Should you smell your ankle and avoid top notes ?

Apparently, some readers of the FromPyrgos blog have a set way of thinking about how and where to apply scents, and perhaps most importantly, how to enjoy them (judging from comments I’ve read there). And let me say up front that if they have found something that works, I’m glad for them. Interestingly, however, these seem to be the same kinds of people who believe that scents are “art” and need to be “respected” in some particular way. It never dawns on such folks, it seems, that few in the industry appear to care, as witnessed by awful reformulations of one great scents. Moreover, when you buy a painting and decide to hang it somewhere, for example, you are affecting the viewer’s experience. With scents other factors are at play, such as skin chemistry, individual sensitivity and preferences, weather, climate, etc.

And be honest now, do you wear scents more like the way you eat food or more like how you view art in a museum or gallery? Do we really need to make such comparisons? Can’t we appreciate scents the way that works out best for us? In any case, if you view scents are more closely aligned with a meal, I doubt you will want people telling you that you can’t put mustard on your hamburger or else you are ruining the aesthetic experience of eating. By contrast, if you only wear your scents in what you regard as an artistically appropriate way, I wish you the best, and remind you that you are under no obligation to read this blog, which I suspect will appeal more to those who view things the way I do than to those who don’t. Isn’t this the whole point of blogs? I certainly avoid ones that I find offensive, inaccurate, useless, boring, etc.

However, consider a major figure in the world of scent aesthetics, Chandler Burr. He has written quite a bit about the “fragrance as art” idea. I largely disagree with him on this subject, and haven’t found his reviews to be especially helpful, generally-speaking at least, but if think that trying to avoid most of the top notes or sampling on one’s ankle in order to enjoy the scent you sprayed on your chest earlier that day is ridiculous, take a look at our good friend Chandler here:

This is a screen grab from a BBC documentary I saw on YouTube called “Perfume” (I believe) with this segment titled “Something Old, Something New,” which you can presently find at:

The part I am referring to occurs at the twelve minute mark. Chandler has just received some bottles in the mail and is spraying them to various parts of his body. He ran out of room on his arms and so sprayed his leg. Notice in the frame pictured that he is smelling the area up close on the skin. I have found that to be problematic, because few scents smell the same after mixing with the air before reaching your nose. It can be a good way to detect base notes or ones that are not strong., as well as to get an idea of ingredient quality, but if you watch this video you may get the impression (as I did) that he will do this and then go write up a review about it. Wearing one scent all day and studying it, even one time, is something that I’d guess he rarely if ever does. And this is perfectly fine, IMO, so long as you tell your readers that this is the way you enjoy or assess scents.

If you can get the entire top note experience and not experience olfactory fatigue at all, that’s great, but I have yet to find a way to do that, though I certainly don’t avoid them entirely (even if there was a way to do that, I’d stick with the present situation, which seems to be working very well). However, many if not most of those who don’t seem to be able to detect bad or obvious reformulations seem to be “top notes people,” and indeed if you spray yourself ten or more times per wearing with a strong scent you will get what I call the “opening” to last a long time. By the time the drydown has taken over, you may be on to something else and not be paying much attention to the scent any more. Or you may have gotten quite a bit on your clothing, which generally holds the top notes or opening for a considerably longer period of time. Keep in mind, though, that not everyone may experience scents the way you do. And for those of you who do what Chandler does with scents, please leave a comment and tell us what your motivations are and why you think it’s best.

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Filed under Criticizing the critics.

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