale Aoud perfume than it will be to anything else, but no one ever said that each creation of a house had to be entirely unique, and the proliferating launches convey a different marketing philosophy altogether: profligacy over parsimony! If I may be so brazen as to paraphrase Montale/Shakespeare himself:  If some is good, is not more better? 

In reality, more is sometimes less, when it is created through the sacrifice of standards and the type of gestation period apparently common to most of the great perfumes of the past—back in “the good old days,” as vintage perfume lovers are wont to lament, reminiscing upon the time when a perfume launch was a bona fide event, rather than the metaphorical equivalent of a tweet.

The guiding idea behind all of the multilaunchers' efforts seems to be to produce a large set of fine niche perfumes into which consumers can dip with some confidence that they will be happy even with a blind buy, having once ascertained the quadrant—or octant—in which their preferences generally lie. It wouldn't really help consumers if Montale's perfumes were all completely unique, since no individual can possibly wear 60 or 80 or 100 different perfumes, so there's no real need to have them all. No, a couple or a few Montales will fill that Montale need quite well until those bottles have been drained. In the meantime, Pierre or Ammar will have produced a dozen or so more creations to satisfy the consumer's simultaneous yearnings for consistency and newness in one fell swoop.

Illuminum, a new British house, has pretty much followed Montale's lead, christening its perfumes using the same simple pairing system to produce such names as Black Musk, White Musk, Black Oud, Rose Oud, Vetiver Oud, White Lotus, White Saffron, Saffron Amber, White Gardenia Petals, etc. Established in 2011, this house already has a collection spanning 33 perfumes!

When you're out to compete with Montale and Bond no 9 in frequency of launches, other types of naming require too much work, it seems. Or perhaps one might surmise, more charitably, that more creative energy is being channeled into perfume composition than the advertising. Hope springs eternal. In reality, that's not such a good argument, because the people designing the bottles are not the same people designing the perfumes, so there's no reason for thinking that the two are somehow in competition with one another. The beautiful bottles used for mainstream fragrance launches do not cut into the perfume composition budget, which stays measly whether the bottle looks good or not.

Similarly, it does not seem to me that creative perfume naming in any way precludes creative perfume composition—nor on the other hand does it ensure it. The tendency appears to be to spend a lot of time on the concept and to wheel in a nose for hire to produce a scent—in time for the intricately orchestrated launch—which can be said in some sense to reflect the name. After that, the whole production is “revealed,” if you like, as a package to a broad sea of disparate consumers, some of whom are shopping for names, labels, and bottles, and others primarily for scent. Certain self-styled purists of course claim that they care only about the scent inside the bottle, but such a position is not obviously coherent, if in fact the reason we value perfume is, above all, for the pleasure it provides.

Surely the pleasing packaging can only contribute to the quality of the overall experience of holding a smooth sculptured bottle, removing a shiny weighted cap, spritzing the perfume on and perceiving how the notes and layers unfurl. Just as an excellent meal tastes better eaten off a porcelain than a paper plate, and a cup of coffee tastes better from a beautiful glass mug than from a styrofoam cup, it seems that perfume, too, should smell somewhat better when it has been properly stored and dispensed from a container equal in beauty to the liquid inside. Bottles, in other words, do seem to matter to our experience, and if they do not they should, it seems to me. Who wants to eat haute Italian cuisine using a plastic fork? I ask most sincerely.

Notes and Place Names as Metaphors

Getting back to the geography question: what in the world is going on here? Why the obsession with places all of a sudden? The jaded, crass view, of course, is simply that geographical locations offer a quick and easy way to generate names for a variety of distinct perfumes without too much creative input on the part of the marketing whizzes writing jingles and fabricating the names of new metaphorical notes behind the scenes at perfume houses.

Names are suggestive metaphors no less than are notes. We are told of the alleged notes of a new perfume in what are clearly intended to be poetic terms: cashmere wood, sparkling aldehydes, ... But even more literal-sounding “notes” are metaphors no less than are the names of perfumes said to have been geographically inspired. Does a perfume with “London” or “Paris” or “New York” or “Tokyo” in its name evoke memories of those places? Perhaps not in cases where the city is one with which the wearer has no familiarity, but even then, the name of a city famous enough to be included in geographical perfume series tends to evoke memories of imaginings informed by media images of the place.

Paris Las Vegas!
Place names gesture toward a hypothetical dreamscape where we might visit in our minds as we reflect upon the perfume. In this way, geographic names for perfumes convey a truth about the olfactory globe itself, a veritable parallel universe explored only by fragrant travelers who consider the value of perfume to inhere in the memories and associations it evokes, not in the approval or attention which it may be used to garner from other people.

The real mystery is why niche houses have felt the need to generate so many names so quickly. It seems that they have myopically decided to join in on the multilauncher craze, the strategy of which appears to be to produce so many different perfumes that every potential customer will be able to find at least one to his or her liking. 

In other words, what appears to be prodigality really has a pragmatic basis, grounded in the indisputable fact that different people like different “notes” and genres of perfume. If a house creates one single perfume, even if it is a masterpiece, there will be people who dislike the creation because of what it contains. Patchouli phobes exist. Violet phobes, aldehyde phobes, even rose phobes exist!

Niche perfume houses are trying to launch many different perfumes rather quickly in what seems to be an endeavor to be able to compete with the big houses as they rule the flanker game. But I sincerely wonder whether niche houses are not sabotaging themselves by putting out so many perfumes in such a short time that none of them is likely to enjoy sufficient market success to justify keeping in production.

This is a separate concern, purely pragmatic, about how niche houses can possibly win the multilauncher game against the corporate giants LVMH, Coty, Procter & Gamble, L'Oréal, and Puig, which seem intent upon swallowing up most of the perfume market one chunk at a time. The more substantive concern is whether niche houses are undermining their own ostensible raison d'être by spending less and less time on the composition of their new launches, which seems to be a mathematical inevitability, given their relatively small staffs and budgets.

Niche houses were born out of a desire to offer specialized, high-quality offerings with a cachet of exclusivity. When a house launches 20 perfumes in one fell-swoop, it's hard to believe that any of those perfumes could be truly original or exquisite. Perhaps one or two of them will be, but how many consumers (aside from the more OCD-afflicted perfumistas among our numbers...) will bother to give all of them a sniff?

The number of new perfume launches per year—having exceeding 1,000 in 2011 and continuing to grow—has reached the point where perfumistas may simply throw their hands up in despair, having recognized that their once noble goal of mastering knowledge of the perfume world has become a fully quixotic dream verging on delusion. No finite person can really keep up with the frequency of launches today. Even if one attempted to review three perfumes each day, that would still leave new perfumes unsniffed by the end of the year. Why bother? Who can remember them all? Who really cares?

The Bottle Half-full

Perfume sampling can be viewed, in fact, as a form of travel through the olfactory universe mapped out in greater and greater detail as more regions of formerly uncharted territory become appropriated in identifiable perfume forms. As multilaunches—of both designer flankers and niche series—continue to proliferate, more and more push pins become concentrated in more and more areas until every new launch must be squeezed into an already crowded corner, making it seem less and less likely that iconic perfumes can still be produced.

There are only so many qualities which one can put together in a perfume and expect people to wear. When compositions become too extreme, they simply become unpleasant, and no matter how original they may be, they are bound to founder sooner or later. True, radical concepts may enjoy a short-term success as the novelty value sustains sales, but no one is really going to be draining multiple bottles of them, so once everyone's curiosity has been satisfied, they'll go back to buying wearable perfume until once again their interest is piqued by the latest Big New Thing.

Ultimately, whether we are excited or disgruntled by the flood of new launches, including the new geography-inspired perfumes, will depend upon what it is that we are looking for in perfume. As the launches have proliferated, so has the sampling frenzy, with many perfumistas seeming to spend much of their fragrance wallet share on small decants and samples, rather than investing in full bottles. Have we become promiscuous because of the frequency of launches? Or are these perfumes being poured out so swiftly because of our sampling madness? Montale, Bond no 9, Keiko Mecheri, Boadicea the Victorious, and brand new houses such as Illuminum and The Scent of Departure are offering so many choices that we may find it difficult to commit, enticed as we are continuously by the new perfumes on the horizon waiting to be sniffed.

There is something admirable about wanting to know as much as possible about any area, including perfume, and with more and more new houses appearing, and more and more perfume being pumped out, perhaps the world of perfumistas will eventually subdivide into genre specializations. It might have been possible to be conversant will all of the important new launches in Paris back in, say, 1950—or even 1980. Is it possible today? Probably not as a hobby. Maybe only people who give their lives over totally to perfume sniffing are going to be able to achieve a real competence in the field.

For now, we have thousands of dilettantes sniffing whatever they happen to come across or whatever happens to grab their attention long enough to justify acquiring a sample, and publishing their opinions on the world wide web as though they were authorities. But of course they are no less than is anyone else, it seems to me. As of today, the Parfumo database contains nearly 21,000 perfumes, and that number continues to grow. Is there an end in sight? At some point, sooner or later, perfumistas are going to arrive at the conclusion that thousands upon thousands of perfumes are simply not worth our time. But which are the ones most likely to capture our attention? Those which are mass marketed in blanket media spam campaigns, of course.

Niche houses served in the past as an oasis, a repository of composed perfumes created by people with ideas transcending the curriculum of M.B.A. programs. I do believe that a few good perfumers are still putting out creations just as in the good old days, but it must be incredibly difficult for them to survive, which is why whenever we have the chance, it would behoove us to support the independent houses, since we know that “someone is home.” Where there is a perfumer in the house, let's do what we can to prevent him from becoming homeless.

Whatever may happen to the perfume world in the future, we will not have lost anything but some petty cash in traveling around the olfactory world sniffing one creation at a time, even if much of what we smell seems redundant. The real world, too, is filled with redundancy, but we can connect the dots from one destination to the next according to our own ideas and past. What else could we do?

No matter how much vat-produced mediocre juice is poured out, this will not prevent true perfumers from plying their trade. It's left to us only to seek them out. The overwhelming number of new launches—among even the niche houses—makes it more challenging to locate worthy perfumes, but it also makes it more rewarding when we do. Just as we can learn by traveling around the real, geographical world, through the process of traveling down what may sometimes prove to be dark alleys of perfume, we will have learned something, too.


  1. So thoughtful as usual, Shera!

    1. Thank you so much, Anonymous. Is that you, Joseph? (-;

  2. I think it all comes down to the way perfumes reach their audience. In the past choosing a fragrance was an experience that required the physical presence of the perfume. Today most of the customers are approached by advertising. In the case of niche fragrances the name of a perfume must be able to form a a full image. How many flowers are there to reference? Most of them have been done. So it is logical to resort to places because the putative buyer has either visited them or has a wish to visit them based on his expectations. So the imagery is already there. One already has expectations from the perfume without knowing anything more than the name. The case of Bond No9 is more genuine I think because their names refer to micro-environments. For instance I have no idea of what to expect of Union Square in terms of smell. I find this more "artistic" than "Tokyo" or "Moscow".

    Mass marketed flankers are a lot more vague in their nomenclature because no one really pays attention to the name. A striking example is CK one Shock series which could have been easily named CK zero or CK anti-one or CK minus one. These names seem a lot more suitable as they are totally contradictory to the idea of CK one.

  3. I agree with you, Christos: a city name is way too vast and vague. Even worse are the Dueto bottles covered with a smattering of city names. At some point, if everything is included, then nothing is included, and it ceases to have any meaning whatsoever.

    That is also great example: CK zero or CK anti-one or CK negative-one.

    All of this leads me to wonder about the "perfume is art" thesis all over again. Bryan Ross wrote something yesterday at From Pyrgos which is really insightful. Here's the link:

    The odd thing about Chandler Burr is that he has a great deal of experience with the business end of perfumery. I have not read that book (The Perfect Scent) yet, but I will, and the question is: how can he believe that perfumers who work for the companies who put out such monstrosities as the CK One flanker series are artists? They are hired noses, doing a very specific job, with specific requirements (budget, concept), and according to the desires of the client. At the end of the day, if the nose is to be paid, he or she must deliver what the client has asked for. So where is the artist in all of this supposed to be?

    I suppose that one could reply that the parameters are quite narrow, but the artist works within those parameters. I wonder whether that is what Burr means... So, if you're given a list of requirements which must be fulfilled (a budget, a concept, etc.), then there are still plenty of creative choices to be made. But how, again, is that different from building an omelette versus a souffle out of eggs? And doesn't that imply that “everyone's an artist,” a thesis as vacuous as the marketing concept of “all cities”?

    1. Slumberhouse chooses the opposite rationale when it comes to name giving: their fragrances have senseless names so that the wearer approaches them without preconceptions. Of course they are not the only or first doing this but I think I like this approach.

      I will have to disagree with you and Bryan on one thing though: Burr and Turin are as influential as their influence on us. By referencing them, even as an antithetical source, every time the subject of art comes up in the context of perfume, only proves that they are shrewd business men. I think it is time to find new experts on the field, ones we can reference positively :)

    2. Point well taken! I tend to bring them up because they are the only available examples, and I feel that they are taken far too seriously by many perfumistas--for example, the ones who got me banned from Creednotes for what were taken to be my shameless acts of desecration of The Holey[sic] Book!

    3. Is it true that the Slumberhouse perfume names are surds? I thought that they derived from some obscure Nordic dialect spoken only by twelve cold people. lol

  4. You know, I DO think there are interesting aspects of city odors, but I don't believe they appear in perfumes. I'd love to have something with oranges and bus exhaust to remind me of my long ago trip to Tel Aviv! (Yes, I am an addict of some pretty odd scents, like SMN Nostalgia, with its whoosh of kerosene.) I've read a number of books about African cities that mention a distinctive scent of woodsmoke and various native flora.

    I'd love a well-done Demeter-esque depiction of some New York neighborhoods - Midtown in the Rain, for instance, being cold cement dust, a waft of Starbucks, a hint of unwashed street person, and a bit of pretzel cart. (Demeter did try to do a New York Xmas one, but their roasted chestnut note was sickeningly off.) It's a GREAT concept, except that the names seem only to connect to some vague, romantic idea of a handful of major cities. Give me, instead, Tashkent Winter! Give me Chiang Mai with a hint of durian!

    1. Hello, pitbull friend! Very nice to read you around these parts.

      I agree with you that cities do sometimes have distinct scents, certainly parts of them do, but what makes them distinct, it seems to me, lies in the nose of the beholder, so to speak.

      The distinct quality of a city which we may visit once while on vacation, for example, may forge a permanent memory trace in our mind because, to us, it is unique. To the people of that place, it may not be perceived at all, because it is processed as background noise.

      Consider the literal noise level in New York city. To someone from suburbia or parts even more rural, it can be impossible to sleep in a NYC hotel room situated lower than the fourth floor, because the street noise is so incredibly loud and it runs late and starts up again very early. But I am sure that to a New Yorker who lives in a second-floor apartment, it becomes "normal" and so is not even processed as noise. How else could they get any sleep? Of course, there are always ear plugs, but I surmise that many seasoned New Yorkers tune out the noise naturally.

      The same thing holds, I believe, for scent. When I poke fun at the stinkiness of NYC, it is from my perspective as an inhabitant of a place much less stinky (in my estimation), and someone who specifically grew up in a land-locked state with vast open spaces and endless fresh air. So I think that our judgment of distinct scents of places has every bit as much, if not more, to do with facts about us as it does about facts about the place!

      Can't say that I'd be plunking down a chunk of change for eau de "unwashed street person", but your point is well taken! Demeter did have a great idea and it is absolutely applicable to city microcosms and phenomena, it seems to me!

      Thank you so much for stopping by, pitbull friend!

  5. As far as I'm concerned, there actually is an "eau de unwashed street person," which I avoid strenuously. It's called Muscs Koublai Khan!;>)

    1. Ha--that's a good one, pitbull friend! That is a polarizing perfume, isn't it? (-;


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