To wear perfume is to destroy it. When you have a bottle of beautiful perfume—especially a perfume that has since been discontinued or reformulated, as my Borneo 1834 has—it’s tempting to want to stash it away, to save it rather than wear it.
Even if it were possible to perfectly preserve a fragrance (perfumes evaporate, age, and change)—would you want to? What is it they say about a real flower being more beautiful for the fact that it will die? For me, slowly using up a beloved perfume—especially if I don’t think I’ll be able to find another bottle once it’s gone—is a kind of memento mori, a little vanitas painting I take with me throughout the day, coaxing me more firmly into the present moment.
I often think about this quote from Annie Dillard and apply it outside my writing life:
One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
Anything you do not smell freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your perfume cabinet and find that it has evaporated and the top notes have turned.
If you are ever in Portland, Oregon, you must visit Fumerie. ❤️
When I visited this weekend, I asked the incredible shop owner Tracy to help me discover some new “unusual gourmands”—I love Korrigan and Upper Ten for Her by Lubin, and Ummagumma by Bruno Fazzolari, but wanted to expand on the theme. We went in a delicious fruity direction with Mandrake and Wolfsbane by Parfums Quartana, Or du Sérail by Naomi Goodsir, Sådanne by Slumberhouse, and Dambrosia by Profumum Roma.
“The study of smell requires one to exit the realm of the beautiful to descend into what German philosophers used to call the Sublime, and come face to face with the enduring strangeness of raw sensation.”
—Luca Turin, The Secret of Scent
If this photo had a scent, what would it be?
I’m imagining a blend of grapefruit, osmanthus, carrot seed, vetiver, maybe a little patchouli and jasmine, with something dry and a bit dusty.
I finished a scent, but I prefer it as a stand-alone smell than as a perfume to wear myself. I’ve been spraying it on the inside of bell jars to lift and revisit over the course of an evening.
Last year I took a natural perfume blending intensive class with Jessica Hannah at The Institute for Art and Olfaction. At the end of the introductory night, we made our own formula. I told Jessica, “I’m so into these 5 materials, but I don’t think they’ll ~go together~” and she said, “Let’s do it! Go for it, mix ‘em and see how it goes!” The result was this surprisingly lovely mix of benzoin and vetiver, lavender absolute and jasmine grandiflorum, and pink grapefruit.
I’ve learned a lot about blending perfumes since then and I have a lifetime of learning ahead of me, but I still put this on every once in a while as a kind of perfume “palate cleanser” and as a reminder to go for it, to mix things up and see how it goes!