Frederick Sandys, King Pelles Daughter Bearing the Vessel of the Sangreal, 1861

I recently shared the following on Reddit in (probably unhelpfully) answering someone’s question about a process for writing perfume reviews, and it occurred to me that it’s something I should share here as well. In case you ever wondered about my perfume review process or lack thereof!

Wrapping up with “Be true to yourself” is cheesy as hell, and I KNOW IT, but it’s the only way I can write about anything, and it’s the best advice I can give.

“I’ve been writing perfume reviews for almost twenty years, and when I saw your question, I had to admit to myself that maybe I don’t actually have a process. I’m kind of all over the place with it. It’s chaos.

Also, I realize that my reviews are probably pretty frustrating because I don’t really write them to be helpful to other people. Perfume reviews, for me, are more of a creative writing exercise than an attempt to paint a factual, by-the-numbers picture of my experience with a fragrance.  True, I do share them on review sites and various subreddits like this one, and if they resonate with someone, great!

I don’t write on a schedule, though I do try to write about fragrance every day. I might not always share it immediately or at all, but I am always sniffing things, thinking about them, and making little notes and connections for myself.

But –and I am being totally honest here– my perfume reviews are very much an example of “boy, she sure likes to hear herself talk, doesn’t she?” Ruminating on and rambling about perfumes as I do provides a more complete experience beyond the smelling of the thing, you know? I have to write about things to understand them, and as unaccommodatingly wacky as my resulting thoughts might sometimes be, it’s the process of writing them down that brings me to that understanding.

That said, as abstract or circuitous or as unhelpful as my perfume reviews frequently are, I suppose I do have some things I try to work into my reviews. Perfume notes? Not really. Thoughts on the perfumer or the house? Rarely. I might talk about how the notes translate for me (like tobacco usually manifests as stewed raisins, for example), and I might talk about whether or not I smell the perfumer’s inspiration in their creation, but as both a reader and writer of reviews who doesn’t care about the nuts and bolts of the scent, I write about it the way I would want to read it.

Which is to say…I want to know what the perfume made you feel. Don’t tell me it smells nice. What does that even mean? Is “nice” a yellow daisy on a crisp spring day? Is “nice” a sudden rainstorm on a humid summer night? Is it a lurid orange bucketful of teeth-rottingly sweet candy and a cheap, sweaty vacuum-pressed Frankenstein mask circa October 31, 1980, the only Halloween you can ever recall snow on the ground? Do those things summon a memory, unearth a dream, did they trip a nostalgia or a deja-vu wire in your brain? Do they smell like a story, forgotten lore, or some unwritten fable from the future that trips off the tongue as the notes unfold on your skin? That’s where I write from, and I guess I write for people who think along those lines.

I also keep a running list of book and film quotes, song lyrics, poetry, heck, even things I have heard Nigella Lawson say! She waxes poetic about food; I recall her referencing cauliflower’s “Victorian pallor” and “fat coral curls” of shrimp, “aubergine confetti,” and “flakes of terracotta,” and sometimes these descriptions of flavors and hues translate beautifully to scent!  I think these are all wonderfully evocative things to include in a perfume review. I’d honestly rather read that a fragrance reminds me of Mary Oliver’s words, “Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine,” than learn that a reviewer thinks x perfume smells like y perfume.

Will the way I talk and think and write about perfumes change? Sure! It’s constantly evolving as I collect life experiences and catalog more scents, and I can even track my flickering interests and fluctuating passions in my perfume reviews throughout the years. (One year there was a lot of Star Trek and Lawaxana Troi mentions, ha!) And I bet your perfume writing will change as well. Whatever your process ends up being, just keep it fluid, and have fun with it and above all, be true to yourself.”

If you enjoy posts like these or if you have ever enjoyed or been inspired by something I have written, and you would like to support this blog, consider buying the author a coffee?

…or support me on Patreon!


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