The Love Letter: Coming to My Senses + Olfactif

Jean Honore Fragonard The Love Letter, early 1770's


I am delighted to announce that February’s sample collection from the niche perfume subscription service Olfactif will feature perfumes from Coming to My Senses and some notes and surprises from me throughout the month. If you want to get to the good stuff you can skip everything below and just go here. This is the story of how it happened:


I first discovered Olfactif on Twitter, when one of my non-perfumista friends–or so I thought–tweeted about receiving her monthly box of samples. Wait, I said, your what? Yes, she said, it’s a subscription service for niche perfume. Every month a new box arrives with three samples. There are stories and perfumer interviews on the blog, and a discount if you buy a full bottle.


What? I said, again. How did I not know this? So off I went to the website where among many amusing, helpful things I read this, in the FAQ’s:

     There are only three rules when trying a perfume. Uncap the vial, smell the               wand, then:

     1. If you like it, put it on.

     2. If you’re not sure, put it on.

     3. If you hate it, definitely put it on.


Yes! I said, aloud, to an empty room. Yes!


The site goes on to explain that perfume is very different on skin than it is on paper or in the vial, so you should always try it on and give it time to expand before you judge it. Which is true. But it is also true that when you are first starting to explore perfume you should definitely put on the one you think you hate. Hate is a strong emotion. It indicates you’re already involved with the scent in some way. And–perhaps not just with perfume–it’s remarkable how quickly hate can flip over and become love. Some of my favorite perfumes are scents that first made me draw back in disgust and then, perversely, come back for a second sniff. Any perfume person can tell you the same thing.


I immediately wrote a fan letter to Tara Swords1 the brave and witty person handing out this advice. Hello! I said. This is terrific! I’ve written a book that makes some similar points. Maybe we could do something together?


It took some gumption for me to write that letter. I was nervous about it. So I was surprised and very happy when Tara wrote back to say, essentially, why yes, I’ve read that book and have been meaning to contact you. That’s pretty much how this collaboration has gone from beginning to end. A true back and forth connection.


It was Tara who suggested we collaborate on the February collection. She’d been looking for a non-traditional way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and thought Coming to My Senses would do the trick. This made me very happy, not only because I think Valentine’s Day should be about more than a very narrow definition of romance, but because I’ve always thought of Coming to My Senses as a love letter. This little project allows me to send you all another one.


1 Can we pause a moment to note what a great name Tara has?  She’s practically a Tarot card.


Image: Jean Honore Fragonard, The Love Letter, early 1770’s




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