I come from a family of professional smellers - not that WE smell, but that our noses are very sensitive. My grandfather Martin and my dad both made their living (at least at some points in their lives) in the spice/essential oil/perfumery business. I'm actually not sure if their noses were genetically sophisticated, or that they merely trained this sense with constant practice, but they were able to discern the 'notes' and 'complexity' of a smell and then describe them. It was important because their business was based on this talent.
I have led myself to believe that I, too, carry on this trait. I am very sensitive to smells and form associations with certain odors. I've actually averted tragedy when I've discerned smoke that no one else could detect.
I can sit still and recreate the smell of the skin of everyone of my family. I don't have the education to properly describe the smells - but I can smell it in my mind. That sounds crazy - but it is something that I do that actually brings me comfort.
I recently made the mistake of buying perfume on line - without trying it out first at the beauty counter. It was a Jimmy Choo perfume that was being advertised in a fashion magazine. It was one of those 3 x 5 inserts with a folded part that you can rip open and smell. It was being sold exclusively at Saks. I love Buffalo but we do not have a Saks. I ADORED this smell. I must have smelled the insert a hundred times. I coveted the perfume - I even loved the picture of the bottle. I broke down and ordered it from Saks online.
When I saw the brown paper package at the door, I barely made it into the kitchen to find a knife. I was ripping at the tape as I fumbled with the package. Finally, I unwrapped the cellophane, opened the wee box and gave my wrist a spray. I waited a few seconds then inhaled.
It was like fly spray. What on earth had gone wrong? I sprayed it into the air and walked through it. GROSS. This was worse.
Even though I hated it initially - I was willing to give it another try and I wore it to work the next day. It was like being followed by the pest control guy. Luckily, I had scheduled a squash game at lunch so I was able to shower half way through the day. Thank Goodness. I don't think I could've made it through the day.
The really horrible thing? It was nonreturnable and I had paid $80 for it.
But, then something wonderful happened. Emma came home for the weekend. That was wonderful enough but, she also tried on the Jimmy Choo perfume. Miraculously, when it mixed with her skin, she smelled absolutely enchanting. The way I had hoped it would smell on me.
I told Bill I had given the perfume to Emma.: "'Thank God. That stuff was vile". I guess he may have a touch of the Martin nose, too.