“Odours have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odour cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”
Challop (noun) – plural : challops
1: Abbreviation for challenging opinion.
2: An irregularly published column on website Good Food Revolution.
What with me working as both a Sommelier and then Food/Wine Writer for the best part of 25 years , I’m sure you can somewhat understand how important smells have been throughout my adult life. From the most sublime Volnay’s violet perfume to the odiously disturbing Surströmming, I’ll admit that I have over time become utterly obsessed with the world of smells.
With this particular information in mind, I guess that it should come as no great surprise to even the most casual of observers, that I have a almost fetishistic passion for colognes and perfumes… in the right situations.
Working in the occupation that I do, where emitting any extraneous aromatics is strictly verboten, my opportunities to wear any kind of scent whatsoever are contained within a very limited window. Indeed it is only a handful of times in any given year that I feel comfortable splashing on a little of my ever-favoured cologne (pictured above), and that is usually at a fashion/film/art event with my partner, for the most part far removed from the oft-fettered world of objective food and wine tasting. And how I do relish those evenings…
Although wearing a fragrance is a relative rarity for me, I have always felt that having a signature scent is an important thing. I find there to be few things in life more sensually alluring than an individual who has discovered a specific fragrance that works in harmony with their natural bodily aromatics, complimenting and enhancing their inherent essence. Hence, bar a brief 2000 – 2012 dalliance with the work of Grasse/NYC’s Le Labo, since my late teens I have stuck religiously to applying solely Czech and Speake’s No. 88.
In theory a unisex fragrance, there is something about No. 88’s rich, spicy, woody bergamont and geranium notes that has forever stuck a chord with me. Being unusually distinctive when placed alongside most common-or-garden attars, it often attracts the most complimentary of comments… unless it’s my Father, who has always said that it “smells like bloody fly spray”.
Having been so proud of my eccentric old English gentleman’s fragrance for so many years, you can imagine just how deflated I felt when I was to discover that it was the favoured scent of the gracious sartorial icon that is Ozzy Osborne. “I use this cologne, and I have for many years. It’s called Czech & Speake No. 88. People know I’m coming in the ******* room before I get out of the elevator. It’s really a good smell.” *Sigh*
Through a couple of decades of tasting wines at events, I think I have come to accepted the fact that the majority of the general public don’t understand that wearing scent at such a tasting is a huge faux pas. I’ve witnessed people attending such gatherings absolutely reeking of L’Arôme de la Célébrité du Jour with absolutely no concept of the merciless miasmic assault upon those of a more sensitive olfactory nature.
There have been many an occasion where I have shaken hands or kissed/embraced someone at a wine/food event only to find their scent following me around the venue all evening (and occasionally home to bed!), like a stinky apparition. It’s an experience in many ways similar to that of the late Peter Sellers’ Hrundi V. Bakshi character in his 1968 film The Party.
However, after so many, many years of this I believe that I have managed to somehow blinker out such offensive, pervasive fugs, and can now truly taste through the musk of the odoriferant.
If the truth be told, there are actually a few of my fellow food and wine professionals who could probably do with smelling a little more neutral when attending tastings alongside their peers. Some of those body sprays pack quite a serious perfumatory punch you know. █████████████ and █████████████, I’m speaking to you here. [redacted]
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And being gifted with a keen sense of smell is truly both a blessing and a curse, believe you me.