Falling Down the Rabbit Hole: How I Became a Perfumista.

I don't know who said it first, but someone somewhere referred to the beginning of their love affair with perfume as falling down the rabbit hole. [1]   Poor Alice chases a rabbit and tumbles into a bizarre world that seems familiar but is worlds apart. Becoming a Perfumista is kinda like that.

Imagine if you used your ears all of your life to communicate and to pick up signs of danger but had never noticed nuance or tone or timbre. You had ears; they worked fine. But you never gave them a second thought.

And then one day you somehow come across a CD. It doesn't matter whose CD, or how it happened to land in your hands, but for the first time the stars aligned just so or something and BAM! You fall into a world of sound.

It's an awakening. This new world was already there around you - that's the crazy thing. You not only start finding more CDs, but you start reading about music, seeking out concerts, talking to people about it. There's so much to hear! Has it always been around? It's everywhere! People catch your attention on the train (his deep voice!), at the market (her soft whisper!), on the phone (raspy smoker!). You notice the various bird songs over your head, the jets roaring through the clouds, the crunch of leaves as you walk. Sound is everywhere and it had been all along. You can't get enough. Becoming a Perfumista is kinda like that.

How did I get here in this land of perfume? The rabbit I chased wasn't white, it was amber.  But let me back up for a moment...

I read a lot of blogs. First, I read blogs because they are interesting. But also reading other writers helps you know what's going on, inspires you, and keeps you on your toes. A favorite blog of mine is The Non-Blonde. Gaia writes about makeup, perfume and sometimes about celebrities. I love her snarky way with words! I also love how passionately she writes about perfumes. I don't always agree with her, but it's clear she has a bad case of Perfume Fandom.

I had reviewed some perfumes over the past few years on my beauty blog.  My amateur nose basically knew only if it liked something or it didn't (not that there's anything wrong with that!). Inspired by these odd-sounding perfumes I'd see on The Non-Blonde (she talked about "niche" and "vintage" and other things I didn't quite understand), I started following links to other blogs about perfume.

Fascinating! Had this all been out there all along?! I read and read, then read some more. Eventually it was time to try some of these "strange" perfumes (meaning: scents not available at my Macy's or Nordstrom). I ordered some samples based on favorable reviews, skipping notes I was pretty sure I wouldn't like. And I waited...

One of the first samples I tried was by Annick Goutal. The line isn't sold anywhere nearby, but I happened to have a bottle of La Violette hanging around that had been given to me by a PR person for review on my other blog, so I knew it was good stuff. Anyway, I had ordered a sample of the much-raved-about Ambre Fetiche. I had no idea what to expect except that a lot of bloggers loved it and that "amber" was listed as a note in many of the scents I had enjoyed smelling and wearing over the years.

I'll do a proper review of Ambre Fetiche soon, but what's important for this story is that I loved this scent. I wore the sample every day. I milked almost every molecule out of that tiny little vial. I was obsessed with the way Ambre Fetiche smelled! I sniffed my arm... I slept with it swirling around me. At times, I wanted it to wear off, just so I could reapply it!

Eventually, the vial was so depleted that I was afraid to dab any more. I was twitchy. I felt like I was in withdrawl or something.[2]  I couldn't stop thinking about this perfume! After a week or so, I caved and bought a small bottle. I was so relieved when it arrived, I can't even tell you. Pathetic, I am!

But that sample and subsequent purchase... That blissful feeling I got (still get) when smelling that perfume... That need to never not have that scent available to me... That was the beginning of the Fandom for me.
Since then, I've sniffed a lot of great perfumes (and some not so great ones). Only a few take me to That Place, though.[3]  But that's not the whole point, now is it?

Jackson Pollock, Greyed Rainbow, oil and enamel on canvas, 1953.
Don't get it? You don't have to. I did.

I once stood in front of a Jackson Pollock and was moved to tears. Goosebumps spread up my arms. It was my leap into the rabbit hole of Abstract Expressionism, an art movement that gets a lot of flack from non-art types but that resonates deeply with me. I appreciate most of it, dislike some, love some others, and am absolutely blown away by a few. Becoming a Perfumista is kinda like that...

Have you officially fallen down the rabbit hole?
What was your White Rabbit?

[1] Re: "Falling Down the Rabbit Hole" - this phrase, used in another non-Wonderland related way a few years ago, was misheard as "falling on a rabid whore." The conversation was fairly confusing for a few minutes, there!
[2] I mean no offense to anyone in recovery or battling addictions. I have the u
tmost respect for anyone going through that struggle, but this is the only metaphor I can come up with to really show what I experienced. I'm not trying to make light of addiction.
[3] In case you're curious: Bois des Iles (Chanel), Amaranthine (Penhaligon's), Eau Claire des Merveilles (Hermes), Une Rose Chypree (Tauer).

Falling paintings: Gail Siptak


  1. It was Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan. I still remember the shock and excitement of loving something so different than anything I had smelled before. That led to a day smelling perfume on a trip to London: Ormonde Jayne, L'Artisan, Frederic Malle and Penhaligon's. Now I have a serious sample habit, and a cmall collection of full bottles that make me happy every day.

  2. For me, the rabbit was violet. Searching for the perfect violet scent led me to discover Lucky Scent (samples!) and from there, fume blogs and the world of niche perfumes.

  3. Over the years I've approached that rabbit hole couple of times without realizing it (several hard(er) to find or niche perfumes made it into my collection without me knowing the significance of that) and every time I would return to the safe ground of the mainstream perfume market. Last year during a trip to London Ormonde Jayne's Ta'if became my who-knows-what-color rabbit.

  4. I LOVE Ambre Fetiche! What a perfume to begin the descent... :)


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