The Mantra of the Smells.

On recently a thread appeared entitled “Basenotes mantra.” The person who created it began with this:

“I don’t care what anyone thinks I dont need compliments I wear for me”

“What do you guys think I should buy _____ or _______?”


I thought I would write up a post about this notion, and not just because it is a “good segue” from my last post here. We are again back as asking about basic logic. For example, why would anyone think that the thousands of people who write up posts on Basenotes each year think exactly the same way? Much more likely, as I think nearly everyone would agree, is that there are several types of individuals who are responsible for the vast majority of the posts. One involves those people who think of these concoctions as a kind of aromatherapy. By contrast, quite a few people there seem to want to know what will “smell nice” to others, or to those in particular demographic groups.

From what I’ve seen over the years, I would describe the major categories of posters as follows:

1. Newbies, and while most of them are seeking suggestions for a “nice-smelling” scent (in one context or another), some are interested in more esoteric knowledge.

2. The casual, though possibly “addicted,” fans (or worse yet, “fanboys”). These people often say things like, “I’m not good with identifying notes,” for example. Some are loyal to specific “houses.”

3. The “chronic samplers,” who are usually most interested in niche. There seem to have been many more of them at BN a few years ago than today, and “burnout” seems to be common among these folks.

4. Those who want to “make a statement,” which means anything from vintage Old Spice to the most expensive niche (though more likely the latter). This is more about the person wearing the scent rather than others, but I guess one could include those who are seeking a “panty dropper” scent in this category.

5. The aficionado and/or those seeking a kind of “intellectual” aromatherapy experience.

What the person who began the “Basenotes mantra” thread may not have recognized is that some members who do a lot of posting (like me) rarely post to certain kinds of threads. Over the last few years, for instance, I have responded to threads seeking a specific kind of scent (especially ones about notes) much more frequently than to threads in which the author wants recommendations about what “fits” his wardrobe or what his wardrobe is “missing.” Sometimes I’ll suggest that the person provide more information, but often he or she does not.

Of course, there is a certain amount of “entertainment value” to many posts, even those that one might view as silly. Mostly what I seek are insights and specific pieces of information, however. For example, I have read many posts about scents that feature strong oud notes, especially a few years back. At the time the Montales were all the rage and I sampled a few of them. Unfortunately, my sensitivity was high at the time and these scents came across as too acrid and harsh in general. Recently, I have tried a few that are much more wearable to me, and I intend to write up a post about them soon. In a sense, oud is similar to the use of aldehydes, especially in Chanel No. 5 and many “feminine” chypres of the 1970s. However, when handled in a more subtle way (not like the Montales I tried, that’s for sure), it possesses some texture and does a better job of offering contrast and dynamism than a large dose of the usual aldehydes.

I’ll conclude here by pointing out something that few mention, which is that there appears to be a huge difference between what a scent smells like on someone else, when he or she walks by, and what it smells like on a person who sprays it on his or her chest. I wouldn’t be surprised if many people find this puzzling and difficult to believe. Lately, I have found myself thinking “oh, that smells nice” when someone walks by wearing a strong scent, but I know what the scent is or what kind of scent it is, and I know it would be quite irritating if I wore it, unless perhaps I sprayed it on the back of my coat (which I’ve done at times, to see what the effect would be, and it was not irritating). It seems that smelling strips were designed to convince people that this fleeting pleasantness is the only thing one can enjoy with these concoctions, but I certainly don’t think there was a conspiracy involved! Instead, I’ll just suggest that the more one can make these perceptions conscious, the easier it is to identify what one enjoys, whereas if one accepts the common assumptions (about scents or most other things), the more likely it is that life will seem to get less and less interesting.

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Filed under The basics.

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