Thursday, March 19, 2015

Specific Anosmia-Jasmine

I'm pleased to report I'm not losing my mind, but I am losing the ability to smell jasmine. Apparently, it has been happening for years, but I only finally put it together today. Perhaps I never could smell it at all.

I was gifted a generous sample of Quelques Fleurs l'Original, a fragrance I'd always wondered about, but never got around to trying. I dabbed a bit on and...nothing. I mean, absolutely nothing at all. So I put a bit more on a hankie, and then some more on my wrist, behind my ears, all the while trying to smell something. Anything.  I got nuthin'. Danny storms in my bedroom demanding to know what the hell I'm wearing as he can smell the jasmine two rooms away. OK, I dismissed it as a bit of a sinus thing coming in, tucked the hankie in my purse, and went out to do the marketing.

A few hours later, I thought I caught a vague whiff of tuberose, but that was it, and only if I held the hankie very close, and really made an effort. Danny again insisted it smelled just like the hand soap in our powder room, and his herbal tea. I hadn't realised the hand soap  was scented. As for the tea? It smelled like tea. I mean, what does jasmine smell like anyway? I associate it with indole, but after a bit of Googling I now understand that not all jasmine is indolic, and there is chemically derived indole.  Lucky me, I can smell poop, but not flowers.

Quelques Fleurs l'Original isn't all jasmine though-so why was I unable to smell the citrus, or the sandalwood? Did my brain just give up at the first whiff of a small, white flower in a similar phenomena where you can't smell something five seconds after sniffing it? I gave it a rest, then sniffed the hand soap-nothing. It was a moderately posh soap, so maybe it had a good dose of jasmine in it? I sniffed the tea-nothing. Suddenly, the last thirty years started coming into perspective.

When Byzance was first issued, my mother bought me a bottle thinking it would be a cute gift for a history student. It was. The bottle was lovely, the name was so evocative. I sprayed it on and...right, nothing. I never told her, but I was sure she'd somehow been sold a fake. I kept the bottle for years, finally tossing it mostly full (I know, I know, what was I thinking?!) because it was a dead fragrance to me. Byzance has a good bit of jasmine to it, along with aldehydes, lily of the valley, amber, etc. I should have smelled something, if jasmine was the issue. Again, it seems to have cancelled out the ability to smell anything else. Well, that was interesting. Must have had a good wallop of natural jasmine.

In the 1990's, I picked up a bottle of Fidji at a duty free shop. Again, nothing, and again I assumed it was a fake. I'd smelled Fidji when I was young-my mother wore it quite often, and I still have a mental scent memory of it. The bottle I bought? You guessed it. Fidji is another jasmine heavy fragrance. This had me wondering if I could at one time smell jasmine, or if the fragrance had undergone some sort of reformulation in the 90's where the jasmine was a different chemical derivative? Joy? No joy for me-it smells like water. I never could understand why people raved about it so-I thought they just *wanted* to seem sophisticated.

Three fragrances, some hand soap, and a box of tea that all share a dominant note of jasmine. Well now, I think I can save myself money in the future avoiding heavily natural jasmine scents. I still don't understand how I can draw a complete blank, cancelling out the other notes in combination, but I see a pattern anyway. Thank goodness I can still smell Shalimar, so perhaps the jasmine isn't as dominant in it as I always thought-or it is a different sort of jasmine. Fascinating stuff, though I feel a bit silly to realise what I've thought was jasmine all these years was some other indole.

I do feel bad about the Quelques sample though, as I really, really, really wanted to love it. I guess now I'd just be happy to smell it at all, but that seems unlikely to happen. I'll pass it along to another perfume fanatic that can hopefully detect the glorious florals it is said to contain.

Update: I stopped at a perfume counter today (this post was written last evening) and told the SA to spray me testers of jasmine heavy fragrances, but not to tell me which they were. I still can't smell heavy, natural jasmine notes, and Joy even after reformulations is still a "dead" fragrance for me.Not to leave empty-handed,  I bought a bottle of Aramis which got a look of horror from the poor guy behind the counter, which turned into utter shock when I told him I intended to wear it myself. What can I say? I like a good whiff of cumin and body odour, 70's style.

How strange that I could get to my age without ever understanding the jasmine thing. I'm a little sad, but also relieved that it wasn't some sudden onset thing, or that I'd taken a stroke and not noticed. All these years I've been merrily sniffing away, thinking I'd either been given fakes, or perfumes that had gone off. I have such an otherwise excellent sense of smell, how could genetics do this to me?! It does give me a more sympathetic understanding of how differently we all smell things. My son has laid claim to my decant of vintage Jicky as he can't seem to get enough of it. There was a great moment at Von Maur when Danny shoved his Jicky soaked hankie towards the sales assistant to let him smell a good whiff of vintage Jicky. I thought the poor young man might pass out. I told him to consider it a learning opportunity. He professed a fondness for, "Clean" scents. That's not Jicky. Or Aramis for that matter.

What about you? Any specific anosmias like skunk, or asparagus? Do any perfumes go completely odourless for you?


Beth Waltz said...

Much relieved you're able to reconstruct a history of not smelling that specific scent. I, too, was thinking of a health event when you began this post.

I've noticed an inability to taste eggs. We had hens when I was a kid, so I supposed the difference in taste was simply a matter of diet (ours were wild range) or breed. Nope. I've bought fresh local eggs and they are flavorless. Taste and smell are closely related, so now you've got me sniffing at them...

On a happier note, just spotted the First Robin of Spring in the patch across the road and the First Ant of Spring on my kitchen cabinet!

Mim said...

Oh, anosmia to anything sounds dreadful. A surefire way to test would be to get hold of a sample of Serge Lutens A La Nuit, which is made up of several different jasmines to make what one reviewer called 'Death by jasmine'. I love it, but lots of people find it far too much.

Thankfully, I have no anosmias, but I do have mild prosopagnosia (faceblindness) - got diagnosed after I'd been terrified I had early-onset dementia. Turns out I've always been rubbish at identifying people, I just hadn't realised. I think it affects my perception in other ways, as the reason I can't/don't drive is that I don't really see cars. I'll see them if I'm looking for them, but I have to ask myself 'Is there a car coming?' I kind of bimble around in a bubble.

Goody said...

@Beth Waltz

Now you have me wondering what exactly eggs taste like. I mean, unless they're hard boiled I would have a difficult time putting a flavour to them other than a non-descript richness. A fried egg is just a delivery system for butter in my mind. It would be interesting to know what the local feed is (corn, marigold, etc) like. I'll be interested to hear if you can smell them, though I would encourage you to try smelling them raw before they undergo any sort of change.I wonder too if specific pans could alter, or eliminate taste (like Teflon, for example)? That's fascinating, though it does sound frustrating.

That would have to be difficult being unable to recognise people, or moving objects. I'm glad you got it explained as it would be terrifying to think you were slipping into an early dementia. You'd probably still be a better driver than the distracted idiots I encounter on the road trying to text with their phone propped atop the steering wheel, their thumbs on the keys, and their pinkies doing the work of keeping the car aligned. It is frightening out there on the roads-I wish everyone had as much sense as you do for knowing that driving is perhaps something they should avoid.

I really must order a decant to see. If it is a naturally derived jasmine, the odds are I won't be able to smell it.

Bibi said...

I don't get a lot of jasmine in Shalimar either.
Shalimar always seemed a bit 'resinous' more than floral to me though.
An interesting aside- "According to Elisabeth Barille, "while examining a sample of vanillin, Jacques Guerlain suddenly poured the entire contents into a nearby bottle of Jicky, just to see what would happen." The result: Shalimar."
I can smell jasmine quite well.
We have a 'raat ki rani' bush (literally 'queen of the night' in Hindi or 'night blooming jasmine in the US) in our yard that is quite STRONG. You can also buy jasmine scented Lysol in India that can get a bit cloying too. (Another interesting aside, Indian Lysol comes in 6 scents jasmine, lemon, lavender, rose, sandalwood, & the old fashioned pine. Indian Tide laundry detergent has a rose & jasmine fragrance too. WE ARE NOT AFRAID OF FRAGRANCE IN INDIA!!!! WE LIKE COLOR TOO!!!)

Goody said...

I love the idea of rose scented Lysol. They've started selling fragrances you can add-in to your laundry detergent/fabric softener, to "customise" your laundry, though I suspect they still smell medicinal, which seems to be the American idea of clean.
I tried out in good quantity my vintage decant of Djedi, which everyone says is so, "Cold, dry, and exotic." My first thought was, "Curry." After smelling it a bit I could detect turmeric, and methe leaves, along with the orris root and civet. It was hardly exotic, to anyone with a spice cabinet, but I immediately thought of you and that you'd probably be underwhelmed as well.I still can't imagine wanting to wear it, but it isn't nearly as mysterious as described. Calling it a chypre is a bit of a stretch as well.

Curtise said...

I so want to join in with your perfume discussions, but my sense of smell is hopeless! I wouldn't know the smell of jasmine if my life depended on it, and I certainly can't detect all the notes in a perfume as you can. Not fair! On the plus side, I have a very high tolerance for bad smells, because I hardly notice them... I could have terrible body odour and never know it, though I do try to prevent it! xxx

Goody said...


I think a dozen years on a farm denied me the enjoyment of perfume (why bother when all I could smell was dirt, rotting hay, and cattle (and their dung)) and I'm re-visiting a long-lost love. I'll be the first to admit that my, "hobby" is a bit strange (I like chemistry too, so no huge surprise). Don't feel left out- feel "normal", and "lucky" you don't process life through your sinuses! "It don't all smell like roses" if you know what I mean ;)

I post the reviews to hopefully be helpful to someone thinking of making a purchase. Perfume is $$$$ so reading a variety of reviews can be helpful if it is a blind-buy off the internet.

A high tolerance to bad odours is a gift!I wouldn't worry about whether you smell-your kids would tell you-children don't hold back with that sort of thing.