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Plume Perfume Takes Glass Petal Smoke’s Sensory Questionnaire

Kenneth Frazier, Woman with a Rose (1891-2).

This questionnaire was created by the brilliant Michelle Krell Kydd, the sensory blogger behind Glass Petal Smoke. The questions are intended to reveal insights into your fragrance personality and experiences — telling you what your sense of smell truly means to you. Such fun! Here goes:

Name/Country of Origin/Profession:
Tara Aveilhe
United States
PhD candidate/Perfumer
1. What does your sense of smell mean to you?
Not to overstate things, but my sense of smell is incredibly important to  me. It is both my passion and my business. It is a major part of how I experience the world. It colors my perception. I love making associations between smells, imagining similarities and overlaps between the familiar and the unfamiliar. I want to smell everything! I pay very close attention to how particular smells make me feel physically and emotionally. I relive memorable experiences through smells. When I close my eyes and remember past events, there is almost always a scent in my memories.
2. What are some of your strongest scent memories?
As a child: the honeysuckle bushes that used to grow along our fence in the back yard. The smell of motor oil on my dad’s hands when he returned from work at the auto repair shop. My Strawberry Shortcake doll. Scratch-n-sniff stickers. The scent of my Grandma’s Cover Girl powder compacts. As a teenager: Herbal Essences shampoo (the old-school version). Any perfume by Calvin Klein. My Penhaligon’s scented Language of Flowers book. The smell of Chik Fil-A chicken (our favorite lunch choice in High School). My high school boyfriend’s cologne, Drakkar Noir.
3. What are some of your favorite smells (things in nature, cooking &/or your environment)?
The sweet, wet smell after a rain. The fragrance of peonies. Chocolate chip cookies. Rich, syrupy labdanum. The smell of Aveda hair products. The smell of my boyfriend after he smokes a cigarette (yes, bad.) The smell when you first get into a hot car – rubber, plastic, and upholstery.
4. Do you have any favorite smells that are considered strange?
Many! I really like the way asphalt smells in the middle of the hot summer – pungent and noxious. I think it has something to do with childhood visits to amusement parks. I love the way my pug Gidget smells (a smell only a mother could love?): it is somewhere between Fritos and chocolate chip cookies with a little sour milk thrown in for good measure. I have always been partial to certain kinds of body odor, particularly underarm odor. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like just anyone’s b.o. — mainly my boyfriend’s. I am not embarrassed to say that I find it alluring in a rather primal way. It is bizarre that we are taught to consider all body odor repugnant. I think we unfairly deny these very old and instinctual attractions.
5. Describe one or more of your favorite cooking smells.
Any baking smell — cookies, cakes, bread. Sauteed garlic. Sage is my favorite herb, and I love the smell! Cream sauce with tarragon. I also really love the smell of cooked corn – sort of sweet and meaty. You also can’t really beat the smell of bacon.
6. What smells do you most dislike?
This is kind of a given, but the smell of the cat’s litter box has to be the most revolting thing in the world. Also, factory and refinery smells – I live near several, and while they don’t smell very often, when they do, it literally seeps into my nostrils for days. Everything smells burnt. I begin to think my food tastes like a refinery. It drives me mad.
7. What smell did you first dislike, but learned to love?
As a perfumer this might sound strange, but I really disliked the smell of Benzoin when I first smelled it. I thought it smelled like cough syrup. It’s funny, because now it is one of my favorite and most-used perfume ingredients. I also used to hate the smell (and taste) of onions — now I LOVE onions. It is quite true that taste and scent evolve over time.
8. What mundane smells inspire you?
I am quite fond of the smell of a freshly-sharpened pencil. Also, I find the smell of Swiffer Dusters (Lavender and Vanilla scented) to be completely intoxicating, HA! I often stick my nose in them before using them.
9. What scent never fails to take you back in time and why?
Oddly, cigarettes. They remind me of my rebellious teenage years, when everything seemed exciting and forbidden.
10. What scents do you associate with memories of loved ones?
The smell of aftershave reminds me of both of my wonderful grandfathers.
11. What fragrance(s) remind you of growing up?
Plastic jelly sandals (I actually have a grown-up version made by the designer Melissa). Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Summer smells always remind me of growing up: chlorine, freshly cut grass, the smell of sprinklers in front yards. Melted butter and artichokes – this was one of my mom’s favorite things to cook.
12. What fragrance(s) remind you of the places you visited on vacation?
Frankincense reminds of the beautiful cathedrals and churches I have visited in Europe and Mexico. I was not raised Catholic, so I find Catholic churches particularly mysterious and intriguing – the smell of incense definitely contributes to that intrigue. Nutella always reminds me of France – the rich chocolate smell wafting down the streets from the crepe vendors. Pao de queijo (cheese bread) reminds of Brazil – so deliciously addictive!
13. Describe a piece of sensory literature that is very magical for you.
Without a doubt, it would be Au Rebours by JK Huysmans. It is an ode to sensory pleasure. I have never read another book that so unapologetically embraces decadent, over-the-top sensory description. It’s like porn without the overt sexual content.

What about you – what does your sense of smell mean to you? I would love to know!

You can find a link to the Scent Questionnaire and links to other blogger’s answers here!

Fragrantly Yours, Tara