Suzanne's Perfume Journal

A short time ago, Natalie of Another Perfume Blog posed a question to the group of bloggers who participated in last year’s O’Tannenbaum joint blogging project. Did we want to do another Christmas post? And Undina of Undina’s Looking Glass not only said yes, but came up with a theme: Ghosts of Perfumes Past, Present and Future. I loved it—I sort of embraced that theme last year—but then I wondered: Are we to tackle this project Charles Dickens-style, whereby the three ghosts help a proverbial Scrooge to see the error of his (her or its) ways in order to change them before it’s too late? Well, my piece doesn't set out to accomplish that (and thankfully, I don’t think it’s expected to) but perhaps some insights will be gleaned along the way, and if not, it’s always fun to converse with ghosts.

The Ghost of Perfumes Past visits me often and cannot be contained in a bottle. It’s the scent of the farm I grew up on, the people who held me in their arms, and the two sisters who shared my world. When you live in a remote location—on a property where the next-door neighbors are a mile away—and when you are involved in a family enterprise that is as labor intensive as dairy farming is, your home life becomes your world. For me, the Ghost of Perfumes Past is a complex bouquet that encapsulates the collective scent of animals large and small: warm beagle pups, fuzzy kittens with hay threaded through their fur, cows and their milky smell, horses and their horsey smell, and chickens that smelled like the dust on the road they liked to scratch. Not to mention, the ripe dung of those animals; the sweet green smell of hay; the swampy green smell of the pond in our backyard that always had moss on its surface; and, finally, a lick of a certain scent I can hardly stomach today—the scent of chicken flesh—which I came to know well, because when it came time to butcher the roasting hens my father raised in my teenage years, it was my job to pluck the feathers from their carcasses. This last scent is important to me, much as I hate it, for it is the scent of knowledge: of knowing where your sustenance actually comes from, and the true value of the life that you take—the life that gives back life to you. It’s a scent that gives you perspective, that is humbling in many respects, and that makes you see all of life as more precious and interconnected than you’d ever realized.

The Ghost of Perfumes Present is just as the present should be: a large entity, rather robust and all-encompassing. This ghost hangs out in a closet that was originally built to house my shoes and is partially contained in some fifty to sixty bottles that have names on them like Chanel, Hermès, Caron and Amouage, but it also spills out into drawers in almost every room of my house where there are samples upon samples of perfumes tucked away, most of them the gift of friends. In fact, if the Ghost of Perfumes Present had a nickname, it would be Mon Ami (or maybe Mon Amie, since many of these gifts are from female friends, though not all of them). This is a friendlier ghost than Casper and it smells warmer and more beautiful than anything I can describe, but let me try. Perfumes Present is the whiff of a stunning blonde blogger in Vienna whose writing is graceful and whose manners go beyond charming to welcoming, as she has a way of making everyone feel at home; it’s the scent of a redheaded gal in Croatia who is willing to meet you in Paris and spend some long days making conversation with you in English, the latter of which isn’t easy, even if she makes it sound easy (even if her English is better than yours); and it’s the quiet but deep aroma of confidences shared with you by a sweet Southern gal who, unlike you, had it rough coming up and who never complains or gives you any reason to believe that she ever felt like she got the short end of the stick—no, in fact the reason you are talking to her in the first place is because she wrote to compliment you on your post and to ask if she could send you some things. The Ghost of Perfumes Present is sort of like the spirit of alcohol that evaporates from a cask of whisky as it ages and which is sweetly referred to as “the angels’ share” … it is the essence of beautiful words, curious minds, engaging interactions and acts of generosity and kindness that you never expected to encounter when you bought a bottle of perfume and decided to look up some information about it on the Internet. It is born of aroma materials, it started in a bottle, it exists in ether … and it’s the reason you collect perfumes. Because only Donatella Versace collects perfumes that stay on the shelf. The rest of us are in the presence of something larger, clearly.

The Ghost of Perfumes Future is a thin, will-o-the-wisp thing. I was never good at seeing the future, and so I can’t tell you if what I’m looking at is an emaciated phantom … one created by IFRA regulations that keep limiting perfume ingredients to the point that one of my favorite niche perfumers recently said on her blog, “Given the direction we are headed, I really wonder how many more years I will be able to do this.” If that’s the Ghost of Perfumes Future, then you and I probably won’t be doing our thing for too many more years either. But I don’t want to think about that tonight. It’s Christmas, and I’m an optimist, and I’m never sure how long I’m going to be perfume blogging anyway, so what I’ll leave you with is the Ghost of Perfumes Future as I hope I’m seeing her. She is a will-of-the-wisp—she's quite young, you see. She is the next generation of perfume lover and she has stumbled onto some perfume blogs that are so old, that were recorded via a technology that is now so behind the times, she views them the way we do vinyl records. And yet the words, the old conversations she sees in forums abandoned a long time ago, intrigue her. And somewhere in her great auntie or uncle’s closet, she remembers seeing a bunch of bottles. She finds them, lifts the lid from a now vintage bottle of Carnal Flower, inhales deeply … and so it goes on.

For more reading on the “Ghosts of Perfume” Christmas blogging project, please visit these blogs:

All I Am - A Redhead

Another Perfume Blog [NOTE: this blog is no longer online]

ChickenFreak's Obsessions

Muse in Wooden Shoes 

Olfactoria's Travels 

Undina's Looking Glass 

Photos top of page is from Christmas 1969, which my mother labeled as Christmas with Wayne the Duck. I'm not sure why my father brought him in the house and put a Christmas ribbon around him, but it was probably to amuse us. My sister Heather is on the left, holding the doctor's kit she got from Santa; I'm the kid who is covetously holding Mrs. Beasley and at least two other dolls; and my sister Barb is at my feet, clutching her Buffy doll.  The other two photos are of me taken in the early 70s.

Photo of Helena Rubinstein Heaven Scent perfume bottle is from

Ghosts of Perfumes Past, Present and Future

– A Joint Blog Project

December 21, 2012:

To read my most recent posts, return to Home Page

I would be remiss, though, if I didn’t mention that the Ghost of Perfumes Past includes actual perfumes. Almost every year from the age of six up, we received perfumes for Christmas—something that was even more important to my father than my mother, as he wanted us to be ladies and he also wanted to be the first man to give us perfume. Estee Lauder Cinnabar was the first “grown-up” scent he picked out for me, and though I can’t say I loved the perfume itself, I really and truly loved receiving it. Another one which stands out in my memory is the  Helena Rubinstein Heaven Sent perfume I received somewhere around the age of eight or nine. It came in a frosted glass bottle in the shape of a star (or was it a moon?) that was a pendant which hung on a long chain necklace. The perfume itself was very, very pretty: a light floral and powder scent that smelled impressively grown-up, yet lilting enough that it suited a young girl. I believe my mother picked out that one.