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Baa, and also baa.

I already feel bad about the title of this post.

I mean, more than most groups, perfumistas are perfectly willing to live and let live; one person’s crappy celebuscent is another person’s Holy Grail, and really for the most part everyone lives by the creed Thou Shalt Not Judge.

Nonetheless I don’t generally write reviews of, say, Kim Kardashian the Perfume (it’s not that bad), and I would be less likely to admit someone else’s perfume blog that I was wearing Amazing Grace than I actually am likely to wear it. I like Amazing Grace, but as the anti-perfume, it’s not the thing most perfumistas reach for when they look to spritz.

To a certain extent I think it’s that fumistas are looking for more complex experiences than cheaper or less complex perfumes deliver. It’s not that we’re all nuts for civet or ambergris; it’s that we’re nuts for deeply sensual experiences, and civet or ambergris are more likely to deliver those experiences than white musk or melon.

It’s also true that white musk and melon are artificial notes, and heavily overused, and heavily overused in cleaning products. It’s not all our fault that we’d rather smell the rarer, more complex, disgusting effluvia of animals that is civet or ambergris; they are, as experiences, so much more difficult to come by as well as so much more interesting. They’re like Russian novels as opposed to chick lit. It’s not that we don’t like chick lit; it’s just that it’s too easy, too common, and too boring compared to the good stuff – as long as we can afford and get the good stuff.

I think that makes the perfume world seem a bit lockstep and a bit trend-driven – like any group of fashion followers, I suppose. We can be a bit snobby about ingredients, or noses, that we like, and as we all tend to try whatever’s new that seems good, we do all tend to move in certain directions. I for one have totally given up on trying to buy anything mentioned at The Non-Blonde within two months after Gaia’s given something a good review, because it’s almost always relatively rare and only found at eBay, and after Gaia’s review, we’re all trying to bid up over each other to get some.

And we’ve all read Perfumes: The Guide, and we’ve all read most of the good perfume blogs that are out there, and we all want to sniff whatever’s “classic”. Whatever’s often mentioned, whatever’s often referred to as “the good stuff”.

At this winter’s Caron event hosted by Sniffapalooza, for instance, I felt a little bad for the Caron presenter who seemed to feel a bit defensive when she was asked if we could sniff Tabac Blond and who told us No. We’ve all read the Guide; we all know Luca Turin said that all the recent Caron fragrances were crap and we all wanted to sniff Tabac Blond, the Classic.

I also felt bad for her when she admitted, to what she said she knew was a roomful of bloggers, that she wasn’t much of a “nose” – that she didn’t care about the notes as such, but liked the perfumes as much for the history of them. It was sweet that she knew she was taking a risk, but I doubt she knew how much she lost her audience in making it. “Don’t worry about the nose, who made this perfume or that one – they are all part of the history of Caron,” she insisted, perhaps not realizing that some of those women would walk over glass for something Bertrand Duchafour made and to claim that his creative contribution wasn’t important simply doesn’t jibe with their whole perception of perfume.

So there’s definitely a crowd aspect to the perfumista world, and even though it’s pretty egalitarian, there can be seen some definite… let’s call it convergence in opinions. When the Caron presenter claimed that the latest addition to the line was to follow the trend and had a bunch of fruit in it, you could hear everyone’s anticipation turn to “been there, done that.” When she said that one of the fruit notes was lychee, I thought I could hear blogs exploding all over the room. (You don’t have enough appendages to count the number of perfumes that have been released in the last two years with lychee notes.) And when she said that the newest addition later this year was to be the very fashionable, the very trendy… oud, there were some audible sighs, and I don’t think she realized they weren’t all of anticipation. Yes. Caron could do a lovely oud, a lovely French interpretation of something usually heavy and in, as she said, “the southern Arabian style”; on the other hand, Caron would be a very late latecomer to the oud party. And srsly, oud’s been DONE.

I guess here’s where I claim that I’m different. In fact, I’m pretty much not. I have no interest in yet another oud, certainly not one by Caron, and I really am not going to explore something with lychee notes.

But, on the other hand, she did a great job of telling us about the line of powders Caron’s been making for about a hundred years, and gave out samples, and I have to say, she’s convinced me to be interested in that.

And I did go right from sniffing her bottles to buying a bottle of Fleurs de Rocaille, which I’ve been enjoying all spring and into the summer. It’s not earthshattering, and it sets no trends; it’s a lightly sweet floral with a gentle vanilla undertone and wears extremely well in the heat. It was, in a nutshell, what I wanted.

I saw her again, at the Sniffa in the spring; she was spritzing people with something she dared them to identify. (Almost no one did; it was Eau de Reglisse, Licorice Water, and it was surprisingly refreshing yet zingy for spring, and surprisingly pleasant to wear, and surprisingly, a 2006 release from Caron that The Guide would say to spurn.) She’s very good at challenging our preconceptions.

So perhaps the best way to herd all us fumistas in a new direction is to show us something seven degrees off line from what we thought we were interested in… and ultimately to show us something pretty. Perhaps even beautiful. In that, the Caron presenter did well.

And I’ll always be a sheep for the beautiful.

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