Liv Hambrett

Germany + Australia + Culture + Motherhood + Home


Why I’m Passionate About … Perfume

I’m passionate about plenty of things. Gavin and Stacey, tea, cheese, The Office, books, education, Adrian Mole, Santorini, photos, wine. Ricky Gervais, James Corden, Sue Townsend. Reading – I’m hugely passionate about reading. And writing – but that’s a bit obvious. And travel – I’m tremendously passionate about travel. Oh and tennis – the big slams make me giddy with excitement.

And I’m passionate about perfume. Sounds odd, I know. I suppose, generally speaking, I’m passionate about scent, but perfume is perhaps easier to explain. I own around eighty fragrances – at one point I owned over one hundred. I ask people what they’re wearing (including strangers on the street) and am more than happy to share what I am wearing when people ask, including a spritz if I happen to have it in my bag. If you gave me $500 to spend right now, chances are I’d head to Fragrance Heaven and raid their rare collection.

People often ask me, ‘why do you love perfume so much?’ ‘How can you write about perfume all the time?’ ‘What’s there to say?’ Or, if they’re really funny, they might quip something along the lines of, ‘what do you write? It smells … good?’

The thing about fragrance is, when you’re talking about it (or writing about it) you’re not just describing how it smells. Sure that’s a large part of it – the notes, the family it belongs to, the composition, how it develops, how it changes, how it settles. But more than that, when I talk about perfume, I’m talking about an idea. I’m talking about a feeling, a memory, an evocation. I’m not saying ‘it smells like roses’, I’m saying ‘it smells like roses because (insert marvelously romantic idea) and this is the effect it has.’

Perfume, contrary to popular, superficial belief, is not simply something to dab on so you ‘smell nice’ and anyone who thinks that’s the case is fooling themselves (and the significance of our sense of smell). Fragrance is fantasy, possibility and nostalgia all in the one, potent moment it takes to leave the bottle and settle on our skin.

When we talk about fragrance, most often in very romantic terms – ‘My Grandmother’s perfume’, ‘my mother’s moisturiser’, ‘the first freesias of Spring’ – what we’re really talking about, are memories. Memories and ideas – sometimes one or the other, sometimes both at the same time. All fragrances are built on an idea. Crafted around a premise. Island escape, urban sophistication, freedom, strength, youth, sex, luxury, femininity, romance, a Mediterranean holiday. Wearing these fragrances is both an act of buying into a myth that we identify with, or fantasise about, and an act of aligning ourselves with something that we believe reflects something about us.

It’s difficult to explain why I’m so passionate about perfume – the simple (more romantic) answer would be ‘I’ve loved it for as long as I can remember’, which would be an embarrassing line to whip out every time the questions crops up. But, like perfumes themselves, each a beautifully complex work of art, there really is no simple explanation (or is that justification?). For me, fragrance is tied up in so many things – emotion, creativity, nostalgia and fantasy. And it doesn’t get more potent than that.

Main image by misteraitch on Flickr


  1. veron yeo

    21 June, 2010 at 6:19 am

    Perfume works well to highlight our individualities. Once you know what smell fits your personality, image and lifestyle, it’s time to go shopping. But be aware – shopping for perfumes usually is not an easy task. Do you know how to shop for the right fantasy fragrances?First of all, don’t use any fragrance before going to the shops. If you perfume yourself and then go out and use another perfume, you won’t be able to detect the real smell. This can lead to disappointment later because the new perfume will smell different than the first time, unless of course you use both fragrances each time. Avoid spicy food before shopping, as it might temporarily take away the ability to distinguish different scents. Remember that your nose is ‘rested’ in the morning, thus it’s the best time to try out new perfumes. You may be too tired in the evening to choose between sandalwood with a hint of amber and sandalwood with a hint of musk.
    It’s very important to try on the perfume before you actually buy them. The same perfume smells differently on each person because of different reaction to one’s body. So if the commercial says it smells like fresh citrus with a hint of patchouli, it’s better to try out what it really smells like when it mixes with your own scent. Individual body chemistry is also the reason why you shouldn’t buy perfumes just because you like how they smell on your friend or cousin. Always try a fragrance on your skin, not on your clothing or a tester sheet.
    You don’t have to decide whether you like the perfume or not right after trying them out. The scent is always very strong when applied; it usually wears out after more than 10 minutes and then you can feel the real smell. This period of time is also needed for fragrance to react with your skin. Give yourself a little time to decide!
    If you’re not sure what perfume you really want to have, it’s ok to try several types and brands. However, you should avoid spraying more than three different perfumes at a time. If you try out too many scents they will confuse your smell and you won’t be able to recognize the difference between them.
    Try on some new fantasy fragrances. It won’t hurt and you can make some great discoveries! If you’re an attached person and you’ve been loyal to lily of the valley scent since early teen days, you can find a whole new world inside local perfume shop. Just don’t be afraid to experiment! If you’re looking for perfumes for a daytime, remember that the smell shouldn’t disturb you or people around you. If perfume smells great, but it attracts your attention all the time, there’s a great possibility that the smell will irritate you after several hours. Perfumes for evening and special occasions are meant to be heavier and stronger, but they usually don’t irritate because they are supposed to be worn for a shorter period of time.
    Keep an eye on discounts. Many online perfume stores offer ‘perfume of the day’ or ‘perfume of the week’ with a considerable rebate. Don’t miss out on discount coupons in local press or mall; they can help you to save a little on your choice of fantasy fragrances you looking for!

  2. Julie Elliott

    7 December, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Hi there, I have a passion for perfume too, although I do not own as many as you do. But for fun I will with my free time, spend it at the fragrance counter. I am very fussy, and usually don’t find anything new that I like. I would love to learn about perfume the mixes the high notes the middle and low notes, any suggestions? Is there a school for it do you think? I am in Canada, something tells me you are in England. Share your comments

    Thank you kindly,

  3. Dolce Vita « A Big Life

    10 March, 2011 at 11:36 am

    […] about the ideas behind the fragrance as much as I do the actual notes. This is because fragrance is created on an idea and sold alongside that idea. It becomes synonomous with a concept, a story and I – in fact, most of us do – in a way, take a […]

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