Becoming a perfumista

Chanel no. 5 perfume adI was at a department store perfume counter and saw a woman mesmerized by the Chanel Eau Première display. “Could I try this?” she asked. A sales associate sprayed one of her wrists. “You know,” the customer said, “I’ve never tried the real Chanel No. 5. Could I try that, too?” When No. 5 was on her other arm she excitedly sniffed one wrist and then the other. I thought, I have just seen the birth of a perfumista.

As people become involved with perfume, they seem to go through certain stages — at least, I know I have. I’m going to take a stab a laying them out. How do they match your experience?

Stage one: Strong Interest. This phase, where you like perfume enough to own a few bottles and follow new releases, can last for years. You probably smell whatever comes through the department stores and have tried a few of the classics like Patou Joy and Chanel No. 5. You sniff perfume from bottles on other people’s dressers and compliment coworkers on how they smell. You probably like perfume more than most people you know, and you hope one day to find your signature scent.

Stage two: Beginning Perfume Mania. Somewhere, a switch flips, and your drive to know more about perfume ramps up. You might have traveled to France and had an olfactory awakening, or maybe you stumbled on Now Smell This as you were trying to find a good price on a bottle of Lanvin Arpège for your mother-in-law and now your interest in perfume deepens. You’ll never call a scent “perfume-y” or “old lady-ish” again — at least not in a derogatory way.

Now you start to explore Caron and Guerlain, or maybe you focus on L’Artisan Parfumeur or Annick Goutal instead. You try Mitsouko for the first time, and chances are you don’t like it much. You’re still making your mind up about the murky Mousse de Saxe in many of the Carons. You hear there’s a line called Serge Lutens that doesn’t export some of its perfumes. You learn how to pronounce “chypre”.

You might start to try to define yourself in scent, but it’s more an intellectual exercise, more aspirational than based on how a perfume really smells on you. For instance, you tell yourself, “Vetiver is sophisticated and earthy, and that’s how I want to be, so I love vetiver,” when in fact picking out the vetiver in all but the most vet-laden scents is hit or miss with you at this point. You just know you can find that signature scent, and it will surely contain lots of vetiver (substitute leather, tuberose, oakmoss, etc. as needed).

Stage Three: Full-blown Perfume Mania. Now you can list off the top of your head the Serge Lutens scents that weren’t created by Christopher Sheldrake. You’ve read Luca Turin’s old blog, and you swap samples to feed your perfume lust. You’ve given up on finding a signature scent.

For your bank account, this is a dangerous stage. You may start ordering decants or even bottles that you’ve never smelled. Within a few years you have a stockpile of bottles that seemed so inexpensive one by one (“Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche? It’s a classic! I have to order it. Wait, is that Balmain Vent Vert for only $19?”) but together add up to a mortgage payment.

On the other hand, you are now able to smell five rose and patchouli scents and perceive how different the rose and patchouli are in each. You know what types of iris scents work for you, and you know if the scent of saddle leather or glove leather pleases you more. You may even surprise yourself by appreciating powdery, rosy, or aldehydic scents you used to avoid.

Stage Four: Connoisseurship. Now you start to pare your collection down to perfume that really speaks to you. You swap away that bottle of Maître Parfumeur et Gantier Route du Vétiver that you bought because it was tough and beautiful because you know now that a strong dose of vetiver isn’t great on you. You know that admiring something and living with it aren’t the same.

You like smelling new perfumes but aren’t frantic to get a sample of the latest Parfumerie Générale scent as soon as it comes out. It will be there when you’re ready. You enjoy reading the opinions of perfume critics, but ultimately you trust your own judgment.

You don’t have a signature scent, just like you don’t wear the same dress every day. But just like clothes, you have a wardrobe of scents that speaks to who you are and that you feel good wearing.

Best of all, scent — not just perfume — has become a source of deep pleasure. The smell of the wind, a glass of wine, or a wet garden feeds you. You smell the seasons change and the day age. Isn’t it great?

Note: image via Images de Parfums.

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  1. Anonymous says:


    Wow–have you been peeking at my life over the last 4 years? The evolution as you described it is spot on- including the rising of the personal debt. Heck, I think I rationalized it all in my mental budget by tradingfood $ for fume $. What a diet! I think that we also develop to a point where we have our go-to scents, comfort scents, etc., yet realize that our olfactory desires are constantly changing so we continue to discover new scents and revisit old ones. Thanks for the great article.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Bravo. I enjoyed reading this journey and could relate to it very well. I followed it quite similarly, except instead of chasing the classics, I eagerly sought the noveau niche lines. I'd say I am now in the latter stages of 3 and 4. I have narrowed down my favorite notes and the proportions that I can tolerate notes I do not like down to a science (via an Excel spreadsheet :-) ) and with that information I began my connoisseurship earlier this year by purchasing a few full bottles of favorites. I no longer chase after the latest and greatest, like you said-I just wait a while and see if it continues to speak to me. I save alot of money and sanity this way.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I wish buying perfume cut me off from buying macaroni and cheese! My waistline would thank me, that's for sure.

    I agree that that we do need to find our wardrobe of scents–comfort scents and everything else–just like we put together a wardrobe of clothing that meets our needs, makes us feel good, and tells the world who we are. My perfume and clothing wardrobes will probably continue to change with time and fashion, but they'll always reflect me.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I'd love to see that spreadsheet! Which bottles did you buy?

    It's a nice feeling when you move away from frantically pursuing the latest perfume darling and take your time to live with samples for a while.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Great description, Angela. Got to me to a T. I think I'm just about in the Connoisseur stage; I can hold out a month or so before I try the new PG, and I've learned that I can admire a scent greatly without being able to wear it at all. How many bottles did I purchase in the early manic days, which languish 98% full because they give me a raging headache if I wear them? I've learned that 1) I prefer modern scents to classics by a long way, 2) the scents I delight in wearing are often embarrassingly simple and 3) Wait. For. The. Drydown. So many scents start off superbly, then trail away into something flat and thin after an hour. And not just the cheapies either. Sadly, I've also learned that if a sample utterly enchants me, for several days in a row, and from beginning to far drydown, then there is no force in physics which can stop me from buying it…

  6. Anonymous says:

    What a delightful post, A, you are a genius! “You learn how to pronounce chypre” and the (non-)Sheldrake reference cracked me up no end. You know, I have thought about my perfumania evolution, but no one has so far laid down its stages with such precision. I was reading and nodding all the time!

    Oh dear, I guess I fall somewhere between 3 and 4. 4 because new launches do not necessarily cause adrenaline surges anymore and because I've started streamlining my collection since I do feel the need to focus more on what I truly enjoy and less on who I'd like to be. HOWEVER, I'm still 3 in some ways seeing as I'm right about to buy (15 minutes away from buying it actually!) the hard-to-find (here!) Eau des Merveilles that I found for a steal. Can I just add that I really NEED a new pair of jeans and a sweater or two? :-D

  7. Anonymous says:

    You are so right about the “wait for the drydown” bit. So many scents start out brilliant and then fritter away to mediocrity or worse. It can be so hard to wait, though, when the urge comes to buy a new scent…

  8. Anonymous says:

    I think I'm between 3 and 4, too. (Maybe I should have added a 3.5!) If I converted my perfume spending to my wardrobe, you'd be reading about me in Vogue *sigh*. Good luck with the Eau des Merveilles v. jeans decision!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Fantastic article! I'm right at stage 2 and am becoming increasingly obsessed with all things perfume. I've been buying samples left and right and educating myself more. (this blog is a godsend!) I'm even overcoming my fear of SA's, I actually asked for a couple of Chanel samples a week or so ago! LOL!

    I don't know if I'll ever let go of the idea of a signature scent. I started wearing Bill Blass when I was 14 (I'm 31 now) – it is my go-to, comfortable, classic scent. It is so much a part of me I really hate the idea of anyone else wearing it! It is my “little black dress” fragrance. Ever the fickle girl, I still like having other options…bright citrus, sweet cedar, warm spices, etc…

  10. Anonymous says:

    Um, as of this moment, EdM is mine. Yep, just bought and sprayed it all over. Yum! If this sounds confusing, just know that I'm posting from my cell phone. :-)

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hi, I'm a newbie here… Thanks for this great article. What a great site, I am so glad that I found your website.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Another great post, Angela. I vacillate between three and four, with regular trips back to two in order to fill in the (endless) gaps in my knowledge. Since I started with niche and went backwards, there's all kinds of classic dept. store stuff I know nothing about. But at the same time I've gotten increasingly interested in the raw materials–it's been incredibly enlightening to smell various absoluts–but confusing, too, as there's often a gap between the actual stuff and the “note” in perfume…

  13. Anonymous says:

    I'm trying to see how to upload a doc for sharing. All I see are photo-sharing sites, do you know of another?

    But basically I break a fragrance down by name, perfumer, top notes, heart notes, and base notes. I enter all of the notes the fragrance contains in the far left-hand column (so this column continues to grow and grow). The top row lists the fragrance name, then I just place in x in the cell of the contained notes. So it turns out to look like a matrix of sorts. I can sort the columns to show all notes, select notes, select perfumers, etc., to show me where the overlapping of notes are. Notes that display an x continually across the board are either my favorites (e.g., musk and sandalwood), or ones that I can tolerate very well (LoTV). This has shown me how many of my faves contain similar notes that I did not even suspect. This sheet has the potential to grow very big and I think it will work better in a database format like Access. One day when I'm super, super bored…

  14. Anonymous says:

    Ha! i love this,”birds of a feather flock together” we sure understand one another that's for sure!
    that's me down to a T…slowly arriving at stage 3…it's funny how i've been intrigued by Guerlain and was checking out all of Serge Lutens scents last night.
    Told my mom yesterday that i don't like coco M because of the “chypre” to it and she asked “what the heck is that?” so I am teaching her now.*lol*
    thanks for the awsome article!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Oh, and my FB haul included S-Perfume/S-Perfume, FM Cologne Bigarade, MdPeG Sanguine Musskissime, L de Lolita, CSP Aqua Motu, Ava Luxe Sheer Musk and White Musk, and Hilary Duff With Love.

  16. Anonymous says:

    And BTW I miss reviews of Vivienne Westwood's parfums. Can you try and post any? Thank you.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Gawd, you're good!

    In my long experience as a cosmetics and perfume seller, it never ceases to amaze me how people treat buying a lipstick like purchasing a yacht. The monumental decision takes hours of trial and error, tons of kleenex and gallons of make-up remover. The colour must be the exact same molecular structure as the colour they have been buying for the last 20 years. I never buy the same colour of shadow or lipstick; I always want something newer and more au courant. I suppose that the wrong colour will make a difference between whether we are a success with a potential partner or not.

    Similarly with fragrance, switching from a signature or using a great classic can be a huge decision and, granted, investment. So flogging a new fragrance can be like flogging a dead horse. Some people just cannot change. And that's okay. I would hope that a good sales person could steer a customer to the same fragrance family as her/his classic favourite and encourage her/him to try it. A perfume wardrobe (Stage 4) is the ideal, I think.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I loved this article and it is just so accurate for those of us who love fragrance. When I was young I always thought it would be the height of sophistication to have a signature scent. Now as an older woman, I enjoy trying new fragrances all the time. I am still learning a lot and enjoying every step of the process. Oh, I just love the hunt and recently spent a mere $38 (including shipping) for 30 mini bottles of scent on Ebay. Some of it was Avon and Charlie type but there are several tiny bottles of French perfumes and a Caron that reminds me of my mother. I have also found that I love Dune by Christian Dior. I enjoy wearing a different scent each day (or sometimes several different ones in a single day). I have started to order samples and just adore a Serge Lutens with cedar in it and Malle's wonderful lilac scent that brings me back to a time over 40 years ago. I like Burning Leaves and Green Apple though more as memory scents than ones I would spray all over me. This journey is very enjoyable and reminds me often that there are always new things to learn and new things to try to enhance our pleasure in life. Thanks for your wonderful column; I enjoy it immensely.
    By the way, one final point…I have worked as a cosmetics saleswoman and it is important to remember something: thehaughty condescending SA probably make less than you or I do. I don't understand why stores encourage this “looking down on customers” attitude but it does prevail in almost all stores to some degree. When I go into a store and the fragrance lady acts snobby, I just look at her and think, “Honey, you're a saleswoman. You are here to serve me. You WILL be polite and answer my questions.” They hoard samples as if they are gold. The fragrance gals (and guys) receive very decent commissions which is why you rarely see one quit but it is still to their advantage to serve the customers with care. If one gives you a really difficult time, let her know that she's lost a customer.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Very good article, Angela! People can definitely relate to this. It's funny to see the things you pointed out – I had almost forgotten some of them and that's when you realize how deep in you really are. Ha!

  20. Anonymous says:

    This is uncanny – your insight is spot-on! I am official in Stage Two – for now!

  21. Anonymous says:

    Angela — this was so great, thanks. I skipped stage one somehow, went straight to he– uh, stage 2 (yep, prompted by a trip to Paris). Now firmly in stage 4, which is a nice place to be. I'm slowly divesting myself of stuff I bought that's just not “me” and bad blind buys. I'm a little sad my daughters and son won't associate a signature scent with me, unless I change my fickle ways, but they'll still inherit a decent fragrance collection. :-)

  22. Anonymous says:

    Stage 4 here and you nailed it. I have been giving away those I don't reach for and rarely buying anything new. It has to totally rock my world for me to purchase which is a big relief to my pocketbook.

    This stage is very comfortable. I am no longer in a fever to sample and acquire every new thing that comes along. It feels good.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Definitely lots of musk! Cologne Bigarade is the one that stands out for me as the outlier.

    Now I'm tempted to spend part of my weekend charting my favorite perfumes. Maybe you should market your spreadsheet!

  24. Anonymous says:

    If you ask me, EdM will go down in the books as a classic. Great choice!

  25. Anonymous says:

    Isn't it fun? It's so great to learn about another sense–smell–that we so often ignore. Have fun!

  26. Anonymous says:

    I'm a fan of Boudoir, myself. Thanks for the compliment, and thanks for the perfume review suggestion!

  27. Anonymous says:

    It's nearly impossible to smell and know even the major perfume lines, it seems. I feel like I've smelled gallons of perfume, but I know just about squat about Creed, for example.

    I love the idea of smelling absoluts, and I'm going to make an effort to track some down.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Hey, maybe you'll turn your mother into a perfumista, too! Have fun learning more about Guerlain, Serge, and all the rest….

  29. Anonymous says:

    You are so right about buying lipstick, and I have to say that I can be guilty of it, too, especially when I need that perfect brown-mauve shade. But for perfume, I'll never be able to settle on just one (or just ten, for that matter).

  30. Anonymous says:

    What a tremendous score with your ebay purchase! Congratulations!

    I've pretty good luck with SAs in general, but your advice is well taken. Samples shouldn't be hoarded by SAs, I think, because how is a scent otherwise going to grab you buy the neck and say “buy me”?

  31. Anonymous says:

    Maybe that should be stage 5–forgetting all the other stages because you've been doing the perfume thing for so long!

  32. Anonymous says:

    And soon to be in stage 3, I bet!

  33. Anonymous says:

    I bet you're giving your kids something better than one smell to associate with you–an appreciation of scent. Now *that's* a gift.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Very enjoyable post. :-)

    I don't know where I fit in: I've loved perfume since I was five years old and, living in France I was exposed to all the great fragrances from day one. My mother loved perfume too and used to pass on to me all the samples she was given. But I don't collect perfumes; I have a signature scent and don't feel any urge to sniff *everything* that comes out; I think I do know a few things about perfume but I never went through the mania stage. I don't think I am a perfumista at all.

  35. Anonymous says:

    It's so nice not to feel that perfume frenzy and to be able to relax and enjoy the perfume you already own. I've definitely bought less recently.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Great article and post!!! I'm probably early stage 3, but getting wise enough to be slowwwwwing down my purchases (Gawd, those dizzy months a year ago were MURDER on my charge card!). I'm getting almost completely away from mainstream scents and into the niche lines available in Vancouver, but haven't gotten into the decants-by-mail stage at all and may not have a good chance to (harder for Canadians with persnickety Customs people ). Bought Covet almost back-to-back with PG Bois Blond, so shows you I'm in a big transition phase! I am with Vanilla girl preferentially, since this fifty-year-old nose of mine simply does NOT like old, classic frags such as Miss Dior. Would love to, but — at least at this stage, although I seriously doubt it will change — I truly recoil. Being young and curious in the seventies when I was in my twenties, I cut my teeth on the likes of Ivoire de Balmain, L'Heure Bleue, Nikki de Saint Phalle, et al, so truly appreciate the newness and excitement of modern scents such as those represented by Frederic Malle and Perfumerie Generale. I look with dismay at all my expensive, full-retail, pre-eBay bottles of impulse purchases, although my nostrils/heart still respond to them even if intellectually and stylistically I've progressed beyond them. I've now discovered iris in all its glorious forms, those fancy Chanels. . .and I LOVE IT!!! I especially love this site. It's been the best thing to happen to my understanding of fragrance and fragrances and noses such as JCE and OG. . .There's just no END to it — and thank heavens for that!

  37. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the post! I've been a lurker for a long time and your article motivated me to post for the first time.

    I've realized that if one drills down deep enough into any interest, one can find a whole world of theory and philosophy – and perfume is no exception…As an academician by day and a perfumista in the makings by night (in the beginnings of Stage Two) I'm curious to know what you think the difference is between people who say, “that smells perfume-y/old-lady-ish” to those that don't. Is this the adoption of the concept that smells go beyond our old assumptions and associations? And so our sense of smell is educated, just like our appreciation for visual art?

    I still have the gut reaction of: that smells like old-lady, but I know I shouldn't! It's an interesting state to be in, to say the least, and I was wondering if this is an intellectual jump or a physical one or both together… And how does one not lose some sense of self if one adopts others' categories of “sophisticated” etc?

  38. Anonymous says:

    You are a different sort of perfume lover, it sounds like. I remember you once saying that your real love is the theater (I hope I'm remembering this correctly).

  39. Anonymous says:

    Actually, it's wine, if I'm the woman you're remembering! I'm a wine critic. Same kind of thing and fragrance appreciation: the nose has everything to do with it!

    Gosh, Angela, I thought I was pretty typical?!?

  40. Anonymous says:

    Great post! Wonderful development . . .like a good perfume! I've gotten more demanding over time. The scents I wear have to smell good in the bottle, and all through development. I'm no longer willing to have a stage where I smell like a gym sock or sharp white flowers.
    I'm also admitting that I simply don't want what's popular or new, I want something that works on me. I want to smell good for me. On the other hand, I can appreciate a lot of fragrances that I wouldn't wear. The new Perfume Empire is a great example–Fougere Bengal is a fascinating fragrance, but I don't think I'd wear it in the summer.
    And finally, I'm becoming aware of what doesn't work on me. And for everyone in the first blush of youth, it changes dramatically as women enter the “drydown” stage of life! Fresh musk no longer smells fresh on me, some scents that worked when I was younger don't anymore. It's a constant development.

  41. Anonymous says:

    R, I love your excitement! It really is fun to get to know perfume and develop your nose. (Isn't it fabulous to explore iris?) If you like the fancy Chanels, Miss Dior surely isn't far behind…

  42. Anonymous says:

    A wine critic! Now that's an enviable job (it's Friday afternoon and a glass of wine to round out the week just might be in my future). I remember Bela specifically, though. I even remember her scent: Tuberose Criminelle.

  43. Anonymous says:

    I think it's a physical jump. Finding a perfume “perfume-y” and then a year later finding that same perfume a lovely blend of rose and jasmine with an aldehydic lift-off is like tasting your first glass of wine and finding it “alcoholic” tasting but years later finding the same wine to be a whole bouquet of flavor. Remember when stinky cheese tasted like toe jam and Picasso looked like something a kid could do? That's what I think of when people dismiss most perfume as “old lady-ish”. It's a matter of time and experience.

    Of course, snobbery definitely can enter into it!

  44. Anonymous says:

    Well, if that's not stage four, I don't know what is. It's nice, though, to be at the point where you can admire something and enjoy it on other people but know it's not for you.

    And I love “dry down” as a description of a time of life. It's my favorite part of most perfumes.

  45. Anonymous says:

    *weeps* I have found the perfect brown-mauve shade. It was made by a cheapo Australian company and has been discontinued for six years. The hell, the hell.

  46. Anonymous says:

    I — not surprisingly — like the wine analogy, Angela! Most apt as well.

  47. Anonymous says:

    True, too true. But maybe you skipped a stage: “crackpot.”

    Move to Stage 4, relax, enjoy, get impatient. Order everything in sight. Become disgusted, divest self of embarrassing evidence, settle back in at Stage 4, relax, enjoy, get impatient. Order everything in sight . . .

  48. Anonymous says:

    Angela, you definitely captured the essence of most of us. I'm somewhere between 3 and 4, no longer manic, unless we're talking Serge, Parfumerie Generale or Andy Tauer. What made the difference and pushed me in the right direction was actually starting my own blog. From that moment it's become more about what suits me and my personal style and less about the latest and hottest.

  49. Anonymous says:

    Angela, you were answering me, weren't you? (I find this thread slightly confusing now.)

    Yes, my first love is the theatre, but I can't go out in the evenings as often as I used to, so I've had to find other ways of amusing myself. LOL!

    And, you're right, my current signature scent is indeed Tubéreuse Criminelle. :-)

  50. Anonymous says:

    It figures. Meanwhile, hordes of nasty pinks persevere…

  51. Anonymous says:

    Yes, it was you I was thinking of. I hope you get to the theatre soon!

  52. Anonymous says:

    R, I thought you might like it!

  53. Anonymous says:

    You make me laugh at how true this is! (Or should I say “cry”?)

  54. Anonymous says:

    Poverty is another way to boost yourself from 3 to 4, I discovered. When you simply can't buy perfume at all, let along mailing supplies for samples, you become necessarily paced and choosy. All in all, I like your method–a blog–better, though. (I like your blog, too, by the way!)

  55. Anonymous says:

    I am not sure where I am. I think stage 3 but I do have some of the symptoms of having passed directly into “crackpot” (i.e. hiding the evidence!) Oh well, not to worry. Perfume has brought such joy and happiness into my life and I thank Godess for the internet so I can communicate with others who know that same joy. Great post Angela, thank you!

  56. Anonymous says:

    Anne, you're so right about the internet. I must check out some of R's recommended fragrance blogs with more regularity. Right now, I am addicted to fragrance AND to Now Smell This. I was loving my obsession in a vacuum before, really a quite lonely experience, in fact — not many SAs seem to love to talk about fragrances, which strikes me as very strange, and my friends thought I was NUTS — and so it's been doubly great to have the chance to exchange experience, knowledge and wit with such engaging posters. I would never have known about some of the niche lines which give me such joy and excitement today, and still be stuck wondering why I wasn't thrilled with the latest celeb release (Covet notwithstanding!). I may never *enjoy* Miss Dior or No. 5, but I can certainly appreciate them for the iconic creations they are.

  57. Anonymous says:

    “Best of all, scent — not just perfume — has become a source of deep pleasure. The smell of the wind, a glass of wine, or a wet garden feeds you. You smell the seasons change and the day age. Isn’t it great?”

    Just re-read your article, Angela, and loved the last paragraph. It IS great, isn't it?

  58. Anonymous says:

    The internet is pretty amazing that way, isn't it? Without this blog, Makeupalley, and other perfume blogs I'd know so much less about perfume and I'd have met that few great people.

  59. Anonymous says:

    It always surprises me how little perfume SAs in department stores know or even seem to care about perfume sometimes! I'm always happy to find one who is enthusiastic.

  60. Anonymous says:

    Thank you! Yes, developing a keener sense of smell gives huge rewards.

  61. Anonymous says:


    I really enjoyed Angela's article and the responses — yours, in particular. Reading them gave me incentive to stop lurking. I am between stage 2 and 3. About a year ago my mid-life reawakening of interest in perfume began when I was unable to buy Cristalle EDT (which I have worn off and on since I was young and curious in the seventies) in the city where I live (in the interior of BC where the offerrings are restricted to two department stores and two drug store chains). That led me to search online and particularly to this blog which I read every day. I liked your comments on the similarities between the intellectual and sensory development of appreciation for perfume and wine appreciation, although my local weekend wine touring and enthusiastic experimentation is not in your league. I often travel on business to Richmond. Can you suggest where a burgeoning perfumista can feed her habit in the lower mainland?

  62. Anonymous says:

    Rigana, I hope Robin from Canada will respond with some options, but in the meantime have you thought about ordering samples online or swapping? It's a great way to get to know different scents and pin down what you really love.

  63. Anonymous says:

    Dear Rigana,

    Nice to “meet” you! If you get in to the big city of Vancouver, The Perfume Shoppe in the Sinclair Centre is where you want to go. Nazrin has most of the niche lines Van has to offer, the most notable exception being Frederic Malle, which is now in the new Holt Renfrew, which is also definitely worth looking at if you want to spend jillions on Creed etcetera. Nazrin has L'Artisan, Parfumerie Generale, Serge Lutens. . .and she is WONDERFUL!!! You will love her and she will take one look at you and know exactly which of several scents will suit you beautifully. She is truly gifted. She also does mail order so you can get stuff sent up to the interior — including, I think, little samples to try if you're stuck there when the snow starts falling! Her website is

    So glad you're having fun with this obsession of ours, Rigana!!!

  64. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, Robin. That's perfect!

  65. Anonymous says:

    That's what frag friends are for!

  66. Anonymous says:


    Thank you so much for the suggestion. I am off to Vancouver next week on business and will be paying a visit to the Perfume Shop in Sinclair Centre. I am taking Angela up on her suggestion to check out swapping opportunities as well. Many thanks. Rigana

  67. Anonymous says:

    Say hi to Nazrin for me! You will love her. Great selection there: so much better than anything you've seen before, so prepare to be overwhelmed!

    You know, Rigana, I am looking for swapping opportunities, too, which are more limited in Canada. You're most welcome to email me at!!!

  68. Anonymous says:


    I will say hi to Nazrin and tell her who recommended her service and store. I am also interested in swapping opportunities. Perhaps we should consider creating a venue in Canadian cyberspace to facilitates this. My email is Again, many thanks for your suggestions and help. Cheers!

  69. Anonymous says:

    after my sample order a first-in-fragrance today i have moved from 3to 5 straight away. i have only three perfumes and i am not longer shocked by prices like 100 €-but i love also wine and really good food. i have a little less but if possibly the best quality. i still have stuff like angel innocent because my husband in spe loves ist, but i stuck to things that need to be discovered and which i do not like immediately. a signature scent i gave up to find:-) different moods different scents.

    my choice: malabah, black orchid, angel innocent and hiris. malabah is mostly me. blogging (in german) brings you also from 3 to 5 – it is impossible to discuss all 800 new scents :-)

  70. Anonymous says:

    Isn't it great to spend time getting to know different perfumes? (And good wine and good food!) You remind me, too, that I need to get out my sample of Black Orchid again.

  71. Anonymous says:

    i discovered today champs elyseé by guerlain and i bought a french cheese plate and fig sauce. and i tried a few more guerlaines and you are so right! there is so much more to discover! i felt really inspired today and would like to say thank you to you-to us all who share this passion and make it a delight to talk about.

    now i am going to celebrate my “singel” cheese-plate cuase i'll be alone at home as soon as i open the package *lol*

  72. Anonymous says:

    Have fun!

  73. Anonymous says:

    Becoming a perfumista ; an excellent article. Great sensitivity of sense/scent.

    “like music..perfume just like a chord”

    :x/y scent

  74. Anonymous says:

    I'm glad you liked it. Thank you!

  75. Anonymous says:

    dear ms angela….thank you for a very in depth look at the very vocation which i'm treading on. it gave me a forethought on how the love for scents evolve into appreciating what's around us.

  76. Anonymous says:

    You're welcome, of course!

  77. Anonymous says:

    Well done Angela, very well done. There is an additional step (5) which perhaps you overlooked, becoming a perfumer!

  78. Anonymous says:

    I'm glad you liked it!

  79. Anonymous says:

    Yes – your Serge Lutens comment made me chuckle too. That does seem to be the breakthrough moment for most perfumistas. He is responsible for training lots of noses and broadening many horizons. Muscs Koublai Kahn?!?! Rahat Loukoum?! ISM??!! Fab stuff. Bond No9 were great training for me when I started out too. I also found Tom Ford's Private Blends to be a good range to test. They are all so different, and cover a range of smells. Just to show how much my appreciations have changed – when I first became a perfumista, my faves were Noir de Noir and Oud Wood. Now, when I find a TF counter, I reach straight for Tuscan Leather and Purple Patchouli……..

    I would say that, when I finally buy a full bottle of Guerlain, it will herald a New Era of Perfumista in my life. It will denote a new stage of development. Right now, i can love them on a tester strip, enjoy reading about each scent and testing a piece of history on my skin. But I would never buy one. I havn't tried Apres L'Ondee yet though………

  80. Anonymous says:

    Apres L'Ondee just might be your gateway Guerlain….

  81. sue says:

    Thank u so much for this valuable article, I appreciate every word u wrote.

    • Angela says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  82. Blana says:

    Wow, great article! Very well written and full of tools for someone like me. I think I am a weird mix of 1 and 4. I am an absolute newb in the perfume lore. I am still enjoying sniffing what comes through the main department stores. However, odors have always been a big part of my life. I have always smelled the seasons, the air, the rain, the people around, the days… Sometimes some days are off-season and you can smell a winter day on a fresh early summer morning. I also enjoy discovering the very rich and complex world of wines. So million thanks again for the very valuable information in the article! I have some homework to do :)

    • Angela says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! It sounds like you have a lot of fun ahead of you as you explore perfume. There’s so much out there to experience.

  83. lanimar says:

    Gee I am a Perfumista Stage 1 and I think I will stay there for a long time. It is just so expensive to graduate to Levels 2, 3 and 4.

    • Angela says:

      It definitely can add up financially, that’s for sure!

  84. sfonativeboy says:

    Brilliant Article …
    I’m soo there with ya on this …
    I’m between Stage 2 and Stage 3!

    I love my assortment of fragrances .. and sample vials …
    I can’t go without fragrance..
    I wear scent daily …not for others ..
    but for my own selfish pleasures
    I follow my Urges and give in to my Desires…daily.

    • Angela says:

      It sounds to me like you have a manifesto!

  85. elusivek says:

    I am definitely in stage two, lol

    • Angela says:

      Maybe in stage 3 soon, then!

  86. saintpauliana says:

    Most of the replies were on 19 Oct 07 and then a few little stragglers like me in 2010 and now here it is March 1, 2011. Well I just read about this article on another site and came here to read it. So this article just keeps giving and giving!

    Well most of the focus of the article seemed to be on females. Sort of assumed. At least the first paras were. But what happened to me? a male?

    Well I was at the library the other day and saw on the new books shelf something called The Secret Life of Chanel No. 5. I thought that might be interesting. Read it. And then got curious about scents in general and one in particular, Poison.

    That took me to the fragrance counter at Macy’s to get some Poison on a card to sniff and then sniff later. And the other part was to get a copy (also in my library) of Turin and Sanchez’ wonderful magnum opus. Then I was hooked and I have not even bought any fragrances yet, or in the last 15 years for that matter.

    Now I want to sample all of the Masculine Scents listed by Turin and Sanchez to see what Timbuktu and Yohji Homme smell like!

    So I have come into this from the side door set obliquely into the building from the back alley! Or something like that.

    • Angela says:

      Welcome down the rabbit hole! There are lots of terrific fragrances–labeled for men, women, or both, it really doesn’t matter–to enjoy. Sometimes it’s fun to get to know perfume by exploring a particular line, such as Guerlain or L’Artisan Parfumeur. Of course, Perfumes: The Guide is wonderful, too. Have fun!

  87. dhoakohime says:

    I’d say i am somewhere between 2nd and 3d stage. I have allways liked perfume and since i started working when i was 16, when i was payed the first thing i did was to get a bottle of perfume as a self present of the month. I enjoyed perfume but Inever took in depth research tho till i found Katie Pucktik in youtube, and then this blog, and some specialized stores in my city….there’s when i became obsessed. I try every thing i can, i drive the poor shop assistants mad trying like 7 perfumes per session, i read a lot, etc etc. Right now i am starting to distinguish the basic notes (till now the scents where like a “brick” of if they had just 1 component, the perfume itself). I have gave up searching for my signature scent..i love too much perfumes equal, and i am more into comparing perfumes with equivalent notes to palate their subtile differences (ex: Fracas and Miller Harris, Noix de Tubereuse) and feel really fond of non common smelling perfumes that would have scared me in my earlier stage of development as a perfumista, however, i still buy all i like (not just the TRUE companions you find out there that really speak to you) and i am still not critic enough.

    Sorry for the super long post!! but this thread really touched my sensitive vein!

    • Angela says:

      It sounds like you’re having a lot of fun with perfume! That’s terrific. Comparing fragrances with each other, as you’ve been doing, is the best way to develop a nose, I think. (Not that my nose is particularly well developed.) The most important part is just to have fun.

  88. Blimunda says:

    I have recently hit stage 4!! I have purged by drawer of all bottles/decants/samples and am selling on EBay! Instead, I am drawn to lighter, more ephemeral fragrances and I know what suits me and what I enjoy smelling on myself. I accept that I do not like florals on me, and that gourmands and incense are nice on me! I even know that Giacobetti and Duchafour scents really work with my chemistry and suit my personality!! I’m not jumping all over new releases anymore, but i still love visiting boutiques to smell gorgeous scents, old and new. But these days I can distinguish between smelling and admiring, and wearing and enjoying!! I think you got the stages just right!!!

    • Angela says:

      Congratulations! It sounds like you’re creating a perfume wardrobe you really love. With all these new releases it will be so much easier to target what you like.

  89. OVincze says:

    Wow, your writing is just awesome, I am pretty slow as I am relatively new to NST but it is my fave for sure. So many things you say hit home and your reviews and Robin’s too I agree with a lot most the time. We will always have differences but then again perfume is so individual, a lot more so than clothes and shoes. I remember how I have gone through finding my HG shoes and what not, with perfume I may have one for the moment (and I do have two now I think but perhaps one wins our slightly), however, like you said it is a never ending story, it will change as tastes changes, as new scents come out and scents not only define personality more than anything else but also our moods vary day by day.

    I have no idea where I stand as far as the stages go, guess I may be weird but something from each stage is me and there will always be things in each stage that will never be me. I, for the most part am not that into niche (but then again some of that is because it is practically unavailable where I live) and because I detest snobbery.

    I cannot get myself to like Guerlain or Chanel frags even if they are well done but find that there is a genius behind most Dior fragrances, again it is probably a chemistry thing, I do see the genius behind Guerlain but it is simply horrible with my body chemistry.

    I cannot see myself getting into decanting or swapping samples as I adore bottles just as much as I adore frags and if I love something I want to own an original bottle of it but that my mean I am not ahead enough.

    OTOH, I have read about fragrances and owned perfume books since I was a child and was enamored with frags ever since then. Also, ever since I can remember the moment I smell a fragrance my brain automatically breaks it down to notes and then I start reassembling them and adding or subtracting something. Perhaps this is one reason why one HG would be impossible as with most fragrances I start imagining what I would want to change on them. There are some I do not want to change but it is rare and even then moods do change and if I only had one serious olfactory fatigue would set in, I mean that I would become completely bored with just one or two or three:))). Then after a while I start miss wearing something I truly love.

    I guess that it is a different and very individual journey for everyone but the common denominator in all of us is the fun, the love of and passion or perfume. It was great reading again and will serve as great reference in the future.

    • Angela says:

      I think you nailed it when you wrote “the common denominator in all us is the fun, the love of and passion for perfume.” Well put.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Now I’m dying to know what your HG shoes are.

  90. OVincze says:

    Lol, well my point was that I have never found my HG shoes, I have given up on finding them, I think the same stands true for perfume, you were soooo right. I think most of us may have a list of HG perfumes, like maybe 5 or 10 and the more advanced someone is in the phases the more HG perfumes they are likely to have in my opinion. The list grows, there are past favorites, new faves and usually we may say a new fave is our HG at the moment but then tomorrow that could change again when we discover or rediscover something we used to be in love with. I am really in love with Love, Chloe but last nite I smelled the new Clinique AE Perfumer’s Reserve and have fallen madly in love:)))

    • Angela says:

      Oh my gosh, I have got to smell the AE Reserve. I have a feeling I might fall for that one, too!

  91. OVincze says:

    Smell it Angela, I think it is just beautiful. I have been waiting for it to arrive to Hungary and calling stores for weeks as that bottle is so beautiful. I smelled the juice and I burst out this is fantastic and that is rare for me to say that about a perfume right away. It is insanely beautiful in my opinion, I am curious what you think and please share if you do smell it. I am definitely buying it tomorrow, I did not intend to get another present for myself but this is a must have and since it is LE I suspect it will go really fast. It is also a perfume concentrate and well worth the price as I believe it is 25 ml and you really only need one drop of it. Very intimate, heartwarming, mesmerizing, full of passion scent IMHO. Sorry, you can guess I am excited:))).

    • Angela says:

      That sounds amazing! I’ll have to go out at lunch and see if my local Nordstrom has it yet. Can’t wait to try it!

  92. OVincze says:

    Sorry that I am writing two posts but I have just visited your website Angela and not only it is beautiful but I really want to read your stories, crime stories with vintage clothing and a title like Dior or Die? I think I cannot live without them:))) Exactly my genre and I am VERY passionate about books too. Hope you will forgive me for going OT and I will not get banned:)))

    • Angela says:

      The website is an unfinished disaster, but that you for being so nice about it! I’m hoping to work on it a little over the Xmas break (and work on the novel, too).

      We love enthusiastic commenters, so no worries there!

  93. OVincze says:

    Well, I think the opening page is really gorgeous, I love that picture of you (?) I guess, very beautiful. Let us know if the book(s) are finished and sold. They are definitely what I love reading and having read your writing here I bet they are/will be great pieces.

  94. OVincze says:

    Never say never is the one thing I have learnt long ago, after saying I cannot see myself decanting, guess what I am already doing? Well, decanting makes a lot of sense to me now:))) we all go through stages, perhaps I was still in kindergarden before:)))

    • Angela says:

      It’s insidious! Next thing you know, you’ll sign up with makeupalley to swap samples and bottles….

  95. OVincze says:

    Well, not there but I am having great fun on basenotes and yes as we speak people are kind enough to have already sent me decants, I cannot wait to receive them! Also, I am a sniffer in their blind sniffs which is great fun and learning experience. I do have to say though that most people seem to think I have lost my right mind learning about perfumes but really who cares? Does this show that I am already an addict, fanatic or something of the like? :)))

    • Angela says:

      If you’re an addict, I hate to think of what I am! Enjoy those decants.

  96. cammy6 says:

    I think this article should be updated with some tiny sub-stages within the Stage 3 perfume mania stage. Indie scents have been mentioned, but I’d like to suggest an interest in scents from other cultures–attars and other perfume oils. I barely managed to escape a full-blown obsession with Amouage attars. They have been completely discontinued by the company and have become more expensive and harder to find. Getting emotionally involved with them is just asking for heartbreak.

    I’ve moved on cheaper Arabic and Indian perfume oils. My credit card is much happier.

    • Angela says:

      I’m sure the post could be updated–it’s been a while!

      So far I’ve managed to resist the lure of attars, but I’ve definitely seen people seduced by them.

  97. kellycraig125 says:

    I know this is an old article, but I have to comment. I think I have a perfume addiction. I’m definitely between a stage 2-3. Not good for my pocketbook haha. I literally just ordered like 6 more samples last week. I have been absorbed in this blog and reading everything for weeks not. I need an intervention!

    • Angela says:

      You’re not alone! If it helps, symptoms tend to wane over a few years until you are almost normal about perfume–if better informed and more appreciative.

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