Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sensory Quesionnaire

Here is my result from filling out Glass Petal Smoke's Sensory Questionnaire:

Name/Country of Origin/Profession:
Carrie Meredith, USA

1.     What does your sense of smell mean to you?
My sense of smell is my ticket out of this stratosphere. I go to great pains to scent my environment just so, and choose and blend my perfumes each day either to suit my mood, or to alter myself, much as I did when I was younger with tattoos and piercings. To successfully modify my space, body and mind with scent is to exercise a certain control that is much more difficult for me to attain in other areas of my life. I use my sense of smell as a means of gathering pleasure where I can find it, and as a psychological tool to dig into and then reorganize my thoughts and creativity.

2.     What are some of your strongest scent memories?
All throughout my childhood, my mother would bring me along to the barn where she kept her horse. I would follow around the barn cats all day until I discovered that the horses were actually pretty cool too. I never minded the smell of horse manure or any horse-related smells. What held my particular attention was the saddle shop, and the smell of the saddle oil and leather, the boots and other riding gear. Leather and hay are two notes I am always looking for in perfumes these days. There is a place for horse skank, and surprisingly, that place is in my house.  

3.   What are some of your favorite smells (things in nature, cooking &/or your environment)?
Fresh watermelon is the happiest smell I can think of. To me, it has this ozone-y amazingness that can’t be surpassed. I also love the smell of cat fur, lilac bushes, leather jackets/handbags/boots, mud, mushrooms, wood (in any way shape or form, including live trees), funnel cakes being made, Kasugai gummy candies (Muscat flavor).

4.  Do you have any favorite smells that are considered strange?
I like the smell parakeets give off if you sniff their heads at certain points in their molt cycles. I think it’s a hormonal thing for them. For me, your guess is as good as mine.

5.  Describe one or more of your favorite cooking smells.
Warm corn tortillas, grilled pita bread, portabella mushrooms on the grill, fresh caramel corn, cake batter, pickled things, olives.

6.  What smells do you most dislike?
When I was a kid, my grandfather would make oxtail stew whenever my grandmother let him have at it in the kitchen. My grandmother used to cook homemade meals for her Afghan Hounds every day, usually ground hamburger and pasta or rice. Any combination of those ingredients can  remind me of doggie meals or oxtails. Let’s just say that I’ve been a vegetarian for 18 years and counting.

7.  What smell did you first dislike, but learned to love?
I have recently done a switcheroo with my scent preferences that has me surprised. I used to be obsessed with amber fragrances, and now they’ve become very hard for me to take. On the flipside, leather in perfume used to really turn me off, and now I’m seeking it out in as many different scents as I can in order to test my boundaries. I also used to have an aversion to jasmine, and that is also slowly earning my favor again.

8.  What mundane smells inspire you?
Burning wood, snow, rain and fresh air. The elements and how they relate to the changing seasons are the most inspiring things to me. I’m not sure if I would really call them mundane, but they are what you get, whether you like it or not, if you want to be alive every day.

9.  What scent never fails to take you back in time and why?
Musty paperback book smell reminds me of digging through all of my grandfather’s books when I was young to see if there were any I wanted to read. Of course, this was how I developed my taste for mystery novels and specifically, Sherlock Holmes.

10.  What scents do you associate with memories of loved ones?
a. My mother used to wear YSL Paris, among many others, but for some reason I always associate Paris with her.
b. My grandfather wore Brut, and I was just thinking about it yesterday actually, musing on the name. I wish I could have been in that board meeting when they greenlighted that name.
c. My husband has what I like to call “cake-head”. He uses Jonathan Product Dirt in his hair, and it smells just like vanilla cake. Anytime you go within two feet of him, the cake-head scent emerges, engulfing everything and everyone in its path. It’s actually kind of nice.
d. The smell of Lancome foundation (a rosy sort of floral scent) will always remind me of my grandmother. She wore a full face of makeup and dyed her short hair jet black her whole life and throughout her very elderly years.
e. The great love of my life, my cat Maggie, passed away a few months ago (she had cancer), and I had come to truly define myself as her caretaker ever since she was diagnosed in February. She had a particular love of one kind of canned cat food made by Merrick called Turducken. It has a very gamey, oily smell, and even though I hate the smell of any kind of meat (and kitty food goes without saying), I began to associate the smell of the cat food with Maggie’s utter ecstasy at being served the stuff, so coping with the smell of it became not just okay, but a really, really good thing. The cat I have now, Troutie, will not eat any canned food at all.

11.  What fragrance(s) remind you of growing up?
Anything from the Sanrio store, and fortunately, they are still going strong so I can indulge myself anytime if I want a walk down memory lane. Demeter came out with a Sanrio 50th Anniversary scent that is supposed to smell just like a Sanrio store. Long story short- fail.

12.  What fragrance(s) remind you of the places you visited on vacation?
Juara Candlenut Oil perfume is a divinely tropical scent, but the closest I’ve come to visiting any place tropical is The Mirage hotel and casino in Las Vegas. They pipe in this fake tropical smell that used to get me all pumped to drop some cash at the low-limit blackjack tables while drinking fruity cocktails. That’s what I call ME time.

13.  Describe a piece of sensory literature that is very magical for you.

Unless some sweetness at the bottom lie, who cares for all the crinkling of the pie?

The book The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley was published a couple of years ago, and was a revelation for me. It’s about an eleven year old girl named Flavia de Luce living in 1950s England who solves a mystery by using her precociousness, her bravery, and her deep understanding of chemistry and how to create poisons by using plants and other neat things. She is at once fascinated by the world around her, and repelled by many of its inhabitants, and that is a position I can sympathize with wholeheartedly. There are many wonderful sensory descriptions, and it would appeal to any perfumer or perfume enthusiast. Or any person with a beating heart.

                        Maggie (Miss Crabtree) 10/14/96- 8/27/10
EDIT: to show my dear departed kitty, who interestingly, had a tumor inside her nasal cavity, so although she couldn't much smell her food anymore, it was habit that drove her to run to the kitchen for Turducken. Around the same time, my doctor diagnosed me with a concha bullosa, a blockage in my sinuses that will probably have to be removed (which isn't that big of a deal). The coincidence continues to creep me out, but despite that, I ain't gonna let no "blockage" stop me from sniffing, although I wonder if it's affected my sense of smell at all.


  1. Thanks for taking the Glass Petal Smoke "Sensory Questionnaire". You are a terrific writer with an authentic voice. I'm a bit obsessed with the smell of old books myself and was really glad when Patti Smith said this upon receiving an award for her memoir "Just Kids", “Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please don’t abandon the book. There is nothing in our material world more beautiful than the book.”
    P.S. If you haven't tried Italian Chestnut Honey, I'd urge you to. It has hay notes and is a bit barn-like. Something tells me you may have tasted this before ;-)

  2. It was a boatload of fun Michelle, thanks for giving me the opportunity to have taken it! I actually have not tried Italian Chestnut Honey, but I suppose I must do so right away, it sounds like a match made on earth. (does it make your tea taste funky?)

  3. The flavor of Chestnut honey is noticeable in tea, but it depends on the degree to which you sweeten your brew and the type of tea you drink. If you like the flavor notes, it won't seem too funky because the flavor of the tea will create synergies (just like perfumery!). Darker teas are best(a nice woody Oolong or a malty Assam create interesting harmonies). Highly recommend: Rigoni di Asiago Organic Chestnut Honey.

  4. I love reading these. It always so nice to read people's fragrance profile :)
    I still remember Sanrio stores too. The smell of the erasers mingling with the melon flavored gum!
    Lancome foundation also reminds me of the women in my family, totally forgot about that smell.

  5. Victoria, do the women in your family wear their foundation too dark like my grandma did? I remember trying to tell her that when I was younger, and she sharply disagreed with me. Hah. Your family is probably more reasonable.

    Michelle, I will have to seek this special honey out now. I am not a tea connoisseur, but I have my favorites (obsessed with several Twinings teas). I wonder how it would do with the juniperiness of Earl Grey? Trial and error, I suppose. :)

  6. Edited: I guess I had a little more to say (at the end).

  7. You're in luck! Twinings makes an Oolong.

  8. I'm very much a coffee sort of gal, but getting back into the swing of tea sounds like a really good, tasty idea to me.

  9. Yep, my family overcompensated with applying the dark peach pinky stuff to "compromise yellow tones" in their complexion. I think the shade had "rose" in it and it was pretty awful on an Arab complexion.
    Sorry to hear about you and your departed kitty. I wonder if it does affect smell?

  10. I think about it, Victoria. I know my tastes have changed, but has my tolerance for smells changed too? I used to get migraines and strong scents were a trigger. Since those have pretty much gone away, I feel like my sense of smell is more sensitive in a good way, like I was missing out before. But with a physical blockage apparent, maybe it should be the opposite? Anyway, it's fun to think out loud w/ other people about this. :)

  11. I really enjoyed your post. You write gracefully but also like a real person. I started with a love of ambers too, but this season I'm hardly wearing them. Now it's all about green and leather chypres. Oh, and I love jasmine now too, even though 2 yers ago I would have tols you that I wasn't "into florals." Plus ca change.

  12. Thank you very much! I truly appreciate the encouragement.

    Green chypres, I've yet to go too far with these. I guess what I've tried has either been a) underwhelming or b) it could have been top shelf, but I only had eyes for (fill in the blank, most likely something to do with wood). Jasmine, I'm finding, is one of those things that is not quite what it seems, and I'm interested because of how chameleon-like it can be, depending partly on what friends it's grouped with. "Oh NO, Jasmine gets so bitchy when she hangs out with Rose, Vanilla and Sandalwood."