What counts as a “collection,” anyway?

Cape Cod_square

I’ve been asked before whether I’m a perfume collector, and I’m still not sure how to answer. Yes? I’m always on the lookout for perfumes I haven’t smelled before and open to buying any that capture my attention in a special way (and aren’t ridiculously priced). However, I’ve only been at this for just over a year, and when I hear or read about people mentioning their hundreds or thousands of full bottles, I think maybe I don’t qualify to be in this conversation.

I took an actual inventory the other day, and counted 19 full bottles in my ownership. They range from bargain to relatively expensive and include mainstream, niche, vintage, and “custom.” Four of the 19 were personal gifts—two from before my proper perfumista days, and two as a result of this journey.

The same day, I rounded it out to 20 with the serendipitous purchase of my first Chanel: No. 19 EDP. A classic. (I left the counter with a blotter, smelling it for the first time, and came back to buy it about half an hour later. It greets me with a familiarity I can’t place—a generous opening of oakmoss, which by now to me feels like an earned kinship, if that makes any sense; and dries down to a friendly, reassuring, powdery iris. I would love to smell a vintage for comparison.)


If I could eke out any [circa] “perfume anniversary” takeaways, it would be the palpable decrease of FOMO toward the fire hose of new and yet undiscovered perfumes out of which we perfumistas may feel compelled to drink, even while fully knowing that such a task is essentially impossible. I’ve breathed in enough of a breadth of perfumes that I’ve gotten better at recognizing those that are distinctive versus not, and started to make associations between perfumes. The relief is real!

(On my list to smell was also Eau Capitale by Diptyque, and my first thought when I finally did was, this is like Ylang 49! [My favorite from Le Labo, and one of my full bottles. It was the one I chose over all the others, including the city exclusives, after 6 of my friends from work pooled together and got me a gift card to Le Labo for a very special occasion; a kind and wonderful gesture that I was truly surprised and moved to receive.] I didn’t spend enough time with Eau Capitale to verify whether the comparison held all the way, but the citrus-rose-patchouli pyramid isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.)

Cambridge, MA, USA

Happily, I’ve also reached a point where I’m more comfortable with my writing and the nebulous nature of the topics that encircle my mindspace. Sometimes they may be no more than ramblings barely covering their loins with a thin leaf of perfume commentary, but my goal is always to relate and encourage, somehow, in some obscure way. (Mondays, amirite?!)

If it takes more to find that less is more, so be it. Collecting perfume is more than the act of accumulating bottles—it’s stepping forward with your whole self toward an experience, and another, and another. It’s the first step to curating.







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