Monday, February 2, 2009

Let's Play Samples Jeopardy!

After a few months of MUA swapping, I’ve got samples all over the place. They’re on the nightstand. They’re in little boxes here and there. They’re in my handbag and in my pockets and on kitchen counters. The other day I found one in the refrigerator.

I sometimes wonder what would happen if my house ever got searched. What would the cops make of all these little zip-loc bags, hundreds of vials, inch-high screw-top bottles (let's not go there), pipettes, eyedroppers and teensy-weensy funnels?

My derriere would be hauled off to the slammer, that’s what. Intent to distribute, well, I’m sure they’d figure out something.

I’m not the best at identifying “notes.” I’m in awe of those who can, with one delicate and refined sniff, say, “Ahhhh. Of course. Hyacinth. Ambrette seed. Isobutylquioline-hydrocitralcellu-benzodiazapine-18.” I’m not there. Actually I don’t think I’ll ever be there.

But I wanted to really kinda grok* these samples. So I made a whole bunch of little watercolor paper strips – one 18 x 24 sheet of Arches will provide a huge supply – and applied a drop from each sample. These hold onto the notes for awhile, as the paper is thick and fibrous (and besides, I’m not painting on it much these days anyway). I thought, I’ll sniff a random few of these and see if my nose has improved any lately. So I did, recording my impressions, and then went to Basenotes to see if I’d been right. For brevity here, let’s call Basenotes “Alex” and I will be “Contestant # 1,” a.k.a. “C1.”

Guerlain Chamade
C1: “Hmmm. Something woodsy, something sweet. Kind of dry. Classic, powerful. Smells kinda like a Guerlain. I want this.”
Alex: “The answer must be posed as a question! Ylang-ylang, blackcurrant bud! Woods and balsams!”
C1: “Uh, yeah. Right.”

Tauer Reverie du Jardin
C1: “Is it lavender, Alex? Sweet grass? Some kind of floral?"
Alex: (Impatient grimace) "and fir balm, galbanum, bergamot, orris, frankincense, rose absolute, ambrette seed, oakmoss, vanilla, cedar, amber and sandalwood!”
C1: “Oh!” (Slaps forehead in frustration) “How could I have missed those!”

Malle Angeliques Sous La Pluie
C1: “Ummm…herbal? Cedar? Is it cedar, Alex?” (Sniffs strip again) “Wait a second…it’s gone!” (Scratches head.) “I know! Is it a Jean-Claude Ellena?”
Alex: (presses buzzer) “Pink pepper. Juniper. Coriander. Yes…cedar. But I don’t see any…judges?” (Waits.) “No, no uhjohnclodelena. Not a note. Sorry.”

Tauer Lonestar Memories
C1: “Wow. Tar. Chilly air. Is that WD-40?”
Alex: “Not tar, Tauer. Sorry. Tobacco. Leather. Wood. But you were close!”

CDG Hinoki
C1: “Wait…don’t tell me. Hamster bedding! Is it that stuff you use to line a hamster cage?”
Alex: “No, dear. It’s perfume. Cedar and ginger…” (buzzer sounds)

DSH Special Formula X
C1: “Um…dirt?”
Alex: “Musk.”

Yves Rocher 8eJour
C1: “Wow. It smells kind of like Mitsouko, only sweeter. Maybe it’s me…though, is it Mitsouko, Alex? Chypre and, uh, what’s that stuff, persicol? A reformulation maybe?”
Alex: (riffling though papers) “Judges?” (Waits) (Waits) “Yes? We don’t have record of this substance? What is your ruling, then?” (Waits)

“Close enough? All right.” (Turns to contestant C1) “We’ll accept your judgment. And that means that YOU, C1, go home with fifty dollars and a lifetime supply of “Covet” by Sarah Jessica Parker!”

Of course there are more samples. Many more. And I know I’ll find that vial of Lutens Fleurs d’Oranger one day. Wait a second…maybe it’s under the bed?

See you next time!

*The word “grok” means, roughly, “to understand fully and completely.” It’s from Robert Heinlein’s Sci-Fi classic “Stranger in a Strange Land,” and is one of the few words from the Sixties, unlike “groovy” and “peaking,” that is still actually useful.


ScentScelf said...

[clap, clap, clap!!]

LOL...thanks for the good time...I laughed, I snarfed, I disagreed with the judges call on the cedar shavings/hamster bedding. (I think that's perfectly acceptable as an answer in that case.)

What in the world *is* that Yves Rocher, anyway? This is the first time I've heard anyone refer to it...

Olfacta said...

Thank you! I had fun writing it.

I got the 8eJour as an extra in a big swap. It's a mini, an orange plastic Arabian-nights bottle with a blue lid. I had to use a 10x magnifying glass to read the label. After much searching, I finally found a reference to it with a photo -- it was some kind of promotional one-off. I think it smells pretty good!

Aparatchick said...

Excellent Olfacta!

No, I'll never get all the notes either. But then, I can never describe wine well, although I can certainly enjoy it.

March said...

I'm sure I'll be in jail right next to you. I'm always picking them up off the floor before they get stepped on. Funny post!

Olfacta said...

Hi A -- I have noticed that I'm better at discerning the notes in wine since trying to do it in perfume, so maybe there's hope for both. Thanks!

Olfacta said...

Hi March -- Just think of all we'd have to talk about from our respective cells! And the jail would smell a lot better than usual too, at least for a while.

Thanks for the compliment. That means a lot, coming from you.

bookishredhead said...

I have to say that you're cutting yourself pretty dang short on this one Pat. You have a remarkable nose. Just remember how surprised Chandler Burr was when you were the first one to point out pink peppercorn as a main ingredient in a perfume. You and I got LOTS of the scents that others missed.
Though if I never smell raw civet again it will be too soon.

Got a bottle of Amoage gold for myself as a little reward for getting through my last surgery. Les Senteurs in Belgravia had it on sale for 90 pounds a bottle because the company is updating its bottle style. I couldn't resist. It's delish-but I swear it reminds me a bit of Chanel #5. What's your take on it?

Olfacta said...

Hey M --

Gracious, your last surgery? We need to catch up.

In full disclosure, I had probably read about whatever scent that was and ventured a lucky guess at that dinner. I have noticed that the nose is better when comparing two scents side-by-side than when trying to analyze one alone.

I don't think I've tried Amourage Gold yet. I have tried 25 and one of the other ones, which I really liked. They smell like money. I'll get a sample of Gold one of these days.

Good hearing from you!

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