Perfume Polytechnic is Currently Closed for Reviews

by-wlodek-428549_640When I started this blog, I never intended for it to be a perfume review site. There are already so many bloggers regularly immersing themselves in the latest releases (commercial and niche), and who have a wealth of knowledge and experience reviewing perfume, that I simply thought there was no need for another. I don’t have this knowledge, nor do I have access to a vast amount of what is out there, so it felt a little presumptuous that anyone might truly care what a half-informed-geographically-isolated-perfumista-from-Australia might think about a particular perfume.

The reason I started Perfume Polytechnic was to learn about both perfume and olfaction, and to share what I learnt with you, my readers. My favourite pieces have been those that are not reviews: those in which I delve into other areas, such as the smell of everyday things, investigate an ingredient such as oud, and of course, my interviews with indie/niche perfumers from around the world. These sorts of posts are the very backbone, no, the very spirit of Perfume Polytechnic.

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The Scent of Possibility, a Novel by Sarah McCartney, in Which Kindness, Connectedness and Scent Play Starring Roles


One could be forgiven for thinking lately that the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket. I needn’t mention all the unsettling things that have gone on globally in recent times, the events are still so fresh and are being discussed endlessly in the media. Fear of instability is rampant and is, I feel, often incorrectly attributed to certain groups in society, often those who are most vulnerable. Divisiveness is encouraged as we are told to fear those who may take from us what is “rightfully” ours.

Those of us who don’t subscribe to this way of thinking might be struggling a little with the current social and political climates. I know I am. Lately, as I’ve dealt with chronic illness, and the long struggle to get well again, I’ve turned to meditation and to writers such as Tara Brach, a Buddhist psychologist. I also find myself pondering the things that make life (and humankind) good, thinking about the similarities between us all, and how we are all struggling with one thing or another. It’s important at a time like this to cultivate positive connections with others (which we need for health and survival), love, kindness and understanding. We all fear the loss of safety and stability and the loss of control over our lives:

Wanting and fearing are natural energies, part of evolution’s design to protect us and help us thrive. But when they become the core of our identity, we lose sight of the fullness of our being. We become identified with, at best, only a sliver of our natural being — a sliver that perceives itself as incomplete, at risk and separate from the rest of the world. If our sense of who we are is defined by feelings of neediness and insecurity, we forget that we are also curious, humorous and caring. We forget about the breath that is nourishing us, the love that unites us, the enormous beauty and fragility that is our shared experience of being alive. (Tara Brach – Radical Acceptance)

This sense of connectedness, of beauty and collective fragility, is at the core of perfumer and writer Sarah McCartney’s novel The Scent of Possibility. When I read this novel last year, I was quite moved by the kind and generous spirit of the book, the intense Britishness of it (there are many, many cups of tea served), and the way the characters connect and intertwine. The Scent of Possibility is both a remedy for and a respite from real life, while encapsulating all that is good about people and their capacity for kindness.

The novel, lucky for us, was the catalyst for the accidental launch of Sarah’s 4160Tuesdays perfumery. The story goes that McCartney was writing a novel about a perfumer/counsellor who creates bottles of personalised scent that capture her clients’ happy memories. Suddenly, all her friends were asking her to make the perfumes she was writing about in the novel, and make them she did. Now we all have the wonderful fragrances of 4160Tuesdays – with their fabulous names and creative backstories – to wear and enjoy. How serendipitous!

hydrosol-939216_640The blurb on the back of the The Scent of Possibility reads:

Down a cobbled mews off one of London’s rare tranquil backstreets, people come to talk, gaze at the garden, have a nice cup of tea and a biscuit, then leave with a small blue bottle of perfume. Captured inside it is the scented memory of happy times.

The protagonist in the novel (our perfumer/counsellor) is aptly named Unity Cassel, and I am inclined to think that she is the sort of heroine we all need right now in this chaotic time. Unity connects and unites the characters in the novel in the most delightful way – I’m not going to give away any plot points – and her kindness and generosity cast a wonderfully warm glow over the whole story. Slightly more sinister characters and plot twists and turns also emerge, but instead of destabilising everything, they ultimately serve to shine an even brighter, more positive light upon the more pleasant qualities and characters in the novel. Goodness and connectedness win out over divisiveness.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, some of the scents created in the novel by Unity for her various clients have been made into perfumes and are available to purchase from 4160Tuesdays. You can experience a multi-sensory journey by reading the book and then trying the fragrances, or order them first and try them as you read! Among them, Ealing Green, Tart’s Knicker Drawer, Shazam!, What I Did on My Holidays, and A Kiss by The Fireside are available. If you know and wear these fragrances already, you will love reading the book and finding out about the characters and the stories that inspired them.

If you’re a perfume buff, or just want to read a really lovely novel about people being kind to one another, give The Scent of Possibility a go. It’s an elixir for the soul and gives hope that good scent, cups of tea and most importantly human connection can help overcome adversity.

Perfume Sale to Raise Money for Medical Treatment


I’m having a perfume sale on Ebay to raise money for my health appointments. I’m seeing a number of doctors and specialists at the moment and can’t work due to my eye condition. Costs are adding up, so I thought I’d sell some of my fragrances to help cover costs.

I’m selling some wonderful perfumes, including limited editions, rare fragrances, vintage and older formulas, both niche and designer. Prices are competitive with the current market. Please take a look and tell any perfume loving friends. I’d be really grateful for any purchases!

All fragrances have been well cared for and kept in steady temperature conditions. Australian buyers only, sorry, unless you purchase over 2kg worth of goods. Sadly Australia Post has only recently removed their surface mail option for parcels under 2kg, and it’s just too risky (and verboten) to post perfume overseas by airmail.

I’ll be adding more items soon..! Click on this link to get to my Ebay perfumes listings.

Polly Technic is Taking Sick Leave…

It is with great sadness and much apprehension that I am making this announcement. Due to serious, chronic health problems, I must take a break from Perfume Polytechnic.

Last year I had a laser eye procedure to bring my ocular hypertension under control. Without this procedure I might have developed glaucoma, which runs in my family. It worked, but it brought with it a whole host of other problems: constant eye pain, dry eye syndrome, eye infections, and vision changes. The last five-six months in particular have been hell. The ocular hypertension is also returning. And, I already had a whole host of other chronic health problems to deal with that I won’t even mention here. Life isn’t fun. Autoimmune disease sucks and is very poorly understood and treated.

Using a computer to work is now very difficult and makes my dry eye problem worse. Smelling perfumes has also become a health hazard as I seem to have become sensitized to so much of what’s around me. I suspect I also have a chronic sinus infection that is adding further complications to the eye problems, and I don’t want to exacerbate it with potentially aggravating aroma chemicals. So, the smelling must go, for now.

I am investigating new modes of treatment, including new eye specialists and Traditional Chinese Medicine. I am on an anti-inflammatory diet, which is severely restricted, but I need to know I am trying all that can be done. I need to keep my stress levels under control and not feel pressured, hence the need to withdraw for now.

Apologies to all the perfumers who have sent me samples that I have not yet reviewed, and to others whom I promised book reviews, interviews, etc. I am never one to break promises, and I have had such a wonderful time here, that this is a very hard decision for me to make. But my body is clearly telling me to take time out. If and when my health allows it, I will return and publish all promised reviews. I am truly sorry. I will miss this creative outlet and your readership very much. Thanks for your support so far.

Polly X

Redolent Roundup: Perfumed Plume Awards, DSH Perfumes’ Rendezvous & La Belle Saison Reviews, Lancashire Ambergris Find, and More…

plumePerfumed Plume Awards™

The inaugural Perfumed Plume Awards were held last week in New York City. The awards were modelled after the Prix Jasmine and the UK Jasmine Awards and were set up to showcase and reward US fragrance journalists and their writing. There were six categories, including Scent Stories in mainstream media (newspapers and magazines), Scent Stories in digital media, Visualisation of Scent Stories, a Fragrance Book Award and Science of Scent Stories. Winners included Mark Behnke from Colognoisseur (Scent Stories, Digital), Mandy Aftel (Fragrance Book Award), Dana El Masri (Science of Scent Stories, for Michelyn Camen of CaFleureBon) and Jasia Julia Nielson (Visualisation of Scent Stories, for Michelyn Camen of CaFleureBon). Congratulations to all of the inaugural Perfumed Plume winners: what a fabulous bunch of writers!

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Truant’s Report: Rochas Femme, Sissel Tolaas, Milestones & Luca Turin’s New Perfume Blog


I’ve been unwell, dear readers, really not myself at all lately. I lost my mojo due to a flare up of chronic illness, and haven’t had much energy to write. But I’m getting back on the horse and I’m not going to fall off again. I’ve been a truant from Perfume Polytechnic but now I’m back and making up for missed lessons. Here is a little update on my recent smelly adventures and discoveries…

Rochas Femme Where Have You Been All My Life?

While I’m an eager beaver when it comes to perfume, and though I try to smell most of what I can lay my nose on — with the exception of many recent commercial releases, which I often find uninteresting — I still haven’t smelt every perfume out there, including some of the classics. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what I’ve smelt and how it smelt, unless I make notes about it. I might have smelt a fragrance once in a discount chemist somewhere, or at a friend’s house, and then swiftly forgotten what it was like. Unless one has a vast scent library, it can be hard to keep track of things.

I have only been on this olfactory adventure for a little over three years, and I live in Australia, a rather isolated island, where it seems impossible to find and sample certain perfumes. Here, you take what you can get, what you can find, and what friends can share with you. It can be a patchy self-education, but I try my best. My nose is maturing and developing with all of the wonderful indie perfumes I’ve been sent to review and I find I’m more open-minded (open-nosed?) than ever before. But it’s still only a fraction of what’s out there…

Despite these limitations, I estimate that I have nevertheless smelt at least a thousand perfumes by now. I haven’t kept track. Even though this is only a small percentage of what’s ever been produced, it’s getting to the point now where not much surprises my nose, and when it does, or when I instantly adore something, it’s a good and surprising thing. It reminds me of the early days, when I first decided to study perfume, and every single fragrance smelt new and exciting to me, because I had experienced so little at that stage.

Tastes change also, so what didn’t appeal a year or two ago might now be the instant love of my life. As is the case with my recent rediscovery of Rochas Femme, in one of those family-run chemists that stocks odd and interesting bottles of perfume, heavily discounted, in the outer suburbs of Melbourne. Rochas Femme was ubiquitous at various discount chemists a couple of years back, and I did try it then, but it didn’t grab me. Was it too vintage-smelling, too mature, too animalic? These are the reasons why I love it now, but a couple of years ago, I don’t think my nose was ready for those qualities.

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