Everyone Likes a Good Story, Right?

Last week, when I read the title of L’Esperessence’s post (How important is the story of a perfume to you?), I had a feeling of déjà vu: I could have sworn that not only I previously read something on that topic on the same blog, but even planned a post prompted by thoughts on the topic. After I failed to locate that post on my own, I asked the author, and she was very kind to point me into the right direction: it wasn’t a topic of that post 10 months ago but in conclusion of the review of a “story-less” perfume she did pose that same question.

So this time I decided not to wait another year and write my thoughts on different types of stories that accompany perfumes. Since I do not want to draw attention to perfumes, descriptions for which I use to illustrate the idea, and would like to make reading these blobs of text more entertaining, I’ll use pictures of Rusty that might or might not convey same ideas.

Descriptive Stories

This type includes more or less poetic description of the actual smell that perfume is trying to recreate.

[…] the smell of fresh bread from the bakery takes us back. The feel of warm bread against the cheek even more so, evoking a familiar sensation from my childhood.

I like these descriptions: they give me enough warning of what to expect (or to avoid).

 

Rusty and Lilac

Lilac always smells of lilac

 

Associative Stories

These stories describe not as much the actual scent but rather circumstances, places or events that perfume intends to remind of, images it conjures.

You don’t need to be Proust to let an aroma surround you with memories – sometimes, it can be a simple as the fresh, aromatic cologne of a departed lover, filling a room with bergamot, herbs, and a uniquely compelling whiff of rosemary. Even more than on his skin, the scent lingers and lingers, compelling us to eagerly wonder if and when he might return…

I do not mind these but I know that I’m easily suggestible, so I would rather read something like that after I tried that perfume: my nose isn’t that great as is, so I prefer to give it a chance to have a “blind sniff impression” first.

 

Rusty

Actual picture, no post-processing

 

Motivational/Inspirational Stories

These usually tell you what kind of a person wears such perfume or what one would feel while wearing it.

The new XXXX man […] is a modern dandy. Blessed with an instinctive sense of style and elegance, he effortlessly blends sophistication and casualness. Unbound and free, he remains true to himself in every circumstance and never needs to pretend. Confident without arrogance, naturally seductive, he radiates a form of charisma that leaves a deep imprint in the hearts and minds of the people around him. For him, life is like music and he is perfectly in tune with its inner rhythm and melody.

or

XXXX – the best ingredients for flirting and seduction, skilfully mixed into one unique scent. It’s the fragrance that remains at your side while you’re making your move, boosting your self-confidence in that all-important moment.

I’m still not sure if these are better or worse than the one for Amouage Blossom Love that I quoted in the recent Second Sunday Sample post, but I dislike this type of stories. Luckily, these usually accompany mainstream releases, which I avoid anyway.

 

Rusty and Doors Motivator

 

Fictional Stories

Whimsical, romantic or philosophical, these stories, abstracts and quotes from non-existent literary works are created to illustrate and enrich perfumes they are attached to.

She would do anything to climb the social ladder still further.

Her latest scheme is to poison her husband, Lord George, inheriting his wealth and burying his secrets for ever!

Her fragrance reflects her very essence: a green floral narcotic.

This type of stories usually amuses me more than anything else and neither add to nor subtract from the perfume’s appeal.

 

Rusty in a Hat

In my defense: it was Halloween; normally I do not dress up Rusty

 

“Real” [hi]Story

It belonged to a queen in the Trianon rose gardens, far from the splendors of the Court, before the turmoil of history was unleashed. Entrusted to a noblewoman and very dear friend, it has come down to us through the ages to be reborn today.

Usually I’m skeptical about any historical references, be that Marie Antoinette secret recipe or scented theater curtains, which makes me immune to this type of stories. But once I believed the story…

When I read that Edmond Roudnitska created what is now known as Le Parfum de Theresa for his wife, and it was publicly released only after his death, I was enchanted. Not only it was a truly romantic story, but it had some parallels to my own love story (I used Roudnitska’s Diorella to scent a secret note to my first love). From everything I read, it was an amazing perfume!

I tried it and was greatly disappointed: it wasn’t unpleasant or bad but I wasn’t in love with it. If to think about it, it wasn’t unexpected: nothing can live up to an image in one’s head…

When I came back to it several years later, I liked it much more. Not sure I want to wear it but I appreciate it and think I could have loved it, had I been exposed to it from my childhood. Or had I tried it without expecting the most romantic perfume ever based on the Story.

 

Rusty "helps" me to work

Eight out of ten lines on the screen were typed by Rusty. True story.

 

Have I missed any other types of perfume stories? Do you usually read official stories before trying perfumes? Do they influence you?

 

Images: my own

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36 thoughts on “Everyone Likes a Good Story, Right?

  1. A lovely post and an exceptional model …. I particularly like Rusty’s hat – he looks very dashing!

    I suppose I can be a bit of a sucker for a back story to a perfume; like you I was attracted to the romantic inspiration behind Parfum de Therese. But what I really want to know is what notes are in a fragrance. I realise that isn’t a substitute for sniffing the actual composition, but some clues as to how it might smell would be useful, and for this “Descriptive Stories” can also be a very useful guide. There seems to be a trend for surreal ad copy which bears no relation to the juice – or even to perfume! That exasperates me.

    • Rusty wasn’t amused with that hat – even though I was wearing one as well :) As soon as I let him down, he started clawing it with all 4 paws. I thought of using that next picture as an illustration for the true story but the quality/lighting weren’t great, so I decided against it.

      I usually glaze over those abstract ad copies: why to waste time?

  2. Great post. I absolutely agree with you. Many years ago I hit on a blog by a poet – her poems and stunning visuals. Just a few entries and sadly discontinued. I also enjoy a learning curve – text on the used aromatics and the composition, in depth background on related scents or production/ marketing history. Octavian and his blog (lamentably also discontinued with 99% of the former contents removed from the web) springs to mind. What puts me off is endless warbling on perfume time on someones left or right arm leaving you with nothing at all.

    • I was sad when Octavian closed his blog. I understand his disappointment: there are not that many people out there who could discuss the topics on his level but I think he underestimated how many people were reading what he wrote and appreciated his knowledge. Oh, well…
      Detailed description of minute-by-minute perfume development do not interest me as well – mostly because I experience perfumes differently. But I know that there are people who enjoy that level of details, so it’s great that there are reviewers who can fulfill these needs. But if from a blogger I would read that type of stories from time to time, I would have never done that be it an “official” ad copy.

  3. I don’t care for the stories presented by the perfume companies and even listing each and every note sometimes throws me off (I read notes thinking I might like something but then the opposite ends up being true)…I do however enjoy reading bloggers connecting perfumes to their own personal stories…scent memories…that I like! Agree with the commenter above, I cannot read five pages of a post on minute by minute accounts on how a perfume develops over the course of 12 hours…that does not interest me at all.

    • Personal stories influence me much more than any official narratives or too much “technical” details too.
      Usually I skip notes section or quickly scan through it just to see if there are any of my nemeses in perfume – cumin, agarwood, tuberose or apricot. But even then I would still try that perfume if I get a chance.

  4. Rusty!!!!
    I do read the stories but try not to succumb to the influence of them…(notice I used the word “try”- LOL!)

  5. I like the categories you list as “descriptive” and “associative” stories; dislike the “motivational” ones; and am amused or intrigued by the “historical” ones, even if I suspect or know they aren’t true. The kinds of descriptive or associative stories I like best are usually found in interviews with the perfumers or creative directors, not in ad copy. I loved the multi-faceted descriptive/associateve stories with which Penhaligon’s launched Blasted Bloom two years ago: ad copy, a short art film, interviews with Albert Morillas. They prompted me to add my own musings: https://scentsandsensibilities.co/2015/12/21/fragrance-friday-blasted-bloom/. And now I wear Blasted Bloom to work when I feel I need to assert myself!

    • Penhaligon’s does nice campaigns. This is one of the brands that makes me feel that those stories are for my amusement and not to trick me into buying their perfumes (which isn’t true, I know :), but that’s the brand’s image in my eyes).

  6. Rusty is dashing in his sombrero! I must admit I am a bit of a sucker for the made up back stories that some of the perfume lines use. It doesn’t influence whether or not I will like it, but it does influence me to try it. Coincidentally I just posted a new review today that is based on a scent memory, or a little bit of a scent story. That is just how some perfumes appeal to me, they remind me of something in the past. I agree that I don’t like the stories where wearing a perfume is going to make me more confident or more attractive to the opposite sex. I do believe, however, that wearing certain scents can lift my mood. A bit of a ramble here, I’m all over the place!

    • That hat was a souvenir brought by one of co-workers from vacation. I decided to use it as Rusty’s Halloween costume, about which he was less than thrilled despite promises of treats :)

      Personal stories from bloggers influence me much more than brands’ stories – even personal ones because bloggers aren’t trying to sell me those.

  7. Rusty is so handsome. So many of the mainstream releases are targeted to youth, so I find those stories annoying. I mostly ignore the stories, look at the notes list before sampling live. If I want to buy a sample of something it’s usually after hearing about it from a review or a blog.

    • Rusty is an endless source of entertainment, that’s for sure – and he looks good even while misbehaving – but you know, almost all cats are like that.

      What is good with mainstream releases is they are consistent: their juice is usually as bad as their ad copy ;)

  8. Oh, that Rusty. I love the pic with the closed doors. Any cat owner knows that a closed door is guaranteed to make them go crazy. Moving away from Rusty…I prefer the descriptive posts, although I am always intrigued by a backstory/historical reference. Does it make me want to experience it more? Probably.

    • It’s funny: all Rusty’s life there were doors that stayed closed most of the time (e.g. our bedroom – otherwise he eats plastic in the walk-in closet) but he still objects to that.

      Just to be clear, I was talking about official stories, not about the styles, in which people who experience perfumes describe them.

  9. I really enjoyed this post, which got me wracking my brains – and predictably not coming up with as many examples as I hoped for. ;) However, I am very much in line with Old Herbaceous above in terms of my preferred style of stories. Not the motivational ones for sure. Drive me nuts. Amongst the genuine ‘real (hi)story’ ones, I remember being fascinated by the perfume whose recreation (slightly adapted for modern tastes) was inspired by a tale of a German perfumer who went down with the Titanic along with all his perfumery materials – it was reborn as Night Star, as part of the Scents of Time range. On a side note, I am passionate about not ever saying ‘as cosy as a cashmere wrap/stole/blanket/bolero’, about the overuse of which simile I am as much a vigilante as I am about the misuse of the apostrophe, hehe.

      • I don’t remember how Vanessa feels about those commas, but I’m totally confused. No, not by the rule itself. Based on my personal preference, I chose not to use it (it’s not used in that place in my native language, so it was more organic for me to follow the same convention in English), but at work our style is to use Oxford comma. So I keep balancing between two styles: comma for official documents, no comma for e-mails (even work-related) and blog posts. Speaking of e-mails, this is one more word where out of two acceptable versions my and required at work preferences do not coincide.

    • I haven’t heard this story before but now I went to Fragrantica :) Have you tried that perfume? The brand didn’t survive but, as I read, they used Sheldrake, so story or no story, it could be not bad.
      While I never use cashmere analogies myself, every time I see it in blogosphere, I think of you :).

  10. When I worked at Sephora, the fragrance training they gave me was about storytelling. I guess they’d concluded that the non-perfume-obsessed among us tend to get overwhelmed by too much talk about notes, and so Sephora wanted us to focus on emotions evoked by the various fragrances.

    It was an interesting approach, but I always found that people engaged with me when I did focus on the notes. I felt like people would actually have a conversation with me when they felt like they were learning something. My nose isn’t the best out there either, but maybe I just work better by focusing on the notes, I don’t know.

    I’m always a sucker for a historical angle though! The story behind Le Parfum de Therese is beautiful.

    The photos of Rusty are completely charming!

    • I think people just do not expect to hear any “poetic” information about perfumes from an SA in Sephora: it seems completely out of place, whereas talking about notes is more appropriate.

      Le Parfume de Therese’s story is still one of my most favorite, and I wish I could love that perfume more :)

  11. I almost never read the ad copy because, well, I don’t…there are better things for me to read. That said, if a perfume company comes up with a serial story with a mystery to be solved as each successive perfume is launched, it might keep my interest.

    Rusty is such a ham!

  12. OOoohhh, thinking about it, but not getting to write about it – story of my life over the last couple of years…I can relate, yes, and then I can be sympathetic about your anguish (if it is anguish, actually), Undina! Thanks for pointing out the stories – it works for me, as well. Because I am personal, too, you know! Blurred Rusty is DA BEST!
    I can add another type of story – the interview with an insider, whether it is with a perfumer, or a creative director, or a boutique owner, or an apprentice. This can be inspirational, personal, associative and real story at the same time!

    • I have a big file of ideas, random thoughts and “borrowed” from somebody else topics, about which I plan to write. Some of them are several years old – and I still might write about those one day :)

      I like interviews with people that I like. And there were a couple of interviews that I wish I hadn’t read – I disliked those perfumers from that moment on, and it prevented me from liking their perfumes.

  13. I love the stories if they are from a brand I already respect. So many – particularly mainstream – perfumes have an overblown story that has no soul and therefore means nothing to me. If anything, that would put me off.

    Otherwise a great story can really draw me to a perfume if I like the sound of the scent. A good narrative is such a pull for my over-active imagination although funnily enough I’m not keen on the made up people you find in lines like the Portraits from Penhaligon’s. Not sure why… a little too contrived or overly whimsy perhaps.

    You always tell a great story, Undina.

    • Thank you, dear Tara. I’m glad you like my stories because I enjoy telling them.

      I rarely spend time reading anything about mainstream releases at all but whatever catches my eye doesn’t entice me to try these creations.

      Penhaligon’s stories, for me, are an adornment, quite fitting to the bottle cups they use. Those are as fictional as they can be – and for some reason I rather like them (don’t plan on buying any bottles but wait for each next chapter to try).

  14. I do like a good perfume story, hands down.

    However I don’t like the descriptive ones since basically my reviews are descriptions of each of the perfume I write about, so I don’t need any suggestions from some PR people.

    I do like imaginary stories like Atelier Cologne is using, they are also of good length. If anything in press release is too long, I won’t read it.

    • That’s why I probably like your reviews: they give me information that my nose, most likely, won’t even when I get to test those perfumes myself ;) But for the rest of perfumes that you do not review, I’m fine with the official descriptions.
      I like Atelier’s stories and cards. When I was writing about the fictional stories, I had in mind their Rose Anonyme and Vetiver Fatal. Those were perfect examples of stories that pulled me in.

      • Same here! And Rose Anonyme is still my favorite Atelier Cologne.
        OK, so please stick with me for what I review ;) The rest you’re allowed to read from official press release ;P

  15. Great topic, Undina. Had a good laugh reading this. Stories seem to have become even more important for niche brands. I find the “inspirational/motivational” stories especially hilarious. They are all very interchangeable. Thanks. R

    • Thank you, Richard.
      It looks like we all agree on the dislike for the stories that tell us how we should feel. Luckily, most of the niche companies choose a different approach.

  16. Loved your post, Undina. Great topic 😊 really liked the different kinds/categories of stories to tell with or about a fragrance. Love the historic one and the fictional too if it is a good story as if one is reading a book. Rusty is beautiful, an excellent model! Rubio would not keep that hat on. I really can’t relate to “inspirational or motivational” stories as they sound so unrealistic almost fictional.

    • Thank you, Esperessence – both for the inspiration and kind words.
      Rusty didn’t tolerate it for too long: couple of minutes later all four paws were engaged :)

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