Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2010 Debriefing, Part 3

I'm crazy about you, Pug Burger


To attend Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2010 and address key representatives of the fumiverse.

[Flibbertigibbet that I am, I managed to post two installments of my adventures at last April's Sniffapalooza in a timely fashion, and then neglected to write up my concluding reports. The ding-dong of my dum-dum chimes rang when I received the recent email about the upcoming Fall Sniffapalooza in October. Indulge me while I share my now-olden days gossip.]

Sat Apr 10 -- Primary Mission, cont’d

Lunch: 140 fume-o-philiacs pile into Opia’s banquet hall and hunker down over their salads and Bergdorf’s goodie bags. I’m riding a zippy little adrenalin kick as I’m gearing up to give my “Fumies Are the New Foodies” talk. I’m so glad to be the second speaker out of eleven -- but I still have visions of going over about as well as Annie Hall trying to be a chanteuse:

In the run-up to this weekend, Avery Gilbert (the sensory psychologist and a previous Sniffa event speaker) had advised me to keep my speech snappy and peppy. (What he'd really said was, “Try to wear nice shoes, okay, and don't pick at your underwear when you're at the microphone. This isn't blogging”. But I employed creative extrapolation to arrive at "snappy and peppy." Very helpful -- thanks, Avery.)

I'd decided to focus on insights gleaned from my bailiwick in the fumiverse's Wild West: YouTube.

As an early YouTube homesteader (Rancho Perfumo), I'd survived the hazing from tribes of feral teens and the oily “welcome wagon” comprised of foot and belly-button...uh..."enthusiasts." My lonely “Katie Puckrik Smells” flag flapped in the prairie winds, surrounded by bustling settlements of makeup tutorials and nail art how-tos.

But I was strong in the belief of “if you build it, they will come”, and gradually perfume lovers trickled into my channel, both the newly passionate as well as the fumecore faithful. And now I had a in-box of entertaining hate mail to show for my efforts. Speech-wise, it doesn't get any snappier than that.

Karen Dubin introduces me as “YouTube superstar Katie Puckrik” (jeez, I need to get a bigger flag for Rancho Perfumo), and I launch into my talk. I'm relieved that the crowd is engaged and ready to chuckle along. I conclude by reading out highlights from my most fervent naysayers, ending with my favorite semi-endorsement ever:

“I don’t really understand all of your jokes, but they seem really witty.”

I settle back at my table in time for dessert, and the speakers continue to truck along. Esteemed fragrance writer Chandler Burr takes the opportunity to jump the queue when a couple of speakers miss their entrance.

Chandler smells skeptical

I'd already had a chance to buttonhole Chandler that morning at Bergdorf's, when he was kind enough to submit to a quickie interview (which I promise to write up before the next Sniffapalooza blows past me like tumbleweed on the perfume prairie. He had some interesting things to say about deciding some of his perfume reviews were ultimately wrong, which I found disarmingly honest. And to which I could relate.)

During that conversation, Chandler mentioned chafing at fragrance fans' habit of breaking down a scent into notes in order to discuss it. (Fine talk for someone whose New York Times column is called “Scent Notes”!) He argued that the author of the scent composes not to highlight individual raw materials, but to build towards a finished work, which must then be viewed in its entirety.

Okay, smell bully! How about: people will get off on something any which way they choose, even if it's the “wrong” way? (There's that archive of messages from my foot and bellybutton pervs to support this statement. Apparently, I have more to offer than just my fragrance insights.) But I did appreciate Chandler's point that enthusiasts shouldn't get too caught up in the trees to miss out on the entire forest.

I'd mused to him, "I guess it's like saying to someone you're crazy about, 'I love your ribcage and the way your nervous system is configured', instead of what's really going on, which is you're filled with an unanalyzable craving for their whole being."

Chandler had brightened up at that, responding, "Oh, that's an interesting analogy, comparing [perfume appreciation] to humans. I've only made comparisons to architecture."

Which is what he does in his lunchtime talk. Which he begins by announcing in a querulous tone that he has a bone to pick with all of us. Cool! Midtown fume throwdown!

Chandler challenges the crowd to consider the "entire building" when trying new fragrances, and not the individual glass bricks, see-through concrete walls and flying buttresses. (You can tell I'm paraphrasing here, because that would be one stupid building.) He implores us to set aside our misguided scent notes approach and embrace his holistic review of perfumes.

The group listens respectfully, then resumes their eager comparative analysis of scent notes for the rest of the afternoon. And for the rest of their lives, probably. Because to employ another analogy, I might order the fancy Pug Burger at The Hungry Cat because I'm in the mood for a burger, but my inclination to enjoy it is enhanced when the waiter lists the ingredients: a Niman Ranch natural beef patty topped with melted blue cheese, thick-cut pork belly smoked on-site, and farmers' market avocado and red onion on a rustic sourdough bun smeared with housemade aioli.

And when I'm served that building of a burger, my taste buds identify and thrill to each one of its “notes”...until finally, I ravish it like someone I'm crazy about.

Click for my Sniffapalooza Sping Fling 2010 Debriefing Part 1 and Part 2.

Pug Burger photo from food blog Exile Kiss


  1. I think people resort to talking about notes because it's the only way to convey recognizable information. Like when you're describing a woman's beauty to a third party, you might say something holistic like "She looks like a Russian princess" but you'd probably also pick out a few features to describe, e.g., "She has a regal bump on the bridge of her nose and a perma-puckered heart-shaped mouth." Since people have seen heart-shaped lips, or could picture them even if they haven't, this helps them imagine what she actually looks like. Same with perfume. I like reviews that describe the scent at both levels, holistically and compositionally, because it's just easier to imagine what it smells like.

  2. Me, I would struggle to smell glass bricks, flying buttresses or see-through concrete. I smell the entire building by default, and if my nose is is on tip-top form, I MAY get a whiff of the basement or the mezzanine kitchen diner.

    See-through concrete? Would that be concrete with little square cut out holes by any chance? Or intrinsically transparent concrete... That sounds like seriously advanced stuff for the blunt instrument that is my nose.

  3. Just so, Elisa. Perfume is such a shifty little form, you needs all the tools at your disposal to pin it down: ingredients, emotions conjured, distantly relevant scenes from a sixties Julie Christie movie.

    Avery Gilbert calls it "Ingredient Voice" vs "Imagery Voice", but I'd take out the "vs", because like you, I get more out of reviews that offer a combination of both.

    flittersniffer, Chandler really was talking about transparent concrete in his architecture analogy. Keep your eyes peeled for it on the city streets. Although it's see-through, so you'd probably miss it.

  4. I follow you Katie because I love perfume, and I am shifting through all the marketing hype to find a perfume that I can identify as affordable and organic. I have bought whatever I can afford in the past that pleases my nostrils. I often didn't understand what I was buying. Perfume depends on the person's own chemicals on the skin with the perfume, can can create a mix which would either enhance the person wearing it, or make you run around before falling over like a fly that ran into a spray of raid. Now I read and watch your youtube reviews, but I must say in the beginning you were brutally honest, and that is why I subscribed, but more than that, you are pretty, sweet, and very funny! I am growing an organic fragrant garden...and including all the actual plants you are mentioning!

  5. Hi Katie, Love your stuff, and maybe we'll meet at luckyscent sometime... but as for Transparent Concrete, some of the most amazing stuff is similar to this:

    One of these days, I can't wait to install some in my dreamhome.

    Paul Kiler

  6. Paul, I guess we are officially living in the future! Thanks for that link. That post also linked to some great translucent concrete pix here:

    Be sure to say "hi" the next time you see me propping up the bar at Scent Bar.

    The Organic Mom - thanks for your lovely comments! Once your fragrant herbs and flowers begin a-bloomin', you'll have such an amazing "perfume notes" resource at your fingertips.

  7. Katie--thanks for helping me re-live the Chandler Bing moment. (Yes, I know that's not his last name. It is to me.) Also the glares from my friends when I attempted to leave during Mr. Bing's "temper tandrum" as I like to call it.

    Your presentation was delightful and I hope to see you present, and lurk around B-G and other Sniffa venues again. And again.

  8. Kate - what? You're telling me that you tried to amscray during Chilly Brrr's group dressing down? But that was scentertainment at its finest!

    Looking forward to lurking together again before too long.

  9. I like my 'scentertainment' a wee bit less shrill! Great word!