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Sniffapalooza Spring Fling is over!

My second Sniffapalooza is under my belt and I am exhausted, satisfied, and happy.

The first time I went, last fall, I was nervous and a little intimidated. (I think I planned my outfit for two months!) This time was much more relaxed and just as chock-full of new things to smell. I got to see some people I’d met last time and new folks as well, and it was extremely satisfying to talk extremely seriously about perfume with dozens of people for two days.

The great James Herriott had a quote: “An enthusiast is appealing but a fanatic is irresistible.” All those perfume fanatics in one room are, indeed, irresistible (if a little overwhelming, especially when packed in a small space such as the perfume rotunda at Bergdorf Goodman or the delightful tiny shop stocking essential oils and things made with them that is Enfleurage). When you stagger your way to the fringes, there’s always someone else gathering a breath of (unscented) air with whom to discuss whatever you just spritzed on yourself.

I’ve never seen a more delightful group of people more willing to grab each other’s forearms and inhale deeply. As a compatriot said at one point, “Can you help me wash these lipstick stains off my forearm? This would only happen at Sniffapalooza.”

My discoveries of the weekend:

Neil Morris and Neil Morris Fragrances. Apparently I am the last ‘fumista to learn about these scents and the lovely man who makes them. The compositions are dense, intriguing, sometimes challenging, and rewarding of patience. Like many natural perfumes, I thought some of them smelled downright vile on paper – but truly beautiful on skin. I am planning to purchase a sampler set and give some of these scents a much more serious consideration. Plus Mr. Morris has really accomplished something in his Izmir, which smelled exactly like my visit to Turkey to me, so much so that I was confused. It was rather as though he’d stuffed a bit of Turkey into the bottle. This was one of the ones that smelled far better on real, warm skin than on paper: a rich, oudy rose with a touch of something sour (several people identified it as cumin) that, yes, smelled like Izmir to me.

I’ve been to Izmir and I thought I remembered the iznik tiles in the McDonald’s far more than the scent of the women, who are almost all beautiful and almost all draped in head-to-toe black. But the scent of NMF’s Izmir has it exactly right. Perhaps it’s something my grandmother, who lived in Turkey for several years, had in her house; perhaps it’s something I smelled in Istanbul, or on the trains or buses in Turkey. But it’s real, and it’s captured perfectly.

Neil didn’t seem to mind that he himself served as his own best model for his fragrances, rubbing them into his own skin and causing many women to sniff him enthusiastically and with serious consideration. He seemed a lovely person as well as a talented perfumer.

I also was excited to learn about the new Olfactory Arts department at the Museum of Arts and Design, directed by Chandler Burr (who was there, although I did not speak to him). Chandler’s enthusiasm for several projects highlighting and educating the public about scent as an art was infectious, proving Herriott’s saying again. I feel a wee bit cynical about the extent to which commercial companies will participate in his ideas for demystifying the creative process of perfume, letting audiences watch perfumers meet with creative directors, read briefs, and sample the unfinished sketches of the work. But I do think that the companies that participate, if any do, will benefit tremendously from increased public awareness of their scents, as those kinds of activities are the kinds that social media can carry far and wide very quickly. I’m looking forward to seeing the first planned exhibit on the art of scent, comparing the groundbreaking scents of particular eras with the major artistic trends of their times. (Chanel No. 5, for instance, as the first real modernist scent.) I think these presentations could be interesting and compelling; I’m just not sure how much time and money the public will be able to put towards learning something so new in an economy with such reduced resources.

In fact, perhaps it was its very basic product list and its creative mixes with those products that made Enfleurage such a lovely new discovery, for me if not for the other participants. They stock essential oils but sourced, so that, like a connoisseur of coffee or chocolate, you can sample a scent that is imported from a particular region. And the products they mix with their oils range from the reassuringly simple (in light-fighting brown glass bottles) to the whimsical in the form of adorable glycerin soaps filled with delicious scents as well as shapes of flowers, ducks, or flames.

Enfleurage was also nice enough to treat us to ice cream, flavored with the essence of either rose or frankincense, which was a very thoughtful thing to do knowing we were just coming from lunch. Both flavors were intriguingly delicious – the rose, which was not that unexpected to a person who’s had rose-flavored Syrian candies, was lovely but the frankincense was a gourmet treat, as rich with flavor as frankincense is with scent. I will definitely be visiting this little treasure box of a store again!

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